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Laws Every HR Professional Should Know

May 28, 2021
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Understanding the complexities of HR employment law is challenging for every human resources professional. However, the first step to mastering the regulations that guide the field is to know how far-reaching federal regulations and employment laws are in the United States.

At Tulane University Law School, we know the importance of HR law for those who do not necessarily have a legal background to navigate compliance with confidence. Below are the top HR laws to know as an HR professional.

Discrimination Laws

Many of these laws fall under the guidance of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to the federal agency, discrimination laws cover the hiring and recruiting process, pay and benefits, training and promotions, and other parts of employment. The EEOC also works to protect those from being retaliated against for lodging discrimination complaints.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects those with disabilities in the workplace. This can include a “qualified” physical or mental impairment. It requires employers to make reasonable accommodations such as paid leave, modified schedules and accessible facilities, but it does protect an employer from “undue hardship,” meaning accommodations would be too challenging for them to meet. It should be noted that the ADA does not protect illegal drug use.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967

The ADEA provides protection to those who are 40 years old and over. This includes denying these employees certain benefits, which may be more costly than awarding them to younger workers, as well as access to training or apprenticeship opportunities. The ADEA also is clear that preferences or limitations for the age of applicants is prohibited in almost all job listings.

Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) bars the pay or benefit discrepancies based on sex. This applies men and women perform similar roles or responsibilities and impacts situations even when someone fills a role that was previously help by someone of the opposite sex or a labor union contributes to the issue.

Wage and Hour Laws

These HR laws fall under the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor. Known as the WHD, it was launched along with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The FLSA is responsible for maintaining a minimum wage, overtime pay as well as child labor laws. Wage and hours laws are also extremely different on a federal, state and local level.

Family and Medical Leave Act

FMLA Policies allow certain employees to take leave for family issues and medical reasons. While the time is unpaid, it gives employees job protection. These events can include the adoption or the birth of a new child, a family member suffering serious health conditions, as well as military caregiver leave.

Employee Benefits

Most employee benefits received by an employer are not regulated by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) or another federal agency. These regulations set a minimum standard for the benefits that employees can receive or protections they deserve.

Employee Retirement Income Security Act

When an organization sets up retirement or health plans, it must follow ERISA’s minimum standards and protections for individuals. This includes providing plan information on matters such as vesting, benefit accrual and funding. ERISA also requires accountability and the right for employees to sue for benefits and breaches of fiduciary duty. Government and church employees are among the groups that this regulation does not apply to.

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act

COBRA allows those who have lost health coverage the opportunity to continue receiving benefits offered by their group health plan. A worker can access COBRA after leaving a job voluntarily or involuntarily, having hours reduced, or undergoing a life event such as divorce. This coverage will also provide health benefits to their families as well.

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

HIPAA provides protections for workers’ health insurance coverage. It allows them chances to enroll in coverage when they have a child, get married or lose their existing insurance. This regulation also prevents discrimination based on health factors, including age, sex, race or disability, when receiving health coverage.

Workplace Safety

These types of laws vary greatly from state to state in the United States, but on a federal level, the U.S. Department of Labor enforces them. In addition to requiring employers to provide a safe workplace, these regulations, in addition to HR confidentiality, protect whistleblowers who report violations.

Occupational Safety and Health Act

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is responsible for OSHA, which applies to nearly every type of employee. Those exempted include those who are self-employed, minors and certain transportation and public employees. The regulation requires employers to create a safe workplace and address any hazardous conditions.

Mine Safety and Health Act

While OSHA does not protect workers in the mining industry, this regulation, enforced by the Mine Safety and Health Administration does. Although, HR professionals outside of the industry might not need to be familiar with its complexities, the Mine Safety and Health Act impacts every company and operation in mining and mineral processing, no matter its size.

Master today’s HR law.

There are many HR laws to know, but having the skills to navigate them is just as critical as understanding their significance. With Tulane University’s online Master of Jurisprudence in Labor and Employment Law, you’ll gain the legal foundation to meet today’s federal, state and local compliance regulations and what’s ahead. Learn more about our online program and curriculum today.