When is an employer required to pay overtime to employees? Are employees entitled to advance notice before being terminated? What is the legal difference between an independent contractor and an employee? Can an employer require employees to take lie detector tests?
The answers to these and many other workplace questions are covered in federal and state employment laws. Just how important is employment law? The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) administers and enforces more than 180 federal laws. These laws cover about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. Additional state and local laws also come into play.
There are many reasons managers should be familiar with employment law, also called labor law. Compliance, including measures to avoid lawsuits and fines, is a big one. At Northwest Missouri State University, students earning a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Management take a course in employment law with a focus on workers’ rights.
What Is Employment Law?
Employment law governs the rights and responsibilities of employers and workers. Some of the most common areas of employment law include:
- Wages and overtime pay.
- Discrimination, including age and disability.
- Family and medical leave.
- Migrant and seasonal workers.
- Equal pay and compensation.
- Labor organizations (unions).
- Special employment rights, including for veterans.
- Whistleblower protections.
- Mine safety and health.
- Workplace safety and health.
Another important area of labor law involves harassment. There are many types of harassing behavior. Sexual harassment is one specific example. Unwelcome sexual advances and requests for sexual favors are forms of sexual harassment. Harassment may also be based on age, race, color, religion, national origin and disability, among other factors.
Why Do Managers Need to Know Employment Law?
Companies hire managers to keep a business running smoothly. Depending on both the business and the size of the business, managers may have varying responsibilities. Typically, overseeing staff is one of them. This includes maintaining a workplace that complies with labor law.
Understanding what constitutes harassing conduct, for example, can help managers recognize this behavior and take the necessary actions. More to the point, it can help managers prevent workplace harassment. Providing appropriate training to employees is one way to do this.
Sometimes issues with labor laws result from business growth. Growth is important for many businesses. But as a business grows, so can the complexities of the requirements around employment law. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one example. The FMLA applies only to employers that meet certain criteria, such as the number of employees. Managers need to stay on top of requirements such as this to avoid breaking employment laws as they bring on more employees.
Unfortunately, businesses may be breaking employment laws without knowing it. This can result in costly legal expenses and penalties. What is a manager’s best defense? Understanding which labor laws apply to a particular business can help ensure employees’ rights are protected. That can go a long way in keeping a business running smoothly.
Learn more about Northwest Missouri State’s online MBA in General Management program.