Jumble of Labor Laws Difficult to Master

Article excerpt

Byline: ON THE JOB by Dan Grinfas For The Register-Guard

Question: Our director of human resources recently resigned, and I was asked to take over. I've been a supervisor for years, but I have no formal training in employment law, and I'm already finding myself overwhelmed by state and federal regulations, including HIPAA, COBRA, FLSA, OFLA and FMLA. What are the key laws I have to follow, and what's the best way to get up to speed?

Answer: You're not alone in feeling overwhelmed. Even seasoned HR professionals find employment laws difficult to master. The Technical Assistance program at the Bureau of Labor and Industries presents seminars to help employers. Check www.boli.state.or.us/technical/taseminar.html for class listings.

Here's a rundown of key laws:

FLSA, the Fair Labor Standards Act, is the federal wage and hour law that sets rules for minimum wage, overtime, child labor, and classification of exempt and nonexempt employees. FLSA applies to any employer with an annual dollar volume of $500,000 and any employee engaged in "interstate commerce," a broadly construed term. The Oregon wage laws apply to all Oregon employers.

ADA, the Americans with Disabilities Act, is the federal law that bars discrimination against job applicants and employees with mental or physical disabilities. The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for those with a disability. This law applies to every employer with 15 or more employees. Similar Oregon disability statutes in ORS Chapter 659A apply to every employer with six or more employees.

OFLA and FMLA, the Oregon Family Leave Act and the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, are the state and federal laws that let eligible employees take 12 weeks of protected leave a year in some situations, including when the employee or a family member has a serious health condition and when the employee has a newborn child. FMLA applies to employers with 50 or more employees in the United States. OFLA applies to any employer with 25 or more employees in Oregon.

ERISA, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, is a federal law that protects participants and beneficiaries of employee benefit and retirement plans. …