With Spring upon us, it is a great time to review your employment practices, ensure compliance with any new laws, and make updates to protect your business. Here are a few easy steps to take:
Hold your annual Sexual Harassment and Discrimination training.
Your business’s best line of defense against sexual harassment or discrimination claims is to have a “Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Policy,” and to train your employees annually on this policy. If you do not have a policy, then now is the time to adopt one. The case law has evolved to require that certain provisions are included in the policy, including the definition and examples of sexual harassment and a complaint reporting process for your employees. If you have a policy and fail to train your employees then you are at risk. Annual training of your employees provides some insulation to your business in the event of a claim. The beginning of the year is the perfect time to do the training. You can do the training in person or, in most cases, through the use of written materials that we can help you compile.
Review your employees’ job descriptions.
It is important to review your employees’ job descriptions periodically because, as a business grows, so do the roles of its workers. An annual review will help you identify potential issues, such as whether your employees are truly exempt or non-exempt (i.e. entitled to overtime). Be sure that any employees you classify as “salary” employees meet the test of state and federal law and that you have not improperly classified employees as exempt simply because they receive a “salary.” Another benefit of reviewing and updating job descriptions is to be sure that employees’ job descriptions include the essential functions of their positions, which may reduce your risk of disability claims.
Review your Employment Handbooks.
An annual review of your Employment Handbook is helpful to resolve new employment issues. For example, suppose in 2013 all of your employees went on vacation during the same week in the summer and you had to scramble to find coverage for your business. During your annual Employment Handbook review, you could address this issue and set a policy that limits when your employees may take vacation and requires pre-approval. What’s more, laws change and an annual review provides an opportunity to be compliant with new laws (for example, the Maryland Reasonable Accommodation for Disability due to Pregnancy Act and new Maryland and DC wage laws).
Find out how the Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”) affects your business.
I know no one wants to think about the impact of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”), but it very important to understand the program and its implications. In 2014, many significant provisions came into effect, including penalties if an employer with 50+ employees does not offer the proper health care coverage. Educate yourself on how the ACA affects your business so you can make wise choices about offering your employees healthcare. A good place to start is the SBA website or I would be happy to discuss it with you as well.
Review the role of your contractors.
A major issue in employment law continues to be the misclassification of workers as independent contractors. Both state and federal government agencies are auditing businesses to ensure they have properly classified their workers. The penalties can be significant if a violation is found. Although each agency applies a different set of factors, the general theme is that you cannot control your independent contractors, whether by determining where, when or how they must do their work. In order to protect your business, take the time to review the role of your independent contractors and ensure that they are properly classified.
If you have any questions or would like advice regarding these action items, please contact me at (240) 778-2308 or by e-mail at email@example.com.