For many employers, the true definition of workplace compliance and its importance is not always clear. Workplace compliance means ensuring workers receive all the rights and protections they are entitled to under federal, state, and local laws. Managing employees in compliance with workplace legislation will lead to a more motivated and satisfied workforce, helping employers avoid costly litigation for violating employee rights. Here is a list of employee workplace rights you must keep in mind to motivate your workforce, remain compliant, and avoid hefty penalties:
Discrimination and Harassment
Under federal law, employees have the right to be free from discrimination and harassment because of race, color, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, and pregnancy), age, national origin, religion, and genetic information (including family medical history). Protections against discrimination and harassment may be even broader under state and local laws.
Employees are entitled to workplace accommodations, including time off, due to disabilities (physical and mental) and religious beliefs, unless doing so would cause undue hardship for the employer. Employers must consider each accommodation request on a case-by-case basis because each case will be different.
Federal, state, and local laws guarantee that workers are paid fairly for their time, including minimum wage and overtime compensation requirements. Wages are due on the regular payday for the pay period, and deductions from wages for things such as cash shortages and employer-mandated uniforms may not reduce an employee’s pay to below the minimum wage or overtime rate.
The federal Equal Pay Act requires men and women in the same workplace to be paid equally for equal work. “Equal work” does not mean the jobs have to be identical, but they must be substantially equal in skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. The Act covers all types of pay, including wages, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, life insurance, vacation pay, holiday pay, allowances, and other benefits. Exceptions to equal pay for equal work are an employer’s use of a bona fide seniority system, merit system, incentive system, or any factor other than gender.
Leaves of Absence
In certain situations, employees are entitled to protected leaves of absence from work. A wide range of laws governs workplace leaves for reasons such as personal and family illness, pregnancy, disability, organ donation, crime-victim status, military service, the death of a family member, personal emergencies, family responsibilities, and other reasons. Many organizations also have policies and collective bargaining agreements providing workers with additional leave rights.
Employees have a right to expect that medical and genetic information they share with their employer will be kept confidential. This information should not be stored in regular personnel files. Instead, medical and genetic information must be maintained in a separate file accessible only to properly designated officials.
Employees should be free to report discrimination or other illegal workplace activity without fear of retaliation. Retaliation may include employee discipline, termination, transfer to another position, verbal or physical abuse, increased scrutiny, harassment, or other activities making the employee’s work more difficult.
Workers have the right to be properly classified as employees or independent contractors. Proper classification of a worker as an employee is important because employees generally are entitled to certain protections not provided to independent contractors, including unemployment insurance, overtime pay, worker’s compensation, and employment benefits.
Pleading ignorance of the law will not protect employers from liability for noncompliance. Employers must know of these and other employee rights. Regulatory compliance also builds trust with employees, customers, and vendors, laying the groundwork for a strong company brand and reputation. Workplace compliance affects every aspect of a business and should be a mandatory part of any company’s business strategy. If you are not already compliant, get compliant now!
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