Some of the major functions of a human resource department in an organization include employee relations, labor law compliance, and work safety. The department ensures that the employers and the employees uphold ethics and ethical standards. The employee relations scenarios indicate several challenges that are posed to the human resource management team. The instances highlighted illustrate disobedience to policies within the work environment, hygiene issues, dress code, absenteeism due to alcoholism, theft, failure to meet deadlines, lateness, incompetence, obscene language, and workplace romance.
To effectively address these issues, the human resource department should be aware of the existing employment and labor laws, avoid termination litigation, the available alternative dispute resolution methods, and the various human resource problems in the present century. The multiple laws, such as Affirmative Action, OSHA, ADA, FMLA, ERISA, FLSA, Title VII, and EEOC, offer valuable insight into the rules and regulations surrounding various aspects of the work environment. The employee acknowledgment section availed the employees to sign and declare that they know and adhere to the stipulated requirements.
Employment and Labor Laws
It includes guidelines, policies, administrative practices, and laws that address various grounds people are discriminated against, such as religion, race, sex, color, and national origin. Programs and policies are implemented in workplaces to counter historical discrimination against specific demographic groups within the underrepresented society. The law was developed in the 1960s to promote equality by eliminating discrimination. The United States has a clear guideline on adopting non-discriminatory policies within organizations and institutions by giving special consideration to minority groups such as women and racial minorities.
There are several ways in which organizations can adhere to affirmative action. Instead of racial quotas, the use of targeted goals is widely embraced to address former discrimination through the identification, selection, and training of qualified personnel. Outreach programs, employee support programs, targeted recruitment for specific groups of people, and management and employee development are some of the activities that portray the adoption of affirmative action within a company. The program has seen an increase in gender diversity, people with disabilities, and racial inclusion within several organizations.
Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
The OSHA established an agency in the federal government called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which protects employees’ rights and regulates hazards within a company. It ensures that healthy and safe working environments are established and maintained by enforcing a code of conduct and offering outreach, training, assistance, site inspections, and relevant education to employers and employees (Michaels & Barab, 2020). It sets standards for various disciplines such as hospitals, construction sites, and maritime fields. The agency aims to avoid job-related injuries and deaths by educating the management of potential dangers within the workplace and monitoring the spaces to ensure that they are safe and healthy. In case of non-compliance, the agency fines the organization for violating the employees’ rights.
Some of the various employee rights provided include the right to work in a healthy and safe environment, report any job-related injuries, and protect against their employers’ retaliation. A violation of the right to proper health and safety working condition necessitates the employee’s need to file a complaint with the agency. OSHA then sends a compliance officer who inspects the premises for evidence that demonstrates that the work environment is unsafe and unhealthy.
Organizations must have a transparent system established to allow employees to report any injuries sustained during the job. In case the system is absent or the organization hinders the process, the employees are expected to report the incident directly to the agency. The law protects the workers upon reporting the injuries with OSHA.
Other employer responsibilities provided by OSHA include the availability of the correct equipment and tools for employees, warning workers of potential hazards using posters or signs, establishing, updating and relaying the information on operating procedures, and offering safety education in a language that employees understand clearly. They should also avail medical training and examination, place an OSHA poster in a visible location enlightening the workers of their duties and rights, report job-related fatalities to the OSHA office within eight hours, and hospital admissions within a day and keep the relevant records on job-related diseases and injuries.
Organizations can adhere to the OSHA regulations by upholding the various standards and duties highlighted in the act. The employers have to ensure that the workplace environment is safe and healthy by clearly marking the potentially dangerous chemicals and machinery and reporting injuries that occur within the workplace or due to the job. The employees need to be aware of their right to a safe environment and file a complaint if their employer does not comply with the OSHA regulations. The employers should also refrain from retaliating against workers who file complaints with OSHA.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
In 1990, the act made it illegal for employers to prejudice against competent people with physical or mental challenges. It covers private enterprises, employment institutions, national and federal governments, labor organizations, and labor-management companies. ADA provides that a person has a disability if they have an impairment that tremendously limits major activity performance. He/ she is protected if they were disabled in the past or where the employer believes that they have a physical or mental challenge. Some of the significant activities that may be hindered by the disability include walking, seeing, learning, working, speaking, doing manual tasks, or self-care hence a substantial disability.
ADA indicates that an individual has to be qualified to conduct the essential activities required for the work, whether they have suitable changes or not. The law dictates that necessary adjustments or changes are instituted within the workplace to make it more friendly for people with disabilities (Minich, 2016). The changes include providing specially modified devices, part-time schedules, provision of interpreters and readers, or job restructuring, among others. Various needs for the job have to be met, such as experience, skills, education qualifications, or licenses. Moreover, one has to be able to perform a significant part of the work. Once a person has met these two requirements, they are protected against discrimination by ADA. An organization cannot avoid hiring a person because they cannot perform unnecessary functions for the work.
Some of the ways in which corporations can adhere to the ADA regulations include providing reasonable accommodation, conducting legal employment practices when hiring, firing, training, remunerating, providing benefits, and leaves without discriminating on individuals based on disability and also avoiding retaliating against a person for asserting their rights under the ADA.
Employees are protected against discrimination due to a family or business association with an individual with a disability. During a job application, an employer cannot enquire about a person’s nature of their disability. However, they can ask how the individual will perform their jobs in the presence or absence of reasonable accommodation. They can ask for a demonstration of how the individual will conduct their responsibilities. Upon successful recruitment into the organization, a medical examination can only be performed if related to the work or necessary for the job. All the medical files are kept confidential and separate from other medical examination files.
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The law offers qualified workers insurance from employers but preserved leave to cater to specific family and medical needs. The service acts as a group health insurance cover where the worker receives benefits as if they had not gone for leave. Some of the FMLA benefits include a leave of twelve workweeks within a year for delivery and taking care of the newborn, placement of a child into foster care or adoption and caring for the child, caring for immediate relatives with a severe health condition and serious illness making the worker unable to conduct the key part of their work (Sweet-Cushman, 2015). Moreover, it provides a leave of twenty-six workweeks within a year to take care of eligible service members who are immediate relatives such as spouses, sons, daughters, or parents and suffering from a severe health condition.
To enforce this law, employers must have an insurance cover that protects their employees. The cover should extend to the care of the latters’ immediate family members. The twelve workweek leave offers workers an opportunity to attend to vital family and medical reasons during their work. The workers are eligible for the family and medical leave if they have worked for at least a year, 1250 hours in a place with at least 50 workers within 75 miles. One can take a break to nurse pregnancy complications, and it is provided within 12 weeks. The corporation also has to adhere to the military family leave under FMLA, which offers specific military family’s needs.
Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)
It is an act that highlights minimum requirements to protect persons in voluntary health and retirement policies. The federal law seeks to establish that necessary regulations that relay relevant information to the participants are available. Some of the information involves fiduciary responsibilities, participation standards, benefits, plans to air grievances, appeal processes, accrual funding, and the repayment plan upon termination. ERISA coverage does not include government plans, church plans for the employees, or plans instituted to adhere to a disability, unemployment, or workers’ compensation laws. Adhering to this law requires that the retirement income security plan is voluntary among the members and does not fall under the government, church, disability, unemployment, or workers’ compensation aspect.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Effective from the 24th of July 2009, the act regulates overtime remuneration, a minimum wage, youth employment standards, and record keeping (Colunga & Atterberry, 2015). The minimum wage is set at $7.25 hourly, while the overtime payment is given for jobs performed over forty hours within a workweek. FLSA does not offer overtime pay if the work is done over holidays or weekends unless overtime under the hours spent.
The act describes the hours worked as the total time spent by an employee on duty or at their job premises as required by the employer. Employers are expected to display a notice with the FLSA requirements and their workers’ time and payment records. FLSA further stipulates various provisions under child labor to protect minors from employment and conditions harmful to their health. An organization must follow the FLSA directives by paying their employees the required minimum and overtime dues, observing the hours worked, proper record keeping, and protecting minors from child labor.
Title VII cushions workers and job applicants from prejudice based on their color, race, national origin, religion, or sex and applies to public and private sectors with at least 15 workers. It regulates labor organizations, employment agencies, and the federal government by protecting all the aspects of employment practices, including selection, recruitment, and terminations against others. An organization has to adhere to Title VII by ensuring that in all its employment decisions, the employees have not been discriminated against based on their appearance, origin, or beliefs.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
EEOC has outlined several forbidden employment policies and procedures within the workplace. Some of them include discrimination against an employee or an applicant based on their age, genetic information, religion, race, color, and sex. An organization should not counterattack against a person who has filed a discrimination charge, a complaint, or involved in a lawsuit investigating employment discrimination (Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2020).
The law prevents a company from prejudicing against an individual while publishing job advertisements, recruiting, job application, hiring, conducting background checks, job referrals, assignments and promotions, payment of benefits and wages, and discipline and discharge (Becton et al., 2017). It is improper for employment references to give false or malicious details or withhold their information based on a person’s race, color, age, or disability.
The EEOC requires that an employer offers sufficient adjustments to workers or applicants with a disability. They are exempt from the rule if availing of the new infrastructure would result in an extra cost or a significant employer challenge. Where there are workers with diverse religious beliefs, employers must provide a conducive environment, such as allowing employees to swap shifts to attend religious services. Employees are also protected against discrimination in training and apprenticeship programs.
However, some apprenticeship programs are exempted from the rule, and age limits can be imposed. The terms and conditions of employment are also supposed to be fair and equal. General pre-employment inquiries should be observed. The dress code should not be discriminatory, and an employee should not be forced to resign due to an intolerable work environment.
Avoiding Wrongful Employee Litigation
Wrongful termination litigation arises when an employee feels that they were fired for an illegal or inappropriate cause. Some of the reasons are employer’s violation of discrimination laws, violating an employment contract, labor laws, discharge as retaliation, or as a form of harassment. To avoid termination litigation, employers have to prove that it was necessary. To verify the case, the employer must clearly and regularly document employees’ performance, have established written termination guidelines, have the human resource review the termination decision, ensure the workers are aware of the expectations, and provide sufficient warning in advance (Remington et al., 2011). Employing these strategies will save the company time and financial resources that would otherwise be spent pursuing termination litigation lawsuits.
Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods
Alternative dispute resolution refers to resolving conflicts outside the courtroom through negotiation, arbitration, mediation, or conciliation. The methods effectively avoid the long queues in courts, time delays, and the hefty expenses incurred filing cases (Shamir, 2016). Through negotiation, the individuals control the process as they meet to settle their differences. There is a neutral third party who brings the conflicting sides together and attempts to establish an agreement or settlement through mediation.
On the other hand, arbitration is more formal and is conducted by a panel and represents a simplified trial. Before entering a contract, the individuals enter into an arbitration clause that highlights the process’s major conditions, such as arbitration fees and the number of arbitrators (Remington et al., 2011).
Current Challenges Experienced by Human Resource Departments
The significant problems facing human resource managers today relate to workers’ motivation, attrition, workplace conflicts and discrimination, and teamwork. Advancements in technology and globalization cause other issues within the workplace. Low morale affects the productivity of workers since they work more with minimal output. To boost their motivation, the organization should provide financial incentives and various benefits such as a retirement plan or health insurance cover. Attrition leads to higher recruitment expenses due to the low retention rate in the company. A lot of time is also spent hiring employees. Proper training, improved culture, and boosting the worker’s morale can help raise the company’s employee retention rate.
Discrimination cases and conflicts within the workplace hinder performance in the due to the absence of diverse experiences from multicultural interactions among employees. An organization requires a collaborative and innovative working environment to help employees work together and demonstrate tolerance by accepting people with diverse opinions and backgrounds.
To promote teamwork, the human resource department leaders need to understand the employees and create a respectful, innovative, and autonomous working space. The twenty-first century is the technological era, which has led to globalization, making it possible for people to interact and conduct businesses from any part of the world (Remington et al., 2011). Cybercrime is one of the critical issues affecting the current workplace as people conduct criminal activities online (Bencsik et al., 2016). Another issue is reduced human interaction as people spend more time online.
Employee Acknowledgement Section
Employee Policy Manual Receipt
The undersigned employee hereby acknowledges that he/she has received and read the company’s human resource and policy manual.
The undersigned further agrees that:
- The company has the sole right to amend, terminate and implement additional information without prior notice.
- The HR Policy Manual is not an employment contract or a guarantee of employment.
- The employee has signed the section willingly without any form of duress or undue influence.
- There have been no contradictory statements, representation, or agreements made by any officer, agent, or employee of the company.
Several policies would help minimize the issues portrayed by employee scenarios. By talking with the employees, the manager will warn them against unprofessional behavior. If they persist with the attitude and code of conduct, they will be fired. Having clear documentation for the employees’ performance will help prove that termination was warranted upon firing the workers since they violated the policy changes made in the organization and failed to adhere to the required code of conduct. The documentation will serve as clear proof of their lateness, theft, failure to meet set deadlines, absenteeism, and incompetence.
Cases on poor hygiene measures uncovered tattoos, and the use of vulgar language will be addressed by establishing clear guidelines on cleanliness, a dress code, and refraining from obscenities. The partners having an affair will be shifted to different departments. A policy will be instituted to have couples declare their affair to the human resource department to avoid favoritism resulting from workplace romance.
Becton, J. B., Gilstrap, J. B., & Forsyth, M. (2017). Preventing and correcting workplace harassment: Guidelines for employers. Business Horizons, 60(1), 101–111.
Bencsik, A., Horváth-Csikós, G., & Juhász, T. (2016). Y and Z generations at workplaces. Journal of Competitiveness, 8(3), 90–106.
Colunga, G. F., & Atterberry, R. E. A. (2015).
- DOL: Guidance on misclassification of workers; notice of proposed rule on white‐collar FLSA exemption; interim and final rules relating to the h2‐b worker program; proposed black lung benefits act rule; proposed rule to help retirement investors .
- OSHA: Final rule to protect construction workers in confined spaces; public comment sought on hazards facing communication tower workers.
- EEOC: Regulatory agenda. Employment Relations Today, 42(3), 51–57.
Michaels, D., & Barab, J. (2020). The occupational safety and health administration at 50: Protecting workers in a changing economy. American Journal of Public Health, 110(5), 631–635. Web.
Minich, J. A. (2016). Enabling whom? Critical disability studies now. Lateral, 5(1). Web.
Prohibited employment policies/practices | U.S. equal employment opportunity commission. (2020). Eeoc. Web.
Remington, J., Heiser, R. T., Smythe, C., & Sovereign, K. (2011). Human resources law. Pearson Higher Ed.
Shamir, Y. (2016). Alternative dispute resolution approaches and their application. Web.
Sweet-Cushman, J. (2015). FMLA in PA: Analysis of family and medical leave policy in the state. Commonwealth, 17(1), 14–34.