The beginning of a new year presents a perfect opportunity for employers to catch up on trends and changes in laws that impact the workplace.
Here are five reasons to contact your labor and employment attorney today:
1. Update your handbook.
Have your employee handbook and forms recently been evaluated by employment counsel? If not, you may be surprised by how they do not reflect current workplace realities. Does your handbook have email and internet policies for 2018? Does it include a social media policy?
Since sexual harassment in the workplace dominated the media last year, employers also should review anti-harassment policies. It is critical for employers to provide clear explanations of prohibited conduct. Employee handbooks should detail the employee complaint process and provide assurance that complaints will be promptly and thoroughly investigated.
2. Keep up with labor law.
The National Labor Relations Board has stated its intention to revisit much of the legal precedent that was set during the Obama administration. The NLRB has already overturned decisions that broadened the joint-employer standard and limited employers’ rights to include certain workplace rules in their handbooks, including rules that prohibited profanity or abusive behavior toward co-workers.
Expect more changes to NLRB policy in 2018, including many that apply to non-union employees as well as union employees.
In addition to helping you determine how best to take advantage of these recent pro-employer decisions, employment counsel can advise you regarding forthcoming decisions as they are handed down by the NLRB.
3. Prepare for the new overtime rules.
In 2017, a federal court prevented a new overtime rule from taking effect that would have doubled the minimum salary threshold required for employees to qualify for certain overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Nonetheless, it is possible that the Department of Labor will issue a new rule incrementally increasing the salary level in 2018.
The DOL has already solicited input from the public regarding such a new rule, specifically whether the minimum salary level should be adjusted based on factors such as employer size or geographic location. The Secretary of Labor has publicly stated that he believes the minimum salary level should be increased from its current annual level of $23,660 to approximately $33,000.
The new proposed rule is likely to be proposed in 2018. Employment counsel can help you plan for the DOL’s new overtime exemption rules before they take effect.
4. Affirm your arbitration agreements.
To avoid litigation, many employers have embraced agreements that require their employees to litigate employment-related disputes in private arbitrations. Arbitration allows a more expedient resolution of cases and a means for employers to avoid jury verdicts.
However, some courts are hostile to arbitration. Just last year, in Kindred Nursing Centers Limited Partnership v. Clark, the United States Supreme Court overturned a Kentucky court holding that a general power of attorney was insufficient to authorize execution of an arbitration agreement, unless the power of attorney expressly granted that authority. The Supreme Court then sent the case back to the Kentucky court because it was unclear whether the Kentucky court had another reason for refusing to enforce the arbitration agreement. Shockingly, the Kentucky court again refused to enforce the agreement.
Employment counsel can review your arbitration agreement to affirm if it is enforceable as drafted. Given the hostility shown by Kentucky courts toward arbitration, counsel can include language in the agreement that requires all legal challenges to the enforceability of the agreement to be decided by the arbitrator, not the court.
The Supreme Court also is considering the validity of arbitration agreements that prohibit individual employees from pursuing employment-related claims on a collective or class basis. If the Court rules that such agreements are enforceable, employment counsel can help draft an agreement that limits the potential for your business to be subjected to class-action litigation.
5. Ensure your website is ADA compliant.
Evaluating your company’s compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act goes beyond assuring that physical accommodations, such as wheelchair ramps or handrails, are in place. Businesses also must to examine whether their websites are accessible to disabled persons.
A cottage industry of law firms frequently sends demand letters to businesses on behalf of disabled internet users. Businesses that conduct significant commerce online are most at risk.
Employment counsel can help you evaluate your website’s compliance with federal standards or help defend against a “website-accessibility” lawsuit.