New for 2022: Employment Compliance Trends

Alyssa Wolslegel

Associate Editor

Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2023

2021 brought on many challenges never faced before for employers, most of which surrounded the central issue of working from home. Employers struggled to keep employees focused with all the distractions of being at home, technology connectivity issues, and making sure employees could still stay connected on a personal level with co-workers. While we may finally be shifting slightly away from the work from home space, 2022 will bring on a whole new variety of employment compliance issues that companies will need to tackle. Now that employees are coming back to the office, the focus will be shifted from managing work from home experiences to minimum wage increases, discrimination protections, and marijuana legalizations just to name a few.

Trends to watch out for

With the “Great Resignation” starting in 2021 and continuing through this year, employers will struggle to keep employees without raising their pay. In a recent study, sixty-three percent of workers cited low wages as the primary reason for leaving their job. With the plethora of jobs available in the country right now, employees have no issue leaving their current job for a new opportunity because there is a great likelihood they will find something that pays better. Additionally, twenty-five states and Washington D.C. will be raising their minimum wage in 2022. This minimum wage increase will likely scale all wages upward because employees who were not considered minimum wage workers will not want to suddenly be classified as such and might leave for a different job that will pay them more. Unless employers want to continue to have high turnover rates, they will have to raise pay for employees to end the “Great Resignation.”

Additionally, 2022 will bring more discrimination protections for employees and protections for those who come forward with discrimination or harassment complaints. New York has recently passed new laws strengthening employee protections due to the Andrew Cuomo probe. These laws provide greater protections for employees who come forward with harassment or discrimination complaints against others including a confidential hotline that will provide assistance for employees. As more and more states pass these protections due to the increased conversation surrounding retaliations faced when coming forward with claims, companies will need to adhere to these new laws or proactively enact new protocols and assistance to employees looking to file reports. These kinds of protections are very appealing to employees, especially women, because it makes them feel safe in the workplace, something that is important to retain employees.

Finally, another trend to look out for in employee compliance will be company policies surrounding marijuana use now that more states are beginning to legalize it. As of the beginning of 2021, 18 states have legalized marijuana for recreational use and 39 states have legalized marijuana for medical use. The federal government is also considering legalizing marijuana but there’s no indication they will act in the near future. Many employees across the country are confused as to whether they can still be tested and punished for use of the substance, even if it is legal in their state. The simple answer is, yes, employers can still test and punish an employee for marijuana use if it chooses to do so. Those who work with heavy machinery and equipment can still be punished for marijuana use in order to comply with OSHA regulations, but those in an office or low risk setting may see revised employee policies in 2022.

So, what should employees look out for?

Based on current compliance trends, employees seem to be in control when it comes to the workforce. There is a surplus of jobs and not enough workers to fill them giving employees the upper hand when it comes to choosing their employment. Employers now must pay attention to what potential candidates are seeking in a job and fight for them rather than candidates fighting each other to look better for the job. Employees should also pay attention to which companies are listening and enacting protections for employees who come forward with discrimination and harassment complaints because those companies should be lifted up an applauded. Finally, employees should look to their employer’s rules concerning marijuana, even if it is legal in their state, before they can let their guard down when it comes to recreational use because while the federal government has the ultimate say over the legality of its use, the company may still impose different rules on its workforce.