Before their first day on the job, American workers are protected by a number of state and federal laws. Here's an overview of issues in Alabama.
As soon as a job is advertised, laws against discrimination apply. Companies can't specify that they want women only, and they can't reject married applicants. Employers can't ask about applicants' health or whether they have children during an interview. In general, age is a forbidden topic as well.
Alabama Pay Requirements
Alabama doesn't have a minimum wage, so the federal floor of $7.25 an hour applies. Unless they're on salary, workers are eligible for time and a half pay after they work beyond 40 hours each week.
Safe at Work
Federal law requires companies to set up training programs aimed at preventing injuries, make sure equipment works properly, and keep the grounds and buildings safe. Workers who see safety problems are allowed to report them to the government, and companies are prohibited from retaliating by demoting them, cutting their hours or firing them.
Workers' Compensation Laws
In Alabama, companies that have more than four employees — even if they're all part-time — have to carry workers' compensation insurance that ensures injured workers receive medical care and rehabilitation for on-the-job injuries. The insurance also provides workers with part of their pay while they're off due to a work-related accident.
Getting Time Off
Workers aren't guaranteed vacation or holidays, though some companies offer paid time off as a benefit. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, workers at businesses with 50 or more employees are allowed unpaid leave. Except for situations such as that, companies are not obligated to allow sick leave. Alabamans are allowed paid time off with pay for jury duty, and an employer can't force workers to use paid vacation or sick time to serve. Companies also can't retaliate against employees who serve on juries.
If on-the-job harassment is so severe that a reasonable person would object or if the harassment is made a condition of keeping the job, the victim can take legal action against the employer. Harassment is defined legally as unwelcome comments or conduct based on factors such as race, gender, national origin, religion, age or disability. Learn more about sexual harassment in the workplace.
When You Leave
Alabama is an "at will" state — employers can let workers go for any or no reason as long as it's not discriminatory or retaliatory. There is no provision in state law covering when a final paycheck must be issued if an employee quits or is terminated.
After You Leave
Most workers who are laid off or fired are eligible for unemployment benefits. The exception is if they're fired for misconduct. The benefits are not generous, but help them survive while they find another job. Companies with more than 20 employees have to let former employees continue health insurance, though the worker will have to pay the full premium.
Contact a Labor and Employment Lawyer
This article is intended as a general overview of a complex topic. Consult a local Alabama labor and employment lawyer for advice about a specific employment law issue.