The new year introduces fresh legislation across states and on a federal level, significantly impacting employers. From recruitment practices to hiring and retention, updates to existing law and new regulations may mean changing the way you source and search for candidates. Many new mandates apply to current workers, as well. Here are a few key trends to watch:
Beyond ‘Ban the Box’
In many states and at the federal level for government contractors, ‘Ban the Box’ laws prohibit employers from asking about past criminal history at the application process. These laws allow businesses to ask about previous convictions after a conditional offer of employment has been made. They require companies to assess the risk of hiring an applicant based on the type of conviction versus the work being performed. Most companies have adjusted hiring protocols to reflect these laws, whether or not they are required in their state, but updates to these regulations are ongoing.
A new trend in California and 28 other states are ‘Clean Slate’ laws. These rules automatically seal felony records after a specified time frame, essentially expunging criminal history. These laws, based on state criteria, are dependent on the nature of the offense. In California, non-sexual/sex offender-related, non-violent offenses meet the threshold, provided the sentence, parole or probation was completed. Non-violent crimes, like petty theft to high-level embezzlement, may be cleared from an applicant’s history, depending on the state’s guidelines.
In the past, a person had to petition the court to clear their criminal history record. There were guidelines on how and if it could be accomplished. These new laws automatically clear the record, without the petitioner’s request.
CROWN Acts: Protecting Hair-Based Rights
A new trend is to protect candidate and current employee rights based on their hairstyle. CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Acts prohibit race- and national origin-based hair discrimination. These laws have been passed in many states, including Illinois, Colorado and California. In some areas where there is no state-wide law, local CROWN Acts are in place, such as Broward County, Florida.
For organizations that require employees wear a hat, like quick-service restaurants, these laws may mean changing uniform policies. QSRs may have to find alternative options for headwear or accommodate different ways to wear the needed clothing item.
Mandating more background checks
In most states, background checks for workers in the childcare industry are mandatory. New laws are emerging that require background checks for volunteers, workers and even administrators in all organizations that provide any services to children.
In the past, typically only those who worked directly with children in a company or facility were required to pass a background screening test. These updates will necessitate businesses to assess all employees and volunteers if their organization provides any type of services to persons under 18 years of age. That could include custodial personnel, even if they work at the facility after hours; office and clerical workers; and director-level staff. It will be important to assure compliance with any laws where you do business.
Even if there is no such law in place locally, a best practice may be to conduct background checks on all workers who have any possible access to children. A preventative measure may be worthwhile to safeguard children as well as your business and its reputation.
PWFA: Supporting Pregnant Workers
The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), is expected to take effect on June 27, 2023. This new federal law will require employers with 15 or more workers to provide temporary and reasonable accommodations to employees for conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth. Similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act, accommodations must be reasonable and not pose an undue hardship on the business. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will shortly issue guidance on what is expected of employers to comply with the PWFA.
Cannabis legalization and Prior conviction pardons
In many states across the country, legislation decriminalizes the use of cannabis for medical and/or recreational purposes. Although federal law continues to maintain cannabis as an illegal substance, the government recently pardoned thousands of past offenders. In many states, those previously convicted of low-level marijuana crimes have also be pardoned. For business, these laws on the use of cannabis may require changing pre-employment drug testing to exclude any legally allowed substance. Because of these pardons, background checks that might have previously uncovered illegal cannabis use may no longer be accessible to employers.
Remaining current with laws that affect recruitment and hiring is critical for business to stay compliant. Keeping an eye on, and often adopting, trends in hiring practices may be a best practice to stay ahead of the curve. Protecting your organization saves money in the short-term and safeguards business for the long haul.