Spruce Up your Employment Practices for the New Year

Posted by Charles Middleton on 01/26/2016
Resolution No. 1: Manage Your Policies and Procedures
This resolution pops up year after yearwhich comes as no surprise. As the law continues to develop and change, it is of utmost importance that your handbooks are one of the first resolutions you tackle. Some important areas to consider include: 
  • Pregnancy policies: In 2015, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidance to reflect the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. UPS that facially neutral policies may be found to violate the Pregnancy Discrimination Act if the policy imposes significant burdens on pregnant employees without justification. Review your accommodation policies and reconsider exclusions of pregnant employeeskeeping in mind the treatment you have provided for nonpregnant employees’ accommodation requests in similar circumstances. 
  • NLRB updates: Review your employee handbooks and procedures to comply with recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) updates and decisions. Last year, the NLRB issued an update with recommendations on changes to employer handbooks, including changes related to confidentiality, conduct between employees and supervisors, conduct between employees, interaction with third parties and restrictions on use of company logos, copyrights and trademarks. 
  • Same-Sex partner policies: Review your handbook and benefit plans to ensure same-sex couples are afforded the same rights as other couples. The Supreme Court recently held that same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. Same-sex couples may now receive benefits such as health insurance. Further, the Department of Labor (DOL) has revised its regulations to define spouse under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include married same-sex partners.
Resolution No. 2: Update Your Job Descriptions
Your current job descriptions should include a job title and detailed descriptions of expectations and qualifications. Job descriptions are one area that is often neglected or underestimated, but they are important for a number of reasons. Proper descriptions help attract the right candidates and can provide a great reference point down the road.  
Resolution No. 3: Review Your Wellness Programs
Review your wellness programs to determine compliance with 2015 guidance from the EEOC relating to incentive-based wellness programs. The EEOC issued a proposed rule stating that programs as part of a group health plan must meet certain requirements to be deemed voluntary in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Such requirements include notice to the employee regarding what medical treatment will be obtained, how it will be used, who will receive it and restrictions on disclosure.
In December 2015, a federal judge from the Western district of Wisconsin upheld a wellness program that was required in order for employees to receive health insurance. This decision does not appear to be in line with the EEOC's proposed rule, but the rule will likely be released in 2016.
Resolution No. 4: Be Alert—Wage Changes are Expected
Pay attention to the upcoming changes to wage and hour law. We recently told you about the proposed regulations published by the DOL, which changes how employees are being treated as exempt from the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the FMLA. In 2016, the DOL intends to increase minimum compensation levels and double the minimum salary threshold. You should be proactive and determine how these changes may impact your organization by identifying which exemptions might apply to certain employees and start budgeting for the potential modified salary requirements for exempt status. 
Resolution No. 5: Monitor Your Safety Programs
For the first time in 25 years, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) plans to impose higher penalties against employers who receive citations for safety violations. The increased penalties are determined according to a specific mathematical formula depending on the severity of the violation and will take effect August 1, 2016. Employers should review and revise their safety programs by providing training to employees who are responsible for handling and reporting OSHA violations.  
Written by Christina F.  Cupp, an Associate with the firm Crowe & Dunlevy.