Employment Laws You Need to Know

It’s important that leaders and managers are familiar with federal, state, and local employment law. After all, these laws inform your policy and procedure, and understanding of them keeps your organization compliant and employees happy. That said, memorizing every employment law is impossible and as the saying goes ‘you do not need to know everything, you just need to know where to find it.’ While every employment law is important, here are eight key laws you should hit when trying to broaden your knowledge of employment regulation.

  1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

This federal law protects employees and applicants against discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin and religion. Specifically, it requires employers to provide equal opportunity to all employees or potential employees throughout the application, hiring, and employment processes. You can learn more about Title VII, what it means for you and how to ensure your organization’s compliance on the EEOC’s website here: https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/statutes/titlevii.cfm

  1. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA requires that employers provide ‘reasonable accommodations’ to qualified individuals with disabilities who are employees or applying for employment. The ADA does not specifically define disabilities as the term is broad and applies in many situations. It does however, define what is needed for the ADA to apply to individual: potential employees must be qualified for the position they are applying to and any accommodations requested must be within reason, not causing ‘undue hardship’ to the employer.

In addition to utilizing the ADA website here: https://www.ada.gov/ there are other resources available to you.  Job Accommodation Network or JAN is an excellent resource that provides valuable education and guidance on how to comply with the ADA and make your office and jobs more accessible to employees with disabilities.

  1. Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

Enacted in 1967, the ADEA protects applicants against age discrimination. It dictates that employees 40 years of age or older cannot be discriminated against because of their age. In addition to applying to the hiring and promotion process, this legislation protects individuals from being pushed into retirement, required to complete additional tests or tasks in order to keep their positions. You can learn more about the ADEA and how to best protect your employees on the EEOC’s website at:  https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/discrimination/agedisc

  1. The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

The USERRA ensures that any member of the military that is returning to service after five years or less of active duty is able to return to their civilian job. The law stipulates that the service member must provide written or verbal notice to the employer prior to their military discharge and their discharge must be honorable. For the employer, this law dictates that the military service member be reinstated in the job they left or a comparable position, along with the reinstatement of all benefits they would have received if not for their military service.

In addition to protecting veterans’ rights to their civilian jobs, the USERRA protects current military members from discrimination based on their need for additional leave of absences for active military duty. There can be challenges to hiring and retaining veteran’s but many resources exist. You can learn more about this particular law at https://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/ and check out our article on hiring veterans here for more resources.

  1. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime eligibility, child labor standards, etc. It dictates what compensation is reasonable (federal minimum wage) and that overtime eligible employees must make a minimum rate of one and a half times their pay when working more than forty hours in a given week.

In addition to establishing hourly pay standards, The FLSA defines what constitutes an exempt employee, establishing that all duties and salaries must be well defined and in compliance with the Department of Labor stipulations. Learn more about these stipulations and other fair labor standards on the FLSA website: https://www.dol.gov/whd/flsa/

  1. Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

This law, enacted in 1986, is meant to deter employers from hiring and bringing immigrants illegally into the country. It is also intended to protect migrant workers from exploitation. This law requires that all employers verify citizenship or immigration status. While it is not the only immigration law, it is the one we most frequently have to adhere to. Unwillingness to adhere to this specific law can land employers with anything from large fines to jail time. You can learn more about this law and how your organization can ensure compliance by visiting this site: https://www.uscis.gov/tools/glossary/immigration-reform-and-control-act-1986-irca

  1. Benefits laws

This is not as clear cut as the laws we have previously mentioned. Benefits laws encompass things such as the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), which regulates employers offering pensions or welfare benefits, the Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA) which allows for health care portability requirements under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), among others.

Benefits laws are meant to ensure the fair treatment of employees and ensure that they are provided with care and adequate information concerning that care. You can learn more about ERISA and benefits laws here: https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/health-plans/erisa

  1. State and local laws where your business operates

Lastly, be aware of the state and local laws that apply to your organization. Often many of the laws we have discussed are reinforced or strengthened by local and state legislation that may change the way that you approach policy.  Where there are differences between federal, state, and local laws, you should follow the most generous law. There are resources to find out what state and local employment laws are in your area. This website is a good place to start: https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/state.htm , offering information on each states’ employment laws and allowing for easy transition to the state and local websites.

While this list is not all encompassing, it prompts an exploration of employment laws. An understanding of these laws on a federal, state, and local level is the key to building a successful and productive organization. It may never be possible to memorize every law but with modern technology, it is not necessary. Knowing what you are looking for and where to find information empowers us to ensure compliance of the organization and the safety and happiness of your employees.

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