Around the middle of the calendar year, we here at Astronology® like to reflect on 2019’s changes that federal and state governments may have already made, or intend to make, that impact Human Resources. As you will see in this Astronology®, topics such as immigration, marijuana policy, equal pay, and paid family leave have been in 2019’s hot seat. Let’s take a look at each.
In July 2019 the United States Department of Labor (DOL) adjusted its procedures for processing H-2B applications for labor certifications. Previously, labor certifications were processed on a “first come, first served” basis. Now, labor certifications will be processed via lottery selection. The SHRM website explains, “Visa applications will be randomly ordered for processing based on the date of filing and the start date of work requested. Employers with certified petitions will then likely enter another lottery held by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).” In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was given permission to more than double the number of visas, from the usual 66,000 to now 135,000 through the end of fiscal year 2019. How will this change impact your organization’s recruitment and retention efforts?
As mentioned in a previous Astronology® article guest written by Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, currently 10 states and the District of Columbia have decriminalized or legalized the use of recreational marijuana. In addition, 33 states have adopted measures to legalize medical marijuana use. A survey of over 800 human resource professionals highlighted that 41% of respondents found managing the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws is a challenge. In addition, 34% were concerned with how to maintain a drug free workplace in light of changing laws. What are some steps your human resource department can take while we wait for the dust to completely settle on this topic? Suggestions include the following:
- Review the current state regulations where your organization operates, to determine whether your current substance use policy should change.
- Review all job descriptions that are related to safety-sensitive positions.
- Communicate to all employees and potential job applicants, through a written memorandum, the organization’s drug screening policies, as well as the consequences of the use of those substances on the job and positive test results.
- Explain the process and procedures, for employees who are deemed certified to legally use medical marijuana, to seek reasonable accommodations if necessary.
- Train all managers and supervisors on the proper procedure to handle the potential use of marijuana on the job, and how to identify signs of use during work hours.
- Educate and inform all managers and supervisors on the appropriate manner to handle “for cause drug testing.”
- Obtain approval from management and legal professionals prior to finalizing all policies.
It is important for the human resource department to clearly and explicitly state the organization’s expectations on this matter, and adjust the policies if need be.
As the march for equal pay continues on in 2019, we have seen Michigan and Wisconsin join many states and cities in passing regulations to ban job candidates from revealing salary history during the application and / or interview process. Hot off the presses to you, New York State passed similar legislation in late June. It is hoped that by banning salary history questions, employees will avoid a future with low or discriminatory pay due to their previous low paying employment. The other states currently with salary history bans include the following:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
Has your city or state passed salary history ban legislation yet? Have there been talks of such a law in the future? What is your organization doing at this time to prepare for this future change?
Paid Family Leave
This June, Oregon joined eight other states in passing a paid family leave law. Effective 2023, Oregon’s new law provides 12 weeks of paid time off not only to new parents and those who need time to care for sick family members, but also to victims of domestic violence, harassment, stalking, or sexual assault. In Oregon, employees are eligible for this coverage if they earned at least $1,000 in wages during the previous year. Other states with paid family leave laws include the following:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
States such as New Hampshire, Nebraska, and Vermont are rumored to be next in passing their own family leave laws in years to come. Will you be affected? What is your organization doing at this time to prepare for this future change?
Are there other topics or legal decisions made recently that you think will affect HR policies and practices in 2019 and beyond? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!