Fighting For
Employee And Union Rights
Fighting For
Employee And Union Rights

Employees at Small Businesses Have Rights Too

On Behalf of | Jun 20, 2024 | Employment Law

Small businesses often advertise that their workplace feels like being part of a close-knit family.  However, even in the most familial of workplaces, employees have rights protected by law.

Employment laws protect small business employees in many circumstances

While not all federal and state laws cover small businesses, many do. Here are some examples to consider:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Governs overtime, minimum wage and other issues for any business with more than one employee and $500,000 in annual revenue
  • Workforce Opportunity Wage Act: Provides state-level wage protections beyond FLSA for businesses with at least two employees
  • Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA): Ensures safe and healthy working conditions, has partial exemptions for businesses with 10 or fewer employees
  • Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act (MIOSHA): State counterpart to OSHA, which covers most small businesses
  • Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act: Protects employees employed by business with at least one employee from unlawful discrimination and harassment on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, religion, height, weight, age, marital status, and disability and prohibits retaliation for opposing such discrimination and harassment
  • Michigan’s Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act: Protects employees employed by businesses with at least one employee from unlawful discrimination on the basis of a disability, requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations in certain circumstances, and prohibits retaliation
  • Michigan’s Whistleblower Protection Act: Prohibits employers with at least one employee from discriminating against employees for reporting or being about to report a suspected violation of law to a public body

These and other laws aim to protect employees’ rights with few limitations on the size of the employer.

Correcting common misconceptions

Employees at small companies often face misconceptions about their rights based on some common attitudes or strategies:

  • “We’re too small for HR issues”: Even small businesses must comply with employment laws.
  • “Informal policies are enough”: Written policies help prevent misunderstandings and legal issues.
  • “Family-run means family rules”: Employment laws still apply, regardless of relationships.

Whether employers actually make these statements or imply them through their actions, the rights of small employers often end where the rights of their employees begin.

Navigating disputes

When disputes arise in a small business, there are steps you can take to address them and protect yourself:

  • Learn about the employment laws that apply.
  • Keep detailed records of events or conversations related to the dispute.
  • Talk to coworkers who might have seen the same things or had the same problems.
  • Seek advice from an employment lawyer.

While small businesses are vital to Michigan’s economy, their employees are just as vital.  If you work for a small business and believe that your rights have been violated, call the seasoned labor and employment attorneys at Miller Cohen PLC for a free consultation at (313) 964-4454.