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New Year's Resolutions for Modern Workplace Readers

If you’re a frequent reader of the Modern Workplace blog, there’s a good chance you’re involved in human resources and employee relations in some capacity, perhaps as in-house counsel, HR manager, or outside attorney or consultant. In keeping with a tradition for our blog, the Modern Workplace editorial staff has put together a set of New Year’s resolutions for our readers who can impact workplace policies and procedures for 2018.

As we pointed out last year, your list of resolutions for the New Year can make the difference for your company’s continued legal compliance in an era where the definition of compliance is constantly changing. For example, just a year ago, we included on our New Year’s resolutions that companies should revise old employment handbooks in light of the National Labor Relations Board’s aggressive stance on codes of conduct, but as we’ve discussed in the past few weeks, the NLRB has reversed itself and taken a much less aggressive stance on employer codes of conduct under the new Republican-majority Board.

Still, there are many ways in which our readers can impact their companies’ and clients’ policies and practices. Here are a few places to start for HR New Year’s resolutions:

  1. Make sure that your sexual harassment procedure, including the procedures training and complaint policies, is Weinstein-proof (or Lauer, Spacey or O’Reilly). It may be time to revisit how your company addresses complaints of harassment in the future because we are in a very different world from one year ago. Also, this topic should be considered when drafting executive employment agreements. The heightened public awareness surrounding sexual harassment and hostile workplace issues emphasizes the need for companies to revisit existing policies to ensure their continued adequacy.
  2. Make sure your leave policies incorporate recent state leave laws. If you have employees in states or cities that have enacted required leave laws in the past year (for example, Washington state’s required sick leave law will require that leave begin accruing on New Year’s day 2018), make sure your company policies are tailored to those requirements.
  3. Make sure your job applications (or interviewers) do not violate recent ban-the-box laws or laws regarding salary inquiries. Relatedly, some ban-the-box laws impact the way companies should be drafting their background check policies and procedures.
  4. Analyze workforce-related changes brought by tax reform. For example, companies should ensure expense reimbursement policies are updated to reflect current law.
  5. Conduct an audit of your I-9s before someone else does. And while you are at it take a good a look at any employees who are currently working for you on a non-immigrant visa. Recognize that renewing those H-1B and L visas is likely to be more difficult in the future, so you will want to make sure that you can make the most compelling argument for those employees in your petitions for extensions.
  6. Make sure you that your workplace is safe and to the extent that it may apply to your workplace think about machine guards, fall protection, and silica exposure.
  7. Evaluate your company’s ability to take advantage of the gig or demand economy in light of recent court decisions and government actions related to that economy and the issue of independent contractor status.
  8. Technology advances can make or break a business. It is time to review how your company protects its most important information. Non-compete and confidentiality agreements only go so far. If a company does not take appropriate actions to protect its confidential information, do not expect a court to do it.
  9. The world will be a smaller place in 2018 and what happens in on the other side of the world, even though remote or tangential to your operation, can have a dramatic effect on your business in hours or even minutes. Do you know how internationally recognized human rights are being protected in your supply chain or projects around the world? Now is the time to find out before the crisis hits.
  10. The human relations function of every business has never been more complicated. Now is the time to think about that HR training budget to make sure those who are responsible for looking out for every company’s most important assets are fully trained to meet the challenges of the modern workplace.

Best wishes for the New Year, everyone!

This information is provided by Vinson & Elkins LLP for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should it be construed, as legal advice.