04 Jun 2021

Employee Benefits: 5 Benefits Required By U.S. Law

employee benefits - discussed by houston employment attorney Clayton Craighead

Employee benefits help employers attract qualified employees in a competitive market. As a Houston employment law firm, we regularly fight for the rights of local workers. Employment law changes on a regular basis, and it’s often difficult for employees and employers to know what benefits to provide. 

In the United States, there are certain benefits that federal laws require and others employers elect to provide. From health benefits and family leave to tuition reimbursement and retirement savings, what employee benefits are required by law in the U.S.? 

Why Does the Law Require Employee Benefits?

Per the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, legally required benefits provide employees and their families with medical care and retirement income. Moreover, they help to mitigate economic hardship brought on by a loss of work or disability. Additionally, they cover liabilities that result from illnesses or injuries sustained in the workplace. 

Below, we take a look at the employee benefits federal law requires employers to provide. If your employer attempts to deny you these benefits, schedule a free consultation with our Houston employment lawyer. 

Medicare & Contributions to Social Security

Both social security and Medicare are programs that the U.S. mandates for employees. The idea is for employees to pay into them now in order to benefit from them later. Employees and employers both pay into Medicare and Social Security through taxes in payroll deductions. 

Through social security, employees have an income after they retire or in the event that they face a permanent disability. Similarly, Medicare provides health insurance to US citizens aged 65 or older as well as individuals with certain medical conditions or disabilities. 

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation is another benefit federal law requires employers to provide. This covers the following costs for employees who sustain an injury or illness while working.

  • Medical care 
  • Treatment plans
  • Rehabilitation 
  • Paid leave or replacement income

Unemployment and Employee Benefits

When an employee involuntarily loses their job, unemployment benefits provide a partial income to support them for a short time. Both employers and employees contribute to unemployment insurance. 

In the United States, both state and federal governments administer this program. 

Health Insurance

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires that any organization with 50 or more full-time employees provide health insurance of some kind. Moreover, these businesses have to report the value of the healthcare coverage on W2 forms and file the appropriate paperwork with the IRS. 

In these reports, the employer provides details about the cost and types of insurance plans they offer to employees. When an employer does not offer sufficient or affordable plans, they face potential penalties from the federal government. 

FMLA Benefits

When a business employs over 50 employees, the Family Medical Leave Act requires that it offer up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees without the threat of losing their job. The FMLA helps workers balance work with the demands of personal, medical, and family needs without the worry of job security. 

Here are a few examples of situations where family and medical leave apply. 

  • The birth of a child 
  • Caring for a family member with a serious medical condition 
  • Transition to military service 
  • Caring for personal health conditions

In order to qualify for this leave, employees must also meet the following requirements. 

  • Work for the employer for 12 months or longer 
  • The company employs 50 employees or more within a 75-mile area
  • Employee worked a minimum of 1,250 hours prior to the start of paid leave

Employee Benefits and Your Rights

The federal government requires that all businesses provide these employee benefits. Because Texas has no specific requirements for businesses to offer employee benefits, these situations are difficult to navigate at times. 

For instance, many companies offer different benefits based on the type of position. In these cases, they often offer one set of benefits to hourly workers (if any at all) and a separate set of benefits to salaried employees. 

Whether a company offers any additional benefits is at its discretion. However, roughly 60% of employees state that they would leave a current job for one that offers better benefits. As such, voluntary benefits are common. 

Oftentimes, these fall into your employment contract, which provides details of these benefits. 

Employee Benefits and Contract Disputes

When you believe your employer denies you the employee benefits you deserve, it’s important to work with an experienced Houston employment lawyer. Due to the lackadaisical approach to benefits by the Texas government, businesses often hide these benefits in employment contracts. 

With an attorney, you have an advocate to parse through the language and determine the status of your benefits. Moreover, you have someone to hold your employer accountable when they deny you the benefits you deserve. 

Whether a company denies you access to unemployment benefits or challenges your FMLA leave, our team helps you fight to protect your rights. 

Contact the Craighead Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with our team!