Janet Hayes – New Year’s Resolutions for Employers

Despite the cold, gray skies, January is a month that has redeeming value. It is the one time of the year when most of us stop to consider goals for self-improvement.

Here are three “resolutions” employers might want to adopt in 2019:

Review employee wage/hour classification, and be prepared for changes

Failure to comply with wage and hour laws is one of the most common legal mistakes. Employers simply cannot unilaterally choose who will be paid a salary (without overtime) and who will be paid hourly (with overtime.) Instead, employers must evaluate each position to determine whether the job duties and salary level fit into a statutory exemption.

Unfortunately, the classifications for federal exemption are not always straightforward. And even if you feel like your business is on top of wage and hour issues, brace yourselves for 2019 changes. At present, an individual must meet a salary threshold of $23,660 to be exempt from the overtime requirements of federal law. Back in 2016, President Barack Obama’s attempt to increase the salary threshold to $47,476 failed. However, talk of change is in the air again. The Department of Labor is expected to announce an increase in March and, while it will not be nearly as significant as the prior proposal, it is likely that the new threshold could be $30,000. Given the complexity of the law and the anticipated changes, this is one area where even a seasoned HR professional can benefit from legal advice. Working with a lawyer to audit all positions for legal compliance would be a great 2019 investment.

Refresh Anti-discrimination policies, and conduct training

Nationwide research contemplating attitudes of potential jurors confirms that the jurors who decide sexual harassment cases in 2019 will view facts through a significantly different lens than what existed prior to #MeToo. Jurors want to see employers taking a strong stance against sexual harassment and gender inequality.

One of the best ways to guard against claims and high jury verdicts is to implement an updated sexual harassment policy and have top executives participate in training.

Protect employee data

Cybersecurity breaches are becoming more prevalent. While most companies have plans in place to protect proprietary information, not all employers are taking active measures to protect employees’ personal data.

2019 is the year to consider how your company stores and protects employee data – including biometric data like fingerprints, retina scans and facial geometry. Also, check insurance policies to assess whether and to what extent you are covered in the event of a claim stemming from the loss of employee data.

Consider these goals or make others that are unique to your business for a happy 2019.  See the article in the Knoxville News Sentinel January 20th edition.

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