Human resource compliance can be a tricky business.
There are dozens upon dozens of laws and regulations affecting employers on both the state and federal levels, and the way these are interpreted is heavily influenced by the current political climate. The safest way to predict upcoming compliance trends is to carefully monitor how ongoing legislation and regulations impacting the work environment are interpreted and applied. It’s enough to send even the most seasoned HR professional’s head spinning.
To help employers avoid these HR compliance headaches, we’ve outlined what we think are the biggest compliance concerns employers should be aware of going into 2015.
- Whistleblower protections
In early 2014, the Supreme Court ruled to expand the whistleblower anti-retaliation protections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to employees of privately held companies acting as contractors and subcontractors of publicly traded companies.Prior to this case, only employees of publicly traded companies were afforded these protections.This decision has caused a lot of employers who were previously not impacted by this legislation to think twice about taking adverse employment actions after an employee “blows the whistle.” Going forward, all employers should take care to perform thorough investigations and evaluate any potential risk.
- Social media policies
Over the past few years, employers have seen an aggressive push by the National Labor Relations Board to extend the right to engage in concerted activity outlined in Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act to include social media communications. The NLRB has found that overly broad company policies that may restrict the discussion of terms and conditions of employment can be considered “unfair labor practices.”This campaign is unlikely to lose any momentum in 2015, but it’s still uncertain exactly how hard the NLRB will pursue these cases. Instead of making drastic changes, employers will be well-advised to review their current policies to ensure compliance with the latest NLRB interpretations and guidance.
- Enforcement of pregnancy rights
Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued enforcement guidance regarding pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. These new guidelines define protections afforded by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to include considerations of pregnancy as a disability.As a result, employers could now be required to make accommodations for pregnant employees similar to those they are required to make for other employees with disabilities. With the publication of this guidance, employers can expect to see a more forceful application of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
- The use of criminal records in employment decisions
Amid claims that the use of such records negatively impacts certain populations, the EEOC has begun aggressively investigating claims of discrimination resulting from the use of criminal background checks in employment decisions.At the same time, there has been a sharp increase in the number of individual states moving to regulate or limit the use of criminal records for employment purposes.Employers should expect to see this trend of “ban-the-box” legislation to continue in 2015, and take steps to ensure their screening and hiring practices are in compliance with the latest EEOC guidance and state law.
This article was featured in the winter edition of Smart Business Houston. To view the original article, click here.