9 Commonly Misunderstood Labor Rules

Updated June 01, 2023
Julie Bawden-Davis
Written byJulie Bawden-Davis
Zachary Ace Aiuppa
Edited byZachary Ace Aiuppa
Share this guide

As a small business owner, it’s up to you to stay current with labor employment laws that affect your employees and abide by labor rules. Failing to follow labor laws can result in expensive fines and litigation from disgruntled employees.

The following nine labor rules are often misunderstood. Learning as much as possible about them will help you avoid any issues. 

(The following is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have a legal question about labor rules, consult a licensed business attorney.)

1. Employee Leave Through the FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to companies with 50 or more employees. The act ensures that eligible workers receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for medical or family reasons. Your company must keep employees’ jobs available and protected during their time off.

To show eligibility for unpaid leave, employees must provide employers with documentation from a medical professional relaying why the person needs time off for medical reasons. Employees can request unpaid leave from your company for the following:

  • To care for a newborn child within the first year of life

  • To care for an adopted or foster care child within one year of placement

  • To manage the care of a child, parent, or spouse with a serious medical condition

  • To care for a military family member with a severe injury or illness

  • To recuperate from a serious illness that prevents an employee from performing his or her duties

  • For any urgent situation that occurs because an employee’s direct family member is in the military on active duty

2. Employee Right to Discuss Salaries With Coworkers

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) states that employers cannot stop most employees from discussing their salaries and terms and conditions of employment amongst themselves. Employees are permitted to discuss wages because this is necessary to organize or unionize if desired.

3. Employee Freedom to Post Negatively About a Company on Social Media

An employee’s ability to post their views about your company on social media is also covered in the NLRA. This is allowed because the act calls for employees to be able to come together to make changes to their employment. The right is protected, even if all the employees do is complain.

If you wish to include a social media policy in your employee handbook, it’s advisable to seek legal counsel to ensure you’re not violating Section 7 of the NLRA.

4. OFCCP and Affirmative Action Requirements

It’s essential to understand the rules released by the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in 2013. These included strengthened discrimination protections for veterans and those with disabilities. 

Affirmative action requirements went into effect in 2014, including hiring quotas for qualified individuals with disabilities that amount to 7% of the total workforce. Employers must also allow employees to voluntarily self-identify as disabled individuals or protected veterans.

5. Independent Contractors

There are strict rules as to who you can treat as an employee. As their name suggests, independent contractors are in business for themselves. However, if contractors who work for your business fit certain criteria, they are considered employees by the federal government. It’s important to know the difference.

A contractor is independent if the person creates their own schedule and works most of the time offsite. They can work when they want and accomplish their jobs in whatever way they see fit.

6. Employees and Overtime

A common misconception is that an employer can decide which employees are exempt from overtime. This isn’t true. The type of work the person is doing determines whether they get overtime.

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees with more than 40 hours of work per week must be paid overtime pay at a rate of one and one-half times the workers’ regular rate of pay. You can find more information on the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division page, which also includes laws regarding minimum wage.

Employees ineligible for overtime pay must fall into the FLSA’s executive, administrative, or professional exemptions, sometimes called white-collar exemptions. These jobs require specific job responsibilities and requirements.

Keep in mind that the IRS and the Department of Labor are on the lookout for businesses that misclassify workers to avoid overtime and taxes. The IRS uses a 20-factor test to catch these offenders. Ensure that your company follows the rules to avoid problems with Uncle Sam.

7. Paying Employees for Unauthorized Overtime

If an employee works overtime despite your instructions not to do so, the employee is still owed overtime pay. It doesn’t matter if the person is violating a written policy or direct orders. A manager or supervisor who is aware the employee is working overtime must compensate the person for the extra workday hours. You may, however, discipline the employee so that the behavior is hopefully not repeated in another workweek.

8. Wrongful Termination

Generally, employees are working for your company “at will.” That means they can be terminated from employment at any time for any reason without notice from you. 

Wrongful termination involves an employee being fired because of discrimination on the part of your company. Knowing your rights will protect you from employees who falsely accuse your company of wrongful termination.

9. Harassment

Harassment is a commonly used term that many don’t fully understand. Some employees may think that the term refers to having to work with a superior who is difficult to deal with. That’s not the case. 

Harassment refers to when management or another employee commits repeated aggressive actions against an employee. The harassment involves one’s sexuality, religion, gender, or race. If any of these circumstances arise, your company may be liable.

To safeguard your company and prevent labor law issues, review your employee handbook now. Check that none of your policies or rules violate your employees’ rights according to labor rules and federal law.

Running a business in a professional manner and staying informed is the best way to ensure that your company is successful. For more human resource tips or help with managing your small business, please check out our learning center, or reach out to our friendly Swyft Filings business professionals.

Originally published on October 24, 2022, and last edited on June 01, 2023.

Frequently Asked Questions

Looking for answers? You came to the right place. To learn more about our company mission and culture, click the link below.

Life at Swyft
How much does it cost to form a corporation or LLC?

You can form a corporation or LLC with our help for as little as $0, plus state filing fees for incorporation. Filing fees vary depending on the state you incorporate in. For more information on specific states, check out our state guides on the Swyft Resource Center. You can also email us with specific questions or contact us at 877-777-0450.

What payment methods do you accept?

Swyft Filings accepts payment through Visa, MasterCard, American Express, PayPal, checks, and money orders. You can send any questions about payment to our email address or contact us at 877-777-0450.

Will I have to pay additional fees to Swyft Filings after completing my order?

It depends on what you ordered. If all you did was file your corporation or LLC, the price you paid when ordering is all you pay. You will have no further fees after that.

However, if you signed up for the Swyft Filings Registered Agent Service, you will be charged its initial fee three days after you place your order. From then on, you will be charged according to the terms of your subscription until you change your registered agent with the state or dissolve your company. If you change your agent or dissolve your company on your own, let us know so we can discontinue billing.

Other potential subscription-based options include SnapMailbox, 360 Legal Forms, and ComplianceGuard. If you opt for SnapMailbox or 360 Legal Forms, you will be charged a monthly fee after their respective 30-day free trials end. ComplianceGuard has an annual fee after a 14-day free trial. All three of these services are completely optional.

When will my order be processed?

Our team processes all Standard orders on a first come, first served basis. If you opt for Express or Same-Day Processing, we prioritize your order and send it to the front of the line. However, no matter how fast we get it out the door, you’ll still have to wait for your state to address your filing.

Swyft Blog

Everything you need to know about starting your business.

Each and every one of our customers is assigned a personal Business Specialist. You have their direct phone number and email. Have questions? Just call your personal Business Specialist. No need to wait in a pool of phone calls.

Woman in room with flowers in vases.
Preparing to Launch

5 LegalZoom Alternatives for Entrepreneurs

If you’ve considered forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC), corporation, or nonprofit, you’ve probably heard of LegalZoom. This service has helped entrepreneurs with business formation since 2001.
Coffee Shop Owner on Computer
Preparing to Launch

Northwest Registered Agent vs. LegalZoom

Our Northwest Registered Agent vs. LegalZoom comparison reviews each service’s formation time, customer service, and offerings so you make an informed choice.
Nonprofit Spotlight: Bailey's Bookworms' Mission of Literacy
Managing Your Business

Nonprofit Spotlight: Bailey's Bookworms' Mission of Literacy

Swyft Filings is a business formation service that automates the filing process for entrepreneurs, making it easier to get their LLC, C corp, S corp, or nonprofit off the ground. Since 2015, we've helped over 300,000 businesses incorporate.
Blog Card Image
Managing Your Business

What's an Apostille?

Swyft Filings is a business formation service that automates the filing process for entrepreneurs, making it easier to get their LLC, C corp, S corp, or nonprofit off the ground. Since 2015, we've helped over 300,000 businesses incorporate.
zenbusiness vs legalzoom - Swyft Filings

ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom: Comparing LLC Formation Services

Our ZenBusiness vs. LegalZoom comparison reviews each service’s formation time, customer service, and other features so you make an informed choice.
Setting Up Business Credit
Managing Your Business

How to Get an EIN to Open a Business Bank Account

In most cases, you need an employer identification number to open a business bank account. Follow these steps to get an EIN for your business banking needs

Do what you love. We'll handle the paperwork.

Trusted by over 250,000 businesses since 2015. Start your business with confidence. Affordable. Fast. Simple.

Incorporate now
Dummy Switchback Image