Justice

Employers in the United States should prepare for another year laden with shifts in labor laws. In the year 2015, new U.S. labor laws were systematically implemented on topics ranging from wages to workplace safety, privacy, and more. You should expect more of the same in 2016.

Proposals on the table include more protection for white-collar workers, married LGBT couples, non-exempt workers, and people with criminal histories.

Let’s take a look at some of the employment law changes we should all watch for in 2016:

Safeguarding Overtime Wages for White-Collar Workers

It’s been more than a decade since the U.S. federal government has evaluated the income threshold of white-collar workers with regards to overtime eligibility.

But for close to two years, the U.S. Department of Labor has been investigating and re-evaluating existing overtime rules for salaried employees working more than 40 hours a week.

At the directive of President Obama, proposed rule changes would consider guaranteeing overtime pay for salaried employees earning a yearly wage of at least $50,440, but no more than $112,148. This higher threshold will protect those holding administrative, professional, and executive positions.

Employers will be expected to clearly classify exempt versus non-exempt workers, primarily based on salary test levels.

Under this proposal, weekly earnings of eligible salaried employees would equal $970 per week, which is in the 40th percentile of salaried workers’ weekly income in the U.S.

These changes are expected to go into effect some time in the summer of 2016.

Employment Rights for Married LGTB Couples

CoupleBased on the U.S. Supreme Court decision to legally acknowledge same-sex marriages, employers can expect marital rights to extend into workforce regulations.

Married couples in the LGBT community have become eligible for equal employee benefits such as health care, FMLA, and retirement.

Be on the lookout for change proposals throughout this year on federal, state, and local levels.

Increases in State and Local Minimum Wages

While the U.S. federal minimum wage rate has stayed at $7.25 per hour since 2009, many state and local increases have taken effect in 2016 for non-exempt workers.

More than half of the states in the U.S. have set their minimum wages higher than the federal requirement.

Thirteen states made another increase effective January 1, 2016, while two more states have changes slated for an increase in July and August 2016. Washington, D.C., will increase its minimum wage from $10.50 to $11.50 per hour effective July 1, 2016.

Similarly, rate increases are scheduled to go into effect at various times throughout this year on the city and county levels.

For instance, the state of California increased its minimum wage from $9.00 to $10.00 per hour as of the first of this year. But the city of Berkeley’s rate is currently $11.00 and will increase to $12.53 in October of this year. And in Jefferson County, Kentucky, rates increase from $7.25 to $8.25 on the first of May.

Note that, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, when the federal minimum wage is lower than the state or local law, employees are entitled to the higher wage.

The Fair Chance Act and ‘Ban the Box’

Formally introduced in the Senate in September 2015, the Fair Chance Act is a federal extension of the Ban the Box movement. While the Ban the Box campaign broadly applies to employers, the Fair Chance Act delays criminal history disclosure of those specifically applying to federal agencies and contracting positions.

The Ban the Box movement has been adopted and implemented in public sectors over the course of 25 years, in 19 states.

The Fair Chance Act is making progress as well. As of January 12, 2016, it has been placed on the Senate’s legislative calendar – taking it one step closer to legislation.HandcuffsIf you operate a business in one of the 19 states that support Ban the Box, you’re expected to refrain from inquiring about a criminal history on job applications or during interviews. Additionally, if an applicant is found to have a criminal history and there’s a conditional offer on the table, employers can seek alternative candidates after holding the position for three days in anticipation of an explanation from the ex-offender.

Each cause promotes fair hiring practices that remove barriers to employment. This way, qualified candidates that happen to be ex-offenders can financially support themselves and their families.

Some of the best ways for employers to respond to these changes is to post updated notices of employment guidelines and continue to monitor changes going forward. By ensuring compliance, you’ll be certain to meet government standards without penalty.

Now that you’re informed of these employment changes, there’s another question to consider: How will they affect your bottom line?

(Note: This article does not constitute legal advice.)

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