Picture this:

One of your long-term employees has called out, on average, twice a week for the last 6 weeks. When he calls out, he tells his manager it is to care for his wife, who is ill. His work starts to fall behind. The manager is getting frustrated and writes him up for excessive absences.  The manager tells the employee he is out of PTO and if he keeps calling out, he will lose his job. The employee calls out again, this time because his wife is in the hospital.  When he returns to work, the employee is terminated.

Now the employee is beyond stressed.  His wife is sick, and he has no job.  The health insurance, much needed by his wife and provided for by his (former) employer, is too expensive under COBRA.

In desperation, he goes to Google and searches “unfair termination.” He discovers that it is legal to be terminated for excessive absences, if that is company policy, but what he also finds is something called FMLA.  He begins to research FMLA and discovers the Family Medical Leave Act, and in so doing, realizes that his company should have offered him leave, and that if they had, he would still have a job and medical insurance.  He contacts the U.S. Department of Labor, who files a lawsuit against the company on his behalf and wins. 

Sound far-fetched? It isn’t.  Just ask Staples. 

It is a vital best practice to train your employees in the basics of labor law. Not all employment laws apply to all employers. Employee thresholds have been established to determine when laws apply.

If, for example, your company has 15 or more employees, you and your staff should be aware of what state and federal laws may now apply to your business, and how to administer them correctly. Ignorance is no excuse in the eyes of the law. Failing to recognize that your Office Manager’s depression is a covered medical condition that you may be required to accommodate (as much as possible) can land you in hot water if you fail to address the issue and go straight to disciplinary actions.

Some laws (with thresholds) to be aware of:

  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) – 15 employees
  • Fair Pay Act – 15 employees
  • ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act) – 20 employees
  • FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)  – 50 employees
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964 / Title VII – 15 employees
  • Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act – 15 employees
  • Nevada Paid Time Off – 50 employees

It is important to mention here that even if you have less than the employee threshold for a certain law to apply, it may still be best practice and in your interest for positive employee relations to act as if it does. For example, not discriminating against an employee with a disability even though you only have 10 employees. There are also many employment laws that apply to you regardless of the number of employees you have, including minimum wage/overtime, workers compensation, USERRA, domestic violence victims’ leave. etc. Knowing what applies to you and when can save you a lot of frustration (and legal fees).

Invest in the education and protection of your company.  NAE holds trainings and special events on a regular basis in these important areas, as well as custom on-site training for your company’s needs. Let us help you remain compliant and safe.

Need assistance determining what employment laws apply to your company? We have a checklist for that! Members can download the checklist from our Member Portal. Not an NAE member? Join today to begin enjoying all of the member benefits.