Federal and state employment laws govern every business in some way. It’s important as a business owner or manager to become familiar with the employment laws that affect your business.
- Overtime and Minimum Wage – The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the law that sets federal minimum wage rates and mandates that employers pay employees time-and-one-half of their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in the workweek. Additionally, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 expanded the FLSA to prohibit pay discrimination It’s important that you remain aware of your wage payment obligations because business owners and managers can be held individually liable for violations of this law.
- Job Discrimination – Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers employing 15 or more employees from discriminating against individuals based on race, national origin, color, gender or religion. This law has been expanded to prohibit harassment, including sexual harassment. Additionally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 amended Title VII to forbid employers from discriminating based on pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical conditions and The Americans with Disabilities Act and Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act prohibits discrimination based on physical or mental impairment. Bottom line, treat all employees and applicants the same and make employment decisions based on the individual’s skills, experience and job performance rather than on any other characteristic.
- Age Discrimination – Similar to the protections afforded under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals who are age 40 and older. Additionally, with very limited exceptions, it prohibits employers from setting mandatory retirement ages for individuals. Although the ADEA applies only to employers with 20 or more employees, it is never a good idea to exclude an individual from consideration of employment, promotion, transfer or any other employment-related decision based on age.
- Military Leave – The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees who volunteer or are called up to military duty. Further, the employer must grant time off to individuals for military training leaves and if they are called up to active duty. If they return from active duty leave within five (5) years, you must restore them to the same job or a job they would have reasonably attained had it not been for the military leave. Challenging a reservist’s right to be reinstated to employment is never a good idea. The employer almost always loses disputes under USERRA.
- Workplace Safety – All employers, regardless of size, have a general duty under the Occupational Safety & Health Act to provide a safe working environment to their employees. This includes providing employees with Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) as needed, training them on various safety issues, and ensuring our processes of performing work are compliant with the law. Business owners and managers can be held individually liable for violations of this statute.
- Immigration – The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) requires employers to only employ individuals who are legally authorized to work in the United States. Employers are required to verify the identity and work authorization of all new hires by completing Form I-9.
This is just a partial list of federal employment laws with which employers must comply. State and local laws also address certain aspects of employment. When in doubt, err in favor of the employee.
Contributed by Christine Crews, SPHR, is Vice President of Human Resource Services for the Employers Association Forum, Inc. (EAF). EAF is a non-profit corporate membership-based association dedicated to serving the business and HR communities with world-class HR tools, hotlines & legal compliance, news & trends, surveys & economic data, benefits & insurance, risk management, training & consulting, and leadership & organizational development. HCCMO members receive discounted rates on all EAF classroom training at EAF’s training center in Longwood. Click here for currently scheduled programs: http://www.eafinc.org/online_store/training/HCCMO/training_programs.pdf.
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