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Human Resources Management and the Law

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The field of human resources management is greatly influenced and shaped by the state and federal laws governing employment issues. Indeed, regulations and laws govern all aspects of human resource management—recruitment, placement, development, and compensation.

One of the most important pieces of HRM legislation, which affects all of the functional areas, is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent amendments, including the Civil Rights Act of 1991. These acts made illegal the discrimination against employees or potential recruits for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It forces employers to follow—and often document—fairness practices related to hiring, training, pay, benefits, and virtually all other activities and responsibilities related to HRM. The 1964 act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce the act, and provides for civil penalties in the event of discrimination. The net result of the all-encompassing civil rights acts is that businesses must carefully design and document numerous procedures to ensure compliance, or face potentially significant penalties. Another important piece of legislation that complements the civil rights laws discussed above is the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This act forbids wage or salary discrimination based on sex, and mandates equal pay for equal work with few exceptions. Subsequent court rulings augmented the act by promoting the concept of comparable worth, or equal pay for unequal jobs of equal value or worth.

Other important laws that govern significant aspects of labor relations and human resource management include the following:

  • Davis-Bacon Act of 1931—This law requires the payment of minimum wages to nonfederal employees.
  • The Norris-Laguardia Act of 1932—This law protects the rights of unions to organize, and prohibits employers from forcing job applicants to promise not to join a union in exchange for employment.
  • The Wagner Act of 1935—This law, also known as the National Labor Relations Act, is the main piece of legislation governing union/management relations, and is a chief source of regulation for HRM departments.
  • Social Security Act of 1935—This law was enacted in order to protect the general welfare by establishing a variety of systems to assist the aging, the disabled, and children.
  • The Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act of 1936—This law was designed to ensure that employees working as contractors for the federal government would be compensated fairly.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938—this important law mandated employer compliance with restrictions related to minimum wages, overtime provisions, child labor, and workplace safety.
  • Taft-Hartley Act of 1947—This law created provisions that severely restrict the activities and power of labor unions in the United States.
  • Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959—Also known as the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA), the Landrum-Griffin Act deals primarily with the relationship between a union and its members. This law grants certain rights to union members and protects their interests by promoting democratic procedures within labor organizations.
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967—This legislation, which was strengthened by amendments in the early 1990s, essentially protects workers 40 years of age and older from discrimination.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970—This act, which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was designed to force employers to provide safe and healthy work environments and to make organizations liable for workers' safety. Today, thousands of regulations, backed by civil and criminal penalties, have been implemented in various industries to help ensure that employees are not subjected to unnecessarily hazardous working conditions.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993—This law was passed to provide employees who qualify with up to 12 work weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave in a 12-month period for specified family and medical reasons. It also requires group health benefits to be maintained during the leave as if employees continued to work instead of taking leave. The Act became effective on August 5, 1993 and applies to companies who employ 50 or more people.

The network of state and federal laws that exist to regulate employment and labor relations is extensive. In many cases, rules only apply to firms with a specified minimum number of employees and thus do not regulate small companies. But, other regulations apply to all employee/employer relationships, regardless of enterprise size. So, companies of all sizes must make an effort to stay abreast of legislative and regulatory developments in this area. Trade associations are a good source of news on new regulations as is the Society of Human Resource Managers (SHRM). The SHRM tracks developments at the state and federal level regarding human resource matters and makes much of this available on its Web site, located at http://www.shrm.org/.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Armstrong, Michael. Handbook of Human Resource Management Practice. Kogan Page, 1999.

Mathis, Robert L., and John H. Jackson. Human Resource Management. Thomson South-Western, 2005.

Rossiter, Jill A. Human Resources: Mastering Your Small Business. Upstart Publishing, 1996.

Society of Human Resource Managers. "Federal Government Information." Available from http://www.shrm.org/issues/ps/federal.asp Retrieved on 22 March 2006.

U.S. Small Business Administration. Roberts, Gary, Gary Seldon, and Carlotta Roberts. "Human Resources Management." n.d..

U.S. Social Security Administration. "Legislative History." Available from http://www.ssa.gov/history/35actinx.html Retrieved on 15 March 2006.





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