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10 Employment Law Takeaways for 2019

We were thrilled to host employment law attorney Amy Beckstead of Beckstead Terry PLLC and dozens of Austin-area HR and hiring managers again this year for a 2019 Employment Law Update Lunch and Learn. Beckstead updated attendees on the ever-changing landscape of Texas and federal employment regulations and, boy, was there a lot to cover.

Our Top 10 Takeaways:

  1. Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance has been enjoined, which mean the state has stopped it from going into effect. San Antonio has a similar ordinance scheduled to go into effect this summer, but there’s no reason it won’t also be shot down, especially if House Bill 222 passes, which will prohibit a Texas municipality from enforcing a paid sick leave rule.
  2. That being said, there are numerous other jurisdictions throughout the country that do have paid sick leave laws in place, from California to Washington D.C., Arizona to Michigan, and many in between. If you employ workers outside of Texas, be sure to keep an eye on those mandates. Some affect carryovers and accruals, others require specific employee handbook language, and many affect part-time employees, too.
  3. In arbitration agreement news, the U.S. Supreme Court recently agreed that employers can utilize class action waivers in arbitration agreements. If you’re not already using this powerful tool to ward off class-action lawsuits, Beckstead says, it may be time re-evaluate your employment agreements.
  4. A new Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) summary was released on September 12, 2018, which adds a consumer’s right to a security freeze. Be sure to use this updated form when sending out FCRA notices.
  5. Also on the FCRA front, the Supreme Court recently rejected a long-standing ruling about who can be considered exempt from overtime pay (from requiring narrowly construed definitions to now considering “fair read” interpretations). While the decision seems to make any grey areas in your classifications less of a liability, it’s important to re-evaluate your language to ensure it falls in line.
  6. In other overtime areas, there’s not much happening…yet. There may be a small increase in the minimum salary to $33,000 soon, but there’s still a lot of work to be done to make that happen.
  7. The Trump Administration has sent out a wave of Department of Labor opinion letters covering things like the 80/20 rule for tipped employees, permissible deductions from exempt employee’s salaries, and more. If you haven’t lately, it’s time to brush up on those changes.
  8. A big change from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) is the declaration that an employer rule will only violate the NLRA if it’s reasonably interpreted to interfere with workers’ NLRA rights. Based on this, Beckstead offers a list of presumptively lawful policies and those to still avoid in slides 16-17 here.
  9. Also from the NLRB, a recent clarification of the joint employer test asserts that, basically, 1) separate employers are considered joint if they both exercise substantial direct and immediate control over the employees and 2) indirect influence and contractual reservations of authority don’t apply. The bottom line? Only work with established and reputable staffing firms.
  10. You should know that Texas non-compete rules have slightly changed thanks to a series of what’s called anti-SLAPP rulings. According to Beckstead, employers must now be more careful before filing non-compete lawsuits because they hold a higher risk of having to pay attorneys’ fees when the case is dismissed.

Beckstead also covered the #MeToo movement and how it affects anti-harassment in the workplace, which we’ll break out into a separate article. She has great ideas on how to write effective anti-harassment policies that meet today’s expectations, reminders about conducting investigations, and tips on anti-harassment training, including the importance of having the CEO and leadership present and involved during the training.

“It’s a good thing to have an environment in which people are willing to raise their hand when something wrong has happened,” she explains. “if you don’t have that culture, really good people who are afraid to speak up will leave, and other morale issues start happening.”

Access the presentation here and, for specific employment law questions, contact Beckstead and her firm here. For the opportunity to be notified about our next Lunch and Learn, sign up for The HT Group’s newsletter at the bottom of this page.