Eight HR Resolutions and How to Keep Them
It’s important that employers take the time to evaluate their human relations policies and procedures to ensure compliance with new or evolving employment laws and best practices.
By Rebecca Morris
With 2017 fast approaching, now is the time to set goals for the coming year. Here are several human relations resolutions to consider for 2017 and suggestions to help make them stick.
Review hiring procedures. Review your job advertisements, recruiting practices, application forms, interview questions, and screening and selection procedures to ensure they are effective and comply with all applicable laws. To help limit discrimination claims, avoid questions that could reveal a candidate's protected class, such as age, disability, national origin, and religion. Additionally, keep in mind that some state and local laws prohibit employers from asking about an applicant's criminal history until after they have made a conditional job offer. Properly train anyone involved in the hiring process.
Create/update job descriptions. Review and update your job descriptions to make sure they accurately reflect current roles and responsibilities. Refer to job descriptions to set expectations with new hires, assess performance, make compensation decisions, identify training needs, and evaluate potential reasonable accommodations when necessary. All job descriptions should include the reporting structure, whether the role is exempt or non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a brief summary of the job, the essential functions, any physical demands, and necessary qualifications and skills. Additionally, include a statement that your company reserves the right to change job duties at any time and that the job description is not designed to cover every requirement of the job.
Review job classifications. The misclassification of employees as independent contractors is a major focal point for government agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service or the Department of Labor. For workers to be considered bona fide independent contractors, very specific federal and state tests must be satisfied. If you plan to use independent contractors in 2017, make sure they meet applicable tests. If you already work with independent contractors, evaluate current relationships since they may have changed over time. Additionally, review all employees who are classified as exempt from overtime to ensure that they still meet federal and state requirements for exemption. These employees must meet very specific salary and duties tests in order to qualify as exempt (see DOL Fact Sheet 17A for more information).
Comply with new overtime rules. Effective Dec. 1, 2016, new rules increase the minimum salary required to meet the executive, administrative, and professional employee overtime exemptions under the FLSA. The new rules require these employees to earn a weekly salary of at least $913 (or $47,476 per year). Employers may use nondiscretionary bonuses (generally those announced or promised in advance), incentive payments, and commissions to satisfy up to 10 percent of the minimum salary requirement, as long as these forms of compensation are paid at least quarterly. If your exempt employees fall below this new salary threshold, you can either: re-classify the employees as non-exempt and pay them overtime whenever they work more than 40 hours in a workweek (and comply with applicable state overtime laws); or raise their salary to meet the new requirement (as long as they continue to meet the applicable duties test for exemption).
Create/update your handbook. If you haven't already done so, create an employee handbook. A handbook can help you communicate important workplace information to employees, set proper expectations, and demonstrate compliance with federal, state, and local laws. If you already have an employee handbook, review it at least annually to ensure it is up to date with current laws, best practices, and company procedures. With many new laws taking effect in early 2017, now is the time to create or update applicable policies.
Ensure practices comply with the NLRA. In recent years, the National Labor Relations Board has scrutinized employer policies and practices that infringe on employees' rights to work together to improve wages and working conditions (Section 7 rights). For example, the NLRB views policies that explicitly or implicitly prohibit employees from discussing their pay as unlawful. In 2017, review policies and practices related to social media, confidentiality, and standards of conduct to ensure they provide sufficient details and context to make it clear that they don't infringe on employees' Section 7 rights.
Develop/review your performance plan. It is a best practice to clearly communicate performance goals to all employees, deliver regular feedback, and provide employees with the support and resources they need to meet their objectives. If you already have a performance management program in place, assess whether it effectively rewards top performers, clearly communicates goals to all employees, and evaluates employees' performance at least annually.
Review recordkeeping practices. Employers must maintain certain records to comply with federal, state, and local laws, some of which must be stored separately from personnel files. Consider auditing your personnel files to make sure they do not include anything that should be stored in separate confidential files. Generally, personnel files contain records directly related to employment (such as, salary history, training records, job descriptions, and performance and discipline records). Keep the following information in separate confidential files:
- Any information reflecting an employee's membership in a protected group, such as their voluntary self-identification of gender, ethnicity, or race, veteran's status or as an individual with a disability.
- Any document relating to an employee's health or medical condition, including any doctor's notes and medical certification forms, drug test results, and leave of absence requests based on an employee's injury or disability.
- I-9 forms and supporting identity and work authorization documents. It is a best practice to store all I-9 forms together in one file, since they must be produced promptly following an official request. Note:
- Employers must begin using a new version of the I-9 by January 22, 2017. Check the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website for more information.
- Records concerning workplace investigations (written statements from all relevant parties, interview notes, final investigation reports, etc.) should be kept in a separate workplace investigation file.
With 2016 coming to a close, take the time to evaluate your HR policies and procedures to ensure compliance with new or evolving employment laws and HR best practices.
Rebecca Morris, SPHR-CA, SHRM-SCP, serves as Content Development Manager at ADP.