The last post, Part 1, set forth the first five items on a wish list from an attorney’s perspective – specific ways in which a Human Resources department can minimize problems down the road.  The final five items are just as important.  Read on …

6.         Get ready for the Affordable Care Act

We hope you are ready for the changes to employer-provided healthcare. If not, there is no time like the present. Even if you are up to date, more deadlines loom ahead. If you’re not sure what employers need to do, review our recent article on the topic.

7.         Review your company’s criminal background check and credit check processes

If your company runs criminal background and credit checks (or both) on applicants or employees, your company must comply with the requirements of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), including a recent update to certain notices that the employer must provide. In addition, you may need to consider Title VII and the EEOC’s guidance on consideration of criminal history when making employment decisions. Further, state law may impose additional requirements, or prohibit certain inquiries altogether.  The complexity of this issue, as addressed in our 2012 article on criminal history inquiries, requires that HR staff establish carefully considered procedures for conducting such checks.

8.         Review payment practices and employee classifications

Wage and hour law can be tricky.  This area of the law is made more complex by state laws regulating wage payments to workers.  It is incredibly important to review policies and practices relating to pay each year in order to ensure compliance with the law.  Employee classification is another critical issue, one which is easily oversimplified in a manner that creates problems.  In this arena, it is important to consult with counsel to ensure that the most current developments are considered, and that your policies and practices comply with the law of the state where each worksite is located.

9.         Become acquainted with the quirks of your state’s law, including workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits law

I’ve mentioned state law a couple of times in this list. Since federal law by and large governs the biggest private employment legal issues, sometimes state law flies under the radar.  States, however, have their own human rights and wage and hour laws.  Each state has quirky laws regarding what an employer can or cannot do – for instance, in some states employers can’t prohibit employees from bringing guns onto company property, and in some states employers can’t fire employees for legal off-duty conduct.  Workers’ compensation law and unemployment benefits law are governed by each state, and vary dramatically from state to state.  You need to know the basics of these laws, and have procedures for dealing with on-site injuries and claims made by employees everywhere your company employs people.

10.       Keep the lawyer’s number on speed dial

If you have any questions about what is permitted under the law, or have a difficult decision to make, or just need to run an idea or question by someone, please (please!) call the company’s lawyer before taking any action or making any decision.  You should never be afraid to ask a question, or make a call if you are unsure about something – it may be a critical situation, and your caution may make all the difference.