Advocate Daily logo
Is it illegal to drive barefoot?

It can be a challenge to manage unresponsive employees while on leave. Law firms like Littler LLP can assist with this. Lawyers like Sari Springer and Harrison Brown have particular expertise in these areas.

When you own a business, there are all kinds of things you need to know to stay compliant with various laws. Employment law is one of those things that you simply can’t afford not to know.

After all, employment law violations are not only extremely expensive due to fines and compensation payouts, but they could actually cause your business to fail. For that reason, lawyers advise all business owners to be familiar with these five types of employment laws.

Civil Rights Laws

As an employer, you are not allowed to discriminate against employees based on certain protected classes. These are:

  • Race
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Disability or medical condition
  • Sexual orientation
  • National origin
  • Whistleblower activity

At its core, this type of law prevents you from hiring, firing, demoting, promoting, or otherwise favouring or singling out any employee based on these characteristics. For example, you would not be allowed to promote only men, just because they are men or because you believe a woman is unable to fulfill the duties of a promoted position.

Additionally, this law also prevents you from asking questions on an application or in an interview that could reveal a person’s protected status. Of course, you’re going to see a person’s race and most likely their gender when you interview them, but on an application, you should avoid asking about their birthdate, graduation date, maiden name, or any other type of question that might be considered a discriminatory probe.

Willful violations of civil rights laws can incur fines of up to $10,000 per incidence. Settlements and legal judgments can be much higher.

Civil Rights Laws

Family and Medical Leave Laws

For employees who have worked at least 12 months for your company, you must provide unpaid family and medical leave time for up to 12 weeks for a documented medical reason for the employee or a member of their family. This includes paying for pregnancy-related care and the time period following birth. Again you do not have to pay employees for the time they aren’t working, but you must hold their position for them.

Fines for violating the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, range from a few hundred dollars for failing to post FMLA notices to thousands of dollars per employee. This excludes court settlements that can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars in back pay for employees who were denied the right to return to their job when exercising their FMLA rights.

Compensation Laws

Compensation laws are designed to protect workers’ wages and include specific laws like minimum wage requirements, child labour laws, overtime pay requirements, workers’ compensation for the workplace and job-related injuries and illnesses, and pay and hour requirements for minors. Violations of overtime and minimum wage requirements can incur penalties of up to $1,000 per violation and if you don’t pay attention to child labour laws, you could be fined up to $10,000 per violation. Employment lawyers will also work tirelessly to ensure that wronged employees are compensated fairly.

Moreover, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs compensation laws in the United States, prohibits the shipment of goods that were produced by companies that violated the child labour, minimum wage, and overtime pay laws. This means that not only could you be fined for willfully violating these laws, but you could also lose any goods that were produced during the time you were in violation.

Workplace Safety Laws

The Occupational Safety and Health Association, or OSHA, has developed strict rules regarding the safety of workplaces for employees. Every industry has different standards based on the type of work they do. After all, safety regulations are going to be much different for a construction company than they are for a tech company.

Basic laws that fall into this category include properly training employees to operate heavy machinery, wearing safety gear like goggles and hardhats, and ensuring dangerous chemicals are handled appropriately.

Companies are also prohibited from punishing any employee who refused to perform a workplace activity because of a safety concern. Even if the activity is ultimately deemed safe, the employee cannot be punished for not performing it before knowing it was indeed safe.

The maximum penalty for OSHA violations is $14,502 per incident and an additional $14,502 per day beyond the abatement date for failure to abate. In other words, you will be fined up to the maximum amount per violation, but if you don’t fix the issue by OSHA’s stated deadline, you will be subjected to the maximum penalty each day you do not fix the problem after the deadline has passed.

Workplace Safety Laws

Work Eligibility Laws

Work eligibility laws are fairly complex because they involve the immigration status of your workers and there are several programs and permits that they can hold that allow them to work legally in the United States. You want to be sure your employees are eligible to work in the country so that they and you are protected. This category also handles the age of employees, since there are restrictions regarding how old a person has to be before they can be employed in certain industries.

The fines for violating work eligibility laws vary based on the type and severity of the violation. Some penalties are as high as $34,871 and as low as $230 for an I9 form error. The penalty schedule for work eligibility violations is updated every few years, with the most recent update occurring in 2019.

Employment Laws Every Business Owner Should Know Conclusion

Owning a business is an incredibly rewarding experience, but you have to be careful to follow all employment laws to ensure your business can thrive now and well into the future.

If you are unsure about anything related to one or more of these laws, it is recommended that you seek the advice of an employment law attorney to ensure you’re following them to the letter. While you aren’t expected to be an expert on employment law as a business owner, you are expected to surround yourself with those who are to ensure you’re in compliance.

Sari is the managing office partner located at 181 Bay Street. She has been a lawyer for around three decades. She focuses on employment law investigations.

Photo: Sari Springer

Harrison Brown is now with BLG, where he practices labour law. He became a lawyer in 2018.

Photo: Harrison Brown

Photo: Harrison Brown

See an interesting video below. It’s not about employment law, but it raises some interesting points.