Happy New Year everyone!

As we look to the promise of 2012 and review 2011, it’s that time of year when most of us set personal and professional goals and resolutions. As my husband and I confront the gravity of his brother’s illness one can’t help but reconcile the fact that in both personal and professional life, you reap what you sow.

For business owners and leaders, what are you sowing with your workforce? 2011 saw an unprecedented level of compliance activity at the local, state and federal level. For example:

  • Employee Time Tracking App for iphone: The Department of Labor launched an application for the iPhone or iPod Touch that employees can use to easily and independently record their hours worked (including overtime and break times) and calculate wages that are owed to the employee. The implication for employers is you’d better be keeping accurate time records of ALL hours worked by your non-exempt employees, because if you aren’t your employees may be and you can bet this information will end up in future wage and hour enforcement and litigation.

To minimize the risk of an enforcement action and/or litigation and associated penalties, employers should encourage employees to come forward if they notice any disparity between the employer’s time records and the records the employee maintains independently through the application.

  • New NLRB Posting Requirement: The National Labor Relations Board issued a Final Rule that will require employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. This posting requirement has been postponed until April 30, 2012.

The notice, which is similar to one required by the U.S. Department of Labor for federal contractors, states that employees have the right to act together to improve wages and working conditions, to form, join and assist a union, to bargain collectively with their employer, and to refrain from any of these activities. It provides examples of unlawful employer and union conduct and instructs employees how to contact the NLRB with questions or complaints.

  • Shortened Time Frame for Union Elections: On December 20, 2011 the NLRB finalized its “ambush election” regulation dramatically reducing the period between the filing of a labor union’s petition to represent employees and the election to determine whether the union should be certified.

On November 30, 2011 the NLRB published a “resolution” that was passed by a 2-1 vote. The resolution forecast the composition of a revised regulation that would shorten the period between the filing of a representation petition by a labor organization and the timing of an election among employees to determine if the union should be certified. The resolution also forecast the limitation of appeal rights by a party to a representation election. If you are currently the subject of an organizing effort the finalization of this rule could dramatically affect the timing of the election at your business and your rights in that process.

So, what do these new changes mean to you as an employer and how does that relate to reaping what you sow? Employers who create a strong culture are at a decided advantage when it comes to employees, employee relations, and union organizing or litigation. And every organization has a culture – one either purposely created by the leadership or one that has formed on its own.

What culture does your organization have? Is it one of respect and dignity where business partners at all levels work together to grow and strengthen the business or do you simply have employees? You know – those people who come to work late, leave early and steal while they’re there?

In 2012, we do not expect the regulatory climate to slow down and employers are on the hot seat. Those employers who emerge relatively unscathed will be those who work daily to create and maintain an engaging work culture – in other words, they will sow employee involvement, trust, and open, honest communications. Those who don’t can expect a knock at the door. Either way one thing is sure – you will reap what you sow.

As my husband and I grieve the imminent loss of his brother, we can’t help but realize that he too is here as a result of sowing an unhealthy lifestyle for many, many years. While we pray for a miracle, we also must come to grips with our own health and realize that we too will reap what we sow.