As we usher in a new year, it’s time to turn our attention to the HR and employment law issues emerging for 2016. Last year was especially robust for legal developments that made a direct impact on employers, and 2016 is expected to be just as active. This pace of changes, coupled with many government agencies setting aggressive enforcement agendas, means every employer needs to be aware and ready.
Here are the top 5 issues likely to shape the workplace in the coming months – and how you can keep a step ahead of them:
- A rise in city and county regulations and postings
Labor law posting compliance can be challenging enough on a federal and state level. But if you have locations in certain cities or counties, you now have additional postings to monitor – up to 7 additional postings in some locations. These postings cover a variety of employment laws, such as minimum wage, paid sick leave and discrimination, and are often more generous than federal and state legislation. You have to post these city posters in addition to the federal and state posters, so working with a guaranteed posting service like Poster Guard® Compliance Protection can help you meet the requirements.
- Proposed changes to overtime rules
Under the overtime rule expansion, the minimum salary threshold for exempt, salaried employees would more than double to $50,440 per year. To accommodate the changes, you may need to increase salaries for employees earning less than this amount so they’re still exempt from overtime (assuming they meet the job duties tests for executive, administrative and professional exemptions) – or reclassify affected employees as non-exempt and pay them on an hourly basis.
- Misclassification of independent contractors
Whether done intentionally or an honest oversight, misclassifying independent contractors who should be employees carries a heavy financial risk. In fact, the costs you save initially – from Social Security and Medicare taxes to unemployment insurance premiums – could add up to a hefty amount of back taxes and penalties down the road. More vigorous enforcement by the Department of Labor means every employer needs to be on high alert with the classification rules and carefully assess every worker relationship.
- Ban the box laws and hiring
To date, 19 states and more than 100 cities and counties have passed laws designed to reduce hiring barriers for individuals with criminal histories. These are known as “ban the box” laws because they seek to eliminate the question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” on job applications. These laws restrict you from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record until the job interview – or, in some cases, after the applicant is qualified and offered a position. Be sure to review and revise all employment applications to be certain they don’t include a criminal history question if your state or county is affected.
- Increased OSHA penalties
OSHA will increase fines for safety violations in 2016 for the first time in a quarter-century. Under the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act of 2015, the agency will impose a one-time catch-up assessment that could amount to a nearly 80 percent increase in fines. Specifically, OSHA fines for willful or repeat violations could increase from a current max of $70,000 per violation to $125,000, with fines for serious and other-than-serious violations rising from $7,000 per violation to approximately $13,000 per violation. The catch-up adjustment will take effect no later than August 1st this year, meaning every employer needs to follow a solid safety program, prevent workplace accidents and meet the latest reporting and recordkeeping requirements.
For more information on this and other employment law challenges in the new year, check out the ComplyRight webinar, Top 10 Compliance Land Mines to Watch out for in 2016.