Following is a summary of laws affecting employment, which should not be construed as providing legal advice. Legal advice should be rendered depending on specific facts, at which time competent professional counsel should be sought.
Age Discrimination (ADEA) & Older Worker Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA)
Federal laws prohibit employers from discriminating against persons over 40 years of age on account of their age. Some state laws prohibiting age discrimination do not have a minimum age threshold. The OWBPA requires that a release which waives an employee’s right to sue for age discrimination must comply with stringent rules.
Continuation of Health Benefits (COBRA)
These federal laws require employers of more than 20 employees to provide employees and their families covered under the employer’s Group Health Plan the right to continue medical coverage at their own expense for an extended period of time.
Discrimination/Civil Rights Acts/Title VII
Federal and state laws prohibit employment practices (such as hiring, discharge, promotions and pay) which are based upon an individual’s race, color, religion, national origin, sex/gender (including pregnancy), physical or mental disability or veteran status. State laws may create additional protected classifications such as marital status and sexual orientation and can impose individual liability upon those found responsible for the discrimination. Employers can be liable for retaliating against employees who complain about unlawful discriminatory employment practices.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
A comprehensive federal statute regulating pension, health and some severance plans, whether insured or self administered. It defines the fiduciary responsibilities of trustees of the plans, and contains civil and criminal penalties for violation of significant restrictions, including prohibited transactions and notice requirements.
Equal Pay Act
Federal law prohibits employers from granting employees different pay or benefits based on sex, if the work performed requires equal skill, effort and responsibility.
Family and Medical Leave Act
Under this federal law, employers with fifty (50) or more employees must provide up to twelve (12) weeks of unpaid leave to an employee because of the employee’s own serious health condition, to allow the employee to care for a family member (child, spouse, or parent) with a serious health condition, or for the birth, adoption, or foster-care placement of a child.
Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
HIPPA allows portability of health coverage from company to company and requires the former employer to document previous health coverage, so all or part of pre-existing conditions requirements are waived. It also includes extensive regulations as to privacy of employee health information affecting companies with at least 50 employees covered by a fully insured health plan.
Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
Federal law prohibits hiring or recruiting unauthorized aliens and requires employers to verify the identity and eligibility to work of all employees hired after November 1986. The Act also establishes record-keeping requirements for all applicants for employment, including U.S. citizens, regardless of position held with the company.
Military Service & Military Leave
Employers may not discriminate against individuals who enter military service, including reserve duty. Upon return from service, individuals must be reinstated to equivalent positions.
Polygraph Protection Act (PPA)
This federal law prohibits random polygraph testing of employees and polygraph screening of most job applicants and employees in most cases.
Sexual harassment occurs when an employee is subjected to unwelcome or offensive sexual advances, requests for sexual favors or other offensive physical and/or verbal conduct based on sex. Employers can be liable for retaliating against employees who complain about unlawful harassment.
State Labor Laws Affecting Employees
New York State labor laws regulate several aspects of the employment relationship not covered by federal law, including lunch breaks, split shifts, uniform allowances, pay days, notice terms upon termination, deductions from wages, and loans to employees.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and state labor laws govern hours of work and the payment of wages. The FLSA and state laws establish the minimum wage. The FLSA prohibits sex/gender based wage discrimination and defines who is eligible for overtime pay and the number of hours an employee must work to receive it. It is a common mistake to believe employees are automatically exempt from the payment of overtime simply because they are paid a salary.
Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
This federal statute requires all employers with 100 or more employees to give employees sixty (60) days advance notice of a ‘plant closing’ or ‘mass layoff.’ If an employer does not give the required notice, affected employees may recover pay and benefits.
Workers’ Compensation Retaliation
The NYS Workers’ Compensation Law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee who files or threatens to file a Workers’ Compensation claim.
Workplace Safety (OSHA)
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was enacted to ensure employees’ work environment is free from hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury. Significant penalties are provided for recognized hazards identified during an inspection. Employers must post required forms in February of each year.