By: Ralph R. Smith, 3rd, Esq.
With 2019 around the corner, employers are presented with a wonderful opportunity to review internal policies/procedures and hopefully help avoid future workplace legal problems. Here are five suggested New Year’s Workplace Resolutions for 2019.
- When was the last time your employee handbook was reviewed and updated? Policies and procedures need to be revised periodically to keep current with ongoing changes in the law, especially in a place like New Jersey, where it is frequently the case that new laws and decisions impose new legal requirements. In that regard, remember you now need a policy regarding New Jersey’s Paid Sick Time Law that went into effect this past October! Therefore, 2019 presents a great opportunity for employers to review handbook polices and bring them up to speed with any recent legal changes that impact your workplace. Alternatively, if you do not have one yet, the upcoming new year of 2019 provides a wonderful chance for your workplace to reap the benefit of having all relevant workplace policies stored in one collective document.
- When was the last time your job descriptions were reviewed and updated? Job descriptions are very important, especially in gauging compliance with mandated accommodation requirements for persons with disabilities under both federal and state discrimination laws. Ask yourself: do your job descriptions accurately reflect what an employee actually does in their jobs today? Because courts often rely on how an employer defines the essential job functions of an employment position in assessing disability discrimination and failure to accommodate issues, it is important that employers maintain updated job descriptions so there will be a point of reference if any issues arise as to what the essential functions of a job position are for accommodation purposes. Moreover, just like employee handbooks, if you do not have job descriptions today, the beginning of the upcoming year is a good time to commence preparing them.
- When was the last time you conducted anti-harassment training? With the Me Too Movement and other recent societal trends in this area, employers must be proactive in ensuring that workplaces are free of harassment and discrimination, and conducting yearly training in this area is an excellent preventative tool for ensuring your anti-harassment and anti-discrimination polices are enforced and followed.
- When was the last time you conducted an audit of your payroll practices? A good part of my practice this year has been representing clients in state and federal wage and hour audit proceedings so it is good to be proactive in aggressively monitoring payroll practices to ensure audits do not find problems with such practices. One of the chief concerns to examine here is ensuring that all your employees are properly classified as exempt versus non-exempt employees for purposes of their proper compensation under federal and state wage and hour laws. It is always a good idea for an employer to do a quick review of employment classifications each year in case changes need to be made based upon any modifications in employee job responsibilities. In addition, please remember that, as of January 1 of each year, New Jersey’s minimum wage rate might be adjusted upwardly automatically based upon any increase in the consumer price index as of September 30 of the prior year. Thus, it is important that you properly keep track of any upcoming changes in New Jersey’s minimum wage.
- Are you properly performing background checks on current and prospective employees? Remember, there are strict requirements concerning how such background checks are conducted under not only the Fair Credit Reporting Act but also under relevant federal employment discrimination laws such as Title VII. Just a few years ago, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued a detailed compliance guidance on how the results of a background check can be utilized in assessing a person’s suitability for employment, so it is important that all background check policies meet these requirements. Similarly, if you as an employer conduct your own background checks, and still request that employees and prospective employees provide private password protected information for their social media sites as part of that examination, such a practice is illegal under New Jersey Law. Therefore, it is critical that background check policies be modified to eliminate any potential violation of this limitation under New Jersey Law.
In sum, the upcoming new year provides a wonderful opportunity for employers to proactively evaluate internal policies and procedures to make 2019 a legally problem free year in your workplace. An experienced labor and employment attorney is a valuable asset in conducting these types of internal policy examinations to effectively minimize possible legal exposures.
Happy Holidays and Healthy New Year to All!!