In recent years, employment-based lawsuits have become more and more prevalent with, in some situations, courts ruling against the employer. Litigious and disgruntled employees often allege discrimination, unsafe workplaces, retaliation, whistleblower harassment, and employee leave discrepancies. If found at fault, an employer can face fines and harsh penalties. Given that, supervisors and managers need to comply with federal employment laws. The following are overviews of the five most commonly cited and litigated federal employment laws:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) – Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. It applies to employers with 15 or more employees for each working day for at least 20 calendar weeks during 12 months. (Employers with less than 15 employees are typically covered by state or local anti-discrimination laws). Title VII provides for monetary and non-monetary remedies to the victim of any case of workplace discrimination in any aspect of employment (i.e., hiring, firing, promotion, and compensation). The statute instructs employers to treat all employees and applicants equally, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sex (including pregnancy-related characteristics, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, or any other characteristics unrelated to job performance.
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – The FLSA is the nation’s primary wage law. It establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, proper recordkeeping, and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers. Additionally, a regulation called the FairPay Overtime Rules outlines the duties of deciding whether an employee is considered “exempt” or “non-exempt” from overtime under the FLSA. The FLSA and its overtime rules apply to businesses with two or more employees on payroll.
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – The FMLA allows eligible employees of covered establishments to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for their child’s birth, to address their own serious health condition, or care for a seriously ill immediate family member. Employees are eligible for FMLA leave if they have worked for a covered employer for at least one year and have performed at least 1,250 hours of paid work over the last 12 months. Several states have enacted their own family medical leave laws that closely mirror the federal rule but may significantly differ. All employers should contact their state labor department for any information on possible state-administered FMLA programs.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – The ADEA prohibits employment and benefits discrimination against individuals over 40 based on age. The ADEA applies to businesses with 20 or more employees on the payroll. Generally, under the ADEA, employers cannot take anyone’s age or proximity to retirement into account when making big decisions on hiring, firing, pay, benefits, or promotions.
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – Title I of the ADA prohibits employment discrimination of any kind against qualified individuals with disabilities. The ADA applies to businesses with 15 or more employees on payroll and provides specific protections to individuals with disabilities. Upon request from an employee or applicant with a disability, covered employers must accommodate the individual’s condition in the workplace. Employers can reject the job accommodation request only when the request imposes an undue hardship on the business.
Any business with two or more employees must know about federal, state, or local employment laws. The regulations mentioned above are just a few of the critical human resource and compliance topics that small businesses need to handle daily. To assist business owners in gaining knowledge of employment law regulations, Personnel Concepts has developed:
- online employee training courses;
- eLearning modules for managers and supervisors; and
- additional employer digital compliance resources.
Each item on our various platforms offers a wealth of human resources, labor law, and safety information at the user’s fingertips. Remember, a lack of labor law knowledge can lead to costly discrimination claims and potential liability. It’s up to employers to educate themselves about all the legal issues that may affect their workplaces.