With a chaotic and exhausting 2017 in the rearview mirror, we look forward to 2018 and the ever-changing landscape of HR and the workplace. While nothing is certain, there are indications that changes will occur. We have highlighted a few key employment-related areas MRA is monitoring:
Harassment: Sexual harassment will continue to be a hot topic. Aside from reputational damage, legal fees and settlements, allegations of sexual harassment can impact an organization’s ability to attract and retain key talent. There is simply too much at stake for companies not to pay attention. Now is the time to reinforce commitment to a harassment-free work environment.
FLSA Exemption Rules: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) salary threshold has been on hold since November 2016, however, it is likely to be updated in 2018. A notice of proposed rulemaking—which will include a proposed new salary threshold—is expected sometime this fall and, therefore, any specific action items for employers are not anticipated until at least 2019. It has been hinted that the threshold amount will be somewhere in the $30,000 to $35,000 range.
Persuader Rule: A final rule officially rescinding the 2016 persuader regulation is expected in early 2018. The regulation being rescinded is related to reporting requirements for employers and their outside labor relations advisors (consultants and attorneys) on so-called persuader activities, e.g., persuading employees to vote against starting or retaining a union.
Immigration: A key focus of President Trump’s first year in office surrounded immigration. In 2018, we anticipate an increase in I-9 audits and workplace raids. We will also see continued revisions to the H1-B program. Moreover, as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program winds down over the next several months, Congress will have an opportunity to address and pursue reforms to the immigration system.
Affordable Care Act (ACA): In 2017, it was hard to keep up with all the changes being introduced, re-introduced, voted against, and voted for when it came to the future of the ACA. In the end, the law was not repealed. However, the individual mandate penalty was effectively eliminated, starting in 2019. Covered employers still need to continue to comply with all aspects of the ACA, including reporting and coverage responsibilities. It is possible, although unlikely, that Congress will attempt to resurrect "repeal and replace" in 2018.
National Labor Relations Board (NLRB): Recently, the NLRB made several key decisions involving joint-employer status, employee handbook policies, the duty to bargain, and the elimination of micro-bargaining units. These changes overturned decisions that were deemed employee friendly and returned to a more commonsense standard that employers are applauding. We expect this trend to continue in 2018.
Federal Paid Leave: In November, Congress introduced federal paid leave legislation, titled the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. The bill proposes a combination of paid leave benefits and flexible work arrangements intended to help employees strike a better work-life balance. This legislation will gain momentum in 2018 and will attempt to reconcile some of the patchwork paid leave laws enacted by states and cities across the nation.
Drugs in the Workplace: Many U.S. manufacturing employers are encountering an increasing number of employees failing drug screens or simply quitting if asked to take such a test. In the age of marijuana legalization and opioid drug abuse, addressing and managing drug use and drug testing will remain one of the most challenging issues for employers in 2018.
State and Local Issues: Given the gridlock and inaction on the federal level, we anticipate seeing more states and local governments taking the lead in addressing workplace issues such as paid family leave, pay equity (including salary history bans), and minimum wage.
If the past year is any indication, this year will also be a bit unpredictable in terms of what policy and enforcement changes will be made and when. In the meantime, employers can stay up-to-date on the latest news and regulations through MRA’s publications and ask questions of our HR Advisors on any compliance changes to the laws.
Source: Michael Hyatt, HR Government Affairs Director, MRA – The Management Association