Oregon recently became the first state in the nation to enact a fair scheduling law. The law requires employers to provide hourly employees with predictable, stable work schedules while regulating on-call shifts and promoting access to extra hours.
While Oregon is the first state to implement such a law, similar scheduling legislation has been, or is about to be passed in cities large and small around the United States, from San Francisco, Seattle and New York to Emeryville, California.
Each of these pieces of legislation are unique, requiring different things from employers, and adding to the complexity of an already extremely complex issue: compliance.
In fact, one of the most frequently asked questions I get asked on an ongoing basis at my job is: “How do we make sure we are in compliance?”
My answer? “A.K.A. Compliance.”
In this case, A.K.A. does not stand for “also known as”, the term cop shows and comic books use to describe the aliases of petty crooks and super villains. My version of A.K.A. stands for a three-step process: Awareness, Knowledge and Action, which can help employers comply with applicable labor laws.
Step 1: Awareness
While it might sound obvious, you need to know that a law exists to comply with it. Ignorance is not a defense. So, to start, make tracking labor laws part of someone’s job. If you are unionized, you may already have a labor relations team doing this, but if not, identify someone on your labor or workforce management team to be responsible for monitoring labor laws.
A common mistake is to assume your legal department is responsible for this. Generally, it is not. Most legal departments will advise on a law when asked, but will not proactively track changing labor laws. Remember too that while your labor-law tracker will likely sit outside of your legal department, they should have an open line of communication with your legal department for advice, support and help with interpretation.
So, how does your labor-law tracker learn about pending and passed legislation? There are lots of free and paid resources to help:
• Industry associations – e.g. the Society for Human Resources (SHRM) publishes a weekly newsletter called Workplace Compliance News that summarizes legislation and court cases that may influence your business.
• Industry publications – e.g. HRMorning.com publishes a daily newsletter that includes employment law news.
• Vertical-industry-specific publications – e.g. retail magazine Chain Store Agepublishes “The Regulatory Wrap-up” and manufacturing magazine IndustryWeek provides “Workforce Watch”.
• Bloomberg BNA is a paid service that provides access to a collection of resources that cover payroll, HR and employment law.
• Google Alerts is also a good way to have search results for news or web content automatically delivered to your inbox. Set up terms like “wage and hour”, “on-call scheduling”, and “minimum wage” to be alerted when news breaks on any of these subjects.
• Finally, your organization’s workforce management, human capital management and/or payroll software vendors may also provide access to labor law information through a customer portal, support desk or other means.
Step 2: Knowledge
Beyond just knowing what the laws are, you must understand how they affect your company. For example, does this labor law apply to the company? If so, how will the law impact your business? Is there additional cost to comply? How will it affect employees? Does it change your culture? Does it alter existing policies and procedures? Does it conflict with any collective bargaining agreements?
Your labor-law tracker should collaborate with legal, HR and other stakeholders to read the bill or law in its entirety and determine how it will impact your business.
Step 3: Action
Once you understand the law, a plan needs to be developed to comply with it, and this gets us into the third step of A.K.A. Compliance: Action. A typical action plan will have three parts: policy, process and tracking. What policy needs to be changed or written to help you comply? What procedures will your supervisors and employees need to follow? How will you monitor the process to ensure compliance? After all, compliance is not a destination but a journey, and progress needs to be continually measured.
The labor law landscape is growing more complex every day, but by building “A.K.A. Compliance” into your workforce management strategy, you can stay up-to-date on changes and respond with agility rather than anxiety.