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.
DHS proposes a reform to the H-1B visa filing process
On December 3, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) proposed a new change to the H-1B visa filing process. This proposed rule would require employers to register candidates online for visas two weeks before the application deadline of April 1. Only accepted submissions are allowed to submit a full application. The new process would also flip the order in which the petitions are reviewed, which would favor candidates with a U.S. master’s degree or higher.
"The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and this administration are intensely focused on reforming employment visa programs so they benefit Americans to the greatest extent possible," U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services spokesman Michael Bars said in an emailed statement. The application process aims to reduce the overall costs for businesses of highly skilled foreign workers and decrease the administrative burden of processing thousands of applications.
The rule is yet to be finalized. Despite uncertainties, the best course of action is to stay informed.
USCIS to delay H-1B Premium Processing
The H-1B visa is making headlines with its six-month deep freeze. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is temporarily halting premium processing for all Fiscal Year 2019 cap-subject petitions. This includes exemption-seeking petitions for those with a master’s degree or higher credential obtained in the United States. Acceptance for H-1B petitions begins on April 2, 2018. The suspension will last until September 10, 2018.
It’s not unusual for the USCIS to delay premium processing. For the past several years, employers received an influx of H-1B petitions. According to USCIS, officials collect around 200,000 visa petitions despite 85,000 visas being available each year. A source from the Boston law firm Fragomen expressed that “the USCIS is only now finishing up its processing of H-1B cap cases filed at this time last year.” This may be due to an increase in Request for Evidence (RFEs) as well as a reflection of the agency’s new mission statement.
While the postponement ensures the USCIS has time to process high volumes of filings, this impacts companies who rely on foreign contractors. Organizations will need to find alternative solutions or meet USCIS expectations for visa petitioners. Visa holders have their own challenges to meet as well. With recent restrictions of the H1-B visa program, foreign contractors seeking visas will have to provide documentation for third-party assignments.
Labor law changes coming to California in 2018
California governor, Jerry Brown recently signed some significant bills into place for California employment law. SHRM put together a list of the top five new state laws that HR should start preparing for. Here’s a summary of those laws:
- Inquiries about salary history: employers will no longer be permitted to ask job candidates about their earning, current or prior. Employers must also provide job candidates with pay scale information should the applicant request it.
- Immigration: employers must demand warrants and subpoenas from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents before enforcement. Employers must also provide certain notices to employees and union reps.
- Ban the box: employers with five or more employees may no longer look at a job candidate’s criminal record until the employer makes a conditional offer of employment. Employers may change the offer upon reviewing criminal history if they follow certain steps before coming to their final decision. This makes California the 10th state to require private-sector employers to ban the box. “Ban the box” comes from the idea that employers discriminate against candidates who check the box on applications that asks if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony. The Ban the Box movement aims to encourage employers to hire the most qualified candidate for a job, regardless of whether they have prior convictions.
- Baby bonding leave: Small businesses with 20-49 employees must provide at least 12 weeks of job-protected new parent leave within the first year of a child’s birth, adoption, or foster care placement. To qualify, employees must have more than 12 months of service and at 1250 hours of service with the employer within that 12 months. Employees must complete the service requirement before beginning the leave period.
- Gender identity and sexual orientation harassment training: In addition to sexual harassment training requirements for companies with 50 or more employees, the new law will add required training on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation harassment. Employers must also post a transgender rights notice in the workplace.
If you’re in Human Resources in the state of California, it’s time to prepare for some changes to employment law coming in 2018. If you’re an HR professional in another state, take note: other states could soon be following suit.