What Are Your Legal Responsibilities When It Comes to Protecting Your Employees?

What Are Your Legal Responsibilities When It Comes to Protecting Your Employees?

Carrie Pallardy
Carrie Pallardy
 | 
Employers are required to comply with federal and state laws when it comes to their employees’ rights. This means business owners need to be aware of their legal obligation to provide a safe work environment for their people.

While employee safety has always been a concern, the COVID-19 pandemic has raised questions about compliance with new and existing mandates. What are some of the major areas employers should consider when thinking about employee protection?

Workplace Safety

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for enforcing federal regulations for workplace safety. Adherence with OSHA regulations is a legal requirement for most businesses.

OSHA has released regulations and guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency’s regulations related to COVID-19 focus on areas like personal protection equipment (PPE) and recording workplace exposure.

The federal agency’s guidelines are meant to help employers and employees understand the risk of COVID-19 and create policies to prevent its spread in the workplace. Employers should put in place COVID-19 prevention programs, according to the guidance.

 COVID-19 prevention programs can help keep the workplace safe by outlining measures like wearing face coverings, maintaining social distance and sending employees who are infected or potentially infected home.

Health Insurance and Sick Leave

Under the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide healthcare coverage to their full-time employees. 

Certain COVID relief legislation affects employer-sponsored health plans. For example, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires that health plans cover testing for COVID without cost sharing. 

The FFCRA also requires certain employers to give their employees paid sick leave for illness due to COVID-19.

Protection from Discrimination

Employees have the right to work environments free of discrimination due to factors like race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy and disability. Employers are also required to provide reasonable accommodations for their employees’ medical conditions and religious beliefs. Employees who report discrimination that falls into any protected category are protected against retaliation by federal law.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces workplace discrimination laws. The federal agency has released information to help employers and employees understand obligations and rights during the pandemic.

With a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, there is concern about discrimination against Asian Americans in the workplace. Employers cannot discriminate due to race or national origin; all employees have the right to a workplace free of discrimination.

Federal laws are subject to change, and laws will vary from state to state. Whether operating as a small business or a large corporation across multiple states, understanding your legal requirements as an employer can be complex. Lawyers who specialize in employment law can help business owners understand and meet their legal obligations to protect their employees.

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.
Carrie Pallardy

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