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White Paper published by The HR Specialist, copyright 2007

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Federal employment laws can be terribly confusing, particularly because they often have different definitions for the size of a business that is exempt from the law. Use the following list to make sure you’re not spending time and money complying with laws that only apply to larger businesses. Note: Many states have set lower thresholds. Always check with your state labor agency.

AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT ACT (ADEA): prohibits employers from discriminating against workers over age 40 in hiring, discharge, wages or benefits.

Who is covered: Employers with 20 or more workers.

Agency to contact: Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: (202) 663-4900, www.eeoc.gov.

AMERICANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT (ADA): prohibits job discrimination of individuals with disabilities (Title I) and requires public facilities to be accessible to the disabled (Title III).

Who is covered: Employers with 15 or more workers (Title I) and any business that provides facilities open to the public. (Title III).

Agency to contact: EEOC, (202) 663-4900 and www.eeoc.gov, Job Accommodation Network (800) 526-7234, www.jan.wvu.edu.

CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964 (TITLE VII): prohibits hiring, discharge or wage discrimination based on race, religion, sex or national origin.

Who is covered: Employers with 15 or more workers. Agency to contact: EEOC, (202) 663-4900, www.eeoc.gov.

CONSOLIDATED OMNIBUS BUDGET RECONCILIATION ACT (COBRA): requires employers to offer continuing health care coverage to terminated employees and certain spouses and dependents for a specified period.

Who is covered: Employers of 20 or more workers that offer health coverage.

Agency to contact: Department of Labor, (866) 4-USA-DOL or www.dol.gov; or IRS, (800) 829-1040 or www.irs.gov.

EQUAL PAY ACT (EPA): requires employers to pay equal wages to men and women in most conditions.

Who is covered: Employers with at least one worker.

Agency to contact: EEOC, (202) 663-4900, www.eeoc.gov.

EMPLOYEE POLYGRAPH PROTECTION ACT (EPPA): restricts occasions when private employers can use lie detectors in hiring or investigations.

Who is covered: All private employers.

Agency to contact: Department of Labor, (202) 693-0051, www.dol.gov.

FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT (FLSA): establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor standards.

Who is covered: All employers.

Agency to contact: Department of Labor, (866) 4-USA-DOL or (202) 693-0051, www.dol.gov.

FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE ACT (FMLA): allows workers to take up to 12 weeks per year of job-protected time off for the birth of a child or to care for themselves or family members with a "serious" illness.

Who is covered: Employers with 50 or more workers.

Agency to contact: Department of Labor, (866) 4-USA-DOL, www.dol.gov.

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION ACT (FTCA): prohibits “unfair methods of competition” and “unfair or deceptive” business practices.

Who is covered: Almost all businesses.

Agency to contact: Federal Trade Commission, (202) 326-3128, www.ftc.gov.

IMMIGRATION REFORM AND CONTROL ACT (IRCA): requires you to review applicant’s work eligibility documents.

Who is covered: Employer with at least one worker.

Agency to contact: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service, (800) 357-2099, www.uscis.gov

NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS ACT (NLRA): prevents discrimination against workers who participate in union activity or band together to protect work conditions.

Who is covered: Almost all employers and unions.

Agency to contact: National Labor Relations Board, (202) 273- 1991, www.nlrb.gov.

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH ACT (OSHA): requires employers to run a business free from recognized hazards and keep records on injuries, illnesses.

Who is covered: Almost all businesses. Employers are exempt from programmed inspections if they have 10 or fewer employees.

Agency to contact: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, (202) 693-1999, www.osha.gov.

PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION ACT (PDA): prohibits discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth or any other related medical issues.

Who is covered: Employers with 15 or more workers.

Agency to contact: EEOC, (202) 663-4900, www.eeoc.gov.

WORKER ADJUSTMENT AND RETRAINING NOTIFICATION ACT (WARN): requires companies to give at least 60 days notice of closings and mass layoffs.

Who is covered: Most employers with more than 100 workers.

Agency to contact: Department of Labor, (866) 4-USA-DOL, www.dol.gov.  

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