Labor and Employment Law Curriculum
Nearly every lawyer and indeed, nearly every person, deals with employment issues because nearly every organization has employees and most people are, or will be, employed. Many Richmond law students will go into legal practice representing employers, employees, or labor unions in labor and employment law. Others will work in corporate legal departments or law firm management where labor and employment law issues regularly arise. Still others will work for one of the many state and federal government agencies that regulate employment. Even students who enter fields outside the employment law arena will likely confront employment law issues on a regular basis. This overview is designed to give all students at the law school information regarding opportunities in labor and employment law.
In addition to the academic opportunities set forth below, the University of Richmond School of Law has several extracurricular activities that provide opportunities for students to engage with labor and employment law issues including the ABA Labor and Employment Law Trial Competition, the Peggy Browning Fund Workers’ Rights Conference, and the ADR Society.
There is no one introductory course. Instead, labor and employment law is divided into three basic courses, supplemented by specialty courses. Labor Law deals with the law regulating union/management relations. Employment Discrimination deals with the laws barring discrimination in the workplace. Employment Law covers the other foundational areas of employment regulation, including workplace health and safety, benefits, wage and hour regulation, workplace privacy, unemployment and legal limitations on termination of workers. Labor Law is typically offered in the fall, while Employment Law is typically offered in the spring. Employment Discrimination has been offered in either the fall or spring semesters. In light of the importance of employment law in all areas of practice, students should consider taking at least one course in the field.
Students considering a labor and employment law practice should take the basic courses as well as one or more other courses focusing on specialty areas of the practice. Each of these courses focuses on increasingly important aspects of the workplace. Alternative Dispute Resolution in the Workplace explores mediation and arbitration in both union and nonunion workplaces. ADR has been utilized in labor law for many years and its use in the nonunion workplace is growing. Students can also take Labor Law and the Global Economy, a course that recognizes that the globalization of the workplace has impacted many U.S. based businesses and therefore understanding the labor and employment laws of other countries is essential for labor and employment lawyers. Constitutional and Statutory Law of Public Employment examines the statutory and constitutional employment rights of public employees in federal, state, and local government. Government employment is increasingly important, and unionization in the public sector far outpaces private sector unionization. Labor and Employment Issues in Domestic and International Business, which focuses on the link between employment law and business in the industrialized markets, is taught periodically by a visiting faculty member from Italy. Finally, on occasion, other specialty courses such as a seminar in Sexual Harassment Law are offered.
Electives in Other Areas
A number of courses in other curricular areas are also helpful for students interested in labor and employment law. Some like Administrative Law, Bankruptcy, Evidence, Corporations, Federal Courts, Federal Income Tax, Negotiation, and Remedies would be useful in any labor and employment law practice while others, such as Civil Rights Litigation, Copyright Law, Feminist Legal Theory, Immigration Law, Intellectual Property Fundamentals, Patent Law, Sexual Orientation and the Law, and Trademark Law will appeal to students with particular labor and employment law interests.
Students interested in labor and employment law have several externship placements from which to choose. Existing placements include the Virginia AFL-CIO, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Virginia Employment Commission, and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office, Employment Law Section. Other placements such as those in corporate legal departments, the Virginia Commonwealth University General Counsel’s office, Virginia Commonwealth University Health System Authority, the Virginia Community College System, the Office of Protection and Advocacy, and the Legal Aid Justice Center also incorporate some employment law experience. In addition, the placement at Commonwealth Mediation allows students the opportunity to gain training in the area of mediation.