Employment Law 101 for Managers

August 17, 2023 Employment Law

Employment and the law go hand-in-hand. Employees are entitled to several protections in the workplace under state and federal law. It is critically important that managers understand (and respect) employee rights in the workplace because ignorance adversely impacts the workplace culture and is not a defense to claims which could lead to liability.

7 Key Aspects of Employment Law for Managers

What do managers need to know about employment law? Here are seven key topics all managers should be aware of:

1. At-Will Employment vs. Contract-Based Employment

Most employees work on an “at-will” basis. That means either party can terminate the relationship at any time and for any lawful reason (or for no reason at all). While most employees work on an at-will basis, some employees might work pursuant to an employment contract. For those who do, it is critical to understand the terms of those contracts so that those terms are not inadvertently violated, resulting in liability.

2. Discrimination

State and federal laws prohibit nearly all forms of discrimination in the workplace. While individual state laws vary, employers are generally prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual preference, transgender status, age, disability, and other protected characteristics. This prohibition applies to all aspects of the employment relationship, from recruiting and hiring to promotion and termination.

3. Harassment and Sex-Based Harassment

Harassment is classified as a form of harassment related to a protected class status, including sex. It is strictly prohibited, and managers who engage in any form of harassment can face personal culpability while also exposing the company to negative publicity and liability.

4. Retaliation

Retaliation involves taking adverse employment action against an employee based on an employee’s decision to either (i) assert the employee’s rights, (ii) help assert a co-worker’s rights, or (iii) report wrongdoing by the company. Retaliation is prohibited—and can have serious consequences.

5. Employee Privacy

Employees retain various rights to privacy in the context of the work relationship. Managers must respect employee privacy rights, and must understand and appreciate when their actions and requests for information could cross the line.

6. Reasonable Accommodations and Leave

Employees may be entitled to reasonable accommodation for qualifying disabilities and religious beliefs in various circumstances. Employees may also be entitled to paid or unpaid job-protected leave under various circumstances. Here, too, managers need to know the law, and ensure they do not overstep when responding to employee requests for reasonable accommodations and/or leave.

7. Workplace Investigations

Employees also have various legal rights during workplace investigations. When conducting workplace investigations, managers should be extremely careful to stay within the confines of the law. Failure to do so can jeopardize the investigation, the employment relationship, and even the company’s financial stability.  

Speak with an HR Consultant at AR Group

This truly just scratches the surface of what managers need to know. At AR Group, we help companies manage their employment-related risk through comprehensive HR consulting services. To learn more about the services we offer, please call 720-452-3300 or contact us online today.