Harassment, workplace violence, cybersecurity, workforce planning, medical marijuana and the Affordable Care Act are among the most difficult HR challenges facing employers in 2018, according to a new XpertHR survey of over 1,000 human resource professionals.

The survey found changes in the workplace, government, and legal landscape translate into considerable challenges and obstacles for employers.

Sexual Harassment

From entertainment to Fortune 500 companies to the media to the halls of Congress, it seems that sexual harassment has become an even greater risk for employers as the issue has come to the forefront in recent months.

"An employer needs to be particularly vigilant regarding acts of harassment in the workplace because the employer may be liable and face Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charges, legal complaints, fines, and penalties on top of negative press and damage to its reputation," says XpertHR legal editor Beth Zoller.

Workplace Violence

Among the biggest HR challenges keeping employers up at night is workplace violence.

In this unfortunate age of mass shootings, bomb threats, and terrorist attacks, workplace safety and preparing for an act of workplace violence is paramount.

The XpertHR survey found that 45% of respondents identified preparing for or responding to an active shooter or workplace violence as very or extremely challenging.

Marijuana

In the age of marijuana legalization, addressing and managing drug use and drug testing remains one of the most daunting HR challenges for employers.

Thirty-five percent of survey respondents feel very or extremely challenged by managing employees who use marijuana medically or recreationally, and 32% found addressing the impact of substance abuse on the workplace to be very or extremely challenging.

Just as with alcohol, it is lawful to prohibit an employee from bringing both lawful and unlawful drugs to work.
"Just as with alcohol, it is lawful to prohibit an employee from bringing both lawful and unlawful drugs to work," explains Zoller.

"Employers need to stay on top of federal, state, and local developments as this is a rapidly evolving and changing issue."

Cybersecurity

In today's increasingly digital world with so much information is stored on the cloud, data breaches carry high costs in terms of time, money and resources and may also tarnish an employer's public image and reputation.

In fact, the XpertHR survey revealed that 64% of respondents viewed data security and the threat of a cyber breach as very or extremely challenging.

Workforce Planning

With an evolving workforce and changing societal demographics, workforce planning is another one of the top HR challenge for employers.

In today's increasingly global environment, employers must face critical issues such as the rise of gig economy, the increased use of technology and automation, and how to address the management of five generations in the workforce.

In addition, the White House's hardline stance and often-restrictive policies towards immigration and travel bans make it difficult to for employers to recruit a diverse workforce.

Healthcare

The Affordable Care Act and the uncertain future of healthcare continues to plague many employers as 46% of survey respondents viewed the ACA as very or extremely challenging, and 40% of respondents viewed ACA reporting as very or extremely challenging.

Given the gridlock and inaction on the federal level, states and local governments have taken the lead in addressing workplace issues by enacting laws and regulations affecting employers and employees.

State and local governments are taking steps to address emerging issues such as leave, especially paid sick leave and family leave, pay equity (including salary history bans), and reasonable accommodations for pregnant and breastfeeding women.

"On the other hand, the appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is sure to have an impact on labor and employment law cases and ensure a conservative majority in favor of employers and management-side issues," says Zoller.

“The rollback of agency authority and more restrictive policies of the National Labor Relations Board and the EEOC will potentially have a positive impact on employers who may be subject to less regulation."