Counting compliance: federal labor laws by employment size

A crucial factor in determining which federal employment laws your business must comply with is how many team members you employ. While several federal rules apply to all employers—like the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Equal Pay Act—others dictate requirements that only apply to employers with a specific number of employees.

You’re likely aware that understanding federal labor laws is key to properly running your business. With that comes the requirement to understand which rules you actually need to follow depending on your employee count—especially if you’re planning on hiring more team members

If you’re confused about who counts as an employee and when, take a look at this guide by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Remember, the federal government won’t penalize small businesses for following the laws that larger companies must follow.

Note: This article covers federal legislation, but your state likely has its own set of regulations that also depend on employee count. Take a look at your state labor law guide to learn more about the requirements in your area. 

Table of Contents: 

Labor laws for all business sizes

You are subject to the following laws as a business owner regardless of how many employees you have. 

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

Under the IRCA, you can only hire employees that the government authorizes for work in the US.  Complete the Form I-9 for all employees and keep it on record in case of government inspection. 

To learn more about the Form I-9, take a look at our step-by-step guide

Equal Pay Act (EPA)

The EPA requires you to provide the same compensation for all employees, regardless of sex, who perform substantially equal work within the same workplace. The law covers all forms of pay. If wage inequality between men and women exists, you may not reduce anyone’s wages. 

The law also requires you to display this poster at your workplace. 

Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA)

The government prohibits the use of lie detector tests for pre-employment screening or during the course of employment. There are a few exceptions, however. Learn more on the Department of Labor’s website

You must display the EPPA poster at your workplace. Download it here

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The FLSA applies to all business owners and establishes minimum wage requirements, overtime pay rules, child labor laws, and recordkeeping obligations. 

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but your state may require a higher minimum wage rate that you must follow. The FLSA also requires you to pay an overtime rate equal to 1.5 times a non-exempt employee’s regular rate if they work more than 40 hours in a workweek. 

There are also many regulations in regards to hiring employees under the age of 18 the FLSA, which you can learn about in our guide to hiring minors

As for recordkeeping laws you must follow, the FLSA requires certain information to be kept for every non-exempt employee. Learn more about what needs to be stored on the Department of Labor’s FLSA fact sheet

Download the required FLSA poster here

Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)

The OSH Act requires you to ensure a safe work environment for all employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces a list of standards based on the industry of your business. You can take a look at the administration’s employer help site to learn more about the rules you need to follow. 

Download the required OSHA poster here

Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA)

The ERISA establishes minimum standards for employee benefit plans like 401(k) plans, as well as welfare benefit plans like group health programs. The law requires you to provide information about plan features, set standards for participation, and more. Learn more on the DOL’s ERISA Compliance Assistance site. 

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

Under USERRA, you are not allowed to discriminate against individuals on the basis of their uniformed services membership. This means you may not discriminate against them during the hiring process or for the duration of their employment. 

An employee who needs to take leave for military service must give a 60-day notice. If they do so, you must reinstate them into employment when their service is complete. 

The Veteran’s Employment Training Service created a guide for employers to answer any questions about the law, which you can view here

Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA)

The CCPA protects employees from being terminated because of garnished wages for only one debt. It also limits the amount of earnings that may be garnished in one week. 

Jury Systems Improvement Act (JSIA)

You are not allowed to discharge or retaliate against employees if they are summoned to jury duty in federal court. Your state may or may not require you to provide paid time off for jury duty. However, you must allow them to comply with the summons regardless of your state law. 

Labor laws for businesses with at least 15 employees

In addition to the laws listed above, if you have 15 or more employees you need to comply with the following federal regulations. These additional laws are aimed to prevent discrimination in the workplace and are enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

All of these laws are included in the required “EEO is the Law” poster, which you can download here

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA prohibits you from discriminating against individuals with disabilities in any area of employment, including hiring, payment, job assignments, training, and benefits. The legislation also requires you to make “reasonable accommodations” for employees with disabilities. 

Learn more in our article about how to stay compliant under the ADA

Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)

GINA prohibits you from discriminating against employees because of their genetic information, which includes: 

  • Information about their own genetic tests or those of family members
  • Family medical history
  • Requests for and receipt of genetic services 
  • Genetic information about their own fetuses or those of family members
  • Genetic information about an embryo legally held by them or family member 

Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)

Under the PDA, you are not allowed to discriminate against employees because of pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical conditions. You must treat pregnant female individuals or those impacted by related conditions equally to other employees or candidates who have a similar level of ability to work. 

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act

This law prevents you from discriminating against individuals based on their race, color, religion,

sex or national origin. This includes—but is not limited to—discriminating questions on your employment application form, making a hiring decision based on one of these protected characteristics, or firing someone for a discriminatory reason

Labor laws for businesses with at least 20 employees 

In addition to all of the laws above, if you have 20 or more employees working for you, you’ll need to add the following laws to your compliance checklist. 

Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)

Also enforced by the EEOC, the ADEA prevents you from discriminating against individuals —including employees or applicants—who are 40 years of age or older. Like the previously mentioned anti-discrimination laws, this includes hiring and firing decisions as well as any other discriminatory action against them throughout their employment. 

Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)

COBRA requires group health plans to offer covered employees and their family members the opportunity to continue their coverage in situations where it would otherwise end, including: 

  • Employment termination (except if they were fired for gross misconduct)
  • A reduction in work hours 
  • A recent entitlement to Medicare
  • Divorce or legal separation 
  • Death of the covered employee
  • Loss of “dependent child” status 

Labor laws for businesses with at least 50 employees

If you have 50 or more employees, you need to comply with every law mentioned above as well as the following regulations. 

Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

The FMLA requires you to provide 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave to eligible employees in a 12-month period for specific reasons, including: 

  • Caring for new children
  • Caring for a family member with a health condition
  • Managing their own health conditions

Employees are only eligible for the leave if they have worked at least 1,250 hours in the preceding 12 months. You can learn more in our article about FMLA requirements. You can also download the required poster here

Affordable Care Act (ACA) – Employer Shared Responsibility Rules

You must offer affordable, minimum value healthcare coverage to all full-time employees and their dependents. If you don’t offer the coverage, you have the option to make a payment to the IRS—but only if at least one of your full-time employees receives a premium tax credit for purchasing individual coverage. 

Check out the IRS’ frequently asked questions page to learn more. 

Labor laws for businesses with at least 100 employees

If you run a business with 100 or more employees, you must abide by every law listed above, and you also need to comply with the following legislation. 

Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act

The WARN Act requires you as a larger employer to provide written notice at least 60 calendar days in advance of covered plant closings and mass layoffs affecting 50 or more workers at a single site of employment. 

EEO-1 Report

The EEO-1 Report requires you to submit “demographic workforce” data on race and ethnicity, gender, and job category on an annual basis to the EEOC and the DOL. You can use the EEOC’s online system to submit your data securely. The due date for 2021 is July 19.


Labor laws are extensive and often difficult to understand—no matter how many employees you have. Homebase customers who sign up for HRPro gain affordable access to certified advisors who can help you learn how to remain compliant

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