A friend of mine has often said “The quickest way to become a criminal in the United States is to start a business.” Between employment laws, tax laws, insurance laws, labor laws and local ordinances it is a sure bet that every company, even the best run, is probably breaking a law. This is especially true for small companies. If your office manager is responsible for keeping you out of trouble then you are probably in trouble. Not because they are intentionally violating laws but because there are so many that no single person in a small company can keep up with them.
I was reading a post on the website YoungUpStarts, a website that says they are “All about entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship, ideas, innovation, and small business.” They wrote a post entitled Keeping Employment Law In Check At Your Workplace, geared toward employees so they can know if the laws are being violated. They said that many people envision “evil employers” as the violators, when in reality “The truth of the matter is that numerous employers don’t follow the law, too many for these cigar-chomping caricatures to be the sole perpetrators. In fact, a number of them are probably nice people. Many of these employers might not even be aware of the laws they’re contravening.”
In my consulting practice that is exactly what I find. The vast majority of violations of wage and hour laws are due to ignorance of the intricacies of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Many of the violations of antidiscrimination laws guarded by the EEOC are unintentional, especially when it comes to issues like disability and “interactive” discussions. Many employers don’t know enough about USERRA, or the ACA, or the OWBPA, or the ADEA or the National Labor Relations Act.
To top this off each state, county and city can have laws and regulations that vary from the Federal statutes. These laws are more favorable to employees and take precedence over federal law in that situation. Often they address issues such as unemployment insurance and Workers’ compensation insurance that are state run programs. New hire reporting will vary from state to state.
Do employers purposely violate the law?
I think we all know the answer to that question. It is the same answer to “Do some people rob banks?” I have talked to some employers who refused to abide by the law once they knew what they were supposed to do and I have “fired” them from my prospect or customer list. Are there unethical and dishonest employers? Absolutely! However, in my experience most employers are trying to do the right thing while dealing with the challenges of running a business and providing jobs for people. They just need help in understanding what needs to be done and how to do it correctly. That is my goal.
If you are an untrained HR person, an office manager or a business owner that would like some guidance I will be happy to provide you with a list of most of the laws you have to comply with on a Federal basis. Just go to the Contact tab and request the employment law list.