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    Hot Topics in Employment Law

    Workplace regulations used to derive from federal law primarily. State and local laws moved to the forefront to create different, often greater, compliance obligations for employers. For example, 29 states and 40 municipalities increased minimum wage above the federal rate of $7.25 an hour.

    These trending laws need to be on employers’ radars, including practical tips on how to navigate changes.

    Salary History Bans

    There is a wage gap between genders and minorities. When we ask people what they are earning, we could be perpetuating the wage gap. Don’t ask applicants about their current salary or what they have made in the past. Your alternative is to ask: what is your salary expectation?

    A salary expectation question reveals useful information. If the applicant’s expectation is unrealistic, then they haven’t researched the market or your company. You want to hire people who are engaged and who did their homework.

    Pay Equity

    Estimates suggest that if we’re going to meet equity between men and women, then we won’t get there until 2059 at the current rate, which is not good enough for the women who hold more jobs than men in the U.S. workforce. Legislation allows employees to talk about their pay, in the hopes that talking about pay will push for more equity.

    Remember, don’t go looking for inequity unless you’re willing to do something about it. Consult a third-party to conduct a pay audit. A third-party is unbiased and will focus on facts and data metrics.

    Be strategic about how you share the results by making it a competitive advantage for your company. Use it as a recruiting tool. Talk about it; write about it; publish it on your website! Internal equity is attractive, so be transparent by publishing your pay scales internally and within job postings.

    Weed in the Workplace

    Changing state cannabis laws have created a haze of confusion for employers. 33 states have legalized the medical use of cannabis and 10 states have legalized recreational use requiring employers to re-examine their drug testing policies.

    Complying with cannabis laws is tricky. Employers and workers alike should keep in mind that no law requires an employer to tolerate on-the-job cannabis use or impairment. On the flip, let’s remember that work is work and play is play. One is your business and the other isn’t, unless it impacts their work.

    Paid Sick Leave

    We’ve reached the tipping point with 68% of states and municipalities passing paid sick leave. Sick leave provides employees with “protected” time away from work to care for themselves or other dependents, who are ill or require medical attention.

    The devil is in the details, however, because laws vary greatly by jurisdiction. Sick leave is not only shifting how we calculate time off, but the laws are expanding on who is eligible for benefits. Most include temporary and seasonal employees. The key is to develop a policy that follows legal areas and that you provide the policy to employees upon hire.


    Federal laws take longer to pass than state and local. We heard about the feds increasing the earning threshold for salaried employees to $684 weekly ($35,568 annually) for five years before passing with an effective date of January 1, 2020. State and local laws are more agile, and laws may change quickly.

    Design a system to track your state and local proposed laws. Sign up for legal alert emails from primary sources. The Department of Labor, state resources from websites that include “.gov” and “.org” in the link are critical. Partner with a third party to keep a working relationship with a human resources consultant, if your company size does not permit a dedicated employee.

    Consider making changes to your policies and practices before the laws come to your neighborhood. No one wants to be caught off guard, nor do you want to implement expensive mandates without budget planning and allocation. Scanning the legal landscape helps to ensure that laws are on your radar before required implementation in the workplace hits your company.



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    Deborah Allen joined HR4VR this past July holding the position of HR Business Partner. Deborah thinks outside the box and has been driving organizational change and building high performing teams for over 20 years. Driven by results, she has developed a reputation for her unique approach that balances strategy with execution and relationship results. Deborah holds an art degree, a master’s in education, and a certificate in human resources, which gives her a distinctive approach to solving problems creatively.

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