The Four Pillars of Work Law
Employment Relations in the United States: Law, Policy, and Practice. By Raymond Hogler. Thousand Oaks, California; London; and New Delhi: Sage Publications. 2004. Pp. ix, 301. $44.95.
From Widgets to Digits: Employment Regulation for the Changing Workplace. By Katherine V.W. Stone. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2004. Pp. vii, 300. $29.
In our contemporary legal landscape, a student wishing to study the law of the workplace has scarce opportunity to encounter an integrated body of scholarship that analyzes the labor market as the subject of government regulation, contractual duties, collective action, and individual rights. Work law developed in the American legal system as a patchwork of common law doctrine, federal and state statutes, and evolving social norms. Typical law school curricula often include courses relating to the four pillars of work law: “employment law,” “labor law,” “employment discrimination,” and some variation of a tax-oriented “employee-benefits law.” Employment law, in most categorizations, studies the boundaries of the individual employment contract, including contractual limitations, tort liabilities, and minimum protections. Labor law is the subject of collective bargaining between unions and employers, statutorily framed by the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). Employment antidiscrimination law is the subject of status-based unequal treatment in the workplace, including on the basis of gender, race, national origin, disability, or religion. Lastly, the fourth category, employee-benefits law, involves the standards controlling the administration and taxation of social welfare attached to the work cycle, including unemployment benefits, pensions and ERISA, health insurance and COBRA, disability benefits, and worker compensation plans.