Woman behind computer.jpgWith the beginning of each new year, we make resolutions that often involve improving ourselves:  lose weight; eat healthier; get organized.  The new year is also a good time for personnel and human resources directors, managers and analysts to resolve to make their agencies an even better place to work and to reduce risk.  Here are five resolutions for public employers to consider adopting.            

1.  Get to Know PEPRA

The California Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 went into effect at the beginning of the year.  This new law reforms the retirement systems of most public employers.  While portions of PEPRA apply to current employees, a majority of this new legislation applies to those who are “new members”.  PEPRA sets forth new requirements for “new members” regarding retirement formulas, employee contributions, final compensation, and pensionable compensation.  It also changes the playing field as to air time, post-retirement work restrictions, supplemental benefit plans and health insurance vesting.  If your agency has not taken steps to learn PEPRA yet, resolve to get to know this new law now.

2.  Review and Update Personnel Rules, Policies and Regulations

In the last few years, there have been many changes to federal and state employment laws.  These changes cover a wide variety of areas and include both new laws and amendments to existing ones.  For example, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act was amended in each of the last two years to include genetic information and gender expression as protected classifications.  Also, the California Fair Employment and Housing Commission issued new pregnancy disability regulations that went into effect at the end of 2012.  These are only two of dozens of newly adopted or amended employment laws.  Yet, despite these changes, many public employers have not updated their personnel rules, policies or regulations to reflect them.  Public employers are encouraged to audit their policies to ensure that they reflect current law. 

3.  Conduct an FLSA Audit

Wage and hour litigation continues to thrive in California.  In addition, a search of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (“DOL”) Enforcement Database shows that the agency has investigated thousands of employers in the last five years for potential violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) including many California public agencies.  Because of these risks, public employers are encouraged to conduct an FLSA audit.  The audit is the only reliable means an employer has to determine whether it is complying with the FLSA’s many requirements and regulations. It is only through an in-depth investigation into an employer’s time keeping and compensation practices, and an analysis of how those particular practices measure up to FLSA requirements, that an employer can be fully assured of its compliance with the FLSA.

4.  Learn About the Affordable Care Act

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) is being rolled out over several years.  For instance, the ACA eliminated reimbursement for over-the-counter drugs from health savings accounts in 2011.  The following year, ACA required employers to list certain health cost related information on W-2 forms and to provide employees with a summary of benefits and coverage.  This year the health savings account maximum contribution was lowered to $2,500.  Finally, employers will start to see the implementation of health care exchanges this year.  These exchanges are a key component of the ACA and are required to be operational by January 1, 2014.  Since key portions of the ACA have not taken effect yet, there is still time for employers to understand their obligations under this new law.     

5.  Understand Technology’s Impact on Work

Every year brings new and exciting advances in technology. These advancements have changed the way work is performed.  It has made employees more efficient, allowed them to work outside of the office, and to communicate with one another anywhere and at any time.  However, the use of these tools also has significant employment implications.  Giving non-exempt employees access to emails or remote computer access creates potential problems for employers under the FLSA.  Because the time spent checking emails and/or working could be considered hours worked, employees who engage in these activities outside of their regular work hours could have a claim against their employers for unpaid wages.  In addition, the use of social media by employees to discuss work-related matters can implicate privacy, free speech and disciplinary issues. 

Carrying out these five resolutions will go a long way to strengthen your agency and help reduce the risk of lawsuits.  If your agency needs help with implementing these resolutions, our offices are ready to assist.