By Attorney Amanda N. (Follett) Sacks, Schloemer Law Firm, S.C.
If you are a Wisconsin employer, your employment policies should be reviewed from time to time to make sure they are up to date and protect you from disgruntled employees. In this blog, I explain 5 policies you should be reviewing now to protect your company’s ability to run efficiently and avoid costly and time consuming legal issues:
- COVID-19 Related Policies.
Did your business implement policies related to COVID-19 in 2020? It’s time to review those policies. A lot has changed since that time, and many policies were put into place under pressure early last spring. It is time to review your policies to determine if they still make sense, or if it is time to make changes.
While it is still important to protect your workforce and customers, and comply with OSHA safety requirements, the legal landscape has changed. Wisconsin businesses and employers are now immune from civil COVID-19 litigation (with a few exceptions related to reckless or wanton conduct or intentional misconduct.). OSHA requirements still apply.
In addition, the requirement that employers provide paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) expired on December 31, 2020. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP) allows small and midsize employers, and certain governmental employers, to claim refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave to their employees due to COVID-19, including leave taken by employees to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations. The ARP tax credits are available to eligible employers that pay sick and family leave for leave from April 1, 2021, through September 30, 2021. For the most current information on paid leave to employees receiving COVID-19 vaccines see the IRS’s news release and fact sheet.
- Remote Work Policies.
If any part of your workforce is working remotely or will be in the future, implement remote work policies to set clear expectations and limit your company’s liability.
A company should evaluate which employees can or should work remotely, and to what extent. Working remotely can provide flexibility and save on overhead costs, but it can also lead to employees slacking off, behaving unprofessionally, and breaching confidentiality expectations.
Policies should make expectations clear: employees should have a dedicated physical work space, employees should adhere to performance goals and guidelines, and employees must commit to accessibility, responsiveness, and reliability.
Other issues, to name a few, may include: confidentiality of company information, tracking company equipment, remote monitoring, how to handle work from home expenses, scheduling and breaks, and child care during working hours.
- Video and Photo Releases.
Video and photo releases are becoming more and more important for companies, especially with companies putting more content online, video marketing on websites, and social media advertising.
We recommend new video/photo release policies be implemented, and all existing employees and new hires be required to sign the policies. At a minimum, all employees who participate in marketing and may appear in photos or videos should sign a release. That being said, it is best practice to require all employees to sign, in case they ever appear in a company photo or video that you want to use.
This will help avoid former employees complaining about images or videos you use on your website or social media, which may require a company to have to remove content or re-do content. Creating online content is costly; you don’t want to have to do it twice because you didn’t get proper releases the first time.
If your company has hourly employees who receive bonuses, it is time to review your bonus policy NOW.
Simply put, under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA – which applies to companies who are engaged in interstate commerce or whose annual sales total $500,000+), if most hourly employees receive any kind of bonuses that are considered non-discretionary, those bonuses must be included in calculations of overtime pay. The law has interpreted the term “non-discretionary” surprisingly and extremely broadly, which can subject employers to liability and large legal costs.
There has been a rise nationally and specifically in Wisconsin in plaintiff’s attorneys filing class action suits against employers based on this specific nuanced area of federal law. The incentive in these suits is that the plaintiff’s law firm can recover attorney’s fees as part of the suit from the employer. The attorney’s fees often overshadow the damage to employees from underlying violations. For example, a class action suit could arise from underpaying overtime by $50-$100 per employee, but the plaintiff’s legal fees may be tens of thousands of dollars.
- Possession of Weapons & Firearms
If your company hasn’t already addressed this issue, it’s time. If an employer decided to adopt a restrictive policy, the policy should still contain an exception for employees properly licensed to carry concealed weapons in the State of Wisconsin to permit those employees to carry and/or store concealed weapons and/or ammunition, but only in their own vehicles, and the weapons would remain concealed, locked, and secured.
We recognize the reality that many employees hunt in their free time, so employers may also wish to consider an exception to permit employees to keep hunting weapons in their vehicle, so long as they remain concealed, locked, and secured, and employees follow all local, state, and federal laws.
Originally published: August 9, 2021.
More Important Reading
- Wisconsin Passes Law Shielding Businesses from COVID-19 Lawsuits
- Transferring the Business to the Next Generation: 7 Initial Questions to Ask Yourself to Start the Process
- Transferring the Business to the Next Generation: 13 Questions to Discuss with your Children to Avoid a Failed Succession Plan
- Transferring the Business to the Next Generation: A Blueprint for Success
- Avoiding Lawsuits under the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA): Overtime Pay & Rise of Class Action Lawsuits
Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law, Schloemer Law Firm makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content. You should consult with an attorney to review the current status of the law and how it applies to your unique circumstances before deciding to take—or refrain from taking—any action. If you need legal guidance, please contact us at 262-334-3471 or [email protected].