The 11 Scariest Issues Employers Face in 2014

Paul Simmons, owner of Glasstown Brewer in Millville, N.J., Friday, Jan 17, 2014 (AP)

The nation’s economy may be on better footing than it was five years ago, but that doesn’t mean all is well.

Continued confusion surrounding the Affordable Care Act and seemingly endless budget fights in Congress have many business leaders worried about long-term health of the U.S. economy.

And that’s not all.

Employers are also reportedly worried about how new rules and regulations, including recently passed laws involving same-sex marriage and marijuana, will affect their businesses, according to a new report from Xpert HR, a site dedicated human resources materials.

“Many of these issues are moving targets based on state and federal legal changes as well as societal trends so I think that there will continue to be a focus on these issues in the coming years,” XpertHR legal editor Beth Zoller told TheBlaze in an interview.

“For example, this year, states such as Alaska and Oregon may legalize medical marijuana, and states and cities continue to pass Ban the Box measures requiring employers to eliminate the criminal history box from job applications,” she said.

Obviously, she added, business leaders will need to say on top of these issues.

“Employers will need to reevaluate their workplaces and may need to make significant changes to their policies and practices as well as their recruiting and hiring methods, training, benefits and leave offerings, and record keeping,” Zoller said.

Here’s a breakdown of 11 “scariest issues” facing employers in 2014, via XpertHR:

1. Medical and Recreational Marijuana Use

In states that permit marijuana use, employers need to clarify that marijuana is prohibited in the workplace.

2.  Same-Sex Marriage

Employers should know the tax benefits provided to an employee’s same-sex spouse or partner, and whether the state follows or departs from federal law.

3.  Technology in the Workplace

Employers should create distinct BYOD policies and clearly explain what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable use of social media while at work.

4. Healthcare Reform

Employers should plan for the 2015 employer mandate requirement of the Affordable Care Act and determine whether they will be considered a large employer.

5. Immigration and Form I-9 Compliance

Employers must strike a balance between ensuring an authorized workforce while avoiding discriminating against authorized workers.

6. Misclassification of Independent Contractors

Improper classification can lead to a variety of liabilities.

7. Minimum Wage and Overtime Violations

Employers should be up-to-date with their state requirements regarding minimum wage and overtime and know how to properly calculate how much overtime an employee is owed.

8. Curtailing Background Checks

In states and cities that have adopted ban the box legislation, employers should make sure to eliminate the criminal history box from job applications.

9. Emerging Protected Classes and Curbing Workplace Discrimination

Even if an employer’s state does not yet specifically prohibit discrimination, it is advisable for an employer to be proactive and prohibit it.

10. Employee Leaves and Reasonable Accommodations

Make sure that leave policies do not require automatic termination of employees who take extended leaves of absence.

11. Expansion of “Protected Concerted Activity”

Employers need to make sure they do not unreasonably restrict employees from exercising their Section 7 rights.

So how should business leaders prepare for these issues?

Some employers “may need to adjust their workplace policies and training based on recently passed medical marijuana laws and the recognition of new protected classes by states and municipalities as well as amend policies to reflect the latest technology in the workplace,” Zoller suggested.

She added: Others may “need to make sure that they properly classify their employees and maintain accurate time records so they can fulfill their wage and hour requirements and meet state obligations regarding minimum wage and overtime.”

If employers fail to address these issues accordingly, they may find themselves dealing in the long-run with “lowered employee morale and facing significant costs in terms of time, money and resources spent to address lawsuits and audits.”

Further, Zoller explained, if employers are not aware of these emerging trends and fail to take steps to address them, “in the short term they could face significant liability in the form of class action lawsuits for minimum wage and overtime violations or violation of fair credit reporting laws.”

XpertHR’s research and review on the “scariest” issues for 2014  is based on several factors, including trends in federal, state and municipal legislation, government enforcement efforts and several recent lawsuits.

Follow Becket Adams (@BecketAdams) on Twitter