Employment laws can be tricky…they tend to change (or get updated) frequently. This is an area many businesses, especially smaller ones, tend to “not have time for” until something comes back to bite them later. It’s much easier (and less expensive) to know them and incorporate them into your business today than later when there is an issue.
There was a great article that talked about these issues, “9 employment law issues you need to watch,” that talks about these issues. I thought it might be helpful to summarize these for you so that you are aware of what they are. Then, if needed, you can explore the ones you need in more detail as they might relate to your business.
9 Employment Laws
Wage and hour law: New FLSA guidance – The current administration is not defending the previous’ administration’s rule, which would have raised the salary thresholds for certain exempt employees to $913 a week. The Department of Labor has announced that it will seek input from the public before it issues a revised proposed overtime rule, which also would include new salary thresholds for exemptions
Health care law — the ACA – While the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still in effect, this is a top issue for both lawmakers and the public to seek changes. However, nothing has changed with respect to this law (yet) so it is important to become familiar with it and make sure you are complying with what it requires from an employer. It is important to remain compliant until such time as new changes are enacted. Just because there is a lot of discussion doesn’t mean there are any changes to the law.
Employee use of social media – Social media is now a part of everybody’s life…both at work and in their personal life. Companies are increasingly concerned about how employees use social media and how it can affect their business. It’s become more important than ever to educate employees and establish clear and consistent standards and practices for interacting on social media.
At the same time, employers must be careful not to infringe upon employee rights to discuss topics such as working conditions or wages. This activity is often protected, so companies should proceed cautiously before drafting or enforcing social media policies.
Independent Contractors – The classification (or misclassification) of employees as independent contractors or freelancers is a hot topic and an area of enforcement to watch closely. Some areas of the country (such as New York City) are providing additional protections for freelancers, such as the New York City Freelance Isn’t Free Act. This Act establishes and enhances protections for freelance workers, specifically as to contracts, terms of payment and protection from retaliation.
Marijuana in the workplace – Employers continue to struggle with how to address the issue of marijuana in the workplace as more and more states legalize its use. A clear and consistent policy is vital today for any business, regardless of the state you do business in since it can affect everyone.
Statutes in Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, New York and Rhode Island provide employee protections from discrimination primarily on the basis of being a medical marijuana cardholder, or for testing positive for marijuana during a drug test. The Massachusetts Supreme Court also recently ruled that employers may need to accommodate off-duty medical marijuana use in certain situations. The world has changed and continue to changes in this area so paying close attention to these changes is important for every business.6.
Paid Leave and Parental Leave Laws – States are busy passing their own laws while they wait for the current administration to develop their own plans for paid leave. New York recently joined New Jersey, Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts and several other states providing some form of family leave. Multistate employers in particular should know that the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is no longer the only law to follow when an individual is planning to give birth, adopt or foster a child, or to care for a family member. Also, many state laws are more inclusive of the family members covered under the FMLA.
Equal Pay Legislation and enforcement – The Equal Pay Act applies to all employers, regardless of how many workers they employ. The law does not require an intent to discriminate, so whether an employer realized its actions were discriminatory is irrelevant. An individual who successfully sues under the federal law can recover back pay and penalties. Many states also have similar protections for employees and, in some cases, are more restrictive than the federal law in terms of the defenses that an employer can submit.
Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation – With a steady increase in the number of claims filed against employers and changing guidance at the federal level, it’s more important than ever for companies to consult with human resources and legal experts about whether some actions may be considered discrimination, harassment or retaliation.
Knowledge of current case law is important in today’s fluid environment. This is especially true in retaliation claims, which account for almost half of all EEOC claims. For example, a court can dismiss an underlying claim of discrimination or harassment but allow a retaliation claim to continue if the employee can prove that the company retaliated against them for exercising their rights and filing the complaint.
Business Immigration and Visa holders in the workplace – Immigration reform policies continue to evolve and changes to business immigration laws remain in flux. Businesses should keep an eye on the latest policy proposals and actual legislation passed. For now, one specific change related to business immigration to be aware of is the updated Form I-9 used for identify verification and employment authorization. All employers must begin to use the new I-9 (with a revision date of July 17, 2017) by Sept. 18 of this year. The changes to the form are not substantial, but do include a new addition to the list of documents that may be used for verification’s.
What to do next…
As you can see from the list above, there are a number of issues every business owner needs to keep in mind while operating their business. While none of these are revenue generating activities, they are certainly areas that can cost a company lots of money if they aren’t taken care of in advance. These are all areas that need to be addressed immediately if there aren’t already plans in place for each of these nine areas. If you don’t already have an attorney, we would be happy to answer any of your questions to help you better understand the issues in these areas.
Also, if you just want to better understand how you can minimize and lower your risks (which every business owner wants) then please read some more about risk management and how you can help determine your own risk. I’d also be happy to meet with you (complimentary of course) to discuss your own personal situation further and give you some insights about how you might want to proceed.
I hope you have found this helpful and given you a different way to look at your business. If it has, please share this with others inside your company and your colleagues who are running or leading other businesses. Our primary mission at Generations Law Group, LLP is to help everyone find productive ways to lower their business AND personal risk. This is just one way you can start to do this…but it will tell you a lot about you and what has happened over the past few years with regard to your business risk. Let’s make sure your risk is as low as it can be while you continue to grow.