2016 Employer To-Do List

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Michael A. Shadiack

1.  MODERNIZE YOUR EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK.  Employee handbooks should be updated often - preferably on a yearly basis - in order to stay up-to-date with changing laws.  Take the time to make sure your company’s handbook has a social media policy, addresses same-sex married couples, and provides reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.  Your handbook is a key preventative tool that needs a regular checkup.

2.  CONDUCT TRAINING FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES AND SUPERVISORS.  This year, the New Jersey Supreme Court highlighted the importance of conducting workplace harassment prevention training for employees and supervisors in the workplace.  The court emphasized that these trainings could serve as an important defense in a lawsuit brought by an employee.  Put yourself in the best position possible to defend your company while promoting a positive work environment.

3.  REVIEW AND UPDATE YOUR RECRUITING MATERIALS.  New Jersey’s and New York City’s “Ban the Box” laws went into effect in 2015, and New Jersey issued comprehensive regulations on its Opportunity to Compete Act in December.  The laws impose restrictions on an employer’s ability to inquire into an applicant’s criminal history as part of a background check during the hiring process.  Employers should update their job advertisements, applications, and hiring procedures to ensure compliance with these laws. 

4.  ENSURE YOU ARE PROPERLY PAYING YOUR EMPLOYEES. 2015 brought several pieces of legislation and cases imposing requirements on employers regarding the compensation of their employees, including overtime.  A federal case set forth the factors to determine whether employees must be paid for a meal period, and New York City now requires some employers to offer their employees the opportunity to use pre-tax wages toward commuting expenses.  Make sure your company is following these new laws.

5.  AUDIT YOUR ANTI-DISCRIMINATION POLICIES.  New York City amended its Human Rights Law toward the end of 2015 to prohibit discrimination against “caregivers.”  The City also issued new guidance regarding the scope of gender identity and expression discrimination, and it now prohibits employers from considering applicants’ credit history.  Understand how these changes may impact your hiring, discipline, and termination practices.

6.  ENSURE THE FAIR CREDIT REPORTING ACT REQUIREMENTS ARE MET.  In 2015, a significant number of high-profile lawsuits were filed alleging that employers were not complying with the requirement that an employer provide a written disclosure and authorization to an applicant, pursuant to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Now is the time to conduct a self-audit to determine if your company has in place, and is utilizing, legally compliant disclosure and authorization forms as part of the background check processes.

7.  DETERMINE WHETHER YOUR INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS ARE CORRECTLY CLASSIFIED.  In 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court determined that the “ABC” test should be used by employers when determining whether their workers truly qualify as independent contractors under the New Jersey wage and hour as well as wage payment laws.  If your company last examined the classification of its workers as either an employee or an independent contractor prior to 2015, then a re-examination under the new test is encouraged to ensure proper classification and to avoid costly fines, penalties, and other potential liability.

8.  LOOK OUT FOR CHANGES TO EXEMPT VS. NON-EXEMPT STATUS.  The federal government has indicated that it is reassessing its factors for determining whether an employee is “exempt” or “non-exempt” for purposes of minimum wage and overtime, and drastic changes are expected to come in 2016.  To prepare for these changes, employers should review job descriptions to ensure their employees’ job duties are accurate and up-to-date, assess their employees’ salary and wage levels, and revisit their time keeping procedures for all employees (as the status of certain employees may change from “exempt” to “non-exempt” if new factors are adopted by the government).

9.  REVISIT YOUR TERMINATION PRACTICES.  The New Jersey Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in 2015 prohibiting employers from retaliating against “watchdog” employees who engage in whistleblowing activity.  Employers now must be careful when making termination decisions against these employees when those decisions could be viewed as retaliatory.

10.  ENSURE COMPLIANCE WITH ANY PAID SICK LEAVE ORDINANCE IN YOUR MUNICIPALITY.  The number of New Jersey municipalities that passed an ordinance requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees grew dramatically in 2015.  Some cities, like Jersey City, made significant amendments to their previously-existing paid sick leave laws that extended the benefit to even more employees.  Also, employers in New York City as well as federal contractors must provide their employees with paid sick leave.  Ensure your company’s sick time policy is in compliance.

 

Connell Foley's employment attorneys can assist your organization in achieving and "checking off" its compliance to-do list.

Michael A. Shadiack, Esq.
Partner and Co-Chair - Labor & Employment Practice Group
973.535.0500
mshadiack@connellfoley.com
M. Trevor Lyons, Esq.
Partner and Co-Chair - Labor & Employment Practice Group
973.535.0500
mlyons@connellfoley.com

This post is made available by Connell Foley LLP for educational purposes only as well as to give you general information, and not to provide specific legal advice. This handout does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Connell Foley LLP, and it should not be used as a substitute for legal advice specific to your organization.