Managing in an Evolving Workplace

The Fall is the time when managers and business owners transition from the slower summer to the busy winter season. Many employers have completed our “to do” lists from the summer and plan to implement new programs and policies for the remainder of the year and for 2018. The comments below demonstrate the evolving U.S. workplace rules, as we see them in our practice.

The Old World

  • A “middle market” or “small” business with a low profile could assume they would get away with not following some of the government’s workplace rules. The belief was that only large companies needed to watch the laws.
  • Enforcement was spotty and audits could be easily settled for nuisance amounts.
  • The government would only put you out of business for criminal issues.
  • Why have an employee handbook? If you fail to follow the rules in the handbook, you will be worse off.
  • Immigration laws were not strictly enforced.
  • There was a strong underground cash economy.
  • Severance payments to departing employees were generous.
  • Non-compete clauses were limited to top executives, sales and revenue producers.

The New World

  • Employees know their rights and have access to readily available information via the Internet.
  • Employers can face bad publicity quickly due the lightning speed of Facebook, twitter and other vehicles.
  • Technology blurs the lines between home and work.
  • Discrimination rules multiply and compliance becomes key. Regulatory agencies look to fines and penalties to increase governments’ coffers.
  • Employers utilize more current internal communication vehicles.
  • While American industries and technology are changing rapidly, government workplace overtime rules remain draconian.
  • The minimum wage increases in many states.
  • Documentation of employee performance continues to be critical.
  • Severance payments are removed from handbooks and are often capped at six or 12 months for large employers.
  • Rooms for nursing moms become required and family leave and earned sick leave laws begin to apply to smaller employers.
  • Overtime is strictly enforced by state Departments of Labor.
  • Classification of independent contractor rules is strictly enforced and joint employer rules expanded.
  • Few employment agreements contain severance clauses.
  • Almost everyone is an “at-will” employee.
  • Working remotely becomes very popular.
  • Expansion of rights of unions.
  • Paper HR records are dramatically reduced.
  • Unlimited vacation time becomes a popular benefit.
  • Employers prepare stronger non-compete agreements in almost every industry.
  • The world of marketing changes rapidly as social media and the Internet become key communication vehicles.
  • Many aspects of the service economy become Uber-ized – individuals are attracted by flexible hours and “being their own bosses.”
  • Cyber breaches become commonplace, and IT security becomes a critical policy.
  • Millennial employees become a major force in the workplace. More expansions in workplace laws than ever before.

The Trump World

  • Reduction of regulations on small and large businesses.
  • Retreat on joint employer doctrine.
  • Affirmative action is not a priority.
  • Immigration laws to be strictly enforced.
  • State Departments of Labor continue to enforce wage and hours laws.

Your Mission as Employers

  • Engage your clients, customers with quality, timely and responsive service.
  • Refresh your mission; keep staff advised of changes in direction.
  • Invest in technical and HR training for all staff.
  • Foster a healthy, respectful workplace culture that attracts solid performers.
  • Adhere to business ethics and fair-mindedness.
  • Look for staff members who assume responsibility and take ownership of initiatives.
  • Maintain state-of-the-art employee handbooks.
  • Prepare strong protective agreements to protect your trade secrets.
  • Conduct periodic employment practices audits.
  • Stay on top of workplace law changes.
  • Confer with employment counsel before you take action that could be problematic, to minimize risk of lawsuits.

Jules Halpern Associates LLC

Workplace and Education Law Advisors

Jules Halpern Associates LLC
JULES HALPERN ASSOCIATES LLC is a boutique law firm committed to serving our clients in all facets of their workplace issues. We provide personalized, practical advice that resonates with our clients’ business objectives.
1225 Franklin Ave, Suite 200 Garden City NY 11530 516-466-3200
45 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 2000 New York NY 10111 212-786-7380
Jules Z. Halpern


Long Island Office
1225 Franklin Ave | Suite 325
Garden City, New York 11530
tel: 516.466.3200 | fax: 212.658.9313

New York City Office
45 Rockefeller Plaza | Suite 2000
New York, New York 10111
tel: 212.786.7380 | fax: 212.658.9313

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