Annual reviews of employee handbooks are way to stay ahead of the curve. Prudent employers should be proactive, rather than reactive, in being prepared to deal with to workplace issues.
Here are some key areas of change that employers should take note to include minimum wage and overtime rules, handbook policies for remote work and requests for leave and COVID vaccination policies.
Wage and Hour Changes
Overtime and minimum wage standards have been updated in many states recently. It is important to note that some of the updated wage regulations are overlapping federal law as well as adopting Fair Labor Standards Act's (FLSA's) criteria.
To qualify for the white-collar exemptions under the FLSA, employees must perform certain duties, be paid on a salary basis and meet a minimum salary threshold. Currently, the FLSA's salary threshold is $35,568, but 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 with the majority being effective on January 1, 2022.
Remote Work Rules
As companies bring employees back to the workplace, companies should be prepared to handle requests from employees who want to continue remote-work or a hybrid arrangement.
It is important that companies have clear documented expectations of remote work. In addition, companies should clearly explain timekeeping, confidentiality and security of company information, protection of company property, applicability of company policies in a remote working environment, flexible work arrangements, remote workplace safety, employee productivity, and more. The policies should also explain why certain positions can be remote and why others require a physical presence. These policies should take outline expectations and requirements considered when employees request a work from home accommodation. Litigation associated with discrimination and retaliation claims with regard to remote work, retaliation, requests for leave and disability accommodation requests are litigation is on the rise.
In addressing these requests, employers should carefully address employees' safety concerns and requests related to continued remote work. Any actions taken with regard to such requests should be clearing documented in detail.
Another are of review should include company policies employers should also review their policies regulating telework and use of the company’s equipment and electronic systems.
Evolving Leave Policies
Employers are experiencing a tightening labor market and competition amongst employers offering generous benefit packages. In addition, potential employees are finding value in employer flexibility so now is a good time to revisit your company’s leave and paid time off policies. With any employer-provided paid leave, be sure to clearly communicate whether such leave may be rolled over from year-to-year and/or be payable upon termination and if so, under what conditions. You should also revisit your leave policies to ensure they account for any updates in the law as many states expanded access to leave for COVID-19-related and other medical reasons.
If you are operating in multiple states, you may need to adopt state specific provisions to address for variances in each state.
COVID-19 Vaccination Policies
In workplaces with vaccination directives, employees may be entitled to a reasonable accommodation based on medical or religious objection. Written accommodation policies that address the steps managers and HR representatives should take when presented with an accommodation request.
Employers should note that 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 businesses with at least 100 employees. Employers should continue to follow developments in the litigation.
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