7 Ways Employers Sometimes Break the Law

Employers have a legal and moral obligation to provide a safe and fair work environment for their employees. However, some employers may intentionally or unintentionally break the law, putting their employees at risk and exposing themselves to legal consequences. Here are seven ways employers sometimes break the law.

Discrimination in the Workplace

Discrimination refers to treating an employee unfairly based on their protected characteristics such as race, age, or pregnancy status. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against their employees, yet it still happens. Examples of discrimination include paying women less than men for the same job, denying promotions to employees of certain races, and refusing to hire someone because of their disability. Employers who engage in discriminatory practices risk lawsuits, fines, and reputational damage.

Wage and Hour Violations

Employers must follow federal and state laws regarding minimum wage, overtime pay, and employee classification. It is illegal to pay workers less than the minimum wage or not compensate them for overtime hours worked. Additionally, misclassifying employees as independent contractors to avoid paying overtime or benefits can also result in legal consequences. Employers who violate wage and hour laws can face lawsuits, back pay claims, and penalties.

Unsafe Work Conditions

Employers must provide a safe work environment for their employees. This includes ensuring that the workplace is free from hazards that can cause injury or illness. Neglecting safety precautions can lead to accidents, injuries, and even fatalities.


Retaliation occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee who has exercised their legal rights. This can include firing, demoting, or harassing the employee. Examples of retaliation include firing an employee who has reported harassment or filed a discrimination complaint. Employers who retaliate against their employees risk legal consequences and damage to their reputations.

Failure to Provide Accommodations

Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities to allow them to perform their job duties. Failure to do so is illegal and can result in lawsuits and fines. Accommodations can include providing assistive technology, modifying work schedules, or making physical modifications to the workplace.


Harassment in the workplace refers to any unwanted behavior that creates a hostile work environment. This can include verbal or physical abuse, sexual harassment, or bullying. Employers have a legal obligation to prevent harassment in the workplace and take action if it occurs. Failure to do so can lead to legal consequences and reputational damage.

Violating the Family and Medical Leave Act

The FMLA requires employers to provide eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year for specific family and medical reasons. Employers who violate FMLA regulations can face lawsuits, fines, and reputational damage.

Not Providing Meal Breaks

Employees must be given meal and rest breaks while at work. How many breaks an employee is due will depend on the number of hours they work. According to the California Lunch Break Law, employers can’t interrupt an employee or prevent them from leaving the building or site.

Employers have a legal and ethical responsibility to ensure a safe and fair work environment for their employees. Employees who believe their rights have been violated should seek guidance from a legal professional.