4 Employment Laws Small Business Owners Should Know

Whether you’re just getting started, or have been operating your business for some time, staying current with the legal requirements of owning an operating a company is a business necessity.  For many entrepreneurs, the legal protocols around employees, hiring practices, and workplace conditions are secondary thoughts which come after trying to build a business from a one-person shop into the next Fortune 500 Company.

No matter how large or small the business, being aware of general employment laws can not only help you avoid potential legal trouble, but can also assist you in providing your employees with a safe and productive work environment. Here are four federal employment laws all business owners should familiarize themselves with.

Fair Labor Standards Act

The Fair Labor Standards Act, was originally passed in 1938 and set the standards around an eight-hour workday, forty hour work week, as well as set a minimum wage and overtime rules for workers. In addition it also defined the type of work minors could perform and when they were and were not able to work.

Since 1938 the act has been updated, but its focus remains on establishing the federal minimum wage, overtime, child labor rules, and recordkeeping requirements for all businesses. Recognizing the complexity of these issues and the many items the act covers the United States Department of Labor has developed the Fair Labor Standards Act Advisor, which can be used as a walkthrough by business owners to familiarize themselves with the current standards set forth by the act.

The Family and Medical Leave Act

Signed into law on February 5th, 1993 the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide employees job protection and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons. These reasons include, but are not strictly limited to, a personal or family illness, family military leave, pregnancy, adoption, or the foster care placement of a child. To learn which employees are covered by the law, what entitlements and benefits are offered, and in what situations the FMLA can be used, employers are encouraged to utilize the FMLA advisor available at http://www.dol.gov/elaws/fmla.htm.

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)

The OSH Act is the primary federal law governing occupational health and safety for both the private sector and the federal government. Originally enacted by Congress in 1970, its main goal is ensuring employees are provided a work environment free from recognized hazards. These hazards can include exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise, mechanical dangers, stress due to heat or cold, or unsanitary conditions.

In addition to the OSH Act, the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) was formed to both enforce the OSH Act and any additional regulations. OSHA is also charged with providing training, outreach, education and assistance around workplace safety.

To learn more about the OSH Act, along with the additional regulations around workplace safety currently being enforced by OSHA, employers are encouraged to visit https://www.osha.gov/which offers both general information and in-depth breakdowns by industry.

Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws

Unlike the 3 previous laws rather than a single act or law, this group of laws work jointly, with the aim of eliminating discrimination in the workplace. As a whole these laws are referred to as the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with the enforcement all of these laws. In addition the EEOC also provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies. You can learn more on these laws, and the EEOC at http://www.eeoc.gov


Familiarizing yourself with each of these four laws can without question be a tedious task. However doing so can help ensure your business operates (with regards to these specific laws) in accordance with the federal government. In addition to these four laws, there may be other laws both federal and local which apply to your business. As your business continues to grow it is always advisable to speak with an attorney to ensure your business is meeting the requirements set forth on the federal, state, and local level.

About author

Joseph Brady
Joseph Brady 21 posts

Joseph Brady has been involved in growing businesses since 2004. Focused on improving their marketing efforts both on and offline, he has spent considerable time working as a search engine marketing consultant assisting business increase both the quantity and quality of web traffic.

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