2017 is in the books and 2018 is now upon us. A dramatic close to 2017 on Capitol Hill ushered in sweeping changes to the tax code that will begin to impact both employers and employees in a number of ways – some more immediately – from employers losing deductions for sexual harassment settlement payouts, to penalties for high nonprofit executive compensation, to tax deferral on exercise of stock options for public company executives, to employee benefit plans. Wage and leave-related issues are also likely to dominate in 2018, as more states (and employers on their own initiative) increase wage thresholds and broaden employee paid and unpaid leave entitlements (even for some smaller employers). Salary history bans, such as those already enacted in New York City, Massachusetts, and California, will continue to get traction in 2018 as more states and municipalities jump on that bandwagon. We also expect to continue to witness a significant shift in the NLRB’s enforcement policy and decision-making; the NLRB’s new General Counsel has already announced a number of changes that are sure to make employers sigh with relief. Also in 2018, employers could continue to face rising uncertainty with respect to health plans in the wake of the tax bill’s repeal of the individual mandate that was central to keeping health plans affordable under the Affordable Care Act. Finally, so that we can help keep you accountable to the five New Year’s resolutions we made for you over the holidays (that we know you were eager to adopt as your own), we have collected them for you here: (1) review and refresh your non-harassment policies and training; (2) update your leave policies; (3) make sure your job applications comply with new state ban-the-box laws and salary history inquiry bans; (4) assess the strength and enforceability of your post-employment covenants under changing state law; and (5) make sure your employee benefit plans are compliant.
Harassment has long been an Achilles’ heel of the workplace. Believe it or not, like the NCAA’s tournament TV ratings, the number of harassment-related lawsuits has held rather steady since the 1990s! And like most NCAA tournament games, the workplace can often be fast-paced and exhilarating, but it requires participants to play by the rules and when conduct goes out of bounds, participants must be benched or even ejected. In this regard, an employer must ensure that it has (1) the right players-personnel; and (2) systems in place not just for a successful season here and there, but for sustainable success over time that allows it to compete for the championship year after year. So what does this look like?
My colleague Patricia Moran, wrote a Law360 article entitled In The ACA Age, Employee Handbooks Can Help — Or Hurt as a follow up to her latest post, Have You Reviewed your Employee Handbook for Affordable Care Act Compliance? In the article, Moran urges employers to review their health and welfare benefit documentation for ACA compliance. Given the anticipated increase in IRS audits, she notes that an employee handbook can be great tool to ensure compliance with the ERISA and the ACA. In addition to outlining the value of an ACA compliant handbook, Moran also examines common noncompliance issues.
Even though the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate is in effect and fully phased-in, it has been our experience that few employers have bothered to review their employee handbooks to reflect the ACA. Below we discuss how employers may bolster their ACA compliance (and avoid ACA penalties) through an ACA-focused employee handbook review.
Being a headliner is great but nothing beats being tapped as the opening act. Join me and my panel of corporate counsel and human resources professionals as we warm up the audience at Mintz Levin’s Second Annual Employment Law Summit.
The warm up for our headliner, Carmelyn P. Malalis, Commissioner and Chair of the New York City Commission on Human Rights (who will be addressing new protections and new initiatives in the New York City Human Rights Law), may have a swanky title (“Managing Workplace Policies in a Rapidly Changing Regulatory Environment”) but it will be grounded in practicality.
Today’s workforce is mobile, virtual, transient and litigious. What is a reasonable employer to do? Should multi-jurisdictional employers practice “most-favored” diplomacy? Or should they continue to stitch together a patchwork of employment policies?
Join us in New York on January 28 as our panel tackles these and other challenging issues. You can read more about these issues in advance of the seminar here.
One of the questions clients frequently pose to me is how to make employment policies uniform across the different states where their employees work. Now it seems to me that this is a most appropriate question in this day and age: as our economy grows increasingly national (and international) through technological advances, a mobile workforce and the “gig” economy, the days of a single brick and mortar headquarters-employing-all are growing few and far between. Adding to this mix is the very necessary and good business practice of publishing, applying and administering consistent employment policies in a very-heavily regulated employment world (you know who you are California employers ….). So what is a multi-state employer to do?