Top 25 Employment Laws All Managers Should Know

What are the most important federal HR laws managers should know? Here’s our top 25, broken down by company size.



Understanding employment laws can be an overwhelming task for even a seasoned human resource management (HR) expert. But being ignorant of any law in HR is not a defense that will help you avoid lawsuits or penalties.

To help you brush up on your employment law basics to ensure compliance and mitigate legal risks, here is our list of the top 25 federal employment laws every manager should know.

Please note: this list of employment laws is not all-inclusive. While the focus of this list is directed towards federal statutes and regulations, there are significant legal obligations that employers have as a result of state legislation.

Employment Laws that Apply to Companies with 1+ Employee

Consumer Credit Protection Act

The Consumer Credit Protection Act limits how much employers may withhold from a person’s earnings in response to a garnishment order and prohibits termination because of garnishment for any single debt. Learn more at:

Employee Polygraph Protection Act

The Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits most private employers from using lie detector tests for pre-employment screening or during employment. Learn more at:

Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act prohibits wage discrimination between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs of equal skill, effort, and responsibility under similar working conditions. Learn more at:

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

While this Act does not require employers to offer a retirement plan, ERISA sets the minimum standards for retirement plans, such as requiring they be maintained in a fair and financially sound manner. This Act also ensures that contributions in retirement plans are there when workers retire. Learn more at:

Fair Credit Reporting Act

The Fair Credit Reporting Act promotes the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of information in the files of consumer reporting agencies. For instance, you have the right to be told if information was used against you, what is in your file, to ask for a credit score, to dispute inaccurate information, and so on. Learn more at:

FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act)

The FLSA governs federal minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping, and child labor employment standards. It also outlines qualifying exemptions to overtime. Learn more at:

Health Insurance Portability and Control Act (HIPAA)

HIPAA governs health coverage portability, health information privacy, administrative simplification, medical savings accounts, and long-term care insurance. Learn more at:

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

This Act is the reason you have employees complete Form I-9 within three days of being hired. It preserves jobs for those who are legally entitled to them in the U.S., including American citizens and aliens legally authorized to work. Learn more at:

Labor Laws Posting Requirements

While there is no formal “Act” name, companies must share the statutes and regulations enforced by the Department of Labor (DOL) with workers. This can be done by providing them to employees or posting them in the workplace. Learn more at:

National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

The NLRA protects workers (regardless of whether they are part of a union) to seek better working conditions and to designate representation without fear of retaliation. Learn more at:

New Hire Registry Reporting

This requires employers to report basic information on new and rehired employees within 20 days of hire to the state where they work. Learn more at:

Occupational Health and Safety Act

This Act sets workplace safety laws and standards. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) also conducts inspections to ensure employers are providing occupational safety and healthful workplaces. Learn more at:

Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act (USERRA)

USERRA guarantees an employee returning from military service or training the right to be reemployed at their former job (or as nearly comparable a job as possible) with the same benefits. Learn more at:

Workers' Compensation

Except for federal contractors, workers’ compensation is run by individual states. Employers must provide insurance that gives benefits to workers who become injured or ill while on the job. Learn more at:

Employment Laws that Apply to Companies with 15+ Employees

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA requires applicants and employees with disabilities to be given an equal opportunity to benefit from employment-related opportunities available to others. It defines a disability as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

If an individual with a disability can perform essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation, that person cannot be discriminated against because of their disability. Learn more at:

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

GINA protects individuals against employment discrimination based on genetic information. This may include genetic tests of an employee (or their family member), family medical history, or medical information derived from a fetus or embryo. Learn more at:

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

As a subset to Title VII, women who are pregnant or affected by pregnancy-related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations. Learn more at:

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA)

The PWFA ensures reasonable accommodations for qualified employees with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition. Limitations could be either a physical or mental condition. Learn more at:

Title VII (Civil Rights Act of 1964)

Title VII outlines workplace discrimination laws. It prohibits employers from discriminating based on race, age, color, religion, sex, or national origin when making any employment decision. Learn more at:

Employment Laws that Apply to Companies with 20+ Employees

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

Protects applicants and employees age 40+ from employment discrimination (hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training) based on age. In other words, it prevents employers from giving preferential treatment to younger workers to the detriment of older workers.

However, the ADEA does not prevent an employer from favoring older employees over younger ones. Learn more at:

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

COBRA requires group health plans to offer continuation coverage to employees, former employees, spouses, former spouses, and dependent children when coverage would otherwise be lost. Learn more at:

Older Workers Benefit Protection Act

As an amendment to the ADEA, the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act prohibits discrimination against older workers in all employee benefits, except when there are significant cost considerations. Learn more at:

Employment Laws that Apply to Companies with 50+ Employees

FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)

The FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to a 12-week unpaid, job-protected leave of absence for specific family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance. It stipulates that to qualify for the leave, the employee must have worked for the employer for 12 months and for 1,250 hours in the 12 months preceding the leave. Learn more at:

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ACA, Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare)

Also known as the Affordable Care Act, the ACA, or “Obamacare,” this health act provides protections and requirements related to employment-based group health plans. Learn more at:

Employment Laws that Apply to Companies with 100+ Employees

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)

The WARN Act ensures advance notice goes to employees in cases of plant closings and mass layoffs. There may be exceptions to this, such as a natural disaster that requires an unforeseen closure. Learn more at:

How Stratus HR Helps You with Employment Law Compliance

While this list is not exhaustive, it highlights the most common federal laws private companies need to know. There are many more federal laws, along with state and local laws, and also several reports that may apply to your organization, particularly if you have federal contracts.

To help you stay compliant, Stratus HR is staffed with certified experts equipped to guide and assist you with any sticky HR situation or employment regulation your team may face. From claims of harassment and managing employee conflict, to updating company policies and helping you build a positive company culture, our HR experts work in the background to ensure compliance while making your onsite staff the workplace heroes.

Ready to learn more? Book a free consultation and our team will contact you shortly.

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