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2017 Industry Forecast: Legal Services

Written by: Charla Bizios Stevens

Published in Business NH Magazine (January 2017)

It is always challenging to predict what the most significant workplace issues of a new year.  Six months ago employment lawyers were focused on increased scrutiny of pay practices by state and federal departments of labor and a continued focus on the areas identified by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) for special consideration between now and 2021: eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, protecting vulnerable workers, addressing emerging issues such as independent contractors and LGBTQ discrimination, pay equity,  and eliminating systemic harassment.

With a new Presidential administration and a change in leadership in New Hampshire, we can expect some changes, but change comes slowly. 

President-Elect Trump campaigned on a number of proposals which could have significant effects on employers. The following are some of the top areas on which to focus:

Minimum Wage: An increase of the federal minimum wage to $10.00 per hour (up from the current $7.25).  New Hampshire currently follows the federal minimum so such an increase would impact New Hampshire workers.  Even without federal legislation, we can expect state legislation to be filed although it would not likely be supported by the Republican legislature and governor. 

Paid Leave for New Mothers: Ivanka Trump’s proposal to provide six weeks of paid maternity leave. The plan calls for providing new mothers with temporary benefits through the unemployment insurance system rather than from employers. The plan does not appear to make any provision for new fathers, and it is unclear as to whether the proposed benefits will be available in cases of adoption and surrogacy.

Some states have adopted, and New Hampshire is considering, paid family leave insurance as a means of encouraging young families to remain here. 

Child Care: The President-Elect has also promised to help workers deal with the high cost of child care with an “above-the-line” deduction and tax-exempt dependent care savings accounts, into which parents could deposit up to $2,000 per year. This savings account proposal also calls for the government to provide a 50% match on the first $1,000 of contributions for qualifying low-income parents. Finally, President-Elect Trump is calling for adding greater incentives, in the form of tax credits, for employers to offer on-site child care.

Healthcare: The pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. No proposed replacement has been identified. Some of the more popular aspects of the Act—protections for people with pre-existing conditions and extended coverage for young adults under their parents’ plans—are likely to be retained. Other changes will be hotly debated, and closely watched by employers. 

Overtime: The new overtime rule—which raises the FLSA’s minimum salary level for exempt employees to $47,476 per year—was to have gone into effect on December 1, 2016.  At the eleventh hour a Texas federal judge issued an injunction preventing the change from going into effect. The President-Elect did not actively campaign against the changes but did say that he would like to see a “carve out” exempting small businesses. There is still much uncertainty regarding the future of the white collar exemptions. 

Workplace Flexibility:  With the continued increase in single parent or dual-working parent households, the desire for flexible work schedules has also increased.  Successful business will adapt and benefit from employees working at different times and places.  Businesses must focus more closely on information security in order to protect vital assets and private information, but more flexibility will allow employers to retain talented and productive workers. 

Regardless of who is in the White House or State House, the American workforce has changed, as have the needs of businesses.  A global economy and more sophisticated workers call for new solutions.  Although the newly elected officials are touting a plan to reduce regulation, businesses should not expect the state and federal agencies charged with protecting workers to back off on enforcing laws which have been put in place over the last five decades.

Integrity and trust

At McLane Middleton we establish and maintain long-standing relationships with our clients to help us better achieve their unique goals over time. This approach to building trust requires that our esteemed lawyers and professionals use their broad, in-depth knowledge and work together with integrity to ascertain sound resolutions to legal matters for their clients.

Strength in numbers

McLane Middleton is made up of more than 105 attorneys who represent a broad range of clients throughout the region, delivering customized solutions. As a firm we are recognized as having the highest legal ability rating. The firm is rated Preeminent by Martindale Hubbell and is recognized as one of the nation's leading law firms in Chambers USA. Our attorneys are distinguished leaders in their respective practice areas.

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Commitment and collaboration

McLane Middleton's versatile group of attorneys and paralegals become trusted authorities on each case through collaboration. We work with our clients to learn their individual needs first and foremost and, together, we develop comprehensive solutions to their specific legal matters. This approach helps us exceed our clients' expectations efficiently and effectively, client by client, case by case.

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A history of excellence

McLane Middleton was established in 1919 in New Hampshire, and has five offices across two states. However, deep historical roots don't allow you to become innate. Our firm is organized, technological, and knowledgeable. Our history means we are recognized. But our reputation is built on the highest quality of service and experience in very specific areas of law.

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Intelligence paired with action

Our team continuously seeks opportunities to enhance their professional development and put key learnings to action. The pursuit of further insight guides us to volunteer service opportunities, speaking engagements, and teaching roles. Our lawyers are sought after thought leaders across their industries, and recipients of leadership awards throughout the region.