HR Compliance—Key Laws for Fairness, Diversity, and Inclusion
There’s a lot you need to keep track of as an HR professional with regards to the laws and regulations for hiring and employment. While it’s essential to follow legislation to avoid costly penalties and liability, HR compliance isn’t just about crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s. These rules help keep your employees safe by protecting them from discrimination, harassment, and other unfair or dangerous treatment.
Don’t think of labor laws and HR regulations as all that red tape that makes things harder for you and your organization. Instead, think of HR laws as a way to ensure your employees have guaranteed access to certain rights and protections.
This chapter will cover the basic definition for the most relevant and important HR laws (but be sure to keep up to date as HR regulations and labor laws may change over time). We’ll discuss:
- Workplace discrimination
- Wages and hours protections
- Health insurance and benefits
- Immigration laws
- Workplace safety
- Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
- Helpful resources
While not a labor law per se, diversity, equity, and inclusion principles will help you grow a culture where anti-discrimination, HR compliance, and workplace safety aren’t just afterthoughts but integral parts of your values.
What Are the Main Federal Anti-Discrimination Employment Laws?
Employers need to follow federal anti-discrimination laws in order to protect their employees and remain compliant.
Here are some of the main HR laws:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII): Employers cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex. Based on the June 2020 Supreme Court ruling, this law also protects gender identity and sexual orientation. Reasonable accommodations must be made for candidates or employees with sincere religious beliefs, unless it would impose “undue hardship” on the employer’s business.
- — Note: This law also prohibits sexual harassment as it a form of sex discrimination.
- The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, Amended to Title VII (PDA): Employers cannot discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or medical conditions related to either.
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA): Employers must pay men and women an equal wage for equal work performed at the same organization.
- — Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009: An amendment to the EPA, this law makes it easier for employees to file equal-pay lawsuits; an employee has 180 days after a discriminatory paycheck to file an equal-pay lawsuit, and this period renews with every paycheck that is discriminatory.
- Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA): Employers cannot discriminate against someone who is qualified for a job but also has a disability, whether as an applicant or employee. Reasonable accommodations must be made to allow a qualified, disabled person to do their job, unless it would impose “undue hardship” on the employer’s business.
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA): Employers cannot discriminate against someone due to their age if they are 40 years old or older.
- The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA): Employers cannot discriminate against someone because of their genetic information or family medical history, including genetic tests.
Each of these HR laws also protects anyone from retaliation for making a complaint or participating in an investigation relating to discrimination based on any of these laws. For more details on these laws and other discrimination laws relating to employment, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website.
How Many Employees Does a Business Need to Have for Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws to Apply?
Small and medium businesses in the private sector have different requirements for following federal anti-discrimination laws, depending on how many employees they have.
The following federal anti-discrimination laws apply if you have:
- At least one employee: EPA
- 15-19 employees: EPA, Title VII, PDA, ADA, and GINA
- More than 20 employees: EPA, Title VII, PDA, ADA, GINA, and ADEA
An employee is defined as anyone who is:
- Under a work program
- Any of these categories and not a citizen, even if undocumented
Federal law also requires employers to display the relevant anti-discrimination laws with a poster, informing employees of their protections and rights. For more information on the HR compliance requirements for small and medium-sized business, visit the EEOC website. Be sure to also check if there are any additional state or local anti-discrimination laws you need to follow.