Back to Basics
Human Resources, Personnel Services, Personnel department/administration/management, People Services. These are all names you may have heard used when referencing human resources. John Aylen describes human resources as, ““Regardless of the name, you can sum up this particular aspect of business as the decisions, activities, and processes that must meet the basic needs and support the work performance of employees” (p. 384). You can check out his book here.
A cornerstone of human resources is employment law. The very mention of employment law can strike fear into even the steeliest of business owners. For most people though, they get “donut” eyes… you mention employment laws and compliance and their eyes glaze over. You’ve lost their attention and aren’t getting it back. Then there are some who get a deer-in-the-headlights look because they don’t know where to begin; it’s all very overwhelming for them. This is why the human resources profession exists -- we are here to provide protection and compliance for you, the business owner, as well as your employees.
There’s some basic human resources knowledge that one needs to know in order to have a chance at successfully running their own business, and employment laws are at the top of that list. Below I provide you with the 10,000-foot view. This is the most basic summary of various employment laws that you should be aware of. Listen to me very carefully right now. If I could give one piece of (non-legal) advice to anyone reading this, it’s this…
Don’t be your own lawyer. Get a lawyer that specializes in employment law and talk to that lawyer frequently. It will save you time, money, and grief down the road. Courts don’t care about the ignorance defense. You won’t get off or receive leniency based on the fact that you didn’t know better.
The major employment laws you need to be aware of are, very briefly, outlined below.
Equal Pay Act (1963)
Prohibits any pay differences between men and women for performing the same job.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964)
Prohibits discrimination against people on the basis of color, race, gender, religion or national origin.
Age Discrimination in Employment Ace (ADEA) (1967)
Prohibits discrimination against employees aged 40 and older.
Rehabilitation Act (1970)
Protects the rights of handicapped persons from discrimination. This is described as someone with a mental, or physical impairment that critically inhibits their activity.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act (1978)
Requires that pregnancy be regarded as a medical condition. You need to know that this covers employees as well as spouses of employees. If female employees are offered those protections, pregnant spouses of male employees must also get those benefits.
Immigration Reform and Control Act (1986, 1990 and 1996)
Penalties for employers who knowingly hire illegal aliens.
Americans with Disabilities Act (1990)
Provides people with physical or mental disabilities greater access to public services and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for applicants and employees with disabilities.
Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (1990)
Prohibits age-related discrimination in early-retirement and other benefit plans for people who are aged 40 and older.
Family and Medical Leave Act (1993)
Unpaid leave for specified family or health-related reasons without the fear of losing their jobs.
Civil Rights Act of 1991
Gives employees who believe they have been intentionally victimized the right to sue for compensation and damages.
Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
Allows employees to retain the company’s health insurance for up to 18 months after they leave. At employee’s own expense.
Employee Retirement Income Security Action (ERISA)
Any pension and retirement programs must ensure that employees receive what they’re entitled to.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Sets minimum wage standards, overtime rates and other wage regulations. Ensures employees are paid for time worked.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Employees are entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period (be sure to understand whether your company calculates this on a rolling or calendar-year basis). The employee’s job and benefits are protected during this time. Employees must have worked a minimum of 1250 hours in the previous 12 months to qualify.
Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
Employers are responsible for providing a workplace that is safe and reasonably pleasant.
Hopefully (admittedly it’s a bit selfish that I hope this for you), you’ve gotten to the bottom of this list and realized that there’s far more to this than you thought. Hopefully the second realization you’ve just had is that you need someone to help you. Let us be there for you. Let us do the heavy lifting for you. The more time you free up with outsourcing your HR needs, the more time you have to spend on the things you really enjoy. Remember, the best way to protect yourself and your company is to hire the pros — a lawyer specializing in employment law and human resources professionals. The combination of the two is your best way to help mitigate the risks.
If you have any questions regarding employment law, please don’t hesitate to contact us.