A New Year in July? Check Changes in the Law Twice a Year!

By Philip E. Goss Jr., Esq.

 

Each year as we change to a new calendar, we look toward a new beginning and new goals. In most United States jurisdictions, the law typically has two “new years”: one that begins January 1 and another that commonly starts between July and November of the same calendar year. These are the timeframes in which newly enacted laws become effective.

 

You have probably seen newspaper columns or internet posts outlining the recent law changes in your jurisdiction. These notices are not usually exhaustive. They just highlight the changes that are most interesting to casual consumers. Issues that could adversely affect your day-to-day business operations may not be covered or may be buried deep within the news release. It’s interesting to learn how tips must be divided among restaurant servers, and it’s good to know that driving while using a cellphone is unlawful. However, these things have limited value to your martial arts school.

 

To protect your legal interests, you must “get into the weeds” and know how the new laws may require you to make changes in your operations.

 

Listed below are issues that could affect martial arts school owners. Some of them are potential landmines. They will take effect in various jurisdictions soon.

 

  • Medical and recreational marijuana use is allowed in many states. Will this affect your ability to test employees and perhaps discipline them for its use?
  • Do you operate in a jurisdiction where equal pay is mandated or a jurisdiction that has amended its definitions of employees and independent contractors?
  • Is your school located in a jurisdiction where you cannot initially ask a prospective employee about his or her criminal history?
  • Must you treat pregnant workers differently than before, and are you required to permit on-the-clock “lactation breaks” for mothers? Does your state mandate a minimum time for these breaks? What type of space must be provided?
  • Can you request a salary history from a prospective employee? Can you require arbitration in employment-related disputes?
  • Are you allowed to require a non-compete agreement and, if so, under what circumstances?
  • Must you have policies and procedures that protect independent contractors from all forms of workplace harassment, even if such harassment involves someone who is not under your control — or even if you are not aware that the harassment is taking place?
  • What are your responsibilities if a student or other person enters your premises with a service animal?
  • How can you handle individuals who wish to use electronic smoking devices?
  • Do you know what steps you must follow if a third party seeks to garnish an employee’s wages?
  • If your computer is hacked and a data breach occurs, what steps must you take?
  • If an employee is called to jury duty, what are your options in the event that this causes your business economic or logistical harm?
  • At least one state now requires that you hang a “domestic violence” placard in your break room where you now have the other state and federal mandated posters. Does this affect your school?

 

These are all examples of newly enacted laws or amended laws that will take effect in the coming months. Unfortunately, I am limited to 800 words per column, which means that an exhaustive survey of all jurisdictions is impossible.

 

I suggest the following: Find business-related websites or publications that home in on your state’s laws and rules. Many local trade journals will outline the changes. When you specifically identify a new law or a change that may affect your operations, contact your attorney for assistance. Doing the legwork before you contact the attorney will save you a great deal of money.

 

On a final note: After I submitted last month’s column, I was informed of the passing of John Corcoran, my MASuccess editor since the inception of this publication in 2002. In life, everyone meets many people, but only a few stand out as special. John was special, and I can state unequivocally that I learned a great deal from him. He forgot more about writing than I will ever know. God rest your soul, my friend, and when I meet you at the Pearly Gates, our first stop will be to get that burger and shake we spoke of frequently.

 


Attorney Phil Goss Jr. welcomes email comments or questions at [email protected]. He will attempt to respond personally, time permitting.

 

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