Employment Highlights by Kim Silvers, SPHR-CA

It just gets more and more complicated – this California employer gig.   Many of you are too busy to stay on top of the myriad of regulations that govern how you manage the human resources side of your business.   We spend a good deal of time each 4th quarter preparing for the incoming laws and regulations for the new year.  If you haven’t seen the major events that may rock your world this year, please take note.  

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is going to happen.  Enough with the denial, it’s here and the specific roll out regulations are beginning to take shape.  If your health insurance broker is not assisting you and keeping you up to date on these requirements then it’s time to change brokers – seriously.  We asked some of our insurance partners what they considered key questions for employers to be asking of them.  Here are some important questions to ask your health care insurance broker about the ACA.

  • Am I required to offer health insurance to my employees?
  • Can I get a tax credit for providing insurance to my employees?
  • How will I be affected by the ACA and what should I budget for?
  • Based on our company size, what notice and disclosure items are we subject to?
  • What plan design changes are coming in 2014?
  • What assistance will you give me in rolling out the changes?
  • What resources will you have for me to learn more about the ACA?
  • What is Covered California (the new CA health insurance exchange)?
  • What are the Covered California plan requirements?
  • What opportunities does the ACA provide for wellness programs and incentives?  Can you help us implement a wellness program? 

If your health insurance broker cannot answer these questions with ease feel free to contact us for a recommended broker. We’ve found a few key brokers in town who are very knowledgeable.

New Disability Regulations.  The CA Fair Employment and Housing Commission (FEHC) issued 23 pages of clarifications to the state disability regulations this year.  Think you don’t have anyone on your team this applies to? Think again.  Just about everyone is “disabled” now under the state and the federal definitions. In fact, the regulations protect an applicant and employee from discrimination due to “an actual or perceived physical or mental disability or medical condition that is disabling, potentially disabling or perceived to be disabling or potentially disabling.”   Aside from a head cold or the flu, it’s likely the majority of your staff is in this protected class. 

As has been the case for a while, it’s not important to spend a lot of time to determine IF someone qualifies as disabled; the critical responsibility is the employer’s response to the disability (e.g.,  engaging in the interactive process and offering a reasonable accommodation, wherever possible).     Bottom line: Have a knowledgeable partner when you have an applicant or employee who may be disabled and DOCUMENT your communications throughout the interactive process.   

 Work with your well-trained in house HR experts, consultant or an employment attorney.   You may access the full regulations at: https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/res/docs/FEHC%20Disability%20Regs/FEHC%20FINAL_DISABILITy_REGS_12-18-12%20_2_.pdf

New Pregnancy Disability Leave Regulations.  Ok, you can hope this doesn’t happen very often to your aging staff, but when it does there’s a laundry list of requirements and accommodations to follow.   The HR nerds of the world understand the details of the definition and document changes.  The new regulations include new definitions of the time frame allowed for this protected leave (up to 1/3 of the year), ….. The “average bear” is not going to tolerate all of these nuances.  Just call us if you’re a client.  Or contact your own HR nerd or employment attorney.  Our HR library has been updated with all the revised forms. If you have five or more employees these expansive regulations apply to you.

You can find another 23 page document from the FEHC on the  new pregnancy disability regulations at: https://www.dfeh.ca.gov/res/docs/FEHC%20Pregnancy%20Regs/FINAL_APPROVED_PREG_REGS_CLEAN_11_30_12.pdf

Commission Pay Plans must be documented. If you missed the deluge of reminders we’ve sent in the last year about this new requirement you are behind the eight ball.  The bottom line is that the state of California now requires all commission pay plans to be in writing, contain specific language, and be signed by the employee and the employer.  If you’re lucky enough to have access to our on line library (sorry, this is only for our clients, not for civilians) then you can begin with a template to draft your plan.  We’ve worked with many employers to set these up and have a good eye on preparing the plans in a readable and clear format in case they end up in front of a third party. 

Religious Creed  and Sex definitions Expanded. –  The state of California expanded this protected class to include “religious dress and grooming standards.”  And the definition of “sex” as a protected class in CA now includes breastfeeding and any related medical conditions.  Like I said, just call us.

Social Media Use by your employees. The use of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and a host of other social networking avenues has really raised a raucous in employment circles.  Employees who choose to  make on line comments about their wages, working conditions,  and aggravating boss have found new protections afforded courtesy of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).  Be careful about restricting employees’ use of social media in regards to your business.  We’ve revamped our Social Media policy to mirror a recent policy the NLRB approved.   

There are dozens of other new laws and requirements about doing business in California.  Our retained clients receive our impressive annual employment law update with the details.   Of course, none of this is intended to be legal advice.  This is way too “quick and dirty” to be remotely close to that.  Please contact your employment attorney for legal advice.