6 Laws All Employers Should Know About

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Labor laws are a set of legal provisions established to safeguard the interests and welfare of employees in the workplace. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plays a pivotal role in implementing and enforcing labor laws and regulations to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for workers. Non-compliance with labor laws may result in financial penalties and legal suits. Hence, business owners must remain updated and adhere to federal and state labor laws and regulations. This article is intended for business owners seeking guidance on achieving compliance with all labor laws necessary for their business operations.

1. Safety

Managers must prioritize workplace safety. According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure a safe work environment, which may entail providing compliance training for managers and employees. In the event that employees sustain injuries despite the implementation of safety measures, they may be entitled to worker’s compensation, which could include a leave of absence for recovery or permanent disability benefits. Managers must refrain from discouraging the use of proper safety measures penalizing employees for refusing to work in hazardous conditions, or exercising their right to worker’s compensation. Regardless of production goals or quotas, compromising worker safety is unjustifiable. In addition to injuries, exposure to hazardous substances in the workplace can lead to serious health conditions such as a rare type of cancer called mesothelioma caused by exposure to asbestos, a material commonly used in the past for insulation and other industrial purposes. Asbestos fibers can be inhaled or ingested and can become lodged in the lining of the lungs or other organs, leading to serious health problems. Therefore, managers must prioritize implementing measures to prevent exposure to carcinogens and toxic substances to ensure employees’ long-term health and safety. Proper training and equipment usage and regular monitoring and assessment of workplace hazards are essential in reducing the risk of developing such illnesses.

2. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Employee Leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is an employment law that is often misconstrued. Private-sector employers with at least 50 employees are required to provide eligible workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for medical and family reasons within 12 months.

In addition to explicit coverage and eligibility requirements, the FMLA stipulates that employers are prohibited from obstructing, hindering, or denying any rights provided by the law.

Employers have a role to play in curtailing the misuse of FMLA. As an employer, you should scrutinize the reasons provided by employees for their leave by employing an employee request form and requiring mandatory medical certifications. By doing so, you can assess whether an employee’s absence conforms to the legal standards for FMLA leave.

3. The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) safeguards the right of employees to discuss their working conditions. It is unlawful for managers to forbid or penalize employees for discussing their wages or expressing grievances about scheduling.

Although the NLRA is often viewed as applicable exclusively to labor unions, it applies to all workplaces.

Managers must support their employees in discussions about their work conditions, including salary. While managers must not divulge confidential information about themselves, employees should not face retribution for discussing their employment experiences.

4. Discrimination & Harassment Laws

Managers are prohibited from engaging in discriminatory behavior, which includes terminating or refusing to employ, limiting employment opportunities, benefits, or pay, or any other action based on the following protected characteristics:

  • Race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, including harassment based on these traits. For instance, sexual harassment is a type of harassment based on sex, which is covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
  • Age, if the worker is over 40 years old. Ageism, discrimination against older workers, is unlawful in the workplace, as stipulated by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.
  • Immigration status. Although employers are prohibited from hiring individuals not authorized to work in the United States, they cannot discriminate against workers based on their immigration status. This is outlined in the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.
  • Genetic information, which includes genetic testing or other medical information about the employee or their family, unless the disclosure is legitimately business-related. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 prohibits discrimination based on this type of information.
  • Disability, including failure to provide a reasonable accommodation that would enable the employee to fulfill their primary job responsibilities. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disabilities.

Managers must focus on assisting employees in performing their duties rather than on the characteristics or actions that the law safeguards. Furthermore, managers must not retaliate against employees who report discrimination or harassment. All employees must be treated fairly and equally by managers.

5. Whistleblower Protection Program

It is imperative for employees to feel at ease when reporting workplace infractions. The Whistleblower Protection Program of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safeguards employees who report or disclose a company’s violations from any form of termination or retaliation. With these safeguards in place, employees can voice their concerns without the apprehension of being dismissed or demoted. Employers contravene this legislation if they take any retaliatory measures against the employee.

6. Child Labor Laws

When working with young employees, it is imperative to approach the matter with due diligence, as hiring minors requires careful consideration. As per the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) enacted in 1938, employers must ensure that their workplace provides a safe environment that does not jeopardize the well-being or education of their underage staff.

It is important to note that minors cannot be treated the same as adult workers. Due to their age, they are only permitted to work a limited number of hours and are restricted to specific industries. For instance, children aged 14 or younger can only be employed in certain agricultural jobs, as actors or performers, newspaper carriers, or work for their parents.

It is essential to understand that these laws differ from state to state, and it is necessary to consult the Employment Law Handbook to determine what is permissible in your area. The Wage and Hour Division is responsible for enforcing labor law protections.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, labor laws serve as crucial safeguards for the welfare and interests of employees in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) plays an essential role in enforcing labor laws and regulations to ensure a safe and healthy work environment for workers. Business owners must stay updated and comply with federal and state labor laws and rules to avoid financial penalties and legal suits. Managers must prioritize workplace safety, prevent exposure to hazardous substances, and respect employee rights under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), discrimination and harassment laws, the Whistleblower Protection Program, and child labor laws. By adhering to labor laws, business owners can promote a healthy and productive work environment for all employees.

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