I have come across a number of “must-know” lists in the past couple of weeks. Perhaps this is an artifact of the time of year, getting a fresh start phenomenon. As a result, I decided to do my own list. These are the things that I think all good professionals must know.
Most of us know this as the EEOC laws. We know that discrimination is a “bad” thing, but unfortunately discrimination, both intended and unintended, still occurs. The prime law is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covered race, religion, color, sex and national origin. Since then it has been amended to add age, equal pay, disability, pregnancy, and genetic background. Currently, there are several “hot button” issues. These include:
- Race- Race was the defining discrimination in the Civil Rights Act and it remains a major point in the US. HR professionals need to be on the constant lookout for racial discrimination.
- Sexual discrimination- Unknown to many people the very, very hot button of sexual harassment is defined as sexual discrimination. At the forefront of the news, sexual harassment is both a federal discrimination issue and a civil court issue. To make a claim an employee has 180 days to contact the EEOC, but they could go public with such an issue at any time.
- Age- Age is the “hidden” discrimination. Rampant in many industries, but especially the high tech industry, many people suffer from “ageism” without much attention.
- Retaliation- Few realize that retaliation is the largest blocks of discrimination claims. Most HR pros do a good job of paying attention to initial claims of discrimination but don’t do as good a job paying attention to the aftermath of a claim, where retaliation in some form may occur. You can find out more by reading Retaliation is a big deal to the EEOC.
- Equal Pay- If you are not aware of this one you have been living under a rock. It is connected strongly to sex discrimination, but also with race and national origin.
Wage and hour
The Fair Labor Standards Act is violated every day, both intentionally and unintentionally. It encompasses a lot of territory, such as classification, minimum wage, child labor, and overtime. Small companies are most likely to make the “innocent” mistakes because of lack of education on some confusing issues. The hot buttons are:
- The difference between exempt and nonexempt. You must know the definitions. The difference is not as simple as paying a salary as opposed to paying on an hourly basis. Those are methods of payment, not classifications.
- Overtime- Overtime is paid at the rate of 1.5 times the employees hourly wage as determined by the regular rate of pay. The regular rate of pay is not what most people think. It is not the hourly rate the person was hired at. It includes ALL nondiscretionary compensation paid in a week divided by the hours worked. Thus, it is changeable. Other overtime issues include lunch breaks and breaks. Overtime cannot be paid as comp time. Read more at Five acts that violate the overtime provisions of the FLSA.
- Use of independent contractors. By both the USDOL and IRS regulations, the use of independent contractors is strictly controlled and defined. It is also often used illegally and knowingly. Know the provisions and the rules. More information is in Do you know the penalties for improperly classifying employees as Independent Contractors?
There are many more issues wrapped up in FLSA compliance beyond these hot-button issues, but these compliance issues will go along way to keeping companies out of trouble.
There are many more areas I could discuss. These include OSHA, ERISA, USERRA, FMLA, workers’ comp and more. I am not dismissing them at all, but many of the day-to-day compliance problems I have seen in my experience are caused by the EEOC and FLSA issues I mentioned. Training of supervisors and managers on these issues would go a long way in reducing problems for companies. It would be an investment that would pay dividends in reduced lawsuits.