The Increasing Complexity of Employment Law

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Employment law is not as straightforward as it used to be. The rules used to be fairly simple – treat everyone the same and you’ll probably be okay most of the time. However, employment law has grown more complicated over time as federal, state, and local governments do their best to protect everyone. These changes are not bad, but they do make compliance with the laws more complex and difficult.

One area of increasing complexity has been the growth of disability discrimination cases. Qualified employees with disabilities may be entitled to accommodations to help them do their jobs. These accommodations may include special treatment or special consideration for a job opening, even if the disabled employee is not the most qualified for the open position. This was the first time the law stated that it was not enough to treat all employees the same, as some disabled employees require more favorable treatment under the law to be protected. It can be a tricky question to determine how to best accommodate a disabled employee’s needs in a reasonable way for your business.

Another thing that has made employment law more complex is the rise of local employment laws. At one time, employers could count on the law being substantially the same around the country, or at least within one state. However, that is not always the case now. For example, while Ohio’s minimum wage is $8.15 per hour, Cleveland has set its minimum wage for city employees at $15.00 per hour and has spent much of the past two years considering a $15.00 per hour minimum wage for all employees, public and private, within city limits. Although Ohio passed a law to prevent its cities from setting their own minimum wages, that law was subsequently struck down as unconstitutional.

Cities have taken other steps to pass their own laws where they did not believe the federal or state government had gone far enough. For example, discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation does not violate Ohio law, and federal law does not explicitly ban sexual orientation discrimination. However, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and several other larger Ohio cities and counties have their own laws in place to ban such discrimination. As such, employers cannot assume the law will be the same in different cities or counties anymore.

These changes have made the rules more difficult for employers, but they are not impossible to navigate as long as you have good help. More than ever, employers need to stay on top of changes in the law and make sure they know the current requirements everywhere they do business. It helps to have a good employment lawyer who works with these laws regularly and is familiar both with the complexities of the laws and the differences in law from place to place. Don’t hesitate to contact your employment lawyer before making decisions that impact your employees.

Barnes & Thornburg LLP is a large, full-service law firm that seeks to take a more entrepreneurial and cost-effective approach both to client service and its own business.

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