Employment laws provide a legal framework for the relationship between employers and employees. They also protect employees at all stages from hiring to post-termination. Here are some important things employees in Louisiana should know about employment law.
Employers are prohibited by federal law from discriminating against potential employees on the basis of gender, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, or status as a protected veteran. An employer may not ask a job candidates about marital status, religion, gender, race, color, national origin, age, or disability in the course of an employment interview. Examples of prohibited questions would be:
- Are you married?
- When did you graduate from high school?
- How old are your children?
- Where do you go to church?
Employers who base hiring decisions on any of these improper, discriminatory factors risk subjecting themselves to potential liability for employment discrimination.
Minimum Wage and Overtime
The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour applies to all covered, nonexempt employees. Businesses with more than $500,000 in annual gross sales, as well as employees of smaller businesses engaged in interstate commerce, are covered by the federal minimum wage, but many employees are exempt. The most common exemptions include executives, administrative personnel, professional employees, and outside sales employees. Additionally, the federal minimum wage does not apply to workers who receive tips as long as their combined wages and tips are at least equal to the federal minimum wage.
Federal law also requires employers to compensate all covered, nonexempt employees for overtime work in excess of 40 hours a week at the rate of 1.5 times the employee's usual rate of pay. Exemptions to the overtime pay requirement include executives, administrative personnel, professional employees, outside sales employees, and commissioned sales employees.
In addition to the federal minimum wage and overtime laws, states can also enact their own minimum wage laws, and these sometimes provide employees with greater benefits than federal law. Louisiana does not have a state minimum wage law. The minimum wage in Louisiana is the same as the federal minimum wage.
Employers are required to provide employees with a safe work environment under the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA covers almost all persons in the workplace with the exception of independent contractors. Workers with a safety complaint may file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and employers can't discriminate in any way against workers who have done so.
Workers' compensation is a required no-fault insurance program that provides benefits to workers who are injured on the job. Workers' compensation benefits pay medical bills and compensate the worker for a portion of his lost wages. All employers are required to provide workers' compensation coverage.
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to give covered employees up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for covered events. FMLA applies to all government employers and to all private employers with 50 or more employees.
Louisiana does not have a specific law that gives employees time off from work to vote. However, state law does prohibit employers from penalizing employees for exercising their right to vote.
Federal law prohibits all employee harassment. Harassment is any unwelcome conduct on the basis of gender, age, race or color, religion, national origin, or disability. The conduct must either be a condition to continued employment or be so severe and continuous that it creates a work environment that a reasonable person would find abusive or intimidating. The victim does not have to be the target the of the unwelcome conduct; it's enough to prove that the victim is offended by the harassing behavior. A harassment victim can file a complaint against the employer and, in some circumstances, can sue the employer for monetary damages.
Termination of Employment
Louisiana is an at-will employment state. An employer can usually fire an employee for any reason at any time. An exception exists when an employment contract exists between the parties which limits the employer's ability to terminate the employment relationship at will. Additionally, employers may not fire employees for illegal reasons, such as employment discrimination based on age, race, or gender. Employers cannot fire workers in retaliation against complaints made against the employer, including workers' compensation claims, reports of unsafe work environments, or discrimination.
Louisiana law requires that employers deliver final paychecks to terminated employees on or before the next scheduled pay date or 15 days from the date of termination. The final paycheck must include any accrued vacation time if the employee is entitled to compensation under the employer's established policies.
If an employee's job is terminated by the employer, the employee may be eligible to receive unemployment compensation benefits. To be eligible for unemployment, the employee must be unemployed through no fault of his own, be able and willing to work, seek full time employment, and file a claim for benefits. Additionally, former employees may be entitled to continuation of their health insurance at the employee's expense under COBRA. COBRA laws apply only to employers with 20 or more employees.
Help From a Louisiana Labor Attorney
Employment laws are complex. Employees with questions about their job situation should talk with a Louisiana employment lawyer.