There are many different facets to employment law, and this complexity is what draws many lawyers into this area of practice. It is an arena that is constantly changing and developing to protect both employees and employers. Each of these classes has their own set of rights as well as responsibilities that need to be protected as well as understood. The employer is in a unique position and must make every effort to provide a safe workplace for their employees. They see the world of employment law from a totally different perspective than that of the employee. As an employer or a business owner it is important to be aware of the different types of employment laws and how they affect the business practices and procedures.
There are employment laws on both the Federal level and the state level that affect the workplace. Federal and state levels both have regulations pertaining to the types of questions that can be asked of job applicants to how employees are to be treated. While Federal laws are the same across the board, state laws can vary between states. Some of them can actually be more stringent than some of the Federal laws regarding employment practices. Here is a brief discussion of some of the major Federal laws that may affect any business owner or employer.
There are Federal laws which prohibit any form of discrimination in the workplace including during the hiring process. TitleVIIof the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, gender or national origin when hiring individuals. This law applies to employers who have at least 15 employees. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 is an amendment to the TitleVIIAct and adds that there cannot be any discriminatory practices toward a person based on a pregnancy, childbirth or other related medical conditions. This includes the acts of hiring, firing, benefits, leave or promotion. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination against any qualified individual who is otherwise capable of performing their duties. TheADAapplies only to those who employ a minimum of 15 employees. And the Age Discrimination Act of 1967 makes it illegal to discriminate against an individual because of their age. This can be applied to persons who are 40 years of age or older and it is only enforced with employers who have 20 or more employees.
Employers must also be aware that there are certain employment laws that are in place to ensure that there are no discrepancies or discrimination in pay procedures. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 prohibits employers from discrepancies in pay between men and women who are performing the same job tasks and requirements in one establishment. If they do the same jobs, they must receive the same pay scale. The Fair Labor Standards Act sets the standards for overtime pay, minimum wage and child labor regulations.
The Family and Medical Leave Act allows qualified employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in the course of a year. There are some strict guidelines to the FMLA. A family member may take the leave for their own serious illness or if one of their immediate family members becomes seriously ill and needs full time care. An eligible employee may also request this leave in advance for the birth or adoption of a child.
One way that an employer can protect themselves as well as their employees is to create and maintain a policy and procedure booklet which details the company’s procedures. This material should contain the proper procedures for employees to take if they feel that they have been discriminated against or harassed in the workplace. It should also contain the guidelines for requesting FMLA leave. And it should have guidelines as to how raises and promotions are handled fairly within the company. Having this in hand and following it precisely can protect both employee and employer.