Advocate: it’s a noun and a verb. And we are going to need both in 2016. HR advocates need to advocate for shaping public policy. There are many predictions for what the year will bring. This is just one more list focused on HR and employment issues that may be coming to your town soon if they have not arrived already.
Consider just a few snippets of data related to increasing employment mandates.
The Hill reports[i], “2015 was a record-setting year for the Federal Register, according to numbers the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., released Wednesday. This year’s daily publication of the federal government’s rules, proposed rules and notices amounted to 81,611 pages as of Wednesday, December 30, 2015 higher than last year's 77,687 pages and higher than the all-time high of 81,405 pages in 2010 — with one day to go in 2015.” This does not include the 60 Executive Orders and Memoranda some of which mandate paid leave, overtime, non-discrimination and other employment provisions.
The categories of protected classes continues to increase as 22 states currently have with laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation with more reportedly [ii] on the horizon in 2016, including those adding gender identity and/or expression.
The National Partnership for Women and Families reports[iii] that as of July 2015 paid sick leave mandates had been enacted in 23 jurisdictions in the U.S
Be an Advocate! Think about all that you currently do for and offer your employees. Do you stand above the market? How do you carve yourself out from the competition? Once you have defined your “best practices” ask yourself, “Do I want my state elected officials to flatten the market and make every other business do what I’ve already created, paid for and administered for the benefit of my employees?” For many employers that is not the desired result. Think of it. How can you shine in a flattened market where all employers are required to meet the standards of the highest or those deemed to be the best? How many awards currently recognize employers that are outstanding? Chambers of Commerce, professional and trade associations and many more recognize employers for all sorts of “best” or proactive practices. The When Work Works awards[iv] are a great example. As the market flattens through regulatory and legislative mandates the opportunities for recognition are reduced.
There are many lists touting projected employment trends for 2016. Here’s mine in no particular order other than alphabetical.
1. Ban-the-box laws prohibiting or limiting employers’ ability to inquire about criminal history prior to extending a bona fide offer of employment.
2. Decriminalization and legalization of (medical) marijuana will continue to impact workplace policies and practices on substance use, abuse, testing and fitness for duty.
3. Fair or Predictive Scheduling bills propose to require employers to pay an employee whose scheduled work day or hours are reduced or cancelled with minimal notice to pay the employee for the day’s wages or a portion thereof.
4. Healthy Workplace Bills (anti-bullying legislation) – at least 31 legislatures[v] have introduced legislation that would increase liability for employers for workplace bullying, which is defined more broadly than workplace harassment.
5. Minimum Wage increases – In just the last two years 13 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted minimum wage increases[vi], not to mention similar requirements under Executive Order for covered government contractors.
6. Paid (family, sick) leave proposals to require certain employers, including some with as few as ten employees to provide specific amounts of paid leave under specified terms.
7. Pay Transparency legislation gives employees the legally protected right to discuss their own wages or those of a coworker with other coworkers (often with or without the coworkers permission).
8. Pregnancy Accommodation to provide even greater protection and accommodation for pregnant applicants and employees than is currently provided under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
9. Shared Economy – as Uber receives continued scrutiny of its worker classification, pay practices and more the impact may be felt across industries and sectors by employers that outsourcing one or more of their core functions to contractors.
10. Workplace Flexibility – BYOD, flexible staffing, electronic messaging and all the wage and hour implications that come with these practices will continue to have the attention of the US Department of Labor, which is expected to issue a Request for Information (RFI) in early 2016. Stay tuned for related regulations.
11. Workplace wellness programs – as of this writing the U.S. EEOC is poised to release related regulations[vii], while states and local jurisdictions consider related issues such as bans on electronic cigarettes and vaping.
Now Advocate! Whether you support or oppose a proposed initiative, advocacy is the message here. Remember ATP. HR professionals need to advance the profession and employers need to shape public policy that works for them and their employees. No one knows that better for your practice or business than you.
How? Identify the sponsor of related legislation, whether it is a US Congressman, state or local representative. See them in person or, where that’s not feasible call them to schedule a conversation. Draft your talking points in advance. Connect with and follow the elected representation on Social Media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. This will help them connect your name with your face – making the in-person dialogue more familiar. Tell your business story; explain what your position is and why. Don’t forget the “Why”; it can be a powerful tool in negotiation. Don’t want to go it alone? Attend SHRM’s Employment Law & Legislative conference[viii] in March and partner with an HR colleague for the Hill visits on March 16th! See you then.