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Opinion: Law changes impact working mothers, remote employees

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Several federal laws have been enacted and clarified, with effective dates beginning immediately or in the next few months. We’ll take a look at six of them.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Effective June 27, the PWFA grants a pregnant employee accommodations similar to, but more expansive than, the Americans with Disabilities Act. Unlike the ADA, the PWFA applies to a staff member temporarily unable to perform the essential functions of the job due to pregnancy, childbirth or related medical conditions, even after pregnancy. The pregnant or postpartum condition is not required to meet the definition of disability under the ADA. To activate a reasonable accommodation, an associate is required to communicate limitations experienced. The law applies to employers covered by Title VII.

Providing Urgent Maternal Protections for Nursing Mothers Act
As of April 28, the PUMP Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act by expanding mandates for breastfeeding accommodations to include exempt and telework team members. In addition, businesses must provide break time to express breast milk, without compensation, unless one of three conditions exist: first, if compensation for breaks is a company policy; second, if the person is completely relieved from duty during the entire break; and third, if compensation is required by another federal, state or local law.

Organizations with a workforce of fewer than 50 remain exempt if compliance would impose an undue hardship. Before filing suit for noncompliance, a worker is required to provide a 10-day notice, allowing the company to follow the law and avoid liability. A new FLSA poster must be displayed.

Remote Workers: Department of Labor, FLSA Guidance
The workday is determined by the amount of time the job holder actually spends on the activity hired to perform, regardless of scheduled shift or hours. Accurate recordkeeping must be maintained of hours worked for an individual to be properly compensated. Breaks longer than 20 minutes and bona fide meal breaks of 30 minutes or more are not compensable, unless an employee is not completely relieved of duty. “Completely relieved of duty” is defined in one of two ways. First, the staff member is given prior notification to leave the job and not work until a specified time. Second, the corporation permits the associate to freely decide the time to resume working, and the break is long enough to be used for personal purposes.

Remote Workers: Family and Medical Leave Act
An enterprise must comply with the FMLA if 50 personnel are employed within a 75-mile radius from the firm’s work site. The remote worker’s personal residence is not considered a work site under the FMLA. The work site is defined as the office the team member reports to or from where the assignments are issued.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Effective April 19, businesses utilizing an external agency to perform background checks must ensure the agency provides applicants with the new Summary of Rights notice. The form may also be provided to employers for dissemination to applicants.

DOL Religious Exemption Rule
In general, qualifying religious organizations falling under the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs may make employment decisions based upon acceptance of and adherence to religious tenets. However, religious enterprises may not insist on acceptance and adherence if doing so results in a violation of the other nondiscrimination provisions regarding race, sex and sexual orientation.

In light of the new laws and guidance, companies must take three steps: first, ensure current practices are in compliance; second, update policies, forms and employee handbooks; and third, conduct management and workforce training.

Keeping up with these changes can help ensure smooth operations in your business.

Lynne Haggerman holds a master of science in industrial organizational psychology and is president/owner of Lynne Haggerman & Associates LLC, specializing in management training, retained search, outplacement and human resource consulting. She can be reached at lynne@lynnehaggerman.com.

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