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The DU Sturm College of Law employment law curriculum exposes students to the myriad areas of law required to practice as an employment lawyer. To plan your course of study, it will be helpful to understand the areas of law which are implicated by the employment relationship. By understanding this terrain, you can choose courses that will provide an appropriate balance of breadth and depth for your goals.
Employment relationships tend to implicate two basic types of law: employment-related common law (particularly contract and tort), and employment-specific statutory law. Such employment-specific statutes include anti-discrimination law, wage and hour law, workplace safety law, benefits law, and the law of collective bargaining (often called labor law). There are also a number of non-employment specific statutory regimes that have bearing on employment law, such as copyright and patent law. And government workplaces implicate constitutional law (such as equal protection, privacy, and free speech doctrines).
Many of these areas are highly specialized. They can be studied in great depth, and can form the basis for an entire practice. For example, some employment lawyers practice exclusively in the area of workers’ compensation law, a subset of workplace safety law. Others practice exclusively in the area of workplace benefits. Yet many – if not most – employment lawyers have a far broader practice, often emphasizing wrongful termination (common law and statutory restrains on termination), as well as issues related to working conditions, such as minimum wage, overtime, medical leave, and sexual harassment.
Our employment law curriculum at DU offers exposure to all of these areas.
- Our most basic course in employment law is Survey of Employment Law. This course is designed to provide an overview of the two basic types of employment law: common law (including employment-related contract and tort law), and statutory law (including anti-discrimination law, wage and hour law, and some workplace safety law). The goal of this course is to expose students to numerous areas of employment law, providing employment law literacy and a basic understanding of the themes which underlie the various forms of employment law. This course provides a good window into employment law for those who are unsure about whether they are interested in this field, or those who think that they may only take one course in this area. It also provides a good foundation to the more in-depth courses discussed below, including the other two foundation courses. Some instructors require the survey as a prerequisite for their more specialized courses (though it is not a prerequisite for the other two foundation courses discussed below).
- Anyone who intends to practice employment law will likely need a good foundation in anti-discrimination law, which forms a major part of most employment law practices. While this topic is covered briefly in the Survey of Employment Law, students planning a career in this area need a far more detailed understanding of this law than they will get from the survey course. Such in-depth coverage of this foundational area is offered in our Employment Discrimination Law course.
- Finally, students who might want to practice in sectors with unionization or collective bargaining may want to consider our foundation course in Labor Law. This course will also be useful for students who may practice in traditionally non-unionized areas, where workers who engage in collective action might trigger more traditional labor law protections.
In summary, students who are unsure that they want to practice employment law, as well as those who are looking to begin their study of employment law with a broad overview, should take Survey of Employment Law. Those who plan to practice in this area should also take Employment Discrimination Law, and should consider taking Labor Law. Students can take these three foundation courses in any order they want, and as many of them as they want; none of them have prerequisites.
More Depth: Topic-Specific Courses and Seminars
We also offer a number of single-topic or specialty employment law courses.
- These courses include Labor Law in Spanish, Disability Law, and Employment Law – Benefits. Some of our specialty courses are taught in seminar form and generally include a writing Level Writing Requirement. These seminars include Employment Law in the New Economy and Advanced Topics in Anti-Discrimination Law. Many of the seminars require either Survey of Employment Law or one of the other foundation courses as a prerequisite.
- We have a Civil Rights Clinic, which covers both employment and public accommodations disability issues. Additionally, our Civil Litigation Clinic includes a number of employment law opportunities.
- Additionally, several of the positions available through our Externship Program focus on employment law. The Externship Office will be happy to work with you to help you find such an externship.