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Employment: Understanding the Basics


The term “employment” refers to a legally-binding contract between two parties—the employer and the employee. An employee is defined as an individual in the service of another (individual or entity) under a contract of hire under which the employer has the ability to direct the employee regarding material details concerning how work should be performed.

As a simplified take on the term, employment refers to the act of securing work. An employed individual is occupied in a certain industry, where he or she will provide a certain skill or service in exchange for pay.

The employee/employer relationship—including expected work, regulations in the workplace and pay--is affirmed in the employment contract. If the employer or employee does not uphold the stipulations present in the employment contract, the employment may be terminated or the employee may seek just compensation for the employer’s breach.

The Employee:
As stated above, employment constitutes a relationship between an employer and an employee. The employee is responsible for contributing labor and expertise to a specific endeavor as defined by the employer. The employee is typically hired to perform a specific duty which is packaged into a job. In a developed economy, employment signifies an absolute relationship between an individual and his or her hiring corporation—this relationship is held separate from those of clients and consumers.

The employer’s level of authority over the employee is dependent on a number of factors, the most powerful being the nature of the prescribed relationship between the two parties. This relationship is affected by the motivation, interests and control of the parties. In most employment relationships, it is the employer’s responsibility to balance and manage these factors to properly establish a productive working environment.

Finding Employment:

The primary means for an employer to secure a workforce is undertaken through recruiting, job listings (published online and in newspapers) or internally, through promotions. An employer will also hire professional recruitment consultants or agencies, which receive commissions from employers to find job seekers for particular openings. These recruitment firms will find, screen and subsequently select qualified candidates to apply/interview for particular job openings.

Employment in the United States:

Employment in the United States is considered to be an at-will relationship, concerning the employer and employee. This relationship denotes the employee and the employer are both free to terminate the employment for any cause and at any time. However, if the termination of employment is deemed unjust by the employee, the fired worker can seek legal recourse to challenge the termination.

Unjust termination in the United States may include a firing based on discrimination; an employer may not terminate an employment contract based on the employee’s race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, religion, pregnancy, ancestry or military status.

Furthermore, despite the agreements latent in the employment contract, an employer is required to pay an employee at least the minimum wages established by the federal government or those set by the state in which the work is undertaken. Individual states may establish their own minimum wage if it is higher than the federal government’s to ensure a higher living wage or standard of living for their residents. Employers are required to establish salaries based on merit and job function and not on sexual orientation, gender, race or ethnicity.

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