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Workplace Glossary – Government Agencies

This section of the HBCU workplace glossary is all about expanding workplace knowledge of federal and state agencies that oversee employment policies and lawas.

Affirmative Action

This is an ongoing effort to improve employment and educational opportunities for members of minority groups including women.

ADA and Accommodations

The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to support employees in the completion of their duties. “Reasonable accommodations” as stated by the ADA are modifications to the job, work environment, or policies that would allow qualified employees with disabilities, to perform the fundamentals of the job. The focus here would be on the essential tasks that make up a job, rather than on the person’s disability.

Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

This is federal law that was established to help balance the employees’ responsibilities to workplace with their family responsibilities. Employees are allowed to take up to 12 weeks off, and come back to the same job, as unpaid leave to care for family members with serious health conditions. Family could include parent, spouse or child, or for pregnancy or care of a newborn child, or for adoption or foster care of a child. To be eligible, the employee must have been employed with the company for at least 12 months, and worked at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months.

Labor Relations

This is the relationship between Management and Labor (staff) usually guided by the agreements and laws. Agreements for example would be documented in the collective bargaining agreement or the union rules.

Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act 2009

This is a federal statute that states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination is reset every time there is a new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action. In other words, the chances are greater that you will be able to file a lawsuit if you find out that you have been subject to unfair pay practices by your employer.


The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the government agency at the US Department of Labor. The goal of this organization is to maintain safe working environments for American workers.

Social Equity

The concept of social equity at work is relatively new. Some offices have established specific offices to deal with social equity issues. This office works with both Human Resources and the Legal department to ensure that certain civil rights are protected for everyone who might have a stake in the organization from vendors to employees and customers. Employee behavior in areas such as workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliatory practices can be investigated based on a complaint.

Sexual Harassment

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits sexual discrimination in the workplace. This is not just about flirtation in the workplace. It would involve any unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and any other verbal or physical conduct as a condition of continued employment. This applies also if the behavior hinders performance by creating an intimidating or hostile work environment.

US Department of Labor

The United States Department of Labor is probably most well known for publishing the monthly unemployment rate. However, they are significantly more than the unemployment rate. According to their mission, the department fosters, promotes and develops the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States. They improve working conditions, advance opportunities for profitable employment and assures work-related benefits and rights.

Unemployment Rate

The unemployment rate represents the number of unemployed people as a percent of the labor force. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Veterans Preference

This is the preferential treatment given to United States veterans in the hiring process. This means that if two job applicants are equally qualified for a job, the person who is a US veteran will receive the job offer.


This is the name given to an employee, either working in government or in private enterprise, who discloses information to the public or to others in authority about mismanagement, corruption, waste, fraud, abuse or other wrongdoing which is going on within the company. There are Whistleblowing laws that protect such an employee from retaliation. Organizations will often set up mechanisms to encourage employees to share this information anonymously.

Youth Labor Laws

There are laws that protect youth in the workplace. The United States Department of Labor is a great resource for this information. It is possible that students under the age of 18 may find themselves in a professional work environment in a part-time job or an internship. It is important to know what laws apply.

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