HR Blog

Back to Basics: Two Regulations Every Supervisor and HR Person Should Know

08/01/2017 | Dee Yingst

Back to Basics: Two Regulations Every Supervisor and HR Person Should Know

A great soup starts with a great base. It doesn't matter what sort of vegetables or seasonings you add, your soup is only as good as its base. It's like that with HR too.

I used that soup analogy when someone asked me what I thought would be a good starting point for the basic regulatory stuff someone learning HR (either as an HR person or as a supervisor) should take the time understand.

Certainly there are lots of regulations to choose from but if I were going to pick just two that should come before anything else, I would choose the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Why these two? Well because it seems to me that just about everything comes back to these two in some fashion.  These two teach us how to pay our employees including minimum rates, how to count time, how to pay for excess time, and how to handle deductions from pay (FLSA), and about fairness in hiring, firing, promoting, discipline, and day-to-day treatment of workers (Title VII).

Here are a few of the basic standards in the FLSA:

  • Minimum wage including the minimum for tipped employees, and provisions for subminimum wage and youth minimum wage (which are all different)
  • Overtime pay is not less than one and one-half times the employee's regular rate after 40 hours in a workweek
  • Child labor provisions that govern the hours and  types of jobs minors are permitted to perform
  • Recordkeeping
  • Break times for nursing mothers

There are also things that many people think are regulated by the FLSA but are not. For instance, here are a few things FLSA does not require:

  • Vacation, holiday, severance, or sick pay
  • Meal or rest periods, holidays off, or vacations
  • Premium pay for weekend or holiday work
  • Pay raises or fringe benefits

You can find a great deal of information about the FLSA on the Dept. of Labor's website. Here's where you can get a copy of the Department of Labor's Handy Reference Guide to the Fair Labor Standards Act (yes, it's really called that). I highly recommend it and keep a copy myself.

I always caution folks that are new to HR or new to being a supervisor to make sure they understand the laws of their own state as well. Just because the FLSA doesn't require something doesn't mean it hasn't been addressed at the state level. Always make sure you check at the state level!

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is considered to be the premier civil rights legislation spelling out prohibitions on discriminatory practices in public places, housing, and schools; just to name a few. For employers, it's Title VII that is of particular importance. Title VII applies the discrimination prohibitions of the Act to the workplace.

Title VII tells us that it is unlawful to discriminate against any individual in regard to:

  • Recruiting
  • Hiring & promotion
  • Transfers
  • Work assignments
  • Performance measurement
  • Work environment
  • Job training
  • Discipline & discharge
  • Wages & benefits
  • Or any other term or condition of employment.

It's important to remember that Title VII prohibits not only intentional discrimination (disparate treatment), but unintentional discrimination (disparate impact) as well.

What's unintentional discrimination?? This would include policies that seem neutral on their face but results in a disproportionate number of workers in a particular group to be impacted negatively.  For instance, if your company requires all applicants to pass a strength test, does it disproportionately screen out women?  Just because you didn't set out to have a rule that discriminates doesn't mean you're not responsible for the impact of that rule. Check out this fact sheet from the EEOC for more information and examples.

As with the FLSA, it's important to check the discrimination laws of your particular state to see if they offer even greater protections than Title VII. For instance, PA law adds a prohibition on discrimination against an employee who has a GED instead of a high school diploma and it applies to smaller employers than Title VII.  So just because your company is under the minimum for Title VII to apply, you may still be subject to your state's discrimination laws.

Want to read a little more? You can read Title VII on the EEOC's website, and you can find the entire Pa Human Relations Act here.

Now that you've got that great base for your HR soup, next time we'll talk about some good things to add in to really give it some flavor.

Until then, have a great August!