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You are Here: Home > Laws > Federal Labor Laws

Federal Labor Laws

Specific Federal employment and labor laws are linked below.

About Federal Labor Laws

Federal labor laws typically deal with employer-union relationships and Federal employment laws typically deal with employer-employee relationships. But the terms are used interchangeably, with labor laws as the most common usage (as in the remainder of this text and throughout EmployeeIssues.com).

Laws are also called statutes and regulations enforce them. Acts of congress establish Federal labor laws, as well as other Federal laws.

Act contents, explanations and interpretations by governmental and other qualified Web sites are linked below by act title. Acts that are not Federal labor laws per se, but that do have provisions related to some aspect of employment, are also included.

States are permitted to enact and enforce their own employment and labor laws that include or expand the minimum protections afforded by the Federal laws. To research state employment and labor laws on the Web, start in State Labor Laws.

Federal Labor Law Links

This list of Federal labor law links is comprehensive, but not necessarily all-inclusive. If you're searching for one that's not listed below, try Federal Labor Law Research.

Aviation and Transportation Security Act
Although it's not a Federal labor law per se, it does have provisions to protect the compensation and other benefits of airport security screeners hired by private screening companies. They are entitled to the same or better compensation and benefits as airport security screeners hired by the Federal Government (e.g., Transportation Security Administration).

Bankruptcy Act
Even though it's not a labor law, the employment-related provisions make it unlawful for employers to discriminate against incumbent employees and public-sector job applicants because of bankruptcy or the bad debts they had before filing for bankruptcy.

Child Labor Law and Resources
"Youth & Labor" resources provided by the U.S. Department of Labor, for both employers and young employees. Includes information and compliance assistance for child labor law, which is included under provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act listed below.

Civil Service Reform Act of 1978
Protects the rights of Federal Government workers to form and join unions, and participate in legit union activities. Incorporates provisions of the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act linked below.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA)
COBRA requires employers to offer continued health-care insurance benefits at group rates to employees and their qualified beneficiaries, when a qualifying event occurs (such as reduction in work hours or layoffs). An amendment to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act listed below. See also the related Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act below.

Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968
Not a Federal labor law, but it does have provisions that protect workers from discharge solely on the basis of wage garnishment. It also limits the amount of wage garnishment.

Contract Work Hours and Safety Standards Act
The CWHSSA is a Federal labor law that requires contractors with Federal contracts of over $100,000, to pay laborers and mechanics working under the contracts an overtime rate of at least 1.5 times their basic rate of pay. Also prohibits unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous working conditions on Federal construction projects.

Copeland Act (Copeland Anti-Kickback Act)
Often referred to as the Copeland Anti-Kickback Act or simply the Anti-Kickback Act, because of its provisions that prohibit contractors from coercing or otherwise requiring their employees to return any part of the compensation they earned under Federal contracts.

Davis-Bacon Act of 1931
A Federal labor law that requires contractors to pay local prevailing wages and fringe benefits to laborers and mechanics who construct, alter, or repair public buildings or public works. Applies to Federal government contracts of over $2,000 and requires each to include a clause that sets prevailing wages. See also the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act.

Discrimination Laws
Links to specific, Federal Discrimination laws listed here at EmployeeIssues.com. Start in State Labor Laws to research state discrimination laws.

Doctrine of Employment at Will
Not a written labor law, but a doctrine enforced by common law that presumes employment is voluntary for both employers and employees. Consequently, employers may terminate employees for any reason, no reason or even an unfair reason, just as employees may quit for same. (However, some states require employers to at least show good cause for termination. See also Model Employment Termination Act below.) Some say this Doctrine was established at the Federal level by the 1908 Supreme Court case of Adair v. United States. Click the link above to read our related article.

Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act)
Not a labor law, but it does have whistleblower provisions that protect employees from retaliation for reporting employer violations, such as fraudulent consumer or securities activities, to the proper authorities. It also has provisions for rewarding whistleblowers with 10 to 30 percent of the monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million imposed by legal actions against violators of securities law.

Drug-Free Workplace Act of 1988
Requires contractors and grantees of Federal agencies to agree to provide drug-free workplaces before they may receive contracts or grants from Federal agencies. It was spawned by President Reagan's Executive Order 12564, which also opened the door for private-sector employers to establish drug-free workplaces through drug testing. Consequently, many private-sector employers now follow the drug-testing guidelines published by the Department of Transportation (DOT) or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). See Federal Labor Law Research for links to the aforementioned drug-testing guidelines.

Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act (EEOICPA)
Provides compensation and medical benefits to current or former civilian employees who worked at certain Department of Energy (DOE) or privately-owned facilities, where atomic weapons were produced or tested.

Employee Polygraph Protection Act of 1988
Prohibits most private-sector employers from conducting lie detector tests on employees or job applicants. Also prohibits private-sector employers from using results of lie detector tests conducted elsewhere or refusals to take lie detector tests, as reasons for discharging or disciplining employees or denying employment to job applicants.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974
ERISA does not require private-sector employers to establish employee retirement plans. But, if employers do so voluntarily, then ERISA requires them to establish and maintain such plans fairly, soundly and with accountability. The same applies to voluntarily-established health plans and severance plans under ERISA. Also prohibits private-sector employers from terminating employees specifically to avoid granting vested pension rights. Amended by the Pension Protection Act of 2006.

Fair Credit Reporting Act of 1970
Not a Federal labor law, but the employment-related provisions regulate background checks on employees and job applicants to some degree. For example, an investigative agency can't conduct a credit check without a job applicant's permission and must disclose the applicant's rights under this Act, including the right to dispute an inaccurate credit report. The FCRA has been amended by other acts since 1970.

Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA)
This landmark Federal labor law, sometimes referred to as the Wages and Hours Act, regulates minimum wage, overtime pay, equal pay and child labor. The FLSA also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who exercise their rights under the Act, such as reporting employer violations of the Act (whistleblowing). Additionally, along with other Federal laws and regulations, the FLSA and its regulations prohibit employers from controlling independent contractors as employees.

Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007
Amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (above) to implement a Federal minimum wage increase in three increments of 70 cents, from July 24, 2007 through July 24, 2009.

False Claims Act
Although it's not a Federal labor law per se, its employment-related provisions entitle employees to take qui tam legal actions against their employers for defrauding the Federal Government, without fear of retaliation. Better yet, employees who sue under the FCA on behalf of the Federal Government receive a share of monetary damages awarded. One of the landmark whistleblower laws. Some states have passed their own versions, to deter and punish for fraud against state governments. Consult a lawyer about filing a False Claims Act (qui tam) lawsuit.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
A landmark Federal labor law that grants eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period to care for their own serious health conditions or those of qualified family members. New rules granted up to 12 weeks of military family leave for a "qualifying exigency" arising from a family member's call-up to active military duty, and up to 26 weeks to care for a qualified family member suffering from a serious injury or illness incurred during active military duty. See also Family and Medical Leave.

Federal Employees' Compensation Act
Covers non-military, Federal employees with Workers' Compensation Insurance, which insures Federal employees against injury on the job. Although this Act covers only Federal government employees, most states have followed suit by passing laws that require private-sector and state-government employers to carry Workers' Compensation Insurance. See Workers' Compensation from Cornell Law School for an overview of this Act, plus related statutes, regulations and judicial decisions. See also Workers' Compensation Benefits, Workers' Compensation Laws, and Workers' Compensation Agencies here at EmployeeIssues.com.

Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA)
A tax law, not a Federal labor law. It does, however, require you to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes on earnings from your labor. Employers typically show such taxes as automatic payroll deductions labeled as "FICA" on employee paycheck stubs. (Quarterly self-employment taxes are the FICA equivalent for self-employed people.) See also the Social Security Act below.

Federal-State Extended Unemployment Compensation Act of 1970
Provisions related to employment and labor laws in this Act require states to provide for the payment of extended unemployment compensation to eligible employees during periods of unusually high unemployment.

Federal Transit Law
Preserves the rights and benefits of employees who work for employers who receive Federal mass transit funds, if use of the funds affect employees. Formerly identified as Section 13(c) of the Federal Transit Act.

Federal Unemployment Tax Act
Provisions related to employment and labor laws require most employers to pay both a Federal and state tax, to provide state unemployment benefits to eligible, unemployed workers. See also the information provided by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). For state unemployment tax information, see the Web site of the appropriate state unemployment office.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
Grants qualified employees and their dependents who were previously covered by group health insurance (such as employer-provided or COBRA) the opportunity to enroll in a new plan. Also places limits on exclusions for preexisting conditions, and prohibits discrimination against employees and their dependents based on health. An amendment to the Employee Retirement Income Security Act listed above. See also the related Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) listed above.

Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986
Not a Federal labor law per se. Rather it amends the Immigration and Nationality Act to prohibit U.S. employers from hiring illegal aliens. Also prohibits employment discrimination against individuals other than illegal aliens, based on citizenship status or national origin.

Jobs for Veterans Act
This Act passed in 2002 amends Title 38 of the U.S. Code. It gives veterans and disabled veterans priority for certain government training programs, and jobs with the Federal government and its contractors. Request information about eligibility, benefits and services available under this Act, through your local One-Stop Career Center or state unemployment office. See also Veterans' Preference.

Judiciary and Judicial Procedure Act of 1948
Not a Federal labor law per se. But it does prohibit employers from discharging, threatening to discharge, intimidating, or coercing permanent employees for serving jury duty.

Labor Management Relations Act of 1947
Among the landmark Federal Labor laws, it makes it unlawful for employers to interfere with, restrain, coerce, discipline or discriminate against employees and job candidates for legit, union-related activities. Also called the Taft-Hartley Act. See also Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, National Labor Relations Act and National Right to Work Act.

Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959
Grants certain rights to union members and protects their interests by promoting democratic procedures within labor organizations (unions). See also Labor Management Relations Act, National Labor Relations Act, Civil Service Reform Act and National Right to Work Act.

McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act of 1965 (SCA)
The labor law provisions in this Act require contractors who are providing services to the Federal government with contracts of over $2,500, to pay prevailing wages to employees who work under the contracts. For contracts of $2,500 or less, contractors must pay at least the Federal minimum wage to employees who work under the contracts. Referred to as the Service Contract Act for short. See also the Davis-Bacon Act and the Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act.

Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act (MSPA)
Protects most migrant and seasonal agricultural workers regarding wages, working arrangements, and safety and health in employer-provided transportation and housing. Requires non-exempt farm contractors to register and assure worker protection. Repealed and replaced the Farm Labor Contractor Registration Act in 1983.

Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977
Protects miners from unsafe and unhealthy work conditions and practices. Also makes it unlawful for employers to discharge or discriminate against miners for reporting violations of the Act (whistleblowing), refusing to engage in any action made unlawful by the Act, or participating in any proceedings under the Act.

Model Employment Termination Act (META)
This is not a Federal labor law that requires mandatory state compliance, but any state may voluntarily adopt this Act. It protects qualified employees from wrongful termination by requiring covered employers to show good cause for employment termination. It also defines what constitutes "good cause" and makes it unlawful for employers to retaliate against employees for participating in proceedings under the Act.

National Apprenticeship Act of 1937
Grants authority to the U.S. Secretary of Labor to protect the rights of apprentices, and encourage employers and unions to create apprenticeship programs. Often called the Fitzgerald Act.

National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (NLRA)
This landmark labor law, also called the Wagner Act, protects workers from unfair labor practices by unions and employers, and authorizes the National Labor Relations Board to investigate violations. Unfair labor practices include interfering with workers' rights to union representation and discriminating against workers for engaging in protected concerted activities (legit, collaborative, union-related activities). Search Job Tracker by Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO, for companies in your area that are involved in court cases for accusations of violating workers' rights under this Act. See also Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, Labor Management Relations Act and National Right to Work Act.

Notification and Federal Employee Antidiscrimination and Retaliation Act of 2002
The so-called "No Fear Act" for short makes Federal government employers more accountable than ever before, for violations of antidiscrimination and whistleblower protection laws in Federal government workplaces. No Fear means that Federal employees are protected from reprisal for reporting such violations.

Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act or OSHA)
Protects workers from safety and health hazards in the workplace. Also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the Act. Enforced by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and state equivalents.

Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996
Replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Commonly known as the Welfare Reform Bill signed by President Clinton, it provides temporary welfare assistance while encouraging and helping recipients to land paying jobs.

Railroad Safety Act of 1970
Protects railroad workers from unsafe working conditions. Prohibits termination and discrimination for reporting violations of the Act (whistleblowing), refusing to engage in any action made unlawful by the Act, or participating in any proceedings under the Act.

Railway Labor Act of 1926
Protects the rights of railway and airline employees to organize and join unions, and forbids employer discrimination for same. (Provisions were extended in 1936 to include airline employees.) See also the National Right to Work Act, which, if it becomes law, will amend the Railway Labor Act.

Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002
A "whistleblower" law that protects employees of publicly-traded companies for reporting fraud against shareholders to the proper authorities, either within or outside the companies committing such fraud.

Social Security Act - Amendments, Rules and Regulations
The Social Security Act of 1935 authorized the Social Security Board, now the Social Security Administration (SSA), to provide retirement, disability, Medicare health insurance, Supplemental Security Income, family, and survivors' benefits. It also launched the unemployment insurance system for state-provided unemployment benefits. Besides the text of the Act, this link also leads to rules, regulations and other research resources related to the Act.

Taft-Hartley Act
A nickname for the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 listed above, derived from the last names of the congressmen who introduced it.

Ticket To Work And Work Incentives Improvement Act Of 1999
Established the Social Security Ticket To Work And Self-Sufficiency Program. The Program assists disabled individuals in finding substantial work, to increase their self-esteem and lessen their dependency on Social Security and other public benefits.

Trade Act Programs
A collection of statutes, regulations and other resources that assist Americans who've lost jobs, because of increased imports from or production shifts to other countries. Includes information about the Trade Act of 1974, Trade Adjustment Assistance Reform Act of 2002, Workforce Investment Act of 1998, North American Free Trade Agreement of 1993, and Wagner Peyser Act of 1933.

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
USERRA grants returning military members the right to be re-employed in the jobs that they would have attained if they were not absent for military service, with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and employee benefits determined by seniority. Also prohibits job discrimination against reservists and veterans because of their military service. Amended by the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011 (see TITLE II) to strengthen job discrimination protections for reservists and veterans. See also Employment Discrimination for Military Service and Veterans' Preference.

Veterans' Employment Opportunities Act of 1998
Through amendments, the VEOA strengthened and improved the related provisions in Title 5 of the U.S. Code, to better entitle qualified ex-military members to receive veterans' preference for Federal government jobs. Also provides a path for veterans to file complaints against agencies that violate their preference rights under the Act. See also the full text of the Act, Employment Discrimination for Military Service and Veterans' Preference.

Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944
This old law is now codified as various provisions in Title 5 of the U.S. Code. The provisions entitle qualified veterans to receive preference in hiring and retention for Federal government jobs. The provisions are periodically amended by newer laws, such as the Veterans' Employment Opportunities Act of 1998.

Wages and Hours Act
A nickname for the Fair Labor Standards Act, which regulates minimum wage, overtime pay, equal pay and child labor at the Federal level. See the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) listing above for more information. See State Labor Laws to research wage and hour laws at the state level.

Wagner-Peyser Act of 1933
Established a nationwide system of public employment offices. Such offices are more often called unemployment offices. Amended by the Workforce Investment Act of 1998.

Walsh-Healey Public Contracts Act of 1936 (PCA)
Requires contractors who furnish materials, supplies, articles, or equipment to the U.S. government or the District of Columbia per Federal contracts of over $10,000, to pay at least the federal minimum wage to employees who work under the contracts. Also requires contractors to pay overtime to the same employees at a rate of at least 1.5 times their base pay. See also the Davis-Bacon Act and the McNamara-O'Hara Service Contract Act.

Water Pollution Control Act of 1972
Not a Federal labor law. But it does protect employees from retaliation for reporting violations of the Act (whistleblowing), refusing to engage in any action made unlawful by the Act, or participating in any proceedings under the Act.

Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations
Title 29, Chapter 27 of the U.S. Code (Federal labor laws) encourages employment of women in apprenticeships and nontraditional occupations.

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
Another of the landmark labor laws, the WARN Act requires certain employers to issue notification of plant closings and mass layoffs to qualified, affected employees, at least 60 days in advance in most cases. It's not unusual for employers to release affected employees from work duties immediately after they issue this notification. But employers typically must pay qualified, released employees and give them the benefits to which they're entitled, throughout the notification period.

Worker Economic Opportunity Act
Amended the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to exclude from calculations for minimum wage and overtime pay, any value or income derived from employees' receiving or selling certain stock options. This Act enabled employers to grant stock options to employees who are eligible for minimum wage and overtime pay, while requiring those employees to remain employed for specified periods of time to receive the benefits of their stock options.

Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA)
As an amendment to the Wagner-Peyser Act listed above, the WIA was passed to consolidate, coordinate and improve employment, training, literacy, and vocational rehabilitation programs through state workforce investment boards and unemployment offices. It required states to establish workforce investment boards and it rolled state unemployment offices into the "One-Stop" services delivery system, which established One-Stop Career Centers.

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