It’s an election year. That means candidates are loading up new pieces of legislation, and two of the proposals directly affect how you’ll do your job.
Here’s a summary of them and what they mean to HR managers and their companies.
The Civil Right Act of 2008
Proposed by Democrats Clinton, Kennedy and Obama, this revision of the existing Civil Rights Act would:
- Stiffen penalties for violations of the Equal Pay Act and institute tougher standards on employers who have to prove that a pay differential is the result of a factor other than sex and is related to job performance – such as differences in education, training or experience. With the new standards, HR managers would have to double- and triple-check to make sure the law is being followed, or suffer the consequences.
- Add compensatory and punitive damages to the remedies available to employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, in addition to back pay, which is doubled if an underpayment is intentional and not in “good faith,” and make it easier for employees who win a discrimination or pay case to recover some legal expenses from their employers, such as the cost of providing expert witnesses. That makes the stakes – and the risk – higher for employers who choose to fight it out in court, and increases the demand that supervisors thoroughly document their decisions.
Americans with Disabilities Act More than 240 co-sponsors in the U.S. House have signed on to the proposed ADA Restoration Act, which would:
- Redefine “disability” to include simply “a physical or mental impairment” or “a record of a physical or mental impairment” or the state of “being regarded as having a physical or mental impairment” — meaning individuals no longer would need to prove that impairments “substantially limit” one or more “major life activities.”
- Prohibit courts and employers from considering the effects of medication or devices when determining whether individuals are disabled. That is, if you have an employee whose disability is lessened by medication or a medical device, you wouldn’t be allowed to take that into account when deciding if the employee is disabled.
- Shift the burden of proving qualification to perform a job from employee, who now must show that he or she is qualified, to employers, who must show the employee is not qualified.
What you can do
Since the legislation is still under study, members of Congress are looking for real-life examples of how the changes would unfairly affect business or the way in which employees are treated.
If you have an example – for instance, a situation with a disabled employee – you should contact your representatives with a description of the situation.