A Couple Action Items for HR in 2015

I. Should you add sexual orientation and transgender status to your harassment/discrimination policies?
As most HR professionals know, federal law does not facially include sexual orientation or trans-gender status as protected categories. And, while some states and cities have passed their own laws protecting these groups, leaving employers to comply with a patchwork of state and local laws  (Houston, Texas passed such an ordinance in 2014.), neither Louisiana nor Baton Rouge have done so. However, the United States Attorney General issued a memorandum in December 2014, making clear the federal government’s position that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 should be interpreted as covering transgender employees.

Thus, employers are far more likely to face a Title VII Charge of discrimination or harassment based upon one’s sexual orientation or transgender status in 2015 than ever before. As such, prudent employers should seriously consider the pros and cons of adding sexual orientation and transgender status to their harassment/discrimination policies as protected groups. If phrased properly, these policy changes should help protect an employer from claims of harassment or discrimination without giving an employee or application a cause of action that does not yet exist in the law.

II.  Are you complying with the new OSHA regulations?
As you all know by now, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s revised illness and injury regulations took effect January 1, 2015. The new regulations include a number of changes to the current reporting system. The new regulation requires employers to report within 24 hours any workplace illness or injury that results in hospital admittance.  Prior regulations only required employers to report non-fatal hospitalizations of three or more employees. The new regulations require amputations or loss of an eye to be reported within 24 hours. Fatalities must still be reported within eight hours.
The OSHA regulations also change the categories of businesses required to maintain workplace illness and injury logs. For the first time, automobile dealerships, elder and disabled persons care organizations and other specified industries must keep OSHA 300 logs. OSHA eliminated the recordkeeping requirement for some businesses deemed to be low risk.
Employers should ensure that they have written policies in place to comply with the new OSHA regulations and that their supervisors are trained in how to do so.

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