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The main employment laws that small businesses need to keep in mind can be broken into three larger categories.
1. Anti-Discrimination laws
Legal responsibilities for small businesses and their employees begin during the hiring process.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 lays out requirements for businesses with over 15 employees. Essentially, it states that during the hiring process, employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
This law is in place to mitigate biases that would otherwise impact prejudiced hiring procedures.
Another related law that prevents discrimination in hiring is part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. This portion of the law prohibits employers from discriminating based on the disability status of an employee so long as they can perform necessary job functions with reasonable accommodations.
2. Fair Labor Standards
Applicable to almost all businesses regardless of size, the Fair Labor Standards Act provides minimum requirements for the treatment and pay of employees.
This includes things like the minimum wage requirement per hour (which also varies by state) and the minimum wage for employees that work for tips. (Note: If the employee does not make minimum wage including tips during the workday, the employer must provide up to minimum wage.)
There are also limitations to the types of jobs and hours minors (defined as being under the age of 18) are allowed to work that are pretty extensive.
Some things that are surprisingly not regulated by Federal law (but may still be required by state law) include:
- Number of hours for employees per day.
- Number of days per week.
- Vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay.
- Meal or rest periods.
- Holidays off or premium pay for weekend or holiday work.
- Pay raises.
- A notice, reason for discharge, or immediate payment of final wages to terminated employees.
You also must keep accurate records of employees’ information, which days and how many hours each employee works, wages paid, and pay periods for each employee.
3. Family, medical, and military leave
There are laws that require employers to allow a certain amount of leave for employees who fall ill.
Employers are legally required to allow employees with relevant health complications or certain family circumstances 12 weeks of unpaid leave for things like childbirth, new adoptions, personal health conditions that seriously impact the ability of an employee to work, and caring for a close family member who falls seriously ill.
Businesses are also legally required to provide leave for military deployment, childcare arrangements made due to military deployment, and time off (up to five days) to spend with covered military members on short-term leave during time away from deployment.
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