Like any legislation, federal and state labor laws have a lot of detail. While you don’t need to know them line-by-line, it is important to be comfortable with labor laws – these are what give you your right as an employer, but also what protects your employee rights.
What labor laws do you need to stay on top of? Read our FAQs …
What labor laws do I need to be aware of?
Employers must have good familiarity with a broad range of labor laws. First and foremost, you must master the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). It is the main law regulating wage-and-hour issues, minimum wage, overtime and classification into exempt and hourly status. Courts don’t have patience for human resource professionals and supervisors who don’t make a good-faith effort to learn the rules. A good starting point is to go to the webpages for the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division and brush up on the FLSA.
You must also familiarize yourself with the wage-and-hour rules in each state your organization has employees. Some states, for example, have stricter rules on when overtime is due and what breaks employees are due. Plus, minimum wages vary by state and even city.
Plus, you should have at least a working knowledge of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). That’s true even if yours isn’t a union workplace. Many of the NLRA’s provisions apply to all covered workplaces – not just unionized workplaces or those being organized.
How do I train managers and supervisors on labor laws?
The best approach is a systematic one. Start with mandated training such as is required for sexual harassment awareness and prevention in many states. You can broaden that training to include all forms of harassment. That’s the EEOC’s recommended approach.
You may want to add regular training to refresh all managers and supervisors on wage-and-hour rules, especially overtime and misclassification. Supervisors and managers need a clear understanding that the company does not allow off-the-clock work. This happens with surprising frequency and is a major cause of class-action lawsuits. Failing to pay workers for all hours worked, including off-the-clock work, can cost your organization millions in back pay and penalties.
Finally, anytime there is a major change to relevant regulations, schedule extensive training. The same is true for major Supreme Court decisions. Major changes are expected soon, for example, for how you manage exempt workers under the FLSA. Plus, the Supreme Court is set to soon decide on expanding the definition of sex discrimination to include sexual orientation discrimination.
What are employee rights in the workplace?
Employees have numerous rights in the workplace. These include the right to FMLA leave if working for a covered employer; the right to a discrimination- and harassment-free workplace based on sex, race, national origin, disability, religion, age and military service; and the right to reasonable accommodations for disability – all under federal law. State and local laws often provide even greater protection, including from retaliation for workers’ compensation claims and expanded, paid leave for various reasons.
What rights do employers have?
You have the right to manage your workplace and to hire, discipline and terminate workers as you see fit within the law. Most employers are so-called at-will employers. That means they can terminate workers for any reason or no reason as long as it isn’t an illegal one. Of course, if you are a union workplace, your rights depend on what you negotiated with the union. Public employers also have additional restrictions on discharging employees who have an expectation of continued employment.