Taking Stock of Employment Laws and the Current Administration

Employee labor laws.

Until the federal government resumes enacting labor-related laws, HR departments must broaden their horizons in accordance with new laws originating from municipalities and states.

At the beginning of his term in office, President Trump took a number of steps to roll back Obama-era federal labor and employment laws, which most interpreted as a move favoring businesses over employees. Since then, many of the administration's labor and employment bills haven't made it out of Congress.

Nonetheless, in 2018, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit employers from keeping any portion of an employee's tips. Additionally, in late December 2017, the Tax Cuts and Job Act reduced tax rates for individuals and businesses and made changes to taxation rates for foreign income.

With control of the House swinging from the Republicans to the Democrats in 2019, the question of whether the president will use tools like executive orders or veto powers to push through labor-related legislation remains open.

States Move Forward

Consequently, as was the case in 2018, we will continue to see more legislative action by state and municipalities on this front in 2019. In fact, as noted in the ADP® webcast, Workplace Compliance Spotlight: Hot Employment Law Topics, this year state and city employment laws involving a broad range of areas including the gig economy, paid leave, pay equity, sexual harassment and marijuana usage will take effect.

For example, in Texas and Michigan we'll likely see changes to paid sick leave laws. Regarding paid family leave, over the next year or so we'll see changes in Washington State, Washington D.C., Massachusetts and possibly Vermont. Regarding pay equity laws, Connecticut and Hawaii will join a growing list of cities and states that support a ban on salary history inquiries.

Staying Ahead of the Curve

While the current administration may shift its focus to employment-related laws during the second half of its term, until that happens, businesses must learn to adjust to the many changes taking place at the city and state level while keeping an eye on federal laws. Here are some ways to help your organization understand and comply with this evolving regulatory environment.

1. Determine which laws your organization must comply with at the city, state and federal level

Compile a list of all labor laws governing the actions of your organization. Document all new laws as well as any existing laws your organization was unaware of in order to establish compliance. To protect your business in the event of litigation and allow for the protection of documents subject to attorney client privilege, consider engaging a member of your organization's legal department or an attorney from an outside firm to conduct the assessment.

2. Track changes to employment laws

To ensure your business remains compliant over time, task an executive with the responsibility of tracking upcoming changes to city, state and federal labor and employment laws. Require that they compile a monthly report detailing their findings, including information gathered from government sources and third-party sources like employment attorneys' publications.

3. Revise your employee handbook and human resource policies and procedures

Update your organization's HR-related documents to reflect the latest laws and regulations governing your activities. For new labor laws that are particularly important or complex, consider creating employee training programs to communicate any changes and ensure compliance. Consider making use of employee newsletters, your organization's intranet site and notice boards in break rooms to share changes to labor laws as well.

4. Conduct a random sampling of your ability to comply with certain laws

As part of your organization's ongoing compliance efforts, select a city, state or federal labor law and review your business' documents and actions to determine its ability to comply. To minimize your firm's legal risk, make sure you conduct the assessment under the direction of an attorney. In the event that analysis uncovers evidence of noncompliance, develop a remediation plan and make sure those assigned to the plan take steps to bridge any gaps in a timely manner.

Until the federal government resumes enacting employment-related laws, HR departments must broaden their horizons in accordance with new laws originating from municipalities and states.