Posts Tagged ‘George Ports’

Traits that Define Positive Leadership

Thursday, November 19th, 2015
George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.” 

-General Douglas MacArthur

Can leaders demand  respect simply because of their position or title? The obvious answer to this question is NO.

Leaders earn respect leading by example, “Do as I do” rather than “Do as I say do”.  They earn respect by being up front and honest with their employees, treating them with “dignity and respect”.  Dignity and respect go both ways.

I have been in the Human Resources area for nearly 42 years.  Over the years , I have made  observations  of  actions and behaviors that in my opinion define “positive leadership”.    They are as follows:

  • Positive leaders are people builders, they are in the construction business, not the demolition business.
  • Positive leaders are fair and consistent when administering organization policies and procedures.
  • Positive leaders encourage an open two-way flow of communications.
  • Positive leaders do not leave their employees in the dark creating an atmosphere of anxiety and insecurity.
  • Positive leaders recognize the need for responding to employee issues/concerns in a prompt manner.
  • Positive leaders work in conjunction with Human Resources to ensure that internal pay equity is maintained among employees.
  • Positive leaders take up for their employees, stand behind and support them when necessary.
  • Positive leaders never take credit for employee accomplishments and ideas—they always give credit and praise where such is due.
  • Positive leaders work diligently to create an atmosphere of teamwork, a culture where every job and person is important, avoiding a “we/they” relationship.

Imitate these traits and you will find employees who work for you because they want to, not because they have to. If you want to learn more about how your business can cultivate these qualities within its employees, please give our Advice and Resolution Team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

How the Department of Labor’s Overtime Changes Will Affect Your Company

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Senior Executive and HR Advisor, George Ports, discusses the US Department of Labor’s (USDOL) recent proposed changes to overtime regulations and what employers must do in order to remain compliant. George begins by noting that under the new revisions to the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA), the USDOL will increase the minimum salary threshold for exemptions, opening up eligibility for overtime protections to nearly 5 million workers nationwide.

George believes it is important for employers to know how these changes will affect their company, and goes on to list the specific revisions to the FLSA. Some of these proposed changes include:

  • A vast increase in the minimum salary level exemption for the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions from $455 per week to no less than $921 per week
  • An increase in the minimum salary exemption for highly compensated employees from $100,000 to $122,148
  • A metrics system to automatically increase the minimum salary threshold test on an annual basis

In order to examine the impact these changes could have, George advises employers to make the necessary alterations to salary levels or re-classify positions. For those employers interested in making comments on these proposed changes, head to www.regulations.gov to make your voices heard. Just make sure to do so before the 60 day comment period ends on September 4, 2015.

Please call our Advice and Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746 with any related questions.

Restricting Transgender’s Use of Restroom Found in Violation of Title VII

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

George Ports, CAI’s Senior Executive and HR Advisor, shares important information on handling the sensitive issue of transitioning and the workplace.

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

No doubt you’ve heard the name Caitlyn Jenner mentioned a few times around your office over the past few months.  Some label Bruce Jenner’s transition as courageous while others label it disturbing.  Either way, when employees decide to make a gender transition, it can create employee relations issues for employers. Is there a best way to handle this situation?

Well first let’s look at what the government says.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found on April 1, 2015 that restricting a transgender employee (transitioning from male to female) from using the common women’s restroom was sex discrimination under Title VII.   The agency also ruled that the continued refusal by one of her supervisors to use her changed name and appropriate gender pronouns established a hostile work environment because it was deliberate and openly practiced in the workplace.

The individual, a civilian employee working for the US Army as a software quality assurance lead, began discussing her gender identity issues with the quality division chief in 2007, began the process of transitioning her gender expression in 2010, and officially changed her name with the state.  She was also successful in getting the government to change her name and sex on all her personnel records. She met with her supervisor and his supervisor in October of that year to request time off for medical procedures and announced her transition to her co-employees in November.  To read this case in its entirety, go to Lusardi v McHugh.

One of the first dilemmas employers face in these transitioning processes is which restroom does the person use? In this particular case, it was understood that the individual would use a “single-user” restroom until she had undergone “final surgery”.  The EEOC stated that an employer cannot restrict access to facilities until surgery was completed determining the individual’s sexual identity.

Another issue in this case dealt with the use of male gender pronouns. The employee claimed that her supervisor intentionally referred to her by her former male name and used male pronouns when referring to her in front of other employees (this was corroborated by witness testimony during the agency’s investigation). The EEOC found that continued refusal to use an employee’s correct name and gender may be sex-based harassment and create a hostile work environment.

While is it understandable that a supervisor persistently calling the individual by her former male name and using male pronouns when referring to her in front of her peers creates a hostile work environment, it is disappointing that the EEOC did not thoroughly consider the major employee relations issues generated by a male transitioning to a female using female restrooms. This could create issues not only with the female employees, but also with the female employees’ spouses and or their significant others.

OSHA has also recently put out guidance for employers on accommodating transgender employees restroom preferences.  OSHA’s core principle is that all employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

We frequently receive calls from members about the restroom issue.  What should you do?  First, we believe it’s important to keep an open dialogue with the transitioning employee.  If available and reasonably accessible, single-occupancy or unisex facilities can serve as a temporary facility for transitioning employees during the transition process, but should not be a permanent solution.  If you don’t have such facilities, discuss the sensitive nature of the situation with the transitioning employee.  Suggest that restroom breaks be taken at low traffic times to reduce awkward moments, adding that the transition affects not only the individual going through the process but all other employees of the person’s desired gender.  If none of these options will work, you might also consider requiring the transitioning employee to use the bathroom that matches their biology.  Of course, as noted earlier, the EEOC doesn’t support this option, and it does pose other risks, but sometimes you have to do what’s in the best interests of all employees and not just one.  Especially if you are faced with an employee relations problem with a large group of female employees (and their spouses), or vice versa, who don’t want to use the restroom alongside this transitioning employee.

If you find yourself in this situation, please give us a a call at 919-878-9222 or 3336-668-7746. We can help you think through what course of action makes sense for your organization.

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.

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.

New Publications Issued by EEOC on Religious Dress and Grooming in the Workplace

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

In today’s post, CAI’s Senior HR Advisor and Government Relations Specialist George Ports shares updates from the EEOC on Religious Dress and Grooming in the Workplace.

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued two new technical assistance publications addressing workplace rights and responsibilities with respect to religious dress and grooming under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The guide, entitled “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities,” and an accompanying fact sheet, provide a user-friendly discussion of the applicable law, practical advice for employers and employees, and several case examples based on past EEOC litigation.

Employers covered by Title VII must make “dress code” accommodations to permit applicants and employees to follow religiously-mandated dress and grooming practices unless it would pose an undue hardship to the operation of an employer’s business. When an exception is made as a religious accommodation, the employer may still refuse to allow exceptions sought by other employees for secular reasons.

Topics covered in the publications include:

  • prohibitions on job segregation, such as assigning an employee to a non-customer service position because of his or her religious garb;
  • accommodating religious grooming or garb practices while ensuring employer workplace needs;
  • avoiding workplace harassment based on religion, which may occur when an employee is required or coerced to forgo religious dress or grooming practices as a condition of employment; and
  • ensuring there is no retaliation against employees who request religious accommodation.

Religious discrimination charges relating to a wide range of issues have steadily increased. In fiscal year 2013, the EEOC received 3,721 charges alleging religious discrimination.

If you have questions about religious dress and grooming in the workplace, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

Further information about the EEOC is available at its website at www.eeoc.gov.

Cash Shortage Deductions from Commission Payments

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

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

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behaviors that Define Positive Leadership

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

George PortsCAI’s Advice and Counsel Team answers several questions from members daily. Many questions the Team receives concern leadership and how people in power should interact with their employees. Here’s a question that many employers have:

Can leaders demand respect simply because of their position or title?

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

The obvious answer to this question is NO!!!

Leaders earn respect leading by example, “Do as I do” rather than “Do as I say.” They earn respect by being up front and honest with their employees, treating them with “dignity and respect.” Dignity and respect goes both ways.

Observations that I have made over the years of behaviors that define “positive leadership” are as follows:

  • Positive leaders are people builders, they are in the construction business, not the demolition business.
  • Positive leaders are fair and consistent when administering organization policies and procedures.
  • Positive leaders encourage an open two-way flow of communication.
  • Positive leaders do not leave their employees in the dark creating an atmosphere of anxiety and insecurity.
  • Positive leaders recognize the need for responding to employee issues and concerns in a prompt manner.
  • Positive leaders work in conjunction with HR to ensure that internal pay equity is maintained among employees.
  • Positive leaders take up for their employees, stand behind and support them when necessary.
  • Positive leaders never take credit for employee accomplishments and ideas—they always give credit and praise where such is due.
  • Positive leaders work diligently to create an atmosphere of teamwork, a culture where every job and person is important, avoiding a “we/they”  relationship.

“A true leader has the confidence to stand alone, the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of others. He does not set out to be a leader, but becomes one by the equality of his actions and the integrity of his intent.”

— General Douglas MacArthur

If you have any questions regarding leadership, please contact a member of CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team at 919‑878‑9222 or 336‑668‑7746.

NC Unemployment Law—Guidelines and Recommendations for Correctly Filing Attached Claims

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

In Tuesday’s blog post, George Ports, CAI’s Senior Executive in Government Relations and Senior Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team, imparted important information about North Carolina’s Unemployment Law dealing with attached claims. Check out part 1 here: http://bit.ly/18cOU0X. Read part 2, which focuses on guidelines and recommendations for filing attached claims, below.

George PortsProcedures for Filing Attached Claims

  • Claims are filed electronically.
  • Employer files are created by the DES for attached claims.
  • The employer will receive an electronic response from the DES with the amount necessary to cover the cost of the attached claims (amount will only be for the projected number of weeks necessary).
  • If the employer’s filing efforts are rejected due to a negative balance, a box “click here to make payment” appears and an amount should be displayed necessary to bring the employer’s account to zero and payment amount necessary to cover for the cost of the attached claims.

If employer is unsuccessful with the electronic filing, the DES tax department should be contacted.

  • Once the employer’s file is created, the employer at the end of each week, opens the file and confirms or edits the number of hours worked and wages earned for that week so that the DES can calculate the amount of eligible unemployment benefits due to the employee.

(All payments to the DES for attached claims can be made by “e-checks” or by credit cards.)

 

Recommendations/ Options for Employers

Due to the limitations of one claim per year per employee and the requirement that each claim filed satisfy a week’s waiting period.

  • If slow periods of work are anticipated, reduce the hours of the regular scheduled work week (example: 40 hours to 32 hours—60% of 32 = 19.2 hours.  Employees who work at least this amount would not be eligible for attached claims but would receive some wages.  The use of attached claims would be reserved for unexpected downturns when it is necessary to implement a temporary reduction in force).  Reduced regular work weeks should be for a significant consecutive period.
  • Employers could delay filing attached claims until multiple weeks of downturns are expected. 
  • If attached claims have been exhausted and subsequent reductions in force are necessary, permanently lay off employees with the understanding that if they are recalled, they will be paid a signing bonus (This is an incentive for employees to return even if they have secured other employment).

 

**IMPORTANT UPDATE**

The following is an excerpt from Assistant Secretary of Commerce Dale Folwell’s memorandum dated September 13, 2013 giving an update on complying with House Bill 4 including another option for employees and employers in light of the restrictions placed on attached claims:

Attached Claims Update

An employee whose employer will not be filing attached claims may file a claim for themselves.

Employees must meet the following requirements:

• File the initial claim and then file weekly certifications for each week benefits are requested.

• Report all earnings and payments.

• Be able and available for work during each week filed.

• Be actively seeking work during each week filed (regardless of hours worked).

Further information is provided in: NCUI 517Z: Information about Unemployment Insurance for Totally Separated Workers (located at www.ncesc.com). The NC Division of Employment Security understands that the employee is not “TOTALLY SEPARATED”, however for any week an individual files a claim for unemployment benefits, DES must determine whether the requirements listed above are met.

Employers will be sent a Form NCUI 500AB each time an individual files a claim for unemployment insurance benefits. Employers are responsible for providing accurate information to include: layoff and return to work dates and; the correct reason why the individual is not working (including temporary layoff). Incorrect responses such as (still employed) can delay benefit payments to temporarily laid off individuals.

 

For more information on NC’s Unemployment Law and other updates in state and federal laws, make sure to attend the 2013 Triad Employment Law Update on November 5 at the Grandover Resort in Greensboro. Knowledgeable attorneys from Constangy, Brooks and Smith, LLP will provide you with information on several topics, including: wage and hour; I-9 compliance; immigration; off-duty conduct; health care reform; hiring practices; terminations; and the NLRB. Visit www.capital.org/triadlaw to register and find detailed information on conference presentations.

NC Unemployment Law—What You Need to Know About Attached Claims

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

In today’s post, George Ports, CAI’s Senior Executive in Government Relations and Senior Advisor on CAI’s Advice and Counsel Team, shares pertinent information about North Carolina’s new unemployment law that deals with attached claims. Check out part 1 of the article below.

George PortsNorth Carolina’s new unemployment law was passed in the 2013 Session of the North Carolina General Assembly.  The new law (H4) was necessary to repay the $2.8 billion dollar unemployment debt owed to the federal government.  The interest alone on this debt for 2012 was $84 million.  Although necessary, the new law created pain points for employers and employees.  One of the primary pain points is the restrictive provisions placed on the use of “attached claims”. “Attached claims” are filed by employers for employees during periods of short work weeks (less than 60% of employees’ regularly scheduled work week) and temporary reductions in force. These restrictions coupled with the new requirement that each unemployment claim requires a one week waiting period have caused employers to review their “attached claims” strategies for future down turns in work.

The following information includes highlights of the new regulation:

New “Attached Claims” Regulations

Effective June 30th, 2013

Attached claims may be filed by an employer for employees if the employer has a positive credit balance.  If the employer does not have a positive credit balance the employer must make payment to the DES (Division of Employment Security) to bring the balance up to zero.  Other attached claims provisions are as follows:

  • Attached claims are limited to one time per employee per benefit year.
  • The duration of attached claims is limited to six consecutive weeks.
  • The employer must submit payment to the DES in an amount that will cover the cost for attached claims when claims are filed.
  • Claims filed prior to June 30th establish a WBA (weekly benefit amount) subject to the maximum WBA of $535.  If the WBA is established and subsequent claims are filed after June 30th, claims will be paid subject to that maximum, however, all other provisions of the new law are in effect including a one week waiting period for each claim filed (even though a week’s waiting period was satisfied prior to June 30th) and the six week limited duration.
  • Claims filed on or after June 30th are subject to all provisions of the new law including the new maximum WBA of $350.

Come back for part 2 of the article this Thursday, September 12. George will give procedures for filing attached claims and recommendations/options regarding how to manage them. The information is intended to assist employers as they revisit their “attached claims” strategies.