Archive for May, 2013

4 Tips to Act Like a Detective When Hiring Job Candidates

Thursday, May 30th, 2013

CAI’s Director of Membership, Doug Blizzard, offers several strategies to help you make solid hiring decisions in today’s video post. He suggests that you act like a detective during the interview and hiring process to make sure your new hire is the right person to do the job. Doug says that organizations should objectively piece together clues to find their new employee. However, many hiring managers act like first-time car buyers—nervous, unprepared, settle for the first thing they find, etc.

As a detective, Doug encourages you to take your time during the hiring process. Actively find out if job candidates have the character and credentials to fill your open position. Doug gives you four ways to pull off a successful investigation:

1)      Screen for Organizational Fit

Many leading companies believe cultural or organizational fit are more important than specific job skills. Hire someone who fits your workplace culture, and you’ll likely spend less time dealing with a bad hire who affects the morale and performance of your other employees. Doug says you can’t teach character. He lists several ways to screen for organizational fit in the video.

2)       Require Letters of Reference

Doug suggests having your job candidates provide you with two letters of reference—one personal and one professional. The letters will tell you a lot about the candidate and help you indentify the type of character your candidate has.

3)      Ask Behavior-Based Interview Questions

Job candidates are prepared for standard interview questions, such as their strengths, weaknesses and even what type of animal they’d be. However, Doug says the best predictor of success is past results. Identify success factors for your company’s available position, and ask your candidates how they were able to have similar results at their workplace.

4)      Perform Background Checks

In the video, Doug says the cost to perform background checks pales in comparison to the price of a bad hire. Fifty-three percent of all job applications contain errors so performing this step is crucial.

If you have additional questions or would like more information to help you with your hiring process, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Minimizing Potential Liability for Workplace Harassment Issues

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

John GuptonCAI’s Advice and Counsel Team answers several questions from members daily. One question that the team members often receive deals with workplace harassment—what should our organization be doing to minimize our potential for liability for workplace harassment issues? In today’s post, Advice and Counsel Team Member John Gupton provides a number of solutions for minimizing harassment at your workplace:

In regard to the issue of unlawful workplace harassment, a company must show that it took immediate and appropriate action to eliminate the offensive conduct. Prevention is the best tool for avoiding harassment charges. For this reason, employers should:

  • Maintain a written policy on harassment, communicate it to all employees, and provide multiple avenues for employees to register any complaints.
  • Provide training to supervisors on a regular basis.
  • Make it clear to all supervisors and employees that harassment on the job will not be tolerated.
  • Place particular emphasis on the company’s strong disapproval of this conduct.
  • Require members of management to report any known harassment.
  • Thoroughly investigate any claims of harassment.
  • Provide appropriate discipline in cases of harassment.

Furthermore, under EEOC enforcement guidance, an employer’s workplace harassment policy must prohibit harassment on all protected categories, not just sex harassment (i.e., harassment on the basis of race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age, genetic information and disability status). According to these EEOC guidelines, the policy must include at a minimum:

  • A clear explanation of the prohibited conduct.
  • Assurance that employees will be protected against retaliation.
  • The ability to make a complaint to more than just the employee’s immediate supervisor.
  • Confidentiality– to the extent possible.
  • Prompt, thorough and impartial investigations.
  • Assurance that the employer will take immediate and appropriate corrective action when it determines that harassment has occurred.

If you have questions regarding harassment, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

Staffing Agencies and Common Law Employees: Who is Responsible for Offering Coverage?

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

The post below is a guest blog from W. Hunter Walton, JD who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant for CAI’s employee benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services.

Many employers use staffing agencies to provide workers for short-term projects and tasks and to supplement their full-time permanent workforce. This common practice has always been a convenient way to outsource labor and to avoid the complicated administrative processes of hiring temporary employees.  However, with the new shared employer responsibility mandate that goes into effect on January 1, 2014 as a part of the Affordable Care Act, staffing agencies are beginning to adapt to a new set of rules and regulations.

Traditionally, employers who utilize staffing agencies for temporary employees pay a fee to the staffing agency and are paired with an applicant. The staffing agency then pays the applicant, the associated taxes, and in some instances will offer benefits. There has often been no question that while the applicant may work on projects for the company hiring them through the staffing agency, the staffing agency is the employer and is responsible for complying with the laws pertaining to employee/employer relationships.

Insurance CoverageWith the introduction of the shared employer responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act, employers with more than 50 full-time employees must offer health insurance to their employees. While determining who is responsible for offering coverage to employees hired through a staffing agency may seem straightforward, guidance from the IRS and the Department of Labor suggests that it may not be so simple.

In order to make this determination and establish who is responsible for providing health coverage or paying the associated penalties, the government may use the common law employee test traditionally used for determining Social Security liability. Using this test, employers may find that temporary employees whom they thought were the responsibility of a staffing agency may actually be their own legal employees.

The common law test is subjective and requires several factors to be taken into consideration. No one factor is controlling and all factors are intended to serve as guides to reaching a reasonable conclusion. The two primary factors are determining who controls what must be done by the employee and how it is done. Other factors include determining who trains the employee, the degree of integration within the hiring firm, the duration of the relationship, the manner that business expenses are paid, who furnishes tools and materials used on the job, the right to discharge, and the right to quit. Even if the employer does not give the employee orders on what to do, including, how, when, and where to do the job, he or she only needs the right to do so for the worker to be considered an employee.

All of these factors should be considered in their totality, and it is possible that they will vary from temporary employee to temporary employee.

HCW Viewpoint

Given the myriad of factors used to determine who an employee’s common law employer is, it is imperative that employers currently utilizing the services of a staffing agency clarify who will be responsible for providing coverage to workers working more than 30 hours per week. With the use of the common law employer rules, many companies may have more employees than they currently realize and this could affect how they determine their size for the pay or play penalty, as well as to which employees they offer coverage if they have more than 50 full-time employees.

Determining who is truly the common law employer in these situations will not only affect determination of who is responsible for providing coverage or paying the associated penalties, it will also determine who is required to receive certain new notices, who should be counted when paying new taxes and fees, and who should be eligible for COBRA.

To fully comply with the Affordable Care Act and avoid unnecessary penalties, employers need to make these determinations now and not wait until they go into effect in 2014. HCW anticipates that many staffing agencies will begin to include contract provisions for these kinds of determinations; however employers cannot rely solely on a third party to confirm their liability. Most employers will need to make these determinations independently and protect their liability by consulting outside counsel. By determining what employees are required to be offered health coverage now, before a penalty is imposed, there will be a much smoother transition once the penalties are in full force.

The 2012 Policies and Benefits Survey Reveals an Increase in Company Wellness Initiatives

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Director of HR Services, Molly Hegeman, shares several interesting findings from CAI’s 2012 Policies and Benefits Survey. More than 260 employers from across North Carolina participated in the survey conducted last year.

Molly reports that nearly 50 percent of the participating companies have wellness strategies in place at their workplace. Some of the common components employers are including in their wellness programs include: health risk assessments, flu shots, and diet and educational counseling.

Molly says the survey also revealed that NC employers are focusing on their work environments. To bring fun to the work atmosphere, companies are incorporating workout rooms and gyms, gaming stations and TVs, and lounge areas where employees can relax or collaborate with their coworkers.

In addition to the perks above, 40 percent of companies are providing their staff with activities outside of the workplace. Of those companies, 80 percent invite the family members of their employees to events like company picnics and sponsored events. Molly mentions in the video that activities that include an employee’s family help create a more welcoming work environment.

For more information on CAI’s Policy and Benefits Survey, please contact a survey team member at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Make Sure Your Unpaid Summer Intern Is Actually an Intern

Thursday, May 16th, 2013

summer internsMany organizations offer unpaid summer internships to college students or new job seekers. The opportunity is great for both parties. Interns gain professional experience, learn more about their preferred industry and make connections with the people they meet on the job. A company that offers internships meets several potential new employees who will learn a lot about the company and its culture, which is helpful for potential training in the future.

If you choose to hire unpaid interns, make sure you take great care in following the internship program guidelines provided by the US Department of Labor (USDOL).  Failure to do so could lead to a lawsuit like in the case of Hearst Magazines and a former intern.

Protect yourself and your company from a wage and hour investigation or lawsuit by knowing all of the factors that need to be met in order to offer unpaid internships. If your internship program does not include all of the criteria below, you have an employment relationship and must pay your interns minimum wage and overtime.

According to the USDOL’s Fact Sheet #71: Internship Programs under the Fair Labor Standards Act 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.

For additional information on company internship programs and compensation, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: US Department of Education

Tracking Telecommuting Time

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

This is a guest post from Diane Aull. Diane is the Website Manager for Acroprint Time Recorder Company and editor of its Time for Business blog. Acroprint offers a full range of workforce management products including AcroTime, its flexible and powerful cloud-based solution.

record telecommutingWith the news coming out of companies such as Yahoo and Best Buy recently, telecommuting has been back in the news. While these companies have chosen to scale back their telecommuting programs, working from home remains popular with employees and is offered as an option at many organizations.

Much of the debate about telecommuting has centered around productivity, collaboration and employee engagement. However, there’s an important aspect of any telecommuting program that seldom gets discussed — how to track employee time.

Performance versus Time Spent

I came across an article not too long ago in which the author stated work-from-home programs would mean “the death of the time clock,” because employers only needed to evaluate how well workers met their goals, not how much time they spent working on them.

The problem, of course, is that the author was confusing performance evaluations with payroll. Effective performance evaluations have always been about meeting or surpassing goals and not about simply showing up. On the other hand, payroll — especially for overtime-eligible employees — requires some form of time tracking.

No matter when or where the work is done… if an employee is eligible for overtime, the company must track the time the employee spends on the job. Otherwise, how are they to calculate properly whether (and how much) overtime is due?

In fact, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to maintain accurate, complete payroll records, including records of time worked, for all overtime-eligible employees.

Alternatives and Options

Many companies already have a telecommuting policy or are considering implementing this popular employee perk. How can you offer a telecommuting program and still maintain compliance with the FLSA?

Well, the law does not require you to track time for workers who are exempt from overtime. So you might choose to allow only exempt employees to work remotely, while your overtime-eligible workers must come in to the office where their time can be more easily monitored and recorded.

Problem solved, right? While this might seem like an easy solution, there are several issues to keep in mind:

  1. Employee morale: If some non-exempt or hourly jobs are otherwise suitable for a flexible work arrangement, employees in those jobs may become resentful when denied the opportunity you extend to exempt workers.
  2. Workforce quality: Higher-caliber workers may be inclined to migrate to companies that do allow them to telecommute.
  3. Other labor laws: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to offer “reasonable accommodations” to disabled employees. If an employee becomes disabled, and working from home would allow him to remain productive in his job, you may be required to offer him the option of telecommuting, regardless of his overtime eligibility status.
  4. Misclassification issues: If it turns out you have misclassified any employees as exempt when they should have been non-exempt — and those employees have been working from home, where you were not tracking their time — you could find yourself on the hook for thousands of dollars in back pay and penalties. Without any employer time records, the courts will rely on the employees’ own recollections or personal records, which might or might not accurately reflect the time they really spent on the job.

Modern Time Recording to the Rescue

The best option, of course, is to implement a time tracking solution that allows you to accurately record all employee work hours (exempt and non-exempt), no matter where the work is performed. As a bonus, automated time and attendance systems typically offer many cost-saving and productivity-enhancing benefits beyond the ability to record time for remote workers.

Consider, for instance, a cloud-based time recording system. Typically these systems can be accessed using an Internet connection and a web browser or via a smartphone app, enabling employees to easily clock in and out no matter where they are. Some also offer a telephony module that let employees clock in and out using any telephone, whether mobile or landline, or other options.

Like their employees, the supervisors and managers can access the system using a web browser, so they can review and approve employee time sheets no matter where or when they are working. The approved time is automatically totaled and can easily be exported to the company’s payroll system for processing. All high-quality service providers also process and store your information in highly secure data centers and keep regular backups, reducing your risk of data loss.

With a modern web-based time clock system, employers can offer their employees flexible work arrangements while still meeting their legal obligations to maintain accurate time records. It’s a win-win situation!

If you need an accurate  solution to track work hours for your employees, regardless of their location, contact Acroprint at 1-800-334-7190 or visit www.AcroTime.com to learn more.

Photo Source: polapix

Are You Using the Correct Form I-9 for Your New Hires?

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

Form I9The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) sent out a press release Tuesday, May 7, reminding employers that starting that day, they must use the revised Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification (Revision 03/08/13)N for all new hires and reverifications.

USCIS explains that employers can find the revision date of the new Form I-9 on the lower left corner of the form. The agency warns against completing new Form I-9s for existing employees if a properly completed Form I-9 is already on file. USCIS will no longer accept previous versions of the Form I-9.

The agency provides a Spanish version of Form I-9 (revision 03/08/13)N, and it is available on the USCIS website for use in Puerto Rico only. Spanish-speaking employers and employees in the 50 states, Washington, D.C., and other US territories are only allowed to use the Spanish version for reference, according to the press release. These employers and employees must complete and retain the English version of the form.

You can find the revised forms at www.uscis.gov/I-9. The agency also offers a telephone number, 888-464-4218, to call for more information. USCIS has representatives available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to discuss any questions or issues that may arise from the news of needing to use the revised Form I-9. You can also visit I-9 Central, a website the agency created to support Form I-9 users. USCIS has also scheduled free webinars to educate employers on the new form.

CAI’s 2013 Employment and Labor Law Update scheduled for May 22 and May 23 at Raleigh’s McKimmon Center will feature knowledgeable attorneys from Ogletree Deakins who will present additional information for Form I-9 compliance. Former NLRB member Brian Hayes joins this year’s lineup of attorneys from Ogletree Deakins. He will share his view on the board’s recent rulings and give advice for handling new challenges during his can’t-miss presentation.

Please visit www.capital.org/lawupdate to review the full agenda of the conference, descriptions about the presentations and to register. Feel free to call 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 with any questions.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Strengthen Your Employer Brand with 4 Tips

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

employer brandWhat do people think of your organization? When people discuss your business, are the conversations mostly positive? Have you googled your company name to see what comes up? Are your employees quick to offer you the number of their friend or family member when an open position becomes available?

Knowing how your organization is viewed by the public, your industry peers and rivals is important. Having a strong employer brand can make a difference on whether you can secure a great candidate for a vacancy or how a news outlet portrays you to the public. There are several steps you can take to strengthen your employer brand to show that your organization is a stellar place to work. Try the four tips below:

Define How You’re Perceived

In order to strengthen your employer brand, you have to determine how you want your organization to be perceived. Once you decide how you want to represent your organization, make sure your company’s mission statement and values reflect that decision. Your mission statement and values are generally one of the first places interested job seekers visit to learn more about a company. Make sure yours represents your organization well.

Offer Competitive Benefits

Do you want to be known as the company that offers lousy benefits? Or the one that doesn’t understand the importance of work/life balance? In order to become an employer who attracts and secures high-performing talent, you must do your homework and find out what the top benefits candidates are looking for. Competition for top-notch talent is fierce. A strong benefits package that includes a competitive salary as well as non-monetary perks will help you establish your positive employer brand.

Make Smart Hiring Decisions

Don’t just hire a candidate because they have the exact skills and qualifications that your job description requires. Making a smart hiring decision goes beyond matching up a resume to an open position. Adding a new hire to your ranks is important, so it’s critical to ensure they match your culture and will get along with their new coworkers. Failing to do so could result in the new hire leaving in under a year, or worse, one of your loyal employees leaving because they don’t work well with the new employee.

Provide Incredible Customer Service

A surefire way to enhance your employer brand is to improve your customer service. Think of brands like Apple and Zappos. Yes, they sell great products, but they also rely on their customer service teams to help them represent their company. Make sure your employees have all the tools and training they need to offer an exceptional experience to your customers. When your employees are content and engaged, your customers are more likely to be content and engaged as well.

For more ways to improve your employer brand, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Robert Scoble

Change Is Inevitable in the Workplace—Are You Prepared?

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

May 13 quote blog

Many changes are taking place in the business world. The full effects of healthcare reform will soon come to fruition, the competition for top talent still rages on with no plans for stopping, and your employees are looking for better ways to manage both their responsibilities at work and outside of it.

How will you handle the changes that you and your organization face? In order to continue to achieve success at your business, or even just to stay afloat, you must start by creating a plan to address your most pertinent issues.

Review the following articles for help handling the changes that you and other employers will likely see:

Changes in Healthcare Reform

Are you interested in knowing the top healthcare issues of 2013 and how they will affect employers? Our benefits partner, HCW Employee Benefit Services, put together an article highlighting this information. Check it out here: http://blog.capital.org/the-top-10-healthcare-industry-issues-of-2013-how-they-will-affect-employers/.

Compete for Top Talent and Win

Many organizations are struggling to find high-performing talent to fill their open positions. If you aren’t finding the right candidates, you may want to review your hiring process. Finding an excellent employee isn’t something you can attain quickly. Just like other projects you work on, you must have a solid plan for securing top achievers. Here’s an article to help: http://blog.capital.org/smart-recruiting-is-the-key-for-securing-top-talent-4-helpful-tips/.

Dealing with Workplace Change             

Changes in the business world aren’t just affecting employers; they are also affecting your workforce. Understanding the concerns your employees may have about various workplace changes is important for growing your organization with a loyal team.  Review this article to gain strategies for helping your staff deal with company changes:  http://blog.capital.org/help-employees-deal-with-workplace-changes/.

Employees Crave Work/Life Balance

Engaged employees help drive the business results that you want. They are productive team players who strive for excellence. Their work life is important, but so is the life they’ve established outside of your company. Help them manage both well. When you do, you’ll see a number of benefits. Read more about them here: http://blog.capital.org/help-your-employees-achieve-and-maintain-worklife-balance/.

For additional advice or information for dealing with change at your workplace, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.