Within the field of paralegal studies, there are many paths of specialization from which to choose. One of the available options for a paralegal career is Labor Law Paralegals, also known as Employee Law Paralegals. This career involves assisting attorneys by conducting an in-depth study of over 180 federal laws which affect employees across the nation, both in unionized and non-union job fields.
According to a NALA survey conducted in 2014, the average annual salary for Labor Law Paralegals is $58,538, and the comparable career with a specialization in Employee Benefits earned an average of $59,625 each year.
A History of Labor Law
The field of work involved in Labor Law originated after the establishment of the National Labor Relations Act, passed federally in 1935, which “protect[s] the rights of employees and employers, to encourage collective bargaining, and to curtail certain private sector labor and management practices which harm the general welfare of workers.” (source: https://www.nlrb.gov/resources/national-labor-relations-act ) Because of this, the traditional task of labor lawyers is to represent members of various labor unions. Over time, this evolved into the modern role of upholding employment law standards, such as fair wages, discrimination, benefits, employee injury, and many other elements involved in current-day labor laws.
What Does a Labor Law Paralegal Do?
While Labor Law Paralegals have many different tasks that can range outside of the following list, many tasks required in this career include:
- Forming and keeping up with budgets
- Researching employment law to provide information for cases
- Offering general assistance with litigation and case strategies
- Creating agreements and forms concerning various procedures and practices
- Organizing documentation and support for cases
On a broader level, there are several different issues with which a Labor Law Paralegal may work in his/her job. All of the following involve relationships between employers and employees, and are topics with which a professional in this field must be very familiar:
As the world of law and order develops, issues of discrimination and civil rights often arise in the workplace, resulting in unfair and unwarranted treatment. Individuals experiencing this discrimination often come to labor law attorneys and their respective labor law paralegals for help, thus requiring labor law paralegals to have in-depth knowledge of the Fail Labor Standards Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As inflation continues to affect the economy, changes in minimum wage also occur, resulting in the need for standards in this area. When employers do not uphold these standards (or those of overtime pay, medical and family benefits, or any other related law), Labor Law Paralegals must be able to assist attorneys in ensuring justice for their clients.
This is another issue which affects employees, and include both federal and state programs, some of which include:
- Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program
- Black Lung Benefits Program
- Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Program
Safety and Health
Employers are legally held to certain standards concerning work conditions, which are vital to employee health in some fields more than others, but all of which must be upheld with the help of Labor Law Attorneys and Paralegals.
Because of these various tasks and areas of specialties involved with a career in this field, Labor Law Paralegals have the option to work for a variety of attorneys, including advocacy, legal advising, medication, litigation, and many others. Ultimately, the job tasks for this career require skills that must be acquired through education and experience, which is detailed below.
Becoming a Labor Law Paralegal
The first step to becoming a Labor Law Paralegal is to earn a credible education from a college or university that has been approved by the American Bar Association, or ABA. Many of these programs offer associate degrees or bachelor’s degrees, while others provide certification programs in Paralegal Studies. It is important to note that there is not a standard educational requirement for most careers as a Labor Law Paralegal, but the Association for Paralegal Education and the National Association of Legal Assistants suggest enrolling in a program which offers a minimum of 60 credit hours in order to become properly prepared for a job in this field.
The next step to becoming a Labor Law Paralegal is to earn a professional certification. Just like the traditional education discussed above, this certification is not usually listed as a job requirement, but it is certainly held in high esteem since prospective employees with Professional Paralegal Certification have proven their skills, experience, and knowledge in the field of paralegal studies. A typical certificate program in this sector may cover topics such as:
- Labor management relations
- Discrimination laws
- Labor unions
- Unfair employee treatment
- Wrongful discharge
In order to earn a certificate from a reputable program, it is again recommended to obtain this certification from an ABA-approved college or university, whether that be in an online setting or a classroom setting. A certificate of completion in a program like this will benefit someone in search of a job as a Labor Law Paralegal greatly, and one may find that the payoff is worth the time when it comes to starting a career in this field.
Where Do Labor Law Paralegals Work?
Labor Law Paralegals are employed at both state and federal levels. Some offices for which a professional in this career may work include the Department of Labor, Federal Labor Relations Authority, Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, Nation Labor Relations Board, State Solicitor’s Offices, Human Rights Commissions, and many others. Paralegals in this field may also work for nonprofit organizations and public interest firms. Regardless of where they work, Labor Law Paralegals help ensure the safety and fair treatment of employees across the nation.