Travel Time and the FLSA

September 18th, 2014 by

In today’s video blog, George Ports, CAI’s Senior Executive of government relations and member of the Advice and Resolution team, shares helpful information for understanding the tricky subject of calculating compensable travel time.

George starts by saying some of the most confusing wage and hour regulations are those dealing with travel time for non-exempt employees. The question usually asked is, “is it or isn’t it compensable?” This confusion is due in part to the number of different situations involving travel.

George lists several scenarios that demonstrate a compensable travel time situation. For example, he says travel time to or from work is not compensable, but time that cuts across an employee’s regular work day is. He gives more examples in the video.

The video also includes information relevant with today’s technology-driven workplace. George shares the following information in the video: If an employee gets in his vehicle and receives special instructions on his cell phone or laptop before leaving home that time is compensable.

If you have questions about travel time or any other wage and hour regulation, please call CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Private Exchanges Are Here – Now What?

September 16th, 2014 by

The post below is a guest blog from Jay Lowe who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partnerHill, Chesson & Woody.

hcw 9 12 14By now you have probably heard the term “Private Exchange.” Private exchanges are the hot new topic in the benefits world and something that employers should become familiar with as it may be an option to consider in the future. Private exchanges are nothing new. In fact, they have been around for about 20 years but without the fancy title.

The creation of the federal and state-based exchanges, where individuals can buy their own insurance, has brought new life back to the private exchange idea. Under this model, an employer is able to offer an à la carte selection of benefits for their employees to choose from. All of this is managed through a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) during annual open enrollment, or at the time of hire, and streamlines the administration process for the employer.

With the re-emergence of the private exchanges we will begin to see the shift to a true defined benefit strategy from employers who implement this. Heath Insurance Underwriter indicates that in order for private exchanges to be successful, they must find ways to continue to be competitive. This is especially good news for small employers (under 50 employees) as options are reduced and premiums begin to rise. In a recent New York Times article, Accenture predicts that by 2018 enrollment through private exchanges will surpass that of the state and federal exchanges. However, this will come at a cost. Benefits in the private exchanges are expected to become leaner as companies try to stay within budgets.

What’s important to understand is that this is not a new concept, just a re-branding of an old idea. Private exchanges are risk pools that should be considered just like any other risk pool: weighing out the pros and cons for your organization. As we move forward into the post-Reform world, we will continue to see new players enter the marketplace with their own versions of private exchanges. There is good news, though. The market is evolving under Reform to meet the needs of employers.

 

Is the EEOC Way off with this new “wellness” lawsuit? Not Really.

September 11th, 2014 by

The post below is a guest blog from Robin Shea who serves as Partner for Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP, CAI’s Partner for the 2014 Triad Employment Law Update. This post originally appeared on her blog Employment and Labor Insider.

Robin Shea, Partner at Constangy, Brooks & Smith

Robin Shea, Partner at Constangy, Brooks & Smith

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against Wisconsin-based Orion Energy Systems, Inc., over its wellness program and its treatment of ex-employee Wendy Schobert, who was not a fan of the program. The lawsuit contends that the program’s health risk assessment is an unlawful “medical examination” and that the company retaliated against Ms. Schobert for failing to have a positive attitude about it. Both the medical examination and the retaliation, says the EEOC, violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on this wellness/ADA issue — as I have here, here, here, and here — you know that the EEOC has not been as forthcoming with guidance as we’d ideally like, although in May it promised that we’d be getting something soon. That having been said, if the EEOC’s allegations in this lawsuit are correct,* then Orion may have a problem.

*All we have now is the lawsuit and the EEOC’s press release. We have not heard Orion’s side of the story.

According to the lawsuit, participants in Orion’s wellness program had to use a range-of-motion machine, provide their medical histories, and have blood work done. As we discussed last week, the ADA says that this kind of information can be requested of current employees only if it is “job-related and consistent with business necessity” or if the information is requested in connection with a voluntary wellness program.

Because Orion obtained the information for “preventive” reasons, it was not JRACWBN (Job-Related and Consistent With Business Necessity) in the least. But it was clearly obtained in connection with a wellness program.

And Orion’s wellness program was “voluntary” . . . technically speaking. Employees didn’t really have to participate — as long as they were willing to pay 100 percent of their health insurance premiums out of pocket. If an employee participated in the program, the company paid 100 percent of the premiums. If an employee did not participate, the company paid zero percent of the premiums. The EEOC says that the cost of health insurance premiums at the times relevant to the lawsuit was $413.43 a month for individual coverage and a whopping $744.16 a month for family coverage. And on top of that, Orion assessed a $50 a month penalty to non-participating employees.

So, yeah, you could decline to participate if you were Donald Trump. But most people presumably went with the program because they couldn’t afford not to. And that is why the EEOC says Orion violated the ADA’s “medical examination” provisions — it was asking for medical information that was not JRACWBN, and even though the information was obtained in connection with a wellness program, the program wasn’t truly “voluntary” because of these draconian penalties.

The “retaliation” part of the lawsuit is more routine. Ms. Schobert didn’t like the wellness program, and she not only refused to participate, but she also allegedly tried to get other employees to resist, I’m guessing like the Penn State wellness debacle that got so much publicity last year. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, HR called her in and asked her to adjust her attitude. When she didn’t, they fired her.

This Orion suit will be one to watch, and employers should be looking forward to getting some concrete preventive guidance from the EEOC about wellness programs and the ADA — particularly the “voluntariness” issue. My ultra-conservative view has been that rewards are probably all right, but that penalties are dangerous. And an employee can always argue that an employer’s refusal to give a non-participant a “reward” is, in effect, a “penalty” for non-participation. Especially when we’re talking about monthly health insurance premiums of $400-700 a month.

It appears that I am not the only one on the employers’ side who is wary about aggressive wellness programs and the ADA.

Finally, it’s worth keeping in mind that Ms. Schobert was terminated in 2009, and so the Affordable Care Act was not at issue. The ACA wellness provisions do not address the issue of voluntariness. But they do specifically authorize employers to grant significant economic “rewards” to employees who achieve results (for example, by reducing their Body Mass Index) in so-called “health-contingent” wellness plans.

All the more reason that employers need help from the EEOC in knowing the agency’s position on the interplay of the ADA wellness restrictions (as well as those that apply under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act) and the ACA.

Robin Shea is presenting at the 2014 Triad Employment Law Update on November14th at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro. In addition to receiving information on new decisions from the EEOC and DOL, attorneys from Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLP will provide you with the most recent updates in state and federal employment law. Register today at www.capital.org/triadlaw.

2014 NC Policies & Benefits Survey Reveals Total Rewards Practices of NC Employers

September 9th, 2014 by

survey dataDuring last month’s Compensation and Benefits Conference, Molly Hegeman, CAI’s Vice President of HR Services, shared information on what NC employers are doing in regard to their total rewards packages. Her presentation included statistics from the 2014 NC Policies & Benefits Survey. The only local survey of its kind shares employers’ answers to 320 questions related to workplace policies and employee benefits practices.

This year’s survey had participation from 384 employers located throughout North Carolina. Forty-four percent of participants are located in the Research Triangle region, 25 percent are in the Charlotte area and 17 percent are located in the Piedmont/Triad region with the remaining participants in the East/Southeast region.

Some key findings from the survey revolving around health and welfare benefits include:

  • Nearly all employers provide medical insurance to their employees. About 78 percent of employers offer a traditional PPO plan, about 27 percent offer a consumer driven HAS plan.
  • Regarding employer contribution to the insurance premium, on average, employers pay 80 percent of the premium for employee only PPO coverage and 55 percent of the premium for family PPO coverage for full-time employees.
  • About 71 percent of employers do not offer domestic partner benefits. In turn, about 18 percent of employers do offer domestic partner benefits regardless of sex of partner. About 11 percent offer benefits with sex restrictions.

The survey also covered time off and results revealed several things, such as:

  • About 72 percent of employers have a PTO policy. On average, employers provide 6 days of PTO upon hire, 13-14 days of PTO after 1 year of service, 15 days of PTO after three years of service, 17-18 days of PTO after 5 years of service and 20-21 days of PTO to employees after 10 years of service.
  • About 68 percent of employers have a formal sick plan that is separate from a PTO policy. On average, employers provide 9 sick days to full-time employees per year.
  • On average, employers provide 9 paid holidays to full-time employees and 5 paid holidays to part-time employees per year.
  • About 9 percent of employers offer a maternity leave policy separate from short-term disability or FMLA.

Pay practices is another subject the survey tackled. Participant responses include:

  • About 61 percent of employers indicated a pay philosophy of paying employees at or above market rate. In turn, 34 percent have no formal pay philosophy.
  • To determine compensation decisions, about 77 percent of employers use external market analyses, about 70 percent use internal job evaluations, about 58 percent use skill or competency-based methods, and 11 percent have no formal method.
  • The most common type of base pay increase employers give is performance based according to up to 83 percent of employers. About 22 percent give an across the board increase, about 17 percent give a cost of living increase, and about 6 percent give some other type of increase.

CAI provides this survey every two years. Other topic areas the survey covers include retirement plans, workplace culture, recruiting and staffing, termination and HR metrics.

The 2014 NC Policies & Benefits Survey can be purchased from CAI’s store here. If you’re interested in participating in next year’s survey, please contact a member of CAI’s survey team at cai-survey-team@capital.org.

 

 

Advantages of a Virtual Job Fair

September 4th, 2014 by

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares the many benefits of hosting a virtual job fair.  

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

Hosting a physical job fair can be an expensive undertaking for any company. Unless you already have your own well-equipped facility, there are fees for facility rental, equipment, furnishings, insurance and even security. Depending on the overall success of the event, the cost of a single recruit can be very large indeed.

In fact, Recruiting Scope, an online resource for professional recruiters, determined in a recent study the average cost per recruit at a successful, in-person job fair can be as high as $121. Compare this with the average cost per recruit of $19 by hosting a “virtual” job fair.

Virtual job fairs provide an online environment using a variety of mediums like teleconferences, online chats and webcasts to join recruiters and candidates in an interactive experience. Information like resumes and online applications can be exchanged digitally and reviewed in real-time.

In addition to the dramatic reduction in cost per recruit, a virtual job fair also allows you to reach a larger group of potential candidates far outside the restrictions of your own geography. Imagine having a global audience attend your next job fair! A well-known global professional services firm presided over a virtual career fair that spanned 40 countries and more than 10,000 candidates in a two-day period.

A virtual job fair can also speed up the recruiting process, creating opportunities to conduct video interviews with viable candidates without the typical expenses of travel, etc. by either side.

Other reasons to explore a virtual job fair include:

  • A physical job fair presents a limitation on time spent with each candidate, as there are many candidates to see in a short amount of time. To fully qualify a recruit, you want to maximize the level of engagement before bringing them in for a face-to-face interview to ensure a good fit for the position and the corporate culture. Virtual interviews can provide that level of engagement.
  • Interviewing across a virtual channel can be a more comfortable and secure setting for both the candidate and the recruiter. A virtual interview process also enables for the candidate to speak with multiple persons within your organization at the same time or in succession. This is a process not often possible during a physical job fair due to time and scheduling constraints. Depending on the skillset and background presented, a recruiter can pass a candidate along down multiple paths within the organization, virtually, to gain a greater amount of feedback.
  • Another excellent use of a virtual recruiting center is the delivery of a consistent corporate message. With a physical job fair, there is a finite amount of information you can make available to candidates. Different information may be applicable to different candidates. With a virtual recruiting center, information can be built over time and divided along career paths for ease of navigation. Tips on resume presentation and interview skills can be made available. Online surveys and quizzes to help candidates determine their desired career paths are also a popular feature. Updates can be made as well, without the expense of reprinting materials.
  • While physical job fairs have a static beginning and ending date, virtual job fairs can be continuous, providing a constant stream of new applicants from which to actively recruit.

It is important to note, having a career page on your corporate website is not the same as a virtual job fair. Virtual job fairs are advertised through a number of online channels and media. They are specifically designed to emulate a physical job fair and to provide a similar experience to candidates. Career pages are typically very passive in nature with regard to recruiting, whereas virtual job fairs are both active and interactive with respect to the candidate’s experience.

Similar to a physical job fair, a virtual job fair can be the first impression of your organization a candidate receives, and therefore the experience can be extremely important in the recruiting process.

Favoritism in the Workplace Isn’t Always Bad

September 2nd, 2014 by

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer Column, The View from HR.

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Most view favoritism as undeserved special treatment of an employee by a manager.

“My manager has favorites” is a common concern. It is demoralizing to watch a co-employee be showered with special treatment when you know the individual spends more time on Facebook than on workbook.

Favoritism has a bad reputation. Every workplace would be better off if managers had more favorites. Here’s why.

Too much of the time, managers spend their day dealing with the 5 percent or 10 percent of their staff that cause problems, have problems or are problems. Performance issues, abuse of time off, interpersonal conflicts, time wasting, repeated instructions, petty complaints and so on make for a hard day and waste a lot of time. In a way, these are really a manager’s set of favorites if you judge favoritism by time spent.

Why not look at favoritism as building, rewarding and mentoring the top 25 percent of the workforce? Yes, I mean the people who show each day that they are there for the right reasons and, given a moderate amount of help to understand their role and how to grow, they learn and perform.

I am suggesting that managers make a list of their favorites and develop individual plans to reward and grow these favorites. Special employees should be treated in special ways. These are the ones that deserve your flexibility and advocacy for pay raises. Most important, they are the ones that truly deserve your TIME.

There is nothing more important you can give rising stars or high performers than your time. Do you know their career goals? Do they know what options are open internally? Do both of you have a plan to get them there? Do you even know why they stay with the organization and how to keep that glue sticky? Ask. Set aside time just for these conversations.

A good way to start is the one question meeting. “Tell me how I can help you get to where you want to be in this role and in future roles here at MegaCompany.” Let the conversation go where it needs to go. This is the employee’s meeting. Some will quickly tell you a specific plan or maybe they have considered leaving to reach that plan elsewhere. You will obtain a wealth of good information for your plan to make them the right kind of favorite.

Employees: if your manager is too busy on the wrong favorites, set up a time to meet for the purpose of discussing your role and your growth in the workplace. Make it very positive and focused on both better results for your team and better results for you. Develop a regular conversation with your manager around proactive problem prevention, efficiency and results.

I have to bring up this last point. Somebody is thinking, “But I have to treat everyone the same, right?” Wrong. You must avoid discrimination for unlawful reasons, but you are a malpracticing manager if you treat every employee the same regardless of his or her contribution and effort. Your best employees deserve your best, and that means special treatment in pay, smart policy exceptions and your TIME.

What’s the worst that can happen? Maybe other employees will see how to become your favorite and deserve the same special status!

Q&A: 6 Things You Should Know About Affirmative Action Plans

August 28th, 2014 by

CAI’s Manager for Affirmative Action Services, Kaleigh Ferraro, shares information on affirmative action plans from the OFCCP. Make sure you are compliant.

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

If your organization provides goods or services to the federal government either directly or indirectly, you may be subject to affirmative action regulations.  Just in 2014, regulation changes regarding affirmative action programs for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities became effective.  President Obama has also signed several Executive Orders affecting federal contractors.  Is your organization in compliance with these recent and proposed changes?

Q: Are you covered as an affirmative action employer?

A: If you have federal contractors or subcontracts of at least $10,000, you are covered under the affirmative action regulations.

 

Q: What are the affirmative action requirements?

A: One of the main requirements is to annually develop written affirmative action plans if you have federal contracts/subcontracts of $50,000 or more and 50 or more employees. There are a number of other requirements as well.

 

Q: What is the impact of the changes to organizations regarding protected veterans and individuals with disabilities?

A: Some of the major changes that became effective in 2014 require setting hiring benchmarks for veterans and utilization goals for individuals with disabilities.  They also require federal contractors to solicit self-identification of applicants for veteran and disability statuses prior to job offer.

 

Q: What type of data is needed to develop an affirmative action plan?

A: In order to develop an annual affirmative action plan, you will need a current listing of employees.  This employee listing will be used to determine if Placement Goals must be established for women and minorities.  This listing will also be used to determine if utilization goals for individuals with disabilities are met.  Contractors must also review employment decisions for hires, promotions and terminations for the 12 months prior to the employee listing.

 

Q: What is required of affirmative action employers other than the written affirmative action plan?

A: There are a number of additional requirements beyond an affirmative action plan.  These requirements include the following: record keeping requirements, tracking applicant data, annually filing EEO-1/VETS-100A reports, notifying subcontractors & vendors of obligations, specific language in covered purchase orders & subcontracts, listing jobs with state employment service delivery systems, outreach and recruitment efforts, etc.  CAI can provide additional information regarding these and other requirements.

 

Q: What are the recently signed Executive Orders and proposed regulation changes?

A: President Obama has signed several Executive Orders in 2014 that may lead to changes for federal contractors and subcontractors.  They include, establishing higher minimum wages for federal contractors, expanding affirmative action requirements to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected groups, protect workers from retaliation when discussing pay with other employees.  The OFCCP also issued proposed regulations that would require contractors to submit compensation information annually in an expanded Employer Information Report EEO-1

CAI has a team dedicated to affirmative action and can assist with affirmative action questions.  Please contact Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager of Affirmative Action Services directly at 919-713-5241 or kaleigh.ferraro@capital.org  for additional information or other affirmative action questions.

 

FMLA: Are You A Covered Employer?

August 26th, 2014 by

In today’s video blog, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution team, discusses provisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and whether an employer is covered.

John starts by explaining that FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for certain family or medical reasons. He lists several protections the law grants employees, such as continuation of a group health plan.

He addresses employer coverage in the last portion of the video. John says public employers are covered without regard to the number of employees employed. Private employers must have 50 or more employees during 20 or more workweeks during the current or preceding calendar year. John also explains which employees you should count when figuring out FMLA coverage.

If you have additional questions regarding FMLA employer coverage, please give CAI’s Advice and Resolution team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-667-7746.

Helpful Information from 3 Presentations at the 2014 Compensation and Benefits Conference

August 21st, 2014 by

Comp Ben Save Date 2014 (2)CAI hosted its 2014 Compensation and Benefits Conference at the McKimmon Center on Thursday, August 14 and Friday, August 15. More than 200 HR professionals and company executives attended the two-day event to review and discuss emerging workplace trends surrounding compensation, benefits and total rewards, as well as the impact these trends leave on culture and profitability.

This year’s conference speakers shared presentations on how to attract and motivate top talent, strategies to increase employee engagement, reinforcing a positive workplace culture, and more. Keynote presentations for the 2014 conference lineup included:

The Future of Attraction, Retention and Motivation: How Compensation Fits into the Process Anne Ruddy – WorldatWork

What Would Healthcare Look Like If Getting It at the Lowest Cost Was Your Key Priority? Skip Woody – Hill, Chesson & Woody Employee Benefit Services

Green Goldfish – 15 Ways to Drive Engagement & Reinforce Culture Stan Phelps – 9 INCH marketing

Leverage Marketplace Trends When Making Decisions about Compensation and Benefits Strategies Molly Hegeman – CAI

In addition to the keynote sessions, conference participants had the opportunity to attend several of the many breakout sessions. Why performance management fails, building high performing teams, work-site wellbeing, and understanding survey data are some of the topics of this year’s breakout sessions.

Below are three sets of insights conference speakers shared with last week’s audience:

–Anne Ruddy shared the changes in employee attitudes from recipients to consumers of rewards in her keynote presentation:

From:

Employer loyalty

Traditional work design

Pay = position

Retirement security

To:

Self-managed careers

Virtual, flexible environments

Pay = performance, market

Individual career management

 

–In the breakout session Why Performance Management Fails, Mike Maciekowich shared five reasons why companies need performance management systems:

  1. Help managers to observe their staff more closely and to do a better coaching job.
  2. Motivate employees by providing feedback on how they are doing.
  3. Provide back-up data for management decisions concerning advancement, transfers, dismissals, and so on.
  4. Improve organization development by identifying people with promotion potential and pin-pointing development needs.
  5. Establish a research and reference base for personnel decisions.

 

–CAI’s Sherry Hubbard-Bednasz explained the purpose of salary surveys in her presentation Taking the Mystery Out of Survey Data:

Salary surveys:

  • Provide a fair representation of pay practices occurring in the market
    • Sample reflects population
    • Consider source, methodology, transparency
  • Show how variables impact pay
    • Size of company
    • Industry/sector
    • Geography
  • Indicate trends in pay
    • Overall market movement
    • Movement in certain segments
  • Inform compensation decisions as a guide, not absolute

For additional information on CAI’s conferences, please go to https://www.capital.org/eweb/DynamicPage.aspx?site=cai&webcode=cai-training-conferences.

 

Survey Reveals Women and Millennials in Leadership Yield Greater Company Success

August 19th, 2014 by

women leadersMost companies strive to create a work environment that embraces diversity. Differences in age, gender and other characteristics benefit companies in numerous ways, such as various perspectives for problem solving or creating new business opportunities.

New research from DDI and The Conference Board highlights a critical difference between the top and bottom corporate financial performers—companies with more women in leadership roles perform better. Another finding from the survey indicates that millennials in leadership roles can also impact business success positively.

The Global Leadership Forecast (GLF) 2014/2015, Ready-Now Leaders: Meeting Tomorrow’s  Business Challenges is the seventh edition of the annual report that DDI has put together since beginning this research in 1999. This year’s report includes responses from 13,124 global leaders and 1,528 human resources executives within 2,031 organizations. Survey results represent 48 countries and 32 major industries.

Here are some insights the survey revealed:

  • Men and woman are equally competent workers. However, men tend to portray themselves as more effective leaders overall than woman do.
  • In comparison to men, women are not as likely to rate themselves as highly-effective leaders.
  • Women are also less likely than men to have completed international assignments, led across geographies or countries or teams spread out geographically.
  • Of the participating organizations, those in the top 20 percent of financial performance have 37 percent of their leaders as women and 12 percent of their leaders are high-potential women.
  • Organizations in the bottom 20 percent count only 19 percent of their leaders as women, and 8 percent of their leaders as high-potential women.
  • An organization’s rate of growth is directly linked to the number of millennials in leadership roles.
  • Companies that were more financially successful were also more likely to have a higher percentage of millennial leaders.

“To improve business outcomes, bolster current development programs so that all leaders, including women and millennials, can improve their skills,” said Evan Sinar, Ph.D., DDI Chief Scientist, Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research (CABER) Director and study co-author. “Development opportunities build confidence. Provide opportunities for stretch assignments, ensure formal practices are in place to facilitate those opportunities and fully-commit your support to mentoring programs to develop and prepare new leaders.”

Receive full access to the report on DDI’s website here.