Who Decides What Is Labor Law?

Who Decides What Is Labor Law? You may be surprised to learn that the answer is not always clear. Courts, legislators, and administrative agencies all play a role in shaping labor law.

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The Department of Labor

The Department of Labor is a large government bureaucracy that is responsible for enforcing many of the laws that govern employment and labor relations in the United States. The Department of Labor is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and has regional offices located throughout the country.

The Department of Labor is headed by a Secretary of Labor, who is appointed by the President of the United States. The current Secretary of Labor is Thomas Perez, who was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2013.

The Department of Labor has many different functions, but its primary responsibility is to enforce the laws that protect workers’ rights. The Department of Labor also investigates complaints of wage theft and safety violations, and it works to ensure that workers are paid fairly and receive safe working conditions.

The Department of Labor also administers a number of programs that provide benefits to workers, such as unemployment insurance and job training programs. The Department of Labor also runs the Job Corps, which is a program that helps young people learn job skills and find employment.

The National Labor Relations Board

The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that protects the rights of private sector employees to join together, with or without a union, to improve their wages and working conditions. The agency also protects employees from unfair labor practices by employers and unions.

The NLRB consists of five members appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate for staggered five-year terms. For administrative purposes, the Agency is divided into two divisions: the Division of Administrative Law Judges and the Office of General Counsel. The General Counsel is an independent head of the Agency who reports to and is appointed by, the President.


In the United States, labor law is the body of laws, administrative rulings, and precedents which address the legal rights of, and restrictions on, working people and their organizations. Congress has the power to regulate labor relations for most private sector workers pursuant to its power to regulate interstate commerce under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The President

The President of the United States is responsible for appointing members of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is the main authority when it comes to labor law in the United States. The NLRB is in charge of enforcing the National Labor Relations Act, and they are the ones who decide whether or not a case falls under labor law.

The Courts

The U.S. Constitution does not expressly address the subject of labor law. However, the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause gives federal law precedence over state law, and the Commerce Clause gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. These two clauses have served as the basis for much of federal labor law.

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued several landmark decisions interpreting the Constitution’s impact on labor relations. For example, in the 1895 case of United States v. E. C. Knight Co., the Court ruled that manufacturing is not interstate commerce and therefore not subject to regulation by Congress. However, in 1938, in NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., the Court overturned its earlier decision and ruled that manufacturing is interstate commerce and can be regulated by Congress under the Commerce Clause.

In addition to the Supreme Court, there are several other courts that hear cases involving labor law. The most important of these is the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is an independent federal agency charged with enforcing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). The NLRA is a key piece of federal labor legislation that guarantees workers’ right to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining with their employers.

Other important courts include the U.S. District Courts, which are trial courts that hear cases involving labor law; and the U.S. Courts of Appeals, which are appellate courts that review decisions issued by lower courts, including the District Courts and NLRB

State Governments

In the United States, labor law is primarily a matter for state governments. The federal government does have some jurisdiction over labor relations, but most of the laws governing employers and employees are enacted at the state level.

There are a few areas where the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction, such as laws governing interstate commerce and certain industries that are regulated by federal agencies. However, even in those areas, state laws may still apply to some extent.

For the most part, though, it is up to each state to decide what labor laws will apply within its borders. This can lead to a patchwork of different laws from one state to another, which can be confusing for employers and employees alike.

Local Governments

Local governments play an important role in deciding what is and is not labor law. They are responsible for enforcing labor laws and ensuring that workers are protected from exploitation. In some cases, local governments may also pass their own labor laws that are more stringent than those at the state or federal level.

International Organizations

There are a number of organizations that play a role in setting labor standards, both at the international and national level. The most important of these are the International Labour Organization (ILO), the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC).

The ILO is a UN agency that sets global labor standards and works to promote decent work for all. It does this through conventions, which are treaties that member states can ratify, and Recommendations, which member states can adopt voluntarily. The ILO also carries out research and provides technical assistance to help countries implement decent work programs.

The WTO is the main international body for setting trade rules, including rules on labor standards. WTO agreements do not specifically refer to labor standards, but they do require member states to treat foreign and domestic workers equally. The WTO can adjudicate disputes between member states over alleged violations of trade rules, including those related to labor standards.

The ITUC is an international federation of trade unions that promotes workers’ rights around the world. It lobbies governments and international organizations to support policies that protect workers, and it provides training and capacity-building assistance to trade unions in developing countries

Private Employers

Private employers are subject to both federal and state labor laws. The laws that apply to a particular employer depend on the size of the company and the industry in which it operates.

Federal labor laws are enacted by Congress and are administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). These laws apply to all employers in the United States, regardless of size. The most well-known federal labor laws are the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which establishes minimum wage and overtime pay standards, and the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which protects employees’ rights to form unions and engage in collective bargaining.

State labor laws are enacted by state legislatures and are administered by state agencies. These laws vary from state to state, but they generally cover the same topics as federal labor laws. In some states, such as California, Oregon, Washington, and New York, state labor laws provide greater protections for employees than federal law does. For example, these states have adopted their own minimum wage standards that exceed the federal minimum wage.

In addition to federal and state labor laws, many cities and counties have adopted their own ordinances that establish workplace protections for employees. For example, San Francisco has its own minimum wage law that applies to all employers within city limits, regardless of size or industry.


Employees in the United States are protected by a variety of federal, state, and local laws. These laws fall into two categories: labor laws and employment laws. Labor law covers the relationship between employees and unions, while employment law covers the relationship between employers and employees.

The primary source of labor law in the United States is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which was passed by Congress in 1935. The NLRA prohibits employers from interfering with workers’ ability to organize unions and engage in collective bargaining. It also establishes certain rights for workers, such as the right to strike.

The NLRA is administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is an independent agency of the federal government. The NLRB is responsible for investigating complaints of unfair labor practices and conducting elections to determine whether workers want to be represented by a union. If a union is elected, the NLRB also supervises negotiations between the employer and the union on behalf of the workers.

In addition to the NLRA, there are other federal laws that protect employees’ rights, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). State and local governments also have their own labor laws. For example, many states have their own minimum wage laws that are higher than the federal minimum wage.

It is important to note that not all workers are covered by labor laws. Some workers, such as independent contractors, are not considered employees under these laws. Additionally, some laws only apply to certain types of businesses or workplaces. For example, OSHA only applies to workplaces that have at least five employees.

If you have questions about whether your rights as an employee are being violated, you should contact an experienced employment lawyer in your area

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