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Ignoring These 5 Labor Laws Can Cost Your Business

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

With Labor Day approaching, business owners may want to take a moment to make sure they're complying with state and federal labor laws. Not only will abiding by these laws provide a safe and fair work environment, but it can also save your company from costly labor suits.

So while your employees prepare for a three-day Labor Day weekend, examine whether your business is ignoring these five labor laws:

Need legal advice on how your small business should operate? Consult with an experienced business attorney about your options.

1. Sick Leave/FMLA.

There is no national law mandating that companies offer paid sick leave, but your business may be in a city or state that does require it. Your company should also be in compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act, and the recent developments with regard to how companies must comply with this federal law.

2. NLRA Section 7.

Under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to discuss "concerted activities" between themselves at work (such as wages, employment conditions, promotions, etc.). Employers must be careful not to tread on this protected activity. For example, if you have a general policy about when employees can access certain parts of your office, then make sure it still allows employees to use those spaces under Section 7. Update your blanket social media policy with a Section 7 exemption too.

3. Sexual Harassment.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents discrimination by private businesses based on sex, which includes all types of sexual harassment. Your business should have an anti-discrimination/harassment policy in place, as well as a procedure for investigating, documenting, and resolving complaints of harassment.

4. Meals and Breaks.

Meal breaks aren't required by federal law, but a great deal of states require that you give an employee a brief meal break (typically 30 minutes) for every eight-hour shift. Your employees don't have to eat during these breaks, and caution against regulating how they use this time. The same goes for any other unpaid break times which employees are owed.

5. Unpaid Interns.

The long period of easy unpaid internships may be at a close, and your company can't treat unpaid interns as substitute employees without paying them at least minimum wage. Make sure that your applicants for unpaid internships know that there isn't a job waiting for them, and make the experience is educational -- not just menial.

For more state-specific information, check out FindLaw's guide to each state's labor laws.

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