Identifying labor and employment laws in human resources looks at functional activities of HR as well as strategic planning for the department and the overall workforce. The types of laws to which HR must adhere range from those enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor to the U.S. National Labor Relations Board. Generally speaking, within each area of HR, certain labor and employment laws can be identified — equal opportunity, labor relations, pay and overtime, and workplace safety.
Human resources staff assist in classifying positions by evaluating job titles, duties, responsibilities, salary and the impact each position has on the organization. This form of job analysis is consistent with labor laws such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, which contains provisions for exempt and nonexempt classification to determine whether employees are entitled to overtime pay. In addition, job analysis reflects HR attention to resolving pay inequities prohibited by the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
Recruiters construct job postings that don’t disqualify potential applicants based on non-job-related factors such as age, color, disability, national origin, race, religion or sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibit unfair employment practices in the recruitment and selection stages of the employment process. These laws also prohibit discriminatory employment actions in the training, promotion or termination of employees. HR recruitment and selection processes must be fair and consistent with applicable federal and state anti-discrimination laws.
HR leaders are alerted to signs of concerted activity, such as employees discussing working conditions with labor union representatives or collecting signatures from their co-workers whom they want to support a union-organizing campaign. Signs of union organizing compel HR staff to ensure that supervisors and managers aren’t involved in inappropriate communications with employees about their decision to support the union or support the company should a union-organizing campaign come to fruition. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 governs employees’ rights concerning concerted activity and the employers’ obligations when workers seek union representation. The Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 also is a labor law that governs the actions of employers and labor unions regarding concerted activity and union membership.
An employee relations program — the discipline of HR that’s focused on sustaining good employer-employee relationships — supports compliance with anti-discrimination laws, such as Title VII. Employee relations specialists identify workplace issues, investigate employee complaints and often mediate grievances to restore productivity and collegial relationship-building within the organization. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces Title VII and strongly recommends that employers undertake action to swiftly investigate and resolve workplace conflict, particularly matters involving sexual harassment.
Employers have an obligation to provide a safe working environment for employees. HR usually spearheads the organization’s workplace safety training and zero-tolerance workplace violence policies. The U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration enforces the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, which requires that employers maintain logs concerning injuries and fatalities.