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Lunch and Learn Recap: Our Mid-Year Review of Employment Law Changes

The HT Group’s first Lunch and Learn event is in the books. A large group of HR professionals assembled on Thursday, July 21, to eat, mingle and learn about the latest employment law changes from the city up to the federal level. The featured speaker was Amy Beckstead, a partner at Beckstead Terry PLLC in Austin.

“We enjoyed seeing our clients and friends at our latest Lunch and Learn meeting,” says Mark Turpin, founder and CEO at The HT Group. “Amy was so informative and caught us up-to-date on all of the changes in statutes, laws and ordinances.  We are looking forward to our next meeting in October.”

For those who missed it, here are some of the highlights from Beckstead’s talk.


Austin Fair Chance Hiring Ordinance

Fair chance hiring is the buzz in Austin, but what does it actually mean for employers? Beckstead broke it down into actionable steps. For employers with 15 or more employees whose primary work location is Austin:

  • Watch your wording: Job postings cannot state or imply an individual’s criminal history will automatically disqualify the individual from consideration for the job. Plus, employment applications cannot inquire about criminal history.
  • Time your criminal background checks right: Criminal history cannot be investigated or asked about until an employer has made a conditional offer of employment.
  • Individualize your assessment: You cannot refuse to hire, promote or revoke an offer of employment or promotion because of an individual’s criminal history—unless you have good faith the specific individual is unsuitable for the job based on an individualized assessment. Take under consideration the nature and gravity of the offense, the length of time since it occurred and how it all relates to the job for which the individual has applied.
  • Notify: If you do take adverse action due to criminal history, you must inform the individual in writing and comply with all applicable FCRA laws.

During the event, Beckstead covered important Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) information related to fair chance hiring, including how employers may find themselves sued for FCRA violations when it comes to federal protections. Currently, there is no private right of action at the city level for fair chance hiring issues. Violating the ordinance is not a criminal offense, either. However, the Austin Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office (EE/FHO) is scheduled to start assessing penalties for violations after April 4, 2017.

For additional information, download our resource guide Fair Chance Hiring in Austin: An Important Primer for Employers.


Federal Overtime Law Changes

In covering the new federal overtime law changes, Beckstead discussed the new salary level requirements.  A couple of key takeaways:

  • Consider reclassification: For the individuals that are not currently at a $913/week salary level, this is a great time to review whether the person should really be classified in a non-exempt position.
  • Bonuses considered: One welcome addition to the new salary rules is that nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) may be used to satisfy up to 10 percent of the standard salary level.

Beckstead pointed out that every three years (beginning January 1, 2020) the standard salary and annual compensation levels will be automatically updated. Employers may be given as little as 150 days before a change is made.

For more information, read our recent blog post on overtime pay for salaried employees.


Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and Other Federal Changes

Beckstead covered several other important employment law changes happening at the federal level. These changes include:

  • OSHA regulations on post-accident reporting and drug testing.
  • The Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) of 2016 requires employers to provide a whistleblower protection notification to employees in order to recover exemplary damages or attorneys’ fees for trade secret misappropriation.
  • Possible paid sick leave changes for multi-state employers.
  • The new federal joint employer test that is no longer limited to who has more direct/actual control over the employers. (For more information, download our resource guide New Rules of Co-Employment: Decoding the Joint Employer Arrangement.)
  • The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Americans with Disabilities (ADA) enforcement updates, including leave of absence and reasonable accommodation changes.

“This was my first Lunch and Learn with The HT Group and I had a great time,” says Beckstead. “The numerous federal and local employment law changes that have taken place in 2016 are important to understand. I was happy the audience was engaged and asked great questions.”

Interested in joining us for the next Lunch and Learn in October? Keep an eye on your inbox for details. And if you have a request for a certain topic, let us know!


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