Local, state, and federal laws are changing frequently and technology and social issues are constantly evolving and impacting today’s workforce.
There are nine employment law issues you need to watch to keep up with the latest employer regulations:
Wage and hour law: New FLSA guidance
The Trump 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.
Health care law — the ACA
Changes to current health care laws are extremely important for individuals and employers. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is still the law and employers should continue to ensure they remain compliant with all aspects of the ACA. This includes knowing about the latest tax provisions and requirements for providing health care coverage to employees.
Employee use of social media
Companies are increasingly concerned about how employees use social media, both in and outside of the workplace. It’s important to educate employees about the correct standards when using social media in the workplace, however employers must be careful not to disregard 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.
As more states legalize medical and/or recreational marijuana, employers continue to struggle with how to address the issue in the workplace. Regulations 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 recently ruled that employers may need to accommodate off-duty medical marijuana use in certain situations. A clear policy for marijuana in the workplace is vital because requirements vary state by state.
The misclassification of employees as independent contractors or freelancers is a hot topic and an area of enforcement to watch closely. Some cities are providing additional protections for freelancers, such as the New York City Freelance Isn’t Free Act.
Paid leave and FMLA
While we wait to see what the current administration’s plans for paid parental leave will look like, states are busy passing their own laws. 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. Many state laws are more inclusive of family members covered under 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.
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. 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. One specific change related to business immigration to be aware of is the updated Form I-9 used for identify verification and employment authorization.
No matter how challenging, businesses must closely monitor the legislative environment throughout the year and stay informed on the topics that are driving significant changes in the law and best practices in human resources management. Not doing so can be costly to any business.