Employees have been at the mercy of their employees for their employers for centuries until things finally began to change for good in the 20th century. It would not be fair to say employees today enjoy all the benefits of the 180 protection laws passed to secure their interests, but certain benefits make it better to work in the US than in almost any other country.
However, employers often exploit these laws mainly because employees are not aware of these laws. Hence here are nine employment laws every employee must know.
- Health Coverage: The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, and the law aims to ensure that employees get health insurance. However, this included only the employees employed as medium or large-scale businesses.
The Employer Shared Responsibility Payment provision makes it necessary that every company employing gift or more full-time employees provide them with at least a minimal level of health insurance or pay a hefty penalty for the same.
- Minimum Wage: The law concerned with minimum wage is called the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), ensuring that every American employee receives a minimum wage for their services. This mandate ensures that every private and public employee is paid at least $7.25 per hour.
On top of that, this law also ensures that the employees are paid accordingly for their overtime services. FLSA also restricts companies from hiring employees below 18 for specific high-risk jobs.
- Unemployment Benefits: Every state in the US has their unemployment insurance agency, but the unemployment benefits are offered through a joint program between the state and the federal government.
Every employee has been unemployed for reasons beyond their control, and employees are entitled to receive these perks for up to twenty-six weeks of being unemployed. This provides security to employees at least for a couple of months after being unemployed.
- Workplace Safety: The well-known Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was passed to make American workplaces safer for employees. There are many specific safety guidelines mentioned here, along with some guidelines specific to certain industries such as maritime, construction, and even agriculture.
The General Duty Clause in this act prohibits workplace activity that might represent a risk to the workers.
- Social Security: The Social Security Act was passed in 1935 that provided disabled and retired Americans with a financial safety net. Today millions of Americans avail such benefits funded by the payroll tax.
Both employees and employers have to set aside 6.2% of their earnings for the purpose. However, self-employed individuals have to pay a whopping 12.4 % of their income.
- Employee Based Discrimination: This is one of the most common employee laws that most people are aware of to a great extent. Made possible by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that ensured social justice for employees.
The law specifically made it illegal for companies and businesses to discriminate against employees based on their color, race, national origin, religion, and sex. Further, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 protects forty and older employees from age discrimination.
- Whistleblower Protections: There is no specific law that protects the correct whistleblowers who expose the wrongdoings of their employees. However, these protections are facilitated through other laws such as the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act that offers protection for anyone uncovering unlawful manufacturing activities.
Other than that, the Clean Air Act also ensures protection for employees who uncover any violation of environmental laws.
- Family Leave: The Family And Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1933 that allowed eligible individuals to avail themselves of 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year. The qualified person would give birth to a child or adopt a child.
Other than people who have any family member going through any chronic illness can also benefit from this law. However, one must be employed by the company for at least twelve months and work at least 1250 hours during the past year to reap the benefits of FMLA.
- Labor Relations: The National Labor Relations Act was passed in 1935 to empower employees. This law allowed employees to self-organize, bargain collectively, join or form labor organizations, and engage in other activities that might be needed to safeguard their interests.
The law further addresses how an employee can address these rights as it prohibits the formation of company-sponsored unions and restricts employers from showing any kind of discrimination against any employee who has been a part of the union or bargain.
Currently, American employees benefit from many different laws and regulations brought forward to safeguard their rights and welfare. However, many employers still find loopholes and exploit their employees anyways, so the legislators must address those loopholes for good.
Lawrence P. Schaefer is an employment law attorney who focuses on working with clients who have been discriminated against at work. He has a demonstrated background of thorough and aggressive client advocacy in negotiation and litigation. Larry is Owner and President of Schaefer Halleen LLC, an employment law firm based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.