How to Stay Up to Date on Human Resource Laws

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Human resource laws are important for keeping employees safe and comfortable in their work environments, however, your business’s compliance with these laws can be just as beneficial for protecting the liability of your business. You can use the information in this guide to ensure your business stays updated on current and newly enacted human resource laws.


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What are human resource laws?

Human resource laws encompass regulatory standards of conduct that human resource personnel must adhere to when managing company departments, staff, payroll and safety standards. Typically, human resource laws and the company codes of conduct are in a handbook that employees receive when you hire them.


Human resource laws can include regulatory standards based on important laws such as the Civil Rights Act and the Fair Labor Standard Act. The following legislative acts form the basis of human resource laws:


  • Civil Rights Act: This law protects individuals from employment discrimination based on race, religion, gender and national origin.
  • Fair Labor Standard Act: This law establishes the national minimum wage, regulates overtime and payroll standards and regulates the working hours and conditions of minors.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act: This legislation establishes leave of absence for families due to medical circumstances, maternity leave and regulates sick leave.
  • Employees with Disabilities Act: This law protects employees with disabilities from employment discrimination based on their disability.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act: This law protects employees over 40 from age discrimination.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act: This law, commonly referred to as OSHA, protects the health and safety of workers, originally starting in the construction and labor trades, now protects all working industries.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act: This law protects new hires from discrimination based on credit reports, and it requires an employee’s written consent before an employer may review a new hire’s credit report.

These laws generally form the basis of human resource laws, and the standards present within employee or company handbooks refer to these important legislative acts. Additionally, it’s important for businesses to be in compliance with human resource laws because not only does it prove a company’s ethical operation but maintaining absolute compliance can make the workplace a safe and comfortable environment for employees and staff to perform their jobs.


Read more: How to Hire a Human Resources Manager


A process for knowing about human resource laws

The following information illustrates how you can take steps to keep up-to-date on human resource legislation as well as ensuring your business is in compliance with these laws:


1. Hire knowledgeable HR staff

The successful operation of the human resources department depends on how knowledgeable the HR staff is regarding standards of conduct, employment laws and human resource legislation. Therefore, take steps to ensure that you’re only hiring qualified and knowledgeable talent to run your business’s human resource department.


2. Provide proper training

Another essential step in maintaining compliance with mandatory employment laws is to provide opportunities for professional development. Provide training that allows staff and HR personnel to gain a deeper understanding of these important legislative acts. Training and ethics workshops can help all staff by providing crucial information regarding current laws and newly-enacted legislation.


3. Create an employee handbook

Another effective method for ensuring all staff members are up-to-date on human resource laws is to organize information into an employee handbook. Keep the handbook updated by checking on current and new laws and making sure to include each aspect in your handbook.


4. Perform weekly updates

Perform weekly searches to make sure your business is up-to-date on the current laws and any new laws that come into legislation. Update your employee handbook as you learn of new important standards to include in your company code of conduct.


5. Use HR resources

Take advantage of professional resources available for HR personnel. For instance, state and government legislation websites are effective resources as these sites generally update regularly to include the most current laws, and any new laws that are in the process of approval.


A list of HR resources

The following HR resources can be effective places to start for building your resource list:


  • U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM): The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the chief HR agency for managing policies and providing news, support and resources for human resource professionals.
  • The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS): The HHS provides HR professionals with valuable information and additional sources for researching current laws and regulations regarding health and human safety to assist with staying updated on current legislation.
  • The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM): This organization provides valuable information, insights, updates, newsletters, eBooks and other essential resources for HR professionals who are members of this professional union.
  • SHRM HR Magazine: The Society for Human Resource Management offers this publication and provides updates, insightful news and press releases regarding human resource management, compliance and updated regulations and standards.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS): The IRS can be a useful resource for providing information related to income, organizing payroll and navigating tax reporting.

Learn more: New Hire Onboarding Checklist


Human resources FAQs


What is an ‘exempt’ employee in regard to overtime pay?

Typically, if an employee is ‘exempt’ it means that they are not qualified to earn any overtime pay. Additionally, there may be several different criteria that are used to determine an employee’s exemption status.


What laws should I refer to when hiring a minor?

When hiring a minor, review resources that pertain to the Fair Labor Standard Act to help you determine how to organize a minor employee’s work schedule and income.


Are regulations different for employees and independent contractors?

Yes, employees and independent contractors are in two distinct categories regarding employment laws. Several key regulatory differences between the two include tax reporting, corporate benefits, retirement and income reporting standards.


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