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Understanding the Basics of Employment Law: A Primer for Supervisors

Ethical Practices

Harassment & Discrimination

Understanding the Basics of Employment Law: A Primer for Supervisors

As a supervisor, it's essential to have a strong understanding of employment laws to ensure compliance and protect your employees' rights. In this article, we'll discuss what employment laws are, how to remain in compliance with them, and best practices for managers, including handling harassment complaints and preventing retaliation. Let’s explore this important topic, so that can develop a deeper understanding of employment laws and how to remain compliant, leading to a more positive work environment for all.

What are Employment Laws?

The relationship between employers and employees is governed by regulations known as wage and labor laws. These federal laws establish minimum wage rates, mandate overtime pay for labor beyond a particular number of hours, and offer workplace safety and health benefits. Employee benefits like paid time off, sick leave, and insurance are also governed by wage and labor rules. Additionally, they prevent discrimination on the basis of certain protected traits like race, gender, and age. For example, employees with disabilities also have the right under the Americans with Disabilities Act to request reasonable accommodations to make their workplace more comfortable and effective.

It is vital that employers remain in compliance with these employment laws when it comes to their employees. The enforcement of these laws is typically carried out by government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Labor. Noncompliance with wage and labor laws can lead to hefty fines or even legal action. That’s why employers must have a general understanding of each law and how it affects supervisory roles.

Protecting Employee Rights

Employee rights may vary based on country, state, or industry. Some rights granted to employees in the U.S. include the right to be paid at least the national minimum wage, to work in a safe and healthy environment, and to take rest breaks during working hours. All employees have the right to receive a written statement of employment terms and conditions within two months of starting, the right to protection against unfair dismissal, as well as the right to join a trade union and take part in collective bargaining. When it comes to time off, employees have the right to receive paid holiday leave; to receive maternity, paternity, and adoption leave and pay; and to request flexible working arrangements. Employees also have the right to be protected from discrimination based on certain protected characteristics such as age, race, gender, and more.

Remaining in Compliance with Labor Laws

Here are a few tips for managers and supervisors who want to remain in compliance with wage and labor laws. If you are unfamiliar with a specific law, research and learn about it. Laws frequently change, so make sure you stay on top of any updates. Next, provide regular training sessions to educate your team on law requirements and company policies and procedures. You should also keep detailed records of employee hours worked, wages paid, and other employment-related information.

Additionally, when you provide clear communication with your team about work schedules, overtime rules, and other policies, you can avoid misunderstandings that could lead to violations. And finally, follow the Golden Rule. Treat people how you would want to be treated, regardless of their race, age, gender, disability, sexual orientation, or background. Following these tips will help you remain in compliance with wage and hour laws and earn your employees' respect and increase workplace productivity.

Best Practices for Managers


During the recruitment process, avoiding discrimination based on protected characteristics is not only the law, but also a best practice. Avoiding prejudice throughout the interview and employment process has many advantages. A larger candidate pool will be available to your organization, and your company will be viewed more favorably. Also, refraining from prejudice can make your current staff feel more at ease at work, which may enhance productivity.

Remember that a job posting is the first step in developing an equal-opportunity workplace. Instead of including unnecessary personal information in a job posting, concentrate on the abilities and credentials required for the position. By writing a nonprejudiced job description, avoiding discriminatory language, and being mindful of unconscious bias, you can conduct a hiring process that is fair and inclusive for all candidates.

Handling Harassment Complaints

In the unfortunate event that an employee makes a harassment complaint or a workplace grievance, would you know what to do? Some best practices include being aware of your company’s policy in advance of addressing any complaint. Make sure to prioritize the complaint and give it your immediate attention by actively listening to your employee's concerns.

Show empathy towards the employee's situation, and let them know you understand their concerns and you take them seriously. Maintain confidentiality when possible, but let the employee know that certain situations, such as harassment complaints, are required to be reported according to your organization's policies. And don’t forget to keep detailed records of the complaint, and immediately report the situation to human resources or a designated person in your organization.

Preventing Retaliation

If someone does file a harassment or discrimination complaint against you or another supervisor, it is imperative that you avoid retaliating against the employee at all costs. Retaliation is not only illegal, but it is also highly regulated. The EEOC takes retaliation very seriously, and so should you. No consequence must be taken against any individual who files a harassment complaint, participates in discrimination preceding, or opposes discrimination.

Employers may not fire, demote, harass, or retaliate against complainants, and transferring an employee to a less desirable location or unfairly scrutinizing their work after they have filed a complaint is against the law. Protection from retribution is necessary for a healthy workplace; otherwise, people might be reluctant to report improper behavior.

What To Do Next

Beyond honoring employee rights, there are many additional organizational benefits to staying in compliance with wage and labor laws, including improved morale, productivity, and employee retention. If you are unsure if your company is following all employment legislation, now could be a good time to roll out EasyLlama’s latest course on Employment Laws for Supervisors.

Our 100% online training can easily fit into the busy schedule of your supervisors and managers with self-pacing that allows users to stop and start courses across any device. Plus, with interactive quizzes and real-life video scenarios, our engaging training goes beyond rote memorization to truly improve knowledge retention. Access your free course preview to learn more about our supervisor training options today!

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