The General Duties of Employers to Employees

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When you hire your first employees, you have some responsibilities to that employee, and to all future employees, relating to compensation. These responsibilities are codified under federal, state, and local laws:

Paying Employees 

Federal laws say you must pay at least the minimum wage (unless the employee receives tips or is somehow not subject to minimum wage.

Unless an employee is categorized as exempt (managerial, professional, and supervisory employees), you must pay overtime at 1 1/2 times hourly pay, for all hours worked over 40 in any week. If the employee, is exempt and he or she is paid below a specific amount, you must pay that exempt employee overtime.  

Reporting to Employees

Along with each paycheck, you must provide employees with a statement showing gross pay, deductions and withholding, and net pay for the pay period and the year to date.

You must provide employees with a yearly statement of earnings, withholding, and deductions, no later than the end of January of the next year. This statement is a W-2 Statement of Earnings.

Some states have more strict requirements for paying employees. Check with your state labor department for more on your state's labor laws.

Keeping Employees Safe

It sounds obvious to say that you have a responsibility to keep employees safe, but that responsibility wasn't always so important to employers. The passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) in 1970 codified this employer responsibility. The provisions of OSHA apply to any employer with even one employee. 

You must provide all workers with a safe, healthy place in which to work, under the provisions of the. This law applies to all employers. The Department of Labor has quite a long list of employer responsibilities under OSHA. And this is only a "summary of key provisions." 

If your employees are under 18, you have responsibilities to keep them safe, based on child labor laws

Treating Employees Fairly

New laws in the 20th century made it clear that treating all employees the same way is important. You must treat employees fairly in pay. For example, the Equal Pay Act requires that men and women doing essentially the same job must be paid at the same rate and the 

Your responsibility for fair treatment for disabled employees is required under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, including: 

  • equal opportunity in selecting, testing, and hiring qualified applicants with disabilities;
  • job accommodation for applicants and workers with disabilities when such accommodations would not impose "undue hardship;" and
  • equal opportunity in promotion and benefits.

More general responsibilities for treating employees equally come under federal, state and local civil rights laws. 

Some Additional Responsibilities to Employees

When the employee leaves or is terminated, you must pay a final paycheck as soon as possible, but no longer than 30 days after termination (some states require more prompt payment).

If you have 50 or more employees, under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, you must give employees time off for sickness, disability, or family leave.

Employee Responsibilities to Employers

Wait a minute! This responsibility thing works both ways. What about responsibilities that employees have to you as their employer? Your employees have a responsibility to: 

  • Obedience. Obeying rules, policies, and - most important - work directions and commands is a basic part of what it means to be an employee.
  • Dealing honestly with the employer, not lying or stealing from the employer. That includes honestly representing himself/herself in an employment application.
  • Work with reasonable care and skill, at the job assigned, during the time required. In other words, giving full value of the time for which the employee is being paid.
  • Not to disclose confidential employer information to others.
  • To disclose any possible conflict of interest, such as work for a competitor or a relationship that could compromise the employer.
  • Care for the employer's property, equipment, and facilities. Sure, it's probably okay to check personal email while at work, but spending work time reading trashy novels isn't being honest or giving full value

Responsibilities to Employees - State Provisions

Each U.S. state has different provisions reflecting responsibilities to employees. Check with your state's department of labor (or similar title) for more information. 

Putting Responsibilities in Writing

You have all these responsibilities to employees, so why not get credit for them? Include your responsibilities in your employee handbook, along with other policies and procedures. Write a section of your handbook that describes these responsibilities and includes responsibilities employees have to you as their employer.