Human Resources Laws

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What does “Human Resources” mean?

Human Resources, or “HR”, refers to that department in an organization that manages personnel matters including hiring, compensation, training, disputes, benefits, and firing.  Depending on the size and purpose of the business or company, an HR department may be comprised of a few individuals, or it may require the efforts of several different specialists. 

Human resources departments play an important role in ensuring efficient operations in any organization.  For example, disputes between employees or between an employer and employee are typically resolved through HR.  The term “human resources” technically refers to the employed workforce in general; however, the terms is most commonly used to refer to the human resources department of a company.   

The various functions and duties of the HR department should be formally recorded in a policy, which would be contained in the company’s employee handbook.  Having a set policy in place for the human resources department can do much to prevent disputes over legal issues.

What types of Legal Issues are handled by HR?

Human resources often handles many employment disputes that can lead to a legal claim.  These may involve every step of the employment process, from hiring up until termination.  Some of these legal issues may involve:

Many workplace disputes end up being resolved through the cooperation of human resources with state or federal agencies, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  However, if a government agency is unable to resolve the situation, the dispute could lead to a civil lawsuit.  

What types of Laws cover Human Resources?

An entire network of federal and state laws covers the duties of human resources.  Probably the most important and extensive HR law is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its related amendments.  This Act deals primarily with employment discrimination.  Under Title VII, employers are prohibited from discriminating against employees or recruits based on certain protected categories, such as religion, race, or national origin.  The HR department certainly must abide by anti-discriminatory policies when performing their duties.

Another important piece of HR legislation is the Equal Pay Act of 1963.  This act requires equal pay for employees who perform equal work, and prohibits wage discrimination based on sex.  Human resources often deals extensively with these issues.

Other important laws that regulate human resources practices include:

These are federal regulations which apply in every state.  In addition, a state may have its own employment laws, many of which may be stricter than federal statutes.

Do I need a Lawyer for issues with Human Resources?

Dealing with human resources is a necessary part of any employment arrangement.  If you have concerns about your organization’s human resources department, you may wish to contact an attorney for advice.  Employment laws can often be intimidating, since the web of laws is so comprehensive.  Your attorney can help clarify these laws for you, as many of them are subject to change.  Whether you are an employee, employer, or work in a human resources department, it is important to know your rights under the law. 

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Last Modified: 03-22-2011 01:47 PM PDT

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