Harassment, Workplace Violence Most Challenging Employer Issues Of 2018

Cyber security, workforce planning, immigration, medical marijuana, the Affordable Care Act also among the big challenges facing employers in 2018, according to a new XpertHR survey.

Harassment, workplace violence, cyber security, workforce planning, immigration, medical marijuana, and the Affordable Care Act are among the most difficult challenges facing employers in 2018, according to a new XpertHR survey of over 1,000 human resource professionals. The survey found changes in the workplace, government, society, culture, and legal landscape translate into considerable challenges and obstacles for employers.

harassmentFrom entertainment to Fortune 500 companies to the media to the halls of Congress, it seems that sexual harassment has become an even greater risk for employers as the issue has boiled up and come to the forefront in recent months.

“An employer needs to be particularly vigilant regarding acts of harassment in the workplace because the employer may be liable and face Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charges, legal complaints, fines, and penalties on top of negative press and damage to its reputation,” says Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR.

Another issue keeping employers up at night is workplace violence. In this unfortunate age of mass shootings, bomb threats, and terrorist attacks, workplace safety and preparing for an act of workplace violent is paramount. Active shooter situations and other violent events are devastating and unpredictable and can evolve and escalate very quickly. Unfortunately, the frequency of these incidents has increased in recent years, often occurring in a place of business. The XpertHR survey found that 45% of respondents identified preparing for, or responding to, an active shooter or workplace violence as very or extremely challenging.

In the age of marijuana legalization, addressing and managing drug use and drug testing remains one of the most challenging issues for employers. Thirty-five percent of survey respondents feel very or extremely challenged by managing employees who use marijuana medically or recreationally and 32% found addressing the impact of substance abuse (such as heroin and opioid addictions) on the workplace to be very or extremely challenging.

“Just as with alcohol, it is lawful to prohibit an employee from bringing both lawful and unlawful drugs to work and use such substances on the job because of the risks drug use may have on the safety and productivity in the workplace,” explains Zoller. “Employers need to stay on top of federal, state and local developments as this is a rapidly evolving and changing issue.”

With so much critical information stored on the cloud, data breaches carry high costs in terms of time, money, and resources and may also tarnish an employer’s public image and reputation. In fact, the XpertHR survey revealed that 64% of respondents viewed data security and the threat of a cyber breach as very or extremely challenging. Thus, employers must be particularly vigilant about safeguarding and protecting confidential information and protecting against cyber breaches.

With an evolving workforce and changing societal demographics, workforce planning is another top challenge for employers. In today’s increasingly global environment, 21st century employers need to respond to both external and internal factors that shape and impact the recruiting, hiring, and retention of workers. Employers must face critical issues such as the rise of gig economy, the increased use of technology and automation at work and to conduct work, and how to address the management of five generations in the workforce. In addition, the White House’s policies towards immigration and travel bans make it difficult to for employers to recruit a diverse workforce.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the uncertain future of health care continues to plague many employers, as 46% of survey respondents viewed the ACA as very or extremely challenging and 40% of respondents viewed ACA reporting as very or extremely challenging.

Given the gridlock and inaction on the federal level, states and local governments in cities and in counties have taken the lead and actively sought to address workplace issues by enacting laws and regulations affecting employers and employees. State and local governments are taking steps to address emerging issues such as leave, especially paid sick leave and family leave, pay equity (including salary history bans), and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

“On the other hand, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is sure to have an impact on labor and employment law cases and ensure a conservative majority in favor of employers and management-side issues,” says Beth Zoller, Legal Editor, XpertHR. “The roll back of agency authority and more restrictive policies of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the EEOC will potentially have a positive impact on employers who may be subject to less regulations.”

A copy of the full survey white paper is available online.