7 compliance issues every HR leader should know

Original article written by: Pamela DeLoatch

From recruiting to retirement, HR leaders handle a variety of compliance issues related to employees. With the start of the new year, now is the perfect time to do a high-level review of some need-to-know topics.

Whether you’re new to HR or an experienced professional, it’s important to stay abreast of action at the federal level. Keep in mind, however, that these federal laws set the floor beneath which you cannot go, says David Miller, attorney at Bryant Miller Olive. State and local governments have been very active in recent months, and employers also need to know about any requirements that go above and beyond federal law.

Anti-discrimination laws

Federal anti-discrimination laws prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, ethnic origin, disability or age, as well as because of genetic information or veteran status. In general, these laws prohibit employers from taking adverse employment actions based on these factors.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) outlaws discrimination based on race, color, sex or ethnic origin and applies to organizations with 15 or more employees. Sexual harassment, so prevalent in the news, is prohibited by Title VII because it is a form of sex discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities and limits the questions employers can ask workers. It also protects those who have a record of a disability, are regarded as having a disability or are associated with an individual with a disability. The ADA, which applies to employers with 15 or more employees, also requires companies to provide covered individuals with reasonable accommodations.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects workers who are 40 years or older from discrimination based on age. It’s one of the most overlooked areas in discrimination, says Cathy Ventrell-Monsees, senior advisor at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency that enforces these laws. “Age stereotyping is so common,” she says, noting that people sometimes seem to find it more acceptable than other forms of discrimination. To guard against this type of discrimination, employers should avoid making assumptions about what an employee can or can’t do, based on age, Ventrell-Monsees says.

Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) guards against employment discrimination based on genetic information. GINA restricts employers from asking, requiring or using genetic information to make employment decisions.

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which is enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), prohibits discrimination based on military service and also provides job protection while individuals are serving, under certain circumstances.

What changes should HR leaders anticipate in the area of anti-discrimination? Miller says it’s clear that the trend is to broaden the basis of prohibited discrimination, especially for gender identification and sexual orientation.

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