Employment Law Changes – What Smaller Rhode Island Manufacturers Should Know

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by | Feb 6, 2023

by | Feb 6, 2023

Our Project Managers are fantastic problem-solvers and guides because they draw on years of experience and training in continuous improvement, automation, quality and more. But as much as I love them, I wouldn’t want them advising you on search engine optimization or HR compliance.

It would be like sending a 2nd level CNC operator to write your social media posts. Just not their expertise.

That’s where Kayla Viveiros comes in.

Services and solutions for RI Manufacturing challenges - Polaris MEP

Kayla is a Program Manager at Polaris MEP. For several years, she was charged with seeking out, vetting and managing specialist resources that help clients with topline, bottomline and pipeline. These 3rd party resources supplement our direct delivery training and implementation. It means we can truly be  “THE Resource for RI Manufacturers” with a full range of services to meet the needs of our manufacturing sector.

In 2022, clients were telling her of an increasing need – employment law compliance and risk management.

Very few, if any RI manufacturers can afford or need to have a full-time lawyer on staff. (86.5% of manufacturing businesses in the state employer fewer than 50 workers, per the State of RI Manufacturing study.) So Kayla sought out solutions that would fit smaller manufacturing companies.

Employment Law Changes Relevant to RI Manufacturers (Plus a Helpful Resource)

“Where HR and a lot of employee management issues have turned to is becoming more of a risk managament issues and more legalized,” summarized Wendy Hansen, a lawyer with Foley & Foley, PC, in a recent interview with Kayla.

Foley & Foley is a Falmouth, MA-based firm that specializes in employment and labor law.

Wendy said that regulations are often changing which makes it hard for small companies to keep up. For example, Foley & Foley reports that:

  • As of January 1, 2023, Rhode Island has enacted its new Pay Equity Law. This law doesn’t just cover gender pay inequity, it covers all protected classes including race, sexual orientation, and age.
  • For the last three years, minimum wage has increased in Rhode Island, including this year which is now at $13.00/hr. for non-exempt employees.
  • The FTC has also proposed a new rule, to likely be enacted within 180 days, that non-competes are no longer legal for almost all employers and employees.

Foley & Foley notes that staying on top of this information is crucial to manage risk and the cost that comes with lawsuits, penalties, and fines.

The team created a handout that includes both the employment laws to be enacted in 2023 and “five year look back” at changes to RI employer legislations. Click here or on the image to request a copy of this helpful resource.

Two Services To Help RI’s Smaller Manufacturers With Employment Law Changes

While Foley & Foley does have a robust litigation service, their goal is to prevent issues. Wendy and Kayla teamed up to offer two new services to RI’s manufacturing base, two of the law firm’s most popular solutions.

1. “On-Call Triage”

Often hours of confusion and stress can be prevented with a quick phone call. “Seemingly situations seem clear-cut in the beginning but as time goes on they slowly but surely unravel into chaos,” said Wendy. Clients connect with a consistent legal advisor for answers to questions about FMLA or EEOC regulations or sick-time policies.

That call can prevent missteps OR can help a company build a new program that becomes an advantage to retention.

2. Handbook Review Service

Kayla pointed out that there are several online, free “templates” for handbooks. In the interview, Wendy explained why these one-size-fits-all handbooks don’t truly fit smaller manufacturers.

“As great as free is, it’s still a lot to sift through and figure out – does this actually apply to us?”

Wendy also feels a handbook should be about more than legalese, as you can hear in this clip from the interview.

Click here to view the entire conversation between Wendy and Kayla about compliance solutions. 

Improve Compliance and Reduce Stress with Help from Foley & Foley and Polaris MEP

Have questions about this interview or the new services from Foley & Foley? Want to talk with our specialist network manager, Rob Chipman, about your company’s specific employment and labor law challenges? Email him rchipman@polarismep.org

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