Archive for April, 2014

American Workers Are More Interested in Money Than Time

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014

money over timeA recent survey from national finance recruitment firm Accounting Principals indicates that money is more important than time for most Americans. More than 1,000 adults participated in the survey that the finance firm conducted from January 17 to January 24 in 2014.

According to the survey results, 79 percent of working Americans would prefer a 5 percent raise instead of an extra week of vacation. Of the respondents, only 20 percent preferred the extra week. Statistics from the survey show that income level and seniority within a company does not make a difference when it comes to the participants’ preferences.

Revelations from the survey show that Americans can’t afford to shorten their work schedule if that means taking a pay cut. Eighty-five percent of respondents wouldn’t give up any of their salary for their workday to be shortened by one hour each day. Half of the participants who said they wouldn’t give up any of their salary report not doing so because they can’t afford to do so.

How American workers use their spare time was also analyzed for Accounting Principals’ survey. When participants do have time off, 48 percent choose to spend time with their family while 45 percent use the time to run errands. Fitness is also a priority for American workers. One-third of survey respondents chose to go to the gym if they were given an extra hour each day. Additional activities Americans would choose to do if they had an extra hour include sleeping/napping, watching TV and going to happy hour.

Although the survey shows that Americans value money over time, many employers are not able to give bonuses or raises for the year. Money is not always the reason why employees stay at a company either. Employers can provide their workers with several valuable perks that recognize and reward their contributions, make their work life and home life easier, or help them stay on track with their career goals.

Below are some blogs to help you reward and motivate your staff with or without money, check them out:

In this video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, explains how making praise a priority, helps employee morale and motivation soar — http://blog.capital.org/what-is-the-best-employee-reward/ .

You can find 19 easy ways to recognize and reward employees at no or low cost to the employer in this blog — http://blog.capital.org/19-low-cost-ways-to-recognize-employee-achievements/ .

Doug Blizzard encourages employers to not make the common mistakes of overlooking or devaluing the importance of pay to employees’ motivation in this video blog — http://blog.capital.org/are-you-paying-your-employees-enough-money/.

Looking to build a positive employer-employee relationship at your organization? Review the four tips on this blog to achieve your amicable goal — http://blog.capital.org/4-steps-for-building-positive-employer-employee-relationships/.

Photo Source: Jay Sumlin

Shifting Sands in the Small Group Market Under the Affordable Care Act

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

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

 hcw april picMany questions have arisen from the ever changing Affordable Care Act (ACA), specifically amongst the small group employers. Many feel as though they have been left out in the cold with more questions than answers when it comes to the changing regulations.

“Should I renew early and what happens if I do? How do I handle the new small group age rates? How do I communicate the new benefit changes concerning, smoker rates, out-of-pocket maximums, age-rated premium schedules, metallic levels, pharmacy MAC pricing changes, pediatric dental/ vision changes, and deductible limit requirements?”

With new regulations published every week and a variety of health-care related bills moving through Congress every day, it is difficult for a large company much less a small employer, to keep up with the changes.

One bill recently passed through Congress and signed by the President (Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014)) is worthy of special attention by small employers. This bill, known as the “doc fix” bill, includes a section that ends the limitations on deductibles for small group employer-sponsored health plans that was previously imposed by the Affordable Care Act.

Prior to passage of this bill, deductible levels of no more than $2,000 for individuals and $4,000 for families were required in the small group market. This deductible cap made it extremely difficult for small group carriers to offer a wide range of plan designs within their small group plan offerings.

Small group carriers struggled to design plans that met the deductible requirements while also meeting the required Actuarial Value (AV) bands. The ACA requires small group carriers to offer plans at four specific AV levels (called Metallic Levels): Platinum (90%), Gold (80%), Silver (70%), and Bronze (60%). Deviations of no more than 2% are allowed. To operate within these Metallic Levels, many small group carriers made changes that resulted in higher per occurrence copays and increased costs for non-generic medications.

The passage of the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 allows carriers designing plans for the small group market to move beyond the $2,000/$4,000 deductible level and still meet the required Metallic Levels. It also allows small employers to remain creative in their plan designs, especially those that have focused benefits strategies around Consumer Driven Health Plans. To find out more about this recent change to the ACA, continue on to Robb Mandelbaum’s coverage on the “doc fix” bill.

Contacting an Employee’s Health Care Provider under FMLA

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team answers several questions from members daily. The team often receives questions concerning the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), such as this one below:

Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allow an employer to contact an employee’s health care provider about his or her serious health condition?

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution Team Member John Gupton offers guidance for this employer question:

If an employee submits a complete and sufficient certification signed by the health care provider, the employer may not request additional information from the health care provider. However, the employer may contact the health care provider for purposes of clarification and authentication of the medical certification (whether initial certification or recertification). Authentication means providing the health care provider with a copy of the certification and requesting verification that the information contained on the certification form was completed and/or authorized by the health care provider who signed the document. Clarification means contacting the health care provider to understand the handwriting on the medical certification or to understand the meaning of a response. Employers may not ask the health care provider for additional information beyond that contained on the medical certification form.

Under the regulations, however, when contacting an employee’s health care provider for authentication or clarification of the medical certification, an employer may use a health care provider, a human resource professional, a leave administrator or a management official. But, the FMLA regulations make clear that in no case may the employee’s direct supervisor contact the employee’s health care provider.

Also, the FMLA regulations state that contact between an employer and an employee’s health care provider must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) privacy regulations. In order for an employee’s HIPAA-covered health care provider to provide an employer with health information, the employee will need to provide the health care provider with a written authorization allowing the health care provider to disclose such information to the employer.

If an employee chooses not to provide the employer with authorization allowing the employer to clarify the certification with the health care provider, and does not otherwise clarify the certification, the employer may deny the taking of FMLA leave if the certification is unclear. It is the employee’s responsibility to provide the employer with a complete and sufficient certification and to clarify the certification if necessary.

For more information, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

 

Performance Evaluations: Time for Some Spring Cleaning?

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, discusses performance evaluations. He starts by offering information from several surveys that indicate that many employers are finding little value with their current evaluation system and have plans to revamp their process.

Doug says that annual reviews can be valuable and a necessary tool to improve performance if they are done right. When defining the right way to do a performance review, Doug starts by saying that most performance issues are hiring issues. An employer may hire an employee based on their skills, but then realize that employee does not fit the company culture. The employer then has to spend time helping them fit in.

He also says there should be no disagreement about what a successful performance should look like for a specific team member. Employees should receive clear expectations from their managers to ensure they understand what they need to achieve. Doug also suggests meeting with your employees regularly to check in with them to see how they are working towards their goals. The last point that Doug emphasizes is for employers to not make the review about the form, but to focus on the conversation instead.

If you’d like additional tips on creating a valuable performance evaluation system at your organization, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7756.

9 Things You Should Know About Immigration Law and I-9’s

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

I9 paperworkImmigration law can often be a tricky subject for employers to tackle. To ensure you’re keeping your organization compliant, here is some helpful information to remember:

1. Employers who have constructive knowledge that an employee is not authorized to work, but continue to allow the employee to work are subject to fines.

2. Although employers are not required to do I-9’s for contractors, they have a duty to ensure to the best of their ability that contractors are legally authorized to work in the United States.

3. Employers who hire out-of-state employees where there is no company representative to handle the I-9 process may contract with someone to complete I-9’s on their behalf, such as a notary public. (Note: Texas does not allow notaries to perform this service.)

4. Employers cannot require an employee to present documentation to support the Section 1 information. The employee attests by signature that this information is correct.

5. Employers or their agents are not required to notify the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of illegal aliens discovered through the I-9 process, and it is not recommended that you do so.

6. The I-9 form cannot be completed until a job offer is made and accepted. Because the I-9 requires date of birth and identifies whether the person is a U.S. citizen or alien, it could be a source of potential discrimination charges if an applicant were required to complete it pre-offer and then not be hired.

7. The I-9 Form states that Section 1 should be completed and signed by the employee on the day employment begins. This is defined as the first day of work where the employee is providing labor or services in exchange for pay.

8. It is fraud if someone other than the employee fills in Section 1 but does not provide the required information and a signature in the Preparer and/or Translator Certification box, or if HR or a company representative fills in missing information in Section 1 for the employee.

9. ICE investigations are lead-driven. Leads that appear to have some merit must be further investigated to avoid constructive knowledge and to resolve the issue.

Ogletree Deakins’ attorney Bernhard Mueller will provide additional information and updates regarding immigration law at the 2014 Employment and Labor Law Update. The conference will take place at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh on May 14 and May 15. In addition to immigration law, presenters will cover wage and hour issues, NC legislature, ADA, minimizing lawsuits, protecting proprietary information, and more. Register today at www.capital.org/lawupdate.

Photo Source: dataflurry

When Must Employers Seek a Religious Accommodation Regarding a Personal Appearances Policy?

Thursday, April 10th, 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 religious accommodations for employees.

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

Religious discrimination involves treating a person (an applicant or employee) unfavorably because of his or her religious beliefs and is prohibited by the federal law known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is a federal agency, is responsible for enforcing this law. The law protects not only people who belong to traditional organized religions, like Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism, but also others who have sincerely held religious, ethical or moral beliefs. Religious discrimination can also involve treating someone differently because that person is married to (or associated with) an individual of a particular religion or because of his or her connection with a religious organization or group.

Unless it would be an undue hardship on the employer’s operation of its business, an employer must reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices. This applies not only to schedule changes or leave for religious observances, but also to such things as dress or grooming practices that an employee has for religious reasons. These might include, for example, wearing particular head coverings or other religious dress (such as a Jewish yarmulke or a Muslim headscarf), or wearing certain hairstyles or facial hair (such as Rastafarian dreadlocks or Sikh uncut hair and beard). It also includes an employee’s observance of a religious prohibition against wearing certain garments (such as pants or miniskirts).

Also, as mentioned above, an employer does not have to accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs or practices if doing so would cause undue hardship to the employer. An accommodation may cause undue hardship if it is costly, compromises workplace safety, decreases workplace efficiency, infringes on the rights of other employees, or requires other employees to do more than their share of potentially hazardous or burdensome work. For example, workplace safety issues, like the prohibition of wearing loose garments around machinery, don’t need to be overlooked for the sake of accommodation.

When an employee or applicant needs a dress or grooming accommodation for religious reasons, it is the employee’s responsibility to notify the employer that he or she needs such an accommodation for religious reasons. If the employer reasonably needs more information, the employer and the employee should engage in an interactive process to discuss the request. If it would not pose an undue hardship, the employer must grant the accommodation.

The EEOC has issued guidance on religious discrimination issues in the workplace, which is located at http://1.usa.gov/rel-dis. In addition, the EEOC has a listing of best practices in the workplace regarding religious issues, which is located at http://1.usa.gov/bp-rel.

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

 

Enhancing Employee Strengths Will Help Your Company Perform Better

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014

Business meetingFindings from decades of research by Gallup indicate that employees who use their strengths daily are six times more likely to be engaged at their jobs. Gallaup’s research shows a clear connection between strengths and employee engagement. This connection can increase overall business performance when organizations work on enhancing both.

According to Gallup, the best way for employees to grow and develop is to identify how they most naturally think, feel and behave, which will unveil their talents. The next step in the process is to then build on their talents to create strengths.

The extensive research shows that building employees’ strengths is a more effective approach to improving performance than trying to improve weaknesses. Benefits of focusing on strengths include employees who are more engaged, perform better and are more loyal to their organization. Yet, studies also show that the majority of US businesses don’t focus on helping employees use their strengths.

When companies put the spotlight on the strengths of their team members, they are more likely to have employees who are more committed to their business. Gallup found that the best way for employers to maximize the strengths of their workforce is through company managers. However, many managers aren’t adequately trained, choose to ignore their direct reports, or worse—highlight and focus on the weaknesses of their employees.

If your managers aren’t equipped to focus on employee strengths, read some of the blogs below to help you get them on the right track:

Ongoing Training Helps Managers Reach Success

Making sure your managers are adequately trained to handle their projects and supervise people is important no matter if your budget is large or extremely limited. Considering multiple budgets, here are a few ways to train your managers…read more: http://blog.capital.org/ongoing-training-helps-managers-reach-success/

Coaching Your Managers Will Bring Business Success

Help your managers communicate and connect with their employees better. Having strong connections between coworkers at your workplace will raise employee morale, increase productivity and affect your bottom line positively. Here are a few areas that your managers should be coached in…read more here: http://blog.capital.org/coaching-your-managers-will-bring-business-success/

How HR Can Help New Internally Promoted Managers Succeed

Supervisors and managers who are promoted from within an organization face unique challenges to their success in their new role and in their relationships with peers, supervisors and subordinates. Here are six tips for how HR can contribute to the success of an internal employee who is transitioning into a new supervisory or management role…read more here: http://blog.capital.org/how-hr-can-help-new-internally-promoted-managers-succeed/

Photo Source: Conceptkv

Cash Shortage Deductions from Commission Payments

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team answers several questions from members daily. Many questions the Team receives deal with Wage & Hour issues and what is right under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Here’s a recent question the team received:

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

Are Employers Allowed to Deduct Cash Shortages from a Salaried Exempt’s Commissions?

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution Team Member George Ports offers guidance for this employer question:

According to the US Department of Labor’s Wage & Hour Division, cash shortage deductions from commission payments made to salaried exempt employees would not affect their exempt status under section 13(a)(1) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) as long as the affected employee meets both the duty and the guaranteed salary level tests required.

An employee will be considered to satisfy the salary level test if the employee is paid on a salary basis at a rate of not less than $455.00 per week. The salary basis test is met if the employee regularly receives each pay period “a predetermined amount constituting all or part of the employee’s compensation, which amount is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of the work performed.” An exempt employee must receive the full salary for any week in which the employee performs any work without regard to the number of days or hours worked. [Note: There are limited exceptions regarding deductions from exempt pay. For more information, go to http://j.mp/ex-su.]

An employer may provide an exempt employee with additional compensation without losing the exemption or violating the salary basis requirement, if the employment arrangement also includes a guarantee of at least the minimum weekly-required amount paid on a salary basis. Thus, for example, an exempt employee guaranteed at least $455 each week paid on a salary basis may also receive additional compensation of a one percent commission on sales.

An exempt employee may receive a percentage of the sales or profits of the employer if the employment arrangement includes a guarantee of at least $455 each week paid on a salary basis. Similarly, the exemption is not lost if an exempt employee who is guaranteed at least $455 each week paid on a salary basis also receives additional compensation based on hours worked for work beyond the normal workweek. Such additional compensation may be paid on any basis (e.g., flat sum, bonus payment, straight-time hourly amount, time and one-half or any other basis), and may include paid time off. In other words, additional compensation paid on any basis besides the guaranteed salary is not inconsistent with the salary basis of payment.

Wage and hour regulations require only that exempt employees be paid a guaranteed salary of at least $455 per week, and any additional compensation above this salary amount is generally something that may be agreed upon between the employer and the employee. The prohibition against improper deductions from the guaranteed salary does not extend to any such additional compensation provided to exempt employees.

Cash shortage deductions, therefore may be made from a salaried exempt employee’s commission payments without affecting the employee’s exempt status as long as the commission payments are bona fide and are not paid to facilitate otherwise prohibited deductions from the guaranteed salary.

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