A Guide to Recent Employment Law Changes

July 14, 2023

This summer, there are several changes to employee rights laws and a substantial increase in fines applied if you are found in violation of those laws.

Make no mistake about it — junior auditors at the Department of Labor have one way to get promoted to senior auditors! They collect a lot of fines.

When new laws come out, it’s game-on to see if employers are in compliance. And the tire and auto service industries are traditional targets. There were 550 investigations in our industry in 2021. The second largest automotive battery maker in the U.S. was just fined $22 million for wage violations.

While our industry isn’t known for our diversity when it comes to female employment, we have more females employed in our stores and corporate offices than ever, which is why you need to be aware of the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act.

This law took effect at the end of 2022. It requires full-time or part-time employees who are nursing to have the right to a private space — no windows or cameras and a lock and a room — and sufficient break time to pump milk. (Bathrooms don’t count.)

The law also stipulates the employee gets to dictate the frequency as each mother has different needs regarding when the pumping has to be done. Each employee is covered for one year after a child is born.

The usual “employers with less than 50 employees” are exempt. However, special language was included where smaller companies would have to prove “an undue hardship” if they are unable to accommodate. (My advice is to adopt the policy.)

Furthermore, the nursing employee must be completely relieved of duties or must be paid for the break time. If you already provide two breaks a day that are paid and the employee chooses to use those breaks to pump, you must continue to pay the employee. Additional pump breaks do not require compensation, as long as the employee isn’t performing any work.

The next new law is the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. This law went into effect last month. Many people may recognize that pregnant workers are already covered against being fired or discriminated against for being pregnant. The difference between this and the new law is the addition of “reasonable accommodations.”

The new law will require an update to an Equal Employment Opportunity Act poster every tire dealership has to hang in its shop or shops. Please make sure you put the poster up right away. This is the easiest way an auditor can get his or her foot in the door. A simple poster violation is found and then the audit is expanded to scrutinize your payroll, interview employees and more. Don’t provide this opening. (By the way, keep in mind that new fathers also are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act, though this is unpaid leave in 39 states.)

Be careful with the term “reasonable accommodations.” It is used frequently in labor laws. By definition, it means an employer is required to adjust the workplace for a person or people with unique requirements protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), unless to do so would cause undue hardship. A pregnant woman and nursing mother are technically covered under the ADA.

Employment law favors the employee, so undue hardship is scrutinized closely. An example is you interview someone for a sales job. They have 10 years of experience and use a wheelchair. You determine they have the right skills and attitude to be an employee.

Reasonable accommodation requires there be access to your facility by flat surface, such as creating a short concrete ramp where a curb existed; lowering of a portion of your sales counter, so the new employee can answer phones and customer questions; and installation of doors that are wide enough for the wheelchair to easily enter. These are only a handful of examples.

A non-reasonable accommodation would be installing a $100,000 elevator that would transport the employee from the stock room to your shop’s basement. Other accommodations or job requirements can be modified to alleviate the employee of that responsibility.

Remember, if you ever overcompensate for reasonable accommodations, like installing that elevator, in the eyes of the law you have now made that the threshold for reasonable accommodation at your location. Don’t overcompensate.

And finally, a word about changes to the fines for violations regarding employment. Here are fines associated with not hanging various required posters in your shop on time:

  • Family Medical Leave Act poster ($204 fine);
  • Know Your Rights poster ($659 fine);
  • Job Safety and Health poster ($15,625 fine);
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (a whopping $24,793 fine)

That’s just the posters — not an actual violation of anything covered by them. Please note, these posters need to be displayed in a prominent, easy access place and the posters cannot be defaced in any manner.

For those of you looking for full definitions and manuals to be compliant in all areas, https://www.dol.gov/agencies/whd/ is a good website. You also can sign up for newsletters to keep you updated.

About the Author

Dennis McCarron

Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers Inc., one of the leading brokers in the tire and automotive industry (www.cardinalbrokers.com.) To contact McCarron, email him at [email protected].