Ever-changing labor laws and employment policies can make it seem impossible to track labor laws. The constant state of flux on national and local levels can leave many business owners scrambling to stay in compliance of the latest updates, and not everyone has their own personal labor attorney on call.
At first glance, it may seem obvious. The federal law is the law, right? Yes, but employers are often required to keep up with two, even three, separate layers of labor law at the federal, state, and local levels. So what’s the difference between them all? How can you keep track?
The difference between federal and state labor laws
Federal labor laws are standards and practices mandated for all states by the U.S. government. Put simply, federal labor laws apply to everyone. They’re enforced by the federal Department of Labor, or DOL. From there, states can create and mandate their own individual labor laws with additional protections and rules, as long as they’re in compliance with federal laws. State laws are then enforced by their own state DOL.
For example, the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, is a federal law that applies to employers and employees no matter where they are in the U.S. It sets a baseline for minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and youth employment standards for the entire country.
The FLSA currently mandates a federal minimum wage of $7.25. That means employers, regardless of what state their business is in, have to pay their employees $7.25 per hour at a minimum. However, states are able to create additional laws setting higher minimum wages as long as they meet the FLSA standards. So while you’re required to pay your employees $7.25 at the minimum to follow the federal law, you may be required to pay them more depending on which state you live in, or even which city.
In the state of Washington the minimum wage is set at $11.50 an hour, and in Seattle, the minimum wage for 2018 is $14.00, both which are greater than the $7.25 minimum set by the federal government. Ideally, federal and state laws work together, with the law providing the most protection for the worker winning out.
Since employers are required to comply with both federal and state labor laws, it can be hard to keep track of changes in laws for your city, state, or even the entire country as new laws are handed down or old statutes are updated. Regardless, employers are expected to be up-to-date and in compliance with all labor laws—and being unaware of the law doesn’t do much help when it comes to a labor dispute.
With that in mind, we’ve put together our top 10 resources to help you keep track of labor laws. Here’s the list of our favorites to add to your bookmarks bar:
1. Federal and state Department of Labor websites
The best place to find updated (and accurate) labor and employment law information is the state labor law section of the federal DOL website. The federal DOL website itself is a crucial resource for any business owner when it comes to complying with federal labor laws, but it also hosts a full index of all state-level DOL agencies. You’ll be able to see the most up-to-date versions of state labor laws along with their individual websites and contact information.
2. JD Supra’s Labor Law Newsletter
JD Supra is a popular legal “wiki” and legal content publisher created by legal professionals. The site posts online commentary along with latest court rulings and analysis from legal experts in top industries, including labor and employment law. Sign up and follow labor topics to receive your own personal “morning brief” on all things labor law in your inbox each morning.
3. @Labor_Law on Twitter
Just like the labor and employment section of its website, JD Supra also has a Twitter feed devoted solely to the tracking labor law updates. Follow @Labor_Law on Twitter for news on workplace legal developments, from human resources topics to workplace discrimination and news from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). You can set alerts on your desktop or phone so that every time an update is posted, you’ll receive a notification.
4. The National Labor Relations Board
The National Labor Relations Board is an independent federal agency that provides the “legal framework for private-sector organizing and acts to prevent or remedy unfair labor practices by private employers and unions or if employees feel their rights have been violated.” Phew. The NLRB essentially sets out the rules for unions and collective bargaining, weighs in on labor disputes, and keeps track of union regulations—all while investigating charges, deciding labor cases, and enforcing orders to fix employee rights violations.
Check out their website for the latest information on:
- your rights as an employer
- your employees’ rights
- union laws
- weekly summaries of new labor and employment rulings
5. The American Bar Association
Similar to JD Supra, the American Bar Association has a section devoted entirely to labor and employment law. You don’t have to be a lawyer to see latest employment news and trending topics, but note that you may not be able to view all content without being an ABA member.
6. Labor and employment law firms in your state
Your best expert resource for tracking labor laws in your state may actually be your local labor and employment law attorney—for free. Large law firms often have multiple practice groups dedicated to different areas of legal practice, including labor and employment law. Some law firms only practice labor and employment law, period. So check out the top labor law firms in your city or state and see if their websites offer free resources to employers. Many send out regular newsletters or alerts when the law changes, write blogs on labor topics, and offer workshops in employment and labor law compliance, all at no cost.
7. The Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest HR professional society, covering everything from trending topics in the HR world to employment and labor law. The state and local updates section of their website features the newest changes to labor laws and popular employment law topics in your area. Just select your state to get started. You can also find out about workplace posters and if specific federal laws apply to businesses in your state.
8. Industry-specific online publications
Many industries have dedicated websites for trending industry-wide topics and news. If you’re looking for labor law updates in your state, industry publications will often include legal news and changes along with other coverage. Nation’s Restaurant News offers a free newsletter to subscribers and posts the latest foodservice news and trends, while also sharing changes to labor law and lawsuits that may impact the foodservice industry as a whole. The news section of RetailWire follows a similar format.
9. The Legal Center of the National Federation of Independent Business
The National Federation of Independent Business’ Legal Center offers legal resources for small business owners around the country. Some of their content requires a subscription, but you can download most of the NFIB’s resources for free and search by state for legal press releases and breaking small business news. You can also follow the NFIB on Twitter.
10. The Employment Law Handbook
EmploymentLawHandbook.com is another online resource center that keeps track of the all the changes in employment and labor law happening around the country. Like the NFIB, you can view all the individual employment and labor law updates by state for 2018.
Adding another task to your people-management plate is never easy. And while it may feel daunting to try to track labor law updates from multiple places at once, you can always start small. Subscribe to a daily labor law newsletter like JD Supra or turn on notifications for labor law accounts on Twitter. Set up a labor law Google alert to track keywords like “labor law + (your state’s name)” so that you’ll receive an email whenever anything new regarding labor laws and your state is mentioned online. Put a standing time on your calendar to check for union changes from the NLRB. Now when you’re in doubt or trying to keep up with changing labor laws state, you’ll know the first places to turn—online and your inbox.10 Resources to Track Labor Laws in Your State Grace Madlinger