Labor laws aim to outline the practices that regulate relationships between employees and employers to ensure that both parties can achieve the best results. They describe the fundamental rights of the individuals working for a company to ensure fair working conditions for all. This paper aims to explain the necessity of having labor laws in the United States and provide three examples of its enforcement within an organization.
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The primary aim of the labor laws that regulate employment within the United Stated is to ensure that workplace environments are safe and healthy for people. For instance, the state can set specific standards in regards to work hours, basic wages, and safety regulations to ensure that employers provide sufficient compensation and adequate conditions to their employees. From a business point of view, an employee has to offer maximum benefit to the company, which, in essence, should be reflected in the overall revenue of the organization. However, one can argue that in frictionless economic conditions, managers have little incentive of providing excellent compensation and benefits to individuals.
From a historical perspective, labor laws evolved to protect the needs of workers in the state. For instance, before 1930 factory employees were unable to protest against unhealthy work conditions, long hours, or other issues because courts were able to issue orders making them return to work (Henderson, n.d.). In this regard, a significant breakthrough was the 1935 National Labor Relations Act, the aim of which was to allow the formation of unions. These organizations are a vital aspect of the employer-employee relationship, especially within large organizations, because they enable advocating for rights and improvement of work conditions by employing bargaining power.
One of the crucial changes in the area of the United States employment law was the ban on child labor in 1938. According to Henderson (n.d.), before the Wages and Hours Act, employment of children was a common practice, and time of work could be extended upon the standard eight hours. This regulation mandated that any extension beyond 40 hours a week should be compensated additionally.
While these laws target the issue of work conditions and wages, employers can also benefit from state policies. For instance, labor unions are an essential aspect of communication between workers and company executives; however, they can violate their bargaining rights and use unfair tactics in negotiations. The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act aims to mitigate this issue by banning unfair practices, for instance, secondary boycotts (Henderson, n.d.). Under this policy, unions engaged in illegal practices can be sued by employers, which is an integral part of protecting companies from activities that can severely impair their operations. The two legal acts mentioned above help develop an appropriate environment where the workforce is able to communicate with the management and ensure that their needs are met.
The United States Department of Labor is responsible for enforcing the laws that protect employees. Employees unable to follow the regulations outlined above can face fines or penalties, as well as imprisonment in extreme cases (Hensen, n.d.).
Other laws prohibit discriminatory hiring practices and make the provision of pension benefits to individuals who are a part of a union mandatory. It is evident that the existence of these laws forces companies to dedicate more attention to their human resources. Another benefit is that even if an organization fails to comply, an employed person can file a court proceeding and seek justice, which is often enacted in the form of class action lawsuits involving several individuals. This can lead to a significant financial loss, which is another incentive for motivating executives to follow the current labor laws.
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Why Labor Laws Exist
The examples of legal acts and the former state of employment outlined above highlight the importance of labor regulations. In some developing countries, labor laws are not as strict as those in the United States, allowing employees to have unsafe work conditions. A vivid example of this is Bangladesh, which serves as an essential part of a supply chain for many clothing companies since low wages allow manufacturing items at competitive prices. However, Ansary and Barua (2015) outline the factory collapse that occurred in 2013, killing and injuring many people.
Moreover, the authors state that each year thousands of employees in Bangladesh are injured in manufacturing facilities, and both of these issues have the same root cause – poor governmental regulation. Therefore, it is extremely dangerous to underestimate the importance of labor laws and their impact on the lives of people in the United States since they ensure that individuals are safe and receive fair payment for their efforts. This occurrence in Bangladesh serves as a reminder of the terrible consequences that neglect and unfair practices can result in causalities.
While the case of Bangladesh is an example of adverse outcomes that a result of improper labor laws, the positive impact of these legal acts should be examined as well. Al-Mazrou, Al-Ghaith, Yazbeck, and Rabie (2017) assessed the impact of labor laws on the healthcare industry of Saudi Arabia to understand the implications of these regulations. The government’s policy transformed the industry and improved the financing of it, leading to significant growth and an increase of the private companies’ presence in the market.
The laws targeted employment practices and encouraged organizations to hire local professionals, which affected the economics of this sector. This case provides an understanding of the scope of impact that labor laws have on the state’s economy. Therefore, policymakers have to consider all implications that relate to the employment practices when reviewing new initiatives to ensure that both companies and their workforce can benefit from them.
One of the recent labor-related issues that affected the United States was a dispute regarding minimum wage paid to employees. Previous paragraphs examined the regulations dating back to 1930s that signified a major change in the compensation practices. Currently, many citizens believe that a set standard of $7.25, which is a minimum amount that has to be paid to an individual for each hour of his or her work, is unfair (Zeitlin, 2019). While the disputes regarding regulation that will increase the compensation to $15 are being reviewed by the government, the examples of some organizations in Seattle forced to adhere to this policy will be investigated in this section of the paper.
The issue of wage is complex because it incorporates both positive and negative impact on the companies and their workforce. In 2017, the Seattle city council passed a regulation that made it mandatory for organizations employing over 500 people to increase the minimum wages to $15 per hour of work (Zeitlin, 2019). This policy primarily affected the fast food industry in the city because most of its employees rely on the minimum wage as a regular payment.
Zeitlin (2019) provides an example of Taco Bell, which had to comply with this law and raise its wages, providing a critical case study regarding the impact of labor law enforcement. One of the main issues with this increase is the spending that the company has due to costs associated with salary and other benefits, which led to some people losing their jobs. Buszkiewicz et al. (2019) examine the impact of this policy on supermarket prices and argue that in general, meals did not become more expensive, providing more opportunities for low-income workers. It can be concluded that the enforcement of new wage policy in Seattle has both positive and negative outcomes.
Another example of labor law enforcement within the same organization is a meal period dispute that occurred in a California Taco Bell. Kun (2016) states that employees were unsatisfied because the company did not comply with California’s laws regulating meals and rest time during work. The issue was that taco Bell provided a payment equal to 30 minutes of work for the times when employees were unable to take a break and eat, instead of a full hour payment, which is required by the law. As a result, the company had to change its policy and pay $496,000 to its workers as a penalty for unlawful actions (Kun, 2016). Arguably, the current legal acts established in the United States that support unions allowed these employees to sue Taco Bell and ensure that the organization adequately uses labor laws.
Finally, as was discussed in the second section of this paper, child labor is illegal in the United States; however, individuals over the age of 16 can be hired by companies. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (2018) provides an explanation of the fine imposed on Taco Bell in the state due to repeated violations of teen employment regulations. The statement from the organization claims that while teenagers are a vital part of the workforce in the fast-food industry, it is necessary to ensure that they are safe while performing their duties.
The issue arose because some individuals reported injuries while working for Taco Bell, many of whom were under the age of 18. Therefore, the state’s agency met with the company’s representatives to regulate the current practices, improve safety, and ensure that no violations of the employment laws are present (The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries, 2018). Also, a fine for Taco Bell was issued as a result of the investigation. Arguably, the three cases discussed above serve as a representation of the importance that labor laws for the employees and the protection of their rights.
Overall, labor laws are an essential part of the relationship between companies and their workforce. They protect the rights of employees and allow them to have fair work conditions. The historical overview of the practices applied before the 1930s provides an understanding of the problematic and unsafe work conditions that individuals were unable to protest. Since then, the United States government passed many regulations that guarantee fair practices. The three examples of Taco Bell provide an assessment of how the company had to enforce some of these regulations.
Al-Mazrou, Y., Al-Ghaith, T., Yazbeck, A. S., & Rabie, T. S. (2017). How labor laws can transform health systems: The case of Saudi Arabia. Health Systems & Reform, 3(1), 26-33. Web.
Ansary, M., & Barua, U. (2015). Workplace safety compliance of RMG industry in Bangladesh: Structural assessment of RMG factory buildings. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 14, 424-237. Web.
Buszkiewicz, J., House, C., Aggarwal, A., Long, M., Drewnowski, A., & Otten, J. (2019). The impact of a city-level minimum wage policy on supermarket food prices by food quality metrics: A two-year follow up study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(1), 102-116. Web.
Henderson, K. J. (n.d.). Basic labor laws. Web.
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Kun, M. S. (2016). Taco Bell employees likely are not celebrating their “victory” in California meal and rest period class action [Blog post]. Web.
The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. (2018). Taco Bell franchise fined for violating teen worker laws at several restaurants. Web.
Zeitlin, M. (2019). Laboratories of Democracy: What Seattle learned from having the highest minimum wage in the nation. Vox. Web.