7 big changes for veterinary practices in 2014 - Veterinary Economics
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7 big changes for veterinary practices in 2014
Minimum wage, marijuana and health insurance regulations are changing. Make sure your veterinary hospital stays on the right side of the law.


VETERINARY ECONOMICS

As if the big changes in healthcare and health insurance weren’t enough for you and your veterinary team, 2014 has even more in store. Recreational marijuana is legally available in more states, minimum wage will increase in 14 states, and there are more restrictions on what an employer can access for background checks.

This is your perfect start to a new commitment to keep up on legal and workplace policy trends and be proactive in determining the direction of your practice, not just reactionary and waiting to create policy after a problem has occurred. Issues of gun control, school activity leave, and OSHA’s new Hazard Communication Standard all started in 2013.

Are you ready for 2014? Here’s a list of the federal and state changes going into effect this year:

1. Minimum wage
Minimum wages have changed or will change in 14 states this year as the federal government wrestles with a bill that, if passed, would increase the minimum wage for all states in three increments through the end of 2015.

>Arizona: from $7.80 to $7.90 per hour.
>California: Beginning July 1, 2014, the minimum wage will increase from $8 to $9 per hour. Certain areas, such as San Francisco, will see additional increases. Be sure to check your local as well as state government websites.
>Colorado: increases from $7.78 to $8 per hour.
>Connecticut: increases from $8.25 to $8.70 per hour.
>Florida: increases from $7.79 to $7.93 per hour.
>Missouri: increases from $7.35 to $7.50 per hour.
>Montana: increases from $7.80 to $7.90 per hour.
>New Jersey: increases from $7.25 to $8.25 per hour.
>New York: Beginning Dec. 31, 2013, the increase from $7.25 to $8 per hour went into effect.
>Ohio: increases from $7.85 to $7.95 per hour.
>Oregon: increases from $8.95 to $9.10 per hour.
>Rhode Island: will increase from $7.75 to $8 per hour.
>Vermont: increases from $8.60 to $8.73 per hour.
>Washington: will increase from $9.19 to $9.32 per hour.

Check out this map to identify where how your state compares with the wage rate against the federal rate and to see your state’s specific regulations.

What to do: To identify where how your state compares with the wage rate against the federal rate and to see your state’s specific regulations. Bookmark your state’s information on minimum wage and check back regularly to identify changes. Also, does your poster need updating? Review the list of posters required for your practice to ensure compliance.

Page 1—Minimum wage
Page 2—Affordable Care Act
Page 3—Defense of Marriage Act struck down
Page 4—Social Media
Page 5—Employee and job applicant privacy
Page 6—Marijuana
Page 7—California specific changes

2. Affordable Care Act
Many employees with previous health insurance packages before this law passed can now keep their plans and aren’t required to move to a sanctioned plan. Under the healthcare reform law, companies with 50 or more workers must provide affordable coverage to full-time employees or pay tax penalties per employee. This will now take effect Jan, 1, 2015. This should give businesses the time they need to solidify a successful transition.

What to do: Other changes are rapidly unfolding that you need to review and adopt. I’ve written on the topic, and I also recommend checking out the Kaiser Family Foundation's interactive website on heathcare compliance.

Page 1—Minimum wage
Page 2—Affordable Care Act
Page 3—Defense of Marriage Act struck down
Page 4—Social Media
Page 5—Employee and job applicant privacy
Page 6—Marijuana
Page 7—California specific changes

3. Defense of Marriage Act struck down
The Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, a federal law defining “marriage” as “a legal union between one man and one woman,” deprives same-sex spouses of the equal liberty that is protected by the Fifth Amendment. Couples of the same sex that were married under state law will be offered the same benefits as a spouse of an opposite-sex marriage, including tax deductions, health insurance, family and medical leave, immigration and retirement.

What to do: Re-evaluate your practice’s employee benefits and make sure you include same-sex life partners, not just opposite-sex partners. Team members may need to change their number of dependents, health and life insurance, and/or retirement and life insurance distribution.

Check out this state map to see what your state says on the matter. Include language in your handbook and contracts that makes clear that benefits are available to same-sex life partners in your policy. An insurance and finance company put together a nice list of questions to ask when creating your policies.

Page 1—Minimum wage
Page 2—Affordable Care Act
Page 3—Defense of Marriage Act struck down
Page 4—Social Media
Page 5—Employee and job applicant privacy
Page 6—Marijuana
Page 7—California specific changes

4. Social media
With the continued popularity of social media, rules and regulations to mediate the relationship between employer and employee rights are still a little unclear. Stepping in to try and referee this scrum is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which seeks to define the relationship between employee, employer and social media. Stay tuned as everyone tries to sort out the mayhem and social media madness.

One thing is definitely clear: Asking employees or potential employees for their passwords to access their social media accounts is not going to be acceptable. A dozen states—Arkansas, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington—have laws to stop employers from engaging in this practice. Expect more states to follow their lead this year.

What to do: If you haven’t updated your practice’s social media policy in the past six months, it’s time. Download a sample policy from Firstline here or The Small Business Association has a step-by-step plan to craft your policy.

Page 1—Minimum wage
Page 2—Affordable Care Act
Page 3—Defense of Marriage Act struck down
Page 4—Social Media
Page 5—Employee and job applicant privacy
Page 6—Marijuana
Page 7—California specific changes

5. Employee and job applicant privacy
New Jersey, Washington and 29 other states will pass legislation this year that would prohibit employers and potential employers from using criminal history to disqualify individuals from employment and restrict employers’ ability to ask for information that isn’t relevant to the work the candidate would do for the business. The laws also outline what can be asked on an employment application in regard to criminal offense and convictions.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is expected to aggressively pursue any breach of these laws regarding employers' use of criminal history for employment decisions. Some landmark cases were settled in 2013 that demonstrate just how serious the EEOC is taking these laws and how seriously employers should abide by them.

A similar scenario is playing out in protecting credit history privacy. Ten states have enacted laws that disallow credit information being available to an employer except when the potential employee’s credit history is specifically and directly related to their job. Thirty-five other states are expected to adopt similar laws in 2014 as well.

What to do: Review the laws for your state. PrivacyRights.org is an excellent resource.

Page 1—Minimum wage
Page 2—Affordable Care Act
Page 3—Defense of Marriage Act struck down
Page 4—Social Media
Page 5—Employee and job applicant privacy
Page 6—Marijuana
Page 7—California specific changes

6. Marijuana
New Year's Day in Colorado arrived with the opening of state-licensed recreational marijuana shops, and lines of customers snaked around blocks all over the state. Colorado’s “Amendment 64: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012” allows adults over the age of 21 to purchase and hold in their possession up to 1 ounce of marijuana. The ability to grow and consume marijuana came into effect in December 2013. Rules regarding unlicensed sales and public consumption remain unchanged. Want to know more? Check out CNN's coverage.

Colorado employers need to be aware that nothing has changed in the business environment that allows the possession, display, sale or consumption in the work environment. This amendment does not stop employers from requiring drug screening or dealing with employees who demonstrate impairment or diminished job performance because of marijuana use. The federal Controlled Substance Act still lists marijuana as a Schedule I drug and should be handled in that manner. The state may lessen their standards in this regard, but employers are expected to manage the situation in accordance with federal statutes. Confusing? Certainly, and more states will enter this realm of confusion by the end of the year.

What to do: Since more than 18 states have medical marijuana laws on the books, it’s past time to include a drug policy in your veterinary practice manual. This includes drug screening, pre-employment requirements and how the practice will handle any issues with suspected controlled substance abuse that impairs employee performance and patient safety.

Start with the Drug Free Workplace Advisor Tool. Learn more about medical marijuana policy here.

Page 1—Minimum wage
Page 2—Affordable Care Act
Page 3—Defense of Marriage Act struck down
Page 4—Social Media
Page 5—Employee and job applicant privacy
Page 6—Marijuana
Page 7—California specific changes

7. California
I hardly know where to begin when it comes to California workplaces. The missed meal and rest period law has changed. San Francisco passed the Family Friendly Workplace ordinance. And on July 1, 2014, the state minimum wage goes up from $8 to $9 an hour, a nearly 13 percent increase. The minimum wage climbs to $10 an hour in 2016. In addition, California’s Paid Family Leave Act goes into effect July 1, 2014, and now includes grandchildren, grandparents, parents-in-law and siblings. Also, a new requirement allows victims of crime time off to testify in court without negative recourse by an employer. And these are just the highlights in the Golden State. Head to this website run by California’s Employment Development Department for the latest news.

What to do: Even though you may not practice in California, remember that many of the laws that pass here on the West Coast often trickle down to many—if not all—states. So, keep an eye in California’s direction to stay tuned for the trends, laws and regulations that could be in your and your veterinary hospital’s future.

The "Management Matters" blog features the writing of veterinary practice management consultants Monica Dixon Perry, Mark Opperman and Sheila Grosdidier. Come back every month for their unique take on current and future trends in veterinary practice as well as tried-and-true tips for improving patient care, team member morale and practice revenue.

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Source: VETERINARY ECONOMICS,
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