May 29, 2006
State and Federal Systems of Government
Labor and employment laws define US workers' rights and protect s employees from employers' retaliation for exercising our rights under the laws or reporting violations to the proper authorities. As Bennett and Hartman explain, these laws " seek to make the power relationship between employer and employee one that is fair and equitable" (Employment Law for Business, pg. 88). Employers have to adhere to these basic laws to stay out of court. In this paper I will describe how the federal and state systems of government differ in their application of employment. I will also provide an example of an employment protection that is provided by my state system, but not by the federal system. State laws can go beyond or exceed federal laws requirements or can meet minimal legal requirements. However, the state can not make any state laws that differ, are in conflict, or are against any federal laws. A case in point is a group of cases which has caused difficulties and concerns the effect of federal labor laws on state power to preside over management-labor relations and created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to carry out such policy. The Supreme Court became responsible for determining what role the state law was supposed to play on management-labor issues. Initially, the court was required to determine whether the state regulation was in direct conflict with existing federal laws. In a case, the Court decided that an order by a state board which ordered a union to cease mass picketing of a factory and from assorted personnel threats was not in conflict with the state law that had not been invoked and that did not touch on some of the union conduct in question. A "Cease and desist" order of a state board implemented a state provision making it unfair labor practice for employees to conduct a slowdown or to otherwise interfere with production while on-the-job was found not to conflict with federal law, while another order of the board was also sustained in its probation of the discharge on an employee under a maintenance-of-membership clause inserted in a contract under pressure from the War Labor Board and which violated state law. Conversely, a state statute requiring business agents of unions operating in the State to file annual reports and to pay an annual fee of one dollar was voided as it was in conflict with federal law, and state statutes providing for mediation and outlawing public utility strikes where similarly voided as being in specific conflict with federal law. In other cases the court took a different approach because it was considered that the federal act had stepped on certain fields as to preclude state regulation. The Court took this type of approach in the 1950s when it annulled any state court acting in either awarding damages for picketing that was peaceful, in awarding of the relief by damages or for conduct that was deemed as constituting a labor practice situation that was under federal law, in implementing state antitrust laws meant to affect collective bargaining agreements, to veto a strike as a restrain of trade, or with regard to disputes over which the NLRB turned down to declare authority due to effect this would have on interstate commerce. Another example is the Federal minimum wage (currently set at $5.15 per hour) for covered, nonexempt employees. Federal minimum wage provisions are contained in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Many states also have their own minimum wage laws (FirstGov.Gov Web site). For instance, in the state of New Hampshire, the minimum wage is also $5.15 (U. S. Department of Labor Web site). The minimum wage in New Hampshire is automatically replaced with the Federal minimum wage rate if it is higher than the State minimum. In the State of New York the minimum wage is $6.75 and as of January 1, 2007 it will be $7.15 (U. S. Department of Labor Web...