New developments in the business sector
Businesses both large and small face numerous challenges these days, ranging from technology to tax considerations to exposure to litigation over employment laws. What are the main issues in 2015? Here are seven likely to grab your attention:
1. Health care law. Most provisions of the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) have already kicked in, such as the requirement for individuals to obtain health insurance coverage. Now the employer mandate, which was previously postponed, takes effect in 2015. Employers should ensure that they are complying with all required provisions of the PPACA and taking advantage of available benefits, such as tax credits for certain small employers. Note: The Supreme Court will review some provisions of the PPACA this term.
2. Tax inversions. The furor over corporations moving their headquarters to foreign countries has sparked more debate on the issue of reducing or modifying the existing U.S. corporate tax rates. Due to the objections raised on both sides of the aisle in Congress, any tax reform package that emerges from the nation’s lawmakers could address this issue.
3. Social media. As use of sites such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram continues to increase, the line between business and personal activity blurs even further. The laws are still evolving on issues such as an employer’s right to restrict social media use, ownership of accounts after an employee leaves the company, postings that may violate employment contracts or noncompete agreements, and whether an employee’s comments are protected speech.
4. Sexual harassment claims. Recent statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) show 7,256 sexual harassment claims lodged in fiscal year 2013. While of late the number has declined slightly, employers should not be fooled into dismissing or ignoring concerns. To avoid problems, strive to maintain an environment free of sexual harassment. If a claim occurs, address it promptly and thoroughly.
5. Workforce age. With more millennials entering the workforce, consider how to handle technology-based issues (see No. 3), as well as the need for more flexible work schedules. On the other side of the spectrum, employers face challenges from older employees under provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act and other laws.
6. Same-sex marriages. In the wake of the Supreme Court decision invalidating section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), employers may have to revise policies concerning treatment of spouses, including application of FMLA and other benefits. For instance, the invalidation of DOMA may have an impact on qualified plans of employees and health insurance coverage. The IRS has already said it will treat legally married same-sex couples the same as traditional married couples.
7. Background checks. This has been an increased focus of the EEOC in recent years. How far can you go when looking into a job candidate’s history? Employers should become educated about the boundaries and be prepared to meet an EEOC challenge.
Where does your company stand on these issues? When needed, take steps to revise your policies and procedures. Plan ahead for this year and beyond.