Labor laws can be complicated and confusing for new small business owners. They also may think that as you hire new employees, it won’t be that big of a change from when they were a one-man shop. Before you make any large decisions about hiring staff, you’ll need to be sure you’re following all of the laws that cover a business of your size. Make sure to check with your state to see if there are any state-level laws that your company will need to comply with in addition to the federal labor protection statutes. Many of these were put into place at the turn of the 20th century to protect the average worker from being exploited, including the banning of child labor and basic workplace health and safety codes. Learn about the laws in your area before you run afoul of them yourself.

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  • Pay attention to the questions you ask in interviews. According to the EEOC, you’re unable to discriminate in hiring someone based on race, color, age (over 40), gender, religion, pregnancy status, disability, veteran status and more. While some discriminations, such as gender, may be apparent when speaking to your candidate in an interview, others may not be. The best way to not discriminate against someone for these statuses is to simply not ask them questions about these subjects. If you’re interviewing for an accountant, you shouldn’t need to know what church they go to, or if they go to one at all. Best to keep your questions to ledgers and budgets.


  • Don’t fire someone for getting sick. If you’re an employer with more than 50 employees, everyone at your company is eligible for medical leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, which gives full-time employees 12 weeks off in a year to deal with medical issues of their own or a family member living in their household. This means that they will be able to take leave without worrying about being unemployed once they’re healed. The law requires you to hold their position or one of a similar level and job duty for them until they return. For women who work at companies without separate paid maternity leave, the FMLA allows them to have medical leave after they have a child.


  • Know the difference between an employee and an independent contractor. While you can hire a contractor or an employee to do the same work, how and where they get this work done determines the difference between the two categories. If you’re wanting someone like a receptionist to be in your office at set hours and you control their schedule, you’ll need to hire an employee. On the other hand, if you have a project like a new website design to be worked on, but you don’t have any requirements on their time aside from a deadline when the whole project is done, then you could hire an independent contractor. Many employers first starting out like to be able to hire contractors because they don’t have to pay payroll taxes or pay for benefits like health insurance. However, you can’t choose to make someone a contractor if they don’t have control of their own schedule. That would be against the law.


  • Make sure to pay your workers for the time worked, especially overtime. Non-exempt employees are hourly workers making less than $23,660 per year, or $47,476 per year after Dec. 2016. For every hour they work in a week over 40 hours, they will need to be paid for overtime work. You must count each week individually, so if someone worked 35 hours in one week and 45 in the next, they’d still need to be paid for 5 hours of overtime, even though they were averaging 40 hours. Paying your employees fairly is the law, and it also helps keep them satisfied with their work and more likely to do a better job.
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This article was written by Gillian Kruse of for CBS Small Business Pulse.


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