From staffing and sexual harassment to contract employees and discrimination reporting, statehouses and courts are moving forward on hot issues.
It is important to keep your finger on the pulse of legislative action, both on the national and state levels. Currently, there is some action in Washington, D.C., and in some state capitals worth keeping on your radar. While these issues might not affect your organization directly right now, they are gaining traction across states and industries; and they could soon impact how you do business. Of greatest interest and significance on the state front is a Connecticut bill that just passed the Senate there. This legislation (Senate Bill 375) would mandate nursing homes to disclose daily the number of direct-care staff members that are assigned to patients. This measure is aimed at increasing transparency and encouraging facilities to hire more direct care staff. The bill passed 31-4, and now heads to the House. If this measure becomes law, nursing homes would be required to post the number of registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and nurse aides they have on staff, as well as the hours they are scheduled to work on each shift.
On the national front, Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky recently reintroduced a bill (H.R. 2581) in the U.S. Congress that would set mandatory nurse-to-patient staffing levels in hospitals. Some opponents of the legislation claim that there is no evidence to support that staffing ratios improve care; others have expressed concerns that it will cause hospitals to close. The bill’s supporters counter that there isn’t any evidence that ratios cause closings, reductions in available services, or increased healthcare costs. As this legislation needs to go to committee before being considered for a vote by the House, it is too early to predict its trajectory. However, states are working on this issue and moving faster in some places.
Currently in the Illinois General Assembly is the Safe Patient Limit Act, which has a good chance of becoming law. Modeled after similar legislation in California, the bill would provide “for minimum direct care registered profession nurse-to-patient staffing in hospitals, long-term care hospitals, and ambulatory surgical centers.” Other states are starting to show interest in this issue. For instance, the Massachusetts Nurse Association is pushing for a staffing law, despite a measure on this issue being rejected by voters last year. Elsewhere, New York state has commissioned a study to analyze staffing ratios; Michigan lawmakers have re-introduced (for the third time) a mandatory staffing bill; and Pennsylvania nurses are pushing for similar legislation.
In California, several issues relevant to healthcare and HR are gaining traction. For instance, watch for passage of a bill seeking to clear up some aspects of the state’s sexual-harassment-prevention training requirements. It sets a January 1, 2021, deadline for training and clarifies that employers conducting training in 2019 don’t have to repeat it for two years thereafter. Another proposed bill (SB-171), if it becomes law, would require employers in the state with at least 100 employees to submit reports detailing workers’ earnings and job categories by race, ethnicity, and sex starting in 2021. Still another proposed bill (AB-51) would prevent businesses from silencing workers who have experienced discrimination and colleagues who have witnessed attempted wrongdoings.
The California Supreme Count recently made a ruling that creates a three-pronged “ABC” test to determine whether workers should be categorized as employees or independent contractors. Many employers are concerned about this ruling, as it will make it difficult to classify workers as contractors.
Understanding what other states are doing can help you predict and prepare for similar efforts in your locale. Work with your state and national professional associations to track legislation so that you aren’t blindsided by changes and mandates that require your attention.