Archive for January, 2014

How Does USERRA Interact with FMLA?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

In today’s post, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, shares important information with employers about the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) and how it interacts with the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)  

john g editThe Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA) is a federal law that provides reemployment rights for veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserve following qualifying military service. It also prohibits employer discrimination against any person on the basis of that person’s past USERRA-covered service, current military obligations, or intent to join one of the uniformed services.

USERRA requires that service members who conclude their tours of duty and who are reemployed by their civilian employers receive all benefits of employment that they would have obtained if they had been continuously employed, except those benefits that are considered a form of short-term compensation, such as accrued paid vacation. If a service member had been continuously employed, one such benefit to which he or she might have been entitled is leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The service member’s eligibility will depend upon whether the service member would have met the employee eligibility requirements outlined above had he or she not performed USERRA-covered service.

USERRA requires that a person reemployed under its provisions be given credit for any months of service he or she would have been employed but for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service in determining eligibility for FMLA leave. A person reemployed following USERRA-covered service should be given credit for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service toward the months-of-employment eligibility requirement. Each month served performing USERRA-covered service counts as a month actively employed by the employer. For example, someone who has been employed by an employer for nine months is ordered to active military service for nine months after which he or she is reemployed. Upon reemployment, the person must be considered to have been employed by the employer for more than the required 12 months (nine months actually employed plus nine months of USERRA-covered service) for purposes of FMLA eligibility. It should be noted that the 12 months of employment need not be consecutive to meet this FMLA requirement.

An employee returning from USERRA-covered service must be credited with the hours of service that would have been performed but for the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service in determining FMLA eligibility. Accordingly, a person reemployed following USERRA-covered service has the hours that would have been worked for the employer added to any hours actually worked during the previous 12-month period to meet the 1,250 hour requirement. In order to determine the hours that would have been worked during the period of absence from work due to or necessitated by USERRA-covered service, the employee’s pre-service work schedule can generally be used for calculations. For example, an employee who works 40 hours per week for the employer returns to employment following 20 weeks of USERRA-covered service and requests leave under the FMLA. To determine the person’s eligibility, the hours he or she would have worked during the period of USERRA-covered service (20 × 40 = 800 hours) must be added to the hours actually worked during the 12-month period prior to the start of the leave to determine if the 1,250 hour requirement is met.

For more information on USERRA, go to

Does Your Work Culture Attract or Repel Customers?

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, tackles the topic of workplace culture in today’s video blog. He often hears from HR professionals that they wish their company leaders were more focused on employee engagement. Doug says that many leaders understand employee engagement. However, the challenge is showing a clear return on investment when starting initiatives to improve employee motivation and satisfaction.

Doug then turns his attention to customers and explains that businesses exist to satisfy a customer need in the market place. If you remove that need, you remove customers, and your employees directly interact with your customers. Doug then asks what kind of employees would customers prefer to interact with? Employees who are engaged and motivated—or the opposite?

Employers should consider how their culture affects their customers. Doug says if your employees are happy, your customers will be too.  He encourages company leaders to try walking in the shoes of their customers for a minute to gain a new perspective on the value of having an engaged workforce.

If you need help with employee engagement and culture at your workplace, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Ryan Estis Shares Insights on Why Companies Need to Rethink HR

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

ryanBio02[1]Ryan Estis is widely recognized as a leading expert on several business and HR topics, such as leadership, culture, sales effectiveness, and HR/workforce trends. For CAI’s 2014 HR Management Conference scheduled for March 5 and March 6 at Raleigh’s McKimmon Center, Ryan will kick off day one with his presentation, Rethinking HR: The Future of Work and Human Resources.

In his keynote session, he will explore the evolving role of HR and introduce new tools, techniques and technology to keep up with the different trends developing in the practice of people. I recently had the pleasure to talk with Ryan and discuss some of the information he plans to share with conference participants in March.

Starting the conversation on a positive note, Ryan said, “This is a great time to be in the practice of human resources.”

When combining the different trends that are emerging in the industry, he sees new opportunities for HR professionals. HR is receiving more attention from companies, and Ryan explained that this is the reason for additional opportunities. He says that the challenge that comes with these opportunities is that the work is going to look a little different.

One of the big trends that Ryan is seeing is a strong focus on recruiting and hiring talent. He said that because many companies did well financially in 2013, more companies are in a position to grow their team in 2014.

“[Organizations] recognize that in order to grow, in order to drive continuous innovation, [they] need the right kind of people and that brings HR to center stage,” Ryan said.

Another trend that he points out is that the workforce is becoming more mobile. In other words, employees are electing to switch jobs more frequently.

“The average employee in the US has been with their employer for less than five years, the average millennial is projected to stay less than two – that creates an entire [new] set of challenges for an organization, and specifically an HR function,” Ryan said.

Several top performers leaving a company can really paralyze the performance of the business, he adds. This trend isn’t going away, so HR will be required to think differently on designing roles, functions and systems to keep up with the more mobile workforce. Ryan believes that HR will be tapped to solve the new challenges that companies will face.

At the 2014 HR Management Conference, he will dive deeper into the topics mentioned above. Ryan will also talk about the requirements of today’s new workforce, why a culture that embraces continuous learning is important, and how HR has shifted from a service-providing function to a function that is driven by capabilities.

Please join us for our March conference to hear more from Ryan and discover the ways in which you need to prepare for the future of work and HR. Visit to see the full agenda, session descriptions and speaker bios. Register today!

To Cover Spouses… or Not?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

The post below is a guest blog from Ellen Tucker who serves as Principal, Health & Welfare Consultant  for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Family CoverageHave you considered eliminating the availability of spousal coverage to your employees if their spouse is able to obtain insurance through their own employer? If so, you are not the only company to consider this approach as a way to manage healthcare costs. In August, UPS officials announced that they will eliminate coverage for many working spouses of non-union employees, affecting approximately 15,000 individuals.

The company specifically cited rising healthcare claims costs and healthcare reform costs as the reason behind its decision. This change will lead to a savings of around $60 million for UPS, according to a company spokesperson.

While healthcare reform requires that large employers cover dependent children to age 26, there is no requirement for employers to cover spouses. At the same time, if the employee coverage is considered affordable and the spouse is eligible for coverage, the spouse will not qualify for a subsidy through the health insurance exchange.

Currently, spousal eligibility policies take one of the following approaches:

  1. Coverage available for all spouses regardless of whether or not they work or have access to other health insurance.
  2. A surcharge for coverage of a working spouse if the spouse’s employer offers health insurance.
  3. Exclusion from coverage under the employer’s plan if coverage is available through the spouse’s employer.

When researching whether to eliminate eligibility for spouses with access to other coverage, UPS found that 35 percent of other companies it surveyed plan to do so next year.

Many companies are following the second approach and requiring employees to pay a surcharge for covering their working spouse. These surcharges typically range from $20 up to the entire cost of covering the spouse. A Towers Watson survey this year found that 20 percent of more than 600 participating companies charge an average of $100 a month for spouses to be covered.

Employers are facing increasing medical costs and are looking for ways to manage these costs.  There is even more focus on escalating costs due to healthcare reform, as employers have seen pre-existing condition exclusions go away, the elimination of a lifetime benefit limit, the requirement to cover dependent children to age 26, the requirement to cover preventive care at 100%, and the implementation of reform fees.  Employers are making plan design changes and/or contribution changes to pass on more costs to employees, focusing on robust wellness programs including tobacco cessation and BMI, and also making changes to spousal coverage.  Awareness and benchmarking to other employer eligibility practices will help to determine if this is a viable strategy to control costs and attract new employees.

Self funded companies and fully insured companies with more than 100 employees can determine the claims cost for spouses on their healthcare plan.  If the employer wants to mitigate this cost, there are several approaches that can be taken.  One approach is to increase the payroll deductions for employee/spouse and family coverage. This affects all spouses regardless of whether they have access to other coverage.  Another approach is to charge a spousal surcharge for working spouses with access to coverage through their own employer.  The most impactful method is to eliminate spousal coverage for spouses with access to coverage, or to eliminate spousal coverage and only cover employees and dependent children.  Currently, fully insured companies do not have the option to drop spouses entirely, but this may change in the future since these spouses will be able to obtain coverage through the health insurance exchange.

Whether an employer adds a surcharge or eliminates coverage for working spouses, any change to spousal coverage will result in pushback from employees. Employers need to determine whether they are willing and financially able to provide coverage to spouses who have access to coverage through their own employer, along with other strategies they can pursue to address the rising cost of health insurance.

While implementing a spousal surcharge has become more common, and the amount of the surcharge has been increasing, eliminating eligibility for spouses with access to their own employer’s coverage has not been a widespread trend. As healthcare costs continue to increase, however, more employers may eliminate spousal coverage for spouses with access to other coverage in 2014 and beyond. This decision should be made as part of an overall benefit strategy.

If a change to spousal coverage eligibility or cost is going to be implemented, inform employees about the change as soon as possible, so their working spouses have the opportunity to investigate all of their options. Avoid waiting until an open enrollment period, as that can cause confusion and put stress on employees.

If the choice is made to add a surcharge or discontinue coverage, explain the reasons why it is occurring. For example, discuss how the expected savings will preserve benefits for employees, and that it will help the company meet its overall budget. This information should be communicated clearly to all affected employees.

Hill, Chesson & Woody can provide further assistance for employers who want specific advice on strategies to address healthcare cost.

Photo credit: Andrey Popov

6 Actions You Need to Take to Find and Retain High-Performing Employees

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Two businesspeople holding briefcases outdoorsAccording to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the country’s unemployment rate has dropped to 7 percent as of November 2013. Over the last year, the unemployment rate has continued to decline and the overall economy is continuing to slowly improve. With these positive economic signs, employers will need to be competitive in order to obtain high-performing employees for their organization.

Because the economy is improving, talented job candidates have more organizations to choose from when looking for a new position. Employers must make their company stand out. There are several steps your organization can take to ensure you’re appealing to hardworking individuals. Take the six actions below to get stellar job seekers onboard at your company:

Quicker recruiting

Employers may be losing great candidates if their recruiting and decision-making processes are lengthy. As competition increases for a smaller pool of job seekers, applicants will grow tired of waiting for next steps in the hiring process with their company of choice and accept a position at an another organization simply because the process moved faster. Ensure this doesn’t happen by communicating with your candidates every step of the way. Don’t make rush decisions that may result in a bad hire, but do avoid any roadblocks in your system. Be prepared to make a decision.

Pay competitively

Be prepared to offer higher compensation and stronger benefits as the economy improves. Do not make the common mistake of overlooking or devaluing the importance of pay to your employees’ motivation. If you want to attract qualified applicants to your open positions, provide a base pay that is at or above market rates.

Challenging assignments

Boredom is one of the fastest ways to have your employees look for a new job. There is little or no excitement for an employee that performs the same routine day-to-day. Even though mundane tasks need to be completed, make sure your top employees are participating in interesting projects that provide them with a challenge.

Offer flexibility

Top-tier job candidates are looking for flexibility, and your competitors are probably already offering it as an attractive, non-compensation-related perk to help reel them in. Options, such as working from home and customized schedules, can make one job opportunity more appealing than another.

Opportunities for growth

Your high-performing employees and energetic job candidates want to work for a company with goals that align with their goals. Be open to discussing growth opportunities with your current staff and those that may be joining your team soon. Chances for a promotion, raise or special project are likely to keep your staff members engaged.

Positive acknowledgement

A good way to retain your best-performing employees is to create a culture that embraces praise and recognition. Confirmation of a strong performance is a great way to show your employees that you see the hard work they put in and that you value all of it. By publicly acknowledging the achievements of your staff, you remind individuals of their own personal value to the organization and that’s critical for keeping them engaged.

For additional help with recruiting and retaining employees, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: The-Lane-Team


The Power of Peer Learning: 5 Reasons to Join a Peer Group

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

CAI’s Peer Learning Recruiter, Jennifer Montalvo, shares the many benefits of peer learning in her post below:

peer learning groupPeer Learning groups create interactive, goal-driven, experienced-based learning environments where issues are brought up for advice and resolution.  Through candid and confidential meetings, group members accelerate their professional growth.  Here are five of the top reasons learning from a group of your peers is beneficial:

BENCHMARKING:  Knowing how you measure up in real time is important.  Every meeting should be confidential; so members can compare actual metrics for analysis within the group.  Members give each other advice on how to improve metrics and offer solutions based upon systems and processes that are imperative when seeking success within their company.

EDUCATION:  Members of peer learning groups comment on the ongoing development of their soft skills, which immediately complement their occupational skills.  This is an opportunity to experience time with local industry leaders and achievers who share insights, trends, challenges and solutions.  Some skills must be learned outside of a classroom.

PERFORMANCE:  Learning from actual experiences of peers instead of guesses and suggestions provides the confidence necessary in decision making and hence, the ability to contribute to an organization at a very high level.

CAMARADERIE:  It’s no longer lonely at the top.  Executives in these groups feel less isolated and create special bonds with their peers that are based on trust and empathy.

BEST PRACTICE SHARING:  There’s no need to keep reinventing the wheel.  There is always someone in the group who has perfected a process or is eager to share their lessons learned along the way.  Discussions are open and candid with the desire to inspire others to create better practices and improved ways of operating.

If you would like more information regarding Peer Learning Groups offered here at CAI, please contact Jennifer Montalvo at 919-431-6093 or

Photo Source: jedbarbaran


6 Steps to Complete a Beneficial Employee Performance Review in the New Year

Thursday, January 9th, 2014

performance blogFor many managers and supervisors, completing employee performance reviews is a task at the top of their to-do lists at the beginning of the year. Performance reviews are important for a number of reasons. They are imperative for keeping employees in line with their individual goals, as well as the goals of the company. They often determine the career path of an employee and whether or not someone is eligible for a merit increase.

Because they indicate past work history and future potential, spending adequate time to prepare for your meetings with your direct reports is essential. Performance reviews are a vital part of the employer-employee relationship, and they should be beneficial to both managers and their direct reports.

Before you conduct performance reviews with your employees, consider the six tips below to achieve a productive and mutually valuable meeting:

Create an Ongoing Process

Instead of waiting for an annual performance review, managers should provide both constructive criticism and praise to their employees throughout the year and use the annual performance review to summarize the performance from the prior year. This will eliminate any surprises when completing reviews with your team members.

Take Time to Prepare

A good review starts with good planning. If you’ve kept notes throughout the year, your performance reviews will write themselves. Reexamine goals discussed in past meetings and collect specific examples of the times employees excelled and the times employees needed to improve during the year. Use this information to guide your review and help convey the expectations you have for your direct reports.

Have a Two-Way Conversation

A beneficial employee review includes participation from the manager and the employee. Allow your direct reports to reflect on their own performance and let them prepare answers for questions regarding their work flow and company activity for the future. Employees should be able to offer suggestions on how they can improve their work. Make them feel comfortable to mention items that could be hindering their performance or other concerns they may have.

Share Praise and Constructive Criticism
Reviews that only highlight negatives will deflate employees and leave them wondering if they are in the right position or with the right employer. However, managers who shy away from negative comments to avoid hurting feelings are doing their employees a disservice. Without constructive criticism, employees will not improve and will eventually become stagnant in their position. Strive to include praise and constructive criticism for a balanced review.

Match Merit Increases with Performance Levels
Giving two different employees very different performance appraisals and awarding them identical increases sends a message that performance does not matter. Your top performers are going to realize your poor performers are receiving the same compensation if not the same recognition, and you risk them decreasing their productivity or even moving to another company. Keep your employees motivated by giving awards based on performance.

Pay Attention to Your Employees
Performance reviews provide opportunities to give your employees feedback and also to gain valuable insight from their perspectives. It is an important time to give employees your undivided attention and listen to them to get their viewpoints on their performance and the organization as a whole.

For additional assistance in employee performance reviews, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Victor1558

Employee Access to Personnel Files

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team answers several questions from members daily. Many of the questions the Team receives concern employee personnel files, such as the one below:

Do employees have a right to review their personnel files?

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution Team Member Renee’ Watkins offers guidance for this employer issue:

For private employers, there is no North Carolina or federal law giving employees the right to see their file (absent a court order). However, from an employee relations perspective, it may be a good idea to grant access. The recommendation is that employers require employees to schedule an appointment, allow access to review their personnel file in the presence of the Human Resources Manager or a designated official, and that they not be allowed to remove items from the file or make photocopies.

It is also recommended that you review the file before the appointment to make sure that it does not contain information that should be kept separately (such as medical information, I-9’s, health insurance enrollment forms, background checks, references, self-identification of disability or veteran status, etc.).

Unlike employees in the private sector, state law provides that certain items in a public employee’s personnel file are a matter of public record and subject to inspection, thus granting access for public employees in North Carolina. Various laws permit access for state, county and city employees, as well as those of public hospitals, water and sewer authorities, community colleges and school districts. The following items in a public employee’s personnel file are a matter of public record and available to persons who request the information: name; age; date of original employment; current position title; current salary; date and amount of most recent increase or decrease in salary; date of most recent promotion, demotion, transfer, suspension, separation, or other change in position classification; and the office to which the employee is currently assigned.

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


Worker Classification: Do You Know How Many Employees You Really Have?

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, discusses worker classification in today’s video blog. He starts by defining an employee—a person who works in the service of another person under an expressed or implied contract of hire. Doug explains that an employer has the right to control the details of the employee’s assignments and work schedule.

There are several state and federal laws and regulations that control the employer-employee relationship. Doug says that many of these laws require compliance when an employer has a certain number of employees. The laws also vary on how they define an employee, and there are a number of factors the IRS and the US Department of Labor consider to determine whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee. In the video, Doug lists several examples of factors that would designate an individual as one or the other.

Determining who is an employee at your organization can be complicated.  The number one reason CAI’s members called the Advice and Resolution Team in 2013 was to discuss issues with wage and hour compliance.  Companies that don’t comply with these regulations have the potential to face heavy fines. If you need to resolve issues with wage and hour compliance, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.