New 2019 Employment Laws Bring Fresh Challenges for HR

The calendar has flipped to a new year, and with the beginning of the year over 80 new employment laws came into effect on January 1, 2019. These changes signal further challenges for HR employees and employment law training providers alike, as we see no slowing of increased regulation in the employment law arena.

Harassment Law Changes

Among the most sweeping changes, several states enacted changes to their harassment laws. Specifically, New York, Delaware, California, and Washington have all made changes to the laws governing workplace harassment that have a significant impact on how employers need to handle these claims (and educate their employees about these types of incidents).

For example, in New York, Delaware and California the vast majority of employees must receive training on sexual harassment in the workplace. This new requirement offers significant opportunity for companies to train their employees on cultural change and also affords e-learning providers a batch of new organizations to work with on filling their needs.

Sexual harassment training reform is certainly not the only area that employers and industry members need to be aware of. Indeed, California has enacted additional legislation:

  • Employers are prohibited from generally asking applicants about their criminal histories (except in specific circumstances)
  • The state Fair Employment Agency may now investigate claims of harassment between people who merely had a “working relationship” (not just co-workers)
  • Additional laws changing evidentiary standards in harassment cases.

Minimum Wage Changes

Many states (bordering on most) have made changes to their minimum wage structure, and New York has changed the threshold for when an employee can be considered exempt from overtime requirements. Indeed, the dollar figure required before classifying a New York employee as exempt (in addition to the requirement that other standards must be met) will go from $23,660 per year up to between $43,264 and $58,500.

This change will significantly impact the number of employees who are eligible for overtime compensation in New York. All employers who conduct wage and hour training should be cognizant of this fact, and should take notice that misclassification can have substantial financial penalties (as well as statutory attorney fees for plaintiffs who prevail in a wage and hour lawsuit).

Syntrio will continue to stay on top of changes in the law and vows to keep you informed of changes to the law that may impact your business and training strategies throughout the year.

Since 2007, Jonathan has practiced labor and employment law, with a focus on litigation, individual plaintiff and class action discrimination, harassment, and other employment-specific cases as well as focusing his practice toward advising employers on preventive practice. Jonathan has presented over 100 live employment discrimination and harassment prevention training courses across all 50 states.

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