No matter what type of business you’re in, there are laws and regulations that govern the decisions you make regarding applicants and employees. The employment laws that govern these decisions include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Wage and Hour Laws (what and how you pay employees)
  • Anti-Discrimination Laws
  • Leave Laws

As a business, you have a duty to maintain compliance with federal, state, and local employment laws. It is important to have policies, practices, and procedures in place to ensure you (and your employees) are not violating employment laws either intentionally or unintentionally.

While federal laws guide us in making applicant and employee decisions, states, counties, and municipalities often have more employee-friendly laws that also need to be followed.

We’ll highlight important federal laws below, but keep in mind that local laws also need to guide your policies, practices, procedures, and, ultimately, your decisions. Additionally, this article does not cover federal laws pertaining to government contractors.

Workplace Discrimination Laws

An employee is defined as anyone who is, whether documented or undocumented:

  • Full-time
  • Part-time
  • Seasonal
  • Temporary
  • Under a work program
  • Volunteer

These laws also protect employees from retaliation for making a complaint or participating in an investigation of discrimination based on any of these laws.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Applies to: Employers with at least 15 employees

Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of:

  • Color
  • Gender identity
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex (including a prohibition on sexual harassment)
  • Sexual orientation

“Reasonable” accommodations must be made for candidates or employees with sincere religious beliefs unless it would impose an undue hardship on the employer.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (Amended Title VII)

Applies to: Employers with at least 15 employees

Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of:

  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Medical conditions related to either pregnancy or childbirth

Equal Pay Act of 1963

Apples to: Employers with at least one employee

Employers must pay men and women equal wages for equal work performed at the same organization. Also, some states and municipalities have regulations about what you can ask applicants regarding their current pay.

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

Applies to: Employers with at least 15 employees

Employers cannot discriminate against employees or candidates who are qualified for a job and also have a disability. Reasonable accommodations must be made to allow a qualified, disabled person to do their job, unless it would impose “undue hardship” on the employer’s business. It is important to note here that the term “disability” has a broad definition under the law.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)

Applies to: Employers with at least 20 employees

Employers cannot discriminate against employees or candidates due to their age if they are 40 years old or older.

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008

Applies to: Employers with at least 15 employees

Employers cannot discriminate against someone because of their genetic information or family medical history, including genetic tests.

Workplace Leave Laws

Although paid time off isn’t legally mandated by any federal laws, several regulations address unpaid leave. Also, some states have either adopted or are getting ready to adopt requirements on paid family and/or sick leave.

Family Medical Leave Act

Applies to: Employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius

Eligible employees must receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year, and their group health benefits must be maintained during leave.

Employees must be given leave for:

  • Birth and care of a newborn child
  • Placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care
  • Care for an immediate family member (spouse, parent, child) with a serious health condition
  • When the employee is unable to work due to a serious health condition

The Family Medical Leave Act also includes additional provisions for military families, which are outlined here.

Wage and Hour Laws

Currently, 30 states and Washington, D.C., have minimum wages that exceed the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Many states also mandate how quickly employees must be paid after the end of a work period, what wage-related information must be communicated to employees, and other regulations; check with your state’s Department of Labor.

Additionally, some states and municipalities require that wages be reported upon hire and/or that letters be sent to terminated employees regarding their reason for termination after employment. Also, be aware that employers cannot prohibit employees from discussing their wages with co-workers.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Applies to: Employers with at least one employee

Overtime pay of not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required for hours worked over 40 in a work week. This applies to employees classified as non-exempt (i.e., not exempt from overtime pay). The FLSA has strict definitions about which employees are and aren’t exempt from being paid overtime. It is important to follow these guidelines when classifying jobs as either exempt or non-exempt.

One additional factor to keep in mind is that federal, state, and local requirements governing discrimination, leave, and wages are legal minimums. In many industries, best practices for attracting and retaining quality employees go far beyond legal minimums.

With so many employment laws in place meant to protect employees, you can see why it would be important to have experts helping you put measures in place to ensure you are not unintentionally breaking the law. Additionally, legislation continues to change, which makes such guidance even more important.

The Lindenberger Group has helped organizations with legal compliance by conducting HR audits of procedures, policies, and practices, as well as recommending and implementing solutions to protect them and their employees. For more information on employment laws or to discuss your HR needs, please contact us at 609-730-1049 or send us an email.