With a new year come new (and returning) legal issues for small businesses and employers. Franchisors and franchisees, which employ millions of workers nationwide, will have to continue to pay close attention to employment law issues. With calendar year 2012 as a guide, 2013 is already on its way to being another year of employee friendly mandates, legislation, and court decisions.

Looking to the new year, the labor and employment practitioners at Armstrong Teasdale have come up with a list of the top 10 employment law issues for employers.  By keeping this Top 10 list of employment issues in mind, you can minimize legal risks and maximize chances of successfully dealing with employment law challenges in 2013: 

  1. Review your employee handbooks including the “at-will” language. Small changes may go a long way in warding off the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) recent aggressive challenges to long-standing at-will language in employee handbooks and personnel policies.
  2. Don’t assume your social media policy is compliant unless it has been updated in the last six months. 2012 was the year of active gutting of even the most sensible of social media policies by the NLRB.
  3. Review and update your criminal background check procedure. The EEOC is aggressively pursuing compliance with its 2012 guidance on when a conviction can disqualify an applicant from employment and when you can consider arrest records.
  4. Keep in mind that you are only as effective as your supervisors. Continue to train your employees on recognizing and avoiding sexual and other harassment and discriminatory behavior. Ensure your supervisors are responding appropriately to observed harassment and complaints of discrimination. Don’t forget that retaliation charges are now the most common claims filed with the EEOC.
  5. Review and update your non-compete, non-solicit and confidentiality agreements. Recent court decisions reconfirm that the enforceability of non-compete agreements against departing employees depends upon the facts and circumstances of each situation and the specific terms of your agreements.
  6. Review your exit interview procedures. There is no better time to learn information that may help you minimize future claims. This is also the best time to remind employees of their confidentiality, non-solicit and non-compete obligations in order to protect your organization before any damage is done. Call or e-mail us for a copy of our handy exit interview checklist.
  7. Conduct an audit of your organization’s compliance with wage and hour laws. Off-the-clock wage and hour lawsuits alleging employees are being misclassified as exempt or as independent contractors are still on top of the administration’s and plaintiff class action lawyers’ agendas.
  8. If you are a potential target for unionization, review your company policies and practices to ensure that you are well-prepared before NLRB’s speedy election and other pro-union rules make it too late.
  9. Review your attendance and leave (including FMLA leave) policies and procedures. The EEOC, DOL and plaintiffs’ lawyers are vigorously pursuing ADA and FMLA failure to accommodate and failure to grant leave lawsuits.
  10. If your organization is a government contractor, get ready for big changes. OFCCP continues its focus on enforcement including trying to find unlawful compensation disparities and is even considering setting quotas for hiring disabled workers.