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Back to the Future

Today, October 21st, is the day that Marty McFly traveled from 1985 to the year 2015.

Are we driving flying cars? No. Do we all have hover boards? No. But a lot has changed since then. Here’s a look at just a few differences in the world of Human Resources.Back to the Future 2

In 1985, Human Resource outsourcing and PEO’s were still a relatively “new idea”. Since that time, PEOs have evolved into full service providers of employment services including comprehensive benefit packages, risk management, legal compliance and a wide variety of human resources services. As the world of regulatory compliance has gotten more complex, and technology has expanded, the business world has shifted. Business owners in 2015 are seeing the many advantages of outsourcing their Human Resource needs, so that they can focus on their core business processes.

HR Strategies was originally founded in the early 1980’s under a different name as a personnel company; it was not until the late 1980’s that the service model switched to that of a Professional Employer Organization (PEO). Today we have grown into a full service PEO; our service solutions enable our clients to reclaim time, stabilize and reduce labor costs, increase employee productivity, and improve morale while increasing employee retention.

Here’s a look at just a few other HR items that have changed since 1985:

Old Time Clock New TIme Clock

 

 

 

 

1985 Minimum Wage     2015 Minimum Wage

$3.35                              $7.25

Growing Burden

Changes to the Workers’ Compensation Bill of Rights

HR Strategies continues to be dedicated in providing you guidance when it comes to workplace safety as well as compliance with required postings. The Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation Bill of Rights for the Injured Worker was updated July 1st 2015. It is very important that the updated Bill of Rights is posted in a prominent area available to all of your employees. A brief description of the changes to the Bill Of Rights are:

  • Temporary Total Disability (TTD)- If an employee is injured on the job and he/she misses more than 7 days of work due to the treating physician taking him/her completely out of work or placing him/her on restricted duty that the employer cannot accommodate, they would be entitled to weekly TTD benefits effective the eighth day. The amount of the benefit is determined by calculating 2/3’s of the employee’s average weekly wage. The maximum allowed weekly benefit has changed from $525 a week to $550.
  • Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) – In cases where an injured worker is able to return to work after a work related injury however it is at a lower rate of pay or reduced hours due to restricted duty, they may be entitled to TPD payments. The maximum allowed weekly benefit has changed from $350 a week to $367.

Workers’ Compensation Administration is a service that HR Strategies provides for its clients. See how we can help your business with workers’ compensation by clicking this sentence. If you’d like to read the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation Bill of Rights for the Injured Worker, click on the image below:

BOR

25th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA, a civil rights law that strengthens the inclusion of people with disabilities at work, school, or other community settings. According to a recent article by the CDC, “an estimated 37 million to 57 million people are living with a disability in the United States, and many people will experience a disability at some time during the course of their life. Enacted on July 26, 1990, the goals of the ADA are to promote equal opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.”

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The stimulus for the ADA began with the Civil Rights movement in the 1960’s.  Advocates for the disabled watched as the federal government became involved with the protection of racial minorities, and began to seek protection for their community as well.  The beginning steps of the ADA, as we know it today, were laid by the passage of section 504, of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, which prohibited discrimination against someone with a disability who received public assistance. However, section 504 did not cover discrimination by employers or the private sector. In April 1988, a draft bill prepared by the National Council on Disability was introduced as the first version of the ADA to the 100th Congress, with the main purpose of the bill being to provide a clear and comprehensive national mandate for the elimination of discrimination against individuals with disabilities, and to provide clear, strong, consistent, enforceable standards addressing discrimination against individuals with disabilities.   The bill, as most usually encounter, went through several revisions before receiving a Senate vote of 76 to 8 on September 7, 1989. The bill went on to the House, and on January 23, 1990, the 101st Congress passed the “Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990”, which consists of five titles:  Title I – Employment, Title II – Public Services, Title III – Public Accommodations, Title IV – Telecommunications, and Title V – Miscellaneous Provisions.  The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990, with the effective date for the employment provisions in Title I of the ADA taking place on July 26, 1992.

Through the ADA we have come to see that people with disabilities are no longer “out of sight, out of mind” as society may have once positioned them to be. Instead, we are shown that they want to and are capable of working, and that they want to and are able to be members of society and their communities. Business owners are affected both on the employment side and provider side of the ADA, in order to be in compliance.  Business owners must be proactive and accommodate their customer’s needs equally, by actively seeking and implementing solutions that are easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense, for their customers with disabilities. The most recent updates to ADA, for which business owners may need to make alterations for their customers, include effective communication, mobility devices, service animals, and entry barriers. The ADA doesn’t just affect businesses in terms of assisting customers, but also when it comes to employment.  Businesses with 15 or more employees are forbidden from discrimination against “qualified individuals (an individual, who with or without reasonable accommodation can perform the essential functions of the job in question) with disabilities” in hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and all other aspects of employment and employment related activities, such as fringe benefits. (Please note that PEO’s use a co-employment model, and therefore businesses with fewer than 15 employees who are contracted as a larger pool of employees within a PEO, may or may not be viewed as having more than 15 employees and subject to the guidelines of the ADA, depending on the unique circumstances of their contract with the PEO. In addition, individual states may also have a unique set of laws regarding disabilities that exist in addition to the federal ADA that may supersede federal guidelines, to which employers may be subject.) Employers are also required to make a reasonable effort to accommodate the applicant or employee, as long as it does not impose undue hardship on the business, so that otherwise qualified applicants and/or employees with disabilities can work and compete with their peers. However, employees with disabilities may be disciplined or dismissed for incompetence or acts of misconduct in the same manner as other employees, regardless of whether they have disabilities.

As with any legal matter, there are strict guidelines, but ultimate decisions regarding the ADA are in fact legal matters and decided within the courts.  Each business, individual, and circumstance is unique, and while the ADA law is intact all matters regarding it are in fact due to interpretation by legal representation.  HR Strategies continually provides our clients with the information necessary to handle any matters arising from and with the Americans with Disabilities Act, based upon legal counsel provided to us. We are hopeful that this has given you some background and insight into exactly what the ADA can mean to all of us.

Employee or Independent Contractor? Enforcement Coming.

On June 30, 2015, after more than 15 months of waiting, the 295 page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) on overtime and administrative exemptions was released.  Though this does not cover the identification and classification of Independent Contractors versus Employees, Wage and Hour Division Administrator David Weil issued an Administrator’s Interpretation letter regarding the status of Independent Contractors versus Employees on July 15th, 2015.

It should not come as a surprise that the WHD has put out Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1, Subject: ‘The Application of the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “Suffer or Permit” Standard in the Identification of Employees Who Are Misclassified as Independent Contractors’, at the same time that NPRM on overtime exemptions has been opened for comment. Both are congruent on each other to make sure that everyone performing duties for an employer are correctly classified.  It is also a reminder that there are very specific “rules” to 1099- independent contractors, and that it is not an option to classify as such to possibly avoid the upcoming changes to overtime exempt status. The Interpretation Letter clearly narrows the definition of “Independent Contractor”, and states “in sum, most workers are employees under the FLSA’s broad definitions… The very broad definition of employment under the FLSA as ‘to suffer or permit to work’ and the act’s intended expansive coverage for workers must be considered when applying the economic realities factors to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor.” Be warned that the economic realities test regarding Independent Contractors is the main determinative for Employee vs. Independent Contractor, but that no single factor is weighed heavier than another. Rather the qualitative result of all 6 factors determine the outcome of Independent Contractor or Employee.

  1. The extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business.
  2. The worker’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on his or managerial skill.
  3. The extent of the relative investments of the employer and the worker.
  4. Whether the work performed requires special skills and initiative.
  5. The permanency of the relationship.
  6. The degree of control exercised or retained by the employer.

As a business you should take this letter as indication for the need to review any arrangements and agreements regarding anyone paid as an independent contractor, to make sure that they do comply with the rules regarding 1099 Independent Contractor status.  Though the letter does not state any new legislation or compliance obligations, it may be seen as a foresight that there will be more enforcement to come on the Contractor vs. Employee front.

Important Wage & Hour Update

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for new Overtime Requirements

On March 13th, 2014 the White House’s Office of the Press Secretary released the Fact Sheet: Opportunity for All: Rewarding Hard Work by Strengthening Overtime Protections. As an excerpt from the fact sheet states, “The overtime and minimum wage rules are set in the Fair Labor Standards Act, originally passed by Congress in 1938, and apply broadly to private-sector workers. However, there are some exceptions to these rules, which the Department of Labor has the authority to define through regulation. One of the most commonly used exemptions is for “executive, administrative and professional” employees, the so-called “white collar” exemption.” A Presidential Memorandum was signed in 2014 instructing the Secretary of Labor to update regulations regarding who qualifies for overtime protection.

After more than 15 months of waiting, the 295 page Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (“NPRM”) was released on June 30, 2015. The NPRM is just the proposed regulations and are subject to a 60 day public comment period that will end on September 4th, 2015. This public comment period allows for all to comment with any dissatisfactions or concerns that they may have. The results of this comment period are then to be taken into consideration before the final rule is published. The comment period and subsequent review is expected to take between 6-8 months; thus, a final rule is not expected until 2016. To voice your opinions and concerns you may go to: http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;D=WHD-2015-0001.

The Proposed Changes

The NPRM as stated is 295 pages long, so here is a brief summary of what you need to know:

  • The current salary threshold for the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions is $455 a week ($23,660 a year). The DOL proposes to establish the minimum qualifying weekly salary commensurate with the 40th percentile of weekly earnings for all full-time salaried employees in the United States. This would mean that the minimum weekly salary for the executive, administrative and professional exemptions will increase to $921 per week, or $47,892 annually. However, if the rule is not in effect until 2016, those numbers based on the 40th percentile will be $970 a week, or $50,440 annually.
  • The proposed Rule also increases the minimum annual compensation for the highly-compensated employee exemption from $100,000 to $122,148, which is based on the 90th percentile of salaried workers’ weekly earnings.
  • For the first time since the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938, the DOL proposes to automatically increase the minimum weekly salary requirement each year based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The Department, however, has not chosen between the two different indexing methods that it has studied.
  1. Keeping the levels chained to the 40th and 90th percentiles of earnings.
  2. Adjusting the amounts based on changes in inflation by tying them to the Consumer Price Index.
  • There had been talk of changing the “duties test” for the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions; however, at this time there is nothing proposed regarding the duties test in the NPRM. Rather the DOL is only seeking public comments on the issue, which means that there may be revisions in the future.

Why the Change?

The last time the rule for the weekly salary that must be paid to an employee in order for the employee to be eligible for the executive, administrative and professional FLSA overtime exemptions were updated was in 2004. The minimum annual salary level for these exempt classifications under the 2004 regulations is $23,660, which is now below the poverty line for a family of four. By changing the exemption qualifications there will be a dramatic increase in the number of salaried employees who are entitled to overtime pay. It is estimated that these proposed changes will qualify approximately 4.6 million more employees nationally for overtime if the proposed rule is adopted.

overtime

What Comes Next?

By possibly changing the rules as to who qualifies as exempt vs. non-exempt from overtime, in regards to the income threshold for salary exempt status being raised; many employers are sure to be exposed to further FLSA cases. Now is the time to review your employee’s exemption classifications and to prepare to look into your compensation plans for your exempt employees, especially those who are salaried exempt making less than $970 a week.

We urge you to review the following:

DOL Press Release on the NPRM at http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/NPRM2015/

The Wage and Hour Fact Sheet at http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/NPRM2015/factsheet.htm

The FAQ’s regarding the Overtime NPRM at http://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/NPRM2015/faq.htm

As always, HR Strategies is here to answer any questions or concerns that you have regarding the NPRM or other aspects of the FLSA and Wage & Hour. You may contact us at 770-339-0000.

Tuesday Tip – Stay Focused at Work This Summer

13 Ways to Beat Distractions and Stay Focused at Work

messy desk

  1. Pinpoint the problem. What causes you to lose focus? Is it fatigue, hunger or a Twitter addition? Figuring out the issue is the first step toward trying to fix it.
  2. Plan ahead. Envision what the workday will look like before it happens. Write down what things need to get done or what you want to accomplish. Setting goals can help people stay on track.
  3. Eat a good breakfast. A bowl of oatmeal may do more than jump start metabolism. Studies have found that eating breakfast can improve attention and concentration, too.
  4. Meditate. Scientists have discovered that meditation may enhance certain brain functions linked to attention. It can’t hurt to try shutting everything off to get more done in the long run.
  5. Work offline. One survey found nearly 60% of disruptions at work come from email, social networks and cell phones. So for tasks that don’t involve the Internet, try using old-fashioned paper and pen — perfect for brainstorming! Put your phone on silent and check email only occasionally (try once every hour). Limit time on social media too. You can “like” your friend’s picture of his dog later.
  6. Do smaller tasks. Some psychologists suggest that our brain works way too hard to process incredible amounts of information. So working on one large project can be overwhelming — like trying to plan a whole event at work in one afternoon. Split up projects into individual tasks so they’re easier to accomplish.
  7. Time box. Work on one project for a specific amount of time, rather than working until something is finished. (Write emails until 2 p.m., instead of stopping at inbox zero.) This way we know we can work hard until a certain time, and then be able to take a break.
  8. Clean up. Anything from Post-Its to pretzels and family photos can become a distraction. Clear off the workspace and have out only what’s needed (laptop, notebook, water-bottle — check!) to help stay in the zone.
  9. Try an app. Discard any distractions with a little help from technology. Certain apps can block websites (so long, Pinterest) or black out computer screen backgrounds so only one program is in view at a time. There are web tools that can calculate how much time is spent on websites, too. (Now that could be scary.)
  10. Reward yourself. A little motivation can go a long way. Say, “After I finish this page, I’ll go buy a cookie!” (Try these vegan delicacies.) Watch that to-do list vanish in no time.
  11. Take little breaks. Getting to the office early, working through lunch and staying late doesn’t necessarily mean getting more stuff done. Short bursts of hard work followed by quick breaks can be more beneficial than never taking a breather, since the brain may just burn out.
  12. Wear headphones. At Greatist we practice the “headphone rule”: no one’s allowed to talk to someone who’s wearing ear gear. It’s a great way to show you’re working on something important and don’t have time to chat. (Sometimes I don’t even have music playing — my secret!)
  13. Try caffeine. Coffee or tea may help people feel more alert and able to concentrate in the cubicle. If iced coffee isn’t your cup of…coffee, try chewing gum, which may help increase alertness too.

Read more here!

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