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How to Stay Compliant With Local Employment Laws

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Along with federal workplace laws, it is a good idea for organizations to become familiar with local employment laws. Each state and local government can have strict mandates to follow.

Having a knowledgeable human resource officer on board who understands the region's legal requirements is definitely beneficial. It's also a good idea to get in the habit of routinely auditing local employment rules and ensuring that all company procedures are compliant. Failing to do so is not only irresponsible, it can cost a business steep penalties.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), deregulation at the federal level is increasing the attention being placed on state and local laws. While the current administration is attempting to do away with the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank law and other mandates, states are introducing their own policies to protect employees.

Since reviewing local employment mandates can be a time-consuming and complex task, you should focus on the following areas.


Hiring and Recruitment Practices

One area where employers can get into trouble is the recruitment and hiring of workers. There are many federal laws in place to prevent discrimination, but there may also be local employment laws. For example, it is considered illegal in most states to offer equal opportunities for disabled individuals but not make the office handicapped-accessible.

Another more insidious issue is recruitment bias. For example, when employers ask about personal medical details during an interview as part of the "job requirements." This recently landed a Florida staffing agency in trouble.


Employee Safety

An equally important area to review is employee safety. All workplaces are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to maintain a safe environment for employees. This includes the use of safety equipment and protective wear. It also means posting safety guidelines where employees can read them.

Currently, 26 states have OSHA-approved State Plans that expand safety laws at the local level. One example is New York's anti-violence workplace safety program. A simple way to comply with safety standards in your area is to update and post all Department of Labor posters that relate to your state.


Salary and Benefits Administration

State and local governments are working to ensure that all Americans have access to health care and fair wages. Therefore, it's crucial to ensure your company meets or exceeds these mandates. The Economic Policy Institute keeps track of wages in all regions around the United States. Review the organization's tracker to make sure your company is compliant. In terms of employee benefits, a flexible group health care plan (combined with generous retirement savings) can help your organization remain in line with local employment laws.


Training and Development

Employee education and career development are important to the future growth of your business. It's beneficial to focus on areas like discrimination, sexual harassment and safety. Once these areas are covered, it greatly reduces a company's liability.

You can go even deeper to cover things like subtle forms of discrimination based on age, race, gender, pregnancy or parenting status, language or nationality, and even personal appearance or size. Respect for diversity should be a key value of your organization. All employees should have equal access to any learning materials, and learning management systems need to be ADA compliant.


Employee Classification

In order to stay ahead of local employee laws, keep in mind that the classification of employees (salaried, hourly or contractors) can impact other factors (pay, hours worked, visas, etc.). Have a clear understanding of all employee classifications and review them often. Also, as SHRM notes, many states are expected to make changes to their paid leave benefits. This can relate to employee classification in terms of who is eligible — and who's not — under the FMLA.

It's important to regularly consult with an employment law attorney or third-party human resource consulting agency to audit your current employment policies and procedures.