In the past two years alone there have been 19 additions or changes to employee handbook regulations.
That’s a lot to keep up with, but of course it’s not feasible to update your handbook every single time a new rule goes into effect. So what to do? Don't let this task slip by unattended.
“Not only are state, federal and local laws changing rapidly, so too is the technology shaping how people work today. It’s now essential for Human Resources to make handbook revisions, at least once a year.”
Below are 7 regulations to look into when updating your handbook for the new year. Also be aware that there are variations based on state and local legislation.
1. Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
The OFCCP passed last year to “renew the promise of equal pay for equal work among the millions of employees working for covered federal contractors.” Thus federal contractors can’t have formal or informal pay secrecy policies, according to the Department of Labor. These handbooks should make it clear that they allow pay transparency and this is a fancy way to say that employees can ask each other or their bosses what people’s salaries are.
2. Obamacare/Affordable Care Act
Congress passed it, Obama signed, and the Supreme Court upheld it. The bottom line is that Obamacare is here and you need to make sure your handbook reflects this.
First, if you offer an employer health care plan, somewhere in your handbook you need to note that there are other options in the insurance marketplace and the measurement period the company is using for tracking hours for part-time employees. You don’t need to outline what these other plans are, but just make employees aware of it.
Again if your company offers health insurance, it’s now required to cover employee’s dependents up to the age of 26. This applies whether or not the dependent(s) are in school or employed. Lastly you should clarify if you exclude part-time employees from health benefits or if a waiting period applies.
3. Defense of Marriage Act
The DOMA law was passed in 1995 and in Section 3 it defined a union as between one man and one woman. After multiple legal challenges, the 2013 case United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court ruled that this was unconstitutional.
This affects handbooks because every time a spouse is referred to (think medical coverage), the language needs to include both opposite sex and same-sex legal marriages.
4. Marijuana and e-cigarette usage
Since the election, 28 states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana in some form, meaning for recreational and/or medical usage, but the federal government still hasn’t given the thumbs-up for nationwide cannabis legalization. So if you’re a federal contractor in any of the 50 states, marijuana is still prohibited at work.
If you’re not sure what electronic cigarettes are, the NIH defines them as “batter-operated devices designed to deliver nicotine with flavorings and other chemicals to users in vapor instead of smoke.” Even though they don’t emit smoke like a regular cigarette, e-cigarettes need to be included in non-smoking policies because they still contain nicotine.
5. Americans with Disabilities Act
In 2011, the updates on the ADA Standards for Accessible Design went into effect, but that’s not the only revision to this law. On July 15 of this year, Attorney General Loretta Lynch implemented the Final Rule of the Congressional ADA Amendments Act of 2008.
Now before I lose you with this bureaucratic jargon, what’s important in relation to handbooks is that it broadens the definition of “disability” to include any impaired bodily function, like arthritis or diabetes. You can find the full Final Rule here.
6. Social Media Guidelines
With the prevalence of social media in the workplace, it’s a great idea to make a guideline for your organization on responsible social media usage. The guideline should outline that retaliation is prohibited and employees don’t have the right to privacy with any workplace property, including devices that have access to personal social media accounts.
7. FLSA Overtime Rule
Like Obamacare, this law has faced plenty of political and legal battles, but it’ll go into effect on December 1 and affects the benefits details in handbooks. Employees who are exempted from the overtime rule salary threshold has increased from $23,660 to $47,476 and this number will increase every three years. The position pass the salary test and duties test for the exemption.
If you need HR compliance expertise, Employment Enterprises, Inc.'s HR Consulting Solution helps organizations with employee handbook creation, review and updates.