Key Federal Laws Affecting HR

Part of the Human Resources Kit For Dummies Cheat Sheet

There's no substitute for the guidance of an attorney, but HR professionals need to have a basic understanding of the many legal issues and challenges that come with hiring and managing employees. Here are several important federal laws you should be aware of.

Many states have enacted laws similar to those listed here, and some state laws provide more generous benefits and protections to employees than the federal counterpart. Be sure to find out what laws apply to your organization.

  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act): Prohibits employers from discriminating against people with disabilities. Requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodation" for individuals with disabilities. The law applies to all private employers with 15 or more employees, state and local governments, and labor unions.

  • ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act): Prohibits discrimination against employees 40 years of age or older on the basis of age. The law applies to all private-sector employers with 20 or more employees who work 20 or more weeks per year, labor unions (with 25 or more members), employment agencies, and state and local governments.

  • COBRA (Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act): Provides certain former employees, retirees, spouses, former spouses, and children the right to temporary continuation of health coverage at group rates. Employers with 20 or more employees usually are required to offer COBRA coverage and to notify their employees of the availability of such coverage. COBRA applies to plans maintained by private-sector employers and sponsored by most state and local governments. (Some states also have their own versions of COBRA.)

  • FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act): Establishes minimum wage rates, requires overtime pay for certain employees, restricts the employment of minors, and imposes certain recordkeeping obligations. The law applies to most private and public employers, with some exceptions in certain retail and agricultural industries.

  • FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act): Grants qualified employees a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for health-related reasons, including childbirth, family illness, or personal health reasons that preclude handling the job's duties. The law applies to any individual or entity engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce that employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year, and public agencies regardless of the number of people they employ.

  • IRCA (Immigrant Reform and Control Act): Requires that employers attest to the immigration status of their employees, bans employers from hiring illegal aliens, and establishes penalties for such behavior. The law applies to all employers.

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act: Prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants for employment, in the terms and conditions of employment, on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The law applies to private employers with 15 or more employees, as well as virtually all government institutions, employment agencies, and labor unions, but not the federal government.

  • WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act): Requires 60 days' advance written notice to affected employees (or their bargaining unit), as well as state and local rapid response/dislocated worker agencies, of mass layoffs or plant closings that will result in at least 50 employment losses within a 30-day period. The law generally covers employers with 100 or more employees.

Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons. Inc.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Half International, Inc., as to Author-Created Materials

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