USLegal Spotlights Law in the Workplace
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Unless you are fortunate enough to win the lottery, inherit money, or dream up the next great invention, you’ll have to work to earn a living, like most of us. Employment law covers a wide range of topics related to happenings in the workplace including how employers should treat employees and duties employees have to those they work for. This month, USLegal highlights some of the key legislation you should know about when it comes to employment law.
What is the Fair Labor Standards Act?
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law which sets minimum hourly wages and rules for overtime pay. It also has child labor provisions. Most part-time and full-time employees are covered under the Act including those who work for private companies and also local, state, and federal government employees.
FLSA basic requirements are: payment of the minimum wage, overtime pay for time worked over 40 hours a week, restrictions on the employment of children, and record keeping.
The current federal minimum wage is $5.85 per hour. Many states also have minimum wage laws which may be higher than the federal standard.
When it comes to overtime, FLSA states that employees should be paid at least 1 ½ times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a work week. Certain exemptions may apply.
Under federal child labor guidelines, children of any age are generally permitted to deliver newspapers, perform in radio, television, movies, or theatrical productions; and work for businesses owned by their parents except mining, manufacturing, or occupations declared hazardous. 14-and 15-year-olds may work outside of school in certain jobs for limited periods of time. 16 is the basic minimum age for employment for unlimited hours in most occupations, however, those under 18 cannot work in jobs declared hazardous by the Secretary of Labor. Once an individual reaches the age of 18, no child labor rules apply.
What is the Occupational Safety and Health Act?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act imposes a general duty on most employers to maintain a safe and healthy working environment. It sets compliance standards and requires
employers to keep records with respect to work-related accidents, illnesses and injuries. Employers must file certain reports, especially if an employee is killed on the job.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration is charged with enforcing the provisions of the Act. The agency has inspectors who are authorized to conduct periodic investigations of job sites to make sure they are in compliance with health and safety guidelines.
What is Title VII?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, and marital or familial status.
Title VII covers all public and private employers with 15 or more employees, both public and private labor organizations with at least 15 members and also employment agencies.
What is the Equal Pay Act?
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires that employers pay employees of different sexes at the same rate as long as the employees perform the same work that requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and the employees perform the work under similar working conditions.
What is The Family and Medical Leave Act?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires covered employers to grant an eligible employee up to a total of 12 work weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons: for the birth and care of the newborn child of the employee, for placement with the employee of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care, to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition or to take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
An employer covered by FMLA is any person engaged in commerce or in any industry or activity affecting commerce, who employs 50 or more employees for each working day during each of 20 or more calendar workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year. Employers covered by FMLA also include any person acting, directly or indirectly, in the interest of a covered employer to any of the employees of the employer, any successor in interest of a covered employer, and any public agency. Public agencies are covered employers without regard to the number of employees employed. Public as well as private elementary and secondary schools are also covered employers.
Generally, an employee’s spouse, children (son or daughter), and parents are immediate family members for purposes of the FMLA. In-laws are not included as parents. And sons and daughters do not include individuals 18 or over unless they are “incapable of self-care” because of a mental or physical disability that limits one or more of the “major life activities” as those terms are defined in the Americans with Disabilities Act related regulations.
What is COBRA?
The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides for the continuation of health insurance after termination of employment or other qualifying event. Coverage generally lasts for up to 18 months. Under COBRA, former employees or beneficiaries must pay the costs of ongoing insurance premiums.
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Law and Legal Definitions
Workers’ Compensation Law and Legal Definition
Workers’ compensation laws are designed to ensure payment by employers for some part of the cost of injuries, or in some cases of occupational diseases, received by employees in the course of their work. Workers’ compensation legislation requires the employer to furnish a reasonably safe place to work, suitable equipment, rules and instructions when they are reasonably necessary, and reasonably competent foremen and superintendents. The employer is liable for an employee’s acts of negligence, for the employer’s own gross negligence, and for extraordinary risks of work. In most cases the employer is not liable for accidents occurring outside the place of work, or for those which have not arisen directly from employment.
State workers’ compensation statutes vary. The Federal Employment Compensation Act covers non-military federal employees or those workers employed in some significant aspect of interstate commerce. These laws also provide benefits for dependents of those workers who are killed because of work-related accidents or illnesses. Some laws also protect employers and fellow workers by limiting the amount an injured employee can recover from an employer and by eliminating the liability of co-workers in most accidents.
Other statutes provide similar protection to employees for injuries due to employer negligence, such as railroad employees under The Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA), and seamen under The Merchant Marine Act (the Jones Act). The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides workers’ compensation to specified employees of private maritime employers. The Black Lung Benefits Act provides compensation for miners suffering from “black lung” (pneumoconiosis).
An employer who was aware of the likelihood that his employee will be injured in the performance of his work unless precautions are taken for his safety, but deliberately fails to take such precautions, is liable for willful misconduct. Willful misconduct by an employee may bar recovery under workers’ compensation laws. Willful misconduct is judged according to the facts in each case, but generally amounts to more than negligence or gross negligence, and may be quasi-criminal. For example, one court held that an employee’s acts of sexual harassment constituted “intentional and willful misconduct” under the Workers’ Compensation statute. It found that the employee “knew what he was doing was wrong” and yet he persisted. The employee’s behavior was labeled “voluntary, crude, and unprofessional” and it was determined that there was a sufficient basis for finding that the employee’s behavior rose to the level of moral turpitude that could be called “intentional and willful.”
For more legal definitions, please visit our free online legal dictionary at http://definitions.uslegal.com/.
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