Now that we welcomed March, the luster of the new year is starting to wear off. I've been hearing people complain more about their co-workers, their bosses, their clients, their workplaces. With all the grumbling going on, it's good to stay abreast of legal changes that affect us in our workplaces. Some of them may put more money in your wallet, make your work life easier, or prevent you from getting fired. For employers, keeping up with changes is critical for avoiding a costly lawsuit or government audit.
Ten Employment Issues to Lookout for in 2016
- 1- Increased Salary Requirement for Exemptions: Employees may get a boost in salary in 2016. The threshold for many exempt (salaried) employees is increasing later this year from $455 a week (or $23,660.00 per year) to $970.00 a week (or $50,440.00 per year). For workers affected, employers will need to increase salaries or pay overtime.
- 2- Increase in Minimum Wage: As of January 1, fourteen states increased their minimum wage requirements. Employers in those states must pay the new minimum wage or risk wage violations.
- 3- Sexual Orientation is a Protected Characteristic: Employers are now liable for sexual orientation discrimination in their workplace. Expect employers to implement policies to avoid potential claims for sexual orientation discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation.
- 4- Transgender Rights in the Workplace: Employers must ensure all anti-discrimination workplace policies include protection for transgender workers. They also must provide their employees adequate access to restrooms that correspond to their employees' gender identity.
- 5- Increase in Age Discrimination Claims: Another year, another birthday for the country's aging baby boomer demographic. Employers must now give more thought to eliminating positions belonging to individuals in the protected age class (of age 40 or over).
- 6- Safety in the Workplace: In 2015, there were a number of violent attacks in the workplace. Employers have a legal obligation to protect their employees from harm. Employers will need to revisit workplace safety policies to ensure their employees are adequately protected.
- 7- Marijuana Regulation: In 2016, expect to see more regulations passed that permit individuals with health conditions to be treated with marijuana. That means employers will need to revisit their workplace policies. Overly restrictive policies on the use of medical marijuana (or any prescribed medication for that matter) could result in a potential ADA violation.
- 8-Social Media: While the boss might want to keep employees off social media, a complete ban on can run afoul of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act because employees have a right to engage in concerted activity on social media. Additionally, employees can now refuse to give their employers their Facebook or Twitter passwords as more states have enacted legislation which ban an employer's request for login and password information for employees' social media accounts.
- 9-Background Check Litigation: Worried that a background check will unfairly be used against you? With increased safety concerns, more employers are conducting background checks on their applicants and employees. However, many employers are not familiar with laws concerning background checks and violations of both the Fair Credit Reporting Act and federal anti-discrimination laws. Employers will need to ensure that their background check processes complies with all laws.
- 10-Misclassification: Are you a contractor or an employee? The Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service are now sharing information to notify the other of instances when employers are misclassifying their employees as independent contractors. The consequence of misclassifying is penalties assessed by both federal agencies (in addition to lawsuits by private litigants). Employers will need to understand the distinction between employees and independent contractors, and classify workers properly. That could mean paying benefits and overtime to workers who are misclassified.
We all know there are many personalities in a workplace and issues that arise that can easily lead to conflict. Kemper advises being mindful of legal changes to avoid major headaches and disruption! Expect to see more changes in the year ahead!