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Opinion: 6 law changes for employers to watch

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The Obama administration and federal regulatory agencies recently enacted a new federal law, modified long-standing laws and changed existing federally required forms and posters. These six moves impact local employers.

1. Defend Trade Secrets Act
The landmark federal law creates a private federal civil cause of action for trade secret misappropriation. The DTSA will be relevant when an employee with access to confidential, propriety and trade secret information becomes employed with a competitor or begins a business that competes with his prior employer. The DTSA is a formidable new tool to companies whose trade secrets have been stolen. If the organization is able to show a temporary restraining order or other equitable relief would not prevent the dissemination of the trade secrets, as well as meet some additional criteria, the enterprise may be able to seize the trade secrets. This might include the defendants’ property, such as hard drives, cellphones and email accounts, where the plaintiff’s trade secrets are located. Corporations should update employment agreements and confidentiality policies to reflect the enactment of the DTSA and qualify for all of the remedies available with the new law.

2. OSHA post-accident testing
Employers now are mandated to create a reasonable procedure for team members to report work-related injuries or illnesses promptly and accurately. Establishments long have depended on the health and safety concerns that require immediate post-accident alcohol and drug testing, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration now states this policy deters reporting by instilling fear in associates about mandatory drug testing. Blanket post-accident drug testing policies are now unlawful. Post-accident drug testing must be restricted to circumstances in which the drug use by a laborer probably contributed to the incident and a drug test can correctly identify impairment due to the drug use. In addition, a business is prohibited from taking adverse action against a staff member for reporting an injury or illness, whether or not the adverse action was part of an incentive program. For example, it is now illegal to deny part of the workforce a safety bonus under an incentive program due to the injury reported of one worker.

Anti-retaliation liability also has been significantly expanded. OSHA is able to cite companies for retaliation even if an employee has not filed a complaint. Furthermore, organizations are prohibited from disciplining team members who do not immediately report an injury or illness.

3. Overtime exemptions
New Department of Labor regulations regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act overtime exemptions will be effective Dec. 1. The minimum salary level requirement for exempt administrative, executive and professional positions will increase to $913 per week, more than double the current threshold of $455 per week. The requisite minimum salary level for the highly compensated employee exemption will be $134,004 annually instead of the current $100,000 per year.

Automatic updates to these minimum salary levels will occur every three years beginning on Jan. 1, 2020.

4. EEO-1 Form
Beginning with the 2017 EEO-1 report, which is due March 31, 2018, private enterprises with 100 or more associates now must submit summary pay and aggregate hours worked data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Corporations must report the total number of full- and part-time staff by demographic categories in 12 pay bands for each EEO-1 job category based on W-2 wages. Establishments also will total and report the hours worked that year by all the workers accounted for in each pay band.
 
5. Fair Labor Standards poster
The Labor Department revised the Employee Rights Under the Fair Labor Standards Act poster that now must be displayed by businesses. The new version adds a section explaining the rights of nursing mothers. The revised poster also includes information to advise laborers about tip credits and independent contractor misclassification.

6. Employee Polygraph Protection Act poster
The Employee Rights-Employee Polygraph Protection Act poster also has been revised. The reference to the amount of the penalty for violation was removed, and the agency contact information was made more prominent.
    
Lynne Haggerman, M.S., is president/owner of Lynne Haggerman & Associates LLC, a Springfield firm specializing in management training, retained search, outplacement and human resource consulting. She can be reached at lynne@lynnehaggerman.com.


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