The Most Important Federal Laws That Protect Employees

Several laws mandate clean, safe, and positive work environments for the protection of the average American employee: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), and the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). These laws all work in tandem to provide an opportunity for American citizens to take advantage of benefits, time off to care for their children and spouses, and fair compensation for the time and efforts that employees have dedicated to their employers. Below, find a breakdown of the most significant laws concerning employees that businesses should know.

The Minimum Wage

The federally required minimum wage designated for nonexempt employees is $7.25 per hour. The minimum income law falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA was established to provide rules regarding minimum wage, youth employment standards, recordkeeping practices, and overtime standards. In addition to the federal minimum wage law, most states have specific minimum wage laws. According to the U.S. Department of Labor website, “Circumstances in which an employee is affected by both the state and federal minimum wage laws, the employee is warranted the higher amount of the two minimum wages.”

The FLSA also extends protections to employees under the age of 18. Children under 14 are not allowed to work in a non-agricultural, non-familial business. Furthermore, it caps the maximum number of hours that 14- and 15-year-old children can work to 18 hours per school week and only three hours per school day. Additionally, the FLSA does not allow businesses to hire children under 18 for specific high-risk jobs. These provisions are designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health or well-being.

Workplace Safety

Employees venture to work on a daily basis with the expectation that their employer will be held to certain standards ensuring that the workplace is safe and relatively risk-free. The Occupational Safety and Health Act passed in 1970 made grand strides in lessening the potential threat of different types of hazards in the workplace.

While each state might play a limited role in establishing and maintaining the safety laws within the workplace, the dominantly responsible party in upholding the safety laws is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (also OSHA). Employers are responsible for adhering to the “General Duty Clause” of the Occupational Safety and Health Act, which mandates that they keep their workplaces free of serious hazards and risks.

Health Coverage

The Affordable Care Act is a federal law that applies to all individuals and groups of employers and employees, despite their level of interest in coverage. As of 2015, all people are mandated to have health insurance. Otherwise, they are subject to a penalty payment.

A key component of the ACA is the Shared Responsibility Requirement. The Shared Responsibility Requirements states that businesses with 50 or more employees are required to offer health insurance to their employees. If the company does not provide health insurance, they will be subject to a penalty fee for not having insurance. While individuals are mandated to have health care coverage, if the business employs less than 50 people, the business is not required to offer coverage through the company.

Unemployment Benefits

States are held to strict standards and are required to meet specific federal regulations in regards to managing payments to unemployed citizens. For this reason, certain criteria must be fulfilled to receive unemployment payments and benefits. For example, there are state-specific requirements in addition to the individual must have become unemployed for reasons beyond their control, such as a layoff or firing.

This system ensures that Americans will have a few months of financial security while momentarily outside of the workforce.

Family Leave

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993, protects employees if they need to stay home to care for a severely ill family member or to care for new children, whether the child was born or adopted into the family. FMLA allows an employee to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and job protection, which means that, while they will not receive pay for the 12 weeks (or less) that they choose to stay home, the employee will be able to retain their position within the company upon their return to the workplace.

FMLA is fashioned to aid employees in balancing their work and family obligations by allowing them to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family and medical purposes. It also works to integrate the interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunities for men as well as women.

In order to take advantage of FMLA benefits, an employee has to have been working in the business for at least 12 months in addition to having worked at least 1,250 hours within the past year. The law is only applicable to businesses if they employ at least 50 employees within a 75-mile radius.

Employment-Based Discrimination

In America today, companies are expected to be equal opportunity employers (EOE). That means companies are not allowed to discriminate against candidates or current employees based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That is primarily due to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, passed during the social justice era of the United States. During these times, movements were promoting the ideology of equal opportunities, rights, and privileges for all members of society.

Shortly after the integration of the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act were passed to protect and provide job security for potential employees over 39 years old as well as disabled candidates.

Among the most prominent securities, today are the minimum wage laws, workplace safety laws (enforced by OSHA), and benefits like health coverage requirements, social security, unemployment, and family leave. Additionally, American employees are protected against discrimination in the hiring process as well as within the workplace.

Though it has been a long road, Americans today can now enjoy their workplace and expect their employers to provide a safe, clean, positive environment where the interests and needs of the employees are recognized and reasonably considered.

From the FMLA to the IRS to the ADA and beyond, dealing with government agencies, regulations and rulings can be time-consuming and confusing. With help from StaffScapes, you can stay in compliance and stay focused on what drives success. We’d love the opportunity to examine where you are and where we can go together. For more information, call our PEO experts today.

We look forward to speaking with you.