As a business owner, you know that your employees have basic rights. But what are those rights? What steps can you take to help protect those rights?
Federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws generally apply to businesses with 15 or more employees. But many states have their own EEO laws that may apply to small businesses with fewer employees.
Having a better understanding of employee protections and discrimination laws can help your business avoid lawsuits and legal investigations.
Employees Have th07e Right to Freedom from Discrimination
All employees have a right to freedom from discrimination, which means employers need to be careful when hiring, firing and promoting employees.
Federal and state laws provide legal sanctions for protected employee classes. These laws include:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): Prohibits discrimination based on a person’s mental or physical disabilities.
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Prohibits discrimination against a person based on their race, skin color, sex, religion or nationality.
- Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): Entitles employees to 12 weeks of medical or maternity leave without risking job security.
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): Prohibits discrimination against people over the age of 40.
- Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA): Prohibits discrimination based on a person’s medical history.
- Equal Pay Act (EPA): Requires men and women with the same skills performing the same work to be paid equally.
Some states also have laws that prohibit discrimination based on marital status, sexual orientation and weight.
Employees Have a Right to Privacy
Employees also have a right to privacy, which means their personal belongings cannot be searched. These rights also extend to job candidates before they’re hired. This means that employers cannot run a background or credit check without written permission.
With that said, employee privacy rights do not extend to Internet or email use on a business’s network or computer.
Employees are Protected Against Retaliation
Better known as “whistleblower” rights, employees have the right to stop, testify or report employer actions that are illegal, unethical or violate public policies without fear of retribution.
If an employee takes action against an employer for being discriminatory or negligent about workplace safety, the employer cannot retaliate.
Employees Have the Right to Fair Compensation
All employees have the right to fair wages, and there are several laws that protect this right.
For example, nonexempt employees must be paid at least the federal minimum wage. Some states and cities have also enacted their own minimum wage laws, which must be followed by all businesses. In some areas of the country, minimum wage is set to $15 an hour or more.
Under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, male and female workers must receive the same amount of compensation for completing the same work at the same skill level. But even with this law in place, women still only earn $0.79 for every dollar a man earns.
These are basic employee rights that every business owner needs to know and understand to avoid legal complications. It’s important to research and understand all local employment laws to ensure that your business adheres to local and federal regulations.