The development of employee legislation in the US steadily extended rights and protection of employees. In this respect, it is worth mentioning Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 and the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. In fact, these acts are fundamental for protection of employees in regard to their health, safety and family care. At the same time, it should be said that both acts have certain controversies which make these acts subjects to criticism. Nevertheless, both the FMLA and the OSHA increase employers’ responsibility for health of employees and even their family members. At any rate, the existing legislation contributes to the higher protection of employees from hazards and negative impact of their work on their health compared to the past, when employees were practically unprotected and used by employers as mere commodities. In such a context, the FMLA and the OSHA proved to be very effective and important in the course of the development of the labor legislation in the US since they, to a significant extent, defined employer-employee relationship in the US today.
Originally, the OSHA was introduced in 1970 to protect employees from the dangerous impact of the workplace environment and minimize the risk of employees’ exposure to hazardous materials for employers were obliged to create the workplace environment free of hazards. At the same time, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the act protected employees only from recognized hazards, such as exposure to toxic chemicals, excessive noise levels, mechanical dangers, heat or cold stress, or unsanitary conditions. In such a way, the act could not be expanded on hazards which not officially recognized being dangerous to human health. In fact, this was one of the major controversies of the OSHA because the officials could recognize mainly mechanical and chemical hazards rather than procedures, although the latter can be quite dangerous to human health.
At the same time, the OSHA requires employers to create safe workplace environment. The basic requirements of the act oblige employers to do the following: to maintain conditions or adopt practices reasonably necessary and appropriate to protect workers on the job; to be familiar with and comply with standards applicable to their establishments; to ensure that employees have and use personal protective equipment, when required for safety and health (OSHA, 1970). On the other hand, it is necessary to point out that such requirements are essential for employers when the workplace environment and conditions of work meet basic criteria defined by the OSHA. In this respect, it is possible to single out four criteria: 1) there must be a hazard in the workplace environment; 2) the hazard must be a recognized hazard; 3) the hazard could cause or likely to cause serious harm or death; and 4) the hazard must be correctable (OSHA, 1970).
Employers have to meet all the requirements defined by the act. In order to ensure the proper implementation of the act and its functioning in the workplace environment, the agency of the Department of Labor was created specifically to control the execution of the labor law, including the OSHA. In fact, it is the Department of Labor that sets and enforces health and safety standards. In such a way, employers are protected from hazards and work in a relatively safe workplace environment.
In the course of time, it became obvious that the existing labor legislation did not fully protect health of employees. As a result, in 1993, the FMLA was implemented in order to enlarge the protection of employees. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that, unlike many other legislative initiatives related to the protection of employees and their health, the FMLA was expanded not only on employees but also on their family members. To put it more precisely, according to the FMLA, employers should provide unpaid leave to their workers, under conditions defined by the act. Employees could have leave on the condition that they suffered from a serious health condition that makes them unable to perform their job. In addition, employers should provide employees with leave when an employees’ family member is sick and needs care of the employees. Moreover, employees could take leave to take care for a new child, including a child by birth, adoption or foster care (FMLA, 1993). In such a way, the FMLA protects employees’ health as well as family relations since employees have got a chance to take leave due to serious health conditions or serious health problems in their family members. On the other hand, the FMLA also has certain controversies, among which it is possible to single the potential risk of the creation unequal conditions for men and women because the latter tend to have a larger number of leaves under the act as they often have to take care for their children, while men traditionally keep working in such cases.
Thus, in conclusion, it should be said that the FMLA and the OSHA are very important acts that determine the existing labor legislation and defined the position of employees and their relations with employers.