Key takeaways from SHRM’s legislative conference

WASHINGTON – From Ivanka Trump hinting at new paid leave proposals to SHRM president Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., discussing new ways employers can address the talent shortage, the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual legislative conference tackled a number of issues that are on the minds of HR and benefit professionals.

For example, Tammy McCutchen, a principal at Littler Mendelson and former administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, shared her thoughts on how employers should approach the recently released proposed overtime rule. Even though the rule has not been finalized, employers still need to use this time to figure out what employees should get a salary boost and which should be reclassified to hourly work.

Here are some other key takeaways from this year’s conference.

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SHRM is focused on helping employers fill jobs
From a decline in the U.S. birthrate to a widening skills gap, employers are facing significant challenges to fill vital jobs in their workplace.

It’s a problem that the Society for Human Resource Management says it’s committed to finding a solution for.

“We have to think about how we fix this,” SHRM CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., said. “And that’s the work for SHRM. We need people to grow the economy.”

Read more here.
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How close is the U.S. to mandating paid parental leave?
Forty-one nations guarantee their citizens paid parental leave to care for and bond with a new child — the United States isn’t one of them. But that may change.

President Trump renewed his call for federal paid parental leave last month during the State of the Union address, but what’s been happening since then? Adrienne Schweer, a fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center, discussed current paid leave policies and those currently being debated by Congress. There are three bills involving paid leave are currently in the House, and they all take very different approaches to funding the time off.

Read more here
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Free speech is not a shield for bad behavior
The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, but it doesn’t give anyone the right to be employed.

That was one of the main takeaways from James Reidy, a shareholder at employment law firm Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green PA.

“Nowadays we live in a politically charged environment,” Reidy said. “It’s fair to say it affects our relationships with others, but it’s not appropriate in the workplace.”

While ‘free speech’ sounds like an open concept, employers have every right to address — and even discipline — workers who use inflammatory language in and out of the office, Reidy said. Inappropriate language can include verbally demeaning another coworker’s political or religious beliefs, or posting in support of hate groups on social media.

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Employers urged to prep now for DOL’s proposed overtime rule
Employers may want to prepare now for a new proposed federal rule, anticipated to take effect next year, that would lift the payment threshold when employees are exempt from overtime.

The administration’s goal is to have the rule finalized and in effect by Jan. 1, said Tammy McCutchen, a principal at Littler Mendelson and former administrator of the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. “I think [the DOL] has a lot of work to do and they’re not sure they’re going to make that timing, but for sure by the first quarter of 2020,” she said.

Despite the rule not being finalized, employers should still get ready now to make compliance easier, McCutchen advised.

Read more here.
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One talent shortage solution: Applicants with criminal backgrounds
If you want to hire talented, dedicated employees, it may require thinking inside the box — specifically, the kind with bars.

SHRM this week called on HR professionals to make a concentrated effort to hire people with criminal backgrounds. Given the current shortage of skilled workers, panelists during one session said, employers can’t afford to ignore this group of potentially talented people.

Read more here.