“The times they are a changin’.”

It’s a constant refrain in the business world, especially when HR status quo is challenged legally and new policies evolve.

Whether it’s federal, state or local laws, staying abreast of compliance-related policies protects your business from unexpected legal action.

Trends to Watch in 2019

HR professionals need to keep their fingers on the pulse of developments with their state and local municipalities to ensure they remain compliant with the latest policy trends. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on national developments, as policies implemented in one region may gain popularity throughout the nation. Here are a few examples:

Policy Trend #1: Uniform and appearance compliance. This is one of the oldest and most oft-challenged policies corporate America faces. What is acceptable to the workplace in one business isn’t necessarily acceptable in another. However, trends over the last decade have moved to a more casual work environment, which begs the question: What is considered “too casual”?

A recent poll by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) generated nearly 9,000 responses to questions asking whether certain attire is acceptable in the workplace. You can see the results here. It’s a fascinating study on how far we’ve come from the days of shirts and ties for men and dress suits for women. The bottom line: Your corporate culture will dictate what is and isn’t appropriate for the workplace.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states employers can establish dress codes, but there are exceptions to the rule. Dress codes cannot treat certain employees less favorably because of national origin. If casual dress is permitted, for example, you cannot restrict employees from a different culture from wearing ethnic attire.

Policy Trend #2: Anti-bullying. A 2017 poll by The Workplace Bullying Institute revealed that a staggering 60.3 million U.S. workers are affected by workplace bullying, with 61% of the offenders being someone in a superior position. This often poses the challenge of “should I or shouldn’t I” report the incident. Employees fear retribution if they report bullying activity from a boss, so they often don’t share the incident with HR.

Tennessee is addressing the issue head on by encouraging participation in anti-bullying practices. Governor Bill Lee signed a law providing private businesses with immunity from workplace-bullying lawsuits if they adopt the state’s anti-bullying policy. If this “do as I do” approach encourages acceptance of anti-bullying policies, it’s a step in the right direction.

25% of employees surveyed said employers do nothing when bullying is reported, and 46% said management conducts a “sham” investigation. (The Workplace Bullying Institute)

Policy Trend #3: E-cigarette ban. While there is no federal workplace smoking ban, states and cities began enacting laws In 1985, with California the first to pass a statewide ban. With the rise in popularity of e-cigarettes, more and more states and cities are moving to add e-cigarettes to existing laws. Colorado’s e-cigarette ban went into effect on July 1 of this year, and Nevada’s begins in January 2020.

In 2016, the World Health Organization recommended a ban on vaping in all places where smoking is banned. New Mexico amended its clean air act in June, while Decatur, Alabama, and the state of Florida recently amended existing laws to include a ban on e-cigarettes in enclosed areas. Expect this trend to continue in other cities and states.

Keep Up with the Changes

It’s best to update your company policies whenever federal, state or local laws are amended or new laws emerge. You’ll protect employees and your business by implementing clear policy statements surrounding new laws.

If your current corporate policies need updating, you might want to consider moving to an online app like the Company Policies Smart App. The significant value of online services is they monitor the legal updates for you and modify policy language based on changes occurring within your state.

Key Takeaways
  • Changes to federal, state and local laws may impact corporate policy
  • Interpret laws correctly to avoid legal issues
  • Local trends may grow into national trends
  • Update corporate policies whenever laws impact your business
  • Online services help manage policy updates