impactInterview: Kelly Mitchell on Tackling Key HR Challenges in 2020

With the fast start to the new year, the HR landscape continues to evolve, requiring companies and organizations to keep close watch on new regulations and trends. In addition, the continuing tight labor market and stable economy are making hiring and employee retention a bigger challenge than ever for employers.

On this note, impactnews had a conversation with impactHR’s Kelly Mitchell about how companies and organizations can be prepared to navigate these and other HR-related challenges in the year ahead.

impactnews: What areas of HR do you consider most critical for companies to be on top of?

KM: Sure, right off the bat, companies and organizations should review their recruitment and retention strategies – especially with today’s tight employment market. Everyone’s looking for similar talent. The fact is applicants move fast and may be committed elsewhere before your team can even make contact. If you delay engaging qualified job applicants, they’ll move on to another employer.

Ultimately, the key is getting more creative about finding quality people to fill your open positions. Consider using social media to broadcast your open positions, which may help attract passive job seekers who may be a good fit in your organization. And it’s a good idea to keep job applicants warm in your database for those that apply to open positions and aren’t initially given offers.

impactnews: How does employee retention fit into this picture of optimizing your company or organization’s talent?

KM: So, what also helps with recruitment is having a strong employee retention capability. For retention, it’s a good idea to start with a formal employee retention plan, determining the extent to which turnover is – or isn’t – a problem in your organization. I say it all the time that employers shouldn’t neglect the quality employees they already have.

Too often, for example, an employee becomes unhappy in their role – and in this job market there’s little stopping them from talking with your competitors and possibly leaving your organization.

Along this line, I like to recommend thinking about new ways to position your employees for success, such as allowing remote work, giving them new projects or additional responsibilities or generally finding ways to bring more fun into your workplace.

Plus, talk with your employees informally more often – getting real-time feedback – and learn from them what your company’s great attributes are. This can help you build a better work environment and company culture that is aligned with your company’s values.

impactnews: What other issues are you talking with your clients about to help them prepare for the year ahead?

KM: Compliance never goes away, so employers need to make sure they have their HR processes and practices in place for the year ahead to protect their company or organization.

This is important for this year especially. A number of major new policy developments have begun including the updated rule on overtime, increased legalization of medicinal and recreational marijuana in our area and across the US, plus more local and state minimum wage increases.

The bottom line is employers of all sizes need to be fully aware of the local, state and federal rules and regulations they need to comply with – and make sure their employee handbooks are up to date.

The New Dynamic: Navigating Marijuana in the Workplace

Few issues today appear more complicated than the thicket of employment-related policies around the issue of marijuana usage.

The District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia region, in fact, signifies this complexity to a tee. As it stands, 46 states plus DC allow marijuana use in some form either medicinally or recreationally.

In addition, 11 states have laws prohibiting employers from discriminating against job applicants or employees who use medical cannabis.

In DC, for example, residents may use marijuana recreationally but are not allowed to buy or sell it. Maryland currently permits medicinal usage and may consider legislation approving recreational use in the next year or so. Virginia, in the meantime, only allows medicinal use of cannabis oil.

On top of all this, federal law, under the Controlled Substances Act (1970), still prohibits the use, sale and possession of marijuana.

To be sure, marijuana is having an impact on the workplace, for example: an employee arrives at work in a retail setting and appears to be under the influence; a truck driver who works for a company with a federal contract tests positive for marijuana; or a construction worker is caught with marijuana in his gear bag at the worksite.

In the midst of this policy ambiguity, companies are forced to navigate the complexity around marijuana usage – whether medicinal or recreational – to be able to recruit and retain the employees they need plus protect their companies from litigation.

One new development worth watching is that Nevada this year has become the first state to prohibit employers to refuse to hire job candidates for certain positions who test positive for marijuana.

All told, it remains the case that employers retain the right to prohibit employee use, possession or be under the influence of marijuana while at work.
Here are some steps employers can consider taking to help navigate this dynamic:

  • Craft an employee handbook policy stating your company’s priority is ensuring a safe, productive workplace at all times
  • Have a clear, concise handbook policy detailing a prohibition on specific narcotics, alcohol and related controlled substances (including relevant exceptions for doctor-referred or prescribed employee medical needs)
  • If your company has multi-state operations, comply with the marijuana and related narcotics policies in each state accordingly
  • Ensure compliance with relevant drug testing policies in your state or jurisdiction
  • Note federal law requires drug testing for specific jobs like truck driving and testing for employees in companies with government contracts

Ultimately, the issue at hand isn’t just whether marijuana is made fully legal or not in more states across the US. It’s also about employers doing all they can internally to ensure workplace safety for their employees.

impactAction: If you have questions about marijuana and related controlled substances in the workplace, contact us at or 443-741-3900.

IRS Issues New W-4 Effective Jan. 2020

Employers beginning this month must now provide the IRS’s newly redesigned Form W-4 to all new employees and current employees who want to change their withholdings.

Key point: employees who have submitted Form W-4 in any year before 2020 are not required to submit a new form in light of the redesign.

Employers should continue to compute withholding based on the information from the employee’s most recently submitted Form W-4.

The new form makes a number of changes, including elimination of allowances which have been replaced by dollar values to calculate withholding. The new form also includes the addition of boxes to indicate if workers hold multiple jobs or are in two-earner households.

In addition, note that if your state has its own W-4, continue to offer the most current version to employees for voluntary completion to ensure accurate state tax withholding.

impactAction: If you need assistance with compliance on this new Form W-4, contact us at or 443-741-3900.

Virginia Implements New Wage Statement Requirements

Employers in Virginia beginning this month must now furnish a written statement by paystub or online accounting that shows the following:

  • Name and address of the employer
  • Number of hours the employee worked during the pay period
  • Employee rate of pay
  • Gross wages earned by the employee during the pay period
  • Amount and purpose of any deductions

The wage statements should be provided to both exempt and non-exempt employees on their regular pay date — at least once each month for salaried employees and at least twice each month for hourly employees.

Employers engaged in agricultural employment including agribusiness and forestry are exempted from this regulation.

Previously, Virginia employers were required to provide just a written statement, on the request of an employee, reflecting an employee’s gross wages and deductions.

Learn more.

In Case You Missed These impactnews Articles . . .

The Importance of Documenting Employee Performance Issues
Kelly Mitchell on HR Compliance as a Government Contractor
Balancing Act: Employer-Employee Rights and Responsibilities