International employers face a maze of regulations when they hire American employees. With more than 100 federal US employment laws out there, it’s difficult to be sure you’re observing every law on the books.
While you may be aware of some of the major laws, such as minimum wage rules, others might have slipped under your radar. Here are five US employment laws you could be breaking.
1. US Employment Laws Restrict Terminations
American employment law doesn’t dictate severance for employees and is usually thought to be “at will.” If you no longer need an employee, you can let them go without notice.
That doesn’t mean you can fire someone for no reason. If you dismiss someone without good reason, you might find yourself in a wrongful dismissal suit.
The National Labor Relations Act protects employees against unfair labor practices, which can include letting someone go without good reason. You also can’t fire an employee over lawful, yet unhealthy, behavior during off-hours.
You may also be required to negotiate extended medical leave for employees under the American Disability Act, above and beyond their 12-week unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
2. Unpaid Breaks and Off-Hour Work
Another concern for employers and employees alike is the time they’ll be paid for. As an employer, you might find yourself on the wrong side of the law if you choose not to pay your hourly employees in certain situations.
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, an employee who works through an unpaid meal break must be paid for the time they worked. If you automatically deduct a lunch break from employees’ wages, you could be breaking the law.
You may also be in the wrong if an employee is working during off-hours if there’s reason to believe you knew they were. If an hourly employee is answering your emails or finishing up a task that will take a substantial amount of time, you must pay them.
This is especially important in the age of remote work and cellphones. Your employees could be working at almost any time of day. Carefully monitor when they’re working, and be sure to establish clear rules about work hours, flex time, and off-hours.
3. Asking About Medical History
This law is particularly important for international employers who are currently hiring. Under the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA), you can’t ask an employee about family medical history.
This doesn’t just apply to the hiring and interview process. No employee should be asking another about family medical history. The exception is informal discussion, such as chats in the break room.
Other details are also off-limits, such as marital status and sexual preferences. This law and other US federal employment laws attempt to establish safe working places free of discrimination. Employees who are asked for this information and are later discriminated against in employment could sue.
4. Whistleblowers Are Protected
Revisiting termination rules, you’ll want to be aware of the various whistleblower laws on the books in the US. If someone raises a red flag about the way your business is operating, you can’t simply fire them over it.
You also can’t take action against them for reporting about unsafe conditions, including harassment and financial wrongdoing. Taking retaliatory action against these employees could land you in even more trouble.
5. The ADA Protects More Americans
As an employer in the US, it’s your job to reasonably accommodate employees, particularly those with disabilities. Someone who complains about a scent in the office might have a disability. The same is true of an employee who fails a mandatory drug test due to a shy bladder.
With more conditions considered disabilities than ever before, you may need to provide accommodations for more employees than you think.
If you need a hand navigating US employment laws, get in touch with the experts. They can help you employ Americans without legal headaches.