Author Archive

Delivering Great New Employees – Part 2

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, continues the conversation from his last video blog in which he discussed employer recruiting efforts. His tip to employers is to stay out in front of top talent long before you have an opening.

Doug mentions that there are many factors that can attract a job candidate to your company, such as career advancement or working with industry thought leaders. You may offer enticing employee benefits, but Doug asks, “Does anyone know about them?”

He offers up action items employers can take to make top job candidates aware of their company and the benefits offered. One of the many items he shared in the video included having your team members present at events or activities where top candidates in the specific industry you’re looking in hang out, such as associations or industry-related conferences.

Doug encourages employers to try the tips he shared in the video and see how they attract interest from quality job seekers. Make sure to look out for the third installment of this video series next month.

For additional recruiting tips, please call a member of our Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team is now available 24 hours each day throughout the week! Please give us a call!

How Can Staffing Firms Manage The Employer Mandate?

Thursday, October 16th, 2014

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

hcw 10 16 14Be sure your staffing firm is ready to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Many companies use staffing firms to fill placement needs within their organizations. The placements can be for short-term coverage needs or longer term work assignments. Under the Employer Mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), these temporary employees must be classified just as any other permanent employee based on their job description or role within the company. The classification determines whether or not this temporary employee should be offered health coverage. Improper classification and failure to offer health coverage to a full-time but temporary employee could result in significant tax penalties levied against the client employer.

The Problem

When PPACA was initially enacted, the rules around staffing firms were not clearly defined. There was some speculation that these entities would not be subject to the Employer Mandate or penalties and that companies who use staffing agencies would not be required to offer their ”staffed” or “temporary” employees coverage. Earlier in 2014, however, the IRS and the Department of Labor issued clarification around this and deemed that the Common Law Employer is to be responsible for providing coverage to staffed employees and will receive the penalty if out of compliance with the Employer Mandate.

The Common Law Employer may or may not be the staffing agency and is to be determined using the IRS 20 factor test. This determination would be made regardless of any agreement or contract between the staffing agency and the client employer. Additionally, the issuing company of an employee’s Form W-2 is not determinative of who is responsible for offering coverage. In many cases, the Common Law Employer is the client employer who receives the temporary employees from the staffing firm. When the client employer is the Common Law Employer, the burden of offering coverage (and the risk of penalty) lies with the client employer.

The Solution

The Employer Mandate final rules provide some relief to companies using staffing firms, by allowing a staffing firm to make an offer of coverage on behalf of the Common Law Employer. A compliant offer of coverage for staffed employees releases the Common Law Employer (i.e., the client employer) of the Employer Mandate obligations for those employees procured through the staffing agency. The rules around this are simple:

  1. First, the offer of coverage must be made by the staffing firm. The coverage will consist of a medical plan that meets or exceeds the 60% actuarial value limit set by law and be affordable to the employee (total annual premium cost to the employee of no more than 9.5% of their W-2 income).
  2. Second, the plan that is offered is a group health plan established or maintained by the staffing firm.
  3. Third, the fee paid to the staffing firm by the client employer is higher for those temporary staffers who enroll in the plan than it is for those temporary staffers who choose not to enroll. Basically, the staffing company is required to pass along a portion of the cost of insurance to their client employer.

What should you do now?

Employers who use temporary employees should ask their staffing firms questions about how they are complying with the PPACA regulations, as that could have a significant impact if penalties are triggered. Conversely, staffing firms must be prepared to answer the questions they will receive from their clients.

Questions that should be asked and answered are:

  1. How do you plan to comply with PPACA in 2015?
  2. Do you plan to offer MEC to full‐time employees?
  3. Will the MEC be of minimum value (i.e., 60% plan value)?
  4. Will you be charging a different fee for employees enrolled in the plan than for employees not enrolled in the plan?
  5. If yes, what will the differential be?
  6. Will you obtain and maintain waivers for those employees who waive coverage?

Ultimately, there is a vital necessity for any company that uses temporary employees to have an open channel of communication with their staffing firm. Employers must educate their staffing firms on types of employees they need with respect to their classification. Conversely, staffing firms must educate their employer clients on how they plan to manage the Employer Mandate and what to expect regarding pricing and coverage on the employees they place. Staffing firms and their employer clients must work together to develop a plan to reduce and/or eliminate the exposure to penalties.

Prepare for Difficult Conversations with Employees

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014

In today’s video blog, Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution team, shares how to have difficult conversations with employees by offering a few steps to follow when delivering difficult news.

Renee’ starts by explaining that the key to delivering bad news is to lead the conversation with respect and sensitivity. She then offers several steps to make these conversations positive and productive experiences.  Some examples Renee gave in the video include: be specific and avoid generalities, show employees your willingness to listen, and allow employees the opportunity to give their side.

She says having these difficult conversations will make the difference between success and failure for a valued employee. By following the steps in the video, you can improve the lives of many of your team members.

For more information on having difficult discussions with employees, or if you have any questions, call a member of our Advice and Resolution team today at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team is now available 24 hours each day throughout the week! Please give us a call!

Stereotyping and Discriminating Based on Sex and Sexual Orientation, and the Related Federal Laws

Thursday, October 9th, 2014
Robin Shea, Partner at Constangy, Brooks & Smith

Robin Shea, Partner at Constangy, Brooks & Smith

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

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is dead again. Is there any federal law on same-sex harassment or discrimination? If so, what is it? Here are some scenarios that may be helpful in picking through this crazy extremely complex and rapidly transitioning area of the law. (Answers are provided after Scenario 6, below.)

 

Scenario 1. Joe has a huge crush on John. Joe makes lewd and unwelcome comments to John, and tries to corner him to make sexual advances to him. John has made it clear to Joe that he is not interested, but Joe doesn’t listen.

Under federal law, is there a problem?
pollcode.com free polls

 

Scenario 2. Bill interviews Lester for a job. Lester is huge, hairy, and masculine looking. When Bill offers him a job, Lester says he is thrilled but will have to discuss it that evening with his “better half,” Jim. Bill immediately withdraws the offer and hires a less-qualified heterosexual man.

Has Bill violated federal law?
pollcode.com free polls

 

Scenario 3. Bill interviews Charlie for a job. Charlie is married (to a woman) and has four kids. However, he’s “thin and neat,” and he speaks with a sibilant “s.” Bill thinks Charlie will catch too much grief from Bill’s “rough” work crew, so he hires a less qualified guy who he thinks is more “manly.”

Has Bill violated federal law?
pollcode.com free polls

 

Scenario 4. Mary has short hair, doesn’t wear makeup or nail polish, and she wears “men’s” pants and flat shoes. The women she works with gossip about her behind her back and play mean jokes on her. The female supervisor sees all of this and thinks it’s funny and harmless.

Might the company be liable under federal law?
pollcode.com free polls

 

Scenario 5. Anne has long, lustrous, beautiful hair, and is perfectly dressed and made up every day, right down to her shell-pink ruffledy chiffon dress and her seven-inch stiletto heels. One day, Anne tells her boss that she and her partner are planning to adopt a baby. While the boss is ecstatically planning Anne’s baby shower, Anne mentions that her partner’s name is Marie. The boss starts writing Anne up for performance issues (all bogus), and eventually fires her.

Might the company be liable under federal law?
pollcode.com free polls

 

Scenario 6. Marsha (formerly Marshall) is a biological male who is going through the gender-reassignment process. Marsha has not had surgery yet, but she’s started hormone treatments and, on the advice of her physician, has begun dressing and living as a woman. Marsha’s supervisor, Staci, fires Marsha for coming to work five minutes late — once — when there was a horrendous accident on the interstate that made everyone else late, too. (No one else is even written up.)

Has Staci put her company in jeopardy under federal law?
pollcode.com free polls

 The answers, with no ENDA, and assuming none of these employers are federal contractors, are 1-D, 2-A, 3-D, 4-C, 5-B, and 6-C.

Huh? Seriously?

Crazy Extremely complex and rapidly transitioning, I know! Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex but not sexual orientation. However, Title VII does prohibit discrimination based on sex stereotyping. (Why? Because the Supreme Court said so, that’s why.) So if the discrimination or harassment has something to do with stereotyping — in other words, the individual is being picked on because he doesn’t fit the picture of what a “man” should be, or she doesn’t fit the picture of what a “woman” should be, the individual could have a valid federal claim. As in this case.) On the other hand, if the individual is picked on “only” because he or she is perceived as being gay, then there is no valid federal claim.

Of course, many states and local governments have their own laws prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on sexual orientation. In addition, in any state, a person who is harassed because of sexual orientation may (depending on the circumstances) have common-law tort claims for intentional or negligent infliction of emotional distress, assault and battery, or false imprisonment, and one who is fired or “forced” to quit could have a claim for wrongful discharge.  So employers should not think that the lack of a federal law means they can act with impunity.

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

 

 

 

Make Time-Off Decisions Together

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

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

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

What could be wrong with time off from work? Plenty, if you are a manager trying to get things done, or an employee who cannot get time off for family issues.

Time-off problems generate phone calls to our HR advisers every day. Most of the problems come in three categories, each with an employee and employer viewpoint.

Do I have to?

Government regulations mandate time off in several dozen ways. No single requirement is back breaking, but their total weight causes employers to dread these regulated requests. The question often becomes, “Do I have to grant the time?” It depends.

Earned vacation is owed to the employee, and the only question is timing. An employer can deny its use at inconvenient times unless the vacation is to be used during a “family and medical leave” event. These FMLA requests give employees and their doctors so much power over timing that employee abuse is common, paid or unpaid. Even if laws like FMLA do not apply, sick day and personal day policies are common. Plus, everyone has a personal need now and then.

Help employees understand the business issues so that time off can be made to fit business and personal needs. Employees, if you will start out showing concern for business needs and some flexibility on timing, you will find the process is much smoother and more pleasant for all. It is rare that something has to happen on Monday morning, or on the busiest day of the month.

Everybody wants to be met halfway. (Emergencies are different.)

Do I want to?

If time off is discretionary, do you want to say “yes” to the employee for an inconvenient day off?

Managers might say “Yes to my best employees and no to my worst.” You can use some discretion, maybe rearranging work so a star can get a day off, but be sure you can defend that choice when the poor performer seeks the same. “Sally works exceptionally hard each day, and you do not” is what you may feel like saying, but refrain. Describe ways the employee can earn future approvals.

Employees who want time off or certain vacation days in this “discretionary zone” should bring a good plan for getting work done, a record of always doing so, or both. I have never met a manager who liked to say “no” to a personal request if it is reasonable and the employee always meets them halfway.

Should I?

Maybe no law requires it, and maybe the employee does not deserve it based on past behavior, but sometimes it is good business to grant that inconvenient time-off request.

You gain nothing by punishing an employee’s family, for example. Maybe you should have dealt with this poor performer more directly last month rather than indirectly punishing him or her through a time-off denial today.

Time-off conversations require adult behavior and open discussion. Approach your next one with that in mind.

 

Delivering Great New Employees – Part 1

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Doug Blizzard, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, kicks off his next series of blogs focused on recruiting great employees in today’s post. He begins by sharing a survey that found that delivering on recruiting had the biggest single impact of any HR activity on revenue and profit.

 

In the video, Doug challenges HR professionals by asking them how they are delivering on recruiting. He encourages them to ask their supervisors specific questions that will reveal how strong their company’s recruiting process is. Review the video for the specific questions to ask your team members.

 

Doug says at many companies the recruiting process is more like an administrative task designed for compliance than a process designed to recruit top candidates. He then lists several helpful tips to make everyone’s recruiting process better.

 

Look out for Part 2 of the series. Doug says he’ll be sharing more tips—some that are a little out of the box. If you’re interested in improving your recruiting process, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746. The team in now available 24 hours each day throughout the week! Please give us a call!

Daily Challenges In HR And How You Can Overcome Them

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

In today’s post Molly Hegeman, CAI’s Vice President of  HR Services, shares helpful information about focusing on your important projects and job duties.

Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services

One of the biggest challenges we face as HR professionals is prioritizing our time. We must balance our day-to-day responsibilities with the organization’s strategic initiatives as well as manage sudden and urgent employee relations issues. With all the responsibility on our plates it can be easy to lose sight of our priorities and remain focused on what’s really important. So how can we stay on track?

Keeping a constant reminder of the importance of employee engagement and satisfaction is paramount.  Engagement is the emotional commitment employees have to the organization and its goals, and their willingness to put forth effort toward its success. Satisfaction, on the other hand, represents an employee’s attitude and expectations about their job and employer. It’s more about how an employee approaches his/her job than the actual duties performed.

Over the past several years, CAI has seen an increase in the overall satisfaction of employees surveyed through its employee opinion surveys.  In fact, the greatest satisfaction level, at 88%, is in identification with the company.  Benefits and working conditions follow close behind at 86% and 84% respectively.

In HR, it is important for us to put time and energy into nurturing our culture and holding managers accountable for helping our employees remain engaged and satisfied.  In all our projects and ongoing HR initiatives we should:

  • help employees remain challenged in their jobs
  • help employees foster a sense of purpose in their roles
  • keep a positive and supportive attitude
  • encourage a balanced lifestyle
  • build strong and trustworthy relationships with co-workers and manager

So the question now is how to do all of these things?

The Rule of Three

In almost all areas of life, the “rule of 3” applies, and productivity is no exception. Ask yourself at the beginning of the day, “what three things do I want to accomplish today?” Then work toward those goals. When making your list, try not to focus necessarily on tasks so much as outcomes or results.

 

Keep a list of everything you’re waiting on and everything you need to do

Keeping a list is the best way to keep up with everything you have to do/everything you’re waiting on other people to do.This may seem a bit obvious, but trying to keep up with everything you’re responsible for can be taxing to say the least and in a world filled with technology, it’s unnecessary to try. Sticking with old school methods, I suggest writing everything on a Post-It or creating a To Do List format that works for you. Embracing technology, you could consider putting it in an app on your phone/tablet or both. Remember, there’s always an app for that!

 

Be clear on the intent and purpose of your activities rather than being distracted by less significant items

Leverage internal resources with the help of your strongest managers and employees, or seek outside support to bring in the resources needed to elevate your effectiveness and contributions to the organization. And most importantly, learn the power of delegation!

 

Looking to get a few things off your list? CAI’s HR On Demand team is designed to do just that! Is there something we can help you with? Please Contact us today at (919) 713-5263 or molly.hegeman@capital.org.

Leading Through a Crisis

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins identifies poor leadership qualities and imparts information on how to rise above them during chaotic times.

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

In the life of every business, there will be times when the organization will experience a crisis and the quality of its leadership will be tested. Strong, mature and experienced leadership during a crisis is certainly preferred. Poor leadership can quickly turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Even if the organization survives the crisis, the lasting effects of poor leadership can be felt long after the crisis is over.

Below are some of the behaviors that can define poor leadership, and how to overcome them:

Excessive Optimism

Being optimistic about solving a problem is all fine and good. However, some leaders are too optimistic that a problem will either solve itself over time or that someone else is handling it once it has been identified. Action is necessary to solve any problem and many problems cannot be solved overnight. Strong leadership involvement, with the ability to make decisions and take action, is necessary to demonstrate attention to any crisis.

Denial

Some leaders are under the false impression that a problem is not already well-known throughout the organization and if they deny its existence it will no longer be a problem. News, especially bad news, can spread through an organization like wildfire. Strong leaders never underestimate the intelligence of their employees. The best strategy in a crisis is to come forward and provide your employees with as much information as you can, reassuring them you are aware of the problem and have a plan for resolving it.

Trial and Error Is NOT a Crisis Strategy

This approach may work well in the development of a new product line or in the research end of your business. Some leaders use this strategy as a way to resolve a crisis. When finding themselves in a crisis scenario, strong leaders resist their first reaction and assemble a team of top management to work out a plan – quickly and efficiently. A clear direction with measurable results will keep your employees engaged and confident.

Ignore Common Sense

Over-reaction or panic can make a bad situation worse. When faced with crisis, our instincts are to fight or flee, neither of which will help. Seasoned leaders will simply slow-down, look objectively at the issues and apply simple common sense as to how to handle the problem. Common sense may be as simple as defining the problem in smaller, more manageable pieces or seeking the advice of peers.

Manage in a Vacuum

Poor leaders will sometimes try to solve a problem on their own without enlisting the help of others. This can spell disaster in a crisis. A strong leader recognizes when they need help and knows exactly what skills they need in a particular situation. The objective is not just to solve the problem, but to solve the problem in the best way possible. Many problems have multiple solutions and these must be vetted to determine which is best.

Blame Others

Leaders who spend more time blaming others and less time solving the problem simply appear weak to their employees. There will be plenty of time after the crisis is over to determine where the process failed and how to prevent it from happening again. Now is the time for strong leadership to assume responsibility and make themselves accountable for resolving the problem.

Cracking the Whip

Trimming expenses, cutting benefits or demanding more productivity are sometimes the reactions from poor leadership simply because they do not know what else to do and think this will somehow magically fix the problem. It is not likely the entire employee population caused the problem and they know that as well. Knee-jerk reactions will send a message of blame and uncertainty across the organization. Instead, hold meetings with employees to recognize the issue at hand and to stress that everyone is in this together and that together a solution will be found and implemented.

It can be lonely at the top, but it does not have to be. The most successful people surround themselves with other successful people. Recognize there are people who can help you in a crisis and never assume you know all the answers. Treat your employees as intelligent, hard-working people who have as much interest in the organization’s well-being as you do. Slow down, think clearly and apply common sense to any problem to make it more manageable. Strength does not always show itself as fast and loud. Often a calm and deliberate approach is the best way.

Travel Time and the FLSA

Thursday, September 18th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Private Exchanges Are Here – Now What?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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