Archive for April, 2011

The Six Criteria for Unpaid Interns

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

With the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) Wage and Hour Division focusing so closely on uncovering and investigating violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employers need to be sure that they are complying with every part of the wage and hour law.  One area where the actual regulations often fail to match what employers believe them to be concerns the paying of interns.

Thankfully, USDOL released Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act last year, which provides general information to employers to help determine whether interns must be paid under the FLSA for the service they provide.  For an internship to be unpaid, it must meet the following six criteria:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an education environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

Along with the six criteria, USDOL also provides some examples and interpretations of workplace situations in the Fact Sheet.

We encourage employers who have an internship program in place, or who are considering one, to review this important Fact Sheet.  A review of the six criteria and the interpretations in this Fact Sheet should help clarify any confusion.  Interns who do not meet the criteria should be paid at least minimum wage, plus any earned overtime.

If you have any questions about intern compensation, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photos Source: Inspiring Interns

Employing Career Changers

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Lifestyle adjustments have become the new norm for most Americans. Many of those modifications have been small and easy to make, such as cutting back on splurges, carpooling or dining at home, but for those whose career has been impacted, the changes can be significant. Unemployed workers have altered both their lifestyle and career expectations of growth and stability. When seeking new employment, many professionals have turned to positions of lower income, employment outside a previous career or an additional part-time job to make ends meet.

Rutgers University researchers revealed that 26 percent of the unemployed workforce in 2009 was successfully employed by 2010. Within this group of newly employed professionals, nearly 50 percent found employment in a different career or new position. Though the career transition may have been paired with a salary decrease, the majority felt satisfied and content in their new line of work.

The Assumption and Benefit

Many organizations may be hesitant to employ staff outside their industry because seasoned professionals often eliminate the necessity for a majority of the training process, making for an overall smoother transition. It is obvious why companies pursue top talent, but that mindset can be expanded to a variety of potential job candidates, not just industry experts.

Though career changers will need additional time invested up front with training and support, they come with long-term benefits for the organization as a whole. Consider these career changers as new sets of eyes for the company. Your staff and those who have previously worked in similar environments function under related concepts concerning operations and processes. Bringing in new talent allows for an innovative and fresh perspective that may not have been previously available to employers under different economic conditions. The economy has forced everyone to think and maneuver in new ways, so consider seizing the current job market and taking the opportunity to bring in a different kind of talent.

For additional information, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Don’t Just Dress to Impress, Dress to Succeed

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Appropriate work attire is often stressed by college advisors and career coaches when preparing candidates for their first interviews. To be helpful, they will share lists that feature interview appearance etiquette, such as “hair should be well-groomed” and “jewelry should be kept to a minimum.” Unfortunately, after their interviews are secured and jobs are offered, workers do not always place dressing professionally at the top of their to-do list to succeed.

Although putting importance on your workplace wardrobe doesn’t directly affect your ability to perform your job, it can directly affect how others in your work environment perceive you, which is important when trying to climb the ladder. Managers and teammates may be well aware of your abilities to perform your tasks and assignments. Others, however, who do not interact with you daily, but can decide the future of your career (ex, your manager’s boss), can judge your work ethic solely by the clothes you’re wearing.

Dressing professionally and appropriately depends on your workplace dress code. If not already discussed during the job orientation, it is important to ask if there is one, as well as a document that specifies suitable clothing options. Receiving this information will prevent violations and indicate what to look for when shopping for work items. Company standards can range from formal, such as suits and ties, to casual, which may include jeans and shirts without collars. No matter the policy, making sure you look your best is an easy goal to achieve. For example, if jeans and a T-shirt is the office uniform, ensuring your jeans are free from holes and the shirt is nicely pressed will demonstrate to others that you value your job.

When deciding if an outfit is professional, envisioning how your clients or customers would view the ensemble is a good starting point. Do you think they’d trust the product you’re selling and would they see you as a serious employee? If either answer is no, you should move on to a different outfit. Reviewing how successful people at your company dress can also be a factor in choosing the right apparel. Spending time to put your best foot forward each work day can catapult you to the next level of your career. Not only will you impress others with your clothing, you might raise the bar for office standards.

It’s important to mention that dressing to reach success does not have to be budget breaking. Malls and department stores regularly have sales that drastically cut the prices of suits and shoes. Discount stores, including Marshalls and T.J. Maxx, offer designer business pieces for less, and WalMart and Target provide affordable options as well.

Devoting extra time to your professional appearance will make supervisors take notice of your attributes, as well as make subordinates and colleagues more respectful of your position. Your self-esteem will also increase while you work toward improving your career.

For additional information about implementing, reviewing or adhering to dress code policy, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: karsten.planz

ADA Amendments Act Regulations Confirm Broader Definition of “Disabled”

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

The post below is a guest blog from Laura Bibb, JD, who serves as the Compliance Officer for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody Employee Benefit Services.

On March 25, 2010, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued final regulations implementing the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Amendments Act, which was signed into law by George Bush on Sept. 25, 2008.

These regulations, which become effective May 24, 2011, provide clarification for the ADA Amendments Act.  Specifically, the regulations state that the primary purpose of the ADA Amendments Act is to “make it easier for an individual seeking protection under the ADA to establish that he or she has a disability within the meaning of the ADA.”

The ADA and the final regulations use a 3-prong approach to define disability:

  1. A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or
  2. A record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity; or
  3. When a covered entity takes an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived impairment that is not both transitory and minor.

The regulations confirm that the definition of “disability” is expansive and should be broadly construed.  Additionally, the regulations identify the following specific impairments that will be easily concluded to be disabilities that substantially limit a major life activity:

  • Deafness
  • Blindness
  • Intellectual disability
  • Partially or completely missing limbs
  • Mobility impairments requiring the use of a wheelchair
  • Autism
  • Cancer
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • HIV infection
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Muscular dystrophy
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Schizophrenia

These regulations are intended to shift the focus away from the issue of whether someone is disabled to the issues of prohibited conduct and reasonable accommodations.  What this means practically is that it will be easier to fall into the ADA definition of disabled and the court battles will likely be focused on whether an individual was denied reasonable accommodation.

To assist employers, the EEOC has published on its website a FAQ document as well as a Fact Sheet regarding these regulations.

For more information on the ADA and how it is also interacting with incentive-based corporate wellness programs, be sure to check out Hill, Chesson & Woody’s most recent Eyes on Benefits newsletter.

Background Checks – Three Questions to Consider

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

These days, most employers include background checks as a mandatory part of the hiring process, as they should.  When conducting background checks it is very important that you follow the letter of the law.  Here are three important considerations for your background checking process:

  1. Are you complying with the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)? A lot of companies get derailed on the word “credit” – they feel that since they are not looking at the financial record of their applicant/employee that the FCRA does not apply to them.  In reality, the FCRA actually applies to any sort of background check that is compiled by a third party, such as your background checking company.  It is almost impossible to avoid using a third party in some part of the background check.  Many companies and a lot of universities refer verification inquiries to third party companies that act as the repository, instantly bringing your background check under the purview of the FCRA.
  2. Is your decision point job related? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rules are clear—you should only hold items against your applicant that are job related.  If you are unable to show a correlation to the work your applicant needs to do, you are better off not considering the unrelated negative background check results when making your hiring decision.  In fact, the EEOC has said that you must take into accountthe nature and gravity of the offense or offenses for which the applicant was convicted; the time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and the nature of the job held or sought.
  3. Should you look at financial credit reports? The answer is yes, if it is important to the job requirements of the position for which you are hiring.  Recent actions by legislators and the EEOC should make you take pause before requiring a financial credit report on all applicants.  A good litmus test (unless you are in Hawaii, Oregon, Washington and Illinois) is if the position includes any of the following characteristics:
  1. is a managerial position which involves setting the direction or control of the business;
  2. involves access to customers’, employees’ or the employer’s personal or financial information other than information customarily provided in a retail transaction;
  3. involves a fiduciary responsibility to the employer, including, but not limited to, the authority to issue payments, transfer money or enter into contracts; or
  4. provides an expense account.

CAI works closely with its Background Checking clients to ensure they are fully compliant with local and federal laws.  If you have questions about background checks, please contact Kevin von der Lippe at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: HaxNetwork

Components of a Successful Interview

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011

The interview process – it’s what some refer to as the “make it or break it” moment of careers. The face-to-face time with potential employers is the one opportunity job seekers have to sell themselves, leave a lasting impression and give reason to why they are most fitting for the job at hand.

With most interviews, employers tend to ask the same question across all industries:  What questions, if any, do you have for us?

Don’t miss this opportunity. This is the last chance before the selection process to stand out among the competition. By not asking a question, or asking the wrong question, you could possibly close the doors altogether. Consider the following as you prepare for your next interview.

Responsibilities – You have seen the job description and are aware of the basic skills and responsibilities required for the current position. Take time during the interview to decipher the day-to-day expectations and uncover what is of most importance. Out of all the roles this position fulfills, what makes it vital to the long-term health of the company?

Management – To perform well, employees must comprehend the type of leadership the organization employs. Discuss the management styles within the given department and consider how they match with the kind of communication you work best under. Employers will respect your desire for clear communication and working under a team-oriented mindset.

Culture – A majority of interview discussions are centered on the required tasks and functions of a position, but take the opportunity to redirect the close of conversation toward corporate culture. People most often remain loyal to an organization because of its culture, and employers will be pleasantly surprised to know that you value the work environment just as much as the job you fulfill.

Vertical growth – Most people aren’t satisfied with performing the same job for the rest of their career. If your personality is one that is focused on growth, it’s important to inquire about the internal advancement process. Are there any formal processes in place and is internal advancement a common occurrence within the organization? Discussing advancement doesn’t mean you won’t be focused on the current position, but shows employers that you desire challenge, additional responsibility and a long-term relationship within the organization.

For additional information, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: TenSafeFrogs

Nurture Your Top Talent

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

A recent study by Sylvia Hewlett of the Center for Work-Life Policy revealed that 64 percent of surveyed employees were considering leaving their current job, while 24 percent are actively seeking employment elsewhere.  As businesses begin to recover from layoffs, consolidations and decreased earnings, 73 percent of employees surveyed still feel discouraged, and 64 percent feel a lack of motivation in their current jobs.

The recession has prevented most employers from being able to dedicate tangible funding toward compensation increases and improved benefits for employees, which has led high-performing employees to look for new opportunities.  Without exhausting the precious funds needed to sustain the business through these difficult times, employers must find new ways to engage their high performers and keep them motivated.

Here are three no-cost suggestions:

  • Create an atmosphere of clear, two-way communication. Start with company-wide meetings and then split into the department level, or even the team level, to continue the meeting.  In these smaller groups, employees are more likely to speak up if they have a suggestion, comment or criticism.  Make sure their voices are heard so they always feel that they are an important part of the overall organization.
  • Instead of money, offer time. Flexible work schedules, including working from home and exercise breaks during the day, can boost productivity without breaking the bank.
  • Seek ways to create career opportunities. As organizations and departments consolidate, there will be opportunities for remaining team members to assume cross-functional roles and stretch for new assignments.  Look for those opportunities to train employees with direct, hands-on experience.

Now is the time to find creative ways to nurture your top talent and make their engagement a priority.  Reward their contributions so both the organization and the individual employees will be successful.  If you have questions regarding this opportunity to encourage your top performers, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: ICMA Photos

Recruiting The Best and Brightest

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Employees are the framework for all organizations, and represent a driving force behind the success or failure of a company. As one of the key elements for long-term success, it’s critical that companies place focus on the hiring process, and strive to recruit the most intelligent, motivated and versatile employees available.

How can companies position themselves to not only recruit employees, but attract top talent?

Evaluate Current Processes

First, evaluate the current selection process your organization has in place. Because of convenience, countless job seekers will come through newspaper ads and website postings, but by using additional outlets (social media, executive staffing firms, industry professional associations, conferences and online boards) a new kind of job candidate can be uncovered. By extending your network pool, you can build relationships, and much can be said about hiring a person whose character you know, instead of hiring solely on Internet credentials.

Provide Thorough Job Descriptions

Once you are recruiting within the correct market, make sure that your company job descriptions are clearly outlined. A detailed description of requirements and responsibilities is imperative, as it’s a way for you to label and define the expectations of future candidates. Don’t wait until the interview process to discover your interviewee doesn’t meet the basic qualifications. If you allow the job description to cover basic requirements, your interview process will reveal the candidate whose skills stand out above the rest.

Keep an Eye on Talent

To recruit the best and brightest, employers must always keep an eye open for top talent. Firms with exceptional recruiting results always monitor potential applicants, whether hiring or not. Through continuous evaluation of the candidate pool, organizations have a better idea of who to select when the time comes. By keeping a running list of candidates, you can keep a watch over top talent and avoid hiring at the last minute.

Monitor your Company Brand

An important piece of the puzzle that is often overlooked is to monitor your company brand. What people say outside of the company walls matters immensely. The overall public perception of your organization will be a leading determinant for many candidates. Outside of salary and job growth, employees want to be part of a company whose culture is respected and valued. Treat your current staff well, as they will be your spokespersons to others about what makes your organization great.

For additional information about recruiting, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel team at (919) 878-9222 or (336) 668-7746.

Photo Source: Argonne National Laboratory