Complying with marijuana laws and keeping data secure in an increasingly digital world are among the most significant compliance challenges facing employers in 2020, according to a new XpertHR survey of over 700 human resource professionals. The survey report, which identifies the most pressing compliance challenges for HR professionals in 2020 and gives guidance on how to address them, also recognized wages and compensation, pay and scheduling, leaves of absence, and employee handbooks as critical issues.

Nearly one-quarter (24.6%) of respondents are extremely challenged by federal, state and local medical and recreational marijuana laws and managing employee drug use, compared with 5.7% in 2017. Rapidly changing laws create complications for employers who want to implement drug-free workplace policies, ensure employee safety and maintain workplace productivity. 

“On one hand, medical marijuana is legal in over 30 states and recreational marijuana use is now legal in over 10 states, as well as the District of Columbia (within specific parameters),” says Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR. “However, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and illegal under federal law, which poses a conundrum for employers.”

Medical marijuana users may be protected under state or local law so employers should be cautious and avoid making quick disciplinary decisions. Further, employers should be wary about taking adverse action against employees based on lawful off-duty conduct if the state protects employees who engage in such activities.

Another serious issue that continues to make headlines is protecting confidential information and preventing data breaches. Some of the most significant cyber breaches in recent years have included Yahoo, Marriott, Equifax, Uber and JP Morgan Chase. These breaches affected billions of customers and have had a broad impact years after the event.

The XpertHR survey found that cyber breaches that gave intruders access to employees’ personal information or other confidential information is a top concern in 2020, with 29.8% of HR professionals reporting feeling extremely challenged in preventing cyber breaches and maintaining data security.

“Organizations are falling victim to data breaches at an alarming rate, exposing not only their own intellectual property and confidential information, but also that of their employees and customers,” says Beth Zoller, JD, Legal Editor, XpertHR. “Employers need to protect sensitive information such as employees’ social security numbers, credit reports, and medical records as well as customers’ credit card data, and know what to do in case of a breach.”

The survey also identifies pay and scheduling issues, employee leaves, and employee handbooks as other top challenges facing employers in 2020. Ten percent of respondents viewed pay and scheduling issues as their top challenge.

“Failure to adhere to compliance requirements exposes an organization to lawsuits, costly fines and other penalties as well as negative publicity and harm to business reputation,” says Zoller. “The best way HR can get ahead of the game is by being proactive and staying on top of the latest laws and trends affecting its workforce.”

XpertHR’s Top HR Compliance Challenges for 2020 survey provides guidance for employers in managing these challenges. To download a free copy of the survey report, visit XpertHR.