When you’re busy getting orders out the door, the last thing you want to worry about is knowing which federal law applies to your business. To help simplify things, here’s a quick breakdown of laws based on company size.

Which federal laws apply to employers with 1+ employee?

While several laws don’t kick in until your company grows, most federal laws are enacted the moment you have just one employee.

Federal law breakdown
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) – You must hire and retain employees who are authorized to work in the United States. To comply, employers and employees are required to complete Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) at the time of hire.
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – Nonexempt employees must be paid at least a minimum wage and overtime wages. You must also comply with record keeping and child labor standards.
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) – You are required to provide a safe workplace, maintain records of work-related injuries, post required information, and train employees regarding safety hazards.
  • Equal Pay Act (EPA) – Regardless of gender, you must provide equal compensation to anyone who performs equal work within the same workplace.
  • Break Time for Nursing Mothers (sub-section to the ACA) – You’re required to provide rest breaks and accommodations (in a location other than a bathroom) for nursing mothers to express breast milk for up to 1 year after the child’s birth. (Employers with fewer than 50 employees may be exempt if they can demonstrate an undue hardship.)
  • Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) – You cannot discharge an employee simply because their wages have been garnished for a debt. You are also limited to how much an employee’s earnings may be garnished in any one week.
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) – As a private employer, you cannot use a lie detector test for pre-employment screening (or during the course of employment) unless you meet certain exceptions. Federal, state, and local governments are excluded.
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) – Your benefit plans must meet minimum standards outlined in this act, which include regulations for participation, vesting, benefit accrual and funding, fiduciary responsibilities, grievance process, and so on. Government and church employers are exempt.
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) – When an employee returns from military service or training, you are required to provide them with either their former job or a comparable job to what they had prior to military duty.
  • Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) – You must take certain steps prior to using consumer reports (including standard background checks) to make employment decisions.
  • Jury System Improvements Act – You cannot discharge, intimidate, or threaten to discharge an employee summoned to serve as a juror in federal court.
Which federal laws apply to employers with 15+ employees?

While each of these laws is good business practice in general, compliance is only enforced for employers with at least 15 employees. Unless otherwise specified, part-time and temporary employees are included in the head-count calculation. 

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act – You are prohibited from discriminating against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) – You must treat employees who are pregnant or recently went through childbirth the same as any other applicant or employee regarding their ability or inability to work. Unequal treatment is considered unlawful sex discrimination.
  • Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) – You cannot discriminate against employees or applicants based on their genetic information or family medical history.
Which federal laws apply to employers with 20+ employees?

The following laws only apply to your company if you have at least 20 employees. Unless otherwise specified, part-time and temporary employees are included in the head-count calculation. 

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) – You cannot discriminate against (or harass) employees or applicants age 40 or older simply due to their age.
  • COBRA (sub-section to ERISA) – If you offer employer-sponsored group health insurance, you are required to offer continuation coverage to eligible employees and their dependents when coverage would otherwise be lost due to certain events, such as termination. (Group health plans sponsored by churches are exempt.)

Which federal laws apply to employers with 50+ (including full-time equivalent) employees?

Companies with at least 50 employees have additional requirements beyond those deemed “good business practice.” Unless otherwise specified, part-time and temporary employees are included in the head-count calculation. 

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) – You must offer affordable, minimum value health coverage to full-time employees (and dependent children) or face potential penalties. If you had at least 50 full-time equivalent employees (not just a head count) during the lookback period, you must offer affordable, minimum value health coverage to full-time employees (and dependent children) or face potential penalties. 
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – You are required to provide eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons.
Which federal laws apply to employers with 100+ employees

Larger employers with 100 employees or more are obligated to comply with two additional laws. Unless otherwise specified, part-time and temporary employees are included in the head-count calculation. 

  • EEO-1 Report – You must annually submit employment data categorized by race/ethnicity, gender, and job category to the EEOC. (State and local governments, primary and secondary school systems, institutions of higher learning and tax-exempt private membership clubs other than labor organizations are exempt.)
  • Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act – In the event of a plant closing or mass layoff, you are required to provide a 60-day advance written notice to affected employees. (Regular federal, state and local government entities that provide public services are NOT covered.)
What if I don’t currently have the required number of employees but I have previously?

If your company had the minimum number of employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks during the current or preceding calendar year, your company meets the threshold. Part-time and temporary employees are included in the head-count calculation, except where specified otherwise.

How do I stay compliant with all these federal laws?

While this feels like a lot to track without even touching on state or local laws, our HR experts are here to ensure your company remains compliant through every stage of its growth. For more information or to request a free quote, please provide information below and our business development team will contact you soon!