Employment Laws Every Manager Should Know – Part 1

This is the first of a two-part series dealing with federal employment laws.  It is critical that employers comply with these regulations to provide fair treatment to employees and to avoid costly penalties in the event of non-compliance.  Here is a list of five of the ten most important federal employment laws:

Job Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, pay, and other conditions of employment based on a person’s race, religion, sex, or national origin.  It also prohibits sexual harassment

Action:  Treat all employees and applicants equally, without regard to their race, religion, gender, or any other characteristics not related to job performance.  Do not tolerate any kind of harassment in the workplace.

Minimum Wage / Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the primary federal wage law.  It sets the federal minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) and requires time-and-one-half overtime pay for hourly employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek.  The FLSA also limits the hours and types of duties that minors under the age of 18 can perform.

Action:  Always pay employees above minimum wage and pay overtime when applicable.  Contact HR when making major changes to employees’ duties, which could make the employee eligible or ineligible for overtime pay.

Family and Medical Leave

Employers with 50 or more employees are subject to FMLA requirements.  Under FMLA, qualifying employees can take up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for the birth or adoption of a child, to care for a family member, or their own “serious health condition.”  FMLA also provides leave to attend to certain situations when a family member is called to military service or leave to care for a family member injured in military service.

Action:  When employees request leave, listen for requests that meet the criteria for FMLA.  Employees don’t need to use the words “FMLA leave” to gain protection under the law.  Contact HR when you have questions about FMLA.

Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) says that employers cannot discriminate against applicants or employees older than 40 because of their age.

Action:  Never take a person’s age or proximity to retirement into account when making decisions on hiring, firing, pay, benefits, or promotions.  These decisions should be based upon performance and one’s ability to do his or her job.

Disability Discrimination

The Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (ADAAA) prohibits job discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities (that is, those individuals who can perform the job’s essential functions with or without a reasonable accommodation).

Action:  Never immediately reject applicants because you think their disability would prevent them from doing the job.  When hiring, stick to questions about the applicant’s ability to perform the job’s essential functions.  Work with HR to explore reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities