I do my best to stay up to date with developments in the law. A couple of weeks ago, I posted an entry relating to federal legislation that is proposed that will impact employers. In turn, I chose to review proposed state legislation relating to employment matters. While there were not too many, there are two that may be of interest to employers.
Senate Bill 12: Protective Orders & Employment
Senate Bill 12 has two components. First, it provides that an individual who is terminated from employment due to circumstances directly related to the individual's filing a petition for a protective order will not be disqualified from unemployment benefit eligibility. Second, it provides that an employer may not discriminate against an employee in regards to terms and conditions of employment based on the employee's filing for a protective order, regardless of whether the protective order is actually issued.
This will have practical implications for employers if one employee files a protective order against another employee. This invariably presents a complicated situation for the employer as they carefully consider how to proceed. The first concern for an employer will be the safety of its workforce. But this bill reminds employers to carefully weigh the facts of each specific issue and to avoid rushing to judgment or making hasty decisions.
The bill does account for some of these issues, providing that an employer and employee may mutually agree to alter the location of employment, the compensation or benefits of an employee, or the terms or conditions of employment without incurring liability. But concerns arise where the employee who filed the protective order has a grudge against another employee, and refuses to consent to a reassignment to resolve the matter. The bill may be changed as time goes on, but it is something for employers to keep in mind if this arises among its workforce.
House Bill 1029: Off Duty Use of Tobacco by Prospective Employees
House Bill 1029 is also interesting, although it may not have broad implications. Indiana Code 22-5-4-1 protects employees and prospective employees from discrimination on the basis of the use of tobacco during off-work hours.
House Bill 1029 would remove the protection afforded to prospective employees. Specifically, it would delete the words "or prospective employees" from the statute, effectively permitting an employer to require that a prospective employee refrain from using tobacco products, even if that restriction applies to off-work hours. It would further eliminate a prospective employee's right to file a civil lawsuit against the employer for doing the same.
Employers should note that current employees would still be protected from discrimination on the basis of tobacco use during off-work hours, and still have the right to file a civil lawsuit against an employer if the employer violates the law.
Both SB 12 and HB 1029 are in the very early stages of the legislative process and may not make it through and are almost certain to be changed if they are passed. But if they do become law, employers should keep them in mind when an employee files a protective order or they look to hire new employees.
If you have questions regarding the above, or other human resource compliance matters, please contact Burke Costanza & Carberry LLP