December 8, 2023
As a business owner, you hire employees to help serve your clientele and grow your business. Managing your employees is about more than simply keeping them happy and productive. It requires ensuring that you comply with state and federal laws protecting workplace rights.
Failing to follow these laws can have worse outcomes than low morale and resignations. You and your business could face government investigations, mandated compliance measures, and lawsuits that result in costly damages awards. That’s on top of the negative publicity your business could receive.
When these investigations and lawsuits come, being able to address and resolve them quickly is a positive thing for your business. Even better for your operations is avoiding them altogether through compliance with the relevant laws. An experienced employment litigation lawyer can help you do both.
Key Employment Laws Employers Should Know
Here are some significant federal laws you should be familiar with if you have people working for you. Note that employers need to be familiar with relevant state laws in addition to the below.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA sets rules regarding minimum wages for employees when nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime pay and child labor standards.
Nonexempt employees must be paid at least minimum wage, which is no less than $7.25 per hour. Any time worked beyond a standard 40-hour workweek must be compensated by pay equal to at least one and a half times the employee’s standard wage.
Employees are also entitled to regular paychecks under the FLSA, and employers can open themselves to liability if they fail to deliver on this requirement. Even workers whose employment has been terminated are entitled to receive their final paycheck on the next regular payday.
Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
Almost every employer must comply with the ADA in their business practices. Upon request, employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities. This requirement extends to the application process and accommodations that help disabled employees perform essential job functions.
The ADA also prohibits employers from taking any adverse employment action against an employee on account of their disability. For example, you can’t refuse to hire an employee who has a disability unless they’re unable to perform the central functions of the job, even with reasonable accommodations.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
Harassment and discrimination are prohibited under Title VII, and the activities encompassed by this prohibition are numerous. Prohibited activities include refusing to hire someone based on their sex, religion, national origin, or any other protected classification.
Sexual harassment is also prohibited, including conditioning someone’s employment or advancement on agreeing to sexual favors or advances. Unwanted or disparaging comments in the workplace relating to these protected classifications, such as off-color jokes about women or minorities, are likewise forbidden under Title VII.
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
Under this law, employees are permitted to come together and discuss the conditions of their employment, including their wages. They’re also allowed to take certain collective actions to address those concerns with you and your management team.
You can be found in violation of the NLRA if you attempt to restrict or prohibit these protected activities.
For instance, you shouldn’t make or enforce a policy that says your employees can’t discuss their wages with one another. You could also run afoul of the NLRA if you refuse reasonable access to the workplace so your employees can conduct protected activities.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Not all employers are subject to the FMLA, which allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year.
Eligible employees can use this leave for various purposes, including caring for a family member with an illness or medical condition or attending to their own needs. Leave under FMLA can also be used by new mothers and fathers to care for a newborn, adopt a child, or welcome a new foster child into their home.
The FMLA mandates that these employees be able to return to work at the end of their leave at the same rate of pay they enjoyed when they left. If their position is no longer open, they’re to be given a job comparable to their previous position.
The Two Roles Your Employment Litigation Lawyer Will Play
A skilled employment litigation lawyer will serve preventive as well as reactive purposes. Both are essential to keeping your business out of the courtroom and allowing you to continue running your company unhindered.
The Preventive Role
By reviewing your company’s policies and practices, your employment litigation lawyer will seek to prevent complaints and lawsuits from being filed. They’ll identify areas of your business that don’t comply with state and federal employment laws and offer suggestions for addressing these potential liabilities.
For example, timekeeping and hiring practices are two areas where employment litigation lawyers frequently find violations of employment laws.
If it’s a common practice for you to ask applicants their age or whether they plan to have children, your employer can educate you on why this is inappropriate and suggest other, more suitable questions to ask.
The Reactive Role
No matter how competent your employment litigation lawyer is, they can’t prevent all lawsuits from being filed.
For this reason, they need to be adept at responding to lawsuits and complaints in a timely manner. Your attorney should know how to challenge a discrimination complaint and respond to harassment suits, among other things.
An employment litigation lawyer who can’t litigate claims brought against you can end up costing you in adverse judgments, penalties, and attorneys’ fees. When evaluating potential lawyers to represent your business, ask about the attorney’s courtroom experience and whether they possess the skills needed to defend you in court.
Leave Compliance Matters to the Professionals
Stay ahead of the ever-expanding maze of laws and regulations affecting your business by partnering with an employment litigation lawyer. Keeping track of all the legal intricacies may be challenging, but with the right legal counsel, you can navigate these complexities effortlessly.
Contact Pearlman, Brown & Wax, LLP today and let our qualified employment attorneys become your strategic allies. Gain a comprehensive understanding of how these laws directly impact your operations and empower your business with effective responses when faced with legal suits. Don’t let the evolving legal landscape catch you off guard – take proactive steps to secure your business’s compliance and protection. Call us now and stay in control of your legal affairs with the trusted guidance of Pearlman, Brown & Wax, LLP.