There is no law against stupid

There is no law against stupid

For the past few weeks, I have been traveling the United States talking to Human Resources Professionals, and Business Leaders about Employment Law. What I learned from listening to the audience is that there are stupid people in the world. Of course, this was no surprise.

There is no law against stupid.

However, there are thousands of laws that govern the relationship between employer and employee.

Listening to the Human Resource Professionals and Business Leaders in my seminar, I realize that stupidity is not reserved just for our front-line employees. These professionals told me about hiring manager’s asking questions of applicants about their family life. The one I heard most often was, “Do you have any children or are you planning to have any children?” (Just in case – you are not allowed to ask people about their family life during the interview process?)

Are your managers, supervisors, and HR people up to date on the laws that govern the relationship between you as an employer and your employees?

I will admit what I call the alphabet soup of acronyms used to describe employment law, can be confusing. ADA, HIPPA, COBRA, FLSA, FMLA, OSHA, GINA, etc. However, ignorance of the law is not a legal excuse. It is our responsibility to make sure we are familiar with the rules that govern our relationship with our employees.

Here are the seven examples of the most misunderstood laws based on my seminars over the last few weeks.

Employment Verification: All Employers must use the I-9 form to verify the employee’s identity and ability to work in the United States. This document must be kept on site and be available if the USCIS request it. Click here for more information.

Interview Questions: As employers, we need to know what to questions we can ask and what ones we can’t ask. For instance, do you know that it is illegal to ask if a person owns or rent their home, or what year did you graduate from high school? Click here for more information

Concerted Activities: when our workers gather and discuss compensation, working conditions or shift schedules, what could go wrong? Though it might be a thorn in our side, employees can join in these concerted activities with their co-workers as protected by the National Labor Relations Act. (click here for more information)

Employment at Will: According to most states, our relationship with our employees is at will. Employment at will means that either party can sever the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, no reason, with or without notice. It sounds to go to be true, and it probably is by the number of wrongful termination suits in the news. For us to keep the privilege of employment at will, we need to be very careful with the information we put in our employee handbooks and the conversations with our employees. For instance, if you say something like, “We treat everyone as family, you will never be fired unless you mess up,” you are telling the employee that you will only fire them for just cause, no longer employment-at-will situation.

 Job Advertisements: If you read any of the summers want ads you might see hiring college age or young people for the summer. These ads are illegal under Title VII because they discriminate against a protected class. In this case, people who are over 40 years old. If you are not aware of Title VII and how it protects certain types of people, read more about it here.

Sexual Harassment: How are you training your managers/leaders to understand, prevent and respond to sexual harassment in the workplace? Do you have an anti-harassment policy? The EEOC states, “It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.” More importantly, your organization can be held liable for the actions of your supervisors and managers, specifically if you haven’t offered them any training or provided a process for employees to report sexual harassment on the job. Learn more here.

Family Medical Leave Act: Do you have over 50 people in your organization that are working within 75 miles of each other? If so your organization falls under the FMLA, which means that you need to provide to your employees up to twelve weeks of unprotected unpaid job leave. According to many managers and supervisors, this is one of the most confusing law governing the relationship between employer and employee. If your employee is welcoming a new child into his family, did you let him have off? Learn More here.

​There are thousand laws and regulations that regulate the relationship between employer and employee. The more I travel the more I realize that leaders, managers and supervisors are unaware of how these laws impact them. And as my friend the judge says, ignorance is not a legal excuse.

Then again, there is no law against stupid.


John Thalheimer is the Executive Director of True Star Leadership and has been traveling the country talking to business owners and leaders about the importance of understanding the laws that govern the relationship between employer and employee. He has a master’s in organizational leadership and dual-certified in leadership coaching. He believes that every organization and every employee deserve a great leader. Are you prepared?

2 Responses

  1. Whoever thought of the employment at will idea was beyond stupid. All it does is create supervisor who don’t have any accountability very often.

    1. Michael,
      That is true, but there are a lot of other laws and concerns that supervisors and managers need to be aware of before that use employment at will. For instance, Title VII protects employees from being discriminated against.

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