It’s Not Too Late for New Year’s Resolutions: New Year, New Legal Issues for Employers
February 11, 2019 by Lincoln Derr
Nearly half of Americans make New Year’s resolutions – the most common resolutions are health related. But did you know that of those making New Year’s resolutions, most begin to abandon those resolutions roughly two weeks later? Resolution or not – your employees may be taking every opportunity to get up and moving while at work. With the rise in popularity of ride sharing options like bike sharing or electric scooters – or e-scooters, your employees have lots of options for getting exercise and getting around during the work day.
Riders can rent these bikes and scooters through mobile apps, immediately hit the road, and simply leave the rentals at their desired destinations for the next riders who happen to come along. Since e-scooters can reach speeds of nearly 20 miles per hour and neither mode of transportation mandates helmet use or pre-ride safety training, it should come as no surprise that accidents are on the rise – estimated at nearly 1,000 per month nationwide – and many involve employees catching a ride during work hours.
Employers should be prepared to address the many problems that could arise from bike/e-scooter sharing – that includes increased workers’ compensation claims, missed time by employees, and the potential for liability to those involved in accidents with your employees. While there are currently no laws on the books regarding an employer’s liability for work-related bike/e-scooter share accidents, it’s not unreasonable to think a court may treat these matters as if an employee was using his or her own car. Generally, employers would not be responsible for an employee using a bike or e-scooter to commute to or from work but could be if the employee uses the e-scooter during work hours to conduct company business or is on an errand for the employer while commuting to/from work.
Here are a few suggestions to consider as 2019 gets underway:
- As you review your current employee handbook and policies, don’t forget to include bikes and e-scooters in the section regulating the use of cars or other company vehicles.
- Consider requiring your employees wear proper safety equipment and participate in safety courses before renting and riding during the work day.
- Review your workers’ compensation and healthcare policies for potential coverage issues in the event your employees are hurt during work hours.
Employee Handbook & Policy Check-up
While we’re on the subject, the New Year is a great time to review your HR-related policies. Consider it an annual check-up for your employee handbook! Well-written, easy to read employee policies go a long way in setting employee expectations and preventing issues that might land your company in front of the EEOC, the DOL, or a jury of twelve. And if that’s not enough motivation, remember – spending the time and money now to update your policies could save you money in the long run.
Don’t believe me? Then check out the EEOC’s annual Performance and Accountability Report (2018 Performance and Accountability Report). Published on November 15, 2018 and clocking in at 96 pages, the Commission reports $505 million in financial settlements or jury awards during the 2018 fiscal year (which ended on September 30) for nearly 68,000 victims of discrimination in the workplace. That $505 million doesn’t account for the legal fees incurred or time away from the operation of business by the companies.
Employee handbooks aren’t one size fits all nor are they implement-and-forget-kind-of-documents. Employment law is one of the most rapidly changing areas of law, so pull out that employee handbook and make sure that your policies comply with the most current federal, state, and local laws. Lincoln Derr can help lead you through the process.