HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT AND THE LAW

The field of human resources management is greatly influenced and shaped by state and federal employment legislation. Indeed, regulations and laws govern all aspects of human resource management, including recruitment, placement, development, and compensation areas.

The most important piece of HRM legislation, which affects all of the functional areas, is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent amendments, including the Civil Rights Act of 1991. These acts made illegal the discrimination against employees or potential recruits for reasons of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. It forces employers to follow—and often document—fairness practices related to hiring, training, pay, benefits, and virtually all other activities and responsibilities related to HRM. The 1964 act established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to enforce the act, and provides for civil penalties in the event of discrimination. The net result of the all-encompassing civil rights acts is that businesses must carefully design and document numerous procedures to ensure compliance, or face potentially significant penalties. Another important piece of legislation that complements the civil rights laws discussed above is the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This act forbids wage or salary discrimination based on sex, and mandates equal pay for equal work with few exceptions. Subsequent court rulings augmented the act by promoting the concept of comparable worth, or equal pay for unequal jobs of equal value or worth.

Other important laws that govern significant aspects of human resource management include the following:

* Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967—This legislation, which was strengthened by amendments in the early 1990s, essentially protects workers 40 years of age and older from discrimination.
* Davis-Bacon Act of 1931—This law requires the payment of minimum wages to nonfederal employees.
* The Walsh-Healy Public Contracts Act of 1936—This law was designed to ensure that employees working as contractors for the federal government would be compensated fairly.
* Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938—this important law mandated employer compliance with restrictions related to minimum wages, overtime provisions, child labor, and workplace safety.
* Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970—This act, which established the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was designed to force employers to provide safe and healthy work environments and to make organizations liable for workers' safety. Today, thousands of regulations, backed by civil and criminal penalties, have been implemented in various industries to help ensure that employees are not subjected to unnecessarily hazardous working conditions.
* The Wagner Act of 1935—This law, also known as the National Labor Relations Act, is the main piece of legislation governing union/management relations, and is a chief source of regulation for HRM departments.
* The Norris-Laguardia Act of 1932—This law protects the rights of unions to organize, and prohibits employers from forcing job applicants to promise not to join a union in exchange for employment.

Other important laws related to human resource management include the Social Security Act of 1935, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, and the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959.

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