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Top HR Issues to Address in 2011

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Update the Handbook:. Time flies so has it been a few years since you last reviewed and updated your employee handbook? 2011 might the year to add or revise policies relating to: cell phone use at work and on the road; use of social networking media at work; the recent revisions to the FMLA and California leaves laws for military families; a stronger meal and rest periods policy; travel time and reimbursement for expenses; privacy rights, and other policies.

Conduct Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation Prevention Training: Has it been two years or more since your last training? 2011 may be your training year. Under SB 1825, California employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide no less than two hours of harassment, discrimination and retaliation prevention training every two years to all supervisors. Also consider whether any new hires or employees promoted into supervisory or management positions are due for training. Training is a good idea for smaller companies too, even if not legally mandated.

Audit Exempt Classifications: Mis-classification lawsuits alleging that non-exempt hourly employees are improperly classified as exempt salaried employees remain in the forefront of wage and hour litigation. Conduct an audit and carefully review each exempt position, and confirm that the employee is performing the requisite duties and earning the requisite salary. . For example, “exempt duties” must consume at least 51% of the employee’s workday hours.

Discontinue Using Independent Contractors: An Independent Contractor relationship should not established without a careful and detailed analysis and evaluation of each situation. It is likely that your independent contractors may actually be employees in the eyes of state and federal tax authorities. In 2011, state and federal agencies will devote more resources pursuing misclassification cases. Misclassification can lead to significant liability, for missed meals and breaks, overtime along with tax penalties and interest.

Fix Wage & Hour Mistakes: Audit your time keeping practices, review the time cards, review whether you are rounding up or down too much, determine if employees are taking their full meal break, ensure that all hours worked are recorded and paid for, including, any pre- and post- shift activities, and after-hours tasks. These are the issues that need constant attention and if any problems exist, fix them now.

Learn What is Required for Legally Provided Leaves of Absences: Employees are entitled to take leaves for many reasons. Employers should be familiar with, and the employee handbook should detail, each legally available leave of absence, the eligibility requirements, whether employees can take or an employer can require the employee take earned sick leave and/or vacation time during the leave. The leave laws are complicated and mistakes can be costly.