Thursday, December 10, 2015

Looking Back, Looking Forward

2015 has been quite a year for developments in employment and labor law.  New laws and regulations affect nearly every aspect of the employee-employer relationship.  Today and in next week’s post, we will review some of the most important changes and suggest what employers can do to get ready for 2016.

First up, wage and hour developments.  The most important is the change in the salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  The U.S. Department of Labor announced that it would more than double the salary level threshold, from $455 to $921 per week.  The DOL anticipates more than 5 million workers will become eligible for overtime under this new rule. 
While commentators (and the DOL itself) do not believe the new rule will be effective until late 2016, employers should start preparing for its implementation.  Here are a few steps we suggest:
  1. Take a look at the wages and salaries your employees earned in 2015.  It’s nearly W-2 time, so this information should be at hand.  If employees earned less than $47,892 in 2015, they may become eligible for overtime payments in 2016.  While W-2s contain more than just salaries (they reflect bonuses and other compensation that may not be considered “salary” under the FLSA), they can help employers identify which employees and what positions could be affected by the new salary threshold rule.
  2. Once affected positions and employees are identified, determine who is working more than 40 hours per week.  Organizations rarely track working hours for exempt employees, but you may now have employees who will transition from salaried to overtime-eligible as a result of the new rule, and you need to try to estimate the cost. Gathering this information may require asking employees, reviewing login or access times, or simply observing.
  3. Analyze the cost.  Overtime is not cheap.  Estimating the cost associated with this change in the law now will  allow employers to plan their response.  It may be necessary to add staff, adjust job descriptions and responsibilities, or implement new overtime policies.
Next on our list: employee handbooks and policies.  In March, the National Labor Relations Board issued guidance on what it considers lawful employee rules for both unionized and non-unionized employers. The rules deemed unlawful by the Board, including confidentiality and social media policies, can be found in the policy manuals of many employers. A careful review of existing policies to determine compliance with NLRB standards is essential as you prepare for 2016. 
Next week, we’ll discuss new antidiscrimination and leave laws and make suggestions for what you can do to ensure compliance in 2016. 

Posted by Kate Bischoff