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Significant Federal Employment and Labor Laws

The United States Department of Labor oversees and enforces more than 180 federal laws governing workplace activities for about 10 million employers and 125 million workers. The following is a list of employment laws that regulate hiring, wages, hours and salary, discrimination, harassment, employee benefits, paid time off, job applicant and employee testing, privacy, and other important workplace and employee rights issues.

Significant Federal Employment and Labor Laws

The Fair Labor Standards Act determines the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay. It also regulates child labor, limiting the number of hours that minors can work. Some U.S. states have a higher minimum wage and different overtime and child labor legislation. In those locations, state law would apply.

The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) oversees employers’ pension plans and the required fiduciary, disclosure, and reporting requirements. ERISA doesn’t apply to all private employers and doesn’t require companies to offer plans to workers, but it does set standards for plans, should employers choose to offer them.

The Family Medical and Family Leave Act requires employers with more than 50 employees to provide workers with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave for the birth or adoption of a child, for the serious illness of the employee or a spouse, child, or parent, or for emergencies related to a family member’s active military service, including childcare requirements. If the active servicemember becomes seriously ill or is injured in the course of their duties, coverage may be extended for up to 26 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) regulates health and safety conditions in private-sector industries to ensure that work environments do not pose any serious hazards. Covered employers are required to display a poster in the workplace, outlining workers’ rights to request an OSHA inspection, how to receive training on hazardous work environments, and how to report issues.

List of U.S. Employment Laws and Resources

The United States has hundreds of federal employment and labor laws that affect employers and employees. Here is a list of resources for some of the most important U.S. labor laws.

Laws Regulating Wages and Compensation

Compensatory Time: These are laws regulating paid time off in lieu of overtime pay for extra hours worked.

Fair Pay Legislation: There are several laws on the books that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Minimum Wage: The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but many states and metro areas set their own, higher minimum wage. Some states have also set lower wages, but in these cases, the higher federal minimum prevails.

Overtime Pay: Hourly workers or those who earn less than $455 per week are entitled to time-and-a-half pay if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Pay for Snow Days: Do you get paid if your company closes because of inclement weather? It depends on many factors, including state and federal law.

Unpaid Wages: Are you entitled to back pay? Find out when you are due back pay and how to collect it if you have an issue with an employer, here.

Vacation Pay: Federal law does not require employers to offer paid vacation time, but your company may do so anyway. It pays to understand company policy.

Wage Garnishment: Certain types of debt, e.g., tax bills and child support payments, may be collected via wage garnishment. The Consumer Credit Protection Act sets limits and protections for workers.