employers and employees with an ability to identify and address employment issues before
they develop into legal problems.
Most employers, depending on their size, are regulated by federal and state statutes.
While there are many statutes governing employment, this section provides an overview of
the most common statutory rights and obligations, including those that impose obligations
relating to non-discrimination, payment of wages, including overtime pay, leave, and various
Non-discrimination: General Rules
Ordinarily employers enjoy very broad discretion in making employment decisions.
However, this discretion is limited by state and federal statutes that prohibit employers from
discriminating against their employees and applicants on the basis of certain protected
characteristics. Specifically, employers cannot make employment decisions on the basis of
race, color, national origin and ancestry; age; sex (including pregnancy); sexual orientation;
religion; disability; military status; or genetic information. The general rule, therefore, is
that employers must treat similarly situated employees the same way. As a result,
consistency in treatment of employees is critical.
Two types of discrimination are recognized by the non-discrimination laws: disparate
treatment” and “disparate impact.” Disparate treatment occurs when an employer
intentionally (whether consciously or subconsciously) treats an employee differently on the
basis of illegal considerations. For example, disparate treatment discrimination exists if an
employer rejects female applicants on the basis of a stereotype that “women don’t make good