Common Employment Law Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Your small business may only employ a few people, but you are still subject to most of the same laws and regulations as corporations that employ thousands. Compliance with employment law will save your business from stressful audits or legal fines. A small business attorney will help you with every aspect of employment law from contract review to hiring to working with employees. Here are five of the most common areas where employers make mistakes when it comes to employment law compliance.

  1. Regulatory Agencies and Laws
  2. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  3. Employee Classification
  4. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  5. I-9 Forms

1. Failing to Stay Current with Regulatory Agencies and Laws
Practically everything associated with employment law falls under here, and the number of regulatory agencies with their corresponding laws continues to grow rapidly. Some of the areas governed by regulatory agencies include: workplace safety and health laws (see #4 on OSHA), payroll and overtime payment laws (see #3 on employee classification), recordkeeping requirements (see #5 on I-9 forms), anti-discrimination (see #2 on ADA compliance) and anti-harassment laws, local, state and federal leave laws, and employee privacy laws. Creating a checklist before you begin hiring new employees and working with an attorney will ensure you start off and stay compliant with state and federal employment laws.

2. Not Following the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Guidelines
The ADA prohibits discrimination and ensures equal opportunity for persons with disabilities in employment, state and local government services, public accommodations, commercial facilities, and transportation. This applies to all employment-related activities, including recruitment, training, tenure, layoff, leave, and fringe benefits among others. The law protects individuals who have a disability, which means they have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, they have a record of such impairment, or they are regarded as having such impairment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website has ADA and other discrimination-related information for small businesses.

3. Mis-Classifying Employees
By classifying your employees accurately, you ensure they get the appropriate wages, benefits, and protections to which they are entitled. An exempt employee, according to the U.S. Small Business Association, is someone who is paid a specified amount of money regardless of the number of hours worked a week. These employees may be exempt from overtime payments and meal or rest breaks. Assuming it is easier to pay everyone a salary, however, can lead to problems. Be sure to classify your employees properly in order to avoid noncompliance issues with the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment and the U.S. Department of Labor. Your business attorney will help you with hiring employees, choosing the right employment contracts and agreements, keeping good records, and providing advice and representation in the event of an audit or lawsuit.

4. Ignoring Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulations
OSHA’s detailed safety regulations include a General Duty Clause, for small and large businesses alike, which requires every employer to provide every employee with a work environment that is free from recognized hazards. It is your responsibility to communicate these rules to your employees via written safety and health rules in the form of visible signs and/or posters. In the unfortunate event of an accident at your business, you will need to take corrective action immediately. With a host of other federal acts, intended to protect employees, such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, the ADA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act, it is paramount that you understand and remain compliant with all aspects of employment law.

5. Keeping Invalid or Incomplete I-9 Forms on File
The I-9 form, also known as Employment Eligibility Verification, is completed by employees and employers in verifying the identity and employment authorization of every employee hired. Simple as it sounds, omitting or not completing I-9 forms can result in fines and legal trouble. Before filing it away, be sure the whole form is filled out, including dates and signatures – within three days of the employee’s hire date. Too often, employers miss the deadline or employees fail to provide the correct supporting documentation. You can provide a list of acceptable documents and allow the employees to make their own selection.

These are just a few of the many employment law mistakes and potential pitfalls for small business owners.

If you need help with employment law, contact me, Elizabeth Lewis, at the Law Office of E.C. Lewis, P.C., home of your Denver Business Lawyer. Phone: 720-258-6647. Email:

1 Comment

  1. Ridley Fitzgerald

    I can see how some of these problems would be easy to fall into as a business. I bet regulatory agencies change policies and make updates constantly, so staying up to date would be tough! Hiring a lawyer makes a lot of sense, just to cover your bases.


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