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The 6 Most Important Employment Laws Your Small Business Must Follow

The 6 Most Important Employment Laws Your Small Business Must Follow

As the owner of a small and growing company, are you aware of the critical employment laws affecting your business? Or do you depend on your managers to be aware of these?  As a leader, it behooves you to pay attention to what the law requires and make sure all those in authority in your business are acting in accordance with the law.

Here are the six most critical laws for your small business to follow. The first four are according to the U.S. Equal Employment Commission:

Hiring or Job Discrimination

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. As an employer, you are also required to reasonably accommodate applicants’ and employees’ sincerely held religious practices, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of your business. The law also amended Title VII to make it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to either of these.

Gender or Pay Differences

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) makes it illegal to pay different wages to men and women if they perform equal work in the same workplace.

Age Discrimination

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects people who are 40 or older from discrimination because of age.

Discrimination Based on Disability and Accommodations for Disabled Employees

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), makes it illegal to discriminate against a qualified person with a disability in the private sector and state and local governments.

The law also requires that employers reasonably accommodate the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability who is an applicant or employee, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.

More information about the above laws can be found on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website: In the case of each of these four laws, it is also illegal to retaliate against a person because the employee has complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

Minimum Wage, Exempt and Non-Exempt Employees

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) determines wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half times the regular rate of pay.

Whether an employee is eligible for overtime pay depends upon the type of work he or she does. The federal government divides all types of jobs into one of two categories: exempt and non-exempt. If an employee’s job has a non-exempt categorization, then the employer must pay this person overtime (time and a half) for all hours he or she works beyond 40 in any given week.

In addition, employers are bound by provisions in the FLSA as relating to minimum wage, child labor, and record-keeping practices.

Family Leave

The Family Medical Leave Act entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employees had not taken leave. Employers are prohibited from firing employees who take leave for these reasons. According to the Department of Labor, eligible employees are entitled to:

Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:

  • The birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
  • The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
  • To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
  • Any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty,” or
  • Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

The Family Medical Leave Act also protects employees from being fired for taking time off to vote or to serve on a jury.

Post This Information

Make sure your supervisors in your small business are familiar with all of these laws. Steer clear of employee lawsuits or worker complaints with the EEOC. If you don’t already have announcements about this information in your workplace, post this list on your employee bulletin board, in the break room, or some other place where everyone in the company can see it.

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by Janet Gershen-Siegel // Janet Gershen-Siegel, a published author, has an MS in Communications from Quinnipiac University, and a JD from Widener Law School. She has been admitted to practice law for over 30 years, with a focus on litigation. She regularly writes for Credit Suite, which helps businesses build credit for their EIN that’s not linked to their SSN, and get approved for loans and credit lines.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.