December 2014 Bar Bulletin
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December 2014 Bar Bulletin

How To Talk Like an Employment Lawyer

By Karen Sutherland


Employment law, like most other practice areas, has its share of acronyms; if you learn them, you will be on your way to talking like a native speaker. The list of acronyms and descriptions below is not meant to be complete, but to give a general idea as to what an employment lawyer might be talking about.

ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990):1 The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires reasonable accommodation of qualified individuals with disabilities. This law has three titles. Title I covers employers; Title II covers state and local governments; and Title III covers places of public accommodation (businesses, parks, etc.). There is some overlap in that an employer may also be a place of public accommodation, for example.

ADAAA (ADA Amendments Act of 2008):2 Congress was unhappy with the direction taken by the Supreme Court in interpreting the ADA, so it was amended to clarify the definition of "disability."

ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967):3 The ADEA prohibits discrimination in employment against individuals who are over the age of 40.

DOL (U.S. Department of Labor):4 The DOL provides guidance on and enforces the FLSA, the FMLA and other laws whose acronyms are not included in this article.

DOSH (Washington State Department of Labor and Industries Division of Occupational Safety and Health):5 DOSH conducts investigations and engages in compliance activities relating to WISHA and other state industrial safety and health laws.

EEOC (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission): The EEOC "is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information."6

ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, as amended):7 ERISA was designed to protect employee pensions and other employee benefits. It covers not only retirement benefits, but also other employee benefits such as group insurance and group severance packages. It preempts most state contract and tort laws, but it does not apply to governmental and public employers or churches.

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