10.  Expanded definition of “mental disorder” under the ADA
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is expected to embrace the new fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association in enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The DSM-5 significantly expands what is considered to be a “mental disorder.” Temper tantrums, normal grief, forgetfulness due to age and excessive eating, for example, have now been recognized as mental disorders under the DSM-5, which arguably brings them under the protection of the ADA. Watch for this and other increased enforcement efforts under the ADA in 2014.
9.  New minimum wage levels
Thirteen states have raised their minimum wages in 2014 (not including Indiana), and President Obama recently announced his plan to sign an executive order increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors. Be sure that you know if and how these increases impact your organization.
8.  Indianapolis criminal background check ordinance
For employers in Indianapolis, be on the lookout for a new ordinance pending before the City-County Council that may add additional prohibitions on background checks during the application process.
7.  DOMA and employment law
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on the Defense of Marriage Act has a potentially significant impact on employee benefit plans, so a review of those plans is advisable. Furthermore, expect to see new proposed regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) expanding Family Medical Leave Act protection to same-sex spouses.
6.  Sarbanes-Oxley’s application to privately held contractors of public companies
We await an important decision in Lawson v. FMR LLC in which the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether an employee of a privately held contractor or subcontractor of a publicly traded company is protected under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act’s anti-retaliation provisions. If the Court finds that these protections apply to contractors as well, then those employers will need to evaluate their anti-retaliation policies and procedures to ensure compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley’s extensive regulations.
5.  Religious rights of privately held, for-profit companies
The U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether for-profit, closely held companies may be exempt from federal regulations due to religious beliefs of the companies’ owners. This will be an important development in enforcing not only the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) but also other regulations. If the Court recognizes such rights, owners of closely-held companies with sincere religious objections to certain federal mandates may consider whether those objections provide an exemption to those requirements.
4.  Marijuana legalization
States continue passing laws authorizing recreational and medical uses of marijuana. Businesses that have employees who live or work in any of those states should evaluate their handbook policies to be sure they comply with applicable laws.
3.  Significant changes for federal service and construction contractors
2014 ushers in some important changes for federal government contractors. 2010 census data will be used in 2014 affirmative action plans, which could change an organization’s compliance with affirmative action obligations if done improperly. For companies using a calendar year for affirmative plans, January 1, 2015, will mark the start of new affirmative action obligations for disabled individuals and covered veterans (so long as 2014 plans are in place by March 24, 2014).  Throughout 2014, companies should be putting in place the necessary compliance mechanisms to be compliant at the start of 2015. Finally, 2014 is anticipated to be a busy year with new regulations enacted by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). The OFCCP has indicated that it will be revamping the affirmative action requirements for construction contractors with respect to women and minorities and service contractors with respect to women.
2.  Federal regulatory agenda
While the U.S. Supreme Court in National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) v. Noel Canning is expected to strike down President Obama’s prior appointments to the NLRB, that case will likely have little effect going forward. That is because the Senate’s majority eliminated the filibuster hurdle, which slowed many of President Obama’s appointments. With that hurdle gone, federal appointments are filling fast. Expect fully-staffed federal agencies such as the DOL, OFCCP, EEOC, NLRB and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to be very active in 2014.
The Affordable Care Act remains the hottest topic in employment law in 2014. Although 2013 was a year of reprieve for companies subject to the employer mandate, 2014 should be a year of evaluating options and preparing for the mandate to take effect.