What’s in store for employers?

Gavel to Gavel

published in The Journal Record | December 11, 2014

By Charles S. Plumb

In 2014, the government’s employment agencies were aggressive and active in terms of investigations and lawsuits. Employers should expect this to continue in the new year and pay particular attention to the following:

  • Wage and hour: Wage-and-hour lawsuits are at an all-time high. The Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division has become particularly aggressive prosecuting alleged violations. Much activity involves challenging a company’s classification of employees as exempt, claiming that supervisory employees should be treated as nonexempt and paid overtime. Full-service restaurants, retail establishments, health care facilities and assisted-living employers will be targeted.New regulations will be issued by the Department of Labor reclassifying some employees previously considered exempt and increasing the number of white-collar employees entitled to receive overtime payment for hours worked in excess of 40. Much effort will be aimed at seeking overtime payment to employees in supervisory or management positions.
  • Equal Employment Opportunity: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will be concentrating investigations and resources on: challenging employers’ use of background reports in hiring; enforcing equal pay laws in situations where it believes female employees are discriminated against in terms of compensation; developing new approaches to pregnancy discrimination, including requiring employers to temporarily accommodate pregnant workers in the same manner as disabled employees; and addressing emerging discrimination issues like LGBT rights and gender stereotyping.
  • Workplace safety: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Temporary Worker Initiative is intended to help reduce work-related injuries and illnesses experienced by temporary workers. This year, OSHA inspections involving temporary worker agencies increased threefold. For 2015, the agency will focus on treating staffing agencies and host employers as jointly responsible for maintaining safe workplaces, requiring both to hold required training, meet hazard communication requirements, and satisfy recordkeeping and reporting standards.
  • Wellness programs: The EEOC will scrutinize employers who offer wellness programs that require the disclosure of medical history and information and/or provide monetary incentives to participants. The EEOC will continue to take the position that many of these programs violate the Americans With Disabilities Act or Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act.

In 2015, employers should put a premium on auditing their own policies and practices to ensure they are compliant with the applicable employment laws and can withstand a workplace audit investigation by the government or private litigants.

This article appeared in the December 11, 2014, issue of The Journal Record. It is reproduced with permission from the publisher. © The Journal Record Publishing Co.