Priorities in 2017

You Asked.BlogQ: January seems like a good time for my organization to get its house in order. What are some things we should be looking at as we enter 2017?

A: Happy New Year! With a new year in place, it’s a good time to do a quick risk analysis on your HR department. This is not a comprehensive list, but a summary of some of the top issues employers will face in 2017.

Policies/procedures/handbooks. When was the last time you reviewed these documents? MSEC recommends that these be revised at least every two years. Did you know that a review of your employee handbook is covered under your membership? An outdated handbook can create liability for your organization. If you have it in writing you need to follow it.

Forms, agreements, etc. should also be reviewed on a periodic basis. Change is constant, and MSEC updates its sample forms and publications periodically. These are available on our website, or you can ask your MSEC staff representative to email you these documents.

Has your management team been adequately trained on legal issues associated with employees? Managers and supervisors are on the front lines and are your first line of defense when dealing with potential lawsuits. It is imperative that managers and supervisors have the legal training to spot issues, not so they can handle them, but so they can bring them to your attention. Training does not need to be long and complicated, but customized to the unique issues of your organization.

In addition to training management, take a look at how effectively this group provides feedback to employees. According to an article in Forbes (November 2016) annual reviews will be evolving into more continuous reviews. This change is geared by a society that is used to instant gratification and feedback (social media) and is being driven by Millennials and Generation Z. From a legal perspective, this is especially concerning, because historically we have seen that management does not give honest, accurate feedback. Consequently, more frequent feedback gives employers a wonderful opportunity to address performance and behavior issues; however, management will most likely need coaching and counseling on giving realistic feedback as opposed to reviews intended to preserve an employee’s feelings. What a wonderful opportunity!

Are you using the new I-9 form? You have until January 21, 2017 when you will be required to use the new form. You can find it here

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s final rules on wellness programs and the Americans with Disabilities Act and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act take effect January 1, 2017. They apply on the first day of the first plan year that begins on or after this date. A Small Business Fact sheet can be found here.

Monitor your workplace to ensure compliance with EEOC’s top compliance areas. Make sure that you provide equal opportunity in recruitment and hiring. Your EEO policy must be followed and your organization needs to take action against illegal discrimination, ensuring protection of vulnerable workers, immigrant and migrant workers, and underserved communities. Review pay practices to confirm that all workers are receiving equal pay for the work they do. Protect all employees from illegal harassment by monitoring, training and reiterating the policy.

Be prepared for compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act. The first step is ensuring the all workers are correctly classified as exempt or nonexempt. Keep in mind that the salary level is only one part of this test: it is also important to meet the duties test. Ensure nonexempt employees are paid for all hours worked. Smart phones have made this area of compliance especially challenging.

These materials are general in nature not to be construed as the rendering of legal or management advice. Send your questions to cgraves@msec.org. Please tell us if you would prefer your identity not be mentioned in our answer.