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Terms of Employment: Federal

Terms of Employment requirements by state

Author: Beth C. Rogers, Law Offices of Beth C. Rogers, LLC


  • Hiring is regulated by state and federal laws. Generally speaking, these laws prohibit certain types of discrimination and retaliation in employment decisions. Management must be aware of all federal and state laws that regulate the hiring process, and must comply with these laws during the hiring process or the employer may be held liable for discrimination and/or retaliation. See Employment Terms Must Comply With Federal and State Employment Laws.
  • Not all individuals who perform services for an employer are employees within the meaning and protection of the federal employment laws. Nonemployees include independent contractors, volunteers and interns. See Determination of Whether an Employer-Employee Relationship Exists.
  • Not all discriminatory practices are forbidden. Federal laws do not prohibit the establishment and maintenance of bona fide occupational qualifications. See Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications.
  • In the majority of states, employment relationships are presumed to be at-will. At-will means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason, just not a discriminatory reason. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences. See The At-Will Employment Relationship.
  • There are several exceptions to the at-will presumption. Not all of the exceptions are recognized by all states. See Exceptions to the At-Will Employment Relationship.
  • Federal and state antidiscrimination statutes prohibit employers from basing employment decisions on an employee's race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, genetic information and veteran status. Specific state statutes may also protect employees from discrimination based on other factors. See Statutory Exceptions to the At-Will Presumption.
  • It is common for employees in certain industries, as well as high level executives, to have a written employment contract. An employment contract sets out the duties of the employee and employer, and provides the employer with the opportunity to clarify the relationship, as well as to include restrictive covenants, such as noncompetition, nonsolicitation and nondisclosure covenants, to protect the employer from competition. See Written Employment Contracts.
  • To be enforceable, the restrictive covenant must be designed to protect legitimate business interests and to extend no further than is reasonably necessary to protect those interests. See Restrictive Covenants in Employment.