Is Your HR Team on Top of Responses to the Recent Employment Law Changes?

Is Your HR Team on Top of Responses to the Recent Employment Law Changes?

A focused HR team must be ready and prepared with a strategy to insure compliance with changes in employment law that have been imposed upon business owners, and there have been scores of them within the last several years.

Just a sample of what Massachusetts employers must respond to:

  • The legalization of recreational marijuana;
  • A response to OSHA’s Anti-Retaliation Rule;
  • The pending FLSA wage threshold for exempt status;
  • Compliance with the Parental Leave Law, Earned Sick Time Law, and Equal Pay Law, and the Transgender Law which are all relatively new laws.

In insuring a company complies with these new laws, a knowledgeable HR leader must consider company history and culture, and operational-related issues, and of course, the interests of the people who work for the company. How a company and HR leaders meet the requirements of the laws and the information that is given to the employee’s concerning the laws is of critical importance.

How a company goes about responding to the change in a law can result in either a positive or negative reaction from employees. At a minimum, once a policy or procedure is developed, or amended, to meet the requirements of the law, education must take place, first, of the management team, and second of the employee populace. Failure to educate your employee’s on the details, requirements and implications of the new law will result in organizational confusion and conflict issues.

As an example, if HR does absolutely nothing to update their drug testing policy or communicate the implications of the legalization of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts, it is likely that employees may assume that using marijuana on their ten minute break is acceptable; that bringing it in their duffle bag stored in the company locker is acceptable, coming to work immediately following its use is acceptable, or even, selling it while at lunch in the company parking lot. For a company with a comprehensive drug testing and/or drug-free workplace policy, especially if an employee holds a safety sensitive position, even in Massachusetts, none of those behaviors are acceptable. Minus information from HR however, misconceptions can ensue and inevitably an employee issue will arise, which may result in the termination of a very good long term employee. Great HR leaders are proactive and prepared to avoid such problems by providing timely training and education and being prepared to implement policy and/or procedure changes immediately when the law goes into effect.

OSHA’s Anti-Retaliation Rule, which is already in effect, disallows companies from offering safety incentives and awards that have the effect of discouraging injury reporting, such as raffles and bingo games in which only injury-free employees may partake in. The rule also disallows companies from drug testing post injury unless required by Federal DOT rules, such as a Class A DOT driver, for instance, or in very specific circumstances and for reasons that suggest that drug use was a contributing factor in an injury, and/or only when all employees in a crew or on a production line or unit are tested, and not just the employee who was injured!

Businesses can, and should, rely on HR, and especially now, with so many employment law changes, to implement strategies to insure compliance, and yet, insure the company’s HR goals and objectives still are achieved. Make sure your HR team is ready with well-thought out strategies for any employment law changes before costly contentious conflict issues surface.

Debra J. Parent, PHR, SHRM-CP, has over 28 years of experience in Human Resources Management having worked in the manufacturing and healthcare industries. As a Vice President of Human Resources, she was responsible for HR, Safety and Environmental Compliance. She has a Master’s Degree in Business, a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Resources Management and is a nationally certified PHR (Professional in Human Resources) and SHRM-CP (Society of Human Resources Management Certified Professional. She is a member of the Society of Human Resources Management, Northeast Human Resources Association and the Southcoast Human Resources Council. She is also a Trusted Advisor member Vistage, and a core team member of the Boston Business Group, LLC 

She has taught as a management professor for three years at the University of Massachusetts and Bristol Community College in Massachusetts. She is President and owner of DJP Right Fit Recruiting, LLC, servicing small to mid-sized companies by providing HR consulting services on a variety of HR/Safety related topics. See