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Your HR Department may, quite understandably, feel a bit overwhelmed sometimes - what with navigating the plethora of issues that face it including hiring/firing, employee benefits, and wage management. If you don't have a separate HR at all, and are trying to do it all yourself, you no doubt feel the weight of complex employee-employer relations laws even more keenly.
When you have a question or a doubt about a wage law issue, don't risk inadvertently breaking the law and facing possible repercussions. Experienced HR consulting services can clear up the matter in only a few minutes.
Here are some of the key wage law issues every small business owner should be aware of (but for more in depth information consider contacting HR consulting):
1. Avoid Discrimination Issues
If wages are unequal while relevant factors like productivity, skill, experience, and reliability are equal - then that risks a wage discrimination suit. Wages can't vary based on such things as age, sex, race, religion, physical or mental handicap, or whether an employee is pregnant or not.
This doesn't mean everyone must be paid the same, of course, but it means that protected classifications cannot be used as a basis of wage differences - nor can you assume that valid reasons will automatically correspond to decisions based on invalid ones.
2. Immigration & Wages
No one can legally discriminate against an immigrant and pay them less for equal work based on immigration status, ethnicity, or national origin.
However, also note that hiring illegal aliens can result in heavy fines if detected. And "not knowing" isn't enough if you didn't routinely verify ID and eligibility to work in the US on I-9 Forms. But that's not all: if an employer hires illegals knowingly and then pays them less than minimum wage or what a legal worker would have been paid - that's even bigger fines.
3. Minimum Wage & Overtime Pay
The federal minimum wage is set by the Fair Labor Standards Act and always applies, but if your state has a higher minimum wage - that's the standard. There are no exceptions where minimum wage wouldn't apply, such as for minors, part time workers, or the elderly.
Also, the federal government mandates 150% the normal pay rate as the overtime rate, which applies to all hours above 40 in a work week. Work weeks have to be divided regularly and all hours continually recorded. Some positions don't qualify for overtime pay, but most do, so check with an HR consultant before assuming any exceptions.
4. Paid & Unpaid Leave
Federal law provides that anyone you've employed for a year or more is entitled to up to 12 weeks of unpaid family leave for the birth of a child, an adoption, or for medical reasons. You don't have to offer paid leave, but you can't discriminate on when you permit it.
It is also illegal to discriminate against those who volunteer or are drafted into military service - you can't lower their wages or fire them because "they will be leaving soon anyway." And upon their return from active duty, if the tour is 5 years or less in length, they can legally demand their old job back (with at least the pay they had before they left).
For more information on these and other wage determination issues, feel free to contact Summerlin Benefits Consulting today to gain clarity and certainty!