11 Changes to New York State Sexual Harassment Laws

Yes, that does read correctly, 11 upcoming changes.  New York State legislators have passed multiple regulations related to sexual harassment in the workplace; training, policies, reporting, etc.  Many of these new regulations and rules are in the wake of the #MeToo movement and the many issues we have seen with sexual harassment in the workplace in a variety of industries, organizations and professions.  As leader’s we cannot tolerate harassment of any kind.  The new law(s) require employers to provide sexual-harassment training to all workers and much more.

The 11 changes to sexual harassment legislation (for now):

  1. October 9, 2018: As of now, and by October 9, 2018, employers in New York State must implement annual sexual-harassment training. The state is developing a model program, which can be used by employers.  Any training implemented must meet or exceed the minimal state requirements.  More to come on this area of change.

Training Requirements:

  1. “An explanation of sexual harassment and specific examples of inappropriate conduct.
  2. Detailed information concerning federal, state and local laws and the remedies available to victims of harassment.
  3. An explanation of employees’ external rights of redress and the available administrative and judicial forums for bringing complaints.”[i]

Sexual-Harassment Prevention Policy

The state is requiring organizations to adopt a sexual-harassment prevention policy and distribute to employees (yes now you must have a handbook of sorts), the expectations of the new requirements could vary from what your organization is currently using.  The state has strict requirements for organizations policies and procedures.  Be aware of expectations and implement accordingly.  The policy is required to include (for now):

  1. “A statement prohibiting sexual harassment and providing examples of what constitutes sexual harassment.
  2. Information about federal and state sexual-harassment laws and the remedies that are available to victims—and a statement that there may be additional local laws on the matter.
  3. A standard complaint form.
  4. Procedures for a timely and confidential investigation of complaints that ensures due process for all parties.
  5. An explanation of employees’ external rights of redress and the available administrative and judicial forums for bringing complaints.
  6. A statement that sexual harassment is a form of employee misconduct and that sanctions will be enforced against those who engage in sexual harassment and against supervisors who knowingly allow such behavior to continue.
  7. A statement that it is unlawful to retaliate against employees who report sexual harassment or who testify or assist in related proceedings.”[ii]

Senate Passes Comprehensive Strengthening of New York’s Sexual Harassment Laws

The Senate Bill

Guidance on Sexual Harassment for All Employers in New York State

These changes are significant across the state.  As leaders, we need to begin planning for training needs throughout the organization and updating policies and procedures.  The training should have a sign in and sign out sheet to ensure employees did attend and stayed to complete the training.  Recording the training to verify all were in attendance was a suggestion I recently heard at a training, but to also show new employees during the new hire orientation process.  Remember this is an annual training.  However, new hires need training as well.  Policies that are modified need to have signatures and witness signatures to verify receipt and understanding.  We are all learning about these changes together.  We need to be proactive and seek guidance, as these laws continue to change and evolve.  New York City has laws above and beyond state requirements (more to be written on this).  Continue to monitor for new updates coming out of Albany.  There are many legal seminars throughout the state on this topic, which will be helpful to organizations of all sizes.  More to be written on these new requirements in upcoming articles!

 

 

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/new-york-sexual-harassment-training.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/new-york-sexual-harassment-training.aspx

3 Thoughts on What Should and Should Not Be Included in the Personnel Files

In a March 2015 article written by the Society of Human Resource Management, the article provided guidance on separating employee files for relevancy and confidentiality.  Employee records can be separated into three types of files.  “A general personnel file, a confidential employee file and a common file.”[i]  Organizations should always consider and be aware of sensitive information (date of birth, marital status, Social Security numbers, HIPAA protected information, criminal history, court orders, financial history, etc.), that can be included in any of the three separated files.  Other considerations should include relevancy to the supervisor or management of the workforce.  “Is it related to the employee’s performance, knowledge skills, abilities or behavior?”[ii]  This should also be a determining factor, when separating information and organizing new files.  Does the supervisor or manager need access to all the information?

The Basic Personnel File (supervisor and manager relevant):

  • Recruiting information, resumes, job application and academic transcripts
  • Job descriptions (signed)
  • Job offer, promotion, rates of pay, compensation information, training records
  • Handbook and policy acknowledgements (including revised policies)
  • Recognition
  • Disciplinary information, warnings, coaching and counseling
  • Performance evaluations
  • Termination records, exit interview, closure of the file (goes without writing)

The Confidential Personnel File:

  • EEO records
  • Reference and background checks
  • Drug test results
  • Medical and insurance records
  • Child support and garnishments
  • Legal documents
  • Workers compensation and short-term disability claims
  • Investigation notes
  • Form I-9*

The Common File:

  • Form I-9 Audits
  • Form I-9’s* (my recommendation is to put active employee’s I-9’s in a binder that is accessible, confidential and locked in a cabinet, for auditing and reviews).

Regardless of the filing process(s) your organization has implemented, the information contained in any of the employee files needs to be kept confidential and locked in secure filing cabinets.  During trainings with supervisors and managers, my statement is simple, treat your employee’s information as it is your own confidential information.  The last thing we want is open personnel files on desks, doctor’s notes attached to calendars and unlocked filing cabinets.  When an employee exits the organization, I consolidate all files and information into one folder and store in a terminated employee file section, with the exit interview (if applicable).  “Maintaining records in separate files as discussed above allows managers, employees and outside auditors to see the information they need to make decisions, yet does not allow inappropriate access.”[iii]  Filing and organizing paperwork is not always fun, but it is necessary to ensure legality and confidentiality.  If you are confused on employee files and appropriate storage, seek guidance.  Electronic files and legal requirements related to electronic filing can vary by state, a thorough understanding of these laws is necessary prior to implementing an electronic filing system.  We should be proactive and take all precautions, related to employee records and record retention.

[iv]

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/includedinpersonnelfile.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/includedinpersonnelfile.aspx

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/includedinpersonnelfile.aspx

[iv] http://cyquesthr.com/access-personnel-files-laws-50-states/

4 EEOC Guidelines on Workplace Harassment Prevention and Cadillac Healthcare Tax Updates

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released the “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment.”  This is a guidance document for employers, that contains harassment prevention recommendations for all employers in four categories.  As leaders we have a responsibility to take all harassment claims serious and need to ensure a proactive approach to investigations, communication and accountability as it related to workplace harassment claims, sexual harassment, retaliation, bullying, workplace violence concerns, etc.

The Four Categories:

  1. Leadership and Accountability: “The cornerstone of a successful harassment prevention strategy is the consistent and demonstrated commitment of senior leaders to create and maintain a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.”[i]
  2. Comprehensive and Effective Harassment Policy: “A comprehensive, clear harassment policy that is regularly communicated to all employees is an essential element of an effective harassment prevention strategy.”[ii]
  3. Effective and Accessible Harassment Complaint System: “An effective harassment complaint system welcomes questions, concerns, and complaints; encourages employees to report potentially problematic conduct early; treats alleged victims, complainants, witnesses, alleged harassers, and others with respect; operates promptly, thoroughly, and impartially; and imposes appropriate consequences for harassment or related misconduct, such as retaliation.”[iii]
  4. Effective Harassment Training: “Leadership, accountability, and strong harassment policies and complaint systems are essential components of a successful harassment prevention strategy, but only if employees are aware of them. Regular, interactive, comprehensive training of all employees may help ensure that the workforce understands organizational rules, policies, procedures, and expectations, as well as the consequences of misconduct.”[iv]

For additional information on the Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment guidance (each of the four have additional recommendations on the website) for your organization and workforce, the link is below:

Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment

Cadillac Tax Updates

Congress passed a law on January 22 to delay the affordable Car Act’s 40 percent excise tax on high-value healthcare plan for two years.  The Cadillac tax was set to take effect in 2020, under the new law, the tax will be delayed until 2022.

What to expect in 2022:

  • $10,200 for individual coverage ($11,850 for qualified retirees and those in high-risk professions).
  • $27,500 for family coverage ($30,950 for qualified retirees and those in high-risk professions).[v]

Under the new administration we could see significant changes to the Affordable Care Act and healthcare in general.  Continue to monitor for updates and changes, that can and will impact your workforce.  If you are confused seek guidance, healthcare law continues to evolve in complexity at the federal and state levels.

[i] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[ii] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[iii] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[iv] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[v] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/congress-delays-cadillac-tax-until-2022.aspx

 

2018 OSHA 300-A Posting Timeline

As many of us know; all employers are required to keep OSHA Form 300 (Injury and Illness Log) records throughout the year and must post Form 300A.  This annual summary of job-related illness and injuries, must be posted in the workplace by February 1, 2018.  The OSHA 300-A from should be posted in common areas, comparable to locations of labor and employment posters, workers compensation certification and paid family leave certification (break rooms, meeting rooms, kitchens, etc.).  The summary must include the total number of job-related injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2017.

Areas to remember:

  1. Posting Period: The posting period starts on February 1, 2018 and ends on April 30, 2018.
  2. What is a Form 300A: The form reports a business’s total number of fatalities, missed workdays, job transfers or restrictions, and injuries and illnesses as recorded on the OSHA Form 300.  The information posted should also include the number of employees and the hours they worked for the year.  No recordable illnesses or injuries?    However, an organization must still post the form, with zeroes on the appropriate lines.
  3. Helpful Links:

OSHA Injury and Illness Recordkeeping and Reporting Requirements

Injury & Illness Recordkeeping Forms

OSHA Recordkeeping Advisor

Partially Exempt Industries List

“The Trump administration continues to look for ways to lessen the regulatory burden on employers. As a result, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) electronic recordkeeping regulation continues to be whittled down. OSHA’s latest Regulatory Agenda sets out new changes to the already beleaguered rule. Specifically, OSHA intends to propose to amend the Electronic Recordkeeping rule to eliminate the requirement that establishments with 250 or more employees submit OSHA 300 Logs and 301 forms. Instead, two types of establishments would continue to submit 300A summary forms: (1) establishments of 250 or more employees; and (2) establishments with between 20 and 249 employees in the high-hazard industries listed in Appendix A to the regulation. Employers with establishments meeting these criteria electronically submitted OSHA 300A summaries with 2016 data on or before December 31, 2017 and will submit their calendar year 2017 summaries by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019, and every year thereafter, covered establishments must submit the information by March 2.”[i]

As we see with many of the HR laws and regulations, OSHA is continuing to evolve and change under the new administration.  Ensure that you are monitoring for recent or upcoming changes and posting as required under the federal and state law.  Public sector rules will vary as well.  If you have questions, seek guidance.  Safety rules and regulations can be complex, just as HR laws and regulations are.

[i] https://ogletree.com/shared-content/content/blog/2018/january/osha-anticipates-more-changes-to-the-electronic-recordkeeping-rule

 

 

2018 Employee Handbook Changes, IRS Mileage Rate and Labor Poster Updates

A new year brings new changes to our organizations, employment relationships, laws, regulations, handbooks and policies.  As more states continue to pass state specific legislation, we need to ensure that our handbooks and labor posters are updated accordingly.

 Below are 5 areas to watch related to employee handbooks:

  1. Workplace Conduct and Social Media: Under the new administration, we could see more flexibility in social media policies (pro-employer).  Social media is a concern in many organizations, ensure that your policy is legal, up-to-date and not overreaching.
  2. Arbitration Agreements: There are multiple lawsuits in federal courts related to employer arbitration agreements.  These decisions can impact our organizations.  I have not implemented arbitration agreements.  However, they are growing in popularity.
  3. Sexual Harassment/Harassment Policies: This speaks for itself.  California and Maine have modified their current laws related to sexual harassment, we could see significant changes in New York State, as stated by the Governor recently.  Ensure that there is a zero-tolerance and retaliation policies in place, and all employees are trained on current policies and procedures.  Organizations need to be proactive and not reactive to issues.
  4. Parental Leave: Paid Family Leave was effective January 1, 2018. Ensure that you have updated policies and handbook language to reflect this significant legislative change.  The state has a website full of information to utilize as we move forward in 2018.

PFL Resource Page

Model Language for Employer Material

  1. Disability and Other Accommodations: Review language related to the ADA, FMLA and medical marijuana.  Medical marijuana law(s) continues to evolve.  “In 2017, several courts ruled that registered medical marijuana users who were fired or passed over for jobs because of their medicinal use could bring claims under state disability laws.”[i]

As laws continue to evolve, now is the time to review handbooks, policies and procedures.  If you are unclear on a path-forward or what to look for, seek guidance.  Do not assume a Google search will provide legal and accurate information, draft handbook language or valid training material.

2018 IRS Mileage Rate:

“Beginning on Jan. 1, 2018, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also a van, pickup or panel truck) will be:

  • 5 cents for every mile of business travel driven, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations, unchanged from 2017.”[ii]

Notice 2018-03

Mandatory State Labor Law Poster Changes Effective January 2018:

  • Alaska— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Arizona— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • California— Transgender Rights, effective Jan. 1, 2018, Discrimination, Jan. 1, 2018
  • Colorado— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Florida — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Hawaii — Wage and Hour Laws, effective July 10, 2017, OSHA, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Maine — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Minnesota– Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Missouri— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Montana— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Nevada — Rules to Observed by Employers, effective July 1, 2017
  • New Jersey— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • New York— Minimum Wage, effective Dec. 31, 2017
  • North Carolina — Wage and Hour Notice to Employees, effective Dec. 31, 2017
  • Ohio— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Rhode Island — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • South Dakota — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Vermont— Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Washington— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018, Your Rights as a Worker, Jan. 1,2018

[i] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/5-Employee-Handbook-Issues-to-Watch-in-2018.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/2018-standard-mileage-rate.aspx

As always-if you feel uncertain or want an extra set of eyes, finding a consultant or strategic legal partner is a good idea. For more information about these subjects, click on the links here or reach out to schedule a meeting and consultation.

-Matthew W. Burr

4 Updates IRS Deadline to Supply ACA Forms to Employees

In late December 2017, the IRS announced an extension for employer’s providing Affordable Care Act forms to employee’s.  As the future of the Affordable Care Act is still undecided, employers should be proactive in distributing and communicating information to the workforce.

Below are 4 updates for the ACA:

  1. Extension: The IRS extended the date to March 2, 2018 to distribute the 2017 forms to employees.  This is a 30-day extension to the regularly scheduled date of late January 2018.
  2. Penalty: “The IRS, which announced the extension December 22 in Notice 2018-06, also said it will not impose penalties on employers that can show that they made good-faith efforts to comply with the Affordable Car Act’s (ACA’s) information reporting requirements for plan year 2017.”[1]

Notice 2018-06

Information Reporting Requirements for Plan Year 2017

  1. IRS Filing Deadline: The due dates for filing 2017 returns with the IRS is not extended.  The due dates to file information returns with the IRS remain; February 28 paper filers and April 2 electronic filers.
  2. The Future and Beyond: “Although this is the third year that the IRS has granted transition relief for reporting, the notice states significantly that the IRS does not anticipate granting transition relief for 2018 or future years,” Jost pointed out. “This statement highlights the fact that, although the individual mandate penalty is repealed as of 2019, the reporting requirements that support it, as well as the employer mandate, remain in effect.”[2]

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Tax Provisions

Form 1095-B

Form 1095-C

As leader’s, we must be proactive in approaching the Affordable Care Act’s current and future legislation.  As the individual mandate penalty is repealed, the healthcare law is still the law of the land, for now.  Continue to watch for more changes in 2018 and 2019.  The ACA is complex, seek guidance if you are unclear on a path-forward.

Below is a link to the NYS Paid Family Leave Resources:

NYS Paid Family Leave Employer Webinar

PFL Resource Page

Model Language for Employer Material

[1] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/irs-extends-aca-form-distribution-deadline.aspx

[2] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/irs-extends-aca-form-distribution-deadline.aspx