The laws that govern employee benefits vary by jurisdiction and are often set at the State level, but they all have one thing in common: they exist to protect employees. Employers need to understand these laws to ensure their company stays compliant and avoid potential liability or penalties. Below are five of the most important laws governing employee benefit
1. The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) is a federal law that governs employee retirement plans. It sets forth rules and regulations regarding plan administration, participation, and funding. Additionally, ERISA prohibits certain types of discrimination in retirement plan coverage.
ERISA does not mandate that employers offer retirement plans to their employees. However, ERISA establishes standards for fiduciary responsibility, plan accounting, and participant disclosure for employers who do offer plans. The law also requires that employee benefits be paid out timely and orderly.
To ensure that retirement plans are being run reasonably and efficiently, ERISA gives the Department of Labor (DOL) authority to investigate and bring enforcement actions against plan sponsors who violate the law. The DOL can also impose civil penalties on employers who violate ERISA.
2. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a branch of the United States Department of Labor. It has developed a set of regulations known as the Occupational Safety and Health Standards, which identify hazards in the workplace and prescribe methods for mitigating them. Employers must comply with these standards, and OSHA inspectors may conduct surprise inspections to ensure compliance.
The most well-known OSHA regulation is the Hazard Communication Standard, which requires employers to provide information about hazardous chemicals in the workplace. Other necessary OSHA regulations include the Respiratory Protection Standard, which requires employers to provide respiratory protection for workers exposed to dangerous airborne contaminants, and the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard, which requires employers to prevent exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis.
The OSHA regulation also points toward having a break room for the employees where they can rest. These rooms should be well-equipped with rest essentials like beds, water, a refrigerator, and even a massage chair. Hence, employers should start thinking of buying a full-body massage chair.
3. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)
The COBRA is a US Congress passed law that was enacted in 1986. It provides employees and their families with the ability to maintain their health insurance with the employer even after leaving their job.
Under COBRA, employers must offer continuation coverage to employees who experience certain events, such as getting laid off, quitting their job, or having their hours reduced. The law also requires that employers provide employees with notice of their right to continue their health insurance coverage under COBRA.
There are some exceptions to the law, but generally speaking, it provides employees with a valuable safety net in times of transition.
4. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was enacted in 1993 and is administered by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. It offers certain employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually. Although unpaid, the leaves are job-protected. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the break.
The FMLA applies to all public agencies, including local, State, and Federal employers and private sector employers having at least 50 or more employees for more than 20 workweeks in the current or coming calendar year — including a joint employer or successor in interest to a covered employer. An employee must have worked for a covered employer for at least 12 months and 1,250 hours (about 24 hours per week) in the 12 months preceding the start of their leave to be eligible for FMLA protections.
The FMLA provides employees with a valuable right to take time off from work to care for themselves or a family member. It also ensures that employees can take advantage of this right without worrying about losing their job or health insurance coverage.
5. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a wide-ranging law that aims to prevent discrimination on a disability basis. It applies to employment, education, transportation, and other areas of public life.
The law protects qualified individuals with disabilities from discrimination in all aspects of employment, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, promotion, compensation, training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. The ADA also prohibits retaliation against individuals who exercise their rights under the law.
The ADA contains several provisions that prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in different aspects of their lives. One of the most important is the requirement that employers make reasonable accommodations for the known physical or mental limitations of qualified individuals with disabilities. This means that employers must provide employees with disabilities with the necessary accommodations to allow them to perform their job duties.
The ADA is a critical law that protects the rights of individuals with disabilities. It ensures that employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities and prohibits discrimination against them in all aspects of employment.
These are just a few of the laws that govern employee benefits. Employers should consult with an attorney to comply with all applicable laws.