Every year in July and August, employers should prepare to update their employee handbook and employee policies. New federal laws and guidance for HR and compliance come into effect around this time of year. MP’s HR services team has also been watching the upcoming litigation trends and agendas from various departments, like the Department of Labor (DOL).
Here are key HR compliance updates that employers should prepare for in 2021 and beyond.
1. The Department of Labor (DOL) has developed two proposed rules.
- A $15 minimum wage for federal contractors. This proposed rule is significant because, if successful, it may herald a similar change for individual states.
- New requirements for compensating tipped workers. Employers would be required to pay tipped employees a full minimum wage for certain hours worked if they spend more than 20% of their shift or if employees spend more than 30 consecutive minutes on a nontipped task.
2. OSHA has developed its agenda for 2021 and beyond.
OSHA’s budget has increased, allotting millions of dollars for assisting small businesses. MP’s HR consulting team suggests taking advantage of a program for pre-examination. This program will assist small businesses in identifying and fixing potential issues; no fines or penalties will apply.
In the next six months, OSHA will also be focusing efforts on three topics. Employers may want to prepare by improving their own issues in these areas before OSHA creates more regulations and fines:
- Heat illness prevention
- Expanded and enhanced workplace injury and illness tracking
- PPE requirements, especially in the construction industry
3. COVID-oriented trends in lawsuits.
Many employers will be defending themselves against lawsuits stemming from circumstances related to COVID. These are the most common reasons that HR consulting experts are seeing:
- Safety and protection: Employees are alleging their workplaces didn’t adequately protect them from COVID.
- Americans with Disabilities (ADA) accommodations and leave requests: Employees are suing because their workplaces didn’t follow the ADA interactive process to a satisfactory degree. Employees are also suing because they feel their employers didn’t offer adequate accommodations for circumstances like returning to work, an inability to be vaccinated, or childcare or care for a sick relative.
- Wage and hour violations: Employees are alleging that their employers didn’t pay overtime at the regular rate, particularly if they worked remotely. Employees are also suing because they believe they weren’t accurately compensated while working remotely (particularly nonexempt workers). Some employers are suing because they believe they were misclassified as an independent contractor (and thus not protected by labor laws or given access to benefits).
- Harassment or hostile work environments: Employees are alleging that they’ve been harassed on the basis of protected classes. It’s worth noting that in 2021, the protected classes listed are more often race or gender identity. In the past, harassment or hostile work environment lawsuits frequently focused on sexual harassment.
- Tax law regulations for remote workers: As the pandemic wanes, states are beginning to enforce tax laws that they were less stringent about in 2020. When workplaces keep their employees remote, states will require employers to pay taxes owed where employees are based. Employers may need to register for payroll taxes in new states. It’s also important to note that when an employer has remote workers in other states, they may be subject to HR compliance for these states, resulting in new handbooks and policies.
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