Think Employment Law Doesn’t Apply to You? Think Again

That’s the title of a short article from Inc. magazine, but well worth the two minutes it takes to read. It highlights the often-confusing framework of federal employment laws that can trap unwary employers, even small ones.

Here’s the lead:

Quick quiz: You have 35 employees. One of your junior analysts is pregnant. Do you have to allow her to take 12 weeks off for childbirth, recovery, and bonding and provide her with the job when she returns?

What seems like a clear no–the FMLA doesn’t apply to employers with fewer than 50 employees–quickly changes course when Title VII comes up. It kicks in at 15 employees, but requires employers to treat pregnant employees the same as it would any other employee with a short-term injury. So your worry-free FMLA answer just became a potential discrimination lawsuit.

It then shifts to the case of employers who explicitly give the impression that employees are FMLA-eligible, even though they’re not. If you promise the leave, a court may make you follow through.

Add in state (or, in some cases, local) laws, and you see how this simple answer becomes much more complex.

The point is it’s never quite as easy as it seems.

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