Human Resources & Compliance Update
April 2, 2013
The regulatory environment surrounding healthcare and employee benefits is ever-changing and extremely complex, which in turn, requires employers to keep up and comply with state and federal regulations to avoid any unnecessary fines or penalties. Enclosed are several recently announced provisions employers should review to ensure compliance:
New FMLA Rules for Military Family Leave:
FMLA compliance continues to grow in importance for HR departments as several new clarifications were recently issued in regard to Military Family Leave. These new guidelines allow:
1. Eligible employees to obtain certification of a service member’s serious injury or illness from any healthcare provider not just those affiliated with the departments of Defense or Veterans Affairs.
2. Qualified exigency leave to be extended to employees who are family members or members of the regular armed forces. The clarification also adds the requirement for all military members to be deployed to a foreign country in order to be on “covered active duty” under FMLA.
3. The amount of time an employee may take for qualifying exigency leave related to the military member’s rest and recuperation leave to increase from 5 to 15 days.
4. Leave for the care of veterans not just active personnel.
Not complying with FMLA could cost employers millions in penalties, interest, back pay, and attorney’s fees.
New FMLA Poster Required by March 8th:
The new FMLA poster updates include: a broadened definition of “veteran” to include a veteran discharged within the last five years, a notation on the difference between “serious injury or illness” and “serious health condition” , and a statement on the special hours service eligibility requirements applying to airline flight crew members. A copy of the new poster can be downloaded here: https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/fmlaen.pdf. Employers who willfully choose not to post the new poster may face a $100 fine for each separate offense.
EEOC Will Focus on Hiring, Pay, and Harassment in 2013:
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released its new Strategic Enforcement Plan. Within, the EEOC listed several new goals:
1. Eliminating barriers in recruitment & hiring: The agency hopes to meet this goal through guidance issued on background checks. The hope is the guidance on background checks will discourage employers from using blanket exclusions of individuals who have been convicted of crimes. The key to background checks is consistency; any rule for background checks should be the same for all candidates.
2. Enforcing equal pay by gender: Although EEOC pay disparity suites are rare, employers should be vigilant as the EEOC can show up at a moment’s notice without a complaining party and conduct an investigation through commissioner charges, which the strategic enforcement plan specially encourages to fight pay discrimination.
3. Preventing Harassment through Systemic Enforcement and Targeted Outreach: Although preventing harassment isn’t a new area of focus for the EEOC, experts warn employers should remain vigilant as sexual and racial harassment complaints are some of the most frequent complaints raised in the workplace.
EEOC issues are not to be overlooked: In 2012 the Equal Pay Act had 1082 EEOC claims. In 2011 there were 33,956 harassment claims, costing employers $100.2 million, and 11,364 sexual harassment claims, costing employers $52.3 million.
Employers Can’t Restrict Employees Social Net Speech :
As social media use continues to rise, it is important for employers to understand the best approach to handling social media policies. According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) employees have the right to discuss work conditions freely and without fear of retribution, whether the discussion takes place in the office or on social media like Facebook. Blanket restrictions discouraging employees from disparaging managers, co-workers, or the company itself have been deemed illegal by a series of recent ruling and advisories. Instead of blanket restrictions, employers are advised to adopt social media policies that are specific. For example don’t just tell employees not to disclose confidential information, instead tell them not to disclose trade secrets, product introduction dates, or private health details. Although no specific fines have been assessed some employers are experiencing sobering repercussions:
“NLRB again finds protected concerted activity in Facebook posts, orders fired employees reinstated”
Employment Law AlertAuthor(s): Alexandra Devendra, Renée M. Jackson
May 11, 2012
In a recent decision by the National Labor Relations Board, a judge found that a retailer engaged in unfair labor practices when it discharged three employees who engaged in protected concerted activity through discussions on Facebook. The board ordered the company to reinstate the employees to their former jobs and to pay back wages. This case illustrates that all employers-unionized and nonunionized-should carefully consider the implications of the National Labor Relations Act before disciplining employees for comments made in social media.
Cottingham & Butler Compliance & Human Resources Consulting
In an consultative capacity, Cottingham & Butler strives to provide valuable and timely compliance assistance to human resource professionals and business owners. The Compliance and Human Resources Consulting (CHRC) team has been providing professional human resources consulting services for small to mid-size employers since 2003. The CHRC team at Cottingham & Butler is available to partner with employers to maximize their human resource operations and allow employers to focus on their core business. Our services include HR compliance audits, employee handbook review and creation, compensation, FMLA administration, HR on Call, and HR outsourcing services. To further inquire about our services, please contact Christine Storlie, Manager, Human Resource Services at firstname.lastname@example.org 608.467.0692.
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Tags: Employee Benefits