Annual reviews of employee handbooks can help you stay ahead of the curve. Prudent employers are proactive, rather than reactive, in being prepared to deal with workplace issues. Here are four key areas of change you should look at in the rest of 2022.
Wage and Hour Changes
Many states have updated their overtime and minimum wage standards recently. It’s important to note some of the revised regulations overlap with federal law and adopt the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) criteria.
To qualify for the FLSA’s white-collar exemptions from receiving overtime pay, employees must perform certain duties, be paid on a salary basis, and meet a minimum salary threshold, which is currently $35,568 a year. Notably, some states have a higher cutoff for exempt workers.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 25 states scheduled a minimum wage increase for some time during 2022. The majority were effective in January.
Remote Work Rules
Companies bringing employees back to the workplace as the COVID-19 pandemic eases should be prepared to handle requests from those who want to continue their remote-work or hybrid arrangements. Most important, you should document your expectations and clearly explain:
- Timekeeping, confidentiality and security of company information, protection of company property, applicability of the policies in a remote working environment, flexible work arrangements, remote workplace safety, employee productivity, and more;
- Why certain positions can be remote while others call for a physical presence; and
- The requirements you’ll consider when employees request a work-from-home accommodation.
Litigation is on the rise for discrimination and retaliation claims arising from remote work and requests for leave and disability accommodations. In addressing the requests, you should carefully address employees’ inquiries and safety concerns. Clearly document in detail any actions you take to address the requests.
Finally, you should review company policies regulating telework and the use of equipment and electronic systems.
Evolving Leave Policies
Employers are facing a tightening labor market and competition from other businesses offering generous benefit packages. In addition, job applicants are placing a high value on employer flexibility, so now is a good time to revisit your company’s leave and paid time off (PTO) policies.
With any employer-provided paid leave, be sure to clearly communicate whether it may be rolled over from year to year and/or payable upon termination and, if so, under what conditions. Also, revisit your leave policies to ensure they account for any legal updates because many states have expanded access to time off for COVID-19-related and other medical reasons.
If you’re operating in multiple states, you may need to adopt state-specific provisions to address any variances.
COVID-19 Vaccination Policies
In workplaces with COVID-19 vaccination directives, employees may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation based on their medical exemptions or religious objections. Your written accommodation policies should spell out the steps managers and HR representatives should take when presented with an accommodation request.
Lawsuits over federal and state workplace vaccination mandates are still pending. The U.S. Supreme Court recently halted the federal government’s vaccine-or-testing rule for private businesses with at least 100 employees. Nevertheless, you should continue to follow developments in the litigation.
Kelly Henry Turner is senior counsel with Goosmann Law Firm. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.