HR Hacks

Human resources can feel like an ever-changing target in small businesses today. Owners and managers do all they can to keep up with HR compliance, but there is always something new. Balancing this while trying to run a business can be difficult, but without employees you have nothing. Luckily, you can demystify human resources if you know what to look for. For 2018, we are keeping an eye on these key areas for small businesses, and if you do too, it will make tackling your human resources responsibilities a breeze.

Federal agencies and laws in Congress—The new Secretary of Labor was appointed in April 2017 and is still getting settled in the role. Secretary Alexander Acosta has a number of vacancies as of the first of this year, which slows down enforcement and new initiatives. What we do know is that the issue of a  salary cap for exempt employees is not dead. During his confirmation hearings, he stated that he believed the cap should be changed to the $31-33,000 range, so HR professionals are anticipating the overtime issue being revisited in 2018.

On top of this, Congress is considering a few new laws that will impact the definition of joint employers, and give employers that operate in multiple states a safe harbor provision for paid time-off. And then...there is tax reform. It will be interesting to see how all those issues impact our businesses. Keeping an eye on Congress is always key for small business owners, as employment related compliance can be a major issue.

Harassment in the workplace—This can’t be ignored with what is going on in the media. It is essential that all businesses have written policies, and train employees on the policy. A formal reporting process should be established, and employees need to feel comfortable coming forward to discuss issues if you want your business to stay out of the news.

State laws continue to weave a tangled web—every state is passing a variety of laws that impact employers, and local municipalities are making things even more complex by passing laws that impact small geographic regions. Be sure you know your obligations that impact:

  • Minimum wage
  • Paid time-off
  • Salary history information
  • Ban the box
  • Gender discrimination

Marijuana laws—While this is still a state issue, we have to keep a close eye on what the Federal Government may do to streamline the law and the enforcement. And, given the ease of travel these days, businesses have to consider how their policies and drug testing will be impacted if an employee uses marijuana in a state where it is legal for recreational use. We are seeing medical marijuana approved in many states as well, and complying with these regulations is another issue to be addressed. 

Employee handbooks—Your policies and procedures are only good if they are current. Often handbooks are written, and policies are added during the year. Management rarely goes through and reviews the full handbook to be sure it is current and encompasses all relevant laws. Review your handbook to be sure it includes all new obligations, states an employment at will relationship and discusses policies that are currently in force in your organization. Often, we forget to update handbooks for new technology such as using the employees’ own smart phones and accessing new websites and social media platforms.

HR Hacks

Bubble speech with cut out phrase "we are hiring" in the paper.

These are just a few high-level human resources issues we see impacting small businesses at the start of 2018. It is essential that the small business owner finds ways to stay on top of human resources compliance and best practices if they hope to keep top talent and stay out of the news.

Lori Kleiman continues to share tips and best practices on her website, and looks forward to continuing the conversation in a free webinar following the show, on April 17th. Learn more about the Global Pet Expo/Pet Store Pro webinar series online at