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How to Successfully Navigate the Changing Currents of Workplace Regulations
Key Employment Tips Every Employer Should Consider
By I. Jeffrey Pheterson, Denise J. Bleau and Sally Still

As the unemployment rate continues to decline, the job market looks more promising than ever. According to a CareerBuilder survey, 21 percent of full-time employees plan to change jobs in 2014. While various reasons are cited for the desire to change jobs, one thing is clear: employers need a solid employment plan in place that considers labor laws, changes in business practices, and emerging workforce trends.

To help maneuver through these changes and modifications, the Employment and Labor Law Practice Group at Ward Damon has developed key employment tips every employer should consider:

1. Hire Slow, Fire Fast

2. Social Media as the New Resume

3. Healthcare After the Dust Settles

These topics will help employers navigate increasingly complicated workplace regulations and current factors that surround important personnel decisions.

1. Hire Slow, Fire Fast—What You Should Know When Terminating an Employee

The wrong hire is like a bad virus, but finding the right employee requires time and measured decision-making.

To avoid bad hiring decisions, take time to figure out what you need and have a well-defined job description that properly outlines responsibilities. Involve managers and other team members in the interview process to evaluate whether the candidate will fit with the existing culture.

Despite taking time and careful consideration during the hiring process, employers are, unfortunately, faced with the hard task of firing an employee. Act quickly to avoid a lingering, toxic situation, but take careful preparation in terminating an employee and consider all legal requirements.

Although Florida is an employment-at-will state, employers must comply with anti-discrimination laws, advance notice requirements and last paycheck laws when terminating their employees.

- Terminations based on age, race, religion, national origin, gender, marital status or disability are discriminatory and illegal in Florida.

- Provide employees with the option to continue group health coverage. If you have at least 20 employees, and you provide optional group health coverage, you must allow your terminated employees to continue paying for health coverage for at least 18 months after termination under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). With 10 employees, you may be covered by Florida’s Mini-COBRA statute.

- According to the federal Workers Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, if you are laying off 50 or more employees at one site or one-third of your full-time employees, employees must have at least 60 days of advance written notice before termination. Otherwise, you do not have to provide any notice.

- Under federal whistle-blowing laws, an employee cannot be terminated based on a previous complaint alleging your failure to comply with health and safety regulations, wage laws or any other state or federal employment law. The state’s whistle blower statute prohibits an employer from terminating an employee who reported or refused to participate in unlawful activity.

Firing someone should never feel easy. It’s an arduous task, but necessary. However, being prepared and doing so quickly before the problem escalates is the best thing for the company and for the person. [ TOP ]

2. Social Media as the New Resume

Applicants' bios appear on LinkedIn. Twitter shows the latest 140-character thoughts. A personal website shows their blog posts or YouTube feed. Facebook, well, caveat emptor. Does a well-developed résumé still hold value?

"In 2014, we expect more companies to ditch the traditional résumé in favor of new, unconventional hiring methods that better reveal a candidate's true talents and long-term hire favorability," said Shon Burton, CEO of Hiring Solved, in an article from Business News Daily. "Social profiles often have more accurate, updated information about a person’s expertise, providing a more complete picture than a résumé alone."

Even though there is a potential treasure trove of information on social media websites that reveal, perhaps far more candidly, the true nature and experiences of the applicant, employers must still use caution when accessing these sources of information. Some workplaces are even implementing policies that prohibit the human resources department from using the sites as a hiring resource. [ TOP ]

3. Healthcare After the Dust Settles

Once the Affordable Care Act gets over its rocky start, and if the majority of those who need to do so get enrolled, healthcare will be off and running. Then it will be a less important factor for job seekers, and also for employers in many ways.

For applicants and new employees, a primary driver of a career move is whether the prospective new company provides quality, or adequate, group health insurance.

From the employer’s perspective, we will see a two-year period of dust settling. Benefits in old plans will shift (which, in truth, always occurred at renewal time anyway). Costs will adjust (probably some up and some down) and enrollments will increase over time.

The new marketplace will start to operate more effectively, eventually. Whether this will be a net positive for employees, employers and society, time will tell.

The ever-evolving workforce can be complicated to navigate. To further understand how you are affected by workplace regulations, contact an employment and labor law attorney at Ward Damon to discuss your circumstances and plan properly. [ TOP ]