The 5 Significant U.S. Labor Laws for Women to Know About: A Guest Post

by Michael Haberman on January 19, 2012 · 0 comments

Today’s post is a guest post by a young writer trying to make her way in the blog sphere. I accepted this post for publication because I have not written specifically about women’s issues, there are other writers, Trish McFarlane, Lisa Rosendahl and the other Women of HR members, who do a better job of it. See the bottom of this post to see my additional comments.

The 5 Significant U.S. Labor Laws for Women to Know About

A rundown of the laws that help protect equality and fairness in the workplace

Labor Day is not only a statutory holiday and a day of rest, picnics, watching football and fireworks before the kids get sent back to school. The first Monday in September acts as an economic and social reminder of contributions of hard work across the U.S.

The very first Labor Day was celebrated in the year 1894. Today the federal holiday is observed to thank working men and women across the country. It also serves as a reminder that children were once forced to work to make ends meet for families, and women were once paid drastically lower wages compared to their male counterparts or shoved aside in the workplace in order to make room for men returning home from the war. We’ve come a long way in terms of labor rights and protection for women in the workplace when female workers can seek compensation via a personal injury attorney should their rights be violated by an employer or coworker.

The following labor laws are related to women and exist to help protect women’s rights, as well as create a standard of equality and fairness in the workplace:

1. Women’s Suffrage

Women’s suffrage was ratified August 18, 1920, and stated that congress would protect: The right of all citizens of the United States to vote regardless of sex. Even though one can argue that women’s suffrage is not a literal labor law per say, the right to vote did give women the power to check the box of candidates that would protect their labor rights, fair pay and equality in the workplace. This amendment is directly linked to the large number of women who took jobs during World War II to help keep the U.S. operating—especially in the essential war industries. Still, in 1942, the National War Labor Board urged employers make equal wage adjustments for women when they worked comparable jobs to men. Sadly, the majority of employers ignored the request, and most women were pushed out of their “essential” war jobs to make room for returning male veterans.

2. Family and Medical Leave Act (or FMLA)

The FMLA is in place for companies of 50 plus employees. It states that employers must grant a maximum of 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to expecting employees for the birth or adoption of a child. Not only did the FMLA Act protect women’s jobs should they decide to have a baby, it also left the FMLA open to men should they want to take leave or remain home to care for a spouse, child or parent with a serious illness.

3. Fair Labor Standards Act (or FLSA)

During the early 1960s, job ads would appear separately according to sex. Higher paying jobs would be listed like this: “Help Wanted: Male”. While women’s jobs—oftentimes advertising for the identical position—would appear as “Help Wanted: Female”, but accompanied by a much lower wage, which was typically about half of what men earned doing the exact same job. However, the FLSA attempted to establish equal wages and overtime pay for women. The FLSA also forbid the employment of children under 16-years old and limited the hours and jobs that children, 16-years and older, could work.

4. Whistleblower Protection

A whistleblower is defined as an individual who reveals alleged dishonest or illegal activities concerning an employer to the public. Activities could include:

  • Various types of misconduct—such as sexual and ethical
  • Violations of laws or regulations—e.g., environmental regulations
  • A threat to public interest—e.g., fraud, health and safety violations or corporate corruption

Whistleblower protection extends to women who could fall victim to sex discrimination or reprisal, by encouraging those with illegal knowledge to come forward by promising:

  • A percentage of the money recovered or damages won
  • Protection from wrongful dismissal
  • No risk of reprisal from the organization or group accused
  • Whistleblowers are protected from sexual discrimination

5. Comprehensive Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (or COBRA)

COBRA, established in 1985 grants workers who lose their health benefits the right to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time. Women, especially single mothers, benefit from COBRA if they decide to transition jobs or suffer an:

  • Involuntary job loss
  • Hourly cutback that reduces them from full time to part time employees
  • During a transition to a new job
  • A family death, divorce, or another tragic life event

Colleen Harding is a freelance writer and guest blogger who specializes on writing about law. Her passion for the legal realm started with a job as a Legal Aid and continued when she accepted a role as a Human Resources Coordinator for a mid-sized U.S. manufacturing company. Colleen is always looking of more freelance writing work and can be contacted at colleenaharding@gmail.com

Colleen did a good job of covering some significant “female” oriented laws. There are however, a few others. First is the Civil Rights Act of 1968 which specifically forbids discrimination on the basis of gender. Secondly is the amendment to that law, ten years later, called the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. And then in the compensation arena is the Equal Pay Act which specifically forbade pay discrimination on the basis of gender.

Gender based discrimination is still widespread, although in my opinion less so than in the years past. So with continued awareness perhaps we can see it eradicated or at least further diminished.

Give Colleen some feedback on her post if you would be so kind.

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