Here's to New Success in 2016!

2016-01-11-1452538410-9295708-bigstockHappyNewYearbannerVe101113220300x240.jpg

While you are probably aware of the various State and Municipal Minimum Wage increases that went into effect January 1st, you may not have the new poster. We have provided those posters on our website Resources webpage for your convenience. As a reminder, New York and West Virginia changes went into effect December 31, 2015. Other states including Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont took effect January 1st and increases to the minimum wage will go into effect July 1st in Washington, DC and Maryland. August 1st will see changes to Minnesota's minimum wage. Be sure to check our Resources page for the appropriate posters for your state.

Don't forget that some counties and cities also have minimum wage regulations. We have attempted to list those on the Resources page as well. If you don't see your city or county, go to the jurisdiction's website to download a poster at no charge.

IRS Mileage Reimbursement Rate

If you reimburse your employees for business-related mileage, you will be glad to know that effective January 1st, the IRS rate for business mileage reimbursement was lowered to 54 cents per mile, down from last year's 57.5 cents per mile. See details here.

OSHA Recordkeeping Form 300A Posting Deadline is February 1, 2016

Companies required by OSHA to post Recordkeeping Form 300A have until February 1 to get their records in order. Form 300 A is a summary log of work-related injuries from the previous year (2015) that OSHA requires non-exempt employers to post for employees to see between February 1 through April 30. Forms 300, 300A, 301 are available on OSHA's Illness Recordkeeping Forms Web page. You can also find the forms and instructions on the MJMS Resources webpage under Forms and Reports. California employers will find those particular forms on the same page.

Some businesses, like establishments with 10 or fewer employees, as well as certain industry sectors, are partially exempt from OSHA Recordkeeping requirements. See the exemption list which was revised effective January 1, 2015.

Changes to Federal Overtime Regulations Postponed to Mid-2016

For several months the buzz has been around the US Department of Labor (DOL) which was considering significant changes to the overtime rules and even took public comments on the proposed changes last Fall. Under the proposal, the minimum salary for an exempt employee (not eligible for overtime) would rise from the current $455/week to approximately $960/week. The salary floor for "highly compensated" employees will also be raised to a proposed $122,000/annual.

There has been considerable discussion on the proposal and the expected approval and implementation may not happen until the 3rd quarter of 2016. Don't wait for the rule changes, start reviewing your employees' wages and prepare for the inevitable.

New California Laws go into Effect January 1ST

Once again California has a host of new employment-related laws that went into effect on January 1st, 2016. We will just briefly mention key changes in this section, but will provide more detailed information in future blog posts and future newsletters.

  • Employee Time Off: SB 579 amended the state's "kin care" and "school visitation leave" laws. Employers of 25 or more employees are required to allow employees to use their accrued and available sick leave to attend to the illness of a child, parent, spouse, or domestic partner of the employee, and may not deny the employee the right to use sick leave in this way.

As for "school visitation leave," it has been expanded to include use of leave to find, enroll, or re-enroll his or her child in a school or with a licensed child care provider or address a childcare provider or school emergency; and expands the list of individuals authorized to take school visitation leave to include a step-parent, foster parent, or person who stands in loco parentis to a child.

  • Gender Wage Equality: SB 358 or the Fair Pay Act, prohibits employers from paying any employees less than employees of the opposite sex for "substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort and responsibility." The Fair Pay Act further prohibits employers from terminating, discriminating or retaliating against an employee who exercises his/her rights under the Act or assists others in exercising their rights. Employers also can't prohibit employees from disclosing their wages, discussing the wages of others or asking about another employee's wages (which is also covered under other state and federal laws).
  • Reasonable Accommodation and Retaliation: AB 987 clarifies that employers can't retaliate or discriminate against an employee for requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability or religion, regardless of whether the request was granted. The law clarifies that the mere act of making the request is protected conduct under the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA).
  • Meal Periods Health Care Industry: SB 327 reaffirms that the Wage Orders which allow for a specific meal period waiver in the health care industry are still in effect. Employers in the health care industry can continue to allow employees to voluntarily waive one of their two meal periods, even when an employee's shift exceeds 12 hours (Wage Orders 4 and 5). This law was urgency legislation and became effective immediately when signed on October 5, 2015.
  • Unlawful Use of E-Verify: AB 622 prohibits employers from using the federal E-Verify system at a time or in a manner not required by federal law to check the employment authorization status of an existing employee or of an applicant who has not received an offer of employment. Employers can still use E-Verify to check the employment authorization status of a person who has been offered employment. AB 622 also imposes monetary penalties when employers fail to provide the required employee notifications when the submitted E-Verify information does not match federal records. There is a penalty of $10,000 for each violation.
  • A Few Changes in Other States

    California is not the only state to make changes to employment laws effective January, 2016. Here are just a few worth noting:

    • Illinois: The Equal Pay Act in Illinois will now apply to all employers regardless of size and civil penalties will be imposed for violations beginning January 1st.
    • New York: Amendments to the Equal Pay Law prohibits pay differences based on gender in jobs that require "equal skill, effort and responsibility" when performed under similar working conditions. Other laws now extend prohibition of sexual harassment to all employers; adds "familial status" to the list of protected traits in the NY Human Rights Law and adds a requirement that employers must provide reasonable accommodations to all pregnant employees. New York's changes are effective January 19, 2016.
    • Oregon: Effective January 1st, employers with 10+ employees must provide paid sick leave up to 40 hours a year--smaller employers are required to provide unpaid sick leave. Additionally, employers must provide protected leave related to domestic violence, harassment, sexual assault, and stalking, and approve any form of available paid vacation, sick, or personal leave for such absences.
    • Connecticut: In case you missed it, effective October 1, 2015, employers in Connecticut are prohibited from firing, disciplining, or otherwise retaliating against an employee who refuses to provide access to their social media account.

    Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is the founder and president of MJ Management Solutions, a human resources consulting firm that provides small businesses with a wide range of virtual and onsite HR solutions to meet their immediate and long-term needs. From ensuring legal compliance to writing customized employee handbooks to conducting sexual harassment training, businesses depend on our expertise and cost-effective human resources services to help them thrive. This article first appeared on the MJ Management Solutions blog.

    Let's connect: LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook | Google+