Author Archive

Are We Beginning To See Price Transparency In Healthcare?

Thursday, April 16th, 2015

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.

healthcare transparencyAs pricing in the healthcare market continues to rise, we, as consumers of this healthcare, will begin seeking more cost-efficient ways to pay for this. Many experts agree that one way to begin to slow this rise is to become smarter with our healthcare buying decisions. A ‘smart healthcare consumer’ is one who seeks out the highest quality of care at the lowest price and understands the impact of their healthcare buying decisions.

One of the major hurdles to this is the lack of understanding on where to find information. In areas where there is a lot of competition for healthcare, costs can vary for the same procedure at different facilities. However, based on one’s medical plan, the cost to the patient may be the same by the time the deductible and coinsurance limits are met. The patient doesn’t realize there is a cost difference because his or her out-of-pocket expenses remain the same. It is the insurance company that is ultimately paying the difference, which causes potential increases to premiums at the next renewal.

This disconnect of the user of the healthcare (the patient) and the payer of the healthcare (the insurance company) is beginning to shrink as we see a shift to more consumer-driven health plans like high deductible plans and HSA-qualified plans. More of the actual charges are now being paid by the member on these types of plans. Due to this, the demand for greater pricing transparency is increasing.

We are now beginning to see the marketplace respond as third party companies are unveiling new technology designed to give us more precise information on the cost and quality of the services we seek. The Milkin Institute School of Public Health points to a number of new resources designed to give consumers cost information. Additionally, the health insurance carriers are redesigning their cost comparison tools on their member websites. Just recently, Blue Cross Blue Shield of NC introduced a new pricing tool that integrates the member’s underlying health plan to show actual out-of-pocket cost for procedures at different facilities. This gives members a true shopping experience when seeking care.

Some carriers have developed phone apps that compare expenses and outcomes for many services and procedures, allowing consumers to find healthcare providers, urgent care centers, and emergency facilities, as well as average costs for medical services.

Ultimately, we will be able to evaluate our healthcare costs quickly and easily. It will be our responsibility as consumers to use this information efficiently and hopefully make an impact to our premiums.

New Legislation Activity Will Affect NC Employers

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

George Ports, CAI’s Senior Executive and HR Advisor shares important legislation updates for NC employers in today’s post.

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

The 2015 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly officially convened on January 28, 2015.  As we expected, there has been a lot of activity pertaining to legislation introduced affecting day-to-day workplace issues, legislation that I will be covering at CAI’s 2015 Employment and Labor Law Update in May.

Bills introduced in the House and in the Senate aim to make changes to North Carolina’s unemployment laws.  Some of these changes such as requiring a photo ID to receive benefits, requiring more weekly attempts by claimants to obtain employment and authorizing the NCDMV to release social security numbers to the NCDES to prevent fraud were contained in legislation passed in the 2014 Session but vetoed by Governor McCrory.

Other legislation addresses criminal record expunction laws, one bill places restrictions on credit history checks for applicants, and another provides NC Industrial Commission fraud investigators more authority (investigators would be sworn law enforce officers with arrest powers).  Oh yes, and there is a bill that attempts to revise North Carolina’s E-verify law, increasing the number of employers required to use e-verify (employers from 25 or more employees to employers with 5 or more employees).

For many years “employee misclassification” has been a Hot Button for USDOL’s Wage & Hour Division—is the individual providing services to an employer an employee or an independent contractor?  This misclassification issue has garnered quite a bit of attention from North Carolina regulatory agencies and legislators.  Employers don’t pay payroll taxes or unemployment taxes on independent contractors nor are independent contractors covered by employers’ workers compensation insurance.  Independent contractors therefore are not eligible for unemployment or workers’ compensation benefits.

As this article is being written, there are at least four bills that have been introduced in attempts to address “employee misclassification.”  All four have their own definitions of employee and independent contractor.  Two bills are similar in their definitions and that they allow employers a “second bite of the apple” before penalties are imposed.  There is one bill’s definition of an independent contractor, however, it is quite narrow and its penalties for misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor are severe.  Civil penalties can range from $500 to $4000 per violation.  The amount of the penalty will be determined by “the size of the business of the person charged and the gravity of the violation”.  This legislation also contains a provision giving regulatory agencies the authority to issue a stop work order, in other words, shut down business operations. 

During my presentation, I’ll be giving status updates on each bill, stating whether they’ve passed and providing insights as to the probability of them passing or not.  We at CAI look forward to hosting our annual Employment and Labor Law Update on May 14th and 15th at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh.

The Employers Coalition of North Carolina (ECNC) was created to give the business community a more focused avenue of public policy input concerning day to day employer-employee workplace issues. ECNC is a partnership of three North Carolina employers’ associations: CAI (Capital Associated Industries), TEA (The Employers Association) and WCI (Western Carolina Industries) and their 2500 members.

When Can I Be Held Personally Liable for Employment Actions?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

CAI’s Advice and Resolution team member Pat Rountree shares valuable information regarding liability for employment actions in today’s post.

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Employment laws outline employer responsibilities for compliance under the various regulations. From time to time, the Advice and Resolution team is asked, “Can I be held personally responsible?” The answer is, it depends. It depends on the definition of employer under the regulation and/or the interpretation of that definition by the court if it is ambiguous.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) defines employer to include any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of the employer in relation to an employee. That definition could include HR Managers and other managers or supervisors who have the authority by the employer to exercise control over the employee’s job. HR Managers and managers who review job classification could be held liable for misclassification of a job as exempt when it should have been non-exempt, resulting in failure to pay overtime.

Individuals who qualify as employers as explained above may also be liable under the Equal Pay Act if they are responsible for paying a male more than a female for the same job unless there are factors to support the differential (more experienced, merit based on documented performance, etc.).

The Family and Medical Leave Act follows the same definition as the FLSA. Supervisors and managers who have authority over an eligible employee can be held responsible for denying FMLA or failing to fulfill other requirements of FMLA. Examples of individual responsibility include failure to designate absences that qualify as FMLA resulting in disciplinary action for absences (train your supervisors), and failure to provide FMLA notices (HR take note).

Other employment laws that can hold individuals personally responsible for violations include:

  • USERRA – failure to hire or taking negative action against a person because of their military service or other actions in violation of the Act
  • Section 1981 Civil Rights Act – discrimination based on race/color (Title VII does not consider individuals as employers; Section 1981 permits individual actions)
  • HIPAA – revealing personally identifying health information
  • ERISA – fiduciary breach of responsibilities under health care plan, retirement or 401(k) plan, or other covered plans
  • Immigration and Reform Act – knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant

Employees can also sue personally responsible individuals under state tort laws for wrongful discharge, or other conduct that violates a duty of care that a supervisor, or manager may have in their role.

While employees may not know that they could sue individuals, plaintiffs’ lawyers do. Where there is individual liability, the opportunity for monetary gain increases as individuals can have the same penalties as employers.

Please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team with questions at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

Unlocking LinkedIn’s Recruiting Potential

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

HR on Demand Team Member Carolyn Ulrich shares helpful tips for using LinkedIn as a recruiting tool:

linkedin and recruitingAs a recruiter for CAI, social media plays an invaluable role in my career. While we can arguably debate the usefulness of Facebook and Twitter, no one can deny that Linkedin is the holy grail of professional social networks.

Originally launched in May of 2003, Linkedin was created as the professional response to MySpace, gaining only a few new members a day. Within the first 3 years, Linkedin had 20 million users and surpassed MySpace in 2011 with over 33 million. Within the past 4 years, Linkedin has grown to more than 347 million users in over 200 countries and is the largest professional networking site in the world.

By investing a little time and effort into Linkedin, you can take your recruiting efforts to the next level. Here are my top suggestions on how to unleash the full recruiting potential of LinkedIn:

Start with a great profile!

Take the time to invest in a good headline and descriptive summary that helps people understand who you are and what you do. Don’t be afraid to highlight pictures, videos, presentations, skills, recommendations, certifications and clearances that will stand out to others in your profession. This will make you seem more credible and in turn, more approachable.

Expand your Connections!

Don’t be shy about accepting invitations from people you’ve met and even sometimes those that you haven’t. The more connections you have, the more users will be able to see you in their 2nd and 3rd degree network. Make it a point to reach out and connect with people you have heard about or met at events, trainings and conferences. Remember, there’s only 6 degrees of separation!

Post Often!  

Is something interesting happening with your company or in your office? POST IT! Once you have built your network connections make use of all your connections and post content as it relates to you, your profession and your company. Make sure you’re also posting jobs on your page and highlight why you LOVE your company! Never underestimate the power of social media. If you’re always posting about how much you love your job, your connections perceptions of your company will fall in line. Even connections that aren’t actively looking for a new position might be interested so don’t be afraid to put that job in front of them!

Leverage Your Connections!

Send notes to your connections that may be a great fit for your job openings. But make sure you’re not being too aggressive…. No one likes to be sold and you don’t want them to look at your messages like spam. This will keep you current with your connections and is a great FREE marketing tool!

Our recruiting team is dedicated to helping you with all of your recruiting needs. Whether it’s learning more about leveraging Linkedin as a recruiting tool, having us recruit for and fill your vacant positions, or simply answering a few questions, we’re here to help! Please feel free to contact our recruiting team directly at 919- 431-6084 or jill.feldman@capital.org.

Photo Source: Link Humans

 

 

10 HR Practices that Destroy Small Business Productivity – Misguided Meetings

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

In today’s video blog, CAI’s VP of Membership, Doug Blizzard, continues his series on HR practices that destroy productivity.  This month’s focus is misguided meetings, and he starts the video by giving examples of what misguided meetings might look like.

Doug then shares that Salary.com for Business recently surveyed over 3,200 employees, asking them to rank their biggest time wasters at work. The number one reason, with 47 percent of participants agreeing, was attending too many meetings.

Running bad meetings isn’t due to a lack of available resources, Doug says in the video.   There are several books and other learning tools that offer predictable meeting advice. However, meetings with good elements, such as a detailed agenda or clear purpose to solve an issue, can also go south and waste valuable time.

Doug offers insight from business expert Pat Lencioni who argues that most meetings lack drama. The expert suggests putting the more controversial issues at the beginning of the meeting and seeking solutions before moving on to the next topic.

Another reason why meetings are often time consuming is that they lack context and purpose. Doug suggests getting into a rhythm by scheduling reoccurring, tightly-run meetings with your employees. The meetings should happen as scheduled and with specific agendas.  This will help you focus on what’s important and solve problems faster.

So stop letting bad meetings kill productivity at your office.  If you need help around your company’s meeting or communication strategy, please reach out to our Advice and Resolution Team  at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Top Tips To Gain Executive Support For Health Management

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

The post below is a guest blog from Meaghan Roach who serves as Health Management Specialist for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

health management supportAccording to the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), gaining executive support for your work site health management initiatives is a crucial first step to a successful program. Leadership support is a significant driver in getting employees to pay attention to and engage in the program. An executive champion serves to communicate the program to the masses, and sets a positive example of the desired healthy behaviors. However, this is often easier said than done.

If you are struggling to get your C-Suite on board with your plans for a health management program, try following these key steps:

  1. Establish Common Ground. How does the program tie in with your overall business strategy? How can you relate it to the company’s mission and vision statements? The CDC breaks down the reasoning for having a health management program into three key arguments: the Health Care Cost Argument, the Productivity Argument and the Great Please to Work Argument. Consider, for example, that you are part of a small company, thus your medical insurance is community rated. The Health Care Cost Argument may not be as important, but your field may be highly competitive, and being considered a “Best Place to Work” could be key for recruiting top talent. In order to capture the attention of your audience, you must know what issues are important to them and use those to your benefit.
  2. Understand the Obstacles. Often, members of leadership are dealing with their own health issues, and don’t want to appear hypocritical by pushing a health promotion program on their employees. They may not fully understand how their role fits in to the bigger picture, and what responsibilities fall on them. Be specific with what type of commitment you are requesting from them and what they will need to do to make the program successful.
  3. Build the skills. Once you have members of leadership on board, it is essential to help them hone their expertise to effectively lead the company’s health management initiatives. The key to effective support is to make the leaders be vocal, visible, and visionary for the program. Get your champions to push out important communication pieces, as well as be present at the events. Additionally, encourage executives to keep an innovate mindset throughout the process. Creative methodologies can help spark employee engagement.
  4. Respect that it is a Process. While it would be great if the entire C-Suite were committed to being champions of the program after the initial introduction, this is a lofty goal. The truth is: it will take time and perseverance to move their interest to a boiling point. Continue to bring success stories, employee testimonials, and hard data highlighting the progress the program has made. As they begin to see the impact of the program, they will be swayed in the desired direction.

Getting your entire workforce supporting and engaging in your health management program can be tricky, but it is necessary for the success of your plan. If you have more questions about how to obtain leadership support, contact our Health Management team.

Drugs, Alcohol and the ADA

Thursday, March 12th, 2015

Advice and Resolution Team Member John Gupton shares helpful information about the ADA and what the law allows in regard to drugs and alcohol.

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

John Gupton, General Counsel and HR Advisor

In general, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits covered employers from discriminating against a “qualified individual with a disability” in regard to job applications, hiring, advancement, discharge, compensation, training, or other terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The ADA requires employers to make “reasonable accommodations” to the known physical or mental limitations of an otherwise qualified individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an “undue hardship” upon the employer.

The ADA specifically allows employers to prohibit the use of alcohol or illegal drugs in the workplace and require that employees not be under the influence. Employers may test for the use of illegal drugs under the ADA. Employers also may maintain and enforce rules prohibiting employees from being under the influence of alcohol in the workplace and may conduct alcohol testing for this purpose if they have a reasonable belief that an employee may be under the influence of alcohol at work.

While current illegal drug users and alcoholics who cannot safely perform their jobs are not protected by the ADA, those who have been rehabilitated or are participating in a supervised rehabilitation program and are not currently using drugs or who are erroneously regarded as engaging in the illegal use of drugs, are covered. Thus, an employer may be required to make reasonable accommodation to recovering alcoholics, for example, by allowing time off to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

For more information about the ADA, go to http://j.mp/dis-d. If you have questions about the ADA, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

Give more time to your best employees – not your worst

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

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

We hear managers complain that too much time is spent on people problems. The same issues repeat with the same people. All the while, their best performers are quietly getting the job done.

Why do we let recurring problems keep us from mentoring, growing and rewarding the right people?

Managers make their livings solving problems. They do not like to fail and, believe it or not, they do not like to fire people.

They often overrate their ability to change employee behavior. Plus, they worry too much about getting the job done if they finally do remove a problem employee.

Put all that in a blender and you get lots of time spent on lots of problems that will never be resolved. More importantly, not enough time will be spent on the right people.

Turnover is not expensive; turnover of your best people is expensive. Ignore your best people, and another employer will spend quality time with them.

Here is a revolutionary idea: Spend at least as much time on the top 20 percent of your workforce as you do on the bottom 20 percent.

Reprioritizing time

Think about your neediest employee. Think of the hours spent with them, with your own manager getting advice, or with other employees complaining of the problems caused. Think about waking up at night worrying about how to solve those issues.

Now take that same number of wasted hours and imagine how you might use them with one of your best performers, someone who has the potential to grow, innovate, implement and maybe even take your role one day. How could you help them get ready to do more and learn more?

What if you involved them in more of your projects? Could you take them into negotiations or client problem-solving sessions? Would they learn from helping you to hire the next members of the team?

How about attending a conference together, talking about what they like doing and want to do next, helping them obtain short assignments in other areas, resolving work flexibility hurdles and doing anything that makes them more valuable and more loyal?

Less on problems, more on best

The managers who say they have no time for such things are often the ones who cannot find great applicants or retain their best people. They want a magic cure with little change in their own behavior when the truth is that the best people demand the best from their manager.

If you are a high-performing employee with an inattentive manager, maybe the problem is too many poor performers taking too much time. Be upfront about your need for a mentor, for regular discussion about your own growth and for opportunities to try new things. If you like the work and the culture, it is worth your effort. If you fail to get the help you need, you might have your answer.

Spend far less time on problem employees and much more on your best. Your life as a manager and your organization’s performance will both improve.

AAP: Changes to Veteran Self-Identification Solicitation

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

CAI’s Manager for Affirmative Action Services, Kaleigh Ferraro, shares important information regarding AAP requirements and solicitation of self-identification information from veterans.  Make sure you are compliant.

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

On September 25, 2014, the Veterans Employment and Training Service issued a final rule changing the reporting requirements for employers covered under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA).  This final rule rescinds the VETS-100 report and changes the annual veterans report from VETS-100A to VETS-4212.  This reporting change will allow employers to report on aggregated protected veterans rather than the individual veteran classification.  There will also be the option to report on veteran hires and total hires either by the EEO-1 categories or in total.

Since this changes, federal contractors and subcontractors subject to AAP requirements have been asking how this affects their solicitation of veteran classifications during the hiring process.  Regulation changes to VEVRAA effective in 2014 required contractors to solicit veteran status both pre job offer and post job offer.  The solicitation was different pre-offer versus post-offer.  The pre-offer form requested only for applicants to voluntarily self-id as “protected veteran” while the post-offer form requested individuals to identify as specific veteran classifications.  Since the VETS reporting in 2015 will report on aggregated veteran data, the post-offer requesting specific classifications seemed unnecessary.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) responded on January 20, 2015 with guidance regarding the self-identification forms and solicitation.

 

  1. Federal contractors and subcontractors may use the same self-identification form for per-offer and post-offer solicitation during the hiring process. This form will invite applicants to voluntarily self-identify as “protected veteran”. There is no need to request specific veteran classification
  2. Contractors may continue to request specific veteran classification post-job offer if they choose to do so.

 

For more information on affirmative action and the recent changes within it, be sure to sign up now for our FREE one hour webinar AAP: What You Need to Know About Recruiting and Applicant Tracking on March 24, 2015.

Our affirmative action team at CAI is dedicated to helping you with all of your affirmative action needs. Whether it’s designing an AAP plan for your company, doing a full audit on an existing plan, or simply answering a few questions, please contact me directly at 919-713-5241 or kaleigh.ferraro@capital.org.

10 HR Practices that Destroy Small Business Productivity – Over-Limiting Sick and PTO Policies

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015

In today’s blog, Doug Blizzard, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, shares his first practice that destroys productivity for small businesses. He highlights over-limiting sick and PTO policies in this video session.

There is no perfect solution for sick time according to Doug. However, poorly designed policies encourage staff members to come to work sick or risk losing pay. Sick employees are likely not at the top of their game and are more likely to commit costly mistakes and infect their coworkers.

Instead over-limiting sick and PTO time, Doug suggests some alternatives. He says as a leader, model the behavior you want. If you don’t want people to come in when they’re sick, you shouldn’t come in sick.

He also encourages offering unlimited sick leave, which empowers workers to use their judgment and also serves as a valuable recruiting tool. Additional suggestions he gives include allowing employees to carry over unused time off from year to year and creating a trained pool of Per Diem workers.

If you would like help thinking through your sick and PTO policies, please give a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.