Over the years, The United States Government has taken great care to protect employee’s rights to take care of themselves and their families. Two of the greatest pieces of legislation passed to protect employees’ rights to themselves and their families are the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA). Both signed and enacted into law at very different social times, but both emulate the commitment the U.S. Government has to protect workers and their families. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was written into law February 5, 1993 by President Bill Clinton; which was his first piece of legislation.
The law was adopted to provide workers with rights to protect their jobs while taking care of medical emergencies regarding one self or their family. Prior to the FMLA, workers had no job security if they took off time to be with their families. The Family and Medical Leave Act applies to employers with 50 or more employees that work within a 75 mile radius. Eligible employees must have been with the company for one year and for at least 1,250 hours during the one year preceding the time off (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007).
Also, the employee must give at least 30 days’ notice when applicable (child birth for example). The FMLA affects only about 5 percent of U.S. employers and about 40 percent of U.S. employees. Studies have also shown that only one third of eligible workers have used FMLA citing fear of potential retaliation from employers as the reason (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007). The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) was written into law December 29, 1970 by President Richard Nixon. The compelling social issue of workers’ safety resulted in President taking action to protect workers from blatant employer neglect.
Prior to OSHA workers had no voice to protect them from the daily dangers and hazards present in high risk and low risk occupations. OSHA claims the act has helped cut occupational related fatalities by more then 60 percent and injury and illness rates by 40 percent (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007). The Occupational Safety and Health Act is much more broad in who it affects then other federal legislation, compared to Title VII of the CRA and its amendments. The OSH Act governs any employer who employs workers in a business that affects commerce (Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007). Eligible employers must comply with the Department of Labor’s safety and health compliance requirements.
The body responsible for monitoring and enforcement is the OSH administration under the Department of Labor. Seen as OSHA’s most costly and invasive requirement, the continual-training requirement requires employers to adopt a program to train employees about proper safety in the workplace. There are certain responsibilities employers have by law in regards to FMLA and OSHA. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, eligible employers are responsible to provide leave under the following circumstances: 1.The birth and care of a son or daughter.
2.The placement of a son or daughter for adoption or foster care. 3.The care of spouse, son, daughter, or parent of the employee who has a serious health condition 4.A serious health condition of the employee that makes the employee unable to perform the basic functions of their employment. Upon complete satisfaction of all FMLA requirements, employers have the responsibility to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to eligible employees.
The single most important responsibility employers have in regards to FMLA is to ensure that employees come back to the same position or one of equivalent pay and task. Employers have the responsibility to ensure employees can take necessary time off from work to take care of their families or themselves and not worry about whether they will have a job to come back to after their leave expires. In regards to OSHA, employers’ responsibilities are simple, but not necessarily easy to regulate.
Employers are expected to, “furnish to each of its employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognize hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm”. This clause is known as the “general duty” clause. This is a very broad requirement that places the burden on the employer for providing a safe working environment. Employers are expected to maintain reporting requirements which record the incident date, category of illness (if applicable), description of incident, identification of affected employee, extent of illness or injury and if employee was transferred or terminated.
There are certain protections the law provides to employees under FMLA and OSHA. The FMLA gives employees have the legal right to file complaints with the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor’s Employment Standards Administration in regards to violations. Employees are protected from employers who may attempt to say that an employee didn’t give sufficient notice to qualify for FMLA leave. Employees must give notice when notice for leave is “foreseeable”. The law not only protects employee’s jobs, but also whatever medical and dental health benefits existed at the time of the extended absence (Department of Labor, 2007).
The law also protects employees from employers who attempt to interfere, restrain, or deny the exercise of any right provided by the FMLA. The OSH Administration provides protection for employees by enforcing civil and criminal violations of deliberate and willful violations of OSHA regulations. The law also protects employees who refuse to work due to a noticed safety violation. Employees can’t be fired or harshly dealt with for refusing to work because of a potential OSHA violation.
The law also protects employees from employers passing the blame of an accident to the employee, even if the accident was caused by the employee. An employee’s reckless disregard isn’t necessarily an automatic out or excuse for an employer. The law still protects employee’s; stating that employers will still be held, “liable for the foreseeable, plausible, and therefore preventable acts of its employees” Bennett-Alexander & Hartman, 2007). It is possible to see how difficult it is for employers to comply with more and more restrictive pieces of legislation designed to protect workers rights.
There has long been an ever present and constant struggle to find a balance between employer profits, employee’s rights and government intervention. As we push forward into the 21st century, hopefully the United States workplace can see the greater good and importance of protecting its workers and families. The greatest asset of any employer is its human asset, and the best way to ensure great productivity, is to ensure everyone can work without the nagging worry about their health and safety or their families health and safety.
Sources:Bennett-Alexander, D. & Hartman, L. (2007). Employment law for business. New York: The McGraw Hill Companies, Inc. U.S. Department of Labor. 2007. The family and medical leave act of 1993. Retrieved June 10, 2007, from http://www.dol.gov/esa/regs/compliance/whd/whdfs28.htm