The new year is almost here and it's time to put your small business resolutions to work! If you haven't gotten around to choosing any, here are some suggestions:

1. Review Hiring Procedures

Check your job ads, recruiting practices, application forms, interview questions and screening and selection procedures. Do they comply with all applicable laws? Is everyone involved in the hiring process properly trained? Do they know who to go to if they have a question or issue? Note: Some states and municipalities have strict laws regarding employer inquiries about an applicant's criminal history.

2. Create/Update Job Descriptions

Identify the roles, responsibilities and qualifications needed for every position. Each job description should include the reporting structure, if the position is exempt or nonexempt, a job summary with essential functions, including any physical requirements, and the requisite qualifications and skills. Note: You should always include a statement specifying that your company reserves the right to change the duties of the job at any time and that the job description is not designed to cover all of the position's requirements.

3. Review Job Classifications

Apply the proper federal and state tests, such as the IRS Common Law Test or the Department of Labor Economic Realities Test, to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Likewise, review all employees to ensure that they are either classified as nonexempt (and should receive overtime) or exempt (they meet the job duties and salary basis tests as well as the new minimum salary threshold).

4. Assess the Impact of Overtime Changes

While the 2016 changes to the Federal Labor Standard Act's (FLSA) overtime rule has been struck down by the federal District Court in Texas, employers should continue to evaluate the FLSA status of their employees by reviewing job duties and descriptions and ensuring that they have employees classified properly. The vast majority of employers are still subject to current FLSA requirements that dictate proper classification and payment methods.

5. Create/Update Your Employee Handbook

If you don't have a handbook, create one. If you already have a handbook, you should update it at least annually. This resource can help you communicate company policies to your employees, set expectations and demonstrate your effort to comply with various laws.

6. Make Sure You Are Complying With the NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has been scrutinizing employer practices and policies regarding employees' rights to work together to improve wages and working conditions. Focus on ensuring your policies concerning social media, confidentiality and standards of conduct don't infringe on employees' Section 7 rights.

7. Develop/Review Your Performance Plan

A performance management plan can help you communicate goals to employees, assess achievement and reward top performers. Note: At a minimum, you should evaluate employee performance annually.

8. Review Record Keeping Practices

Employers must maintain certain records to comply with federal, state and local laws. Some rules require that certain records be stored in separate, confidential files. The following information should not be stored in personnel files:

  • Any information reflecting that an employee is a member of a protected group (such as race, gender, ethnicity or veteran's status)
  • Any document that relates to an employee's medical condition or overall health

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services also recommends keeping I-9 forms and other documents that support identity and work authorization separate from personnel records. Additionally, the Society for Human Resource Management notes that records concerning workplace investigations (such as written statements from relevant parties, interview notes and final investigation reports) should not be stored in personnel files.

Tags: Business Goals