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Human Resources Laws, Rules, and Rights

Cynthia Marsh, Kat Kadian-Baumeyer
  • Author
    Cynthia Marsh

    Cindy Marsh, has over twenty years of business experience as a human resources professional. She has experience in both the public and private industry. She earned her Master's in Business Administration at Baker College in Flint Michigan. She also holds a Bachelor's degree in Accounting and an Associate's in Finance. In her current role she is responsible for creation and administration of assessments to gauge the knowledge of individuals for positions within the workforce.

  • Instructor
    Kat Kadian-Baumeyer

    Kat has a Master of Science in Organizational Leadership and Management and teaches Business courses.

Learn about human resources laws and how they translate to human resource rules within the organization. Updated: 04/15/2022

Human Resources Laws

Every organization must follow human resources laws and human resource rules. Human resources laws are governed by federal, state, or local legislation. These laws can have penalties, or an employee/applicant can take legal action against the employer and sometimes individuals. Human resource rules are organizational rules that an employee must follow, or it could result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. An organization will often take human resources laws to create its human resources rules, also known as policies. This is to ensure that employees are following the laws imposed by legislation. Human resources professionals need to be very familiar with the laws to ensure that the organization and employees follow these laws. They also need to be aware of the human resources laws to create human resources rules for the organization to hold their employees accountable to these laws and reduce the organization's liability. Many of these human resources laws were enacted to protect employees' rights. Some laws govern wages and how people are paid to ensure there is no pay discrimination and that workers have a right to fair wages. There are also laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that protects employees from discrimination on many different characteristics. Title VII is part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that states employers cannot discriminate on any terms or conditions of their employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a governing body that provides the employees a free service to file a complaint related to discrimination and have a non-bias party review the situation to determine if discrimination or harassment has happened in the workplace. There are other laws, such as sexual harassment, that most employers have a policy against due to the high liability in the workplace. There are also some human resource laws like affirmative action that only apply to specific employers.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law enacted in the United States in 1964 to abolish discrimination and impact civil rights and labor laws within the United States. This human resource law made it illegal for an employer to discriminate based on the following characteristics:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • National Origin

An applicant or employee must meet one of these criteria and feel that it is the cause of the discrimination to file a claim of discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. For example, a white thirty-year-old male would not be able to claim discrimination under race, color, or sex because it is not a protected class.

This law expanded outside of employment into voter rights, segregation, and public accommodations. Title VII was part of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that specifically pertains to employee rights and makes discrimination unlawful for employers to discriminate based on the same characteristics related to any terms and conditions of employment. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 defines an employer as a company or organization with fifteen or more employees each working day. If an employer has less than fifteen employees, this law does not apply to them. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, protects employees from intentional discrimination and employer practices that might cause unintentional discrimination. Many employers have human resources rules to educate employees on discrimination and hold their employees accountable to ensure discrimination does not occur in the workplace.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that offers a free service to employees to protect their rights and provide a non-bias investigation into their claims. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces the characteristic under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. They also enforce the following types of discrimination and the related laws:

  • Pregnancy: Pregnancy Discrimination Act
  • Transgender: Title VII
  • Sexual orientation: Title VII
  • Age: Employment Act of 1967
  • Disability: Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Action of 1990 (ADA)
  • Genetic information: Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)
  • Equal pay: Equal Pay Act of 1963
  • Retaliation: Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Sexual harassment: Title VII

Any employer with fifteen employees or more is provided this service through the EEOC.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment can cause havoc in the workplace. There are human resource laws against sexual harassment. Employers also put human resource rules in place to follow the law, hold their employees accountable, and avoid unwanted comments, conduct, or behavior regarding sex, gender, or sexual orientation. Sexual harassment is a form of harassment related to sexual content in the workplace. Harassment is behaviors that interfere with the employee's ability to get the job done and creates a hostile working environment. Sexual harassment goes beyond an organization's employees and can include a customer, vendor, contractor, employee, or employer. Sexual harassment can happen in many different forms, including:

  • Suggestive emails or letters
  • Inappropriate images or videos
  • Sexual jokes
  • Sexual gestures
  • Whistling (catcalling)
  • Inappropriate touching
  • Comments about sex
  • Questions related to sex

Sexual harassment can manifest in the workplace. For example, this behavior can start as a very innocent attraction between two employees that quickly turns unwanted by one party while the other party does not stop the pursuit. The law does not require the employee to tell the person to stop or that it is unwanted. Once the behavior becomes unwanted and interferes with the employee performing the work, it becomes sexual harassment.

An employee can also be joking around and unintendedly create a hostile work environment because of their sexual comments. For example, an employee spends time in the breakroom talking with their coworkers and telling jokes that have a sexual nature. The employee telling the jokes and the coworkers joining him in the jokes all think they are funny and are enjoying themselves. The employee telling the jokes doesn't realize that another employee is in the breakroom overhearing the jokes. The jokes were unwanted and made the other employee feel uncomfortable. This continues for several days in the breakroom as part of their lunch hour. This behavior becomes sexual harassment to the employee that is overhearing the jokes.

Human Resource Management: Laws and Regulations

In this lesson, we will explore some of the laws, regulations, policies and governing entities that human resource management (HRM) must comply with in an organization. These include:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • Sexual harassment
  • Affirmative action

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Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against covered employees on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin. This means human resource managers must be fair in hiring qualified employees without discrimination.

Nick, owner of Nick's Pizza, held a job fair at his pizzeria. He was looking for a few good pizza makers, a sous chef, a bookkeeper and a server. He wasn't very familiar with the Civil Rights Act, so prior to holding his job fair, Nick took a class on human resource law. When it came to making the hiring decisions, Nick knew he had to do the right thing. He hired a diverse staff.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is a federal agency that enforces the rules of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. The EEOC handles employee claims of discrimination and implementing new anti-discrimination laws.

The EEOC does not only handle violations of the Civil Rights Act. The commission also handles the:

Although Nick knew a lot about the Civil Rights Act, he was unfamiliar with some of the other rules of employment. When his sous chef, Maria, became pregnant, Nick wanted to terminate her. Nick didn't think she could reach over the sauce pot or lift the heavy pans in her condition. Maria reminded him about the EEOC and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of bullying or unwanted sexual advances in exchange for reward or favor, and it is illegal. The harassment is considered sexual in nature whether it is verbal or physical. It can be:

  • Engaging in unwanted physical touch
  • Making sexual gestures
  • Displaying sexual images
  • Telling sexual jokes
  • Looking at a person in a sexual way
  • Commenting sexually about clothing or appearance
  • Asking sexually-oriented questions
  • Creating a hostile work environment

Let's visit Nick's pizzeria again. Nick recently hired Prudence as his new bookkeeper. On the days when Nick's cousin Tony worked, he would hug Prudence without her permission. When she resisted and demanded that he stop, he threatened to tell Nick that she was not doing her job. This made her very uncomfortable and created a hostile and threatening work environment.

If Tony continues his groping after being warned, Prudence would have a valid claim of sexual harassment against Tony. The EEOC would handle this type of complaint.

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Video Transcript

Human Resource Management: Laws and Regulations

In this lesson, we will explore some of the laws, regulations, policies and governing entities that human resource management (HRM) must comply with in an organization. These include:

  • The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
  • Sexual harassment
  • Affirmative action

Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII prohibits employers from discriminating against covered employees on the basis of race, color, religion, gender or national origin. This means human resource managers must be fair in hiring qualified employees without discrimination.

Nick, owner of Nick's Pizza, held a job fair at his pizzeria. He was looking for a few good pizza makers, a sous chef, a bookkeeper and a server. He wasn't very familiar with the Civil Rights Act, so prior to holding his job fair, Nick took a class on human resource law. When it came to making the hiring decisions, Nick knew he had to do the right thing. He hired a diverse staff.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, is a federal agency that enforces the rules of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII. The EEOC handles employee claims of discrimination and implementing new anti-discrimination laws.

The EEOC does not only handle violations of the Civil Rights Act. The commission also handles the:

Although Nick knew a lot about the Civil Rights Act, he was unfamiliar with some of the other rules of employment. When his sous chef, Maria, became pregnant, Nick wanted to terminate her. Nick didn't think she could reach over the sauce pot or lift the heavy pans in her condition. Maria reminded him about the EEOC and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment is a form of bullying or unwanted sexual advances in exchange for reward or favor, and it is illegal. The harassment is considered sexual in nature whether it is verbal or physical. It can be:

  • Engaging in unwanted physical touch
  • Making sexual gestures
  • Displaying sexual images
  • Telling sexual jokes
  • Looking at a person in a sexual way
  • Commenting sexually about clothing or appearance
  • Asking sexually-oriented questions
  • Creating a hostile work environment

Let's visit Nick's pizzeria again. Nick recently hired Prudence as his new bookkeeper. On the days when Nick's cousin Tony worked, he would hug Prudence without her permission. When she resisted and demanded that he stop, he threatened to tell Nick that she was not doing her job. This made her very uncomfortable and created a hostile and threatening work environment.

If Tony continues his groping after being warned, Prudence would have a valid claim of sexual harassment against Tony. The EEOC would handle this type of complaint.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the three most important HR laws?

The three most important HR laws are Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Discrimination, and Labor Laws pertaining to minimum wage and working conditions. These laws are laws that help human resource professionals create organizational human resource rules. An employer that has fifteen or more employees their employees are protected and covered by the EEOC.

What laws do human resources have to follow?

Human Resources has to follow all federal, state, and local laws that pertain to employment laws. These laws consist of sexual harassment, discrimination, minimum wage, etc.

What are HR rules?

Human Resource rules are policies and procedures that guide an organization on employment procedures. These policies and procedures protect the organization from violating city, state, and federal employment laws.

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