Employee handbooks. Say those words around any seasoned HR professional and watch them cringe. Yes, handbooks are often relegated to the “I’ll get to that when I have time” list, which is understandable in today’s busy corporate environment where tasks critical to the business receive priority status. But handbooks are important and deserve inclusion on the list of asset protection initiatives for the new year. Why, you ask? Because a poorly drafted handbook exposes a business to unnecessary risk of liability. Liability can range from the more obvious—failure to make appropriate at-will employment and no contract disclaimers may bind the company to statements in the handbook where flexibility is needed—to the less obvious—failure to address relevant state and local laws and the affirmative obligations placed on employers in those laws can foster a culture of noncompliance and possible class actions. And putting aside the liability issues for a moment, a properly drafted employee handbook can be used as a guidebook for managers, a go-to resource for a company’s workforce, and an effective tool for communicating performance and conduct expectations.
*Originally published by CalCPA in the January/February 2019 issue of California CPA — the original article can be found here.
As the #MeToo movement gained momentum to right the wrongs of sexual harassment alleged against Hollywood, business and politicians, so too has the California Legislature responded by declaring, in essence, #TimesUp.
Of the nearly 600 bills introduced in 2018 that mention “employer,” compared to 304 bills in 2017) 455 mentioned “sexual harassment,” (compared to 347 the prior year). While most of those bills did not pass, and of the ones that did, Gov. Brown did not sign several into law, many of the new laws will have significant impact on our state.
On December 11, 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issued a press release reaffirming the agency’s continued commitment to prosecuting employers who knowingly hire and employ ineligible workers. The agency further announced that it will use I-9 audits and penalties to ensure that employers comply with applicable laws.
According to ICE, in Fiscal Year 2018, the agency initiated 6,848 worksite investigations, 5,981 I-9 audits, 779 criminal arrests and 1,525 administrative arrests. Given this active enforcement landscape, it is imperative that employers comply with applicable immigration laws, and understand their rights under such laws.
In 2018, Governor Brown signed several laws impacting California employers. A summary of some of the key new laws follows. The effective date of each new law is indicated in the heading of the Assembly Bill (AB) and/or Senate Bill (SB).1 The list below is in numerical order by AB or SB.
Late last year, a bipartisan coalition in the United States Senate sponsored legislation to ban the use of mandatory arbitration agreements to settle sexual harassment and sex discrimination claims (H.R. 4734/S. 2203). While that bill—titled the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act of 2017”—remains pending, a similar bill is also now pending before the California legislature (A.B. 3080). If enacted, A.B. 3080 would prohibit employers from requiring mandatory arbitration agreements as a condition of employment, continued employment, or the receipt of any employment-related benefit, such as a bonus.
As a reminder, the New York City Earned Safe and Sick Time Act (“Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law”) became effective on May 5, 2018. The Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law applies to all employers with five or more employees who work more than 80 hours a year in New York City and requires employers to provide up to 40 hours (5 days) of paid safe and sick leave. Employers with less than five employees must provide unpaid sick and safe leave. In order to notify employees about their rights under the Paid Safe/Sick Leave Law, New York City employers must distribute written notice to their employees on the first day of employment or by June 4, 2018. Employers can find the new Notice of Employee Rights on the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs (“DCA”) website, available here. The DCA also provides the new notice in Spanish, Chinese and 24 other languages.