As a legal practitioner, S. Lucia Kanter St. Amour is a member of the California State Bar Association. She was admitted to legal practice on December 7, 1998. Lucia has specific training in behavioral science and uses it regularly in her practice. This helps her to understand how real people respond to conflict situations. She graduated from the University of California, Hastings College of Law. She specializes in employment law and is a certified mediator. She has extensive experience in labor and employment law and special education advocacy. She has worked with government, higher education institutions, nonprofit advocacy organizations, and private practice.
Lucia is an advocate of the use of mediation in employment disputes and earned her mediation certification from Harvard Law School. She focuses her mediation practice on workplace, community, general business contracts, and special education disputes. She has experience in public service, nonprofit advocacy, and private practice. Previously, she worked as an in-house employment attorney for the Judicial Council of California, the largest judicial branch in the world.
American Employment Law is one of the most important aspects of the legal field, as it impacts all types of employers and workers. This body of laws covers topics like wage and hour law, various types of discrimination in the workplace, workplace accommodations, and occupational safety and health. It also addresses collective bargaining agreements. This body of law is complex and constantly evolving.
Let's take a look at some of the issues that Lucia has represented for both management and plaintiff-side clients; and as a mediator in American employment law.
Wage and Hour Law; Equal Pay
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law commonly known for minimum wage, overtime pay, child labor, recordkeeping, and special minimum wage standards applicable to most private and public employees. Equal pay under the American Employment Law is a right that employees can pursue if their wages are unequal due to gender. This law requires employers to give equal pay to workers in the same position.
The Act also prohibits retaliation against employees who help enforce the law. As with any cause of action in the law, there are different time frames - called statutes of limitations - in which employees may seek recovery under the applicable statute. Many times, a claimant must first exhaust administrative remedies with an agency before filing a lawsuit - such as with the Labor Commissioner for a wage claim, or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for a discrimination claim.
In addition to federal laws, many state legislatures have equal pay laws. Forty-two states have equal pay laws, and eight have exemptions for small businesses. However, most of these laws do not protect employers from using previous salary history to justify pay differentials.
Age Discrimination in Employment, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act
These are the three primary federal statutes under which most discrimination and retaliation claims qualify in American Employment Law. Individual states may have additional and more expansive laws.
The ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) prohibits age discrimination in the workplace for employees 40 years old or older. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employers from denying job opportunities to individuals based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin (or a combination of these factors). The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. Some state and local laws also provide protection for discrimination based on sexual orientation. Some of these protected categories also require the employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to the employee.
Collective Bargaining Agreements
Collective bargaining agreements are agreements between employees represented by a labor union and employers. They are a way for employees to balance the power of a large employer. Collective bargaining contracts regulate wages and working conditions and allow employees to make collective demands. The process can take weeks or months, and is often contentious. Both sides must meet and bargain in good faith. When disagreements arise, an independent federal agency often mediates the process.
Although a bit of technicality, this area of the law is referred to as Labor Law instead of Employment Law, and is based on a framework of laws and regulations regarding collective bargaining and employment. Specifically, the labor laws establish rules on the election of a labor organization, the conduct of the process, and the rules for good faith bargaining. These laws also prohibit employers from interfering with the selection of the labor organization and retaliation.
American Employment Law is extremely nuanced. Although the law may be difficult to understand, every employee should gain a basic understanding of their rights; and every employer should understand their responsibilities. If you believe your rights have been violated, speak to an expert in employment law. If you are an employer, the best way to prevent lawsuits is understanding legal obligations and training managers and supervisors to follow them. An employer never "wins" a lawsuit. If an employer is sued, it has no choice to defend it. Prevention is key by gaining a working knowledge of employment law and implementing fair employment policies and procedures.