Every employer must comply with employment law, rules and regulations. Business owners have to take a proactive approach to ensure that their organization meets all of its legal obligations at the Federal, State and Local levels. Deciding how to meet these new compliance responsibilities is an ongoing challenge that is critical to preventing liability. Below are the top seven HR compliance trends to watch in 2019.
1. Ban-the-Box laws
Traditionally, job applicants would have to check a box to indicate whether they have a criminal history, but more than 25 states have adopted “ban-the-box” laws or policies that stop employers from asking about a candidate’s criminal past. California is the latest state to enact ban-the-box law. This ban has been put in place to compel employers to review an applicant’s qualifications and experience without the stigma of an arrest or incarceration record. Employers are prohibited from asking about a candidate’s criminal history on an application form and during the first interview. Banning the box enables candidates to receive a more fair chance of gaining employment after they have been released from prison.
2. Salary History Restrictions
The question, “how much did you earn in your last job?” is one that most candidates dread. Answering honestly could result in the candidate being “low-balled” while the consequence of being dishonest is termination of employment. Several states and local jurisdictions have challenged wage discrimination by enacting laws that ban employers from asking about salary history when hiring. In 2018, more and more states placed constraints on employers in relation to asking about previous salaries. Look for this to continue in 2019.
3. Paid Sick Leave
Following the trend of jurisdictions enacting sick leave bills, Austin has become the first city in Texas to ratify paid sick leave. Paid sick leave regulations generally require eligible employers to pay for the periods that employees are off work due to illness and, in some cases, employees will accrue paid leave according to the number of hours worked. Paid sick leave entitlement can also roll over in some cases. Businesses should be preparing to comply with paid sick leave laws if and when they’re enacted.
4. Pregnant and Nursing Employee Accommodation
Many states have begun to enact legislation mandating employers make reasonable accommodation for pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical issues. A reasonable accommodation is usually a change to the structure of the job or how the employee carries out the job to facilitate the fulfillment of essential parts of the role. Reasonable accommodation for pregnant or nursing women can include:
- Sedentary duty – sitting on the job
- Taking bathroom breaks
- Limiting the amount of weight an employee should carry
Employers that are not in a jurisdiction that has legislated for reasonable accommodation for pregnant and nursing women, may still be required to make provisions for pregnant employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Therefore, it’s a good practice to include exceptions for pregnant and nursing women into your business policies.
5. Anti-Harassment Training
Many states require eligible employers to provide harassment training. Due to the high profile sexual harassment cases which led to the #MeToo movement in 2017, it’s likely that more laws will be passed to combat sexual harassment in 2019. It’s good business practice for organizations to review training at a minimum of once a year and many organizations have increased this to once a quarter. You should consider updating your training and policies to ensure that they are effective in deterring sexual harassment and dealing with sexual harassment allegations.
6. Minimum Wage
Federal law requires non-exempt employees to be paid a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. However, several local jurisdictions and 18 states have a higher minimum wage. It’s up to all businesses to be informed regarding the wage requirement of your state and jurisdiction. A business must comply with the minimum wage that is most generous to your employee and employers must post the most-current minimum wage notice in the workplace. These required postings are usually available online via the state or federal website under the resources section.
7. LGBTQ Worker protection
More than 20 states and numerous local jurisdictions have specifically stopped employers from carrying out discriminatory hiring and employment practices based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Although federal law doesn’t expressly talk about LGBTQ employees, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) adopts the position that protection in relation to sex covers gender identity and sexual orientation. Even though federal judges are divided on this issue, states provide more protection for LGBTQ employees.
While compliance is an essential requirement for all organizations, going above and beyond what is legally required can show the organization cares about the wellbeing of its employees and help to attract and retain the best talent. To ensure your business is in compliance, it is vital to utilize skilled and knowledgeable HR professionals. To learn more about how Univest HR Consulting can help, please contact me at (267) 646-4467 or KrawitzJ@univest.net.