Weekly Wrap: The Scariest Issues Employers Are Facing Today

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Earlier this week, amidst all the Valentine’s Day-themed surveys and pitches, I got something interesting from XpertHR, the website that provides online compliance tools and guidance for HR professionals.

The interesting part was this: it was labeled as the “11 Scariest Issues Employers Face in 2014.”

Now, I get lots of pitches with surveys and reports that have equally ominous-sounding titles, but most don’t hold up to focused scrutiny. The difference in this report from XpertHR was that what they were touting as scary issues that employers face really DO seem pretty scary for anyone managing a business and a workforce.

11 scary issues for employers this year

Here the list so you can see what I mean. XpertHR’s scariest issues employers face in 2014 are:

  1. Medical and recreational marijuana use – In states that permit marijuana use, employers need to clarify that marijuana is prohibited in the workplace.
  2. Same-Sex marriage – Employers should know the tax benefits provided to an employee’s same-sex spouse or partner, and whether the state follows or departs from federal law.
  3. Technology in the workplace – Employers should create distinct BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies and clearly explain what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use of social media while at work.
  4. Health care reform – Employers should plan for the 2015 employer mandate requirement of the Affordable Care Act and determine whether they will be considered a large employer.
  5. Immigration and Form I-9 compliance – Employers must strike a balance between ensuring an authorized workforce while avoiding discriminating against authorized workers.
  6. Misclassification of independent contractors – Improper classification can lead to a variety of liabilities.
  7. Minimum wage and overtime violations – Employers should be up-to-date with their state requirements regarding minimum wage and overtime and know how to properly calculate how much overtime an employee is owed.
  8. Curtailing background checks – In states and cities that have adopted “ban the box” legislation, employers should make sure to eliminate the criminal history box from job applications.
  9. Emerging protected classes and curbing workplace discrimination – Even if an employer’s state does not yet specifically prohibit discrimination, it is advisable for an employer to be proactive and prohibit it.
  10. Employee leaves and reasonable accommodations – Make sure that leave policies do not require automatic termination of employees who take extended leaves of absence.
  11. Expansion of “Protected Concerted Activity” – Employers need to make sure they do not unreasonably restrict employees from exercising their Section 7 rights.

An unrelenting flow of regulations fuels the scariness

After reading this list, I couldn’t help but think of the TLNT post earlier this week from Mark Toth at Manpower, the one where he asked “What one thing concerns you most about the world of work in 2014?” and the answer from the hundreds who responded was,”EVERYTHING.”

Yes, there are lots of scary things for managers and HR to deal with in the workplace today, and much of it is driven by the unrelenting flow of regulations and legislation coming out any number of federal agencies in Washington, from NLRB to EEOC to the Labor Department, and from many state legislatures and local municipalities, too.

Just this week out here in California, Charles Schwab announced that it was moving 1,000 jobs out of San Francisco  to Texas over the next few years, and that “Observers close to the situation blame the city’s extreme payroll tax and high cost of doing business in California as the reasons for the company’s exodus.”

HR is at the center of all of these changes, and it is tough to keep up when so many keep coming at you. As XpertHR’s legal editor (and former employment law attorney) Beth Zoller put it in a press release about the “scary” list:

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Human resource departments are often overwhelmed with day-to-day employment and benefits tasks. But they also need to stay on top of new laws and trends nationally and at the state and local levels affecting the workplace in order to protect their organizations against violations and class action suits.”

If there is a single reason why HR struggles to be more strategic, this is it. Yes, it’s tough to focus on the big picture when the overwhelming need to keep on top of compliance and issues that might get you sued is front and center in so many workplaces.

The drumbeat goes on. Workplace rules and regulations continue to pile up, and they also are getting more invasive, more demanding, and are coming from government at virtually every level.

That’s why this “scary” list is so scary — and important. And sadly, it probably only scratches the surface of all the compliance issues YOU have getting piled on top of you.

Employees you should fire right now

Of course, there’s more than a list of  “11 Scariest Issues Employers Face” in the news this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Workforce harassment and the Miami Dolphins. Nobody wants to get a report saying that workers “engaged in a pattern of harassment,” even if they are players in the National Football League. This USA Today report is another twist on the original story of one Miami Dolphins player harassing another to the point the one being harassed wanted to quit, and it is a workplace lesson all managers need to pay attention to.
  • Seven employees you should fire now. As this story from the Fox Small Business Center points out, “It takes all kinds to run a company but a few bad apples can definitely spoil organizational effectiveness in a hurry. And these days, companies just can’t afford to keep those kinds of people around. The longer you wait, the more damage they do.”
  • Costly payout for a ban on naps for employees. This is another one of those “Only in California” stories that makes people trying to manage workers here crazy. According to the Los Angeles Times, “L.A. officials wanted to make absolutely sure the city’s trash truck drivers would not get caught sleeping in their trucks — a sight sure to enrage taxpayers or possibly attract a TV news camera. So they laid down a set of break time rules prohibiting naps and placing other restrictions on where and how drivers could have lunch. Now, that effort to avoid offending delicate public sensibilities has the city facing a $26-million legal payout, most of it for more than 1,000 trash truck drivers who said they were improperly barred from catching a few winks during their 30-minute meal breaks.”
  • Using conversations to resolve conflicts. This great post from the HBR blog focuses on the hard part of management – having a tough conversation with someone. “Effective leadership, like a good marriage, hinges on how you deal with the tough stuff. But addressing and resolving conflicts requires enormous mental and emotional strength, which is why many of us try to avoid it. When confronted with a problem or dispute, we either move away (flee the scene, rely on others for resolution), move against (quietly using positional power to quell opposing arguments) or move toward (make nice, give in). This is natural. We instinctively want to avoid the risk of loss and social embarrassment, to stick with our points of view, to preserve relationships and the status quo.”

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.

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