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Employment Law and Labor Relations Issues in your Workplace

By lcdavenport Nov 01, 2006 962 Words
Equal opportunity is a descriptive term for an approach intended to give equal access to an environment or benefits, such as education, employment, health care, or social welfare to all, often with emphasis on members of various social groups which might have at some time suffered from discrimination. This can involve the hiring of workers and other such practices. Social groupings generally emphasized in such a way are those delineated by aspects of gender, race, or religion. In my workplace the Equal Employment Opportunity Policy is posted on almost every wall in the building. There are several issues that need to be addressed in my workplace. I work for a not-for-profit agency contracted with the Florida Department of Children and Families. We are an agency that tries to help families reunite once they have entered into the Family Law system. My job as a social worker is to promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. "Clients" is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may be in the form of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation, administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research and evaluation. Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs. Social workers also seek to promote the responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to individuals' needs and social problems. The main issue that needs to be addressed within my company is some issues pertaining to the Fair Labor Standards Act, holiday pay, and having an Human Resources Representative at our local site.

I believe that my organization needs to take the time to explain to its employees what their rights are and what the laws of the state require. The Human Resource department for our agency is run out of Bethesda, Maryland. So every issue and or concern has to go through them. Because of the distance, it is very hard and time consuming for local employees at this agency to get things done in a timely manner, so a lot of things that should be addressed at employee orientation are not addressed until maybe the third month of employment when the HR administrator decides to take a trip to Florida. There are a lot of questions that we as employees have about holiday pay practices and what are the legal requirements.

For example, I did not know that an employer is obligated to provide reasonable accommodation for the religious practices of its employees, unless it can show that the accommodation would result in undue hardship for its business. Many employers offer a "floating holiday" in addition to the regularly scheduled holidays. This allows an employee to take time off for religious observances that are not covered by the employer's established holiday schedule. Courts addressing the issue of religious accommodation generally agree that unpaid time off can be a reasonable accommodation, as can allowing an employee to use a vacation day to observe a religious holiday. Generally, employers require that floating holidays be taken in the same year they are granted and do not allow these days to be carried over into the next year. Employees usually are required to give adequate advance notice of their intention to take a floating holiday. I also did not know that an employer does not have to pay hourly employees for time off on a holiday. An employer is only required to pay hourly employees for time actually worked. On the other hand, exempt employees (salaried employees who do not receive overtime), who are given the day off, must be paid their full weekly salary if they work any hours during the week in which the holiday falls. This requirement for exempt employees did not change under the new federal overtime regulations. Both of these statements can be very helpful when our employees what to take some time off or just to check to make sure they are treated fairly. There are a handful of labor laws that do generally protect U.S. workers. It's probably fair to say that most employers adhere to these basic laws, because they'd be foolish not to if they want to stay out of court. But, that's typically at the HR and legal-department levels, where the employees are properly trained in such matters. Companies are also made up of other employees, who might never have heard of labor laws or fully understand their significance. That's one way problems occur, especially if HR and legal departments don't bother to properly train those in control, like jerky bosses. Another way problems occur is that, for obvious legal reasons, HR and legal departments are unlikely to openly admit that employee complaints and accusations have merit, and the company is liable. Worse, they might even protect the perpetrators more than the victims.

In conclusion, it is very important that companies keep their policies up-to-date and follow them. Written policies tell your employees how they can expect to be treated and give you guidelines for applying the policies consistently. However, the policies must comply with legal requirements and you must follow them, or they may be used against you as evidence of violations of the law. Having these problems addressed in my organization could help it many ways, starting with establishing a good relationship between upper management and current employees and also establishing a steady line of communication. But this issue cannot be addressed until a local Human Resources department is establish at every local office so if employees do have question about employment law or current labor relation issues they can be addressed right then and there.

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