2019 Update: Human Resources
Stay up to date on legislation and employee retention issues
Jennifer Wheatley, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
Keeping current on HR trends and the ever-changing world of employment legislation may seem impossible when you are busy running your laboratory. However, it becomes easier to manage when focusing on the most important issues. Two categories within human resources are priorities: minimizing risk and maximizing culture.
Minimizing risk primarily involves ensuring your laboratory is compliant with changes to employment laws. While there has been some activity related to federal employment legislation, the most significant changes recently are on the state and local levels. It is imperative for laboratory owners to keep up with all these laws.
Maximizing culture is all about keeping up with the HR best practices and trends, and understanding what is important to the workforce today. If your business is not in tune to what your employees want, it will be difficult to attract and retain the workforce you need. The current unemployment rate is at an all-time low, which means your employees have more choice in where they work and less reason to stay with you.
The following are some of the major HR developments impacting many laboratories this year.
Legalization of Cannabis
As more jurisdictions pass laws regarding the legalization of medical and/or recreational marijuana, employers need to review their policies. Are your practices in line with current laws for your state or city? Does your laboratory conduct substance abuse testing today? If so, what is your policy if an applicant or an employee tests positive? Is your policy different if that person has been legally prescribed medical marijuana?
Cybersecurity Breaches/Data Privacy
A day doesn't go by without a story of a data breach. Unscrupulous people constantly try to obtain access to sensitive information. As a laboratory owner, how do you ensure the protection of your employees', clients', and patients' personal data? What systems are in place? Have your employees been trained to watch for phishing scams?
Do you conduct background checks when hiring? If so, it is important to verify that you comply with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) procedures. The FCRA requires that all employers who conduct background checks ensure that applicants' rights are not violated. According to Lanette Suarez of Law.com, a new wave of class action suits is largely based upon technical violations of this law.1
Ban the Box
More cities are enacting "Ban the Box" laws, meaning that employers cannot ask about an applicant's criminal record on a job application form. The premise is that, as an employer, you should be using qualifications as the top reason for selecting or not selecting a candidate, not their criminal background. Is your laboratory located in an area that has a Ban the Box law?
There is no question that preventing harassment should still be a top priority for employers. It is not enough to have a policy in your employee handbook. All employees should be trained on sexual harassment laws and your laboratory's policy. Some states and cities have specific laws that require training, so it is important that you are aware of any and all such requirements in your area.
According to Insurance Journal, 70% of employers reported that their business had been affected by prescription drug abuse.2 Drug abuse results in many issues in the workplace, including low productivity, high absenteeism, and increased risk of accidents. It is likely that your laboratory will have to deal with an employee with a substance abuse issue. Being prepared for such a case will help the business to deal with it properly.
As mentioned earlier, employees have many personal demands placed upon them and are demanding more flexibility in their schedules for more balance in their lives. These workers are turning to employers that offer this flexibility. It is difficult for many employers to be able to provide a significant amount of flexibility due to customer and production needs. Nonetheless, be creative and open-minded when determining what level of flexibility you can provide to your workers. Employee retention depends on it.
FLSA Proposed Changes
Back in 2016, certain changes to provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) were proposed, but at the time nothing was resolved. Now, it appears that this is back, and the Department of Labor (DOL) has issued a new proposal. Under the new proposal, the salary threshold for an employee to be considered exempt from overtime will be $35,308 annually. There are some other proposed changes as well. The DOL expects the new rule to be effective in January 2020.3
The above are just some of the many trends in employment legislation that are hot topics in human resources. Minimizing risks to your laboratory and being able to recruit and retain a great workforce are key to your laboratory's success. Understanding current HR trends and the ever-changing world of employment law is imperative to the future of your business.
About the Author
Jennifer Wheatley, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, is the President of HR Affiliates.
1. Suarez L. Overly technical violations and the rise of FCRA class actions. Law.com. March 15, 2018. https://www.law.com/dailybusinessreview/2018/03/15/overly-technical-violations-and-the-rise-of-fcra-class-actions/?slreturn=20190423152406. Accessed May 23, 2019.
2. 70% of employers say prescription drug abuse affects workplace. Insurance Journal.March 10, 2017. https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/national/2017/03/10/444117.htm. Accessed May 23, 2019.
3. McGeady J. What you need to know about the proposed overtime laws changes. ADP Spark. April 15, 2019. https://www.adp.com/spark/articles/2019/04/what-you-need-to-know-about-the-proposed-overtime-laws-changes.aspx#. Accessed May 23, 2019.