Author Archive

Q&A: 6 Things You Should Know About Affirmative Action Plans

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

CAI’s Manager for Affirmative Action Services, Kaleigh Ferraro, shares information on affirmative action plans from the OFCCP. Make sure you are compliant.

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

If your organization provides goods or services to the federal government either directly or indirectly, you may be subject to affirmative action regulations.  Just in 2014, regulation changes regarding affirmative action programs for protected veterans and individuals with disabilities became effective.  President Obama has also signed several Executive Orders affecting federal contractors.  Is your organization in compliance with these recent and proposed changes?

Q: Are you covered as an affirmative action employer?

A: If you have federal contractors or subcontracts of at least $10,000, you are covered under the affirmative action regulations.

 

Q: What are the affirmative action requirements?

A: One of the main requirements is to annually develop written affirmative action plans if you have federal contracts/subcontracts of $50,000 or more and 50 or more employees. There are a number of other requirements as well.

 

Q: What is the impact of the changes to organizations regarding protected veterans and individuals with disabilities?

A: Some of the major changes that became effective in 2014 require setting hiring benchmarks for veterans and utilization goals for individuals with disabilities.  They also require federal contractors to solicit self-identification of applicants for veteran and disability statuses prior to job offer.

 

Q: What type of data is needed to develop an affirmative action plan?

A: In order to develop an annual affirmative action plan, you will need a current listing of employees.  This employee listing will be used to determine if Placement Goals must be established for women and minorities.  This listing will also be used to determine if utilization goals for individuals with disabilities are met.  Contractors must also review employment decisions for hires, promotions and terminations for the 12 months prior to the employee listing.

 

Q: What is required of affirmative action employers other than the written affirmative action plan?

A: There are a number of additional requirements beyond an affirmative action plan.  These requirements include the following: record keeping requirements, tracking applicant data, annually filing EEO-1/VETS-100A reports, notifying subcontractors & vendors of obligations, specific language in covered purchase orders & subcontracts, listing jobs with state employment service delivery systems, outreach and recruitment efforts, etc.  CAI can provide additional information regarding these and other requirements.

 

Q: What are the recently signed Executive Orders and proposed regulation changes?

A: President Obama has signed several Executive Orders in 2014 that may lead to changes for federal contractors and subcontractors.  They include, establishing higher minimum wages for federal contractors, expanding affirmative action requirements to include gender identity and sexual orientation as protected groups, protect workers from retaliation when discussing pay with other employees.  The OFCCP also issued proposed regulations that would require contractors to submit compensation information annually in an expanded Employer Information Report EEO-1

CAI has a team dedicated to affirmative action and can assist with affirmative action questions.  Please contact Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager of Affirmative Action Services directly at 919-713-5241 or kaleigh.ferraro@capital.org  for additional information or other affirmative action questions.

 

FMLA: Are You A Covered Employer?

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

In today’s video blog, John Gupton, CAI’s General Counsel and HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution team, discusses provisions in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and whether an employer is covered.

John starts by explaining that FMLA allows eligible employees to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a 12-month period for certain family or medical reasons. He lists several protections the law grants employees, such as continuation of a group health plan.

He addresses employer coverage in the last portion of the video. John says public employers are covered without regard to the number of employees employed. Private employers must have 50 or more employees during 20 or more workweeks during the current or preceding calendar year. John also explains which employees you should count when figuring out FMLA coverage.

If you have additional questions regarding FMLA employer coverage, please give CAI’s Advice and Resolution team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-667-7746.

In An Environment Of Uncertainty, Prepare To Comply With The ACA

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

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

hcw 8 14In the last few weeks, there’s been multiple Affordable Care Act (ACA) developments, ultimately impacting large employers with 50 or more employees. How and when will they occur is another story, and it is easy to see why some employers are perplexed. Predicating what the ACA will look like a year from now is very difficult with some saying the employer mandate may be delayed again. Let’s review the recent events and how they are contradictory in many ways.

On July 22, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit concluded that PPACA’s subsidies should only be available to individuals purchasing health insurance in exchanges operated by a state – calling into question all the subsidies that have been obtained to date through the Federal exchange. Hours later in Richmond, Va., the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit decided that legislative intent was to make tax subsidies available to individuals purchasing health insurance through a federally funded exchange or a state-based exchange if the state failed to create one. These two conflicting rulings are likely to go to the Supreme Court. For now, subsidies/tax credits will continue to be granted on the Federal Exchange. If the D.C. Circuit’s decision is upheld, it could strike a serious blow to the employer mandate since receiving a subsidy is a primary trigger of the employer mandate.

On July 24, the IRS published draft forms for the Code 6056 employer Minimum Essential Coverage reporting and disclosure requirement to the IRS and to individuals. This reporting requirement has multiple purposes as it allows the IRS to enforce the employer mandate, enforce the individual mandate, and confirm eligibility for premium tax credits for coverage purchased through an Exchange. This reporting along with the associated forms take effect in 2015 and are due in January 2016.

So in the same week, we witnessed a decision by an appeals court that called into question the viability of the Employer Mandate and suggested a possible delay, and then actions by the IRS which seem to indicate the Employer Mandate is moving forward as scheduled.

Regardless, large employers need to be prepared to comply with the employer mandate in 2015 and the associated reporting requirements. This should include a review of current payroll and HRIS systems to ensure they will be able to meet the new reporting requirements. The safe play is to assume that the employer mandate will go into effect without another delay, and if a delay occurs, organizations will have more breathing room to implement.

Evaluating the Softer Skills of a Top Candidate

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins shares the importance of analyzing a job candidate’s soft skills to uncover ways he or she can help your organization succeed if hired.

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

When seeking top talent for a current job opening, the first criteria we most often use to identify the right candidates is a combination of education, experience and skill. These factors can be used, in part, to predict whether or not a candidate has the ability to be successful in the role for which they are being considered.

While these factors are very important, the long-term success of a candidate within your organization can depend more heavily on their softer skills, which tend to come across during the interview process.

With limited resources, stiff competition for talent and smaller amounts of time for assessing candidates, HR has to use their opportunities wisely to drill very quickly down to these softer skills.

The following interview questions can be used to provide you with a deeper insight into exactly what this candidate can bring to the company in addition to their education and experience:

  • What can you tell me about our company? Give me your analysis of our business. Look for the candidate’s initiative, ability, values and confidence.
  • Tell me about the first five things you would do if hired. Look for the candidate’s thought process, prioritization and execution.
  • Name five things you need to be successful in this role. Name three things you consider obstacles to that success. Look for the candidate’s expectations from the company and their ability to overcome obstacles.
  • Discuss a time you took a risk and failed versus a time you took a risk and succeeded. Look for the candidate’s willingness to take risks and ability to accept failure.
  • What was one of your proudest moments at work? Look for the candidate’s preferred work style (team player, solo contributor).
  • Where do you see yourself in two more career moves? How will this position help you get there? Look for the candidate’s long-term thinking, motivation and expectations.

To be a successful hire, candidates need to be a great corporate fit for your organization. You also want individuals who are thinking long-term with confidence in their own abilities to succeed within your company. For additional guidance, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

 

Wage and Hour Issues: Allowed Deductions From an Exempt Employee’s Salary

Thursday, August 7th, 2014

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Senior Executive of Government Relations and member of the Advice and Resolution team, George Ports, discusses allowed deductions from an exempt employee’s salary. George starts with a reminder: exempt employees are paid on a salary basis. Deductions are allowed but are limited. George shares an example in the video.

Another question that George explores is whether an employer is allowed to suspend an exempt employee without pay for violating a major work rule. He says the answer is yes, but the work rule must be major. He gives suggestions of what counts and what doesn’t.  George points out several scenarios that illustrate why you would have to pay an employee based on when he or she was suspended.

George offers additional deductions that can be made to an exempt employee’s salary in the video. One of the deductions he explains is the entire week concept. If there is not work completed by the employee in an entire week, the employer does not have to pay the employee for that week. Highlighting today’s technology, George emphasizes that if an employee is responding to emails or voicemails during this week, the entire work week exception is invalid.

Improper deductions from an exempt employee’s salary can destroy the exemption status for that employee and the exemption status of employees in that same classification, George says in the video. He also lists deductions that an employer is not allowed to take from an exempt employee’s salary.

If you have any questions about wage and hour regulations, please call CAI’s Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Your Employees Won’t Work Hard for a Robot

Tuesday, August 5th, 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

Think about your best manager ever.

The one that you trusted, learned from, worked hard for, took problems to and even enjoyed. The one that managed you with both clarity and humanity. The one that knew you as an individual and took a genuine interest in your development. Do you have this person in mind?

Many managers are good communicators and handle workplace issues well. They might even be good teachers and technical geniuses. They may have regular meetings with you to be sure you are on the “same page.” But the human element that makes them truly impactful and inspirational is too often missing.

Somewhere along the way, managers (and some in HR) have lost sight of this important fact: nobody works hard for a robot or simply to earn revenue. They work hard for people who know them as individuals.

The great workplace leaders understand this human element. It builds bonds that allow your organization to solve big problems, face great challenges and obtain extraordinary results from all types of people.

Think again of your best manager ever. Would you work twice the hours for two weeks to get a big project done for that individual? Would you bring him or her your bestideas and best work every day? Would you accept and understand when you received an answer you did not like? Would that manager make your view of the company much more positive, making you much more likely to stay?

I bet your best manager even knew quite a bit about you as a person and showed it in appropriate ways. Maybe you both enjoyed discussing your family, your hobbies, common schools/teams, your dog or even political topics. Maybe you shared your feelings about free time, what you hope for or what you are concerned about.

What about the time your manager attended that awards ceremony on your behalf or that soccer game you played? How did you feel when a manager did something nice for your child? The point is, your manager knew what you cared most about in this world and showed that s/he cared, too.

It is not a great deal more complex than that, but managers tend to avoid the right kind of personal topics with employees, while a few spend too much time on the wrong personal topics. I’ve seen lawyers scare good managers away from positive personal conversations and relationships (with fears of lawsuits) while failing to sufficiently scare the harasser away from negative personal interactions.

The human element is key to maximizing both work performance and enjoyment. One of my favorite workplace authors is Patrick Lencioni (“The Three Signs of a Miserable Job”). He says this human element means taking a Genuine Personal Interest in employees and each other. Each of those three words was chosen carefully. The opposite might be called an Insincere Prying Irritation.

Other non-genuine interactions: asking the same question each day to the same people (“How ’bout them Heels?”), forcing the interaction, focusing on things you care about, doing the same thing for everyone or treating interaction as a one-way street. Employees, your manager would appreciate a Genuine Personal Interest from you as well.

Maybe this is natural to you. Keep it up! If it is unnatural or stressful to you, find ways to bring the human element into your workplace interactions. Observe what employees display in their workspace. Chances are they care deeply about those things and people.

Think about the power of a Genuine Personal Interest in improving conversations, building trust and creating a common language . . . and boosting performance.

The only person who wants to work hard for a robot is the technician who changes its oil.

 

Rehire of Former Employees Terminated for Positive Drug Test

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

Pat Rountree, HR Advisor

In today’s post Pat Rountree, an HR Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team, discusses the decisions employers have made regarding rehiring former employees who were terminated for a positive drug test.

There was recently discussion on the CAI Members List Serve about whether other employers considered rehiring employees terminated for testing positive on a drug test and if so, after what length of time. Responses on past Policies and Benefits surveys have revealed that employers’ decisions on this vary from not being eligible for rehire to not being eligible for some specified period of time.

There was a court case several years ago where a former employee who had been terminated for drug use applied for an open position. He was told he was not eligible for rehire. He sued the employer for disability discrimination. Rehabilitated drug users are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The employer prevailed because their policy was that no one who was terminated for cause was eligible for rehire.

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) ADA Guidance does address inquiries about illegal drug use. It states as follows:

An individual who currently uses drugs illegally is not protected under the ADA; therefore, questions about current illegal drug use are not disability-related inquiries. 42 U.S.C. §12114(a)(1994); 29 C.F.R. §1630.3(a)(1998). However, questions about past addiction to illegal drugs or questions about whether an employee ever has participated in a rehabilitation program are disability-related because past drug addiction generally is a disability. Individuals who were addicted to drugs, but are not currently using drugs illegally, are protected under the ADA. 29 C.F.R. §1630.3(b)(1),(2)(1998).

Since questions about past addiction or participation in a drug rehabilitation program are disability related, those questions can only be asked post offer. If you choose to make those inquiries, it is recommended that you ask all applicants post offer and not just a former employee who was terminated for a positive drug test as that may indicate you considered them to have a disability (drug addiction).

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

 

Are Gated Health Plans the Way of the Future?

Tuesday, July 22nd, 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 7 14As employers continue to identify new ways to control their health plan costs, many employers are considering gated health plans as an option. A “gated” health plan, offers a different spin on the traditional wellness incentive that employers and employees have become used to.  Instead of offering employees lower payroll deductions through the completion of a health assessment or completion of a biometric screening, employers are now considering the option of offering richer benefits as well.

In a recent survey, more than 1,000 employers were asked to disclose current plan designs and changes they expect in the next three to five years. It’s a way for employers to control costs and reward employees for their healthy lifestyles.

52 percent of employers said their current health plan focuses on traditional trend mitigation approaches, such as employee cost shifting. Interestingly enough, it dropped to 21 percent when asked if this would be their preferred approach in three-to-five years.

Employers are beginning to lean more towards plans that require employee action.

In the upcoming years, over 60 percent of employers plan to introduce a gated plan, where employees must complete a task to obtain access to richer design options, compared to only 20 percent who “gate” their employees today. In the past we’ve seen incentives to help lower payroll deductions, but now with gated plans, there is an option to improve benefits.

Employees are also considering implementing the following tactics to mitigate health costs:

  • 72 percent of employers are or will be reducing subsidies for dependents
  • 52 percent of employers anticipate using unitized pricing—where employees pay per person and not individual versus family—up from 5 percent today
  • 42 percent of employers are considering offering high-deductible health plans as a full replacement plan, up from 15 percent today
  • 24 percent of employers plan to offer employees tools to guide decisions in plan selection and utilization, up from 19 percent today
  • 92 percent plan to offer cost transparency tools, up from 49 percent today

While employers are evaluating these new options, and continuing to ask their employees to become more engaged, it is important they evaluate their plan designs carefully.  These new gated plan options are permissible under HIPAA wellness rules.  However, it is very important to ensure they are designed correctly, as they must be carefully structured to comply with both ADA and GINA requirements.  Also, these plans would need to provide a reasonable accommodation to anyone who can’t participate due to a disability, as restricting eligibility in a plan based on participation could be seen as more of a penalty than a monetary premium differential.

Use Stay Interviews to Keep Your Best Employees

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

In today’s video blog, CAI’s HR Advisor and member of the Advice and Resolution team, Renee’ Watkins, discusses stay interviews and how they can increase employee retention at your company.

Renee’ says that many organizations spend time and effort figuring out why employees leave when it’s already too late to react. She says that if we understood the reasons an employee chooses to stay with the organization it would help employers to better reinforce those positive factors and increase retention rates.

“Stay” interviews are popular among companies taking a proactive approach to employee retention. Renee’ recommends interviewing your best performers while they are working for you, rather than only gain their honest feedback when they are leaving. She suggests scheduling casual interviews with the best performers and those who have the highest potential within your organization.

During the interviews, Renee’ encourages employers to find out if their employees have any issues or concerns. Asking for ideas they have regarding your culture or improvement in processes, policies or production is a great way to elicit feedback.

Renee’ believes the most important part of the stay interview process is for the employer to apply what is learned during the interviews. She also says that you should be prepared to take action while your good employees are still part of the organization.

The stay interview is an opportunity to build trust with employees and a chance to assess the degree of employee satisfaction and engagement. In the video, she lists several questions that you can ask your employees to gauge why they plan to stay and what factors might contribute to them leaving.

If you have questions about stay interviews, please reach out to our Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Using Collaborative Learning to Increase Critical Thinking

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

In today’s post, CAI’s Peer Learning Recruiter, Jennifer Montalvo, shares the benefits that collaborative learning can bring to an organization.

Jennifer Montalvo, Peer Learning Recruiter

Jennifer Montalvo, Peer Learning Recruiter

Strong collaboration in a work environment is crucial to the success of any company. However, how much thought is given to learning collaboratively? When professionals are paired together in small groups, collaborative learning encourages the achievement of professional goals. According to Virginia Tech’s Journal of Technology Education (vol.7 no.1), collaborative learning enhances critical thinking. This concept is not something new; rather a notion measured and proven over many years.

The act of exchanging ideas within small groups not only increases interest, but promotes critical thinking. The members of these small groups are allowed the opportunity to engage in discussion, take responsibility for their own learning and strengthen their ability to actively and skillfully conceptualize information. We currently live in the world of the continuous “busy.” Being in a group such as this allows the learner to slow down, share, listen and evaluate themselves and others.

Participants in collaborative learning environments experienced the following benefits:

  • Improved understanding of issues presented
  • Shared knowledge and experience
  • Receiving and giving of helpful feedback
  • Higher level thinking ability
  • Openness to new perspectives

The time spent participating in collaborative learning opportunities also affected the social and emotional well-being of participants in the following ways:

  • Problem solving felt easier, and almost enjoyable, in a relaxed, trusting environment
  • Greater responsibility – not just for self but for the group as well
  • New relationships built and growth of professional network

One way CAI promotes collaborative learning is through our peer learning groups. For more information please see http://j.mp/pe-er, or contact me directly at jennifer.montalvo@capital.org or 919‑431‑6093.

Consider enhancing your critical thinking skills within the workplace by incorporating collaborative learning amongst peers.