Don’t Fall Behind: Address these Employment Law Issues to Finish 2019 Strong

By: Miriam L. Rosen

 

For most, Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer.  For employers – and particularly their human resource professionals – Labor Day marks the official beginning of the race to complete 2019 projects and plan for 2020.  Here some issues that employers should consider now to avoid falling behind:       

1.  New State Laws.   This year has seen a proliferation of new state employment laws across the country covering issues from anti-harassment, pregnancy rights, pay equity, non-compete restrictions, and paid leave to legalizing recreational marijuana. While some changes took effect during the year, such as the Michigan’s Paid Medical Leave Act, in many states the new requirements will be effective on January 1, 2020.   Whether your organization is located in a single state or is a multi-state employer, now is the time to familiarize yourself with new state laws and determine what changes are necessary to the company’s policies, procedures, agreements, and forms.

2.  Federal Compliance Issues.  This year did not bring any new federal employment laws, but there are plenty of regulatory issues for employers to address.

    • Pay Equity. For employers required to file the EEO-1 form, the September 30th deadline to submit 2017 and 2018 pay data is fast approaching.  The EEOC has also been active in pursuing equal pay issues through litigation under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.   Year-end compensation reviews present an opportunity for employers to review pay practices and address pay inequities.
    • FLSA Salary Level Changes. Employers should anticipate that the Department of Labor will soon issue its final rule on the salary level for exempt status. Assuming no changes from the proposed rule issued in March 2019, the minimum salary will increase from $455 to $679 per week ($35,308 annually). The new rule is anticipated to take effect in January 2020. Employers should budget for salary adjustments necessary to maintain exempt status or make plans to change classification status if adjustments are not made.
    • Workplace Harassment. The EEOC continues to focus on workplace harassment. For the federal government’s fiscal year ending September 30, 2018, EEOC filings of workplace harassment lawsuits increased by 50% and individual discrimination charges were up by 12%.   With the 2019 fiscal year-end approaching, employers can expect to see that trend continue.   This means that employers must remain vigilant in establishing workplace practices that combat harassment, encourage prompt reporting when incidents occur, and continue to provide regular training.

3.  Training, training, training.   Speaking of training, as you are planning for 2020, employee training must be on the agenda.  Training on employment law issues is critical at all levels of an organization to ensure effective compliance efforts. Training efforts should begin at the time of hire and continue throughout employment.  Training does not have to time-consuming or boring.  Employers should deliver training through various methods to keep employees interested and engaged.  For respectful workplace and harassment training, the EEOC has recommended both in-person training and a scenario based approach.

4.  Crisis management preparation.  Employers have seen their fair share of crises in 2019 from data breaches to workplace violence to measles outbreaks.   Planning ahead is critical to an effective response and to ensure employment law compliance in challenging circumstances.   Employers should think through how various crisis situations may impact their organization and develop contingency plans to address such things as workforce communications when regular channels are down, back up employee information and payroll data if electronic systems are not accessible, and security arrangements for personnel and facilities.

Planning and implementation now will help employers minimize employment law risks in 2020. If you have questions regarding the issues above, you can contact the author or your employment law attorney.

This article was written by Miriam L. Rosen, who is Chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of Detroit SHRM and Chair of the Labor and Employment Law Practice Group in the Bloomfield Hills office of McDonald Hopkins PLC, a full service law firm. She can be reached at mrosen@mcdonaldhopkins.com or at (248) 220-1342.

Detroit SHRM encourages members to share these articles with others, inside and outside their organization, as long as its name and logo, and the author’s information, is included in the re-post of the article. September 2019.