Employment law is important for both employers and employees. As rules and regulations put in place to protect both parties, understanding the various laws is extremely important to having a successful career.
There are many different laws in place regulating behaviors in the workplace, payment, discrimination and time away from work. Whether you’re an employer wanting to ensure you’re following all the rules or an employee looking for the warning signs, here are a few of the most important employment laws you need to know.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers cannot discriminate against a person based on their race, religion, sex or ethnicity. For an employer, this means you cannot fire a current employee or discriminate against new hires based on these factors. You also cannot use someone’s race, religion or gender when giving promotions or pay raises.
Employees will want to be aware of what discrimination looks like. During a job interview, be aware of illegal questions that a potential employer may ask, including personal information like how old you are, if you plan on having a family and what your ethnicity is.
If an employer finds they’re being sued for discrimination, they are unable to use general liabilities insurance to cover the cost of the suit. Excluded from most general liability insurance policies are such things as suits by employees charging wrongful termination, racial or gender discrimination or harassment.
- Fair Labor Standards Act
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage. If the state has a higher minimum wage, they must receive that amount of compensation. The Fair Labor Standards Act also says hourly employees clocking in more than 40 hours a week need to be paid overtime.
Both employers and employees need to ensure schedules and pay are within the standards of this law. Employers should not try schedule employees for additional hours without providing overtime pay, and employees should speak up if they’re not being compensated appropriately.
- Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) states that employees called to military duty cannot be discriminated against. When reservists return to work, they should be able to get their job back. Employees who are enlisted in the military should know whether or not they’re protected under USERRA.
USERRA only applies to active-duty tours less than five years, but employers will want to be wary of fighting a returning reservist in court. In most cases, the court always sides with the employee.
- Family and Medical Leave Act
While there is not a law providing paid maternity leave for employees, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) does provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid time off after the birth or adoption of a child. FMLA can also apply to taking time off to care for sick children, parents and partners.
Employers with 50 or more employees must allow employees to take the job-protected time off, but they are not required to pay the employee during this time. To be eligible for FMLA leave, employees must have had at least one year of service with the company.
- Equal Pay Act
While it is already illegal to discriminate against an employee for gender under Title VII, it is also illegal to pay a woman less than her male co-workers under the Equal Pay Act. If equal work with equal skill and responsibility is completed by both a male and female employee, both will need to make the same salary.
While it is not necessary to disclose information related to other employee’s salaries, employees should be aware of what other individuals in the office may be making. If they feel they are being discriminated against, it’s fair to speak up. Employers are able to pay employees different salaries, but they must be able to provide reasons for the salary bump.
- The Immigration Reform and Control Act
When making new hires, employers are not able to hire illegal aliens based on the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Employers are required to use I-9 forms to verify the eligibility of an employee and ensure they’re able to work in the United States. Employers are also not allowed to hire illegal immigrants for a lower salary.
Employees who are not legal immigrants of the United States and are looking for employment will need to go through the process of becoming a citizen or getting a green card. This ensures they are protected under the employment laws within the country.
Staying informed on employment laws is important for both employees and employers. No matter what side you fall on, doing the appropriate research and staying up to date on the various laws can ensure you’re properly protected.