Understanding employment laws can be tricky. With all the regulations and court cases, it’s no wonder people get confused, especially employers. Then there’s the fact that these legal requirements can exist at the federal, state and local levels.
Most of these laws make sense to protect employees from mistreatment or exploitation. But others seem too strange or odd to be true. Let’s take a look at some of the more unexpected employment laws that can be found around the country.
- Michigan: No Discrimination Based on Height and Weight
According to Section 37.2202 of the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act, employers in Michigan may not discriminate on the basis of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, height, weight, or marital status. That’s right, if an employer decides not to hire someone because they’re too short or too big, that could be against the law in Michigan.
Other laws prohibit workplace discrimination because of height and/or weight, but these are usually only found at the local level. Michigan is the only state that includes height and weight as protected classes.
In case you’re wondering, as of March 16, 2023, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are also protected classes in Michigan.
2. Federal (All States): No Overtime Pay for Minor League Baseball Players
You may already know that under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), eligible workers are entitled to overtime pay for time worked that exceeds 40 hours in a week. You may also know that not every worker can earn overtime pay, as there are numerous exemptions that make many groups of workers ineligible.
What you may not know are the specifics of these exemptions, including the types of workers who are barred from overtime. One of the most interesting exemptions applies to minor-league baseball players. Congress created this exemption with the Save America’s Pastime Act. It’s part of the 2018 omnibus funding bill and it amends Section 13(a) of the FLSA.
3. Greenwich, CT: Municipal Employees Barred from Wearing Flip Flops at Work
Flip flops at work, yea or nay? The debate isn’t as heated as it used to be, but there are still going to be groups that oppose this type of footwear in the office. If you disagree and feel these are perfectly fine to wear at work, you might want to avoid moving to Greenwich, Connecticut.
In this town, municipal employees may not wear flip flops or slide sandals at work. Apparently, this law is not about appearing professional or presentable. Rather, it’s about preventing accidents or injuries at work. The goal is to reduce absences and workers’ compensation claims.
This law provides exceptions for certain jobs, such as lifeguards and swim instructors. Sandals that wrap around the back of the ankle are also permitted, regardless of where someone works.
4. Federal (All States): Employees Can Be Fired for Having Too Many Debts
5 U.S.C. § 1674 of the Consumer Credit Protection Act (CCPA) prevents an employer from firing an employee because that employee’s paycheck is subject to garnishment for any one indebtedness. What’s a bit strange about this law is that these protections appear to only apply when there’s one debt or one creditor trying to collect a debt. So the moment the employer learns about garnishments occurring because of two or more debts, they can legally discharge the employee for too many wage garnishments.
5. Kentucky: Smokers Are a Protected Class
When you hear someone mention the Commonwealth of Kentucky, you probably think of horses and bourbon. There’s also a chance you think of tobacco. If so, this last law probably might not seem that strange to you. Under KRS 344.040(1)(a), someone’s propensity to smoke (or not smoke) is a protected class.
Presumably, this law is designed to protect employees who smoke from discrimination, although it could also potentially apply to those who choose not to smoke. Either way, to receive these protections, the individual must comply with any workplace rule relating to smoking.
These protections don’t apply to all forms of discrimination. For instance, it’s legal for the employer to require a smoker to pay more for their employer-sponsored health insurance plan. An employer may also offer benefits or incentives to smokers for participating in a stop-smoking program.
Summing It Up
There are plenty of unusual employment laws throughout the country. Nevertheless, it is important for employers and employees to familiarize themselves with them. Understanding all workplace requirements, even the unusual or unexpected ones, is key for any successful workplace.