Federal, state and local employment laws apply to most employers. Human resources staff incorporate these employment rules and regulations into their companies' workplace policies to ensure they sustain a productive work environment based on mutual respect and equal opportunity. Common human resources employment laws address such issues as minimum wage, employee classification, workplace safety and employee rights.
Human resources employment laws pertaining to employee benefits include the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, called COBRA and HIPAA, respectively. Where applicable, COBRA permits employees to continue their health insurance benefits after termination or another qualifying event. A qualifying event may range from divorce or legal separation to an employee's reduction in hours, which renders him ineligible for benefits through the employer's group health plan. HIPAA mandates strict confidentiality provisions for employees' medical information. Human resources policies related to HIPAA require designation of a privacy officer who ensures the company maintains employment and medical records in accordance with HIPAA regulations.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates equal treatment of employees, regardless of sex, race, national origin, color or religion. Many human resources policies refer to this law and other laws in guaranteeing the civil rights of employees. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Title VII, which applies to employers, labor unions and employment agencies. The law prohibits discrimination in recruiting, hiring, promotion, layoff, termination and other employment actions. Other employment actions may include transfer, relocation, training and development opportunities, disciplinary and corrective action.
Workplace Safety Laws
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces regulations concerning workplace safety. Human resources policies based on OSHA regulations include procedures for operating complex equipment and machinery, as well as handling potentially dangerous and hazardous materials and substances. Employers who must adhere to OSHA regulations provide regular safety training to their employees, document incidents of workplace injuries and implement programs that monitor and improve workplace safety. Safety training for employees also includes workplace violence prevention and response to occupational illnesses.
Fair Labor Standards Act
The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division enforces the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. The law was enacted to regulate employee working hours, child labor, minimum wage and employee classification. Two major points about the FLSA include minimum wage and employee classification. The United States legislative bodies approve periodic federal minimum wage increases; however, many of the states have their own minimum wage laws. When federal and state laws differ concerning minimum wage, employers must follow the law that provides the greatest benefit to employees. The FLSA also contains overtime wage provisions for employee classification as exempt and nonexempt employees. By virtue of their duties, responsibilities and level of authority, exempt employees are not entitled to overtime pay. Employers must compensate nonexempt employees at one and a half times their hourly rate for working more than 40 hours in a workweek.
- U.S. Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division: Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Comission: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness
- FindLaw: Employment Law 101
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Summary of the HIPAA Privacy Rule; May 2003
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition: Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Specialists and Managers