Should Auld Acquaintance be Forgot: Remembering Labor Relations and Employment Law for the New Year

December 30, 2015


With 2016 nearly upon us, many of us are now looking to the New Year with renewed hope and great expectations. In fact, nearly 50% of Americans “usually” make New Year’s resolutions.  Yet, over half of us will abandon these goals by the following June and fewer than 10% will ultimately succeed.

Despite these odds, I urge you all to not only pursue popular New Year’s resolutions like losing weight and saving money, but also to boldly go where no resolver has gone before by setting some of your goals with labor relations and employment law in mind. While New Year’s resolution success is far more art than science, social scientists have uncovered some secrets to success.  For starters, they recommend maintaining a positive outlook and keeping goals simple, tangible, and obvious.

These principles are especially important when creating L&E-themed resolutions, which, unlike losing weight, but similar to getting in shape, can be highly subjective and open to interpretation. Here are some general points you may find helpful in tailoring these resolutions to your business needs.

Get to Know New Laws and Regulations

You may vow to start the year off right by communicating with your legal counsel on new developments in the labor relations and employment law arena. These include phase-in regulations which may affect your business in unprecedented ways.  One example is the new Affordable Care Act reporting requirements that apply to all job providers with 50+ full-time employees, and select smaller employers which are otherwise exempt from the “play or pay” mandate.

While these are not laws or regulations per se, resolving to speak with your attorneys about recently released EEOC and NLRB memoranda may also guide you on whether that employee handbook needs tweaking.  Social media is also in these organizations’ crosshairs—both in terms of reigning in overly broad policies that may “chill” employee speech, and also with an eye on furthering their own goals, like harnessing technology to combat workplace harassment.

Remain Compliant with Ongoing Requirements

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and while these laws are hardly new or novel, ensuring compliance “classic” with labor and employment statutes like Title VII and the FLSA is no less important, and committing to going over the basics again with your legal counsel is a great start. Actively engaged “students” are better at learning and retaining information from their “teachers,” and skimming the various agency websites in advance of your meeting can help you contribute to the conversation.  The EEOC in particular provides helpful overviews of how they enforce laws and handle charges and can even set you up with outreach and education programs.

A good way to keep abreast of “seasonal” issues like summer internships, autumn flu shots, and winter holiday parties is resolving to set aside time for a phone call or meeting with your legal counsel the season before. Even if you think you’ve “seen it all before,” a quick chat with your lawyers will ensure that your policies for handling these contentious issues remain on-point in a constantly evolving legal landscape.  Furthermore, your attorneys may tune you in to potential problems you have not previously considered.  For instance while most employers know that the upcoming slew of political primaries can create risks associated with a politically contentious workplace, many are unaware that their employees may be entitled to paid voting leave on primary day.

When Thinking Legally, Think Locally

While it’s easy to get caught up in federal labor and employment laws and regulations, it is important to remember that these laws typically set a floor and not a ceiling, leaving states (and sometimes even local) governments free to heighten federal mandates. For instance, while it remains to be seen whether courts will spar over the recent EEOC ruling extending Title VII protections to LGBT persons, many state and local governments already provide these protections. Vowing to stay in tune with more local labor and employment-related developments can accordingly prevent trouble on the home front.


Although it may seem silly in the abstract, making at least a few basic, clear, and attainable L&E-themed New Year’s resolutions may just help you in the twelve months to come.

If nothing else, stay in close contact with your labor relations and employment law attorneys in case trouble arises.

And of course, keep on reading HR Legalist.

Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Categorized In: Labor Relations
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