HR Laws in a Nutshell

The amount of applicable workplace law is vast, and it changes constantly.

Wages & Hours: These are the laws that protect employee wages and hours and are typically regulated by the US Department of Labor. There are, of course, specific state regulations that should be observed as well.

  • FLSA: Fair Labor Standards Act – This is the main statute by which most wage and hour rules are established. FLSA governs everything from the federal minimum wage to overtime pay. They also established the 40-hour work week.
  • FMLA: Family Medical Leave Act – This act mandates that employers allow certain kinds of leave for employees without fear of losing one’s job.

EEO: Equal Employment Opportunity – These are laws that protect against workplace discrimination. Harassment policies & training also fall into this category. An employer needs to be aware of their practices across the “lifespan” of an employee and how they can be perceived as discriminatory – from posting a job, all the way through and after termination. This often refers back to “protected classes” of individuals. Federally recognized protective classes are age, disability, genetic information, national origin, race/color, sex, pregnancy, and religion. Specific laws in this category include:

  • ADA: Americans with Disabilities Act
  • ADEA: Age Discrimination in Employment
  • EPA: Equal Pay Act
  • PDA: Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Employee Benefits: These kinds of laws govern who is eligible for employee benefits, under what conditions, and what kind of benefits. Several specific instances come in to play in almost every business:

  • ACA: The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) governs which companies are required to provide healthcare coverage, and what kind.
  • ERISA: Employee Retirement and Income Security Act – sets certain minimum standards for pension or retirement plans.
  • COBRA: Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – mandates insurance coverage be available to employees leaving a job for a certain period of time.
  • HIPAA: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – protects employee’s privacy when it applies to personal medical information.

Immigration Laws: These regulations, including the INA, are designed to ensure that employers only hire those individuals who have the legal right to work in the US.

The Right to Organize: The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) was passed originally in 1935 and protected the right of employees to form labor unions. Now, these kinds of statutes outline employee rights in many facets of their jobs, even and especially in “at-will” and non-union environments.

Workplace Safety: These laws are in place to protect the health and safety of individuals and are enforced in part by the US Department of Labor and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. Areas of legislation to be aware of are:

  • OSHA: The Occupational Health and Safety Act which sets specific guidelines around workers’ safety.
  • Worker’s Compensation: These regulations require employers to provide care, pay, and resources to those employees who may be injured or sickened at work.
  • State & Industry Specific: All states and many industry specific health and safety laws and statues exist in order to further outline employer requirements.

While the list of laws and regulations is daunting and ever changing, an educated HR consultant can help you to mitigate risk in these areas. All employers will have some level of exposure, however planning and honest communication can help to protect against the legal hazards.

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