Labor and Employment Law

Career Path Introduction

Labor and employment law concerns the laws and regulations that govern relationships between employees and employers. Labor law governs the relationships between groups of employees, such as labor unions and their employers, while employment law governs the relationships between individual employees and their employers.

Practice areas in labor and employment law include representing employers in the private and public sectors, representing labor unions, representing individual employees, and working for federal and state regulatory agencies. Attorneys handle such matters as labor law, equal employment opportunity law, employment contracts, family and medical leave, military leave, wage and hour laws, wrongful discharge, harassment, workplace safety, covenants not to compete, employee benefits law, and workers' compensation law.

Depending on their areas of focus, labor and employment lawyers may advise clients on how best to comply with federal laws administered by the Department of Labor, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and various state agencies. They may counsel union or management clients on collective bargaining agreements, grievance and arbitration processes, contract administration issues, and strikes and work stoppages.

They may represent employers or employees in disputes or litigation involving discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, wage-hours violations, or family and medical leave. They may advise employers on employee benefit law or on issues involving disciplinary actions and terminations, accommodating for disabilities, drug and alcohol testing, confidentiality agreements, workplace investigations, and unemployment compensation claims. They may draft and review employment policies and employee handbooks for their employer clients. They may advise employees facing termination through reductions in force who have been presented with severance proposals, or they may draft severance proposals for employers.

Labor and employment lawyers can be found in law firms, labor unions, corporate law departments, state and local governments, employee benefit funds, consulting firms, and a variety federal and state governmental regulatory agencies, including the EEOC, Department of Labor, National Labor Relations Board, Office of Labor-Management Standards, National Mediation Board, Federal Labor Relations Authority, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Labor and employment lawyers benefit from strong interpersonal skills, good legal writing skills, and a solid understanding of relevant tax and immigration law. During law school, students can gain valuable experience as externs at labor- or employment-related government agencies; law firms, in-house legal departments with private and public employers, and labor unions. Others gain experience working at advocacy organizations focused on workers' rights. Many participate in relevant organizations at their law schools and as editors of student-run publications relating to labor and employment law.

Related Chicago-Kent offerings:


Chicago-Kent's J.D. Certificate in Labor and Employment Law prepares students for the increasingly complex and rapidly changing landscape of workplace law. The program combines classroom theory, doctrine and skills training with numerous opportunities for interaction with leading academics and practitioners.

>> Learn about the certificate program curriculum and requirements.

>> View J.D. courses relating to labor and employment law.

Chicago-Kent also offers a joint certificate program in Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution and Labor and Employment Law.

>> Visit the J.D. Certificate Program in Labor and Employment Law faculty page to learn about Chicago-Kent faculty who teach courses in these areas.

Academic Centers and Institutes

The Institute for Law and the Workplace is a national center for research, training, dialogue and reflection on the law that governs the workplace. The institute hosts public lectures and conferences, manages numerous scholarship programs for Chicago-Kent students, produces publications devoted to labor and employment law issues, and co-sponsors the annual Louis Jackson Writing Competition in Employment and Labor Law, with the law firm of Jackson Lewis LLP.

Student Organizations

The Labor and Employment Law Society provides a forum for students to become aware of current issues in the fields of labor and employment law by organizing informative lectures and facilitating student interaction with experienced practitioners.