Be aware of restrictions when hiring minors this summer

Memorial Day and end of school signify the beginning of the summer season so you may be looking to hire minor employees as temporary help in the coming months.

This can be an excellent solution to filling your vacancies, but be aware of some important regulations pertaining to youth employment.

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Sorting out the differences: Service animal versus emotional support animal

Business owners and managers take measures to ensure that employees and customers are safe. They want everyone to have the best experience possible in their work environment.

So what should an employer do when customers, or employees, bring animals into the workplace? Which animals must you allow on your premises, by law?

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Opinion letter prohibits delaying FMLA leave, or designating additional leave

The federal Family Medical Leave Act assists workers who might need time off for health emergencies, either for themselves or to care for a family member. The law provides unpaid, job-protected leave for certain workers.

These include private employers that have at least 50 employees within a 75 mile radius, those employed by elementary and secondary schools and government workers at the local, state and federal levels. There are specific guidelines about who is covered and how long an employee must work to be eligible.

As an HR professional, employees have asked to use paid, or unpaid, time off in lieu of FMLA. Managers have also asked not to designate short periods of time off as FMLA. Neither of these practices are allowed. “Employees cannot waive, nor may employers induce employees to waive their prospective rights under FMLA,” according to the act.

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Test helps employers decide on unpaid interns

If you’re considering hiring a summer intern or two, you might wonder “Do I have to pay them?”

The U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service generally view for-profit business internships as employment. That means an employer must pay at least minimum wage plus overtime if interns work more than 40 hours per week.

But there are exceptions. The DOL created a flexible, seven-factor test for unpaid internships in 2015. Employers can now balance each factor as they consider their options. Read more

Workplace breast-pumping is a protected activity

In February 2019, a jury awarded a former employee of a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Delaware more than $1.5 million in damages for gender-based discrimination and harassment after the company demoted her for pumping breast milk while at work. According to the lawsuit, when the employee was hired as an assistant manager she was told that it would not affect her need to pump her breast milk every two hours, as her doctor recommended. However, immediately after starting the position, she was forced to work 10-hour training sessions with just one break during the shift. Additionally, the space she was allotted for breast pumping was the manager’s office which had windows and a surveillance camera that she was told could not be turned off.

When the employee concluded her training, she was transferred to a different location where she dealt with complaints from co-workers who asserted that she was allowed too many “breaks” to pump. She was ultimately demoted.

The jury looked at several laws in making their decision, but one was of important note in this case. When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as the “Affordable Care Act,” or ACA) was enacted in 2010, it effectively amended the Fair Labor Standards Act to require all employers covered by the FLSA to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has the need to express the milk.”

Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” This law covers nonexempt (hourly) employees. The time spent pumping breast milk need not be compensated unless the employer provides compensated breaks to the employee and if the employee uses that break time to express milk.

Although the provision covers all employers covered by the FLSA, there is a U.S. Department of Labor exemption for employers with fewer than 50 employees if the employer can demonstrate that compliance with the provision would impose an undue hardship.

It is important to know that some states have more expansive laws covering this topic. If you have questions regarding how this affects your business, please contact the specialists at BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911.

Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Michigan’s minimum wage increasing on March 29

Effective March 29, 2019, the Michigan minimum wage will increase to $9.45 per hour up, a 20-cent increase from the current $9.25 per hour. The change came following a long debate in the Michigan Legislature, ultimately voted upon and passed into law by a bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on December 14, 2018.

For Michigan employers, this means that all hours worked on and after the March 29th date must be paid, at a minimum, the new $9.45 an hour rate or higher. This agreement excluded any changes for tipped workers which will remain at the current $3.52 an hour rate.

Michigan is one of 20 states that will have a 2019 minimum wage increase. With so many changes, BCN Services encourages employers to reach out to their Payroll Specialist if they have concerns regarding their affected employees or if they would like assistance when navigating a state Department of Labor website (in Michigan, visit: https://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-59886—,00.html) for the most up-to-date information.

For further information on your state or how this minimum wage increase may affect your employees, please contact BCN Services at (800) 891-9911. Our experts can advise on your employees and a best strategy to comply with the increased minimum wage.

For a history of recent minimum wage increases in Michigan, see this previous BCN blog post: https://www.bcnservices.com/minimum-wage-increases-michigan-take-effect-starting-sept-1/

Dani Austin, Payroll Supervisor

Frequently Asked Questions about posting labor law rules

Do I have to post labor law posters in my workplace? This is a very good question and if you have been given responsibility for poster compliance, consider the next questions when determining your labor law requirements:

Do I have employees on payroll?

If you answered “yes,” are any of your employees on payroll not your spouse? If so, then you are mandated by law to post the most up-to-date labor law posters.

Now that you have determined your need for labor law posters, you’re probably wondering where you should post them. According to poster compliance requirements, posters must be displayed in an area where your employees can readily see them. The most common areas to consider are:

  • A breakroom
  • A common room
  • Near the time clock
  • A lunch room or kitchen

Places that may seem like a good idea but don’t adhere to labor law compliance requirements include:

  • The HR Manager’s office
  • A gender-specific bathroom
  • Outside an office in the hallway
  • The owner’s office
  • In one specific department

What if I have two break rooms? Do I have to display the posters in both areas?

The best way to determine this is to ask yourself another question. Do all your employees have access to both rooms? If the answer is no, then we would suggest that you display the labor law posters in both break rooms. If yes, then you should be compliant with the posters in one break room.

What if my employees work on separate floors? Do I need to display the compliance posters on each floor?

Yes, you need to post the compliance posters on each floor because you’re required to post the labor law posters where all of your employees can readily see them.

The key word here is “access.” Your employees must have easy access to labor law posters. If employees are required go out of their way to view and read the posters, then the posters are not easily available to them. As an employer you are not following labor law compliance requirements.

What if some of my employees work in a separate building? Do I need to display the posters there? Yes, you should display the compliance posters in both buildings so that all employees have easy access to the posters.

What happens if my business is not compliant with labor law posting regulations?

If your business is not in compliance with current federal and state labor law poster standards, you are in jeopardy of receiving a fine or citation. Additionally, keeping your business in compliance by using the appropriate posters helps to remind supervisors of their obligations to uphold the law and protect your workers from injury, discrimination, harassment, and other important state, federal, and OSHA requirements.

If you still have questions about your labor law poster needs, contact your HR professionals at BCN Services. We are available to help you with all your compliance needs and can keep you up-to date on laws as they change.

Lisandra Garrow, Partnership Manager

Michigan’s Earned Sick Time Act will change policies for many employers

UPDATED – 11/30/2018 – Michigan Earned Sick Time Act

In early September 2018, Michigan’s Legislature adopted the Earned Sick Time Act, which applies to all private employers employing one or more individuals, and takes effect on April 1, 2019. It was originally advanced as a ‘citizen initiated/petitioned ballot measure’ to be placed before the voting public. The legislature opted to avoid the ballot initiative by adopting the law as written.

On November 28, 2018, Michigan state senators voted for a bill introduced by Senator Shirkey to dramatically scale back the Requirements for Earned Sick Time Act, specifically that small businesses (fewer than 50 workers) will be exempt. This act will also not apply to employees exempt from overtime or who work for a private company but are covered by a labor contract.

What will the Earned Sick Time Act do?

  • Require employers, with over 50 employees, to provide every employee 1 hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, or 36 hours per year. This will allow employees to use up to a certain amount of paid sick time in a year for a specified number of purposes, such as illness, medical treatment, absences caused by domestic violence or sexual assault, or meetings related to a child’s school or care.
  • Allow employees to take leave with little advanced notice.
  • Permit employers to request documentation only if the absence is longer than 3 days, and then requires that the employer to cover the employee’s out-of-pocket costs incurred in providing such documentation.
  • Require employers to provide written notice to employees of their rights under the Act, including protections against employer retaliation.
  • Permit aggrieved employees to file claims with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs or take legal action.

As written, the Earned Sick Time Act could prove challenging for many employers to implement, especially those who have established time-off policies. Employers can comply with the Earned Sick Time Act by providing paid leave (such as vacation, personal days, PTO, etc.), as long as that leave, (1) Accrues at a rate equal to or greater than what the Earned Sick Time Act requires; (2) Is at least the same amount as the Earned Sick Time Act; (3) May be used for the same purposes and under the same conditions. Employees must begin accruing leave on the law’s effective date or when employment begins (whichever is later) at a rate of at least 1 hour for every 40 hours worked.

What does this mean for employers?

It is still somewhat unclear what the Earned Sick Time Act will look like come April 1, 2019. Rest assured that BCN Services will continue to monitor and report on further developments. Meanwhile, employers should take stock of their existing time-off policies, especially if they have separate sick time, vacation time, and personal time policies.

Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Michigan voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Now what?

On Nov. 6, 2018, Michigan residents voted to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, the first state in the Midwest to do so. What does this mean for employers? Generally, they have the right to maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance policy against drug and alcohol use. But that may change over time as courts weigh in on varying laws in state and federal jurisdictions.

 

The new law allows individuals age 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles. Adults can grow up to 12 marijuana plants (keeping a maximum of 10 ounces) for their own consumption.

Although the referendum calls for the law to take effect 10 days after election results are certified, marijuana is not expected to be available commercially for quite some time. The state puts regulations and licensing in place and local municipalities decide whether to allow such businesses in their communities.

Michigan police agencies must also consider how law enforcement procedures will change with the new law. A number of Michigan universities have also released policy statements regarding marijuana use on campus.

Weed in the workplace: What Michigan employers can do

In a recent blog posting, experts at the Varnum Law Firm state that ” The MRTMA does not restrict a private employer’s right to maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.”

In other words, employees can still be fired (or not hired) for a positive drug test. Employers may continue to perform pre-employment and random drug tests on employees and maintain zero-tolerance policies. This new referendum will not protect job applicants or employees who test positive for marijuana use.

But keep in mind that prospective employees may still file a discrimination claim if their employment offer is rescinded. In a Connecticut case, for example, a prospective employee using medical marijuana for PTSD treatment filed a discrimination case using the premise of a state law that prohibits employers from discriminating on that basis. The plaintiff won a summary judgment in that case.

Individual Michigan employers must consider whether to maintain zero-tolerance drug policies or create more tolerant guidelines. Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure pre-employment drug-testing policies and employee handbook reflect the times. A policy needs to be in place making it crystal clear that employees are prohibited from being impaired by marijuana while on the job, legal or not.

We recommend that employers focus on prohibiting employees from being impaired due to alcohol/marijuana use while working instead of focusing on marijuana use in and of itself. By focusing on impairment instead of use, employers will minimize the likelihood of conflicting with state “lawful use” laws.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law

For employers with federal contracts or with employees licensed through federal agencies, there is no gray area. Marijuana is an illegal substance under federal law and, thus, a zero-tolerance drug policy will apply. For employers facing significant safety and health risks, drug testing is imperative.

Employers not facing significant safety and health risks from impaired employees may decide drug testing risks outweigh potential benefits. In states where recreational marijuana is already legal, a growing number of companies are asking the lab to test for all drugs except marijuana. For example, in Nevada, where marijuana was legalized in 2017, the number of companies asking that marijuana be included in workplace drug testing dropped from 95 percent in 2016 to 91 percent in 2017.

More information here: Listen to an interview on WDET with updates about the new law.

Do you need help considering the marijuana issue in your workplace policies? The specialists at BCN Services are happy to help you craft or revise a policy. We can help with everything from developing policies and handbooks, to handling safety training, payroll and HR reporting. Contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us electronically.

Photo Credit: Photo by Roberto Valdivia on Unsplash

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Be aware of voter leave laws, talk with staff before Tuesday

With voter turnout expected to be higher than ever at the polls for 2018 mid-term elections on November 6, some employers may wonder about their obligation to employees.

While there is no federal law mandating time off for voting, nearly half of U.S. states provide a voter leave law (either paid or unpaid).

Employers in states with paid voter leave laws (Illinois and Minnesota, for example) should familiarize themselves with the leave law before employees request time off to vote. Some of these laws have specific details related to requesting of time and how much time must be paid.

Other states (such as Michigan and Indiana) don’t require employers to give time off, however, it is a best practice to encourage employees to make time to vote. Employers may want to consider adding a policy addressing time off for voting, depending upon their specific situation.

If you are an employer that operates in more than one state, experts suggest that you either maintain one policy that complies with all state laws or implement a general policy that denotes local laws will prevail.

Regardless of the laws in your state, managers can take a proactive role by talking to their staff before Tuesday. To maximize office coverage, find out if some employees can vote on the way in to work, some on the way home from work and, depending on logistics, maybe some during an extended lunch period. Advanced planning can be key in making your employees’ work day smoother both in and out of the office.

Not sure of the laws in your state(s)? Would you like assistance in creating a voter leave announcement or a policy for your employee handbook? Contact your HR experts at BCN Services to discuss your individual situation.

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Sue Kester, HR Manager