DC Mayor Muriel Bowser last week decided against casting a veto of the proposed Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2015, which is now expected to become law following required Congressional Review within 30 days of passage. Approved late last year by the DC City Council, the current measure includes the following provisions for DC-based employees:
- Provides eight weeks of leave for caring for a newborn or newly adopted child
- Provides six weeks for tending to a sick relative
- Provides two weeks for taking care of personal medical needs
- Applies to all employees with DC-based private business
- Residents of DC who work for employers outside of the city and all federal employees are not eligible
- The Universal Paid Leave Act will be funded by a 0.62% payroll tax on employers
If you have any questions about this measure or compliance with its provisions, please contact an impactHR team member via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 410-741-3900.
impactInterview: Karen Walsh on Dealing with Harassment in the Workplace Today
The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced the extension of a comment period through March 21 for its proposed new guidelines on harassment in the workplace. To be sure, harassment continues to be a key HR issue, whether based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age or genetic information. In fact, the EEOC collected $164 million from employers in 2015 to resolve workplace harassment claims – up from roughly $100.2 million in 2011, according to Bloomberg BNA. With this in mind, we caught up with Karen Walsh, Senior Consultant at impactHR, for a brief expert Q&A on harassment in the workplace as an issue today.
impactnews: In your role at impactHR, how do you evaluate harassment in the workplace? What does it commonly entail and how do you respond to help employers?
KW: So, in talking about harassment, we often cite this in the context of so-called protected classes, which include sex as in one’s gender, race, religion, creed, national origin and sexual identity (one part of the protected classes that is becoming much more common).
On some occasions, we work with employers when there’s already been an issue at hand that they’re grappling with – for example, somebody is feeling like someone else may have it out for them or someone might’ve said something inappropriate about an entire class of people or who has been insensitive toward them, and of course incidences of sexual harassment.
In response, if there is a claim of harassment, whether sexual or other form of harassment, we would conduct an investigation to determine any wrong doing. In addition, we also conduct sensitivity training or what’s sometimes referred to as sensitization training. Our goal is to help get employees on the same wavelength as to expected professional behaviors.
This training also is about how to have workplace relationships that are functional, that don’t cross boundaries and that are respectful. And then it’s important for us to make sure we educate the management staff (supervisors and managers) as to what their responsibilities are because they have a different level of responsibility than the everyday staff member does.
Management staff is seen in the law as an extension of the company, and what this means is if the company knows or should’ve known a harassment situation was going on, the company may be liable. So, it’s important that managers are particularly sensitive to their requirement for reporting and sharing any information they oversee, they hear, or even a rumor that comes to them. They’re in a position of being required to show this information to protect the company.
impactnews: Are incidences of harassment, in its various forms, truly on the rise compared with past years and, if so, why would this be the case?
KW: Harassment in the workplace is alive and well. One theory may be that, in the context of today’s social climate, there is a new element of freedom of expression, an element of discussing one’s personal feelings, which may shake out in the workplace.
With this dynamic, I suspect we may see increased tensions and increased incidences of a worker in a protected class feeling like they’ve been targeted by someone in their organization. In these situations, we come in and negotiate whatever the situation is; we investigate the situation; and we can help come up with an appropriate resolution.
And so, to this end, we are seeing a gradual increase in EEOC claims – and we may be in the midst of a culture shift in which workers are feeling less insulated and protected while others are feeling more empowered to speak their personal views.
impactnews: Does the ubiquity of social media play a role in fostering or abetting harassment in the workplace?
KW: Yes to some extent, but I’d say workplace harassment is still something that occurs more often in person. I just worked on a case where one person said something that was unbelievable and the other person was offended. We were quickly called in to negotiate to find out what had been said, what hadn’t been said, what had been interpreted or misinterpreted. Ultimately, we educated the person who said something, that, in fact, what he thought was a benign comment wasn’t at all benign, that it really was charged. And so we negotiated a new platform for them to have a working relationship going forward.
impactnews: Can you talk about the kinds of employee and employer training you do that aims to help prevent harassment from taking place?
KW: One brief point I want to make is that with the increasing number of harassment claims being filed, these claims are expensive in time and money for employers to defend. What’s key to note for employers is that you if you’ve provided harassment and diversity inclusion training in advance with managers and staff (and if you have the right policies in your employee handbook), then you can show you’ve proactively moved to prevent harassment from taking place, potentially limiting your liability.
So, for employers, this is one preventative strategy. And the hope would be that this kind of training sensitizes managers and staff to the diversity in their workplace and the dignity each person possesses to help prevent these issues from coming up. To be sure, if they do come up, then trained managers know how to deal with it, which helps protect the company.
impactHR Sponsors Women in Government Contracting Leadership Forum, March 8
impactHR is delighted to be a sponsor of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Government Contracting Leadership Forum 2017 on HERstory: Lead, Mentor, and Inspire, Wednesday, March 8. The event’s keynote speakers are: Marissa Levin, CEO, Successful Culture; Kimberly Ellison-Taylor, Global Accounting Strategy Director, Oracle; Angie Lienert, President & CEO, Intelligenesis; and Laurie Moe Buckhout, President & CEO, Corvus, U.S. Army Colonel (Retired).
impactHR’s Kelly Mitchell will moderate a panel session on “Winning the Struggle for Talent: Recruitment and Retention,” 1:45pm – 2:45pm, featuring Brannan Villee, Supervisory Management & Program Analyst, Science & Technoloy Directorate, US Department of Homeland Security; Janet Vogel, Director, Office of Technology Solutions, US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and Kathy Hutson, Associate Director, Human Resources, US National Security Agency. Learn more and register to attend.
MD Legislative Alert: New Proposed Overtime Rule Under Consideration in MD General Assembly
Legislation that mirrors the Obama administration’s former proposed federal overtime rules was introduced earlier this month into the MD House of Delegates. With the 2016 proposed revisions to overtime rules still under a nationwide injunction due to a federal court ruling late last year, MD Del. Jimmy Tarlau (Prince George’s) introduced HB 665 to enact these rules at the state level.
The measure would, in brief, increase the overtime exemption threshold for Maryland employees to $47,476, more than double the current threshold of $23,660. The MD House Economic Matters Committee held a hearing on the measure last week. A companion bill, SB 607, has been introduced into the MD State Senate by Sen. Paul Pinsky (Prince George’s) with a Finance Committee hearing set for March 2. Learn more.
Employers: ACA Obligations Remain in Place Despite Recent Executive Order
As has been reported over the last several weeks, President Donald J. Trump recently signed an Executive Order that would begin the process of fulfilling one of his campaign promises to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The order instructs Executive Branch departments and to waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the ACA that would impose a financial burden on individuals or organizations.
Key point for employers: the president’s Executive Order does not have any immediate impact on employer obligations under the ACA. The employer mandate and reporting, for example, cannot be repealed without going through the formal process of regulatory revision (e.g., formal public notice-and-comment rulemaking procedures). It’s important to note that, for now, the employer mandate and employer reporting requirements remain in effect and employers should continue to comply with all provisions of the ACA.
If you have any questions about the ACA, compliance with the law and its ongoing status, please contact an impactHR team member via email at email@example.com or phone 410-741-3900.