As we begin a new year in 2019 and approach the end of a decade, the grocery industry and the workplace in general is changing and growing at an unprecedented rate. By the year 2020, there will be five generations working side-by-side in the American workforce: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z. Spurred on partly by this new diversity, federal, state and local laws are constantly changing and creating new obligations for independent grocers.
I’ve outlined a “2019 Human Resources Compliance Checklist” below as a high-level view of items that grocers must address in order to align their HR compliance with their business objectives.
2019 HR compliance checklist
A current employee handbook
The employee handbook is a fundamental document that defines work-related expectations, policies and procedures, and must be kept current concerning federal, state and local laws. As labor laws continue to change, it is our recommendation that employee handbooks be reviewed annually to ensure they stay compliant. In this review, some of the areas to focus on are:
- An Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy. This should follow all federal, state, and local regulations, and should be reviewed at least once per year.
- State-level leave laws. State-level leave laws are constantly being enacted and updated. In many cases, these new leave laws require a change in business owners’ current policies. Therefore, it is important to stay abreast of these laws in your state and to ensure your handbook remains in compliance.
- Sexual harassment and bullying. Companies need to take a hard stance against harassment of any kind, including sexual harassment and bullying. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, sexual harassments lawsuits increased 50 percent in fiscal year 2018 over 2017. It is important that your handbook has a compliant sexual harassment policy that includes the process to file harassment claims and how those claims will be handled. We also recommend that businesses provide a way for employees to anonymously report any type of harassment in order to eliminate fear of retribution.
The Affordable Care Act
As we have seen from recent IRS penalties, noncompliance with the Affordable Care Act can be quite costly for employers. Therefore, if your company is on the threshold of 50 employees, it is very important that you perform the Applicable Large Employer (ALE) calculation to determine if you must comply in 2019. In addition, if you are an ALE, it is important to ensure your insurance is affordable and that you have the proper processes in place to calculate your measurement periods.
Current federal and state labor posters
Make sure your labor posters are up to date and displayed prominently in the workplace. Mandatory labor law changes differ by state, and must be kept current. Failure to post the required state and federal notices can lead to fines in excess of $30,000.
Ongoing management training plan
Companies should develop a formal management training program that includes a focus on diversity, harassment prevention, safety, performance appraisals, and counseling and dismissing employees. Training your management team provides them the tools to be able to recognize issues that may cause risk to the company. In addition, many states now require sexual harassment training. Therefore, it is imperative that you understand the requirements in your state, and perform the necessary training if required.
Human resources is growing more complex than ever before, and it will be critical to stay informed about these topics in 2019. Independent grocers can protect their bottom line by staying in-the-know about changing workforce laws and requirements.
Chris Cooley is co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors. Grocers and other employers rely on him for HR compliance and administration, contesting SUI claims, ACA compliance, COBRACompli, employee handbooks, workforce management and benefits advisory solutions. Cooley’s companies specialize in helping small to mid-sized grocers throughout the U.S. Cooley can be reached at 855-538-6947, ext. 108 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.