A $2 billion paid leave initiative as well as millions for enforcement of laws on equal opportunity, wage and hour issues, safety, whistleblowing, and retirement security are among the priorities outlined in President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget for the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL).
The Paid Leave Partnership Initiative is a program to help up to 5 states launch paid leave programs for workers. We all know it is coming, but this is a first step to some that may lead to paid leave laws. Currently the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires employers to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually for employees who have qualifying events. Several states have expanded the unpaid leave time period and 3 states (California, Rhode Island and New Jersey) have some paid leave programs that are funded by payroll taxes. For several years lawmakers in Washington have been pushing to expand the FMLA to be a paid leave funded by payroll taxes. Of course, payroll taxes alone would not cover the cost so one could anticipate additional taxes to be raised to provide the necessary funds to cover the program. Personally, I don’t think it is a matter of if, but when.
The budget also includes nearly $1.9 billion for Department of Labor’s worker protection agencies. Some examples are:
• $114 million for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to enforce equal employment opportunity laws affecting federal contractors.
• $277 million for the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division. The DOL focus will be on ensuring workers receive appropriate wages and proper overtime is calculated and paid. The DOL will also make efforts to ensure worker have the right to take job-protected leave for family and medical leave purposes.
• $592 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for enforcement of safety and health regulations, inspections of hazardous workplaces, and strengthening protections for whistleblowers against retaliation.
As an employer, the best way to prevent legal and non-compliance exposure is to put the right policies in place.
• Are you conducting or providing annual training for all employees in the workplace on harassment?
• Are you conducting annual HIPAA training (healthcare providers)?
• Are you conducting HR compliance audits, including I-9/E-Verify compliance, employee personnel file maintenance, safety and health, employee relations, performance management and job classifications?
• Are you maintaining proper record keeping for FMLA?
No business can afford the potential civil and even criminal penalties that accompany non-compliance. It is worth the time, effort and money to ensure you are doing the right thing. During my time as a first year cadet at The Citadel, to any question there was only one of three answers: “sir yes sir”, “sir no sir”, and “sir no excuse sir”. In the employment world ignorance of the law is no excuse. Don’t get caught by surprise…..make the effort to get it right.
To your success,
Richard Davis, SHRM-SCP, SPHR
McClain Group, LLC