By Anne-Marie L. Storey, Esq.
There are many ways to interpret “workplace health”. The first is to ensure that basic policies, training, education, etc. are in place and working effectively. This may include the need for an audit of the workplace, including the handbook and postings. Each new year is a good time to review the handbook to be sure it continues to be compliant with state and federal law, but also that it continues to reflect your workplace culture. Also, this is a good time to re-evaluate benefits (such as sick, vacation, PTO) offered and ensure that no changes need to be made. Of course, we are anticipating changes to all leave policies based on the new Maine law, but those changes are pending direction from the DOL rule-making before that law takes effect next year.
This is also a good time to review your training on topics to include sexual and other forms of prohibited harassment. Although Maine law only requires sexual harassment training for employers with 15 or more employees, it is advisable for all employers to offer not only that training but also training on other forms of prohibited harassment to ensure that policies are effectively communicated.
As part of the healthy workplace audit, employers should also ensure that their minimum wage is current with the increase that became effective as of January 1, and that all exempt employees are correctly characterized under both the salary basis and duties tests. This should also include an assessment of any independent contractor to be as certain as possible that the individuals are correctly characterized.
Second, “workplace health” can include consideration of issues that continue to arise from use of drugs and alcohol in the workplace. For 2020, this is likely to also involve issues regarding use of CBD, including whether and how it can be regulated.
Third, “workplace health” can include an assessment of work practices for purposes of limiting workers’ compensation claims as much as possible, including safety procedures and best practices training.
Fourth, “workplace health” should include efforts to train supervisors about their varied obligations and responsibilities.
Another way to interpret “workplace health” is through wellness programs. We will be offering a Lunch and Learn this month to talk about wellness programs, including not just the potential benefit of such programs but also the legal risks they may create.
To the extent the RW Employment Team can assist with helping ensure your healthy workplace, we are happy to do so.