The Major Laws of the Department of Labor in the USA

The Major Laws of the Department of Labor in the USA The Department of Labor in the USA administers more than 180 federal laws that aim to offer regulations regarding different parts of the working process. These laws are not only for employees but for employers too. In the USA, there are currently over 10 million working places and over 140 million workers. Even though now due to the coronavirus pandemic some of the working conditions and benefits may have changed, they need to follow the federal laws. So, which are the major laws the Department of Labor in the USA monitors and regulates?

Knowing these laws is important both for employees and employers. They give both rights and responsibilities to both parties to make sure the working place and environment are the suited one for employees.

Wages, Working Hours, and Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act is the one that sets the standard on the wages, how overtime hours should be paid, from which age children can start working, and other regulations valid both for agricultural and non-agricultural businesses. This act is important because it forces employers to pay the overtime hours their employees make with 1 or 1.5 x the regular hourly pay. This is important because many employees are sometimes asked to do overtime or come to work on weekends or they have a free shift. And in many cases, the employer avoids paying the employees for overtime. At the same time, this act sets some regulations all states need to abide by regarding the employment of underaged employees.

There are some domains or industries that are not allowed to hire children under 18, as some jobs could be really dangerous for them. At the same time, there are working hours regulations for the underaged, and employers need to abide by them. The Fair Labor Standards Act also has some regulations for non-US citizens that want to work in this country.

Employee Benefit Security

Another important part of the labor process is the benefits that employees are getting from their employers. There are some benefits that employers are obliged by federal law to offer to the employees. The Employee Retirement Security Act is part of the employee benefits and urges employers to contribute to a retirement plan. By law, the employer is obliged to pay a part of the contribution, with the other part being paid by the employee. There is a minimum contribution every employer has to pay for the employees, but they can pay more if they want.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act forces the employer to pay a contribution to Medicare and make sure that its employees have medical insurance.

Workers’ Compensation

There are compensation programs that are characteristic of each state, so it is important to check the local state’s laws regarding workers’ compensation.

However, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Program has a few laws that apply to each state. For example, there is The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act that forces employers to pay for the medical care maritime workers will need. Maritime workers are a pretty general description; here are included shipbuilders or repairers, harbor or longshore workers. Because the ocean can sometimes be agitated, accidents can easily happen. Maritime workers that suffer accidents or get ill as a consequence of a work activity have the medical care covered by the employer.

Some domains are even more dangerous than maritime workers, and that is the domain of energy. Many workers are exposed to radiation and that work with uranium or other radioactive substances that may harm their health. The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act puts the basis of a compensation program for employees that are working in the energy sector. Employees may benefit up to $150,000 for medical care, an important benefit for workers in these domains.

Another domain that has a negative impact on the health of the workers is coal mining. In the US there are over 800 coal mines that are currently operating that employ over 50,000 people. Constantly working in coal mines has a negative effect on the health of your lungs. There is a compensation program provided by The Black Lung Benefits Act that compensates workers with financial incentives and medical care. Moreover, there are also some specifications for the cases in which workers may die due to working conditions.

Medical Leave

There are also moments when a member of your family gets sick and you need to stand by them. Working and caring for an ill family member might be challenging, this is why the Family and Medical Leave Act comes with some regulations regarding medical leave. Businesses that have at least 50 employees are required by federal law to give their employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually. During this time, the job, wage, and benefits of the employee are protected, so there is no risk of losing your job.


The Department of Labor manages more federal laws and acts than these presented. However, these are the main ones that come with regulations regarding employee benefits, workers’ compensation, wages, overtime, and working hours. At the same time, most of these federal laws force the employer to pay for compensations and allow the employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical care. If there are accidents that happen at the workplace or illness that appear as a consequence of working in an unhealthy space (as is the case with coal mine workers), the employer has to pay for the medical care and treatment. Some laws are characteristic of every state, so make sure you check those as well.

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