Author Archive

Are you Prepared for the New Overtime Rule?

Thursday, September 29th, 2016

On December 1, 2016, the new US DOL Overtime Rule will officially go in effect. This new rule determines which employees are exempt from overtime. Employers will not have to pay overtime to exempt employees. If an employee is non-exempt, employers need to pay overtime for actual hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a single work week. The FLSA (Fair Labor Standards Act) defines which jobs may be exempt from the overtime penalty depending on minimum salary and duties performed. Exemption categories include both a minimum salary threshold, and a duties test. Jobs will have to meet both standards to qualify for exemption.

Feeling overwhelmed? We don’t blame you. Where do you begin? How do you prepare?

Organization and communication are a major factor in businesses making the shift to compliance as painless as possible.

Below are 3 key steps in preparing for the upcoming deadline.

  1. Conduct an internal audit to identify positions and employees potentially affected.
    In recent research conducted by Paychex found that one out of five employers were not aware of the final rule, and 55% did not think the new rule applied to them.
  2. Educate your employees on time keeping and tracking overtime.
    Some employees might still receive a salary but are now required to log their worked hours. Set up training on proper time recording practices.
  3. Develop a communication plan.
    Talk to your employees, explain the new law and guidelines. Make them aware of benefit changes, if any, due to the necessary change in FLSA status from exempt to non-exempt. Misclassifications can cause challenges and serious financial consequences.

2016_telu_header_2In our upcoming 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference in Greensboro, North Carolina, lead attorneys from Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete, LLP and CAI’s HR experts will provide registrants with key information about current and proposed changes in state and federal employment law. Building the proper infrastructure to protect your business and effectively navigate the Department of Labor’s new overtime rules and related regulations is critical to every company’s success. One of the concurrent breakout sessions at the 2016 Triad Employment Law Update Conference will focus on protecting your business and cover the shrinking white collar exemptions, interns, joint employers, postliminary duties and the DOL’s approach to enforcing these new standards.

Want to learn more about the conference and who should attend visit

Every workplace has questions that need to be answered, and the sooner the better. Contact CAI’s Advice & Resolution team today!

Learning the Best Practices for Total Rewards in 2017

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

Nearly 250 North Carolina HR professionals and executives attended CAI’s 2016 Compensation & Benefits Conference on September 15 and 16. Conference participants were eager to interact with one another and hear the latest on engaging and retaining top talent in this challenging economy.

Our three keynote speakers: Kerry Chou, of WorldatWork, Michael Patrick, of Willis Towers Watson’s Atlanta Talent & Rewards Practice, and CAI’s very own Molly Hegeman broke down ways to evaluate existing total rewards strategies using current trend information and insight from survey data. img_0076Employee engagement and success rate were a common trend shared by all speakers.

In Performance Management 101, Kerry Chou discussed the three questions an employer needs to ask themselves about an employee for the employee to be successful:

  • Is the employee CAPABLE of doing the job?
  • Does the employee have the TOOLS to do the job?
  • Does the employee PERFORM?

Michael Patrick stated only four in ten employees globally are highly engaged. In order to optimize employee engagement, employees need to be capable, have the tools and resources readily available to them and have the performance rate their employers want. “Know your Market Position,” Molly Hegeman, VP of HR Services at CAI stated, what is your philosophy? Are you going to be a market leader, match the market or lag behind? Molly suggests determining your market position by looking at the external and internal values.

In addition to the keynote sessions, conference participants chose from 9 breakout sessions from creating salary structures, managing costs related to the ACA, transforming performance management and using culture as a competitive advantage. Jay Burchfield from Teamphoria shared that companies with engaged employees outperform their competition by 202%, yet one negative employee with a bad attitude can affect four or more employees around them. Employers need to strive to make their employees feel excited about their work. Rebecca Bottorff, Bandwidth, stated, “We should be rewarding people more often.” Reward your employees with what matters to them – and that will vary from person to person. Companies should be conducting quarterly reviews, and providing employees with on-going feedback from their managers. This will help both the employee and the manager keep the lines of communication open.

As expected, our interactive panel session featuring CAI’s experts fielded many questions on the hot topic of implementing the new overtime rule. The experts cautioned employers to not wait until December, to take this time to understand those potentially impacted positions. For example, if a position is currently below the threshold of $47,476, and that employee works very little overtime, then raising them to the exempt level may cost you more in the long run. There are many different situations depending on the employer, number, and type of employees. You’ll want to choose the option that works best for your employees and your company.

Trying to plan for implementation of the new rule can get overwhelming quickly. Learn more about how CAI can help you with implementing the Overtime Rule.

Form 5500 Revisions Impact Both Small And Large Employers

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

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

hcw5500revisionsblogThe Department of Labor (DOL), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) recently proposed significant changes to the form 5500 which has implications for both large employers and small employers. Targeting an effective date of 2019 plan year filings, the recent DOL Factsheet explains that many changes are on the horizon in an attempt to modernize and improve the Form 5500 annual return/report filed by employee benefit plans.  They identify the driving forces behind the changes include a desire to 1) modernize financial reporting, 2) provide greater information regarding group health plans, 3) enhance data mine-ability, 4 ) improve service provider fee information, and 5) enhance compliance with ERISA and the code.

The most notable proposed changes include:

  • Removing the small group exemption where previously many employers with less than 100 enrolled participants were exempt from filing;
  • Adding a new comprehensive schedule J (Group Health Plan Information) requirement;
  • New Schedule C requirement for each service provider;
  • And an expanded schedule H for funded plans.

Regardless of a group’s size, benefit plans should pay special attention to the new Schedule J requirements. Plans will now be asked to complete information on the types of benefits offered and the funding methods, including if benefits are HDHP, health FSA or HRA.  There will also be questions on participant contributions and employer contributions as well as enrollment information, including participants and dependents.  There appears to be requirements for claims data (including claims submitted, denied, appealed, paid, and where claims are paid from – insurer, trust or employer general assets.  And last but not least, there will be a focus on plan compliance with questions around COBRA, grandfathered status, MLR rebates, HIPAA, GINA, MHP SBC requirements, and SPD requirements.

As traditionally occurs, the DOL has asked for comments to the proposed regulations and these comments are due by October 4, 2016.  It is clear that the agencies are working together to significantly increase Form 5500 reporting obligations for many employers with group health plans. As explained in the fact sheet, the agencies are looking to update the filing requirement to gather data sufficient to support their enforcement efforts. Therefore, employers should take note and make sure to tighten up their benefit plan compliance over the next year.  The silver lining is that the agencies have provided plenty of lead time for employer’s to get into compliance.

If you have questions about these new regulations, or about your health benefit plan’s compliance with some of the regulations mentioned in the proposed regulations, contact your HCW consultant.

Cyber Threats & Security – Stay Safe & Stay Compliant

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

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

Credit cards with computer chips in them.  New online passwords every 30 days with capital letters and numbers and symbols.  Everywhere we turn these days, companies seem to be going to great new lengths to protect their employees’ and customers’ personal digital information against cyber threats.


There’s good reason for that.  Organizations ranging from Home Depot to the Federal Government have suffered serious data breaches over the course of the past several years. The healthcare industry appears to be particularly susceptible to breaches, with over 112 million individual records having been compromised in 2015.  With so many different companies suffering from breaches and increased scrutiny around hacks, now is a good time for employers to ensure that they’re doing everything they need to in order to remain compliant, and protect their employees from cyber threats.

If you’re an employer sponsor of a group health plan, chances are you’re already subject to privacy and security rules under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  When thinking about cyber threats that impact you directly, the focus should be on the electronic protected health information of your employees. The first step in protecting employee information is making sure that your plan is compliant with HIPAA’s security rules. That includes implementing safeguards on multiple levels, including administrative, physical, technical, and organizational safeguards.  These can run the gamut from tasks as simple as updating the access control to your facility (physical), or as intricate as ensuring that any data stored online is protected by appropriate firewalls and encryption (technical). Ultimately, the best thing you can do to ensure the safety of both your organization and your employees’ information is to be sure you’re HIPAA compliant.  If you aren’t certain of your compliance right now, consider consulting legal counsel or a third party HIPAA consultant.

What are some other steps that groups are taking to make sure their data doesn’t get into the wrong hands? One is educating all employees, regardless of their role, about cybersecurity and IT issues and risks management. Make sure that your company has a uniformly enforced policy for mobile device usage – especially for personally owned devices – in order to help protect sensitive information.  Finally, don’t wait until you experience a breach to learn how to respond. Make sure your affected teams are well versed in their response procedures in the event of an incident.

CAI’s HR Certification Study Course Boasts a 90% Pass Rate for PHR®/SPHR® Exam

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

SignUpAn HR certification will distinguish you from your peers, build your self-confidence, and earn you greater respect from your organization. According to a Payscale Survey, this certification typically translates into the ability to advance more quickly and earn significantly more money.

Did you know North Carolina HR partner, CAI, offers a PHR®/SPHR® Certification Study Course Program that far exceeds the pass rate of the national average of 50%? Program participants who study with us achieve an impressive 90% pass rate PHR®/SPHR® exam!

CAI’s 11-session PHR®/SPHR® Certification Study Course will have you prepared to the best of your ability to pass the exam. You’ll receive a complete study manual, online videos, practice test questions, chat and discussion boards, and testing games. Audio CD’s are included too, so you can listen on your commute.

“I couldn’t imagine taking the exam without the help of your prep class. The materials and experiences, combined with genuine teacher interest and support, really helped me focus my energies and determination,” states Terry L. Taylor, SPHR, HR Manager for Penske Racing Team.

This course is offered days, evenings, and weekends as both in-class sessions here in North Carolina or via live webinar. That means no matter where you reside, or how busy your schedule, you can study with the best and be on your way to the coveted HR certification!

David Siler, SPHR, GPHR, HRBP, HRMP, Managing Partner of Distinctive HR, Inc. has taught the PHR®/SPHR® study course for over 20 years. His engaging, motivational method of teaching will set you up for success!

Still not sure how it will help you? Sign up for the FREE 60-minute LIVE webinar to find out the benefits of achieving your HR certification, eligibility requirements to sit for the exam, and why this study course is the best one to register for.

Take the next step and register today.

For information on course dates/times or to register go to or contact Ashley Modica at 919.431.6080.

CAI is a trusted resource for HR, compliance and people development. With locations in Raleigh and Greensboro, CAI is a membership-driven organization that helps North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, public policy advocacy and consulting services. For more information, visit

Handling Third Party Harassment

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Employers have the responsibility to protect their employees from workplace discrimination and harassment, whether by other employees or third parties.  Handbooks typically include EEO policies, and anti-discrimination/harassment policies, as well as reporting procedures and a commitment to investigate and resolve any issues.  Clearly these provisions cover co-worker situations, whether a peer or management employee, and the company has more control over that process.  But what do you do when the alleged discrimination or harassment complaint involves a customer, vendor, contractor or other third party?  All of these situations are tricky, but perhaps the most difficult is when the alleged harasser is a customer.  If you’re a B2C company selling to the public, the “customer / alleged harasser” is typically one individual and you won’t have to work with another company to resolve it.  If you’re selling B2B the alleged harasser is an employee of your customer so the lines of responsibility can get blurred.  Both situations present unique challenges.  Let’s focus on a B2B scenario today since that situation can be more tricky. thQE06GKOF

First and foremost, regardless of who is doing the harassing, you want it to stop.  You’re obligated to provide a harassment free workplace.   If that’s not clear at your workplace, it needs to be. However, determining if harassment occurred and if so making it stop will be handled differently when a customer is involved.

Do You Notify the Customer?  Short answer – Yes. With customers it’s a more difficult conversation, but of course, no customer, client, vendor, etc. is more important than the legal rights of your employees. While conversations with clients about these issues are surely uncomfortable, people interacting with your employees need to realize that it is not appropriate to engage in this way with staff of the company and it must stop. If the behavior doesn’t stop, the employer needs to take such action as removing the client/customer from the workplace in the future.  Now that’s an answer you would expect me to give right?  But many of you are thinking – “If only it were that easy?” What if an important customer is involved?  Will you get blamed for jeopardizing the account over potentially a frivolous charge?  What will your Sales Director say – should you tell him?  Will your Leadership team / board / your boss stand behind you? What if the customer’s employee claims your employee was actually doing the harassing?  Questions like these usually make it hard for you to just swiftly and unilaterally take action in harassment cases involving a customer.

So now what?  Let me start here – if you are a member and find yourself in this situation, give anyone on our Advice & Resolution team a call. These cases are tricky and can go in many different directions based on your situation.  Here are the steps I would generally recommend you take:

  1. Conduct what I call a “pre-investigation.” You want to quickly get an idea of what you’re dealing with here. Take no more than a day, two at most.  Get the employee’s statement regarding the inappropriate conduct, date, times, and witnesses and ideally in writing.  Talk to available witnesses.  As with any harassment case, it’s critical that you understand the nature and context of what has occurred. Is this an affair gone bad?  Or does it involve a series of inappropriate comments? Were both parties engaging in the inappropriate behavior until one day a line was crossed?  Is the harassment on-going or has it stopped?
  2. At this point, you should have a reasonable idea as to what was going on, and who is at fault, at least from your side’s vantage point. That will shape how you approach the customer.  I wouldn’t pick up the phone and call the customer just yet.  You need another leader involved.  Ideally your boss.  You don’t need to divulge names, but you want to make sure they are aware you received a compliant, you investigated it, your general findings, and your planned approach with the customer.  I’m not suggesting you get permission, however, they might not agree with your course of action and good to have that discussion now.  They may also have relevant suggestions for you.
  3. After you have received all relevant information about the complaint and made sure that information is included in written form, the allegations should be promptly referred to an appropriate customer representative.   Since the alleged harasser is a customer’s employee, the customer is obligated to investigate.  The person you choose to contact should be considered carefully and should be in a position to both understand the implications of what has occurred and have the authority to take appropriate action. Appropriate contacts could include human resources, an officer or a manager. When in doubt, in most cases, the HR Manager should be contacted.  The person to whom you report the complaint should never be implicated in any way in the harassment that’s been alleged. When you report the complaint, you should ask that the customer investigate, take whatever corrective action is necessary and keep you informed. You want prompt corrective action to be taken if warranted. If it appears that the customer is dragging their feet, you should discuss that issue with the customer.
  4. Sometimes these cases go smoothly – the complaint is clear, it’s definitely harassment, the harasser is clearly guilty, and the customer takes swift action to stop the behavior. Other times, two very different accounts of what has happened exist and two very different courses of actions are proffered.   If you find yourself in the latter case, you’ll be glad you involved your boss / leader in the case.  The customer may believe your employee is equally at fault and advises you to take action against them.  Any move initiated by the company should not appear retaliatory.  Or they may refuse to take any action.  You may have to get attorneys involved.  Make sure on your side that if appropriate based on your investigation to remove contact between the employee and the harasser.  You may ultimately have to make a decision as to the future of your relationship with the customer.

One old axiom of business is that the customer is always right.  As we see here that may not always be true.  When a customer engages in harassing behavior, you need to act, but the path isn’t always clear.   CAI will help illuminate your path to the right resolution for your business.

CAI Celebrates Big Move with Open House Bash

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

CAI_Open_House_CollageCAI, Human Resources partner to 1,100+ North Carolina member companies, celebrated its new Raleigh location at 3150 Spring Forest Road, #116,
with a ribbon cutting and open house event. “After 32 years, we needed more parking for class participants, an open floor plan suitable for team collaboration and space for our state-of-the-art training facility,” stated Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO.

More than 220 CAI members, local business leaders, and special guests were in attendance for the big event which was held on August 8.  Guests mingled and enjoyed hors d’oeuvres, wine, and live jazz while touring the spacious, modern facility. Popular guest speaker and author of The Freak Factor, Dave Rendall, delivered a motivating message on “Initiating Change and Inventing the Future.”

Storr Office Environments, Vision Contractors, and Little Design were acknowledged for turning CAI’s vision into reality.  Included as an integral part of the office transformation team were CAI member companies: Precision Walls, Strategic Connections, Stephenson Millwork and Atcom Business Technology Solutions.

Clarke and CAI board member, Randy Neuhaus, CEO of S&ME presided over the ribbon cutting ceremony and champagne toast.  After a warm round of applause, members congratulated CAI on their long-awaited new facility. “I love the new space,” said CAI member Sean Walsh of Red Hat, “it’s really great to see a company make this kind of investment in their members as well as their employees.”

CAI is a trusted resource for HR, compliance and people development. With locations in Raleigh and Greensboro, CAI is a membership-driven organization that helps North Carolina employers maximize employee engagement and minimize employer liability through human resources and management advice, training, survey data, public policy advocacy and consulting services. For more information, visit

Drug Testing Can Greatly Reduce Workers’ Compensation Costs

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

According to CAI’s most recent Policies and Benefits survey, 30% of employers are not conducting drug tests.  Besides the obvious benefits of having a drug-free workplace, another side benefit from drug testing is that it may reduce your workers compensation costs.  On the one hand, employees who are under the influence are more likely to experience injuries to themselves or others.  So the knowledge that you conduct post-accident drug and alcohol testing will dissuade most employees and therefore reduce accidents and costs.drugfreezone

Also, under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, no compensation will be paid for a workplace injury or death if it was proximately caused by, among other things, the employee’s intoxication, provided the intoxicant was not supplied by the employer (company social event) or being under the influence of a controlled substance listed in the North Carolina Controlled Substances Act (G.S. 90-86) unless it was prescribed by a doctor and the prescribed dosages were being followed.  Note, there isn’t an automatic denial of claims due to intoxication but odds are in the employer’s favor unless it can be proven the accident was in no way related to the “altered state” so to speak.

The best way to increase the odds that such claims will be denied is to incorporate a comprehensive drug and alcohol testing policy. Without such a policy, denial of workers compensation claims due to being under the influence may be harder to achieve.

North Carolina employers who drug test are required to comply with the NC Controlled Substances Examination Regulation Act which regulates notice requirements to examinees, requires approved laboratories and chain of custody safeguards, specifies conditions for applicant and employee testing, requires confirmation tests on positive samples, and entitles an employee who tests positive to have a retest, if requested, of the same sample at the employee’s expense.

Many states have a provision in their Workers’ Compensation law disqualifying an employee for compensation if the injury was caused by being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  A number of states also give discounts on Workers’ Compensation premiums (generally 5-7%) for implementing a Drug-Free Workplace Program.  CCH, the Members-only resource, provides State Law Summaries on Workers’ Compensation laws.

The US Department of Labor has resources for developing a drug-free workplace program.  While this is a requirement for federal contractors, the resources are helpful to all employers.  Consult the state law for specific requirements in other states.  Our drug-testing partner, PDSS, is also a resource for policy development, testing, and in-depth expertise in this area.

CAI encourages drug-free workplaces. Learn how drug testing programs can increase the efficiency and productivity of your organization at CAI.

Have you registered for CAI’s 2016 Compensation & Benefits Conference?

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

Get ready for the 2016 Compensation & Benefits Conference! Top speakers will share their valuable industry insight to make your organization stand out from the crowd. You’ll learn cutting-edge techniques to reward, engage and retain top talent in a challenging economy.C&B Save the Date Blog

Join us for the 2016 Compensation & Benefits Conference on September 15th and September 16th at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh to receive practical solutions to some of your biggest HR challenges. With 11+ speakers and 2 panel sessions, this conference will equip you with the facts, insights and tools needed to translate current data and trends into a realistic action plan.

Four keynote presentations:

2016 Labor Market Trends: Considerations for Pay and Performance

Kerry Chou – WorldatWork

Attracting, Retaining and Engaging Top Talent

Michael Patrick – Willis Towers Watson’s Atlanta Talent & Rewards Practice

Leverage Marketplace Trends for Total Reward Strategy Decisions

Molly G. Hegeman – CAI

New FLSA Regulations: What Employers are doing to Adopt the Changes

CAI’s George Ports, Emily Hinesley and Cynthia Daniel

Choose from 9 interactive breakout sessions led by local Compensation & Benefits experts. Some of the topics include:

ACA: We Came, We Saw, We Conquered – Shifting Focus to Cost Control

Skip Woody – Hill, Chesson & Woody

Creating a Salary Structure: 101

Jennifer Solomonson – The Employers Association

Creating a Salary Structure: Advanced Application

Jennifer Solomonson – The Employers Association

Hot Topics in Wage and Hour Law

Amie Flowers Carmack – Morningstar Law Group

How to Get Employees on Track for Retirement

Jake Connors – Compass Financial Partners

An Internal Perspective on Market Analysis

CAI Member Panel

Join the 250 North Carolina business and HR professionals responsible for compensation and benefits plans and strategies at this amazing Conference!

Register today!

Marketplace Premiums Will Continue To Trend Upward In 2017

Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

marketplaceblogThe 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.

Now is the time when insurance carriers will begin determining premium pricing for their individual plans and filing for approval with state departments of insurance.  Undoubtedly, their goal will be to offer plans that meet the needs of most, maintain competitive pricing, and avoid losses associated with not being able to underwrite or deny coverage during the Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) or Special Enrollment Periods (SEP).  The Kaiser Family Foundation discusses some of the challenges that insurers will continue to face when determining rates for the upcoming calendar year.  One challenge that is of interest continues to be those individuals that remain uninsured.  The Kaiser article indicates that these uninsured individuals are generally healthier and their enrollment would help to offset costs as they are expected to have a fewer health care claims.  The Individual Mandate provision of the ACA requires everyone to have coverage, or else face a penalty.  In 2016, that penalty is $695 or 2.5% of household income, whichever is greater.  In 2017, these penalties will be adjusted upward for inflation.  As these penalties continue to rise it will be interesting to see how many people continue to remain uninsured and if their eventual compliance with the Individual Mandate actually has a positive impact on rates.

In North Carolina, the pricing challenge becomes more difficult in 2017 as one major carrier, United Healthcare, is pulling their individual plans from the Marketplace (where individuals can receive a federal subsidy for insurance premiums) as they have decided to no longer participate in this state. This will leave our state with only 1 major carrier offering subsidy-eligible plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.   This may put additional pricing pressure on BCBSNC and drive their premiums even higher.  They have already been forced to make dramatic network changes in an effort to keep pricing at acceptable levels with both their members as well as the NC Department of Insurance.  Time will tell if these changes create more stability in premium pricing.

As 2017 approaches, those with individual insurance plans will be anxious to see what their premium increases will be for the next year.  Double-digit increases in the 20-30% range would not be a surprise as insurance carriers may still be trying to offset losses from prior years.  State Departments of Insurance will be responsible for approving any increase requests and plan design changes, as the carriers will most likely adjust benefit levels to maximum premium savings.  Regarding the Marketplace departure of United Healthcare in 2017, small group employers need to understand that UHC will continue to offer group-based plans.  With moving away from the Marketplace, UHC is looking 2-3 years to the future to ensure that they will continue to be competitive with individual plans outside of the Marketplace, as well as with their small group plans.  In North Carolina, will BCBSNC follow suit?  Time will tell.