Employees are often contrasted with independent contractors, especially when there is dispute as to the worker’s entitlement to have matching taxes paid, workers compensation, and unemployment insurance benefits. However, in September 2009, the court case of Brown v. J. Kaz, Inc. ruled that independent contractors are regarded as employees for the purpose of discrimination laws if they work for the employer on a regular basis, and said employer directs the time, place, and manner of employment.
Labor unions are legally recognized as representatives of workers in many industries in the United States. Their activity today centers on collective bargaining over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.
Most unions in America are aligned with one of two larger umbrella organizations: the AFL–CIO created in 1955, and the Change to Win Federation which split from the AFL–CIO in 2005. Both advocate policies and legislation on behalf of workers in the United States and Canada, and take an active role in politics. The AFL–CIO is especially concerned with global trade issues.
American business theorist Jeffrey Pfeffer posits that contemporary employment practices and employer commonalities in the United States, including toxic working environments, job insecurity, long hours and increased performance pressure from management, are responsible for 120,000 excess deaths annually, making the workplace the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.
High-risk industries for young workers include agriculture, restaurants, waste management, and mining.