Are you familiar with all the labor laws that apply to your business?
As an employer, it’s important to thoroughly understand these laws, as they are put in place to protect your employees.
In short, labor laws are regulations that protect workers and ensure fair treatment in the workplace. They cover areas like minimum wage, overtime pay, workplace safety, and discrimination.
Labor laws benefit everyone; they promote safe and fair working conditions for employees, which creates a more stable and productive workforce for employers.
In the U.S., these laws are mandated by both federal and state governments, and they apply to all employers and employees, regardless of their industry.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of federal and state labor laws and how they apply to your business.
Let’s begin by overviewing laws set by the federal government.
U.S. Federal Labor Laws
As we mentioned, federal labor laws in the United States are set by the U.S. Department of Labor. In this section, we’ll take a closer look at some of the major federal labor laws that you should be aware of as an employer.
Discrimination & Harassment
Discrimination and harassment in the workplace can take many forms, so the following federal laws are in place to protect workers.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
This law prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also prohibits retaliation against employees who report discrimination or harassment.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
This law prohibits employment discrimination against individuals who are 40 years of age or older.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
This law prohibits employment discrimination against individuals with disabilities and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to such employees.
Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
This law prohibits employment discrimination against pregnant employees and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to such employees.
Wrongful Discharge or Termination of Employment
Employers cannot terminate employees for certain reasons, such as discrimination, retaliation, or exercising their legal rights.
The following federal laws protect employees from wrongful termination:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
As mentioned, this law prohibits employment discrimination and retaliation.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
As mentioned, this law prohibits employment discrimination and retaliation against employees who are 40 years of age or older.
Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
This law provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for certain family or medical reasons.
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
This law prohibits employment discrimination and retaliation against employees who serve in the military.
Minimum Wage, Overtime, & Misclassification
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets minimum wage and pay standards for workers in the United States. The FLSA requires employers to:
- Keep accurate records of their employees’ hours worked
- Pay employees at least the federal minimum wage ($7.25/hour)
- Pay non-exempt employees overtime pay at a rate of 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek
- Properly classify their employees as either exempt or non-exempt based on their job duties and responsibilities
Unsafe Workplace Complaints & Conditions
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is responsible for ensuring that employers provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. It sets standards for workplace safety and provides training and education to employers and employees.
Employees have the right to file complaints with OSHA if they believe their workplace is unsafe or unhealthy.
Workers’ Compensation for Illness or Injury on the Job
Workers who are injured or become ill on the job may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The workers’ compensation system is governed by state law, but there are federal laws that apply to certain types of workers, such as federal employees and longshore and harbor workers.
Why Employers Must Understand Labor Laws
As an employer, it’s crucial to understand labor laws and comply with them to avoid costly penalties and lawsuits that can damage your reputation.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at why you must understand labor laws, and provide some preventative measures that you can take to avoid legal issues in the future.
To Comply with Labor Laws and Prevent Legal Issues
Failing to comply with labor laws can result in costly penalties, fines, and lawsuits that can cripple any business. As an employer, you must understand the laws that apply to your business and take steps to comply with them.
Preventative Measure #1: As an employer, you can accurately track employee hours.
As we mentioned, the FLSA requires employers to keep accurate records of their employees’ hours worked.
Accurate time tracking can help you avoid legal issues related to wage and hour disputes. Using a GPS time clock app that automatically records driving time, routes, and mileage can help ensure accurate time tracking.
To Promote a Fair and Just Workplace
Labor laws are designed to protect workers from exploitation and ensure that they are treated fairly in the workplace. By understanding labor laws, you can create a workplace culture that promotes fairness and equality.
Preventative Measure #2: As an employer, you can train your employees on workplace policies.
You can promote a fair and just workplace by training your employees on workplace policies, such as anti-discrimination and harassment policies. This will help to prevent issues related to discrimination and harassment in the workplace.
To Encourage Financial Stability
When workers are treated fairly and have access to things like health insurance and retirement benefits, they are more likely to be loyal to your business and perform better on the job.
This can lead to lower turnover rates and higher levels of productivity, which in turn, will benefit your business.
Preventative Measure #3: As an employer, you can offer employee benefits.
Offering employee benefits, like health insurance and retirement plans, will help promote financial stability and encourage loyalty among employees.
Additional Preventative Measures
There are several preventative measures that you can take to avoid legal issues related to labor laws. Here are a couple more bonus tips to stay on top of labor law compliance:
- Regularly review and update workplace policies.
- Consult legal counsel.
Why Employees Must Understand Labor Laws
Employees must understand labor laws to protect their rights in the workplace. Understanding labor laws can help employees recognize when their rights are being violated and take action to address the situation.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at why employees must understand labor laws, and provide some examples of how employees can take action if they feel their rights are being violated.
To Protect Their Right to Fair Pay
Labor laws set minimum wage and overtime pay standards, and employers must comply with these standards to avoid legal issues.
Employees who understand labor laws can recognize when their employer is violating these standards and take action to address the situation.
How to take action: Spearhead the roll-out of a precise time-tracking app, like Workyard, at your place of employment.
This way, you can automatically capture and calculate your hours worked, including overtime.
If you suspect that your employer is not paying you for all of their hours worked, you can use the app to provide accurate records of their time worked.
To Protect Their Right to Safe Working Conditions
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is responsible for ensuring that employers provide a safe and healthy workplace for their employees.
Employees who understand OSHA regulations can recognize when their employer is not complying with these regulations and take action to address the situation.
How to take action: Report unsafe working conditions to OSHA.
If you believe that your workplace is unsafe or unhealthy, you can file a complaint with OSHA. OSHA will investigate the complaint and take action, if necessary.
To Protect Their Right to Freedom from Discrimination and Harassment
As we discussed, there are federal and state laws in place to protect employees from discrimination and harassment based on race, gender, age, disability, and other protected categories.
Employees who understand these laws can recognize when they are being discriminated against or harassed and take action to address the situation.
How to take action: Report discrimination or harassment to your employer.
If you are being discriminated against or harassed, you can report the behavior to your employer. Employers are required to investigate complaints of discrimination and harassment and take appropriate action to address the situation.
For more information on employee rights and labor laws, visit the California Department of Industrial Relations website at www.dir.ca.gov.
How Labor Laws Differ for Exempt vs Non-Exempt Employees
Labor laws can vary depending on whether an employee is classified as exempt or non-exempt. Understanding the difference between these two classifications is essential for both employers and employees.
In this section, we’ll take a closer look at how labor laws differ for exempt and non-exempt employees.
Exempt employees are classified as those who are paid a salary and are exempt from overtime pay.
These employees are typically classified as executive, administrative, or professional employees. Some examples of exempt employees include:
Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), regardless of the number of hours worked. However, exempt employees are still entitled to minimum wage and other benefits required by law.
Non-exempt employees are classified as those who are paid an hourly wage and are entitled to overtime pay.
These employees are typically classified as non-management or support staff. Some examples of non-exempt employees include:
- Clerical workers
- Customer service representatives
- Production workers
According to the FLSA, Employers must pay non-exempt employees at least one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek. In addition, non-exempt employees are entitled to minimum wage and other benefits required by law.
Differences Between Exempt vs. Non-Exempt
Here are the key differences in labor laws that apply to exempt and non-exempt employees.
1. Overtime Pay
Exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay, while non-exempt employees are.
Exempt employees are typically paid a salary, while non-exempt employees are typically paid an hourly wage.
3. Work Hours
Exempt employees are generally expected to work as many hours as necessary to get the job done, while non-exempt employees are typically limited to a set number of hours per week.
4. Job Duties
Exempt employees are typically in management or professional roles, while non-exempt employees are typically in support staff roles.
As an employer, you must properly classify your employees as exempt or non-exempt to ensure compliance with labor laws. Misclassifying employees can lead to costly penalties and legal issues.
How State Labor Laws Differ from Federal Labor Laws
State labor laws differ from federal labor laws in many ways.
Federal labor laws set minimum standards for employers to follow, but individual states usually provide additional protections for workers.
Since July 2009, the federal minimum wage has been set at $7.25 per hour. However, many states have minimum wage laws that exceed this number.
For example, at the time of writing, California’s minimum wage is $15.50 per hour.
Federal labor laws require employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek, but some states have additional overtime laws in place to protect workers.
For example, California labor laws require employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime pay for all hours worked over 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek, whichever is greater.
Meal and Rest Breaks
Federal labor laws do not require employers to provide meal or rest breaks to employees. As with the previous sections, however, some states implement laws that require employers to provide these breaks.
For example, California labor laws require employers to provide a 30-minute meal break for every 5 hours worked and a 10-minute rest break for every 4 hours worked.
State-Specific Labor Laws
If you’re looking for more information on labor laws for your particular state, here are some helpful links to the most populous states in the US.
Labor Law Website
California Labor Laws
The California overtime law is just one example of a state labor law that differs from federal labor laws.
California requires employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime pay for all hours worked over 8 hours in a workday or 40 hours in a workweek, whichever is greater. This is more protective than federal labor laws, which only require employers to pay non-exempt employees overtime pay for all hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.
To comply with California labor laws, employers must accurately track their employees’ hours worked and ensure that they are paid overtime pay for all hours worked over the limit set by the state. One way to do this is by using a time-tracking app, like Workyard, that automatically calculates overtime pay.
How Workyard Can Help
As we mentioned, Workyard can help you stay compliant with labor laws and protect you from costly penalties and legal issues. Here are some of the many ways Workyard can help your business.
Electronic Record of Hours Worked
One of the FLSA recordkeeping requirements is that employers must keep accurate records of hours worked by each employee.
Workyard ensures compliance with this requirement by providing employers with an electronic record of hours worked by each employee. This makes it easy for you to keep track of your employees’ hours and ensure compliance with labor laws.
Automatic Overtime Calculation
Workyard also helps employers comply with state-specific overtime laws.
Once set up, Workyard will automatically calculate overtime based on your local state’s laws. This ensures that you are paying your employees the correct amount of overtime pay and helps you to avoid costly penalties for non-compliance.
Another way that Workyard can help employers stay compliant with labor laws is by sending break reminders in the form of push notifications.
This helps prevent employee burnout and ensures that employees are taking the breaks that they’re entitled to under state labor laws.
Archived Time Cards
Workyard also makes it easy for you to view, edit, and maintain time cards. Every hour worked and break taken is logged and archived for future reference. This way, you can keep track of your employees’ time cards.
Finally, Workyard provides an indisputable record of who did what and when.
If a time card is changed by a supervisor, Workyard will automatically notify the employee and provide them with an explanation for full transparency. Disputes can be resolved easily because of Workyard’s complete transparency.
By using Workyard, you can save time, reduce errors, and protect yourself from costly penalties and legal issues. Sign up for a free trial of Workyard today!
In this article, we’ve provided an in-depth overview of labor laws. We’ve covered the major federal law and state laws that you must know and how they differ for exempt and non-exempt employees. These laws include protections against discrimination, harassment, wrongful discharge, family and medical leave, minimum wage and overtime, unsafe workplace complaints, and workers’ compensation.
We’ve highlighted the importance of understanding labor laws for both employers, so they can avoid costly penalties, legal issues, and damage to their reputation, and employees, so they can protect themselves from unfair treatment and violations of their rights.
By having a thorough understanding of labor laws, you can ensure that your business and employees are protected.