In our decades of partnering with businesses of all sizes, we’ve learned that business owners really don’t know what they don’t know. What we mean is we find a great deal of clients who have no idea about complying with the state and federal laws that apply to their business – and that’s a major risk. Non-compliance not only hurts your employees and company, the fees associated with not meeting deadlines or following the correct procedures could just put you under. When it comes to HR legal compliance, here are the laws that matter to business owners:
There is a host of federal laws protecting employees when it comes to discrimination. Treating your employees equally will go a long way to protect you as an employer should an issue arise. As a standard, employers should be aware that it’s illegal to discriminate against someone based on:
- National origin
It’s also illegal to retaliate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Employers must also reasonably accommodate their employees' sincerely held religious practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer's business. There are also federal laws protecting pregnant women, older people and those with disabilities.
The number of retaliation cases is on the rise across the country and there are employee protections in place. The concept is employers should not retaliate or discriminate against employees for filing an EEOC complaint, speaking on behalf of another employee as a part of a workplace investigation, or receiving statutory workers’ compensation benefits for compensable work-related injuries. When it comes to workers’ compensation retaliation, the actual payment or denial of the claim is irrelevant to the discrimination. Examples of retaliation include:
- Reprimanding the employee or giving a performance evaluation that is lower than it should be
- Transferring the employee to a less desirable position
- Engaging in verbal or physical abuse
- Threatening to make, or actually make reports to authorities (such as reporting immigration status or contacting the police)
- Terminating the employee
Leaves of Absence and Accommodations
Make sure to engage in the interactive process when it comes to leave, whether it’s paid or unpaid. Talk to your employees about how much time they need, and be sure to communicate about their return. There are laws protecting employers if employees disappear after months away but there are also laws in place protecting employees when leave is justified. Keep in mind, if an employee requests a family or pregnancy-related leave, their job is protected, provided they and the employer both meet the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) guidelines and their state’s complementary laws. An employee returning from military leave has the right to have his or her job back if he or she served five years or less of duty.
Employers must follow immigration laws in order to verify candidates are legally eligible to work in the U.S. This includes citizens, permanent residents and temporary foreign workers. To verify an employee’s status and to show an employer has complied with the law, an Employment Eligibility Verification (form I-9) must be completed for every employee and kept up to date and on file during that employee’s tenure.
Wage and Hour Laws
Many employers get in trouble with wage and hour laws. Make sure you pay attention to the following:
- Know how to classify employees as exempt or non-exempt
- Calculate overtime correctly
- Know which deductions are permissible
Make sure to do your homework when it comes to the laws surrounding hiring and managing employees, and if you need help with HR compliance, be sure to give us a call!