Many Americans have come to know Labor Day as signifying the end of Summer, beginning of a new school year and the kickoff of football season. While these events coincide with Labor Day weekend, it is important we pause to reflect the importance of the working men and women as well as children who are free to still be children and not forced to work. The road we have traveled to arrive at this point has been a long rough journey and these twelve labor related laws have helped shepherd us to this point.
1. Constitutional Amendment 13 – Slavery Abolished. Ratified 12/6/1865
“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
This tops the list in my opinion as it outlawed the most criminal and inhumane practice in our history. Not just a law but a full blown amendment to change the United States Constitution to include all men and women. The way it should have been written the first time!!!
2. Constitutional Amendment 19 – Women’s Suffrage Ratified 8/18/1920
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Not a direct labor law, but without the right to vote, women had no voice in electing those who would set the course for labor in the 20th Century. This amendment along with historical circumstances such as World War II accelerated the inclusion of women in our workforce. Fortunate for us!!!
3. Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Requires employers of 50 or more employees to give up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees for the birth or adoption of a child or for the serious illness of the employee or a spouse, child or parent.
4. Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1985 (COBRA)
This gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time under certain circumstances such as voluntary or involuntary job loss, reduction in the hours worked, transition between jobs, death, divorce, and other life events. Qualified individuals may be required to pay the entire premium for coverage up to 102 percent of the cost to the plan.
5. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
This act provides rights and protections for participants and beneficiaries in group health plans. HIPAA includes protections for coverage under group health plans that limit exclusions for preexisting conditions; prohibit discrimination against employees and dependents based on their health status; and allow a special opportunity to enroll in a new plan to individuals in certain circumstances. HIPAA may also give you a right to purchase individual coverage if you have no group health plan coverage available, and have exhausted COBRA or other continuation coverage.
6. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
This act prescribes standards for wages and overtime pay, which affect most private and public employment. It requires employers to pay covered employees who are not otherwise exempt at least the federal minimum wage and overtime pay of one-and-one-half-times the regular rate of pay. For nonagricultural operations, it restricts the hours that children under age 16 can work and forbids the employment of children under age 18 in certain jobs deemed too dangerous. For agricultural operations, it prohibits the employment of children under age 16 during school hours and in certain jobs deemed too dangerous.
7. Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act
Safety and health conditions in most private industries are regulated by OSHA or OSHA-approved state programs, which also cover public sector employers. Employers covered by the OSH Act must comply with the regulations and the safety and health standards promulgated by OSHA. Employers also have a general duty under the OSH Act to provide their employees with work and a workplace free from recognized, serious hazards. OSHA enforces the Act through workplace inspections and investigations. Compliance assistance and other cooperative programs are also available.
8. Whistleblower Protection
Most labor and public safety laws and many environmental laws mandate whistleblower protections for employees who complain about violations of the law by their employers. Remedies can include job reinstatement and payment of back wages.
9. Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act
Certain persons who serve in the armed forces have a right to reemployment with the employer they were with when they entered service. This includes those called up from the reserves or National Guard.
10. Veterans’ Preference
Veterans and other eligible persons have special employment rights with the federal government. They are provided preference in initial hiring and protection in reductions in force.
11. Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN)
WARN offers employees early warning of impending layoffs or plant closings.
12. Federal Mine Safety and Health Act of 1977 (Mine Act)
This act covers all people who work on mine property. The Mine Act holds mine operators responsible for the safety and health of miners; provides for the setting of mandatory safety and health standards, mandates miners’ training requirements; prescribes penalties for violations; and enables inspectors to close dangerous mines. The safety and health standards address numerous hazards including roof falls, flammable and explosive gases, fire, electricity, equipment rollovers and maintenance, airborne contaminants, noise, and respirable dust. MSHA enforces safety and health requirements at more than 13,000 mines, investigates mine accidents, and offers mine operators training, technical and compliance assistance.
These are just a handful of the important labor laws to choose from but ones I felt were most relevant and significant to today’s labor force. My grandfather, Paul Cline, used to say “Good things come from hard honest work.” I think the United States is great country so thank you to all the men and women in our history who worked so hard to get us to this point. Have a safe and relaxing holiday. You deserve it!!!
Note: Source for exact details of each act mentioned is the United States Department of Labor.
Photo courtesy of mstahlphoto. Used under creative commons, some rights reserved.