Employment Laws to Know When You Grow

plant growing business grow

Has holiday hiring left your office a little fuller than it used to be? Is business growth one of your goals for 2020? Watching your small- to mid-size organization grow is super exciting. But it can also bring quite a few HR challenges along with it. Along with adding employees – which can change not only your floorplan but also your company culture! – your organization may now become subject to federal and state laws that didn’t apply to it before.

Most employment laws apply to organizations based on the number of people they employ, so it’s vital to keep up-to-speed on any laws that newly apply or will soon apply to your growing business. Here’s our round-up of all those pesky acronyms to keep on your radar through your company’s next growth spurt.

Federal Laws

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty of federal employment law, it’s important to first understand the concept of discrimination. In employment law, discrimination means taking any averse (or negative) action against an employee. Examples of this can include:

  • Failure to hire, train, offer an opportunity or promote.
  • Refusing to offer an accommodation required by law or offered to a peer.
  • Offering a lower wage, salary, or fewer benefits than to a peer.
  • Taking more aggressive disciplinary action than with a peer.
  • Transferring to a less desirable position, shift, or location.
  • Reducing pay or benefits.
  • Demotion or termination.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) – 15 employees

The ADA protects qualified individuals with disabilities from unlawful employment discrimination. (For example, actions in the list above!) Under the ADA, employers must make reasonable accommodations for disabled individuals unless doing so would place an undue burden on the employer.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – 15 employees

Title VII prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. Note that a number of courts have ruled that sex includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the body that enforces Title VII) also operates with this inclusion.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) – 15 employees

The PDA amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to specifically protect individuals from discrimination based on pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical conditions. If an employee is temporarily unable to perform their job due to a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth, the employer must treat them the same way it treats any other temporarily disabled employee.

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) – 15 employees

GINA makes it unlawful for employers, employment agencies, unions, and training programs to discriminate against an individual because of genetic information. Though this most commonly comes to an employer as family medical history, it also includes DNA information acquired through testing.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – 20 employees

The ADEA prohibits discrimination against those 40 and older. The act also prohibits age preferences or limitations in both posting and practice. It forbids mandatory retirement ages except for certain executives and policymakers who are over 65 and entitled to deferred compensation.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – 50 employees

FMLA allows qualified employees to take job-protected leave to care for themselves or a close family member with a serious health condition. It also prohibits discrimination or retaliation against employees for taking leave under the Act.

Employer Mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – 50 full-time equivalents

The Employer Mandate requires employers with 50+ full-time equivalent employees to offer minimum essential health coverage at an affordable rate to all full-time employees.

State Laws

Some states are heavy regulators. (West Coast and Northeastern states, in particular!) Others are pretty content with what is required by federal law. The laws below are either relatively common or gaining steam in state legislatures, so they should be on your radar. The HR Support Center can help you learn more about these and other applicable laws in the state(s) you operate in for more targeted insights.

Additional Protected Classes – Varying employee counts

Many states have their own civil rights laws that look like Title VII, but often take effect at a lower employee count and include additional protected classes. Some of the most commonly added protections are for sexual orientation, arrest records, off-duty use of legal products, consumer debt garnishment, credit information, and marital status.

Pregnancy Accommodation Expansions – Varying employee counts

These laws require that employers provide specific workplace accommodations, even if the employee isn’t suffering from a pregnancy-related disability. Many must be provided without a doctor’s note (for example additional food and water breaks, seating, and reasonable lifting restrictions).

However, employers may still ask for a note for other accommodations (i.e. flexible scheduling or light duty), but an employee will not need to prove they are disabled. Employers do not need to provide accommodations if doing so would create an undue hardship, but the significant difficulty or expense standard for undue hardship is hard to meet.

Paid Sick Leave – Varying employee counts

The paid sick leave laws passed so far share some common elements. Employers are typically required to offer at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 or 40 hours worked, and employees can use their leave to care for themselves or a family member. (Most states also allow the time to be used in case of domestic or sexual violence.)

The laws vary most—though still not dramatically—in how employees are eligible and when, and what kind of documentation can be required to prove employees used the leave for a permissible purpose. Some states allow smaller employers to provide unpaid leave.

Criminal History Inquiry Bans – Varying employee counts

Often referred to as “Ban the Box,” these laws prohibit employers from asking about criminal history either until an interview is scheduled or a contingent job offer is made to the candidate. There may be other specific notice requirements if an employer decides not to hire an applicant because of their criminal history.

Salary History Inquiry Bans – Usually all employers

These laws prohibit employers from inquiring about a candidate’s current or previous wages, either directly or through a third party. Some salary history inquiry bans are stand-alone laws, while others are part of larger equal pay acts.

Social Media Privacy – Usually all employers

Most of these laws share some themes. First, they prohibit employers from requiring or requesting that employees or applicants disclose their login credentials. Second, the laws say employers can’t require or request that an employee or applicant access their personal social media in the employer’s presence or add the employer or other employees to their contacts or friends list. Third, the laws prohibit retaliation or failure to hire should an applicant or employee refuse such requests for access.

What Do You Think?

How many of these did you already know? We’d love to hear in the comments below your successes in growing your business, as well as the challenges that come with that growth! Looking to learn more? Log into your HR Support Center under the “Laws” section to learn even more about the requirements for your business. And don’t forget to check us out on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn to make sure you never miss a beat!

Photo by David Alberto Carmona Coto from Pexels

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