employment law

Did you know employment law is subject to the number of employees you have? No matter if you’re a start-up with a few employees, or your business is growing, you must comply with relevant mandated employment law. In today’s article, we will look at a few federal laws and the applicable number of employees so you can know how it impacts your business. We’ll also discuss how State laws can add another layer of complexity.

To understand the scope of many of the federal laws, it is important to know the definition of discrimination.

What is Discrimination in Employment Law?

In the context of employment law, discrimination means taking an adverse action, or a negative action, against an employee.

These adverse actions can be:

  • Failure to hire, train, or offer an opportunity or promote.
  • Failure to offer accommodation as required by law.
  • Offer a lower wage or fewer benefits as compared to their peers.
  • Take more aggressive disciplinary actions against one peer versus another.
  • Reduce pay or benefits.
  • Transfer an employee to a less desirable position, shift, or location.
  • Demote or terminate based on a discriminatory reason.

All of these could be valid reasons an employee would file a discrimination lawsuit against your company.

Federal Employment Law and Company Size

One of the federal employment laws that would apply to companies with 15 or more employees is the ADA or the Americans with Disabilities Act. This protects qualified individuals, whether they’re an applicant or an employee, that may have a disability, from unlawful employment discrimination. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for their disabilities, unless it causes undue hardship.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to companies with 15 or more employees. This law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, and the list could go on and on.

Another employment law that also applies to companies with 15 or more employees is the Pregnancy Disability Act. This is an amendment of the Title VII Act, which prevents individuals from being discriminated against for being pregnant or giving birth, or from being temporarily disabled due to medically related conditions because of pregnancy or childbirth.

Another law for companies with 15 or more employees is the Genetic Information, Non-discrimination Act (GINA). This makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against an individual because of genetic information that may be found in family medical history. It also includes any kind of DNA information that might be acquired through testing.

A Few More Employees Means More Compliance Requirements

The Age Discrimination Employment Act applies to companies with 20 or more employees. This prevents discrimination against those who are 40 years old and older. It forbids mandatory retirement ages except for certain executives and high policymakers who are over 65.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to companies that have 50 or more employees. This basically allows employees to take job protected leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or if they themselves have a serious health condition, or birth or adoption of a child.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also applies to companies with 50 or more employees. This act mandates and requires employees working at least 30 hours per week to be offered minimal essential health coverage at an affordable rate as all full time employees. If that doesn’t happen, then you could face some serious fines when it comes to the ACA.

Human Resources and State Law

It’s important to understand what laws apply to you at a federal level versus what laws apply to you at a state level. When it comes to state laws some states have heavy regulators. The West Coast and some of the Northeastern states have a little bit more content versus the federal law.

Some states have additional protected classes in employment law, like Title VII. This could include:

  • sexual orientation
  • arrest records when off duty
  • use of legal products and garnishments
  • credit information
  • marital status

Those are additional protected classes in multiple states such as pregnancy accommodation expansion. Some states have robust pregnancy accommodation laws. If an employee is going through a pregnancy related disability, certain laws protect these pregnant employees. Employers may still ask for a doctor’s note, etc., offer light duty, with the burden on the employee to prove that they are disabled.

More and more states are passing paid sick leave employment laws. Basically, many of the state laws are one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 or 40 hours worked, depending on the state. This allows them to use paid sick leave to take care of themselves, or a family member.  

Criminal History, Salary History, and Social Media

There are many states with a Criminal history inquiry ban. This is a ban which prevents employers from asking about a criminal history either until the interview is scheduled, or a contingent job offer is made to the candidate.  There also might be specific notice requirements if you as the employer decide not to hire an applicant because of their criminal history.

A salary history ban in some states prohibits employers from inquiring about a candidate’s current or previous wage, whether directly or through a third party. And some of the salary history bans are standalone employment law, while others are part of the larger Equal Pay Act.

And then lastly, there’s social media privacy. There are many state laws that prohibit employers from requiring or requesting employees or applicants to disclose their social media login credentials. Second, some state laws say employers cannot require or request that an employee or applicant access their personal social media in the employer’s presence or add the employer to their contacts or friends list. Some state employment laws prevent or prohibit retaliation or failure to hire should an applicant or an employee refuse such social media requests for access.

Covering Your Assets Through Employment Law

We know this is a lot of information to try to remember and digest. Let’s be frank. You didn’t get into business to become an employment law expert. Yet, failure to stay on top of it can cause a damaged business reputation and loss of revenue through litigation costs. The solution to this situation is working with an HR consulting firm who has your back. It’s easy and immediate to get help. What are you waiting for? Reach out today!

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