Six Important HR Issues for 2019

PAY INCREASES. Nineteen states and 21 cities will increase their minimum wage on January 1, 2019 or later in the year, with many reaching $15 per hour.  A chart showing affected jurisdictions may be found here: https://s27147.pcdn.co/wp-content/uploads/Raises-From-Coast-to-Coast-2019.pdf

Pressure to raise the minimum wage will continue at the federal level (the promoters seek $15 by 2024 and elimination of the tipped and disability subminimum wages).  Campaigns exist in Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Minnesota for $15 an hour and in Hawaii, $17/hour.

OVERTIME PAY. Increasing the salary level above $23,600 for workers to maintain their status as exempt from earning overtime continues to loom on the horizon.  The Department of Labor (DOL) has signaled that it intends to roll out the salary level increase by March 2019.  DOL has not announced the threshold other than that it will not be the $47,500 set by the Obama DOL.  Employers should plan to anticipate the increase to be in the mid to upper $30,000’s. 

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTOR. Many states continue to focus on converting contractor relationships to employee relationships in order to capture increased tax revenue.  Employers should review all 1099 relationships and make sure they have sufficient documentation as well as proper analysis. Independent contractors continue to sue employers under a misclassification theory for overtime wages and benefits.

JOINT EMPLOYER RELATIONSHIPS. Still unresolved:  How federal regulators evaluate “joint employment” business relationships.  Joint employment relationships determine which companies may be held liable for the workers of another company whose workers may be on site.  A federal court recently ruled that a “reserved but unexercised right” held by one company to control employees of another company may be a deciding factor in whether the two businesses qualify as “joint employers” (The Obama-era rule).  The Trump National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has proposed a less expansive rule – as yet not published.  This rule impacts all contract workers as well as employees of franchises.

NON-HARASSMENT. Harassment claims continue to be emphasized at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Last year the EEOC filed 41 sex harassment lawsuits.  If you have not updated your training to include collaborative responsibility, now is the time to do so. In addition several states, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, New York and Maine, have statutes with specific training requirements.

WEB ACCESSIBILITY. Employers are experiencing a rise in demand letters.  If you do business over the internet, and a person with a disability cannot:

  1. Navigate your website in a meaningful way to purchase goods and services;
  2. Figure out the accessibility features of your rooms for rent (such as how wide the doorways are, where the parking is located); or
  3. Figure out if your restaurant has accessible features off of your reservation app;

Then you may be subject to a demand to pay or litigate.  Such cases are on the rise across all 50-states.

Ask your web provider for an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility analysis, or conduct one yourself: http://www.w3.org/WAI/test-evaluate/tools/

However, if you are a hotel or restaurant, you will need to take the additional step of determining if your website and/or reservation system adequately addresses room/restaurant accessibility (which may not be addressed by a standard web accessibility assessment).

The Labor & Employment Alert is intended to keep readers current on matters affecting labor & employment-related laws, and is not intended to be legal advice.  If you have any questions, please contact Karen S. Elliott, Esq. (kelliott@eckertseamans.com or 804.788.7762), or any other attorney at Eckert Seamans with whom you have been working.

 

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Karen S. Elliott

Member - Richmond