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June 2017 Update

Posted By Governmental Affairs Committee, Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On April 19th & 20th, the MO State Council of SHRM held its annual Legislative Conference in Jefferson City.  On April 19th, attendees were given the opportunity to meet with state lawmakers, in person, to let them know how pending workplace legislation directly affects our employers and us as HR professionals.  If you have never participated in a meeting with an elected official before, this unique experience gives attendees the opportunity to visit the offices of our state legislators along with other MO SHRM advocates.  SHRM’s Governmental Affairs team provides policy updates on pending HR-related proposals, as well as best practices on how HR professionals can share with lawmakers the ways that the proposals will impact their workplace. 

On April 20th, a full day of HR hot topics was presented by top employment law attorneys from across the state.  There were presentations on Paid Sick Leave Trends; Pregnancy Discrimination, Light Duty, and Disability Accommodation in the Workplace; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Issues in the Workplace; Social Media, Marijuana, Ban the Box, and Other Rapidly Changing Legal Issues; FLSA Update; and Trump & Greitens – What Employers Can Expect Under the New Administrations.  If you have not attended this conference in the past, I strongly urge you to consider attending next year.  It is a great opportunity to network with other HR professionals across the state as well as learn about current HR issues from legal experts in the field. 

 

Missouri News

On Friday, May 12th, the Missouri Legislature wrapped up the 2017 legislative session.  Unlike our federal Congress which meets most of the year, the Missouri Constitution specifies only a five-month legislative session, from early January through mid-May every year.  The following paragraphs explain the most recent progress made when the 2017 legislative session ended:  

 

Workers’ Compensation

Lawmakers approved a bill that will allow courts to consider whether plaintiff’s losses have been covered or reduced through other sources such as insurance, workers’ compensation or adjusted hospital billing.  SB 31 will stop plaintiffs from using inflated damages to trigger windfall-sized awards.

 

Workplace Laws

On May 12th, the Missouri General Assembly approved HB 1194, which will preempt and nullify all local laws establishing minimum wage rates higher than Missouri’s state minimum wage of $7.70/hour.  If Governor Greitens signs the legislation, it will not become effective until August 28, 2017.  Currently, the City of St. Louis’ minimum wage ordinance that went into effect on May 5th requires covered employers to pay workers $10/hour.   

 

SB 43 was passed by the MO legislature, and provides a long-awaited response to a series of Supreme Court decisions that lowered the bar in employment discrimination cases and opened the door to frivolous lawsuits against businesses.  For a decade, the court-constructed standard has made Missouri one of the easiest places in the country to sue a company and win.  Trial lawyers profited by exploiting this situation, which forced businesses into a defensive posture, stunting their ability to make necessary personnel decisions to address workplace problems.  SB 43 fixes this problem while ensuring that businesses engaging in the unacceptable act of discrimination are held accountable.  The bill awaits a signature from Governor Greitens.  If signed by Governor Greitens, which is anticipated, SB 43 will become effective on August 28, 2017. 

 

State Budget

A balanced budget was passed on time without tax increases. 

 

Federal News

OSHA- Delayed Reporting Requirement

As you may recall, the new OSHA reporting requirements rule went into effect January 1, 2017.  The compliance schedule was to be phased in over two years.  Establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation, or establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries, were to submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017.   

 

As of Wednesday, May 17th, OSHA has delayed this requirement, announcing it is not accepting electronic submissions of injury and illness logs at this time.  OSHA’s intent is to propose extending the July 1, 2017 date by which certain employers are required to submit the information from their completed 2016 Form 300A electronically.  Updates will be posted to the OSHA website, www.osha.gov, when available. 

 

EEOC

On April 4th, 2017, a federal appeals court ruled, for the first time, that federal nondiscrimination law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation.  The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upended three decades of precedent and set the issue up for review by the U.S. Supreme Court with its “landmark ruling”.  While the decision currently applies only in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, it affects employers nationwide. 

The EEOC already takes the position that the law prohibits sexual orientation discrimination and has been pursing such claims.  Because the 7th Circuit’s decision puts it at odds with other federal courts of appeals, the Supreme Court may soon weigh in on the issue.  So for now, given the EEOC’s position and the circuit court split, employers should proceed with caution.  Some experts suggest adding “sexual orientation” to their policies as an example of prohibited sex discrimination and adding sexual orientation harassment to training materials.     

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