HR Compliance Tracker

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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.


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.

Columbus Joins the ACA Defense Against the Trump Administration

In the President’s pursuit to undo the Affordable Care Act (ACA), many have joined the lawsuit to defend the ACA. Including the city of Columbus, Ohio, who recently joined the combat against the Trump Administration over the ACA.

Columbus is suing President Donald Trump and his administration for allegedly violating the “take care” clause of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs say it’s an unconstitutional sabotage of the ACA. Columbus Attorney Zach Klein reports that the administration is also violating the “Administrative Procedures Act,” which makes guidelines on how administrative agencies can create rules and regulations.

A 130 page complaint recorded the administration’s numerous attempts to stop the ACA. This includes eliminating protections that it guarantees, driving up costs, attempting to destabilize exchanges, directing agencies to undercut the act, and preventing citizens from insurance enrollment.

Other cities suing the administration over the ACA include Baltimore, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Charlottesville.

The New GDPR Privacy Law Rolls Out

If you’ve taken a look at your inbox lately, companies and providers are sending you GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) policy updates. If you check every other news story dealing with privacy concerns, data breaches, and cyber security mishaps, “GDPR” is written and referenced. If you go to a news site, an ecommerce platform, or a web service provider, you may see a pop-up banner explaining how cookies are used for web tracking. Between “asking for consent” and sending updated privacy policies, the GDPR affects every commercial body in the online space. Even for HR organizations. And it goes into effect today, May 25th. Here’s a brief overview of the new privacy law:

What is the GDPR? 

The GDPR is a European privacy law that regulates how individuals and organizations may collect, use, and retain personal data. It’s the latest effort to offer increased rights to individuals and keep organizations compliant with the new data privacy law. Any group that deals with people’s private data must meet new standards of accountability, security, and transparency.

Who is impacted?

Since the GPDR provides data protection for EU citizens, it applies to all organizations who offer goods and services to the EU customers. This includes U.S. companies as well. If you’re collecting personal data (including how data is collected, stored, processed, and destroyed) from EU citizens, you are liable for GDPR provisions. Which brings us to the next question:

What is considered personal data?

Information such as name, ID number, location data, online identifier, or other factors specific to the identity of that person qualifies as personal data. This also includes IP addresses, cookie strings, bank details, social media posts, medical records, and mobile device IDs. If you manage a large organization, this task may be overwhelming. So here’s the next step:

What do you need to keep in mind for the workforce?

After you map how your data flows and develop an audit, classify any areas of concern. You should have an inventory of all personal data of your employees, and justify reasons for its custody. Inform your workforce of the new rules and rights. Assess current data breach reporting procedures and establish a system that allows you to move forward with a transparent, secure, and compliant approach. If you don’t comply with the regulations, your company may be fined up to four percent of your annual global turnover. If there is a data breach, you’re required to notify a data breach authority figure within 72 hours.

With the new data privacy law rolled out, you’re just getting started with data protection compliance. While it seems like a daunting task, compliance is an evolving journey. Ensure that you keep up with best practices to avoid any breaches that may affect your organization.

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