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FFL changes to watch for in employment laws
The new administration has come in with some notable changes. One noticeable area of change is in how the administration is approaching labor relations. The new administration has demonstrated that it is more employee-friendly than the previous administration. Just five days into the Biden admiration we have already seen a handful of policy changes that employers should be wise enough to watch out for. The following are the three key policy areas that business owners should keep up to date with both at the federal and state level.
The president signed an executive order that calls for the government to take swift action to reduce the risk to the worker during the ongoing pandemic. The bill instructs OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, to revise guidance to employers on workplace safety during the pandemic and to issue new standards regarding the pandemic where necessary. The administration will look into such measures as mask-wearing in the workplace, safety enforcement efforts, and retaliation against employees. The executive order also encourages OSHA to be more proactive in enforcement of COVID-19 related workplace safety regulations and to swiftly investigate any cases that involve inadequate safety precautions at the workplace.
Various states have however also started the process of creating legislation that would protect employers from cases involving liability due to COVID-19. Most of these laws do not protect the employer where their actions or inactions constitute gross misconduct. However, such gross misconduct needs to be determined in court. Employers must make sure that they keep current on what OSHA’s new regulations are and how they interact with their state laws.
The firearm industry, which has been experiencing a higher-than-normal customer volume, needs to make sure they abide by set safety regulations. All business owners in this industry should for instance make sure they keep track of possible COVID-19 infections in their business premises. Employees in these types of businesses are considered to be at medium to low-risk for contracting COVID-19. Nonetheless, business owners should ensure that they provide adequate PPE for all employees. Where possible, business owners should also provide windows or barriers to separate employees from customers.
Business owners in the firearm industry also need to establish protocols on disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and provide supplies to facilitate the same. Employees should for instance be instructed to wipe down frequently touched surfaces such as firearms, door handles, and telephones.
It is also in the business’ best interests to make sure these procedures are documented and that all employees also sign off on safety training.
The federal minimum wage has not increased since 2009 when it was raised to $7.25. In 2019, 392,000 employees earned minimum wage while 1.2 million earned wages that were below the minimum wage. On January 26th, a bill was introduced that would instantaneously raising the minimum wage to $9.50, and progressively have it increased to $15.00 over five years. The plan would therefore likely result in the federal minimum wage hitting $15 per hour by 2025.
Twenty-five states have already individually raised their minimum wage. California has the highest minimum wage, with the rate being $14.00 an hour for large employers.
Many parties believe that such a rise in the minimum wage will disproportionately hurt small family-owned and midsized businesses. These businesses will have to raise their prices to make up the additional labor cost if they are to survive. However, doing so will drive more people to purchase online which will then drive down business for these small businesses. Ultimately some of these small businesses will have to close down, leaving only big-box retailers in operation.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act)
Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA 2021) which drew bipartisan support in Congress, employers have been allowed to voluntarily carry forward the two elements of the CARES Act – the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Emergency Family and Medical Leave (EFMLA) – through March 31, 2021.
Existing requirements such as documentation and max payout amount still need to be followed by employers. However, it is not every day that employers get to pick to extend a benefit. Nonetheless, employers should take caution to apply these provisions fairly and ensure that all employees are aware of the benefit.
With all the changes to federal law and states adopting new laws and regulations, feel free to reach out to EmployerESource with any questions that you might have for swift assistance.