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HR Strategies Regulatory Compliance

What:

It seems as though every year the Federal and State governments are adding more acts, mandates, and laws to the business of employment. As a small to mid-sized business, you probably don’t have the time to keep up with the names of all of the new ones, let alone how they can impact you as an employer. Large corporations have complete in-house HR departments and legal departments that work at not only keeping up with the new regulations, but also keeping their corporations in compliance. Are you that lucky? Or are you risking the chance of fines and work interruption?

How:

HR Strategies focuses on keeping you compliant by working as your off-site HR department, with the back-up of legal counsel from one of our strategic partners, Jackson Lewis, which is one of the largest law firms specializing in workplace law. HR Strategies team can help you reduce your risk and vulnerabilities to Federal, State, Local and Professional Regulatory changes. We maintain all of your employment related records in safe, professional, and government regulated ways.

Benefit:

We keep pace with changing governmental requirements that affect your business and help you stay compliant. By relieving your stress of whether or not you are in compliance, we give you the ability to focus on the aspects of your company for which you went into business, while we handle the behind the scenes issue of compliance.

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HR Strategies Regulatory Compliance Case Study

HR Strategies Assists in OSHA Compliance and Reduction of Penalties

Challenges:

HR Strategies provides aid and counsel on a variety of government regulatory compliance issues. One of the biggest issues which HR Strategies aids client owners in is OSHA compliance. Recently, a client owner received an “on site” visit from two OSHA inspectors regarding a complaint reported to their office.  Upon completion of the “on site” inspection, which included one-on-one interviews with selected personnel, a meeting was conducted to review the findings and closing remarks with the client. It became apparent the client was in violation of a number of serious OSHA standards; and that a citation and penalties would be forth coming.

Solution:

HR Strategies was notified immediately by the client at the time of the “on site” visit, and was able to meet with the inspectors and client, and was also able to attend the review meeting on the findings and closing remarks. Upon receipt of the citation letter, HR Strategies took a pro-active approach to address the citations and provide the necessary training and documentation in a timely manner in order to potentially reduce the penalties that were identified. HR Strategies was able to present the “corrective action” items in an informal conference with the OSHA area director.

Results:

The client was very appreciative of the timely and thorough action taken by HR Strategies, including the back-up of having a professional HR team present at meetings with them, and the training provided to allow them to be in compliance going forward. The meeting was favorable, resulting in the reduction of the penalties by half the original amount.

See All HR Strategies Case Studies Here

Georgia Bill of Rights for the Injured Worker

So far this week we’ve focused on the Bill of Rights. Did you know that the state of Georgia has a Bill of Rights for the Injured Worker? 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:

Flexible & Unlimited Vacation Policies?

Several big companies have sought personal responsibility from their employees by offering flexible or unlimited vacation policies. Relying on employees and to focus on achievements rather than days spent in the office. Think IBM, Netflix, Morningstar, and Best Buy.  An article by Shelley DuBois, on money.cnn.com, explores whether” Flexible Vacation Policies Are Here to Stay”. Read on…

Click Here to Read the Full Article

Wage and Hour Litigation on the Rise

Wage and Hour complaints have been on the rise, and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. Wage and hour litigation is the fastest growing type of class action, and should be a major concern for employers. It’s easy to understand the rise in wage and hour litigation, given the complexity of state and federal laws regarding classification of workers, the weak economy resulting in a large number of laid off employees, and the ease of winning class action certification.

The FLSA guarantees employees be paid time and a half for all hours worked over a 40  hour work week, unless they are salaried and fall into one of the exempt categories of: professional, executive, or administrative. A disgruntled employee, or former employee, can easily seek legal help by telling their counsel how they were paid, and their legal counsel can then seek class action by suing on behalf of every employee in on the payroll system.  While one employee may only be entitled to a few minutes or hours of pay, by filing a class action on behalf of all employees, the employer may then be facing much heavier damages.

Added to the rise in wage and hour complaints are the number of hours that employees are spending on email or smartphones; making it harder for employers to track the number of hours employees are actually working. Don’t be fooled though, the employees are aware of the time that they are spending on work tasks, even while out of the office, and expect to be compensated for such. There is even a new app from the DOL that allows employees to rack their own hours, and determine the wages that they are owed.

With the complexity of the FLSA, it is hard for employers to be in full compliance and easy for an employer to inadvertently break the rules. Employers can minimize the chances of litigation by taking steps that include periodic audits to determine whether employees are being classified properly and careful record keeping. Employers want to comply, but don’t often know all the specific rules, and therefore it can be difficult. One step that employers can take if they are interested in saving money and avoiding the courthouse, is to partner with HR Strategies.

ADEA: The Age Discrimination in Employment Act

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is the federal law governing age discrimination, and was enacted in 1967 in order to promote employment of older workers based upon their ability rather than age, to disallow arbitrary age discrimination in employment, and to assist employers and workers in finding ways to solve problems arising from the effect of age on employment. After it was enacted, the ADEA went through a series of amendments to strengthen and expand its coverage of older employees. Originally, the ADEA only covered employees between the ages of 40 and 65. Eventually the upper age limit was raised to age 70, and then removed altogether. Since there is no longer a cap all workers age 40 and older are protected by the ADEA, with few exclusions and exceptions. The enforcing authority of the ADEA was transferred from the Department of Labor (DOL) to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in 1978. In addition to the federal ADEA law, many states also have laws prohibiting age discrimination in the workplace, many of which may be more stringent than the federal law. ADEA statute prohibits discrimination against individuals regarding any terms or conditions of employment, the act’s protections not only cover employees but also extend to both applicants for employment and discharged ex-employees. ADEA prohibits any employer from refusing to hire, firing, or otherwise discriminating against an employee age 40 or older, simply based on the employees age; under the ADEA an employer can’t deny an employee pay, nor can the employer discriminate in employee benefit plans such as health coverage, pension, or fringe benefits.  Employers are unable to unjustly classify employees into groups based on age in in a way that unfairly deprives workers of employment opportunities. ADEA defines employer as every individual, partnership, association, labor organization, corporation, business trust, legal representative, or organized group who is engaged in an industry affecting commerce; and has 20 or more employees (which may include overseas employees) for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. ADEA protects US citizens working for US employers operating abroad, except where it would violate the laws of that country. Be mindful that there must be an employer/employee relationship for the ADEA to be relevant; therefore independent contractors are not employees within the meaning of ADEA and are not entitled to its protections.

Most employers begin the employment process by advertising the job opening, because this is the beginning of an employment relationship, the advertisements used are subject to the ADEA which prohibits use of age referenced phrases such as: young, college student, age 25 to 35, boy, girl, age 40 to 50, retried person, or any others referencing age. The only exception is if age is a bona fide occupational qualification for the position advertised. Bona fide occupational qualifications in practice are limited to the obvious, i.e. hiring a young actor to play a young character; or when public safety is at stake, i.e. age limits for pilots and bus drivers. However, the request for the age or date of birth of an applicant on an employment application or use of the phrase “state age” on a want ad is not automatically a violation because there may be legitimate reasons for requesting the age or date of birth of an applicant, but will be closely scrutinized by the EEOC. As an employer your concerns with ADEA don’t end with your want ad, they only begin.  Under ADEA it is unlawful for an employer to fail or refuse to hire or to discharge any individual or otherwise discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s age. However, employers can take action based on “reasonable factors other than age”, and employers can discharge or discipline an employee for “good cause,” regardless of the employee’s age. It is also unlawful for employers to limit, segregate, or classify his employees in any way which would deprive or tend to deprive any individual of employment opportunities or otherwise adversely affect his status as an employee, because of such individual’s age. While an employer may not deny benefits to an employee based on age, an employer may reduce benefits based on age only if the cost of providing the reduced benefits to older workers is the same as the cost of providing full benefits to younger workers. Mandatory retirement has been prohibited in most sectors under ADEA since 1978; however, mandatory retirement based on age is permitted for certain bona fide executive or high policymaking employees over 65 and who have occupied a high policy position for at least 2 years preceding retirement and are entitled to immediate non-forfeitable annual retirement benefits from a designated plan of at least $44,000. In addition to hiring, firing, benefits, retirement, and other employment practices covered by ADEA, employers must also be aware that under ADEA it is unlawful to harass a person because of his or her age. Harassment can include, for example, offensive remarks about a person’s age. Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that aren’t very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer. For issues arising from ADEA, the EEOC borrows the remedies and damages provisions from the FLSA including back pay of wages, salary, and fringe benefits; attorney’s fees may be awarded to the prevailing party; liquidated damages are given where willful violation occurs; front pay; and injunctive relief, such as reinstatement.

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act provides strict guidelines regarding age discrimination in the workplace, but ultimate decisions regarding the ADEA are in fact legal matters that are overseen by the EEOC and decided within the courts. HR Strategies is here to assist our clients in matters regarding age discrimination and the ADEA, by providing relevant information based upon legal counsel provided to us on how ADEA affects each individual business, and to help keep you in compliance. We are hopeful that this synopsis of the ADEA has provided you with insight into the statute itself, and how you can take precautionary steps to remain compliant.

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