As a small business owner, your employees rely on you to keep their environment safe and for things to be fair. To be sure you’re creating a healthy space for your employees, there are certain rules and regulations you must comply with. From the hiring process to letting someone go, each phase of employment has its own set of standards.

Remembering each and every law can seem overwhelming. With so many things on your plate, it can be easy to slip up or make a mistake. Unfortunately, just one misstep could cost you in a lawsuit.

Small and medium sized business in the United States face about a 12% chance of getting sued by an employee. To help you avoid infringing upon any of the employment laws, Here is a quick reference guide of what you need to know.

Understanding and Protecting Your Employees’ Rights

Regardless of your industry or the number of employees you have, each employee is guaranteed a set of basic rights. These rights state that the workplace must be safe and free from discrimination and harassment. They also state that employees have a right to privacy and to receive fair wages for the work they complete. Employees also have the right to be free from retaliation if they feel the need to file a claim or complaint.

If you are hiring new employees, you also need to be aware of the rights your applicants have. When going through the hiring process, you cannot discriminate against an applicant based on their age, gender, race, religion or national origin.

To ensure your employees’ rights are protected, there are federal laws in place that you must follow. Here are some of the most important:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: States that companies with more than fifteen employees cannot discriminate against job applicants based on race, color, national origin, sex or religion.

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act: If an employer has more than twenty employees, they are unable to favor younger employees over employees aged forty or older. Interestingly, the act does not address discriminating against younger employees.

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act: Under the ADA, employers cannot discriminate against employees because of a disability they have, as long as that disability does not prevent them from performing essential tasks. Disabilities include vision or hearing problems, being in a wheelchair or using a walker, and mental illnesses, just to name a few.

  • The Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1985: Also known as COBRA, this act states that employers must continue to provide health insurance to employees who are fired or laid off. This law only applies to companies with more than twenty employees.

  • The Equal Pay Act: Under the Equal Pay Act, employers must pay men and women the same salary for doing the same job.

  • The Fair Labor Standards Act: The Fair Labor Standards Act sets limitations for the number of hours an employee can work. It also sets regulations for the number of breaks the employer must provide and sets standards for overtime. The Fair Labor Standards Act determines the federal minimum wage and minimum age for employment. EVERY EMPLOYER MUST CHECK HIS OR HER STATE REQUIREMENTS!

  • The Family and Medical Leave Act: If an employee has worked for the company with fifty or more employees for at least twelve months, they must receive up to twelve weeks of leave for qualifying medical purposes, such as having a child. However, the law states that the employer does get to decide whether or not this is paid time off.

Infringing upon one of these laws could cause serious consequences for your business. To make certain you’re complying with each and every regulation for your small business, keep this guide handy and use it as a reference. Maintain an open dialogue with your employees and provide them with a clear system for bringing up issues and addressing concerns. This will allow you to solve problems before they reach a lawsuit level.