Compared to other countries in the West, stringent and extensive employee protections came fairly late to the United States. Up until 1959, for example, employers had the right to fire a worker without giving any reason. This concept, which was known as at-will employment, was applicable in all states. The concept of at-will employment does, however, continue today, and all employees are considered to be at-will unless they are employed under a collective bargaining agreement, or under a contract for a set duration. Employers can still fire employees for any reason, but they cannot be fired for illegal reasons, as set out in the U.S. or state constitutions, federal law, state statutes, or public policy. In this section, some of the main employee rights and company responsibilities will be introduced.
A trade union, or labor union, is an organized group of workers who come together to lobby employers about conditions affecting their work.
The Civil Rights Act provides broad provisions pertaining to citizens’ civil rights. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act deals with discrimination in employment. It bans employers from discriminating against employees in their hiring, firing, and promotion practices on the basis of sex, national origin, color, religion, or race. All employers who are engaged in commercial activity and who employ 15 or more employees for 20 consecutive weeks in a year are covered by the Act.