HR Laws SMBs Need to Know

One of the most nuanced yet important parts of running a small business without a dedicated HR department is ensuring you’re complying with every applicable HR law. You already have so many other things on your plate, but that won’t stop an enforcement agency from slapping you with an expensive fine—or worse. 

Thankfully, you don’t need to know every single employment and labor law on the books. Some laws are only applicable to businesses in specific industries or those with a minimum number of employees. We’ve rounded up the most common HR laws you should know about, but be sure to look at any additional laws your state or city may have in place as well.

Anti-discrimination laws

If your business is found in violation of anti-discrimination legislations, be prepared for serious consequences in both the eyes of the law and the court of public opinion. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces these laws, and they investigate instances of discrimination at any stage of the employment life cycle. This includes the application/interview process as well as hiring, firing, and promotion decisions. 

Laws to know include:

*applies only to businesses with 15+ employees

**applies only to businesses with 20+ employees

Wages and hours laws

Wages and hours laws set standards for how much an employee must be paid, the amount of time they can be required to work, and the requirements employers must meet if an employee exceeds that amount of time. They also protect special employee circumstances, like needing to take unpaid leave or requiring non-citizen visa sponsorship. The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor enforces these laws. 

Laws to know include:

***applies only to businesses with 50+ employees

Workplace health and safety laws

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA), enforced by the administration of the same name, is the primary workplace health and safety law you should know. This legislation outlines employer responsibilities for providing a safe workplace. For example, OSHA requires employers to provide proper tools and equipment so employees may do their job safely. OSHA also guarantees employees the right to adequate health and safety training in a language they understand and the right to request an OSHA inspection without retaliation.

Other workplace health and safety laws include workers’ compensation regulations, which are administered by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). These are usually industry-specific laws that provide care and compensation to workers who are injured on the job or develop health conditions because of their work. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act and Black Lung Benefits Act are both examples of laws that provide benefits to workers and/or their survivors.

Employee benefits laws

Employee benefits laws, as the name suggests, regulate the benefits someone receives such as retirement and healthcare plans. These regulations are enforced by the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), which acts as a watchdog for employers or benefit plan administrators. The EBSA serves millions of employees, retirees, and their families.

Laws to know include:

Tools to comply with HR laws

Compliance with HR laws can be a lot to manage, especially when you’ve got so many other business needs that require your attention. Plus, the laws in this list are only the federal ones—your city or state may have additional legislations that you should know. To make sure you have all of your bases covered, consider implementing an HR software tool that will give you all the right information. Read our list of Top HR Software for Small Businesses 2021 to find the right solution for your business.

Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is the editor of Small Business Computing. She is passionate about creating relatable, research-based content that helps small businesses thrive.

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