elaine meszaros
26 October 18

Manufactured products, particularly foundry products, cannot reach their intended market without the labor of humans. That means there is always an opportunity for issues related to employment and labor to come to the fore and perhaps steal attention away from the critical operational issues of the foundry in favor of employment or labor issues. Indeed, manufacturers are often prime targets for organized labor issues including, but not limited to, unions, collective bargaining, and strikes.

Foundries and other manufacturing businesses can face varied difficult legal challenges and laws affecting their businesses. Frequently, these issues can cross into multiple areas of legal practice, which can complicate solutions, and, as noted, maintain an undesired amount of attention from foundry operations. This is often because labor and employment law does not happen to be contained within a neat package of rules and regulations that is easy to reference. Instead, rules protecting employers and employees are scattered in different sections of codes and regulations that are often regulated by separate agencies and also can be affected by local and state laws.

As a result, many employers and employees can be frustrated while attempting to get their arms around the laws, regulations, and protections available to both parties. If and when the time comes for the foundry to enforce its rights, both employers and employees need to know the rights and obligations of each party. It is also beneficial to have at least a limited knowledge of some points of the law so that employers and employees do not spend undesired amounts of time finding the laws and regulations or accumulating costly billable hours from legal counsel. The following is a brief summary of some portions of employment law that are frequently referenced. As you are likely aware, this column does not constitute legal advice, and you should consult your business attorney for further counsel regarding labor and employment issues.

Health and Safety Regulations
Keeping workers safe within the foundry operation is an important concern, to be sure. To help ensure workplace safety, laws work to protect both employers and employees from conditions that are not deemed to be safe, persons or institutions that cut corners, faulty equipment, etc.  The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSHA) is configured to set a baseline for employee safety in the workplace. Regulations of OSHA help to ensure worker and workplace safety by requiring employers provide their workers a place of employment free from recognized hazards to safety and health, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions. OSHA regulations can be found online.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. This entitlement can be considered temporary job security in the event of unexpected health events. FMLA helps make it possible for workers to take time off to care for sick relatives. The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) provides employees a right to pay premiums for and keep the group health insurance that the employee may otherwise lose after they reduce their work hours, quit their job, or get fired.

Anti-Discrimination Laws
Of all the labor laws out there, anti-discrimination regulations are the category that is often viewed as the most spread-out over a variety of laws. A majority of those rules come from the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These laws help protect employees from discrimination based on a number of factors. For example, issues such as race, ethnicity, and age cannot be a factor when it comes to employment. For employees with disabilities, employers must make reasonable accommodations to allow those employees to continue working, helping to make the workplace more inclusive for everyone.

The Right to Fair Pay
If we are honest with ourselves, we would admit that without fair pay, many of us would not remain at our jobs for very long. However, that pay is guaranteed to a certain extent.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 mandates the federal minimum wage, which applies to the majority of employees. Not only does it dictate minimum hourly pay, it also lays out the 40-hour work week for hourly employees and specifies the terms of overtime pay. Additionally, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 helps ensure that there is no wage disparity based upon sex.

Unfortunately, the laws and regulations cannot guarantee an employee or an employer will comply with the written standards. Both employers and employees should work together to maintain the rights of each party to help foster a productive and harmonious work environment.