Human Resources Practices and the Law

Human resources practices vary globally because each country has its own unique employment laws. When comparing the United States to other countries, which of course have different rules and regulations, it is interesting to see how management styles vary as well. When choosing to obtain an HR certification, you must be aware of the employment laws for the country in which you plan to work in because they will ultimately become the of rulebook for your entire career.

Laws are present in every country in the United States, there are several levels: federal, state, and local employment laws. Most laws are supervised by government agencies that carry two main responsibilities. First, they must make sure that the laws are deemed suitable and recognized by all so that they are obeyed. Second, the agencies work to make sure that the laws are obeyed by instituting official parameters or procedures. Keep in mind that the laws are put into place to protect employees against unfair treatment. For instance, there are laws that are put in place to prohibit discrimination. Race, sex, and national origin are examples of “protected classes” which, by law, are groupings that cannot be discriminated or biased against in the workplace. In the United States, employees are free from illegal discrimination based upon a protected class, not because they are entitled to their jobs. This is why issues can arise when employees have been discriminated against (and subsequently fired) as opposed to being “unfairly” let go. It is important to note the difference between unfair and illegal actions.

Sometimes, employees who have been fired will claim what is called “false reasoning” for their dismissal and bring their former employer to court. There are two kinds of court cases based on interpretation of the law in question: federal and common law. Discrimination of sex is an example of a federal law case. Although there is nothing specifically written in the law about sexual harassment, courts have included it in the law against sex discrimination. However, a company or employee can go to the courts and challenge the interpretation of the wording of a law and determinations. In human resources practices, one must be very careful with the specifics of a law and be sure to follow them before making crucial decisions when it comes to the workplace.

Common law court cases are the second type and occur either when someone affirms an implied agreement with their employer or the employer has done something awfully wrong to the employee. It is the court’s job to decide whether or not there is a legal theory to support an employee’s argument. An example of court theories include terms such as, “wrongful discharge,” “implied contract,” “invasion of privacy,” and “defamation.” These terms exist in state and local legal systems. Many states have their own recognized theories and interpretations of what those theories mean. Most of the time, these terms are used to describe a situation where an employee has indeed been fired for unreasonable and unlawful reasons. Comparably, some Canadian courts require that an employee must have reasonable notice prior to their firing.