News headlines in 2017 had employers sitting up and taking notice. From #MeToo, to changes in minimum wage, to restrictions on unpredictable workers’ schedules—a startling list of new regulations and legislation means there’s a lot to get your head around, whether you own a small business or are a manager in a large corporation.
At the most recent Though Leaders in Business, Kerrie R. Heslin walked the audience through some of the most recent changes from the employers’ perspective, pointing out potholes, pitfalls and oft-neglected areas.
Heslin, of employment law firm Nukk-Freeman & Cerra, P.C., which represents employers, noted that layers of statutes affect employers, with the federal government, state government and even municipalities getting in on the act of regulating employers.
The audiences’ hands flew in the air with questions for each topic. Heslin tackled some tough questions and gave the audience specific advice about their existing procedures.
Some highlights from Heslin’s talk:
- The NYC Salary History Ban prohibits employers from asking prospective employees’ salary histories. The fines can be steep – with a civil penalty of up to $125,000 and $250,000 if the violation was willful. Hint: Some companies are making sure interviewers adhere to the policy by putting a reminder—”No salary history questions!”—right in the Outlook invitation.
- The Ban-the-Box law in New York State means no more check box asking potential employees if they’ve been convicted of a crime.
- The threshold salary at which employers must pay overtime has gone way up, sometimes ranging up to $48,000. This number also can also vary by location and even county.
- The “affirmative defense”—in which an employer must simply prove adequate training to prevent sexual harassment—is no longer a sufficient defense in New York State when an employee alleges wrongdoing.
- The Family and Medical Leave Act of New York applies even if you have one employee. And the time off does not have to be taken consecutively.
- All the new legislation means updating forms and processes.
– Employment applications
– Employee handbooks
– Training material
– Interview scripts
– Acceptance letters
A good employer needs to have a solid action plan in place to meet complaints and allegations with clear and documented procedures. Waiting until you’re faced with an allegation or complaint is dropping the ball – and both you and your employees deserve better than that.
Rather than be overwhelmed, Heslin suggested some concrete steps to take:
- Perform a self-audit with your legal firm. Because it’s privileged, companies don’t have to wring their hands over what might surface.
- Sign up for Heslin’s alert email—to stay on top of the shifting regulatory environment.
- Make sure you have procedures in place to capture and respond to employee complaints; turning a blind eye puts your company at risk.
- Start training programs that catch your employees up on the new policies and procedures you’re enacting.
It was an honor to have Kerrie R. Heslin with us for this Thought Leaders in Business presentation. Her talk couldn’t have been more informative, and left the audience all better equipped to face employment challenges head on and become part of the solution to a better workplace environment.