2015 Employment Labor Laws: What You Need to Know

2015 Employment Labor Laws: What You Need to Know

Changes you need to know and key issues to follow

With every year there are new federal and state and local labor laws employers, HR professionals and recruiters must understand. What’s new for 2015?

The Society of Human Resources has put together an outstanding resource titled New Year, New Laws: Compliance Challenges U.S. Employers Face in 2015, which outlines major changes at the state and local level throughout the country.

While there are no new federal employment laws affecting employers for 2015, there are some important workplace issues going before the U.S. Supreme Court this term, says Eric B. Meyer, a partner in the Philadelphia-based law firm of Dilworth Paxson LLP. Meyer is Chair of the firm’s #SocialMedia Practice Group and a member of the Labor and Employment Practice Group. He also publishes The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com).

For example, in Young v. United Parcel Service, the Supreme Court will decide to what extent an employer has to provide a reasonable accommodation to a pregnant employee, Meyer points out. Additionally, how the Supreme Court decides EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, a case involving alleged religious discrimination, will guide companies on circumstances under which an employer must make reasonable accommodation for an employee’s sincerely-held beliefs, such as modifying a dress code.

There are other hot workplace issues, which, while not before the Supreme Court, will certainly impact employers, says Meyer. For example, the EEOC is actively litigating cases involving transsexual discrimination, arguing that treating adverse treatment of transsexual employees is a violation of federal anti-discrimination law. The EEOC is also placing employee-wellness programs under the microscope for possible violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (by requiring involuntary medical screenings) and the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (seeking information relating to family medical history).

On a state and local level, employers should pay attention to any paid-sick leave laws or ban-the-box laws that go into effect in 2015, says Meyer. The former, as the name indicates, would require providing a certain amount of paid sick leave for eligible employees. The latter would prevent companies from inquiring about criminal history until after the first job interview.

Ashley Kaplan, HR Consultant and Senior Employment Law Attorney for PosterTracker.com, says businesses should gear up for a robust year of federal employment law changes.

“Depending on the outcome with issues like overtime exemptions, pregnancy accommodations, background checks, same-sex marriage and more, you can expect an impact on your essential HR policies and practices,” says Kaplan.

The significant pending legal changes that would affect mandatory federal postings include:

  • Possible EEOC federal poster change and/or federal contractor EEO/VEVRAA poster change – based on March 24, 2014 law expanding veteran protections.
  • Changes to three federal contractor posters — based on January 1, 2015 minimum wage increase
  • Possible EEOC federal poster change and/or federal contractor EEO/sexual orientation and gender identity poster change – based on final regulations – effective April 8, 2015.
  • Possible FMLA poster change – based on proposed regulations on the definition of spouse – expected to finalize in March 2015.
  • Possible FLSA poster change – based on the announcement of proposed regulations to change the FLSA overtime exemptions to be released in February 2015 – not expected to finalize until 2016.

In addition to keeping abreast of the latest employment law changes so you make legal and ethical personnel management decisions, there’s the aspect of mandatory posting compliance, says Kaplan.

“Employers are required, by law, to display the most current federal and state labor law postings,” says Kaplan. “Compliance isn’t optional. In fact, this requirement applies to every business with at least one paid employee, and postings must appear at all company locations in areas accessible to all employees. Unfortunately, many businesses outright ignore posting compliance, or display posters that are out of date and no longer compliant.”

Further still, most non-compliant businesses don’t realize they are risking exposure to government fines or even employee lawsuits, says Kaplan. Again, your company is at risk if you’re not displaying the most current federal and state labor law postings required by law. Penalties for noncompliance include government fines up to $17,000 per posting location. What’s more, failure to post can extend the “statute of limitations” or contribute to a finding of bad faith in an employee lawsuit, resulting in inflated damage awards and potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in litigation costs and settlement.

The takeaway is obvious, says Kaplan: Don’t leave your company exposed by overlooking this critical employer obligation. Whether you do it yourself, or rely on a poster subscription service that provides automatic replacements, staying on top of the latest labor law changes protects you from government fines and supports your company’s defense in the event of a lawsuit.

Small business owners, HR professionals and recruiters should follow labor and employment issues in the news and making headlines on a regular basis, says HR consultant Kari Scanlon.

One change Scanlon points out may not make headline news, but is something to be aware of she says: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the time employees were spending going through metal detectors at the end of their shifts is not considered time work.

“While most of us don’t require our employees to go through this type of security system, we can see that the Supreme Court focused on whether this requirement was an essential component of the job,” says Scanlon. “All of us with employees should be clearly defining the essential components of a job. We can take the news as a reminder of how we want to work with our employees.”

Another interesting case in front of the Supreme Court is whether UPS needed to provide accommodation to an employee who was pregnant.

“While the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled yet, it’s a good reminder to look at your own practices in regards to accommodations,” says Scanlon. “Even UPS completed a review and has since updated their practices. Using the news is a nice way to remind ourselves to review policies and practices.”

Additional resources, news and notes from the Department of Labor

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs recently published a final rule on sex discrimination. This will be phased in starting this spring.

The Wage and Hour Division published a final rule establishing a minimum wage for federal contractors of $10.10 per hour, and that went into effect Jan. 1 2015.

More broadly:

The department is also working to modernize and update regulations regarding who qualifies for overtime protections.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recently updated rules on severe injury/fatality reporting requirements . Reporting Fact Sheet and Rule text

The department also updated the list of companies required to keep OSHA 300 logs

The department will also be implementing the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) (passed in 2014). As part of the implementation, ETA is preparing regulations related to aligning federal resources across workforce training, education and rehabilitation programs at the state level. The regs will also clarify performance reporting requirements to ensure that workers and employers have the data they need to make informed decision regarding which programs would be serve their employment needs. Related fact sheet

Other Related Resources
U.S. Small Business Administration Employment and Labor Law Resources

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Matt Krumrie is a career columnist and professional resume writer who has been providing helpful information and resources for job seekers and employers for 15+ years. Learn more about Krumrie via resumesbymatt.com, connect with him on LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/in/mattkrumrie/) and follow him on Twitter via @MattKrumrie.

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