American workplaces have undergone substantial change within the past few decades, and much of this change can be attributed to the effects of various legal, safety, and regulatory requirements on the human resource process. Human resource personnel must take into account substantial legislation in all aspects of the employment process, and additional legislation passed recently can compound the difficulties faced. A close examination of employee-related regulations established by the United States, such as the Department of Labor, the Department of Homeland Security, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, reveals the extent of legislation and its significant influence on the human resources process. Specifically, “human resources management must comply with all employment, health, and safety and other relevant legislation applicable to the jurisdiction where the organization operates. This includes federal, state and local laws that pertain to various areas of HR … keeping up-to-date with legislation ensures that the organization remains compliant and avoids costly penalties” (Odina, 2014). Given the focus on remaining compliant and avoiding penalties, today’s workplaces have largely replaced compassion and common sense with litigation.
The Department of Labor and the Department of Homeland Security have established copious legislation that impacts the human resource process, ultimately turning workplace compassion and common sense into litigation. The Department of Labor makes it substantial legislation available online, stating that the provided legislation establishes situations wherein “employers are responsible for providing a self and healthful workplace” and that “employers must also comply with the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to keep their workplace free of serious recognized hazards” (“OHSA Law,” 2014). When perusing the extensive legislation put forth by this organization, it becomes clear that many laws are based clearly on common sense. For example, within Subpart E with Standard Number 1910.39, the Department of Labor states, “A fire prevention plan must be in writing, be kept in the workplace, and be made available to employees for review. However, an employer with 10 or fewer employees may communicate the plan orally to employees” (“OHSA Law,” 2014). Having a fire plan readily available and communicated clearly to all employees, in written or oral form, would be a logical move for any workplace, but this logic has been supplanted by legislation, legislation which can in turn provoke litigation. For example, if a company has eleven employees, and the plan is communicated orally instead of in writing, possible litigation can arise as the result of this law. The Department of Homeland Security has also passed its own legislation that encourages litigation rather than common sense. Specifically, the No FEAR Act requires federal agencies “to post quarterly on their public Web sites certain summary statistical data relating to equal employment opportunity complaints filed against the respective agencies” (“Homeland Security,” 2014). While the intentions of this No FEAR are understandable, they also open the door for unnecessary litigation and the elimination of compassion and common sense.
Employee-related regulations established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Americans with Disabilities Act have also accelerated the transformation from common sense and compassion into litigation. The EEOC was founded on a noble principle during the wake of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. However, this agency has recently put forth legislation and suggestions for practice “to prevent race and color discrimination” (“Best Practices,” 2014), and some of these suggestions may undermine workplace efficiency. For example, human resources management is urged to “ensure selection criteria do not disproportionately exclude certain racial groups…if educational requirements disproportionately exclude certain minority or racial groups, they may be illegal if not important for job performance or business needs” (“Business Practices,” 2014). Aside from the EEOC, the ADA has also put forth copious legislation that facilitates litigation in the workplace. This has been particularly true since 2008: “In 2008, the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) was passed. Its purpose is to broaden the definition of disability, which had been narrowed by U.S. Supreme Court decisions” (“The Americans,” 2012). This broadened definition, similarly to the aforementioned legislation, may have noble intentions, but it also increases the chance of litigation, rather than compassion, occurring in the workplace.
When evaluating different regulations set forth by various governmental agencies and legislation regarding employees, one trend becomes noticeable: compassion and common sense have been supplanted by litigation. Human resource management and personnel can no longer depend on their own common sense or compassion, they must turn to the latest legislation for guidance, as not fully complying with this legislation can lead to problematic litigation. Compounding this issue further is the increase of globalization, as “increasing globalization ahs seen large organizations doing business internationally or setting up operations overseas,” which entails taking “note of local laws impacting not only how their business is run, but also how their employees are managed” (Odina, 2014). In general, human resources personnel are no longer trusted to exercise basic common sense or compassion; instead, they must ensure that they comply to every regulation, including those recently passed, in order to avoid a substantial lawsuit.
- Best Practices for employers and human resources/EEO professionals. (2014). U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Retrieved from: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/initiatives/e-race/bestpractices-employers.cfm
- Odina, R. (2014). Legal regulatory requirements on the human resource process. Chron. Retrieved from: http://smallbusiness.chron.com/legal-regulatory-requirements-human-resource-process-20590.html
- OHSA Law & Regulations. (2014). United States Department of Labor. Retrieved from: https://www.osha.gov/law-regs.html
- The Americans with Disabilities Act: A Brief Overview. (26 July, 2012). Job Accommodation Network. Retrieved from: http://askjan.org/links/adasummary.htm