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What Happens When A Federal Labor Law Is Broken?

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Employers often run into conflicts with federal labor laws. Sometimes these conflicts are completely inadvertent. In other cases, employers are fully aware that they are breaking the law. To the government, the reason for the federal labor law violation is irrelevant. If the government finds that the employer has broken federal labor laws, it will take action. Potential penalties for breaking these laws varies based on the violation. Violations can include interfering with the rights of employees to act together, wage violations, failure to maintain a safe work environment, and failure to provide mandated leave.

Potential penalties of breaking federal labor laws

Employers can face severe penalties and fines for violating federal labor laws. Employers may even be required to pay an employee back pay. If the employee was fired for wrongful reasons, the employer may have to reinstate that person as an employee.

Federal labor law violation: Interfering with the rights of employees to act together

Per the National Labor Relations act, employers and labor unions are prohibited from interfering with the right of employees to engage in concerted action. If an employee claims that an employer has violated the law, it becomes the responsibility of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to investigate.

The employer will come before an administrative judge for an NLRB hearing. From the evidence presented, the judge will render a decision. Appealing a negative decision is a costly, time-consuming process. Most employers just accept the decision and move forward.

Penalties can be as simple as posting employee rights in a conspicuous place. Other penalties can involve reinstating a fired employee and paying back wages.

Federal labor law violation: Wage violation

The Fair Labor Relations Act (FLRA) requires employers to pay minimum wage, classify employees properly as exempt or nonexempt, and pay overtime. This law also requires employers to keep records properly, and maintain strict adherence to child labor laws. An employee can file a grievance with the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

The investigation will focus on the allegation as well as the employer’s record keeping practices, employee classification, and time and pay records for all employees.

Employers found guilty of violating the FLRA can face fines and penalties. Employers can also be required to pay back wages to current and former employees if this federal labor law is broken. The Wage and Hour Division may make the violations public and report the investigation’s outcome to the media.

Federal labor law violation: Failure to maintain a safe work environment

Employers are required, by law, to keep the workplace safe for employees. This requirement falls under the jurisdiction of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA enforces laws related to dangerous equipment, hazardous chemicals, and unsafe work conditions.

An employee can file a complaint with OSHA, which triggers an inspection. The investigator will do a detailed walk-through of the employer’s physical premises. Not only will the investigator look at the employee’s specific complaint, he will also look for any other federal labor law violations.

The employer must correct any federal labor law violations found. If the investigator finds the employer willfully disregarded OSHA rules, there can be penalties up to $70,000. If the employer does not correct violations, the company may be fined up to $7,000 per day until they are corrected. If an employee died as a result of an OSHA violation, the consequences can be severe. For the first violation, the penalty is up to 6 months in jail and a $10,000 fine.

Federal labor law violation: Failure to provide mandated leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a law that requires certain employers to give up to twelve weeks of leave (unpaid) to eligible employees. The employer must post this information in places employees can see. If an employee makes an allegation that the employer violated the provisions of the FMLA, there will be an investigation. The investigator will look through the employer’s records regarding FMLA. These federal labor law violations can result in a number of penalties. A simple failure to post the FMLA information can result in a fine of $110.

If the employer terminated an employee wrongfully due to an FMLA violation, the investigation gets a bit more serious. The investigator may refer the matter to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Penalties for wrongful termination can result in paying the employee back wages and interest, as well as reinstating the employee.

The easiest way to avoid problems is to follow federal labor laws closely. If you are facing an investigation involving violation, you need to get legal counsel as soon as possible. The Labor and Employment lawyers at Brown & Fortunato in Amarillo can help. You can reach us at (806) 345-6300 or Contact Us via email. Visit our offices at 905 S. Fillmore, Suite 400, in downtown Amarillo. Check out our website for more information on our practice areas.

This information is subject to change. Please check for updates that are more recent than the published date of this article.