Employment Laws and Regulations, Essay Example
Employment laws and regulations are very essential for the task of ensuring and sustaining cordial relations between employers and employees. As of 1968, writes Weiler, within the preceding 25 years, 29 states in the United States had enacted fair employment laws that prohibit any form of discrimination on grounds of country or region of origin, creed, race, and color (12). Today, in all these states and many others, the orders of the agencies that administer these laws can be enforced judicially and failure by the concerned employers to comply with these orders may lead to imprisonment as well as fines.
Landes notes that during the period within which majority of states in the U.S enacted employment law that prohibited all forms of discrimination, about 50 municipalities had established commissions that dealt with discrimination (507). These commissions, says Landes, had been put in place without the power to enforce the newly-enacted laws, but with a design that made it possible for them to supplement the existing state commissions (507).
However, discrimination is not the only issue that should be addressed by employment laws and regulations. Weiler highlights a case whereby Luck, an employee with South Pacific Transportation company was awarded almost half a million dollars for objecting to the company’s newly conceived regulation that required all employees to be randomly sampled so that those who were selected would undergo a drug test. Luck had been fired for refusing to undergo the test (1).
Weiler observes that Luck’s case is the first one that he has ever heard of whereby the grounds for an employee’s dismissal, which the employee believed to be wrongful, were put under scrutiny after the aggrieved party sought legal redress(2). The case of Luck touches on issues of employees’ personal privacy. It also touches on matters of whether a simple test can be prioritized over past performance record of workers. It also highlights the issue of whether a program that is executed on a random basis should be generalized on the entire employee population. These are important issues that employment laws and regulations are meant to address in great detail.
All contemporary disputes that take place in the workplace have a legal dimension to them. Some of the most commonly legally contested issues include use of lie detector tests, drug tests, pay equity especially in case of jobs that are considered to be “traditionally for women”, affirmative action in the case of minority workers, closings of plants and mass layoffs that affect all employees. Employment law is important since it is always used to determine whether an issue like an employee drug test should be voluntary or mandatory.
Weiler observes that in recent years, private litigation cases have proliferated (2). It is debatable whether people like Luck always have to consult external sources of help whenever they feel that the management is overstepping its mandate of performing governance tasks within a business, organization or institution. On this same note, Weiler is quick to add that rarely are politicians in the American setting preoccupied with the subject of employment, meaning that it enjoys very limited popular critical appeal (2). This is not good since work and employment issues are very important in the development of every country. This is evident in Weiler’s observation that at any given time, about one hundred million Americans are employed in order to support themselves directly and to contribute their usual share towards the national economy, which, on average, stands at three quarters of the country’s gross national income (2).
Landes notes that for a long time, legislators and civil rights organization have been advocating for enactment of new laws on employment to replace the ones that have been in force for many years, if not centuries. (507). No wonder throughout the eighties, many economists and human resource management scholars intensified efforts to introduce different intellectual perspectives into the employment law reform debate. As Weiler says, these reforms, the scholars seemed to emphasize, were very crucial considering the importance that people were trying to attach to the world of work (10).
According to the United States Department of Labor, there are three core issues that a good employment law guide should address (1). These include (a) the law in its literal sense, (b) regulations governing conduct in the workplace and (c) regulations regarding technical assistance services. Within this framework of categories, the United States Department of Labor institutes a seven-point legal framework. The items contained in this framework include: wages and hours worked; safety and health standards; retirement standards, health benefits and workman’s compensation; workplace standards such as lie detector tests and whistleblower and retaliation protection; and federal contracts with regard applicable working conditions; and equal employment opportunity.
The pros and cons of employment laws and regulations
Weiler says that all organizations should be concerned about employees’ problems when enacting employment laws, adding that this is the only way through which a good policy of collective bargaining can be arrived at (8). When there is collective bargaining, it becomes very easy for different workplace problems to be settled privately, locally and voluntarily.
However, the institution of the workplace, owing to its nature that attracts public interest and scrutiny, requires some form of statutory regulation and legal influence. Cooper cites the example of the National Labor Relations Act, which came into existence more than a decade ago in order to encourage employees to organize themselves in the appropriate manner so that viable ideals of collective bargaining can be achieved with relative ease. (599). According to Cooper, this remains a very effective tool of protecting employees from being on the receiving end of coercive force coming from employers (600).
Employment laws and regulations are always very important in the sense that they facilitate arbitration of personnel matters relating to choice of the optimal mix of workers, hours-employment trade-offs, the question of whether a firm should hire permanent or temporary workers, optimal compensation schemes, management of adverse selection processes, job destruction and human capital and training investment.
One of the greatest cons of employment laws and regulations is the assumption that labor markets the world over follow perfect competitive patterns, something that rarely happens. The reality is that the labor market is full of imperfections. Matters relating to issues of temporary help, retirement benefits, workman’s compensation and provision of training are very sensitive. It is impossible to ensure stability in the labor market without the existence of an employment law that is applicable across the labor spectrum, under all economic circumstances.
Employment laws are often legislated with reference to the most fundamental assumption being that economic times are unchanging, as if there is a certain form of equilibrium that should be considered as a reference point. However, this is seldom the case. Economic recessions are a reality and whenever they happen, employers are left with no any other feasible option but to lay off workers.
The current employment laws, if not properly enforced can be used to bring about fundamental personnel regulatory weaknesses within individual firms. Although it may be difficult to prevent bad, often ephemeral labor laws, from finding their way into statute books, business owners, heads of institutions and organizational leaders can come together to form regulatory networks whose regulations may be binding in all members of the network. This is a very effective way of creating an active industrial policy that accommodates the views of as many stakeholders as possible.
HR practices to address the topic: Give specific guidelines on how HR can develop programs and/or policies to handle this issue
The effectiveness of employment regulations and laws depends largely on the approach that HR departments take towards their implementation. HR departments have the authority to offer guidelines on matters of restriction of workers’ freedom, grounds for their dismissal, limits on the extent to which workers can use temporary work agencies, limits on time shifts, night work and weekly hours and limits on how employers do part-time work. In other words, the manner in which the HR handles work-related issues determines whether employees will feel the need for legal redress or not.
Employment regulation affects patterns of work both directly and indirectly. For instance, the manner in which temporary work is regulated determines frequency of incidences of temporary work that are observed as well as the actual hours during which employees commit themselves to work. This may also bring about indirect effects such as induction of shift in the employment structure towards forms of work that are not regulated. Employment regulations, owing to their far-reaching effects on macroeconomic variables and aggregate employment effects, should be handled very sensitively. For this reason, it is not possible to enact employment laws without the active participation of HR officials and employees alike.
Employees, if left unsupervised, can make use of existing labor laws and regulations in order to exploit their employers. The converse applies to employers. However, within employer settings, the HR function is very fundamental since it is the work of the human resource department to initiate the selection process without which a contract between employer and employee can never exist.
In the process of executing their mandate, HR managers should put into consideration the views of both the management of the organization and the employees. Where no platforms of addressing the needs of employees exist, HR professionals should always refer to laws governing the rights, responsibilities and obligation of employees. From this reference point, an ideal employee regulatory framework, one that can never come into loggerheads with the law, can be put in place.
Examples of issues that can be addressed through regulations derived from existing employment and labor laws include the duration of notice that should be given before a lay-off comes into effect and the amounts of severance pay that should accrue to employees and under what circumstances that this should happen. However, the legal constraints that affect such regulations differ from one country to the other.
Enforcement of employment regulations within the provisions of the law is a very complicated thing for the HR department of any organization to do. It is a matter that calls for liaison between the department and the organization’s legal office. Alternatively, HR officials may do it on their own if they have many years’ experience of dealing with employee regulation issues as well as the confidence to do it. A good starting point is composing an employment contract whose wording is legally admissible. Such an employment should imply a collective agreement between employer and employee upon signing by the employee.
Human resource managers should beware of unclear legislations that leave it upon judges to make decisions in matters of contention between employers and employees or their representatives. When regulation is required in such matters, the consent of both parties should be emphasized in order for both parties to the dispute to avoid far-reaching legal implications.
Normative approaches to collective agreements through government decrees constitute another option that human resource managers should use whenever they are called upon to do so. In most cases, any democratic government does not announce such decrees unless they are meant to benefit employees as well as employers in a certain branch or sector within an industry.
In conclusion, employment laws and regulations play a very crucial role in cultivating mutual interdependence between employers and employees in the workplace. As Weiler observes, any issue that affects performance of an employee should be addressed either through statutory provisions or through regulation by employees (10). In either case, the imperfections of labor and employment laws should be addressed through collective bargaining agreements between employers and employees. In some cases, governments put decrees in place in order to bring about immediate solutions to pressing employer and employee problems. It is the responsibility of human resource managers to ensure that the rights, obligations and responsibilities of the organization as well as employees are safeguarded at all times.
Cooper, George and Sobol, Richard. “Seniority and Testing under Fair Employment Laws: A General Approach to Objective Criteria of Hiring and Promotion” Harvard Law Review, 82.8 (1969): 598-1679.
“Employment Law Guide.” United States Department of Labor. 01 Jan. 2010. 05 Apr. 2010. <http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/>
Landes, William. “The Economics of Fair Employment Laws” The Journal of Political Economy, 76.4, (1968): 507-552.
Weiler, Paul. Governing the Workplace: The Future of Labor and Employment Law. New York: Routledge, 1990.
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