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Equal Employment Compliance Tips for Small Businesses: Making It Equal and Getting It Right


So, maybe you’ve just opened your company and you’re finally in the place to hire employees. Or, maybe, you are an established company, but have been too busy building the company to consider equal employment laws? Either way, it is important to know that regardless of how long you’ve been established, even small employers need to be mindful of equal employment laws under Florida and federal law.

In December 2016, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance for small business owners about how to remain in compliance with federal laws that protect employees and how to seek assistance if complicated circumstances arise. The general guidance provided by the EEOC may be helpful for small business owners who want to ensure they are treating their employees fairly and according to the law.

Guidance for Small Business Owners: What Employee Issues Arise at Work?

As a small business, it is important to remember that equal employment laws implicate every facet of staffing your company. Therefore, it is not just at the time of termination that you should be considering these laws. Rather, equal employment laws start at the hiring process and continue through the end of an employee’s employment. Such issues include:

  • Disability accommodations;
  • Religion accommodations;
  • Retaliation prevention;
  • Paychecks (fair and equal pay);
  • Harassment;
  • Leave policies (medical leave);
  • Employee training;
  • Manager training;
  • Management responsibilities;
  • Responding to EEOC discrimination charges; and
  • Handling complaints about discrimination within the business.

In addition to tip sheets that help to ensure employer compliance with discrimination matters, the EEOC also provides information about the requirements for a small business based on the size of the company.

Small Business Requirements

While it is important to maintain equal employment policies regardless of your size, federal laws do not apply to every size of employer. However, even though federal laws may not apply, it is important that you check with an employment attorney about which state and local laws may apply. For instance, under Palm Beach County Local Ordinance and under Florida state laws, employers with 15 or more employees are covered under the discrimination laws for age discrimination. However, under federal law, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act only applies to employers with 20 or more employees.

Equal pay laws are also specific, and dependent on the number of employees. For instance, and per the EEOC:

  • Companies with at least one employee are required to “provide equal pay for equal work to male and female employees”;
  • Companies that have between 15 and 19 employees are required to “provide equal pay for equal work to male and female employees” and are also bound by anti-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and genetic information;
  • Companies that have 20 more employees must “provide equal pay for equal work to male and female employees,” and they must comply with anti-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and genetic information in addition to laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of age (age 40 and up).

To be clear, any company that has at least one employee must provide equal pay to male and female employees (under the Equal Pay Act). That also applies to larger companies. Once a company has between 15 and 19 employees, it is also prohibited by federal law from engaging in certain forms of discrimination (including on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and genetic information). Once the company grows to 20 or more employees, all of the previous laws mentioned still apply, but the company is also prohibited from discriminating on the basis of age. As you might be able to tell, generally speaking the larger the company, the more federal laws that are applicable to it. Once a business grows to a certain size, it is also bound to report workforce data to the EEOC (more information here).

Regardless of the size of the small business, the business owner is prohibited from retaliating against a job applicant or an employee if they report discrimination or participate in an investigation concerning employment discrimination.

Contact a Florida Employment Discrimination Attorney

Do you currently run a small business and have questions about complying with federal anti-discrimination laws? An experienced Florida employment discrimination attorney can help with your case. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates today.


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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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