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Common labor laws you may be breaking without realizing it

While labor day is a time for employees to relax with a day off, if you’re a business owner or manager, it’s a great time to reflect on how well your organization maintains adherence to US labor laws. Each year, businesses of all types and size encounter challenges with employment-related lawsuits stemming from alleged violations with labor laws. A business may very well be breaking a labor law and not even realize it.

In honor of Labor Day, here are 5 common labor laws that you should know about so you can avoid a violation or a lawsuit.

1. Occupational Safety and Hazard Act (OSHA)

Every worker deserves a safe environment in which to make a living. Yet too few organizations take the time to regularly inspect their workplaces for potential hazards. These can be conditions like poor ventilation, inadequate lighting, incorrect storage of chemicals, cluttered office spaces, and work areas that are not ergonomic. Failure to educate employees on certain hazards and providing safety training are asking for trouble. Workers’ compensation cases can be reduced by taking the time to make the workplace safer.  You can learn more about your employer responsibilities under OSHA.

2. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

Since the inception of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and several additional anti-discriminatory laws such as the Equal Pay Act (EPA), Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the more recent Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) – diversity should be embraced by all organizations who employ workers. However, discrimination based on race, religion, gender, sexual preference, genetic history, national origin, marital status, parenting status, and disabilities does occur at alarming rates. It’s best to understand the above employment laws well, and never refuse to hire or terminate someone based on the above characteristics.  Learn more about fair hiring practices.

3. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

All American workers have the right to earn enough to reasonably support themselves based on national standards of living. Therefore the Fair Labor Standards Act enforces minimum wage so that all employees earn at least a fair wage. Unfortunately, some employers ask workers to perform tasks “off the clock” or forget to display the mandatory FLSA posters in the approved areas where employees can educate themselves. Learn about which jobs are governed by the FLSA.

4. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

Parents and caregivers are often faced with the difficult choice of either to caring for a child or incapacitated family member or maintain a career. Likewise, parents-to-be often worry about how they will manage to welcome a new baby into the family, while still earning a paycheck. Your responsibility as a covered employer (50 or more employees) under FMLA is to provide up to 12-weeks of unpaid leave yet maintain active job status for eligible employees. Learn more about the FMLA.

5. Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

How an employer manages benefits has come under increasing scrutiny since the Healthcare Reform movement. The Employment Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a law that falls under the benefit category when it comes to managing employee retirement savings plans. That means if you offer retirement benefits, you must disclose this information clearly to eligible employees, plus maintain accurate data and reports and be prepared for audits by the US government. Learn more about ERISA.
While Labor Day was designed to honor those who work hard every day to keep the US economy strong, it is also an opportune time for organizations to review their labor practices to make sure they are operating within the laws. Visit the employment legal center for more help.

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