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What is your company's HR department working on this year?

We came across an article recently that was, on its face, directed at employers. The author was alerting company operations managers and human resource professionals to key employment law issues that might be coming up during 2016. This got us to thinking: Not every employer has the resources to monitor trends and to anticipate changes to, for example, wage and hour laws. There are employers, too, that are reluctant to adapt, unhappy with the legal landscape that has evolved over the past couple of years.

It is important, then, that employees keep an eye out for law changes that could affect them. If you do not know how the law protects you and your job, it is that much harder to know when your boss or your boss' boss is stepping over that line.

LGBT rights: The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last summer that legalized same-sex marriage was only part of the changes affecting LGBT employees. Obergefell v. Hodges should have prompted employers to review and to amend, if necessary, many of their policies and practices. And not just equal employment opportunity and anti-discrimination policies -- benefit plans, family leave policies and tax documentation should be reviewed for compliance with the ruling.

As far as EEO and discrimination are concerned, Obergefell was really just the beginning. LGBT employees should be on the lookout for state or local law changes that ban discrimination based on sexual preference and gender identity. The federal government extended the protections of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to LGBT individuals in 2015, but legislatures and city councils may go even further.

Accommodations: In 2015, the Supreme Court also ruled that employers must accommodate the religious practices of employees and job applicants. The court also put employers on notice that denying pregnant workers accommodations that are granted to other employees could violate the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Again, employees should look for changes to policies and procedures that reflect these law changes.

Other issues: Sick leave, worker classification, the use of social media at work and the risks posed by ever-evolving personal technology should also be on employees' radar. And, of course, the Supreme Court has another few months to address any number of employment law issues, and Florida lawmakers can add their two cents along the way.

Source: Society for Human Resource Management, "Top 10 Legal Challenges Employers Will Face in 2016," Allen Smith, Jan. 8, 2016

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