Employees have multiple rights, and there are numerous laws in place to protect them. The U.S. Department of Labor is tasked with enforcing nearly 180 laws to protect workers, including protections for pay and overtime, safety protections, labor protections, and many others. Other agencies, including the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, enforce other laws to protect employees and applicants. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler have briefly described eight of the key federal laws that protect employees below.
Fair Labor Standards Act
The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes a minimum wage for American workers with limited exceptions. Most public and private employers must pay employees at least $7.25 per hour or the state’s minimum wage in states with higher minimum wage laws. The FLSA also mandates covered employers to pay statutory, non-exempt employees an overtime premium for each hour worked beyond 40 in a workweek. Finally, the FLSA includes protections for minors and limits how many hours children under 16 can work in non-agricultural jobs. It also prohibits companies from hiring minors under 18 to work in high-risk jobs.
Occupational Safety and Health Act
The Occupational Safety and Health Act is enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA. OSHA issues industry-specific guidelines for agricultural, maritime, and construction companies. Employers must follow the safety guidelines and avoid any practices that place their employees at clear risk of danger.
Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that covers employers with at least 50 full-time employees. Under this law, covered employers must offer at least a minimum amount of health insurance or pay a penalty. Full-time employees under the ACA include all who work 30 or more hours per week on average.
Social Security Act
The Social Security Act established benefits for retired employees and disabled employees to provide them with a financial safety net. People earn work credits by paying into the Social Security fund through payroll deductions of 6.2%. Employers also contribute 6.2% for the employers’ share up to a maximum annual amount. People who are self-employed are responsible for both the employee and employer portion but can deduct one-half of the payment.
State Unemployment Laws
Every state has unemployment insurance laws that operate under a joint federal-state program. The states are responsible for managing payments to people who are unemployed but must follow federal guidelines for how they do so. People must be unemployed for reasons beyond their control to qualify for payments and meet other requirements in their states. In general, workers can receive unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks, but the length can be extended when certain economic circumstances exist. Unemployment insurance is paid by employers and not employees. The availability of unemployment benefits provides people who are unemployed with a few months to look for a new job.
There are numerous federal whistleblower laws that protect people who report their employers for violating the law. These laws are often included in legislation governing different industries. For example, the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act protects workers who report illegal manufacturing policies while the Clean Air Act protects whistleblowers who report violations of environmental laws. The Whistleblower Protection Program through OSHA is the primary body that protects employee rights when employees might be scared of speaking up. There are also other laws that protect employees who blow the whistle on their employers to the IRS, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and others.
Family and Medical Leave Act
The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law that provides up to 12 weeks of job-protected, unpaid leave from work per year to eligible employees that work for covered employers. Employers are covered by this law if they have 50 or more employees working within a 75-mile radius. Employees are eligible if they have worked for a covered employer for 12 or more months and have worked a minimum of 1,250 hours for that employer during the past 12 months.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its amendments are the most important federal anti-discrimination law. Under this law, employers are prohibited from discriminating against applicants based on their race, religion, color, national origin, sex, or religion. Other anti-discrimination laws also protect employees against discrimination based on pregnancy, age, disability, and genetic information. The Supreme Court’s decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia also held that prohibited sex discrimination includes discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The prohibitions against unlawful employment discrimination based on the protected characteristics of applicants or employees extend to all employment phases from hiring to firing.
Talk to an Experienced Employment Lawyer About Your Rights
Employees are protected under numerous federal and state laws. In addition to the federal laws that protect employee rights, there are also many state laws that also offer protection. If you believe that your rights have been violated by your employer, you should talk to an experienced employment lawyer about your situation and whether you have any options available to you. Call the attorneys at Swartz Swidler today to schedule a free case evaluation at (856) 685-7420.