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    3 Key Employment Laws That You Need to Know

    Operating a business comes with great responsibility to not only your customers but also to your employees. It is important to understand key employment laws to make sure you stay in compliance with the law and don’t jeopardize your business or the safety of your employees.

    Here are three key employment laws to keep in mind that will help manage your employees.

    1. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

    The purpose of the FLSA is to establish a minimum and overtime wage for your non-exempt employees and recordkeeping. Employees who fall within this category must be paid at least the federal minimum wage for each hour worked, and one-and-a-half times their hourly rate for any hours worked beyond 40 each week. It is important to know your state’s current minimum wage since it varies from state-to-state.

    Having a thorough understanding of the FLSA will help you define which employees are considered exempt and non-exempt, pay them properly, and address what, if any, work time needs to be paid, including on-call, training, meetings, and travel time. Staying on top of FLSA rules can help prevent unnecessary pay discrepancies, saving you time and money when processing payroll. In 2016, The United States Department of Labor (USDOL) substantially increased the civil money penalties it can impose for certain violations of the FLSA. Effective August 1, 2016, the USDOL can now impose a monetary policy of up to $1,894 for each repeated or willful violation of minimum wage or overtime requirements. This may also help you avoid lawsuits initiated by a current or former employee due to incorrect compensation or back pay you may owe them.

    2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

    As a business owner, it is important to ensure you provide a safe work environment for your employees. OSHA is the primary federal agency which governs occupational health and safety in the workplace. The OSHA law and regulations ensure employers provide employees with a safe and healthy work environment free from hazards, such as exposure to chemicals, mechanical dangers, or unsanitary conditions. Many of these hazards are common in a variety of industries. For example, employees may be operating forklifts, handling potentially toxic medications in a medical office setting, and other potentially life-threatening scenarios. It is your responsibility to ensure your employees have the resources and training to know how to safely handle themselves in these situations.

    Fortunately, OSHA provides various resources to help you. A few best practices you can adopt could be ensuring your employees receive safety training that is related to their job, giving your employees access to protective equipment if needed, and training them on the proper way to report and investigate all safety-related incidents and/or accidents.

    3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

    Taking care of your customers is always a priority and providing the best customer service is most often very important to a business. Sometimes your customers come with a variety of special circumstances when they walk through your door—but so do your employees. In 2015, 17.5% of persons with a disability were employed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are a business with 15 or more employees you are required to comply with the ADA, which requires you to provide reasonable accommodations to any employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause the employer significant difficulty or expense. Also, as a business offering services to the general public, you must comply with ADA standards to meet the needs of disabled individuals visiting your business.  

    Related reading: Is Your Business ADA Compliant?

    As the business owner, you and your supervisors play a key role in identifying and implementing reasonable accommodations for employees that have a need.  You can work with your HR team to identify the essential functions of the job, as well as define what “reasonable accommodations” look like for your business in compliance with the ADA.

    While running your own business requires a long list of duties, following key employment laws must be a priority to protect your business, customers, and employees. Rest assured, there are plenty of resources available to help guide you to run a successful business. 

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    Norman Paul

    Norman Paul is CEO of SWBC PEO Services. He is responsible for overseeing the division’s day-to-day tasks, including payroll, employee benefits administration, workers’ compensation, and HR support for more than 7,000 shared employees in Texas and 18 additional states. Norman also serves as Corporate Counsel for SWBC PEO, providing guidance on compliance issues, overseeing unemployment claims administration, and conducting client training.

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