An end-of-the-year labor and employment checklist

Don’t miss out on any important steps you need to take and get prepared before the New Year begins

Rich Meneghello

What better way to prepare for the New Year than to review the biggest developments in the world of labor and employment law that took place over the past 12 months? Here is a handy checklist to make sure you don’t miss out on any important steps you need to take before 2016 rolls around.

In the wake of June’s Supreme Court Abercrombie & Fitch decision, review your interviewing and hiring protocols to make sure you don’t violate new religious accommodation obligations. No longer will you be able to stick your head in the sand and claim you didn’t know that the applicant needed an accommodation; the burden is now yours.

The New Year might be the perfect time to review your handbook top-to-bottom to make sure your policies don’t run afoul of the many rules the NLRB has put into effect of late. Even if you are not unionized, be aware of the standards that you must follow to avoid government scrutiny.

2015 was not a good year for employers on the labor relations front. The low point might have been the August BFI decision that created a broad new standard for determining when two companies are considered “joint employers” for collective bargaining purposes. This decision is expected to have even more negative consequences in the New Year.

We’d been expecting it for quite some time, but April 2015 finally saw the implementation of the “quickie election” rules for union organizing votes. If there’s a silver lining, recent data appears to show that union success rates have not increased greatly with the change, rising by only 1.6 percent since April.

If your company does any business in Europe, be aware that the last few months saw the dismantling of the EU-US data transfer arrangement known as “Safe Harbor.” You will need to review your company’s business practices immediately to ensure compliance.

The SCOTUS Obergefell v. Hodges decision from June requires all states to recognize same-sex marriage; you’ll want to review your entire array of benefits to ensure you are in compliance with the associated obligations brought about by this change.

Businesses see a great advantage to instituting wellness programs for their workforce, but the EEOC has decided that some employers were going too far. In April, the agency published proposed rules governing the programs, with which you will want to familiarize yourself before the New Year.

If your business requires employees to pass through a security screening at the end of their shift, 2015 was a pretty good year for you. The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that employers do not have to pay workers for security-check wait time.

Meanwhile, if your business retains independent contractors, 2015 was not necessarily a good year for you. Government agencies and courts continued their full-scale assault on alleged misclassification arrangements, costing business by the millions. You’ll want to once again revisit your relationships to ensure compliance.

A few years ago, “BYOD” (Bring Your Own Device) policies seemed all the rage, as both employers and workers saw the benefit of allowing employee-owned electronic devices to be put to use for work-related reasons. But the past year has seen an onslaught of wage and hour lawsuits stemming from these arrangements. Proceed with caution.

Rich Meneghello is a Washington-licensed partner in the Portland office of Fisher & Phillips, a national labor and employment law firm exclusively representing employers. He can be reached at RMeneghello@laborlawyers.com or 503.205.8044.

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