There are two business days left until we hit 2017, so this is a good time for a handful of parting thoughts on the employment law landscape, plus some suggestions on how to hit the ground running in the New Year.

2016 saw significant developments and refinements in many areas of employment law.  Watch for more of that to continue next year, with a special eye out towards equal pay and disability issues.  The impact of technology on the workplace will be a persistent theme not just in 2017 but for the foreseeable future.  Get to know what “artificial intelligence” is.  You’re going to be hearing a lot about it, and it may affect your company or even your job.

New Jersey’s minimum wage rises to $8.44, and increase of $.06 per hour, effective January 1, 2017. 

There is a new I-9 form, Employment Eligibility Verification, to be completed for new hires.  The new form kicks in on January 22.  Information here.  Employers take notice.

When was the last time that you reviewed your employee handbook?  A handbook should not just be based on a a form that checks certain boxes, but a vital document that is geared to how your company does business.   Experience is a great teacher.  Did 2016 teach you new things about what works and what doesn’t among the policies in your company handbook?  Now is a logical time to make adjustments.  And yes, we will suggest that you do the same thing when we approach New Year 2018.

Take a day to make sure that your files and agreements (employment, confidentiality, etc.) are signed and up to date.  A little time expended now may save you a lot of angst in the future.

One of the best things that you can do to prepare in 2017 is to stay educated about developments in employment law.  There are many good employment law blogs; we suggest that you subscribe to several, hopefully including this one.  For New Jersey businesses it’s important to keep up with the specifics of New Jersey law.  As we often remind you, most of the states operate under federal employment law.  New Jersey and several others are different.  NJ has its own law, the Law Against Discrimination, which is more pro-employee than federal law.  In fact, I’ve heard it said in public that it is prima facie legal malpractice for a New Jersey plaintiff’s attorney to file an employment law complaint in federal court. I think that’s a little too broad, but it contains a large measure of truth. 

We are planning a series of conveniently scheduled free webinars, about which we will have more news soon.  These will be a great way to keep current in an entertaining format.

Finally, if you don’t already have an employment lawyer in whom you have confidence, take the time to get to know a few.  That way, when the inevitable problems arise you will know exactly where to go for the guidance that you need.

And with that we thank everyone for a great 2016.  Happy New Year!  We look forward to more and better in 2017.