What to Expect in 2019

HR Compliance

The employment-related landscape of HR is ever-changing. While nothing is certain, there are a few key areas gaining momentum where businesses need to proactively take notice in 2019.

#MeToo and Harassment: Sexual harassment and the #MeToo movement will continue to be hot topics. Aside from reputational damage, legal fees, and settlements, allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination 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.

If your organization did not do so in 2018, now is the time to reinforce the commitment to a harassment-free work environment. Look for legislation in the Democratic-controlled House that will focus on gender equity, including pay equity and prohibiting the use of salary history in hiring.

In addition, MRA is monitoring the EMPOWER Act legislation, which focuses on (among other things) banning companies from having nondisparagement and nondisclosure agreements in their contracts, requiring public companies to disclose all their settlements in the annual filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and mandating that companies have sexual harassment prevention training programs in place. Given the continued national discussion surrounding the #MeToo movement and that this bill has bipartisan support, the EMPOWER Act could gain traction in the coming months.

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 2019. Recently, the Department of Labor (DOL) gathered interested parties for a series of listening sessions to solicit more opinions before issuing a proposed rule.

The proposal isn’t expected until March 2019 (at the earliest) and will require a comment period. The DOL will need time to review the comments (the last time, there were more than 260,000 comments) before any new rule is issued. It is expected the rule (once finalized) would not take effect until at least 2020. And there is much speculation that the proposed salary level will be far less than the 2016 version of $47,476 annually—more likely in the $30,000 to $34,000 range.

Immigration: A key focus of President Trump’s agenda has been on immigration. In 2019, continued increase in I-9 audits and workplace raids is anticipated as well as continued revisions to the H1-B program. Moreover, as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program remains in limbo, the new Congress will have an opportunity to address and pursue reforms to it and to the immigration system as a whole.

Federal Paid Leave: Federal paid leave legislation, titled the Workflex in the 21st Century Act, stalled in Congress in 2018. 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 likely gain momentum in 2019 now that the House has moved to a Democratic majority. It’s likely they will attempt to reconcile some of the patchwork paid leave laws enacted by states and cities across the nation.

Paid Parental Leave: The Economic Security for New Parents Act, a paid parental leave bill, also stalled in 2018 but could pick up traction again in 2019. The bill is designed to be self-financing, as employees who voluntarily opt-in will draw on their Social Security benefits for two months in exchange for delaying the collection of retirement benefits by an equal amount of time (two months). The bill is limited to paid parental leave only and does not address other forms of paid leave (e.g., paid sick leave).

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 2019.

State and Local Issues: Given the gridlock and inaction on the federal level, there may be 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 Hotline Advisors on compliance changes to the laws at 866-HR-HOTLINE (866.474.6854) or InfoNow@mranet.org.

Source: Michael Hyatt, Director, HR Government Affairs, MRA - The Management Association

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