Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Yearly Employment Law Check-Up

Elaina Smiley
Top Four Items to Review Now

The New Year is a good time for employers to review and update their employment practices. Proper policies and practices will reduce the risks of costly employment claims. Here are some items to review:

1. Review Job Duties for Salaried-Exempt Employees.

Although implementation of the revised Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") regulations increasing the salary levels for exempt employees has been halted (for now), it is still a good idea to review the actual job duties performed by those classified as exempt from the payment of overtime. The FLSA contains a two-part test for an employee to be considered exempt, and employees must meet both tests: 1) payment of a fixed salary and 2) meeting the duties of one of the Department of Labor exemption categories. Misclassifying an employee as exempt when the employee should be paid overtime can be very costly. In cases involving FLSA violations, employees can get up to 3 years of back wages (overtime that was not paid) plus double damages and attorneys' fees.

2. Review Pay Practices for Hourly Employees.

Employers need to ensure that hourly employees are paid for all work time, which can include travel time, training, and short breaks. Furthermore, employers should be cautious when paying hourly employees bonuses. Certain bonus payments that are classified as non-discretionary must be considered in calculating an employee's overtime rate, and additional overtime payments need to be made for the period for which the bonus was applicable. "Comp time" is not permitted in lieu of paying hourly employees overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 per work week.

3. Review Policies and Procedures on Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation.

Every employer should publish and distribute policies forbidding all forms of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation against employees who report these issues. Harassment and discrimination should be barred not only based on sex, but other protected characteristics such as race, religion, age (40 and older), disability, sexual orientation, pregnancy, and national origin. The EEOC recently issued enforcement guidance that expands protection for employees against retaliation; therefore, policies should be reviewed for compliance.

4. Review Management Training on Handling Employee Reports and Requests.

When an employee makes a report or complaint of unlawful harassment to a manager, knowledge of the harassment is imputed to the employer even if the manager to whom the report was made fails to report it further or to take appropriate action. An employer will not be able to successfully defend harassment claims if the employer does not take prompt and effective remedial action in response to such reports. Also, managers need to properly handle employee accommodation requests under the Americans with Disabilities Act and employee leave requests under the Family and Medical Leave Act.

Should you need assistance conducting an audit of your human resources policies, please contact Elaina Smiley at 412.456.2821 or es@muslaw.com.

This material is for informational purposes only.  It is not and should not be solely relied on as legal advice in dealing with any specific situation.

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