In addition to federal laws, employers must also comply with all state laws. While not all state labor laws apply to every business, employers should be familiar with the laws that do.
Federal versus State. Which Laws Should Your Business Follow? In general, state labor laws don't supersede federal laws. However, in certain situations, if a state law offers more rights and protection than a federal law, employers are entitled to the protections that are the most beneficial to them.
How do State Labor Laws Differ from Federal Labor Laws? In many cases, state laws are stricter and may provide a greater level of protection over federal employment laws.
Here are some of the most common areas where state and federal laws may differ.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), there are a few areas where state law can supersede federal law. The Department of Labor provides more details on the differences between federal laws and individual state laws under FLSA at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/state.
Minimum Wage and Overtime Rules
The area of minimum wage is one example of how state employment laws can differ from federal laws. While FLSA provides basic wage and hour protection for most workers, individual states also have the authority to establish separate standards, including higher minimum wage and more protective overtime rules for workers.
If the state law sets the minimum wage below the federal minimum wage, the federal law then supersedes the state law. However, if the state law sets the minimum wage higher than the federal minimum wage, the state law supersedes the federal law. The Department of Labor's interactive map provides the latest information on minimum wage rates and laws in each state.
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Child Labor Laws
Every state has laws specific to child labor issues. When the standards of federal and state laws are different, the rules that provide the most protection to young workers apply.
Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA)
The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) oversees workplace safety and health standards at the federal level. However, many states also have similar laws which enforce stricter standards than required by OSHA.
Federal and state labor laws can differ on drug testing for both applicants and employees. To protect your business, have a drug-testing policy in place that details the specifics of testing in the states where you have employees. For example, in some states, blood testing is illegal.
Right to Work Law
There is no federal Right to Work law, but many states include laws preventing employees from having to pay union dues in order to work.
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Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides eligible employees unpaid, job-protected time off from work, along with benefits, for qualifying events. In some states, and under certain circumstances, additional time-off may be allowed.
The Department of Labor (DOL) provides additional information and a comparison of federal and state labor laws under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) at www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/state
Workers’ Compensation Laws
Workers’ Compensation laws were designed to eliminate the need for litigation and ensure injured employees are financially protected from lost wages and medical bills. Workers’ Compensation requirements vary by state, by industry, as well as by the size and of your business and payroll.
Workplace Labor Posters and Notices
Mandatory labor laws for posting labor posters differ by state, such as EEOC notices about employment rights, FLSA minimum wage posters, and OSHA notices about workplace safety.
Employment-related training responsibilities can be a challenge for employers with workers in multiple states. For example, in some states, mandatory training on EEOC laws and sexual harassment may be required, as well as required training related to specific industries and occupations.
Additional State-Specific Labor Laws
Depending on the issue, there may be additional areas where state and federal laws differ, such as requirements for paid rest and meal periods and payday requirements. Check with the Department of Labor for more information on individual state labor laws.
Keep Your Business In Compliance
As changing labor laws become more complex, and the burden of HR compliance continues to grow, outsourcing to a certified PEO, like Propel HR, can help reduce risks and prevent costly compliance violations. This includes complying with the labor laws and regulations governed by the state where all of your employees are working, not just where your business is based.
Please Note: This information is for general reference purposes only. Because laws, regulations, and filing deadlines are constantly changing, check with the appropriate organizations or government agencies for the latest information and consult your employment attorney and/or benefits advisor regarding your responsibilities to ensure you are compliant with all of the laws that apply to your business. In addition, your company may be exempt from certain requirements and/or be subject to different requirements under the laws of your state.
Propel HR President Lee Yarborough was recently elected Chair of the National Association of Professional Employer Organizations (NAPEO) Board of Directors. She spoke with PEO Insider magazine to share where she thinks the industry is headed and how NAPEO can continue to grow. Download a pdf version of the full interview: A Passion To Serve
About Propel HR. Propel HR is an IRS-certified PEO that has been a leading provider of human resources and payroll solutions for 25 years. Propel partners with small to midsized businesses to manage payroll, employee benefits, compliance and risks, and other HR functions in a way that maximizes efficiency and reduces costs.