Legal Changes to Expect in the New Year - Priori

Legal Changes to Expect in the New Year

By Paige Zandri
| Business and Entrepreneurship

The holiday season is upon us, and with 2016 coming to an end, it’s time to review legislative trends we’ve seen over the past year and prepare for what’s ahead. While a new administration will make federal law difficult to predict, patterns in state law are often savvy indicators of upcoming federal policies. Let’s take a look at a few trends to keep an eye on as Trump’s administration transitions in and 2016 closes out:

Changes in employee compensation. Get ready for big changes in employment, hiring and personnel management in 2017. A quick look at 2016’s trends in state law might indicate what to expect next year at the federal level. In the past 12 months, four states – Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, and Oregon – have enacted laws requiring employers to provide paid sick leave. These laws are also being enacted at the municipal level and are spreading slowly but surely. The pattern is expected to continue in the upcoming year, and some businesses may need to change their sick leave policies.

Overtime policies might also be in for a shake-up in 2017. In late November, Obama’s new overtime rules – set to go into effect December 1, 2016 – were blocked by a federal judge. The ultimate result of this blockage could affect the compensation of up to four million U.S. workers and the finances of the companies employing them. Keep an eye out for changes in employment and labor law, with special attention to Trump’s proposed action on those matters. Overtime policy is a big deal for businesses, and we still don’t know how Trump will approach the matter. Therefore, in composing company manuals for the new year, it may be wise to consider the various potential outcomes when structuring compensation and overtime policy.

Changes in workplace culture. The current trend in the U.S. leans towards improving the workplace environment. To this end, laws have been both proposed and enacted to address discrimination, workplace harassment and company hiring practices. In keeping with this new year’s resolution, some states have passed laws requiring employers to establish adequate complaint procedures for sexual harassment in the workplace. The concern for workplace harmony also means scrutiny around hiring practices. Lawsuits related to hiring discrimination on the basis of race or gender have become fertile ground for litigation and may be the subject of legislation in 2017. Finally, companies should look out for Ban the Box laws that restrict employers from inquiring into job applicants’ criminal backgrounds as part of the job application process. These laws have already taken effect in some jurisdictions, such as New York, which has had a law since 2015 prohibiting employers from denying someone a job because of a criminal record. Stay up to date on news from your state’s department of labor to find out whether Ban the Box laws will affect your hiring practices.

Changes in digital property and privacy. Keep your eyes peeled for updates in privacy law. As the world grows more connected, it’s no surprise that most companies rely on the internet to engage with their customers, and the spotlight on data security and privacy is shining brightly. While privacy law is not yet heavily legislated, the recent hacks of big corporations are making it more likely that 2017 will bring changes to data protection and privacy laws. In 2016, we saw the invalidation of  the US-EU Safe Harbor Framework as inadequate under EU law for transferring personal data from the European Union to the United States. The Framework was replaced with the Privacy Shield, but even Privacy Shield certification is not enough to ensure compliance with all EU data protection laws. This is a big deal for tech companies that manage large amounts of consumer data or sensitive information. The legal landscape surrounding a company’s obligations to data management and cyber security are constantly in flux. Whenever new software vulnerabilities or technologies come into play, companies will need to update their best practices. Begin looking into cyber security measures and best practices for managing credit card data, health records or other sensitive information pertinent to your business.


Keeping an eye on emerging trends can help companies prepare for legal modifications in the future. Changes related to labor law, workplace culture and data privacy will shape 2017 and set the tone for the new administration. Businesses should be sure to examine their existing policies on these areas so they can hit the ground running in the new year.

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