Business Law


Patrick Carano waited 20 years to achieve his American Dream. Patrick, who co-owns The Rack in Clive Iowa, spent about 20 years managing another pool hall in the Des Moines metro area. During his 20 years of running a small business, Patrick learned many valuable lessons that have helped him make a smooth transition from manager to owner of a small business. One lesson that Patrick says is one of the most important lessons learned involves employees.

As Patrick succinctly put it, “Know the rights of your employees.”

Overview of Employment Law

Employment law represents all of the legal rights and obligations that define the relationship between a business owner and the employees of the business. Trying to understand and meet the legal requirements mandated by employment laws can leave the savviest business owner shaking his or her head. State and federal laws that overlap cause part of the confusion, as well as legal jargon that appears to come out of the latest episode of Law & Order.

This section of our website provides a general review of employment law. We delve more deeply into employment law here.

Employee Rights in the Workplace

Every employee of your small business has fundamental rights covered by state and federal statutes. The most important employee right to remember is that discrimination based on age, race, gender, religion, and national origin is strictly forbidden in the workplace.

Here are some other employee rights that business owners must know:

  • Right to privacy
  • Right to fair wages for work performed
  • Right to be free from retaliation for filing a claim or complaint against an employer
  • Right to a safe workplace free of dangerous conditions and potential safety hazards

The right to privacy is an employment law concept that rapidly changes. Because of advanced technology, right to privacy applies to emails, text messages, and even social media websites.

Federal Employment Law 101

The federal government has issued myriad employment laws. Although it is impossible to stay abreast of every new employment law, business owners should understand some of the most common employment laws and the implications of non-compliance.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

The profound impact of the 1964 anti-discrimination law applies only to business owners that employee 15 or more employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prevents employers from discriminating during the hiring process based on race, sex, color, religion, or national origin.

Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)

The groundbreaking ADA defines a disability as a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Employers cannot discrimination against anyone that possesses a qualified disability. If an employee performs the basic functions of his or her job, with or without reasonable accommodation, you cannot discriminate against the employee because of a disability.

Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The increase in the number of American citizens 55 and older has put new emphasis on this federal law. Employers are prohibited from giving preferential treatment to younger workers at the expense of older workers. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies to workers 40 years of age and older that work at a business that has at least 20 employees.

Employment law covers a wide range of state and federal statutes. The vast number of legal obligations that you have in the relationship with your employees should prompt you to consult with a licensed employment attorney. An accomplished employment law attorney will explain your legal options and protect your rights as an employer. Make sure to consider only an attorney that specializes in employment law.

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