Human Resources News & Insights

What affected HR’s job the most in 2013? Top 6 trends

Employment law in 2013

It’s almost the end of the year, and you know what that means: It’s time to look back at the past 12 months in employment law and see what mattered most to HR. 

Fisher & Phillips’ Richard Meneghello laid it all out for readers. Here’s some of what he  found relevant about the past year:

Healthcare reform

This past year was supposed to be the year of implementation and compliance for President Obama’s key piece of legislation, but that was thrown out the window when the Treasury department announced the employer and insurer reporting requirements — and the accompanying penalties — under the law will be delayed until 2015.

Coupled with the issues the feds ran into the healthcare reform’s website, Menenghello notes that “the prognosis for 2014 is bound to be better, if only because it’s hard to imagine a year going more poorly.”

The EEOC

It was a mixed bag in 2013 for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Yes, despite sequestration and a decline in staffing and budget, HR’s favorite government agency still managed to obtain $372.1 million for bias victims in the 2013 fiscal year — a new record. That number beat the previous year by a cool $6.7 million.

And the EEOC received a total of 93,727 private sector charges of discrimination in FY 2013, a 6,000 charge decrease from the prior three fiscal years — but 2013 still comes in among the agency’s top five fiscal years. (A breakdown of types of bias claims filed in FY 2013 is expected to be released shortly.)

But this was also the year the agency truly began getting flack for its stance on criminal background checks.

As you’ll recall, in early 2012 the EEOC released guidance stating that criminal background checks could have a disparate impact on minorities, and that the agency would be keeping a close eye on firms that made those checks part of their hiring process.

Since then, the agency hasn’t been afraid to go after companies for their policies — and companies (and judges) haven’t been afraid to voice their disapproval.

Then nine states’ Attorneys General sent a complaint letter to the EEOC. And the entire state of Texas has filed suit against the agency, claiming that the EEOC’s stance unlawfully limits the ability of employers to exclude convicted felons from the workforce.

Bad news for companies: The EEOC isn’t likely to back down anytime soon.

LGBT employees

In June, the Supreme Court overturned the federal prohibition on same-sex marriage under the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

That’s meant some changes for HR in states that allow same-sex marriage, especially for the Family and Medical Leave and the application of benefits for same-sex couples.

Social media

Menenghello notes that at least 10 states (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Washington) passed laws in 2013 preventing firms from asking for employees’ or candidates’ social-media passwords.

Another 36 states have introduced similar legislation — or already have it pending.

The NLRB

The National Labor Relations Board, which has been sticking its nose into employers’ business for the past three years, hit a roadblock in 2013 when the a federal appeals court found that President Obama may have illegally appointed members to the board.

That means hundreds of cases may be overturned depending on how the Supreme Court rules in 2014.

If that wasn’t bad enough, a Washington, DC federal appeals court struck down the National Labor Relations Board’s bid to require employers to put up a special notice that outlines workers’ rights to organize.

Bullies

Workplace bullying remained a concern for many firms, and received national attention when Miami Dolphins’ lineman Richie Incognito’s was accused of egregiously bullying fellow player Jonathan Martin.

Not surprisingly, a number of states, including New York and Illinois, are looking into passing anti-workplace-bullying legislation.

Unpaid interns

Unpaid interns finally had their “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore” moment in 2013, filing and winning myriad lawsuits claiming they should have been paid for their work.

The downside? Some firms have begun pulling back or completely eliminating their intern programs.

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