A Capehart Scatchard Blog

What Summer HR Projects Do You Have Planned?

Now that the warm weather is upon us and things are “slowing down” due to vacations, it’s a good time to sit back with a cool drink and carefully evaluate whether our HR practices are “up to snuff.”  If the answer to any of the following questions is “no,” your company may be risking costly complaints, investigations, litigation, and maybe even fines and penalties.

Are we implementing the recently-enacted New Jersey “Equal Pay Act?” Beginning July 1st, New Jersey’s Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) will prohibit “pay gaps” among all protected classes covered under the law. While this law is generally intended to “fix” gaps in gender pay, the new law makes it illegal for employers to treat those in protected classes differently in terms of compensation including among others, those classes based on race, creed, color, national origin, nationality, age, pregnancy, and gender identity or expression.  You should carefully review your pay structures and seek professional advice on this new law to ensure that your company does not have unjustifiable (which is extremely fact-sensitive) discrepancies in pay among those in protected classes who perform the same work.

Are we prepared to implement the new Paid Sick Leave Law? Beginning October 29th, employers of all sizes are required to provide up to 40 hours of paid sick leave per year (one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours they work) to most employees. The allowed use of these sick days for the conditions of employees, family members, and others is very broad.  Also, “stay tuned” for new State regulations addressing implementation and enforcement of this law.

Have we recently updated our Employee Handbook/Policy Manual? An updated and accurate handbook/manual is a critical component of a company’s “HR infrastructure.” It not only keeps employees up to date on what your policies are, but it protects your company if it’s updated regularly, makes your policies clear (e.g., workplace violence will result in immediate termination) and includes the appropriate “at-will” employment disclaimer. Don’t delay this project another day!

Do we know how to address our employees’ use of medical marijuana?  In the first instance, make sure your drug and alcohol policy is updated and clear about what your policies are. While an employee’s use of prescribed medical marijuana may be a violation of your policies, employers are advised to proceed with caution in addressing these issues. The law in this area is evolving and may implicate other issues (like protection under the Americans with Disabilities Act).

Are we really sure that our “salaried” employees are not eligible for overtime? Federal and State laws are very strict about who is and who is not entitled to overtime.  The Days of Summer are an opportune time to conduct an FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) review of your so-called “salaried” positions to ensure that your employees (even if you call them “managers” or “confidential”) are appropriately classified and that you won’t be subject to back overtime pay, taxes, and penalties.

Do we conduct regular and accurate employee evaluations?  Performance evaluations are perhaps a supervisor’s least favorite chore. However, when done regularly and accurately, they serve as a valuable tool in rewarding performance and, as important, in addressing disciplinary measures. In employment termination litigation, the first question usually asked is, “Let’s see his/her performance evaluations!”  This is an HR issue that can’t be ignored!

Do we fully understand how to manage the FMLA and the ADA?  Dealing with the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act are serious challenges for employers. Is my employee entitled to FMLA? Can she take leave for one or two days every week? What type of accommodation do I have to make if he has a disability? Do I have to create a new job for him? These and other factual and legal questions puzzle employers each and every day.

Have we conducted harassment and supervisory training this year?  No matter how hard we try, employees are going to continue to “push the envelope” with inappropriate behavior in the workplace.  To protect ourselves, we need to ensure that our employees are trained on harassment and discrimination and that our supervisors are not only trained as well, but know precisely how to address discovered or reported harassment. As a company, this may be your “first line of defense” in a harassment or discrimination lawsuit.

What’s the take-a-way??  The best way to avoid costly and burdensome lawsuits, complaints, and even Federal or State investigations, fines, and penalties is to be the company that doesn’t have a “catch me if you can” attitude. Rather, be the company that takes the time to “look in the mirror” and ask for professional help to ensure that it has a culture of compliance to avoid workplace violations.


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About the Author

About the Author:

Carmen Saginario Jr., Esq. is Co-Chair of Capehart Scatchard’s Labor & Employment Group. Mr. Saginario focuses his practice on employment litigation and counseling. He regularly counsels clients on litigation avoidance, personnel policies and procedures including those associated with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act, employment discipline, layoffs and other terminations. Mr. Saginario directs and participates in internal investigations involving claims of harassment, policy violations, ethics and other employment issues. He also appears on behalf of private and public sector clients before the judiciary as well as State and Federal administrative agencies (EEOC, N.J. Division on Civil Rights, etc.). Mr. Saginario is also experienced in representing clients before arbitrators and mediators. He has negotiated numerous public collective negotiations agreements (e.g., law enforcement, public works, etc.). Mr. Saginario has been certified by the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) as a Contract Advisor (player agent).

Mr. Saginario also regularly represents clients in administrative and complex civil litigation matters and also supervises Capehart Scatchard’s Corporate Compliance Group which counsels and assists public and private sector entities on establishing and implementing legal and ethics compliance programs.

Mr. Saginario serves as counsel for governmental and other entities (including counties, municipalities, school boards, and fire districts) and individuals with respect to laws governing public entities, as well as educational, procurement, environmental, transportation, and public safety issues.

Mr. Saginario served as a Deputy Attorney General for the State of New Jersey and Assistant Counsel to Governor Thomas H. Kean, has served as Vice Chair and Director of Administration for the Cinnaminson Sewerage Authority, and Vice Chair and Treasurer of the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority.


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