13 Jan 2022

Employment Law Changes: 8 Topics to Watch in 2022

employment law changes 2022

Employment law changes aren’t all too common on a national level. However, the pandemic and the increasingly remote workforce have companies examining their policies and bylaws. Across the country, this includes aspects of both severance agreements and employee agreements. 

Why is this important for Texas workers? As trends take hold, they impact your health, your rights as an employee, and even your ability to sue your employer. Below, we take a brief look at some of the core employment law changes to watch in 2022. 

#1 Vaccine Mandates & Test Mandates

Oftentimes, employment laws are set at the state level. For instance, Governor Abbott issued an executive order to ban vaccine mandates in Texas. However, as the Supreme Court weighs the constitutionality of these mandates, it’s important to take note. 

The Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) is a federal law that impacts employees of companies with at least 100 workers. The deadline, which passed earlier this week, required workers to provide proof of vaccination by January 10, 2022. 

Alternatively, they have the option to wear face coverings and submit to tests on a weekly basis beginning February 9. The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on this matter days before the deadline passed. However, with a decision still pending, it leaves everyone to navigate murky waters. 

#2 Paid & Unpaid Leave 

In 2021, many states expanded paid leave. Now, four states along with Washington D.C. have plans to either add paid leave, modify existing laws, or change legislation on unpaid leave this year. As we watch for employment law changes, it’s important to note this trend toward the expansion of paid leave. 

Additionally, it’s noteworthy that several states are considering mandatory bereavement leave. For instance, California recently added protective leave when employees need to care for their in-laws. Moreover, Oregon now allows employees to take leave during a public health emergency after working an average of 25 hours per week for the past 30 days. 

#3 Artificial Intelligence & Discrimination

As of the first of the year, employers who rely solely on A.I. to select candidates for interviews have to report their data on the race and ethnicity of applicants who are or are not selected. Additionally, they must show this data for the applicants to hire. 

While this encompasses more about the workplace than employment law changes, it feels likely that more states will follow this lead.

#4 Whistleblower Protections

On both coasts, states expanded protections for whistleblowers. In New York, they expanded protections to former employees and independent contractors starting in 2022. California enacted the Silenced No More Act. 

This act expands the prohibition of provisions in settlement agreements that require disclosure. While it initially only encompassed sexual harassment cases, it now covers other forms of harassment and discrimination. In laymen’s terms, it allows victims who accept a settlement to share their experiences with the public. 

Additionally, this law restricts non-disparagement agreements as a condition with employment, bonuses, raises, etc. 

#5 Mandatory Arbitration & Jurisdiction Cases

If you are a remote worker for a business in a different state, it’s crucial to pay attention to your employment agreement. Specifically, look for jurisdiction clauses and mandatory arbitration clauses. These terms determine the set of laws that govern the employee-employer relationship. 

Moreover, this has the potential to restrict your right to request a trial for disputes. For instance, state laws might determine how much paid or unpaid leave an employer offers. Additionally, it may determine how unused paid leave is paid out upon termination. 

Oftentimes, arbitration favors the employer. As such, it is crucial to be wary of what you sign. 

#6 Non-Compete Agreements

In Oklahoma and California, state laws ban the enforcement of non-compete agreements. However, several other states recently took steps to limit the scope of these agreements. While some restrict the time frame, others target the qualifying salaries. 

In Oregon, companies can no longer enforce agreements that last over 12 months. Moreover, the state prohibited these agreements for employees who earn under $100,533 each year. 

Similarly, Washington set a limit of around $100,000 for employees and $250,000 for independent contractors. On the other hand, Illinois implements a ceiling of $75,000 starting the first of this year. 

In some states, they took these measures a step further. They required paid “gardening leave.” This means that when an employee resigns or is laid off, they receive all or a portion of their salary during the period of their non-compete agreement. 

#7 Anti-Discrimination

When it comes to discrimination, there are more employment law changes to watch in 2022. In parts of North Carolina and Oregon, we can see amendments to the anti-discrimination statutes. Now, they include natural hairstyles. 

Here in Texas, employers can no longer ask about the criminal history of applicants on initial applications for most positions.

#8 Freedom of Expression

While there are no major employment law changes for freedom of speech, workers have more clarity. Specifically, there’s more of an understanding about what can and cannot be the subject of discussion on social media. 

For example, under the National Labor Relations Act, employees have the right to discuss the conditions of their employment. This includes aspects such as pay and safety. However, does not cover complaints about something from the workplace that doesn’t violate a law. 

Employment Law Changes & You

While not all of the employment law changes listed above impact Texas employees, it’s important to understand your rights as a worker. Moreover, it’s good to stay aware of what trends there are across other states. 

If you have questions about recent employment law changes or a concern about your workplace, it’s important to contact an employment attorney. Houston workers often reach out to Craighead Law Firm for consultations on potential violations. 

When you need assistance, reach out to an advocate you trust.

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