Employment law changed in 2014 to address issues such as gay marriage, immigration, and discrimination questionnaires. 2015 should see further changes in legal requirements for employers, as well as more thorough enforcement of current employment laws now that the United States government has lifted the hiring freeze on most federal agencies that oversee the workplace.
Here’s what employers should be aware of for 2015:
1. More Accommodation for Pregnant Employees
According to Vedder Price, a general practice law firm, states like Illinois have now initiated a wide variety of requirements for employers to accommodate expecting mothers, and not just for full-time employees, either, but for part-time and probationary workers too. These accommodations include longer and more frequent bathroom breaks, and mandatory assistance for all manual labor.
2. Breast-Feeding in the Workplace
August 1 to 7 has been designated as World Breast-Feeding Week. It will concentrate on defending the rights of women to breast-feed in comfort and convenience in the workplace. Research from Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Connecticut, supports this initiative. SHU uses evidence-based practices to prepare nurses to properly educate new mothers about the best breast-feeding practices. These same evidence-based practices support the new federal laws that have been strengthened to give mothers the right to take breaks to pump breast milk and to nurse in a room other than a bathroom at work.
3. Minimum Wage Exceptions
You’re probably aware that the new minimum wage is now $8.75 an hour, and will increase to $9.75 an hour in 2016. But are you also aware that exemptions and exceptions to the minimum wage have changed this year? Make sure you stay in compliance and take advantage of new rulings from the federal government.
4. Changes in State and Federal Laws
Congressional gridlock in 2014 encouraged state legislatures to venture further than ever before into labor and employment law. Make sure you know what your state legislature has mandated, and what legislation they are considering.
5. Dress Codes Must Take Into Account an Expanding List of Employee Accommodations
In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch, the U.S. Supreme Court is now looking at whether the clothing retailer violated an employee’s civil rights by refusing to let her wear a hijab to work. The final ruling will have a definite impact on how employers are able to enforce a dress code at work. Which brings up the subject of . . .
6. Religious Accommodation at Work
Federal law mandates that employers cannot ignore the sincere religious beliefs and practices of their employees. They must make every effort at reasonable accommodation, including Sabbath day observance, providing a private room for prayer, and an employee’s feelings about covering up tattoos of a religious nature.
A recent Pew report shows that there are an increasing number of religious groups in the United States, and that over 25 percent of practicing adults have changed their religion. In 2015, employers must make a special effort to be aware of what their employees believe and practice — and provide equitable accommodations.