Ten Federal Employment Laws You Want to Know

Labor laws set and mandate the relationship between an employer and their employees. Both federal and state governments within the United States have enacted employment laws to protect the rights, health, and financial remuneration of workers. A rule of thumb to follow is that federal laws tend to constitute a minimum level of employment regulation, while state laws are more detailed and defined.

Knowing the federal and state employment laws is crucial to protecting your business from violations, penalties, and class action suits. Here is a brief description of ten federal employment laws you and your managers will want to know.

Affordable Care Act (ACA)

The ACA is most commonly referred to by its nickname, Obamacare. The ACA requires companies with more than fifty full-time equivalent employees to either provide health insurance to their employees or pay the penalty for not offering affordable coverage. In 2017, Congress repealed the individual mandate that required individuals to have insurance. However, requirements for employers with more than fifty full-time equivalent employees are still valid.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA applies to employers with fifteen or more employees and prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities. Qualifying employees are people who have a limiting physical or mental impairment or is regarded as having such an impairment.

An employee qualifying for the definition given by the ADA, are entitled to reasonable accommodation to perform their work so long as it will not cause an undue burden upon the employer. Employers are not required to lower production or quality standards to accommodate a disabled employee.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

In 1967, Congress enacted the federal ADEA to prohibit age discrimination in the workplace and promote the employment of older workers. ADEA applies to employers with twenty or more employees and protects employees and applicants who are forty years of age or over from discrimination in the workplace due to their age.

Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The FCRA was passed in 1970 to address the fairness, accuracy, and privacy of personal information contained in the files of the credit reporting agencies.

Much of this law pertains to individuals and reporting agencies, but some provisions relate to employers. If an employer wants to receive a consumer report on a job applicant or a current employee, they must notify them in writing and receive their written permission before they proceed.

The Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA)

The FLSA is a federal law that gives employees the right to a minimum wage as well as overtime pay when they work over forty hours a week. The FLSA has two classifications of employees, exempt and nonexempt, with different requirements for employees depending on how they are classified. It is important to recognize that many states have enacted their own labor laws, some of which have different child labor requirements, more stringent overtime rules, and higher minimum wage rates with which employers must also comply.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA is designed to provide employees temporary job security when faced with certain health-related responsibilities that interfere with their employment. The FMLA requires employers with fifty or more employees to grant qualifying employees up to twelve weeks of unpaid leave for birth, placement or fostering of a child, care of the employee’s own serious health condition, or care of an immediate family member.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)

The OSH Act is a system of laws created by a federal agency operated under the authority of the Department of Labor (DOL). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, known as OSHA, is responsible for developing, promoting, and enforcing regulations that encourage and regulate workplace health and safety. Employers are required to provide their employees working conditions and an environment free from hazards that cause or are likely to cause harm, serious injury, or death.


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or job candidate because of their race/color, national origin, sex, age, or religion.

It is best practice for employers to implement an antidiscrimination policy and educate their managers, supervisors, and employees about the consequences of discriminatory behavior in the workplace.

Sexual Harassment

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was amended in 1991 to prohibit sexual harassment in the workplace. Sexual harassment includes verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, behavior that interferes with an individual’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act was also amended to include the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibiting employers from discriminating against an employee or job candidate because they are pregnant. Employers are also required to honor any pregnant employees’ requests for leave just the same as they would a disabled employee.

In conclusion, it is essential for employers and managers to know and understand federal and state employment laws. Violations, penalties, or class action suits can result from not abiding by the laws and can drastically affect a small business. Keep in mind that federal and state employment laws are different and to assess each one. While researching the laws online, be sure to check the date, so you get the most current information.

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