Employee Safety, Health, and Welfare Laws

Introduction

The U.S Labor force follows varied laws, both from state and the federal government. The latter only applies to those working in the federal government, while the former applies to the rest. Those who do not apply the federal laws include domestic workers, employees of the local government, and State employees. These mixed laws even proceeds to affect the working conditions of the employees and wages. For instance, the federal government provides the minimum standards required in a workplace and gives the states a chance to proceed, and gives additional strict laws regarding the same place of work. The federal government also controls wages and rights regarding overtime for most of the employees of public and private sectors. In this regard, the state laws provide more open laws. It can be seen that on several occasions the two bodies overlap; this is evidenced in the Federal government’s laws against discrimination of workers which is open for the States to enact but only in the condition that they provide more protection as compared to the federal government (Galinsky et al., 2008, pp. 2-35). Over the years, the laws have undergone reforms aimed at improving the workers’ condition; this has not come easy as sometimes it went through protests and chaos. However, there are regulations that were reformed in 1970 and 1993 respectively, that guide employee’s occupational safety, health, medical and family issues. This paper will analyze the stated laws, establish the responsibilities of employers and finally evaluate the protections that employees get from the law.

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) of 1993

This law that guides family leaves, as well as medical, was made functional in the year 1993 after it had passed through the vote of Congress. It’s signing into the U.S law was done by former president Bill Clinton, being one of the foremost bills in his first term as the U.S president. The law compels employers to offer their employees job protection which is unpaid in event of a leave due to serious health issues that incapacitate them from doing their regular activities. It is also enforced in a situation where the employees have to tend to serious family issues like newborn babies; this includes those who got through adoption and / or foster care. The division charged with enforcing this law in the Department of Labor is called Wage and Hour, found in the Employment and Standards Administration. The law takes into consideration the mounting family needs the employees to face and tries to offer help. This is not the case previously witnessed when the decision depended on the respective employers. Out of the estimated 141.7 million workforces, 94.4 Million were in FML-A covered sites while 76.1 Million were eligible for the leave. According to the National Survey of employers, the total percentages of small and large employers offering this package were estimated at 79% and 82% respectively (Galinsky et al., 2008, pp. 2-35).

This mandate had terms that were to be fulfilled to qualify, for example, a worker had to be within a 75-mile radius of worksite or public agencies and his/her employer had to be controlling at least 50 workers. Nonetheless, this number did not apply to public institutions and agencies. The worker must have served for 12 months; which may not be consecutive and must have worked for not less than 1250 hours in the last 12 months. Employers are supposed to give the numbers of eligible workers and the act does not apply for Non-eligible employees (Galinsky et al., 2008, pp. 2-35).

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) of 1970

This act was established in 1970 and was aimed at encouraging both employers and employees to mitigate risk hazards at the worksite. They were also expected to execute health and safety programs. It encourages the workers to take active roles in enhancing health and safety at their workplace. These were to be done by ensuring both employers and employees comply with the necessary rules, standards, and regulations regarding the safety and health of the workers. They were to be served with information on the relevant risk factors involved, ways of their mitigation, precautions to be adhered to, and actions to be followed in event of an accident in the worksite. These regulations included access to employee records, exposure, and running inspections on the agencies. They also monitored hazardous materials which are submitted to the National Institute of Occupational health and safety (Chao & Henshaw, 2003, p. 1).

Employers’ responsibilities under the law

The law obliges employers to inform OSHA of the health and safety standards at their respective places of work. These should be made available in copies whenever requested by OSHA; in addition, they should display the official poster of OSHA in their notices to show all the regulations. They are required to make the employees aware of the possible risks involved in workplaces and thereby help in their protection, especially those who work with risky materials. When employers apply for a temporary or permanent variance, they are obliged to inform their employees and post the necessary notices. They are also required to accord their employees access to medical records and submit them whenever needed. Employers have the responsibility of determining exposure to dangerous substances which must be seen by the workers. Again, any employer with 10 or more workers must keep records of all job-related illnesses and injuries and these records can be reviewed by the employees whenever necessary (Chao & Henshaw, 2003, p.1).

Protections that the law provides for employees

Employers and Workers are encouraged to work in unity to mitigate exposure to risks; by this, they suggest discussions between the two parties to create awareness and cooperation. Employees have the right to decline to work in unsafe conditions, and file complaints to the next available OSHA office. Employees also have the right to assist the compliance officer during the inspection, right to information, right to inspection, and the right to challenge the abatement period. The rights regarding protection from retaliation include the right to confidentiality, protection of whistleblowers, with the number of days for filing complaints ranging from 30 to 180 depending on its kind. Employees also have rights in State –Plan states and are required to read, comply, cooperate and exercise rights according to the OSHA regulations (Chao & Henshaw, 2003, p. 1).

Conclusion

These laws brought changes in the department of labor and have since helped protect workers from avoidable risks and unscrupulous employers who don’t mind their employees’ working conditions. However, more reforms are still desired to improve the workers’ conditions which would result in high efficiency. Such reforms as giving paid leaves would really improve the working environment. Others could include servicing the health and family needs like helping in school fees, health insurance among others.

References

  1. Chao, L. E. & Henshaw, L. J. (2003). OSHA: Employee Workplace Rights. Occupational Safety & Health Administration. Washington D.C.
  2. Galinsky, E. et al. (2008). National study of employers. New York, NY: Families and WorkInstitute.