The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that over 6,800 private-sector lawsuits were filed nationwide in 2010. The DOL (Department of Labor), handled about 32,000 wage and hour complaints in 2010, a jump of 33 percent in just two years. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that pay and promotion cases are now the biggest category of employment discrimination filings but discrimination cases are also on the rise. Broadly defined but complex new regulations on ADA (Americans with Disabilities) and GINA (Genetic Information Non Discrimination Act) make it likely that even the best intentioned employer may inadvertently discriminate against an employee or applicant.
Looking forward into the rest of 2011 and then on to 2012 employers should expect more new rules, with the DOL, ICE and IRS allocating more resources towards enforcement of those rules. The DOL is planning to issue new rules on the Family Medical Leave Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act. The National Labor Relations Board has proposed a new rule that, if adopted, would require almost all private-sector employer in the US to notify employees about their rights to unionize.
The DOL has hired 250 new investigators and has launched the “We Can Help“ program that includes a website and bilingual public service ads designed find and correct the incorrect classification of exempt employees and other violations of wage and hour laws. To “help” employees even more, on November 19, 2010, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a joint initiative with the American Bar Association to help employees find lawyers to enforce their rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Since December 13, 2010, employees who bring FMLA or FLSA complaints that cannot be resolved by the Department of Labor have been given a toll-free telephone number to contact a newly created ABA-approved attorney referral system that will provide information about participating attorneys in their geographic area. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will continue to increase its investigations and raids on employers who hire illegal workers, over 1000 notices were issues in the first 4 months of 2011. Don’t forget the IRS, in 2011 the IRS will conduct over 6,000 payroll tax audits focusing on companies misclassifying workers as independent contractors, fringe benefits and executive/deferred compensation, as part of a new federal and state focus on the miscallification of workers as independent contractors.
Complex regulations, increased enforcement and easy access to plaintiff’s attorney are creating the “perfect storm” for employment lawsuits. Are your payroll and employment practices ready? If you don’t have EPL (Employment Practices Liability) coverage call your broker now. Consider an independent audit of your HR practices. Use automation (software) to ensure consistent process and good documentation. Plus keep your attorney on speed dial, you probably will be calling them more than ever.
Join the conversation: Are you worried about employment lawsuits or audits in 2011?