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The new year rings in new laws and changes in laws that employers and employees alike should know about.

Workers in 24 states and 48 cities and counties will earn more money with an increase in the minimum wage in 2020, according to the National Employment Law Project. And more than 1 million workers nationwide will benefit from changes in the Fair Labor Standards Act rules on overtime pay.

Drivers in Massachusetts need to be aware of the ban on hand-held cellphone use that will take effect Feb. 23. Companies that employ drivers also should be familiar with the new law and its penalties.

A spending bill passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump includes two measures that had been backed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). The “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans and two other Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxes have been repealed. The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act, which calls for compliance changes to 401K and pension plans, was passed.

The Internal Revenue Service has redesigned the W-4 form employees file for withholding federal income tax from their pay. Although Massachusetts didn’t change the state tax withholding form, 18 other states revised their forms.

  • Minimum wage: The minimum wage will reach $15 or higher in 17 states and municipalities in 2020. In Massachusetts, the minimum wage was raised to $12.75 an hour Jan. 1, up from $12 an hour in 2019. The state’s minimum wage will increase every year until it hits $15 in 2023.
  • Overtime pay: The Department of Labor last year raised the salary threshold for overtime pay. As of Jan. 1, employees who earn less than $684 per week, or $35,568 a year, will be eligible for overtime pay of time and a half if they work more than 40 hours a week. The salary level was raised from $455 per week, or $23,660 annually.
  • Hand-held cellphone ban: Massachusetts passed a ban on hand-held cellphone use by drivers last year. The law will take effect Feb. 23, but it includes a grace period until March 31 during which police officers are only allowed to issue warnings for a first offense. Under the law, the fine for a first offense will be $100; second offense $250; and third or subsequent offenses $500.
  • Cadillac tax: The “Cadillac tax,” which was scheduled to take effect in 2022, was a 40 percent excise tax on high-cost, employer-sponsored health plans. Taxes on health insurance and medical devices also were repealed.
  • SECURE Act: Provisions of the law include: making it less expensive for small businesses to set up 401K accounts by increasing the tax credit on start-up costs; allowing small businesses to jointly offer retirement plans to their workers through Multiple Employer Plans (MEPs); and delaying the age for required withdrawals from retirement plans from 70 ½ to 72.
  • W-4 Forms: Find information about the redesign of the W-4 form on the IRS website.

If you’d like more information about any of the new laws or changes in existing laws, contact me at melodybeachconsulting@gmail.com.

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace have become hot issues. They are important both for compliance and for increasing the bottom line.

Employers who don’t embrace diversity and inclusion will face issues, including loss of productivity, if employees don’t work together well. Employers must be more inclusive to be attractive, or the employer of choice, to job seekers.

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Keep it fair – Avoid these hiring pitfalls

Some company officials talk about the importance of diversity in the workplace, but they aren’t following through with their recruiting or hiring practices.

Employers believe that posting positions internally and externally increases the diversity of the group of applicants. But if the employer has an internal employee in mind for the position and hires that person after posting the job externally, the decision may result in a lawsuit. If the employee handbook says all positions will be posted internally and externally, however, the employer must follow that policy or face being accused of discrimination. HR policies should allow exceptions.

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Workshops

No workshop is scheduled in January, but contact me if there’s a topic you’d like to hear about in an upcoming workshop.

AFFILIATED ORGANIZATIONS

Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA)
Northeast Human Resources Association (NEHRA)
Webster Dudley Business Alliance (WDBA)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)
AARP (American Association of Retired Persons)
PARWCC The Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches Woman in Business (WIB)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
BNI Referral Champions Worcester Chapter
BNI Referral Champions Worcester Chapter
Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Chamber of Commerce Central South Mass (CCSM)
50+ Job Seekers
Massachusetts Councils on Aging (MCOA)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce
Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) of Central Massachusetts
Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) of Central Massachusetts
Women's Information Network (WIN)
Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce

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Melody L. Beach Consulting Group, Human Resources, Southbridge, MA