Big changes are happening in the realm of workplace compliance issues and labor laws in the United States. Noncompliance with government regulations can have serious consequences—and can cost your business big time. Keep up with what's happening between the government and the workplace with the HR Compliance Tracker: your go-to place to stay updated on some major workforce compliance issues.
New OSHA guidance reveals permissible safety incentive programs and drug tests
It’s better to be safe than sorry when you report workplace incidents, and OSHA wants you to know that. Under a new guidance from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most safety incentive programs and drug testing policies are not considered retaliatory.
Previously, the agency stated that the guidance could deter employees from reporting work-related injuries and post-accident drug and alcohol testing in fear of retaliation. The updated guidance clarifies that safety incentive programs are unlawful and retaliatory only if they seek to punish an employee rather than promote workplace safety and health.
Lawful safety programs include:
- Incentive programs that reward employees for reporting unsafe conditions in the workplace
- Employee training programs to reinforce reporting rights and responsibilities
- Systems for accurately evaluating employees’ willingness to report injuries and illnesses
Lawful types of drug tests include:
- Random drug testing
- Drug testing unrelated to the reporting of a work-related injury/illness
- Drug testing under state workers’ compensation law and other federal law
- Drug testing to evaluate the cause of a workplace incident that harmed or could have harmed employees
To ensure your policies are compliant with OSHA’s new guidance, you can learn more here.
Treasury announces new employer tax credit for paid family and medical leave
Employers who provide paid family and medical leave to their employees in the 2018 and 2019 tax years may qualify for a new business credit. “By enhancing the benefits of this tax credit, we help empower working parents to pursue their careers while balancing their demands at home," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
If you’re setting up or updating a leave policy, a retroactive credit may also be available to employers. Generally, employees with paid family and medical leave who earned $72,000 or less in the previous year qualify for the credit.Check out this guidance to learn how to calculate the credit and the application of special rules and limitations.
WHD issues FLSA opinion letters and considers changes to “white collar” exemptions
On August 28, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) issued four new opinion letters, each interpreting a different aspect of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The WHD resumed issuing opinion letters, which serve as official written interpretations about how the FLSA applies in specific situations, in mid-2017. This time around, the opinion letters covered topics such as employer-sponsored wellness events, whether the movie theater overtime exemption applies to in-theater-restaurant workers, and whether employees serving as volunteer graders for non-profit professional credentialing organizations are entitled to overtime pay for time spent on that task. For brief summaries of each of the letters, refer to this National Law Review article.In addition to these opinion letters, the WHD announced their plans to analyze and consider changes to FLSA “white collar exemptions,” which apply to executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees. Specifically, they’re looking into the pros and cons of adjusting the salary threshold for exemption. As part of this effort, the WHD hosted five public listening sessions in September in various locations across the country to invite public comment.
IRS ruling allows employers to match employees’ student loan payments into their 401(k)
In a letter released publicly in mid-August, the IRS signaled its willingness to allow employers to contribute to 401(k) accounts for employees who aren’t able to make contributions on their own, provided the employee is making qualified student loan payments. This is huge news for younger employees, and particularly for Millennials, who are saddled with historically high student loan debt.
According to Pew research, only 52% of Millennial employees are currently contributing to their own retirement accounts, often because of the heavy financial burden of student loan repayment. A 401(k) benefit tied to student loan repayment would allow these employees to take advantage of employer contributions to prepare for retirement, as long as they’re currently paying down the balance on their student loan debts. This benefit could serve as a useful recruiting tool for employers looking to prove their employee-friendly bona fides. Read the IRS’s ruling here to learn more.
EEOC Sues Stanley Black & Decker for Violating ADA
If companies with rigid attendance policies aren’t careful, they could run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This act prohibits discrimination based on disability and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Stanley Black & Decker Inc., a global diversified industrial company, when they fired an employee with cancer who took leave for medical treatments. According to the suit, the company terminated the sales representative for poor attendance in December 2016 despite her good performance. Although her absences were related to cancer treatments and testing, Stanley Black & Decker’s attendance policy doesn’t provide exceptions for people who need leave as an accommodation to their disability. The employee was fired without a final written warning.
Following the thread of blunders, the EEOC filed suit against the company for the alleged violation of the ADA. The EEOC Philadelphia District Director Jamie R. Williamson added, “This case should remind all employers that they have an obligation to make exceptions to ‘no fault’ attendance policies as a form of reasonable accommodation unless doing so would be an undue hardship.”
The EEOC’s vigilance of inflexible leave policies should encourage employers to review their company attendance policies in compliance with the disability laws.