What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: Employee Regulations and Employment Laws

woman filling out claim form

If you have even one employee on your payroll, you are subject to more federal, state, and local employment laws than you probably realize. Quick: if you have an employee, can you answer any of the following questions?

  • Do you know if you’re in compliance with the law?
  • If one of the many local, state, or federal agencies comes knocking on your door, do you know how to protect yourself?
  • Is your paperwork in order?
  • Do you even have paperwork?

You should know the answer to all of those questions already if you have one or more employees and want to ensure your compliance with the law. You don’t want to risk an expensive and lengthy court case that could have been prevented by having the proper practices and documentation in place.

Employees necessitate employment laws—even just one

There are no less than 13 employment laws that instantly apply as soon as you take on even just a single employee, regardless of whether they’re full- or part-time. If you’ve grown large enough to hire an employee, you’ve grown large enough to need an HR department. If your company is small, that probably means you’re the HR department!

More employees mean HR management becomes more complex, an increase in interpersonal issues (drama), and a further increase in the number of required employment regulations. As the employer, the pressure grows as you accept the responsibility of providing for a larger group of employees; the money they earn working for you is their livelihood, and it gives them the ability to support their families.

Make employees your priority, not profit

I’ve come to learn that virtually every business owner and CEO is first and foremost worrying about the safety and well-being of their employees. It’s likelier for an employer to wake up suddenly in the middle of the night worrying about having to make payroll, as opposed to concern over generating profit.

Profit should be a goal, but the welfare of your employees should be a priority.

Educating yourself about the various employment regulations isn’t just about safeguarding yourself. It shows you care about your employees.

The importance and value of employment regulations

Safety, productivity, and a comfortable workplace are only possible by sticking to the necessary employment regulations. A good thing to remember is that regulations weren’t designed to punish employers—they were instituted to protect employees.

It’s also wise to remember that most of these regulations came about as the result of injury, drama, or legal issues. They weren’t made up arbitrarily—they’re based on very real experiences that employees should be spared from going through themselves. Now, every state will handle regulations differently, but it’s your responsibility to become familiar with the regulations for your state, or in the state where your company operates.

You may feel that there are just too many rules and regulations to keep track of, or to know which one to follow first: Does local trump federal? Does state come before local? Instead of wading through a swamp of guesswork, follow this simple guideline: the strictest “parent’ wins!

Staying out of trouble: While we can’t get into EVERY regulatory agency that’s watching, there ARE two things that can help reduce your exposure regardless of the agency you’re dealing with.

1. Document everything

“Location, location, location,” is a popular saying in real estate. For HR, it’s really “document, document, document.” While you don’t need to meticulously document every single conversation you have about A, B, or C with an employee, keeping accurate and consistent records will only serve to protect you in the end—not to mention, making everyone else’s life at the company that much easier.

As long as the notes are consistent, detailed, and marked with any relevant information such as the time or date, you’ll be fine. Then if there’s a problem in the future, you can refer anyone back to your notes, which can serve as proof to back up any claims you may be trying to make or defend. Even a simple note like, “Talked to Karen about overtime today” can be a game changer.

2. Making a good-faith effort and being honest will serve you well as you work with the various agencies, even if you make mistakes

Agencies WANT to help you. They’re also an invaluable resource. Consider the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You can easily call them up and they’ll protect you from citations for up to two years. The advice, guidance, and information they can provide is immense.

For example, I have an investigator with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, and I call them every time I have questions or concerns with wages or hours. My investigator’s favorite quote?

Advice is free. It’s the errors that will cost you.

Good-faith efforts go a long way when dealing with agencies, and so long as you show that you’re trying, and willing to be upfront with them, they’ll walk you through the complexities of employment rules and regulations.


Employee Count Regulation/Statute


Drug-Free Workplace Act Equal Pay Act (EPA)
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) Affordable Care Act (ACA)
Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
Federal Workers Compensation laws PA mini-COBRA


Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (PHRA)


OSHA Recordkeeping


Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (ADAAA) Title VII of the Civil Rights Act


Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)


Affirmative Action Program (through OFCCP) Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)


Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) EEO-1 Report

If you could use some extra help navigating the complexities of employment laws and regulations, give HR Resolutions a call!


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