Why is it important for Human Resource professionals to know if a law applies to an organization?

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The HR manager is not only responsible to the company for access to qualified personnel, etc., but is also the expert on benefits, hiring ethics such as gender equality, firing criteria, on-the-job behavior, etc.  One of the most important tasks for the HR manager is keeping abreast of changing labor laws as they go through the courts and legislatures of the parent company’s legal residence.  A mis-step by HR can cost the company millions if a controversy goes to litigation or out-of-court settlement regarding a labor dispute, and one of the first questions that will come up is “Is your company keeping up with the legal stipulations of hiring and maintaining Human Resources?”  The HR manager must be able to provide proof  that he/she is aware of all laws and especially recent changes in the law, regarding such issues as Affirmative Action, gender equality in pay, bonus distribution, and maternity leave (for example, recent laws have given fathers “newborn leave”).  A legal background, or at least a thorough knowledge of how to decipher legal language in contracts, case law, etc., is useful.