Laws and Regulations Every Employer Should Know

Up through the beginning of the 20th century, there were really no laws aimed to protect workers. Employers had complete autonomy when it came to wage negotiation and could enforce harsh workloads under conditions that would be entirely unacceptable today. 

Thankfully, federal and state governments have ironed out a lot of wrinkles in the past several decades, leaving employers with a little bit of homework before making a hire. As trusted global hiring partners, we have made a list of basic U.S. employment laws every employer should know.

Must-Know Laws for HR Personnel and Business Owners

While much legislation is industry or sector-specific, there is a core of federal and state laws that applies to everyone. Let’s start with the most general, and funnel our way down to the more specific.

1. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

Enacted in 1938 under President Roosevelt in the aftermath of the great depression, the Fair Labor Standards Act established a minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor standards. This law affects full-time and part-time workers in the private sector as well as in federal, state, and local governments.

Read more here.

2. National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

Passed a few years prior to the FLSA, the National Labor Relations act of 1935 encourages collective bargaining by protecting private-sector workers’ full freedom of association. Basically, the NLRA gives private-sector employees the right to organize into trade unions and take collective actions such as strikes without retaliation.

Read more here.

3. Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act forbids age discrimination against any American worker over the age of 40. It is important to note that this law does not protect workers younger than 40, although a number of states have enacted laws to also protect younger workers from age discrimination.

Read more here.

4. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act is a civil rights law that extends far beyond the workplace. Enacted in 1990, the ADA prohibits discrimination against disabled individuals who are seeking job opportunities, education, access to goods/services, and more. Modeled after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, this piece of legislation binds employers to certain equal opportunity practices.

Read more here.

5. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

In so many words, the Fair Credit Reporting Act regulates how consumer reports are obtained and utilized by employers. Consumer reports are essentially anything procured on behalf of another that contains personal credit, character, reputation, or lifestyle information. 

Employers have a number of responsibilities under the FCRA. For more information, consult this resource.

6. “Ban the Box” Laws

Though not a law enforced at the federal level, “ban the box” laws are observed by many states and work to prevent the disqualification of candidates based on stigma alone. Employers in states where such laws exist are not able to ask probing questions about a candidate’s past criminal history on their initial application. Criminal background checks and inquiries about arrests can only make an appearance later on in the hiring process.


Employers must be aware of their employees’ rights and protections. Every business in the U.S. that makes hires must adhere to certain federal and state standards. Failure to do so can potentially lead to costly litigation, fines, or business closure.

It is also important to understand that legislation, such as that outlined above, wasn’t enacted for the purposes of straining organizations or introducing liabilities. It exists to protect working American citizens, a thing that actually helps employers in the end. Building and sustaining a healthy, productive work environment should always be the ultimate goal. 

For more information on Peopletrail’s role in helping east-coast organizations achieve this, pay us a visit online.

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