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The Role and Functioning of Public-Interest Legal Organizations in the Enforcement of the Employment Laws

The Role and Functioning of Public-Interest Legal Organizations in the Enforcement of the Employment Laws

Chapter:
(p.141) 4 The Role and Functioning of Public-Interest Legal Organizations in the Enforcement of the Employment Laws
Source:
Emerging Labor Market Institutions for the Twenty-First Century
Author(s):
Christine Jolls
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226261812.003.0005

The American legal system affords a significant array of protections to employees. Although most workers in the United States do not enjoy a general right to be dismissed only for cause—a right characteristic of many European countries and now of one American state, Montana—they benefit from a host of specific prohibitions on arbitrary or inappropriate behavior by employers. This chapter examines some of the distinctive public-interest legal organizations that exist to help to enforce the employment laws in the United States. It focuses on two broad categories of such organizations: national issue organizations and legal services organizations. The emphasis is on “enforcement” (or “implementation”) of existing laws, rather than “enactment” of new laws. It supports Paul Burstein's argument that litigation is an important element of social movement. The chapter also describes why the usual mechanism for protecting legal rights—retention of a private lawyer by the aggrieved party—is of limited effectiveness in the employment context.

Keywords:   public-interest legal organizations, United States, enforcement, employment laws, national issue organizations, legal services organizations, litigation, legal rights

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