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Legal Considerations with Employees

Legal Considerations with Employees

Author: James Howard

This lesson is an overview of the discrimination and rights of workers in the workplace.

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Hello. And welcome to this tutorial on legal considerations with employees. Now as always with these tutorials, please feel free to fast forward, pause, or rewind as many times as you need in order to get the most out of the time you'll spend here.

So let me ask you a couple of questions. What is diversity? When I say diversity, what is it that comes to your mind? And why, especially for employers, is it important?

Well, what we're going to be looking at in this lesson are legal considerations with employees. And we're also going to be looking at discrimination and protected class. The key terms for this lesson are protected class, quid pro quo harassment, hostile work environment, sexual harassment, and age discrimination.

So let's start with legal considerations for employees. Now it's important to understand here that legislation from Congress and the federal government has been passed-- has done so in order to protect the rights of employees and also to help get rid of discrimination on the job and to help promote job safety.

A couple of things we want to look at are the Fair Labor Act. Now the Fair Labor Act sets minimum wages, and it also sets expectations for who gets overtime pay and what that overtime pay shall be for the amount of work that's done.

We also have the Equal Pay Act. And the Equal Pay Act dictates that men and women will be paid equally.

Now the Civil Rights Act did a lot of things, but as we look at it for employees, what this does, it says that you, as an employer, cannot discriminate against people based solely on their race, their color, their religion, or their national origin.

Now discrimination and protected class is what we want to look at next. And it's important here to understand what discrimination is. Now discrimination is a bias against or toward certain employees. And this can be bias positive or bias in a negative way.

And protected class is one of our key terms-- is a group from which the members are legally protected from discrimination. In other words, there's been legislation passed that protects this particular group from discrimination. If we think back to the Civil Rights Act and we look at African Americans in the South, for instance, it was very easy for people to discriminate them based solely on their race. And you'll see this with not being able to eat at the same diner as another group of people. Or they would discriminate against them simply because they didn't want to hire this particular ethnic group. And once the Civil Rights Act was passed, it made that illegal. And then that group of African Americans had a cause to then bring that employer before a court and force them to change the way that they did business.

Now it's important here to note that as time has gone on, we've seen a general expansion of who it is we protect legally and who is included in this protected class. Now equal employment opportunity is exactly what it says-- equal employment opportunity for everyone, regardless of where they come from or who they are. And companies will use this to proactively avoid discrimination. It's also known as EEO for short.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was done to help promote worker safety. And it matters because what we're doing here with this act is helping to provide a safe workplace for the employee. For instance, avoiding hazardous materials or lifting heavy boxes, it requires employees to address these particular aspects of the job. And it's also known as OSHA.

Now sexual harassment is something that is a form of harassment in which unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks are made. And there's a couple of different things that we can look at under the general heading of sexual harassment. One of them is something called quid pro quo harassment. And in this case, it's a form of harassment in which inappropriate trade of benefits is suggested. For instance, if you go on a date with me, I'll make sure that you get a promotion or you get a particular raise. That's a form of quid pro quo harassment.

A hostile work environment, on the other hand, is a workplace where a reasonable employee would feel unwelcome and unsafe. And this can be in the form of sexual harassment, or it can be in the form of harassment in other ways. But in other words, what I'm doing is I'm creating a place where workers don't feel welcome when they come there, or they don't feel safe when they're there simply because of the way they're treated at the workplace.

Age discrimination is a type of discrimination which unfairly discriminates against a person simply because of his or her age. Oh, well, that person's just old. I don't want them running a particular department in my company. Or, I don't want them working at the cash register because, well, they're just old. They don't understand. Legally, as a member of the protected class, these people cannot be discriminated against simply because of their age, especially if it has nothing to do with how they're able to perform that job.

So what is it we looked at today? Well, we talked about legal considerations as it pertains to employees. And we also looked at discrimination, what that is, and the protected class and how that protected class has evolved and expanded throughout the years to include more and more people that companies cannot legally discriminate against.

Now as always, I want to thank you for spending some time with me today. I hope you had a good time. And I'll see you next time.

Terms to Know
Age discrimination

A type of discrimination which unfairly discriminates against a person because of his/her age.

Hostile work environment

A work place were a reasonable employee would feel unwelcome and unsafe.

Protected class

A group from which the members are legally protected from discrimination.

Quid pro quo harassment

A form of harassment in which a inappropriate trade of benefits is suggested.

Sexual harassment

A form of harassment in which unwanted sexual advances or obscene remarks are made.