Employers face difficult compliance issues every year, but according to Ogletree Deakins attorney Diane Saunders, four areas deserve special attention in 2015. A month into the New Year, she urges HR pros to think about these employment practices:
Background checks: “Evaluate yourpolicies and practices,” Saunders advises. Many states and municipalities have passed “ban-the-box” legislation prohibiting questions about criminal records on employment applications.
The EEOC filed several lawsuits in 2014 against employers alleging that their criminal records check processes discriminated against minorities.
Sick leave: President Obama has called on Congress to pass legislation mandating paid sick leave for most employees. Meanwhile, states and local governments are moving forward with their own laws. Saunders says employers should “review their leave policies and practices to ensure that they are in compliance with all the various state and municipal sick leave laws that have cropped up recently.”
Dress codes: Both the EEOC and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) focused on dress codes in 2014. “More attention to this topic is expected in 2015,” Saunders says—especially the interplay between dress codes and accommodation of workers’ religious practices.
By June, the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to issue a decision in a case—EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch—involving an EEOC challenge to a dress code brought by a Muslim job applicant who wasn’t hired after she wore a religious head scarf to an interview at a retail store.
Meanwhile, the NLRB has been scrutinizing bans on buttons and T-shirts bearing pro-union messages, which it says violate the National Labor Relations Act.
Arbitration agreements: “Review your arbitration agreements and class-action waivers, or consider implementing them if you don’t have them,” Saunders recommends. In the wake of several 2013 Supreme Court decisions that upheld the enforceability of arbitration agreements, more employers have implemented them to try to stem the tide of class-action wage-and-hour lawsuits.
Saunders’ advice: Ask your attorney to determine if arbitration is appropriate for your workplace.