Why employers should keep an eye on the Legislature

There are a number of bills pending in the New Hampshire Legislature which, if passed, could have a significant impact on employers doing business in New Hampshire.

For some employers, the result may be unacceptable interference with work and production schedules, disruption of previously-negotiated labor agreements, morale issues and insufficient staffing due to leave entitlements and/or the loss of jobs to states with less onerous requirements, to name a few.

Trade and industry associations do a fine job of lobbying on these kinds of issues, but their work is not enough. CEOs, CFOs, operations managers, human resource professionals and industry consultants are encouraged to give serious and thoughtful consideration to the effect such legislation.

If the impact on business is problematic or there are “unintended consequences,” let it be known now. Executives are encouraged not only to keep close watch on these bills, but to also ensure that they are active participants in the deliberative process about them.

Business leaders in New Hampshire need to be active participants in the legislative arena on bills that will have a direct impact on their business and their employees. The enactment of laws can have detrimental effects, not only on one company or industry, but on the business climate in New Hampshire as a whole.

Business leaders are urged to take it upon themselves to:

• Develop a relationship and remain in contact with state senators and state representatives. New Hampshire’s legislators value hearing the opinion of their constituents and are mindful of the key role employers have in their communities.

• Make the time – and take the time – to maintain a dialogue with their elected delegation. Call legislators on prospective legislation that will negatively impact business. Speak directly and concisely of the effects of the legislation on their particular business – and, where possible, how it would affect employees.

• Ensure that advocacy efforts are inclusive: call to thank legislators for their efforts as well. Too often legislators only hear complaints from their constituencies. They need to hear – just as much, if not more — when they are having a positive impact.

• Put thoughts in writing. Publish a letter to the editor of a daily and/or weekly newspaper. Your thoughts should articulate the effects of the legislation and encourage community members to get involved.

• Testify in front of legislative committees and share your concerns and expertise. Putting a face and an identity to a voice and concern is a powerful thing.

• In large businesses, maintain a consistent dialogue with union leadership. They should be aware of the impact of such legislation on employees. Union leaders are articulate and influential advocates and understand the connection between pernicious legislation and its impact on job security and job growth.

• Invite legislators to visit your businesses and meet your employees. In sharing your story and your values with them, legislators will have a greater understanding on what happens in your building and how it truly adds to, and has a great impact on, your community.

Gov. John Lynch has made it a priority that New Hampshire needs to be a good place to do business. It will only remain such if business leaders are active in sharing with legislators their concerns about the negative effects of these bills. The price for inactivity or silence could allow interest groups with set agendas to define the motivations, interests, practices and values of New Hampshire’s businesses and the thousands of people who dedicate their time, energy, passion and attention to their industry and profession. Our jobs depend on it.

Start today by reviewing and considering the impact on your business, workforce and the state as a whole of the bills contained in the accompanying chart. Are there detrimental effects or “unintended consequences” that you anticipate? If so, take action.

Andrea Johnstone, a shareholder-director of the Concord law firm of Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell, is listed in “Best Lawyers in America” and is co-author of “Labor and Employment Law in New Hampshire.”

2006 Employment-related Bills

Bill # Title Summary
SB 267 Relative to the definition of employee and clarifying the criteria for exempting workers from employee status This bill would amend the definition of “employee” under the New Hampshire wage and hour, employment security, workers compensation and whistleblower statutes. The new definition of individuals who qualify as employees under these statutes increases the number of criteria which an individual must meet to be excluded from the definition of employee under state law.
SB 273 Relative to reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities This bill amends the New Hampshire Law Against Discrimination by requiring an employer (with 6 or more employees) to make reasonable accommodations to the known limitations of disabled employees or applicants for employment, unless such employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of the business of the employer. The proposed bill also prohibits employment discrimination based on the requirement of a reasonable accommodation.
HB 1133 Establishing the employee civic duty act This bill mandates that employers (with 6 or more employees) allow employees to take unpaid time from work for civic service and attendance (such as serving as a member of a public board). Employers may not require the use of personal time for such absences from work. The bill includes a mechanism by which an employer can ask for an exemption from the department of labor on a case-by-case basis.
HB 1138 Relative to required pay for employees called into work This bill requires employers to pay an employee a minimum of 4 hours’ pay at his/her regular rate of pay on any day an employee reports to work at an employer’s request.

Employees can volunteer to work fewer hours and be paid for only the hours worked, but this must be reported to the labor commissioner within 72 hours.

HB 1543 Relative to protections for temporary workers This bill requires a temporary service to pay temporary employees in cash or check, but if the employer pays the temporary worker via check, it must ensure the temporary worker has a free means of cashing the check.

No temporary worker employer may charge for transportation that is a condition of employment. Any optional transportation may be provided for a fee, provided that the fee does not effectively bring the temporary worker’s hourly rate of pay below minimum wage.

HB 1703 Requiring certain employees to report on the percentage of payroll which is being spent on health insurance premiums for employers This bill requires employers of 500 or more employees to report annually:

a) its number of employees on a particular day during the year preceding the previous calendar year

b) the number of employees eligible for health insurance benefits

c) the requirements employees and dependents must meet to qualify for health insurance benefits

d) the amount of money it spent on health insurance costs in New Hampshire during year preceding the previous calendar year

e) the percentage of payroll that was spent by the employer in the year immediately preceding the previous calendar year on health insurance costs in the state.

This information will be collected and reported to the general counsel and the governor.

HB 1752 Requiring notice regarding classifications of employee and independent contractor This bill requires employers to post certain information, including information about the criteria for classifying an employee as an employee or as an independent contractor.
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