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State labor laws regulate labor-related issues within the jurisdiction of a state. Generally, state labor laws must either comply with federal or national labor laws or exceed them in order to be legal. There are many different types of state labor laws, most of which work to protect both employees and employers throughout all segments of the labor market.
Wage levels are a common province of state labor laws. A state may have a minimum wage law, which guarantees that all workers have a legally guaranteed minimum hourly wage. Some countries also have a federally mandated minimum wage which state laws cannot drop below. The benefit of a state minimum wage in addition to a federal minimum is that it allows for the fact that cost of living and the economy may vary tremendously from state to state. Buying groceries, gas, or a house in California will cost markedly more than in Arkansas, thus the state mandated minimum wage for California is usually significantly higher to make up the difference.
Some state labor laws aim to protect the worker from exploitation or violation of civil rights. These include laws prohibiting certain practices such as unreasonable dismissal or sexual harassment, as well as laws that create protections such as paid family leave. Anti-discrimination laws, such as those prohibiting harassment, pay inequity, or hiring practices based on age, sex, sexual preference, race, or disability, are often found in state labor law codes. Employee or civil rights laws in the workplace help guarantee that workers are still treated like equal citizens with equal rights even while in a position that is subordinate to company management.
State labor laws may also regulate practices that can pose a threat to public safety. For instance, amusement park rides and operators may be subject to inspection and certification on a regular basis in order to reduce the risk of public accident or injury. Some states have laws requiring any ride operators to possess valid certification to maintain or operate an amusement park ride. Since this regulation involves the interaction of a business with the public, it is often considered a labor law.
The importance of state labor laws lies in their ability to manage labor issues on a more direct level than a federal or national legal system can manage. By putting labor law regulation into the hands of state legislators, specific problems that exist in one state have a good chance of being addressed. By ensuring fair wages, fair treatment, and safe practices for workers, state labor laws can play an important part in the safety of all workers on the job.
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