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An employer has broad leeway to hire and fire employees as necessary. However, state and federal employment law does stipulate how workers must generally be treated in the workplace. These laws generally prohibit employers from creating a hostile workplace. Furthermore, workers should not be unfairly treated based on race, gender, the presence of a disability or other protected statuses .
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires employers to provide a safe workplace that's free from known hazards. These dangers could include exposure to toxic materials, being asked to stretch or bend repetitively without rest or exposure to noise without proper protective equipment. OSHA regulations say that employers must work to mitigate these hazards, and employees may refuse to complete a task if they believe it could jeopardize their safety.
For the most part, employers may hire workers on what is called an at-will basis. What this means is that either an employer or employee can end a working relationship at any time and for almost any reason. Exceptions to this rule may be made for those who sign a contract that creates specific terms for termination or those who are represented by a union.
Although employers may have the right to terminate workers for a wide range of reasons, employees also have rights in the workplace. For instance, federal law prohibits a worker from being denied advancement opportunities based on race, gender, age and other factors. Federal statues may also prevent an employer from terminating an employee because of a disability, medical condition or pregnancy.
This law, which is commonly referred to as Title VII, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of sex, race and religion. It also prohibits discrimination based on national origin. Recently, Title VII has been interpreted as covering homosexual and transgender workers under the prohibition of sex discrimination.
The ADA is akin to Title VII for those who have disabilities. It says that employers must provide reasonable accommodations for those who have a physical or mental condition. This is generally true whether the disability is hidden or visible. In 2009, the ADA was updated by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act, which further defined the meaning of "disability."
Those who are 40 or older are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. As a general rule, employers are not allowed to select candidates for jobs, training programs or advancement opportunities based on their age. However, employers may have leeway when selecting applicants if they can show that there was an objective system in place when bypassing an older worker.
The Fair Labor Standards Act mandates that employees be paid at least $7.25 per hour. If they work more than 40 hours in a week, nonexempt employees are to receive overtime pay for those hours, which is 150 percent of their normal pay. Employers are required to keep records of how many hours an employee has worked. This may include any time when an employee was required to be on duty. Furthermore, the FLSA ensures that children are not put in harm's way by an employer.
If a worker has a medical condition, he or she is generally covered by the Family Medical Leave Act. This entitles workers to 12 weeks of leave to care for a child, place a child for adoption, or care for a spouse or other family member who is sick. This may be increased to 26 weeks per 12 months if leave is necessary to care for a covered servicemember. Employers who are required to comply with FMLA may also have to provide group insurance at the same rates and other terms as if the employee had not taken leave.
Employers who have questions about employment laws may want to talk to an attorney. With proper legal guidance, it can be easier to hire, terminate or reassign a worker without violating that person's rights. When businesses violate employment laws, the legal consequences could be costly.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified employment for employers lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local employment for employers attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.