It struck me recently when the front page of the Boston Globe’s Business section on October 9, 2012 ran two articles that involved labor disputes. The first was an article on the Upper Crust Restaurant filing for bankruptcy and the second was about Progressive Gourmet’s workers suing the company. Upper Crust’s financial issues are, in part, due to a ruling requiring them to pay $350,000 in overtime from a 2010 class action lawsuit. The allegations against Progressive Gourmet are a violation of the WARN act in laying off employees without proper notice. While the lawsuits in each of these cases are different, the message is the same – HR non-compliance can cost big money!
Overlooking a law can cost a company a lot of money in terms of hard cash, but also bad press. As my mother used to say; “Penny-wise and pound foolish.” Even the smallest of companies should be aware of the compliance areas surrounding HR and comply. Some of the most important federal employment laws are:
EEO: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex and national origin.
ADEA: Prohibits discrimination against workers 40 or older in all aspects of employment, including hiring.
ADA: Prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities.
FLSA: Establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards.
FLMA: Entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
COBRA: Gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits for limited periods of time under certain circumstances.
There are other laws that also protect workers, such as the WARN act in the Progressive Gourmet case, but compliance with the above will start a company moving in the right direction. Additionally, many states have laws that go above and beyond the federal laws and attention to these must also be paid.
If you are concerned about your HR compliance, there are a few steps you can take to begin making your company compliant:
Conduct a compliance audit which will assess the current HR and personnel practices.
Develop job descriptions for all employees that outline the essential functions of the job, competencies and requirements.
Educate managers about the laws, such as harassment and discrimination law.
Develop policies and an Employee Handbook that supports legal compliance.
These steps will start you on your way to HR compliance, but full compliance is an ongoing process that requires constant attention.