When planning my courses for this fall, Employment Law caught my eye. Having never heard of a law course based solely on employment, I sensed a unique opportunity in taking Employment Law here at Elon University. Thinking back to previous professional experiences, I realized a need to study the laws governing the workplace, and as a future manager or business owner, wouldn’t that be prudent?
Reflecting on times I have started a new job, often many questions arose. What are my rights? Am I eligible for benefits? Is my pay fair? To the employee, these are important questions and ones that are seriously pondered when considering a job offer. From an employer or manager’s perspective, a different set of questions arises. What tasks do I need completed and what qualifications am I looking for in a worker? Including taxes and benefits, how much will be the cost of hiring the employee? What are my legal responsibilities?
The Employment Law course will answer many of these questions, starting with the critical worker classification. Will you hire the worker as an employee or independent contractor? When it comes to an employer’s amount of control over the work being done as well as taxes and other factors, this distinction is an important one for an employer. Classification mistakes could result in substantial fines from the IRS.
You will cover several key federal laws, such as, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Passed during the Great Depression, the law regulates child labor, pay, and hours. Today, FLSA sets minimum wage at $7.25 and provides guidelines for the workweek schedule and overtime.
Discussed will be the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 that regulates unpaid leave for eligible employees to care for a serious health condition, birth, adoption (or arrival of a foster child) or to care for a child, spouse, or parent with a serious health condition. Recent amendments also make special provisions for those of the military. Our health is important and situations such as a serious illness can be stressful. As managers, we need to be able to support our employees by knowing what they may be entitled to in such situations.
You might recall from your government or civics class Title VII. Passed under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the provision protects against discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender, religion, or national origin. Claims of discrimination under Title VII go through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. If the EEOC finds, upon investigation, a claim to have merit, legal action can proceed.
Now there are rules as to who is covered and qualifies for some of the above along with other laws and specifics, but I can’t give everything away! You have to take the course! The course would complement a study of human resources or be insightful for one interested in HR.
Does all this really matter? Don’t let me convince you, just look to the news for recent cases. The CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, Michael Jeffries, was recently sued for age discrimination by a former pilot of his corporate jet. The former employee alleges being fired for more youthful and attractive workers. Cashiers for the company have also started a petition regarding alleged abusive workweek scheduling. In addition, last October Wal-Mart and two temp agencies were sued over denied minimum wages and overtime pay.
As managers, we must balance the needs of the company while being fair to all our potential and present employees. Not only is acting such the right thing to do, but also avoids the risk and cost of litigation. Employment Law will explore the basics of the laws and regulations needed to be an effective employer or manager.
Written by: Katharine Kunz