The safety, health, and general welfare of employees in the workplace are vitally important to the continued success and prosperity for any employer. Many employees do not understand their rights under the law, nor do many individuals understand the responsibility of employers as it relates to the protection of employee safety and health. By outlining such laws as the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, a better understanding of employee rights and employer responsibilities will be achieved.
President Clinton signed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) into legislation on February 5th, 1993.
This legislation was actually the first piece of legislation ever signed into law by President Clinton during his administration as President of the United States of America. The Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees that employees who have been working on the job for their current employer for at least a full year from their hire date receive a maximum of 12 weeks worth of unpaid leave per year.
This legislation under FMLA is valid for implementation by an employee for the birth, adoption, or even for the general care of sick children, spouses, parents, or even the employees own serious illness.
FMLA guarantees that the employee receives the same job or at least a job equivalent to the one they previously had upon their return to work. The act applies to all employers that employ 50 or more employees. This includes all offices or workplace facilities owned by that employer within a 75-mile radius of each other.
Employees looking to be covered under FMLA guidelines are required to have worked for at least one year under their current employer including a grand total of at least 1,250 hours during the previous 12 months preceding the requested FMLA guaranteed time off.
Employees are required, under FMLA, to give their employer at minimum notice of 30 days when it is reasonable for the employee to do so. The birth of a child would be a good example of a reasonable situation for the employee to give 30 days notice prior to the requested leave. Employers may require employees to first use vacation or other leave before applying for the unpaid leave, but employees must be compensated for the vacation days as they normally would. Employers are required by law to continue providing employees with health insurance during the requested FMLA leave.
According to FMLA guidelines, employers may actually exclude the company’s highest-paid 10% of employees from receiving FMLA rights and coverage. Employers also have the right to require employees to provide medical confirmation of an illness. The United States Department of Labor defines medical confirmation of an illness under FMLA as requiring a baseline minimum of one full night in a hospital (Bennett-Alexander, 2007). As important as FMLA is to understanding the health of employees, safety is arguably the most important issue amongst both employees and employers’ alike.
Each year, 6,000 people in the United States of America actually die from workplace-related injuries and approximately 50,000 workers die from illnesses that were contracted through exposure in the workplace. Not to mention that approximately 4. 7 million people suffer nonfatal workplace injuries costing businesses over $170 billion per year (Bennett-Alexander, 2007). Obviously workplace safety is a vitally important issue. When considering employee safety, several questions likely come to mind regarding government laws and regulations.
What are the employers’ responsibilities? Are employees required to behave in a certain manner in regard to government laws regarding safety? What protections do employees have? President Richard Nixon signed the Occupational Safety and Health Act into law on December 29, 1970. By enacting this legislation, President Nixon was attempting to ensure that all employees had safe and healthful working conditions at all times while in the workplace. Duties for both employers and employees are fully detailed in the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).
The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to provide their employees with, “employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm” (Bennett-Alexander, 2007). Likewise, employees are also subject to certain guidelines that should be obeyed under OSHA. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act employees are required to abide by all occupational safety regulations, all health standards and, “all rules, regulations and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct” (Bennett-Alexander, 2007).
Employees have the right to request and participate in inspections. Employees also have the right to be given notice of violations by their employer. Employees also are to be granted access to results of various monitoring procedures that may have been initiated. Employees are to be given and access to medical information under these regulations as well. Employees who provide information to OSHA are protected from discharge and discrimination for reporting the incident or situation.
If any negative action is taken in regard to employment as a result of the employee’s report or other provision of information, the worker may file a complaint with OSHA. Responsibility for enforcing the acts rests solely with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under the supervision of the Department of Labor. The administration provides for, “inspections of the workplace by OSHA compliance officers, either as a result of complaints from employees, grievances filed by other sources, or reports of fatal or multiple injuries” (Bennett-Alexander, 2007).
The officers also conduct routine inspections in certain high-risk industries. The Occupational Safety and Health Act also protects employees from retaliation by the employer against employees who have filed complaints with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The law expressly prohibits an employer from discriminating against or firing any employee that happens to exercise any given right that has been afforded to them by the Occupational Safety and Health Act (Bennett-Alexander, 2007). If an employee happens to be injured on the job, that given employee might be eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation.
Workers’ Compensation is, “a form of insurance that provides compensatory medical care for employees who are injured in the course of employment, in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of the employee’s right to sue his or her employer for negligence” (Bennett-Alexander, 2007). The majority of employees who happen to be hurt while working on the job should have the right, under federal laws and regulations, to receive complete care by medical staff for that given injury that was incurred while at work.
In fact, in many cases employees are actually eligible to receive, “monetary payments to compensate for resulting temporary or permanent disabilities” (Bennett-Alexander, 2007). Insurance for workers’ compensation is a typical requirement to which most employers are required to subscribe. In most cases, any employer who does not subscribe to some sort of insurance plan for workers’ compensation may be imposed with having financial penalties waged against them for violation of this policy (Bennett-Alexander, 2007).
By describing the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Occupational Safety and Health Act, hopefully, a better understanding of employee rights and employer responsibilities has been gained. Understanding these laws is tantamount to fair treatment and safety in the workplace.
Bennett-Alexander, D. D. , ; Hartman, L. P. (2007). Employment Law for Business. Retrieved from https://ecampus. phoenix. edu/content/eBookLibrary/content/ eReader. h.