Slideshow The top employment issues of 2015

  • January 28 2015, 1:07pm EST

XpertHR compiled a list of 15 of the top issues for benefit and HR professionals to bear in mind going in to 2015. "Employers will have to comply with new obligations in 2015 that may require them to change the way they operate," says Beth Zoller, legal editor, XpertHR. "An employer that does not comply with its legal obligations faces numerous costs, including the time spent preparing and responding to litigation, investigating potential claims as well as harm to its business reputation." Here are the top 15 employment issues of 2015.

View the report at: Scariest Employment Challenges for 2015

Use of medical and recreational marijuana

Employers should consider maintaining drug-free workplaces, particularly for workplace safety. However, an employer may want to consider revisiting their drug testing policies if they test for nonsafety-sensitive positions, especially if the employer operates in a state that has legalized marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.

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Paid sick leave

Employers operating in a state or city that already requires paid sick leave should ensure that they are compliant with their state and local laws. Even if the employer's jurisdiction does not require it, an employer may want to consider offering paid sick leave or PTO as a fringe benefit.

Affordable Care Act employer mandate

Under the employer mandate, employers face new challenges. An employer on the cusp of the 100-employee threshold will need to determine if the employer mandate applies. The determination as to whether an employee is full-time is done on a monthly basis; however, an employer may use a safe harbor look-back measurement method.


Proceed cautiously if a current employee comes forward and reveals that he or she is an undocumented worker and is seeking documentation from HR to help establish eligibility for relief under the Executive Order.

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Protecting company and employee privacy in the digital age

In order to keep pace with technological changes and minimize employer liability, it is critical for an employer to develop comprehensive policies which protect the employer's legitimate business interests and comply with legal requirements.

Safe driving laws

Employers should implement a distracted driving policy or ban on the use of handheld devices while driving on working time, during work-related business or using company property. Ensure workplace policies and practices comply with the law of the state in which they operate, and be sure all employees and supervisors receive a copy of the distracted driving policy and agree to abide by it.

E-cigarette use in the workplace

Employers should review and amend smoke-free workplace policies to specifically address the use of e-cigarettes but be mindful of state and municipal laws and incorporate such requirements in workplace smoking policies.

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Reasonably accommodating pregnant women

Employers should consider developing strong policies against pregnancy discrimination and harassment and providing reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees. While employers who operate in states with such laws may be required to comply, it may be best practice for an employer to offer reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees and applicants even if the state in which the employer operates does not require it.

Wellness programs conflicting with ADA, GINA and FMLA

Employers should focus on providing incentives to employees who adopt healthy practices rather than punishing those who do not. An employer certainly may adopt voluntary wellness programs, but such programs should be truly voluntary.

Growing acceptance of LGBT rights, same-sex marriage

It is essential to review employee handbooks, policies and procedures especially with regard to employee benefits such as health and retirement plans and leaves and make sure that same-sex spouses are afforded equal treatment and the same benefits and protections as opposite-sex spouses. Further, if an employer operates in a state that has recognized sexual orientation and/or gender identity as protected classes, this should be incorporated into the employer's written policies.

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Workplace bullying

Ideally, an employer should proactively implement measures to prevent and deal with workplace bullying. A multichannel complaint procedure should be in place to allow employees to raise concerns without fear of retaliation. In addition, employers should be vigilant about responding to all allegations of bullying and following up on all complaints with a thorough investigation.

Addressing domestic violence

To minimize employer risk when it comes to domestic violence, it is advisable for an employer to adopt workplace policies that effectively address workplace violence and domestic violence. Advise employees that hostile, abusive, threatening or violent conduct is against workplace policy and will not be tolerated. Additionally, instruct victims of domestic violence to report if they have obtained a restraining order against another individual so that an employer can take appropriate measures.

Wage and hour laws

Employers should pay careful attention to the laws in the state and city in which they operate and dutifully comply in order to minimize the risk of litigation. An employer should audit their pay practices and make sure that all employees are properly classified and also ensure that they display the required wage and hour posters and provide the mandatory notices to employees about the new wage rates.

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Providing workplace protections to interns and volunteers

If an employer operates in a state or city which now extends protections to unpaid interns and volunteers, the employer should review and revise their discrimination and harassment policies to ensure that such policies adequately apply to interns and volunteers. Even if the employer's jurisdiction does not require such treatment, an employer may want to consider extending such protections.

Ban the box

Based on the emerging the ban the box trend - making it illegal to include a box on job application forms where prospective employees are asked whether they have ever been convicted of a crime - an employer should eliminate the criminal history box on job application forms and avoid asking questions regarding criminal background during the initial hiring stages. However, this does not mean that an employer is not permitted to obtain such information, just that the employer must obtain it at a later date in the hiring process.