In order to be an effective supervisor, you should be familiar with the primary laws and regulations that affect employment. This section has been prepared in order to help you gain some familiarity with major bodies of federal law that affect your job as a supervisor. The summaries below are not intended to present you with full, accurate, or complete statements of the current law. Instead they are intended merely to give you a description of the kinds of laws that bind employers.
Wittenberg expects supervisors to have a basic familiarity with these laws. In addition, supervisors are expected to understand that all laws change over time, and that they must pay careful attention to and respect the legal rights of the individuals they supervise. Careful planning and implementation of university policies may prevent potential lawsuits. Supervisors must consult with the Human Resources
department any time there is any related employment problem.
1. Civil Rights Act and Equal Employment Opportunity Act
Among other purposes, the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was intended by Congress to enforce the constitutional rights of all citizens. It does so by conferring jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations. It also
authorizes the U.S. Attorney General to institute suits to protect all citizens' constitutional rights in their use of public facilities and in their access to public education. The Act further extends to a Commission on Civil Rights the power to prevent discrimination in federally assisted programs. The Act was broadened and further interpreted to cover the employment context by the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. All states, including Ohio, have enacted similar anti-discrimination laws.
In essence these laws prohibit job discrimination based on a number of "suspect" causes such as race, color, religion, sex or national origin. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducts investigations for any related grievance charge. In Ohio, grievances may also be heard by the Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC).
2. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
This federal law establishes minimum wage, equal pay, overtime pay, and child labor standards, and requires certain employer record-keeping. Under the FLSA, the employer must pay all employees who are not otherwise exempt from the minimum wage plus at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for each hour worked more than 40 in any work week. The law also allows employees time off instead of overtime payments up to statutory maximum. The FLSA prohibits an employer from discharging or taking other punitive action against an employee who makes or assists with a claim for minimum wages or overtime pay.
Under state and federal law, the university must pay each hourly employee overtime wages in the amount of one and one-half times the employee's regular rate for hours worked in excess of 40 in a work week. Each work-week must be considered separately when determining overtime hours, regardless of the length of the pay period. By law, employees can neither waive their right to be compensated for overtime hours nor agree to a lower overtime rate.
3. The Equal Pay Act
This federal law requires all employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act to pay equal wages to men and women performing similar work. Although the Act prohibits paying different wages to men and women for similar work, it permits pay differences for similar work if the differences are based on factors other than sex, such as seniority, incentives or merit.
4. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
The ADEA makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against persons 40 to 70 years of age. Being “too old” as the sole reason for treating a person differently than others in employment is not acceptable. In many employment contexts, the mandatory retirement of employees because of age would likely violate the ADEA.
5. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability in employment, public service, public accommodation, telecommunications, and transportation. It is intended to afford a disabled individual equal opportunity and full participation in life activities, and also to provide employees who have a
disability with an opportunity to attain a level of performance, benefits and privileges equal to other employees.
To have a claim under the ADA, an employee or prospective employee with a disability must be able to perform the essential functions of the job with reasonable proficiency. An employer is responsible for making whatever “reasonable accommodations” are necessary for otherwise qualified disabled individuals to be able to perform those essential functions.
The university's ADA policy appears as Appendix F.
6. Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)
This federal law protects the health and safety of employees in the workplace. It also prohibits firing of and other forms of discrimination against employees who have been injured on the job. Furthermore, an employer may not discharge or discipline an employee for making or assisting with a safety complaint or for refusing to perform a work assignment that the employee reasonably believes will result in imminent danger of death or serious injury. In such cases the employer must either find other work for the employee or send the employee home until such other work is available. If the employee is sent home, under certain circumstances, back pay for time lost may be recoverable.
7. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
This federal law provides eligible employees, male and female, with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for care of a newborn or newly adopted children, a serious health condition of a child, spouse, or parent, or a serious health condition of their own. The university’s Family and Medical Leave Policy is reprinted in Appendix A.
Many other federal, state, and local laws and regulations have an impact on the employer-employee relationship and, accordingly, may govern your actions as a supervisor. If you have any questions about the legality of your behavior, please seek assistance before you act.