HR Departments and the US Principles of Employment Regulatory Laws

What Are Human Resources?

“Human resources” refers to the individuals who make up the workforce of an entire organization. The term is also applied to business sectors or even entire countries when it comes to labor economics. Human resources also refers to a function within organizations, the purpose of which is to implement policies and strategies when it comes to the management of individuals. Human resources as a title is often abbreviated to the acronym “HR.”

Why Do HR Professionals Need Legal Knowledge?

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all HR position. Some HR managers are entirely responsible for hiring, while others focus on employee development, salary, and benefits. These professionals are frequently faced with on-the-spot judgments that might have serious legal ramifications. Understanding basic HR-related regulations gives them increased confidence to make these decisions.
In order for an organization to avoid costly legal fines and other penalties, compliance with employment laws is essential. Below are the employment laws that every HR professional should know.


1. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and covers an employer who has fifteen (15) or more employees. It prohibits discrimination against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.


It establishes minimum wage ($7.25 per hour in 2013), overtime pay (one and one half times regular rate of pay), and child labor standards. Waiting periods, on-call requirements, training/meetings, and travel time as well as rest periods, meals, and breaks are all covered under this law.


The Department of Labor administers the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) that allows employees who have worked at least 1,250 hours in the previous year to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Watch the free ERC webinar on FMLA Serious Health Conditions for more information.

4. ADA

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is enforced by four federal agencies with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in charge of private employment laws. Title I of the ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. An employer must also make a reasonable adjustment for a qualified applicant or employee’s known impairment.


The US Department of Labor’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is in charge of enforcing the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). The ADEA forbids discrimination in hiring, promotions, salaries, training, benefits, layoffs, terminations, and other employment terms and conditions against anyone beyond the age of forty. Individuals under forty years of age are not protected by this legislation.


The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) is the principal federal statute that oversees workplace health and safety. It ensures that employees work in a safe and healthy workplace devoid of known hazards such as poisonous substances, high noise levels, mechanical threats, heat or cold stress, or unhygienic circumstances.


The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) was signed into law in 2010 by President Barack Obama. The bill establishes health insurance exchanges and increases Medicaid eligibility and Medicare coverage, among other things. It also introduces an individual mandate and an employer mandate that compels all individuals to purchase healthcare coverage.

8. Workers’ Compensation Act

Ohio’s Workers’ Compensation Act establishes a system whereby employees are provided with reasonable accommodation if their injuries result from their employment. Employers contribute money to a common state insurance fund that compensates workers injured while on the job. Employers are immune from full liability if an employee is injured while employed.

9. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and covers an employer who has fifteen (15) or more employees. It prohibits discrimination against any individual on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

10. Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions.

11. Pregnancy Discrimination Act

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and prohibits sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy or a pregnancy-related condition. Women who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions (except elective abortions) must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. This law applies to employers with fifteen (15) or more employees.

12. Ohio Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Even if a business is not covered by FMLA, under Ohio’s law (Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4112-5-05(G)), female employees are entitled to take leave for a “reasonable period of time” for pregnancy and childbirth. In addition, the Commission has determined that at the end of the leave, the employee must be reinstated to “her original position or to a position of like status and pay, without loss of service credits or other benefits.”

13. NLRA

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and defines the rights of employees and employers including their right to collectively bargain and engage in concerted activities such as grievances, strikes, etc. for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid and protection.

14. EPPA

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) is administered by the Department of Labor and prohibits most employers from using lie detector tests during employment or pre-employment screenings. Employers generally cannot require or request any employee or job applicant to take a lie detector test. They also cannot terminate or discipline an employee who refuses to take a lie detector test, nor can they discriminate against a job applicant for refusing to take one.


The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is administered by the Department of Labor and protects the assets of individuals so that funds placed in retirement plans during their working lives will be there when they retire. ERISA only requires that those who establish plans must meet certain minimum standards; however, it does not require any employer to establish a pension plan.


The Department of Labor administers the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) that gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the option of continuing group health benefits provided by their group health plan for a limited time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, a reduction in hours worked, a transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Individuals who meet certain criteria may be compelled to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the plan’s cost.

17. FCRA

The Federal Trade Commission is in charge of enforcing the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) that governs the collection, transmission, and use of consumer information. The legislation guarantees the truth, impartiality, and privacy of personal information held by credit-reporting organizations. Anyone requesting a report must show that the information will be used for a legal purpose before it is released.

18. GINA

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is administered by the EEOC and prohibits the use of genetic information in health insurance and employment. The act prohibits group health plans and health insurers from denying coverage to a healthy individual or charging that person higher premiums based solely on a genetic predisposition to developing a disease in the future. The legislation also bars employers from using individuals’ genetic information when making hiring, firing, job placement, or promotion decisions.


The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is administered by the Department of Health & Human Services and requires health care providers and organizations to develop and follow procedures that ensure the confidentiality and security of protected health information when it is transferred, received, handled, or shared. The law also reduces health care fraud and abuse, mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electronic billing and other processes, and requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information.

20. WARN

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) is administered by the Department of Labor and protects workers, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with one hundred (100)or more employees to provide notification of sixty calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs. Faltering companies, unforeseeable business circumstances, and natural disasters are exceptions to the zero-day notice with the burden of proof on the employer.


The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is administered by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) and protects service members’ rights to be reemployed when they return from a period of service in the uniformed services.Under this law, service members need to be reinstated to the same job, pay, and benefits that they would have attained if they had not been absent for military service. The law also protects service members from discrimination in hiring and promotion.

22. Immigration and Nationality Act

The Immigration and Nationality Act governs nearly all immigration issues. The law prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants based on immigration status. It specifies the conditions for aliens to work in the United States on a temporary or permanent basis.The law also includes provisions that address employment eligibility and employment verification, including requiring employers to verify employees’ identity and work eligibility on the I-9 form.

23. Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank Act”)

The Dodd-Frank Act requires public companies to comply with several disclosure and shareholder-voting provisions related to compensation practices. The law also provided the Securities and Exchange Commission with the authority to make rules and provisions regarding these requirements including say-on-pay, say-on-pay frequency, shareholder disclosure, and approval of “golden parachute” compensation.

What Should Evey HR Professional Know About Compliance Laws?

Failure to maintain compliance with any of the laws listed above can result in penalties against the employer or can even result in the employee bringing a lawsuit against the employer for damages. Compliance with various employment laws can take on a variety of forms, such as providing proof of insurance, submitting reports, or taking timely action upon identifying a law that is not being complied with. As a result, it is essential for every HR professional to not only know what conduct is required in order to ensure compliance with a law but also to know how to demonstrate compliance and keep appropriate records to protect a business. Staying on top of compliance laws and their requirements can help prevent problems well before they arise and ultimately ensure every employee’s safety and security within the company.

“But regardless of individual job function,” Briana Hyde, a lecturer at the Northeastern College of Professional Studies(Boston, Massachusetts), says, “compliance is a key responsibility of every HR role. The law touches every profession that falls under the HR umbrella in some way.”


Phidelia Johnson is a global Human Resources Practitioner with eighteen years of leadership success. With a focus on streamlining Human Resources administration, she’s well-equipped to find the right solution to a myriad of concerns. Her experience as a commercial business leader gives her a unique ability to advocate for both the employer and the employee.
In her down time, Phidelia is a master of her kitchen, creating wonderful dishes filled with passion and flavor. If she’s not cooking delicious food, she’s stretched out with a good book. She hopes to use her experience to help others, guide company leaders to best practices, and help build better professionals and stronger organizations.

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