Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking Forward: Issues for Employers in 2015

Happy New Year!  As we reflect on the past year and prepare for 2015, certain issues keep taking center stage.  Although employment law is too dynamic to allow any certainty about what the next year will bring, we offer five things that we think employers should be sure to keep an eye on:
 
1.         The Active NLRB.  If 2014 tells us anything, it’s that the NLRB is prepared to weigh in – heavily – on a variety of employment issues.  We see no reason for that to change in 2015, although the Republican-dominated Congress is likely to subject the Board to considerable scrutiny. In the upcoming year, we expect the NLRB to continue its interest in social media, issue employee and union-friendly rulings, and generally test the limits of its mandate.
 
2.         HR Technology.  In 2014, we saw significant advancement in technology intended to address employer challenges, from diversity recruiting to rising health care costs.  Despite its promise, some of this new technology may create risks related to discrimination and information security, and could cause more problems than it solves. We expect the EEOC, other governmental agencies, and perhaps plaintiffs’ attorneys, to pay attention to this issue in 2015.
 
3.         Wellness Programs.  Many employers have implemented or are considering wellness initiatives.  Some wellness programs may run afoul of federal or state law.  Last year, the EEOC took unprecedented action in response to wellness programs that it believed were not truly voluntary, or that sought too much information.  One of the EEOC’s stated priorities for 2015 and beyond is to issue guidance on wellness programs and increase enforcement actions against non-compliant employers.
 
4.         Security of Employee Information.  In cybersecurity breaches affecting numerous employers, from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to Sony Pictures, employee information has been inappropriately accessed.  The results have included identity theft and tax fraud, and in some cases affected employees have sued their employers for failure to secure their information.   We expect more breaches and more such lawsuits in 2015.
 
5.         Changing Employee Expectations. In 2014, employees protested and lawmakers listened.  States and municipalities implemented paid sick leave, raised minimum wages, and provided additional protections for pregnant workers.  In 2015, we expect this trend to continue.
 
Posted by: Kate Bischoff