New I-9 Completion and Compliance rules takes effect September 18

In mid-September, employers will be required to use a new version of form I-9 to verify employment eligibility for new hires. The form changes are minor but employers must be using form I-9 version 1615-0047 (dated July 27, 2017) as of September 18, 2017. All previous versions of form I-9 will be considered out of compliance for employees hired after that date.

Information from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS.gov):

Revisions to the Form I-9 instructions:

  • The name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices was changed to a new name: Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.
  • Removed “the end of” from the phrase “the first day of employment.”

Revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9:

  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.
  • All certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) were combined into selection C#2 in List C.
  • All List C documents were renumbered except for the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C will change from List C #8 to List C #7.
  • All changes were put into in a revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274), which is also easier for users to navigate. Find it here: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/handbook-employers-m-274
  • Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9.

Employers who have questions about the I-9 process, need additional information or need general help with any human resources matter should contact their HR specialist at BCN Services.

KariStanley_6698

Kari Stanley, HRCCC Supervisor

Accommodating fragrance sensitivities in the workplace

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against an employer for its failure to accommodate an employee with fragrance sensitivities.   The lawsuit in North Carolina alleges the employer violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  In its complaint, the EEOC claims that the employee’s supervisor ignored an employee’s multiple requests to telecommute as a means to avoid fragrances in the workplace which worsened her asthma and COPD.   The EEOC argues that the employer had a responsibility to individually assess the requested accommodation before refusing it.  If this case sounds familiar, it’s because it is.

In 2016, a court ruled that fragrance sensitivity is a disability under ADA because, in that case, it compromised the major life activity of breathing (McBride v. the City of Detroit).  Furthermore, the court ruled that the employer should have first engaged in an interactive process to identify a reasonable accommodation before denying the accommodation request outright.  The takeaway message is clear.

The use of fragrance in products is on the rise and, not surprisingly, so are a growing number of requests for accommodating it.  Employers must be ready to respond and understanding when to initiate the interactive process and consider accommodation options is key to a successful outcome.

Fragrance sensitivity is best described as either an irritant or allergic reaction to a chemical in a product or may also be referred to as chemical sensitivity.  Common allergic reactions to exposure may include headaches or migraines, worsening of respiratory issues such as asthma or COPD, and skin irritations such as contact dermatitis or hives.  Repeated exposure over time may trigger or intensify these reactions or symptoms.

A first step for employers is recognizing that fragrance sensitivities and symptoms vary by individual and an accommodation must be tailored to that employee.  Start by consulting with the employee to identify a reasonable accommodation.  This critical step begins the interactive process.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) offers three primary options to consider as accommodations:

  • Remove the offending fragrance when possible.  For example, discontinuing the use of air fresheners and using unscented cleaning products.  Educating employees about fragrance sensitivities and asking for cooperation to voluntarily refrain from fragrance use.  Giving consideration to adopting a fragrance free work environment or fragrance free work zones.
  • Remove the employee from the area where the fragrances are located.  For example, a different workspace, private office or telecommuting.
  • Reduce the employee’s exposure to the fragrances to an acceptable level. For example, a private office with its own ventilation and minimum exposure to others.

Other accommodation ideas:

  • Maintain good indoor air quality
  • Use only unscented cleaning products and soaps
  • Provide scent-free meeting rooms and restrooms
  • Modify an employee’s workstation location, as needed, and modify the work schedule
  • Allow for fresh air breaks
  • Provide an air purification system designed specifically for the irritant in question
  • Modify or create a fragrance-free work place policy
  • Have a policy to allow telecommuting or home office work to help an employee avoid the problem fragrance

Employers must be aware of any employee fragrance sensitivities and be prepared to take action if a problem arises. If you have questions about how to deal with this situation in your workplace, reach out to your BCN Services specialist for help.

SusanPrice_6710

Susan Price, Strategic Services Manager

Opioids and the workplace: How should employers handle abuse or other issues?

It is hard to escape the headlines about America’s opioid crisis: A new viral video seems to circulate on a daily basis, celebrities tragically dying from overdoses and staggering statistics on overuse of the drugs.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), physician prescribing continues to fuel the epidemic, as nearly half of the 33,000 opioid overdose deaths per year involve a prescription.  Examples of common opioid drugs include: OxyContin, Percocet, Percodan, Demerol, Vicodin and their generic counterparts, as well as the street drug heroin.

As a business owner or Human Resources leader, you may have taken notice of this, or perhaps been affected in your workplace.  A survey completed this year by the National Safety Council of 501 HR decision makers found that 71 percent of employers have seen direct effects of prescription drug misuse, most notably opioids.  Of those individuals, 29 percent cited impaired or decreased job performance and 15 percent stated the drugs have caused a workplace injury or near-injuries. Alarmingly, 10 percent reported having a worker overdose from opioids on or off the job.

This same survey found that only 19 percent of employers feel well prepared to handle an opioid-related situation with an employee.  Many cite their fears of violating an employment-related law such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because the drugs are legally prescribed.  =

Following are guidelines for protecting your business in these types of situations:

  • Understand that if an employee tests positive for an opioid on a drug test, the drug may have been prescribed for a protected reason covered by the ADA. Where your first reaction may be to discipline or fire the employee, you may be required to engage in the interactive process to determine if a reasonable accommodation can be provided.
  • Supervisors should be trained to recognize the signs of impairment. They should also be trained on the company drug-testing policy for reasonable suspicion and how the ADA could overlap.
  • Work closely with your human resource providers, healthcare benefits providers and workers’ compensation carriers to educate employees on the risks associated with opioid prescriptions and to make them aware of their options for confidential access to help and treatment.

BCN Services is here to assist you in determining if an employee is covered by the ADA, designing a compliant drug test policy and training for supervisors and employees.  If you have questions, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

AliciaFreeman_6679

Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager