HR areas likely impacted with results of recent General Election

It has been just over a month since the historic November General Election.  The results, a Republican president-elect and Republican-controlled U.S. Congress, signal that a lot of changes will be coming to Human Resources laws and regulations, affecting both employers and employees.

Here are a few of the areas that may see significant changes soon:

  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) – President-Elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal and replace the ACA within his first 100 days in office. While experts do not believe the Act will be totally repealed, it is likely that Republican legislators will negotiate with fellow Democrats and recommend a change to the law and get the required 60 Senate votes to pass it.  Some of the current law provisions targeted for change include:
    • The Employer Mandate (organizations with 50 or more full-time employees or equivalents must provide ACA-compliant health care coverage to employees averaging at least 30 hours per week) and
    • The Cadillac Tax (40-percent excise tax on employer-sponsored health-care coverage that exceeds pre-defined benefit thresholds). Trump also supports increasing the flexibility of Health Savings Accounts, Flexible Spending Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.
  • Immigration Reform – The centerpiece of the Trump campaign was immigration reform and control. Experts believe that employers may see many changes as a result of this initiative, including:
    • increased audits of Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9,
    • required use of an E-Verify system (comparing employee information on an I-9 to federal records) and
    • changes to the H-1B Visa program for non-immigrants, in which non-U.S. workers are employed in specialty occupations.
  • Maternity Leave – During his campaign, Trump outlined a plan that would guarantee six weeks of paid maternity leave to new mothers after childbirth paid for through savings in the unemployment insurance program. This proposed policy would not offer benefits to fathers or parents of adopted children.

BCN Services will keep you up-to-date as changes unfold.  If you have additional questions, contact your Human Resources Representative at 1-800-891-9911.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Important Announcement regarding New DOL overtime regulations

Overnight a federal judge in Texas granted a temporary injunction which blocks the Department of Labor’s final rule regarding the FLSA overtime exemptions and salary threshold.  This means that until a final decision is reached employers may follow the existing rule.

If you have not yet taken action, there is no reason to do so at this time.  If you’ve already made changes, you may want to leave your decision in place until further guidance is issued.

For assistance in evaluating your individual company strategy, call the BCN HR Team at 800-891-9911 or email us at hr@www.bcnservices.com

 

Sincerely,

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I-9 Compliance: How much is it costing you?

The federal Form I-9 is deceptively simple, yet crucial in every new hire process. The form is designed to help employers verify the identity and certify that each employee can legally work in the United States. Can you imagine being fined hundreds of dollars because an employee forgot to sign or date it? Multiply one mistake by hundreds or thousands of employees and the result is a huge burden for business owners who fail to realize the importance of properly completing the I-9.

The U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement, referred to commonly as ICE has been hitting companies hard with I-9 audits recently, and there is no sign of them slowing down. According to a recent Associated Press article, audits of employer I-9 forms increased from 250 in 2007 to more than 3,000 in 2012, and this number will likely continue to grow. ICE handed out more than $13 million in fines in 2012 based on violations discovered during these audits.

The USCIS states that fines for improper completion and retention and not making I-9 documents available for inspection range from $100 to $1,100 for each I-9. Fines for purposely hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized employees range from $250 up to $11,000 per offense. Employers who show a continued pattern of hiring unauthorized workers are liable for criminal penalties of as much as $3,000 per employee and may be subject to a minimum prison penalty of 6 months.

All companies, regardless of size, state, or industry, are subject to an ICE I-9 audit. A large clothing retailer reached a settlement with ICE of more than $1 million dollars in fines regarding I-9 documentation violations discovered during a 2008 audit. A drywall company was fined $173,250 for 225 separate I-9 paperwork violations. Additionally, a worldwide staffing company has been fined $227,000 in civil fines for improperly completing the Form I-9.
As you can imagine, these fines have greatly impacted companies worldwide, and could have been prevented with proper training and knowledge.  So what can a business do to properly protect itself?

The rules around I-9 forms can be very specific and sometimes confusing. As your trusted HR partner, BCN takes pride in ensuring our clients are in compliance, and trained properly in the I-9 paperwork procedures, avoiding the headache and stress of massive fees and penalties. If you have any questions or would like more information about  Form I-9, contact your HR specialists at BCN Services.

 

 

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Taylre Reed, Partnership Manager

Is your timekeeping method ready for the FLSA changes?

Recent changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime exemption rules that take effect in December mean that many Americans will no longer be considered  salaried and exempt from overtime provisions). Because of this, they will need to begin keeping track of their actual hours worked. 

Coupled with an increase in recent years of wage-and-hour investigations and lawsuits, there are many reasons that now is a great time to consider a time –and-attendance system, which will track an employee’s work behavior in real time:

1.       Reliable Accuracy: Manual timekeeping systems go hand-in-hand with inaccurately reported hours from both the employee and the person responsible for payroll.  Employees often report time worked after the fact and must rely on their memory to complete paper records.  Additionally, employees may take advantage of this honor system.  The American Payroll Association reports that fraudulent time records cost a business up to 5 percent of gross payroll each year.  If records are illegible, an employer is likely to report inaccurate time for payment. 

A time-and-attendance system requires an employee to punch in and out as the activity is happening; eliminating the need for employees to rely upon and report from memory.  Additionally, time-and-attendance systems often interface with payroll systems to import employee time records so there is no need to re-enter the time-keeping record.  According to a recent study by the Aberdeen Group, this results in a decrease of up to 30 percent  in the payroll processing error rate.

2.       Improved Regulatory Compliance:  A time-and-attendance system will automate overtime calculations and other mandated pay regulations.  It also offers an organized method for retaining pay records in the event that they are needed for investigative purposes.

3.       Increased Reporting and Tracking Features: Time and attendance systems allow for robust reporting, ease the process of employee work scheduling and offer flexibility in paid-time-off tracking and managing employee requests. 

BCN Services offers a fully integrated time-and-attendance solution.  If you would like to learn more about how this system can benefit you and your organization, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

 

Federal regulation change raises salary levels for overtime pay

The Department of Labor has issued the long-anticipated changes to the overtime regulations within the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Effective December 1, 2016 the salary level required to be exempt from overtime (along with continuing to meet existing duties test requirements) will be $47,476 or $913 per week.

The current minimum salary for an employee classified as exempt from overtime is $455. The change in regulations means that you must either change the salary or reclassify any employee earning at least $455 but less than $913 to meet the new minimum requirement. If reclassifying, an employee would be moved to non-exempt status and compensated at time and one-half for any hours worked over 40 in a given work week.

In addition to increasing the minimum salary for exemption, the new regulations also require that the standard salary amount be updated every 3 years moving forward. The salary level has been set at the 40th percentile of full-time salaried workers in the lowest income region in the country, which is currently the South. Based on projections of wage growth, the DOL believes the minimum salary will be more than $51,000 by January 1, 2020.

In the coming weeks a BCN Services Human Resource specialist will reach out to you to help review your business structure as it relates to this new law. We look forward to assisting you in successfully managing any redesign, plan and implementation in the near future. If you have immediate questions, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Consider impact of daylight-saving time for hourly worker

Many people are familiar with the axiom “spring forward and fall back” to help them remember in which direction to change the clock during daylight-saving time transitions.

However, questions may linger for employers about pay practices for those employees that are “on the clock” during the time change.

Non-exempt employees, who are generally paid on an hourly basis, are entitled to be paid for the hours they actually work. For example, in the fall when employees may only be scheduled for an eight hour shift but end up working nine hours due to the time change, they must be paid for nine hours. In the spring, if a normal work schedule constitutes eight hours, but the employee works only seven hours due to the time change, the employer need only pay seven hours of time worked.

Some companies may decide to pay a full eight hours so that their employees don’t lose regularly expected compensation, but there is no obligation for them to do so.

Employers and scheduling supervisors should not “balance out” time over the year in which an employee works during the time change in the spring and in the fall. Hours should be paid within the time period in which they are worked.

Other questions about compensation or pay practices? Our professional staff at BCN can help. Call us at 800-891-9911 if we can assist you and your business.

 

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Expect stepped-up FMLA enforcement during 2016

The Department of Labor intends to step up Family and Medical Leave Act enforcement in 2016, including more on-site visits by federal investigators, according to a recent statement by U.S. Department of Labor – Family and Medical Leave Act Branch Chief Helen Applewhaite.

This means employers should pay close attention to their own employment policies as they relates to the FMLA. This includes carefully documenting individual employment situations.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) allows eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance. Eligible employees are entitled to 12 work weeks of leave over a 12-month period for:

  • The birth and care of a newborn child within one year of birth.
  • The placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and care for the child within one year of placement.
  • A serious health condition which leaves the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job.
  • To give care for a serious health condition affecting the employee’s spouse, child or parent.
  • Any qualifying demand or emergency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered” active duty;

or 26 work weeks of leave during a single 12-month To care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the service member’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

BCN Services can assist you in determining if you are a covered employer and if an employee is eligible for FMLA as well as administration of the leave. If you have questions, please contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

 

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Alicia Freeman, Product Manager

Why do I need Employment Practice Liability Insurance?

If you are a PEO client of BCN, your company is provided with employment practice liability insurance (EPLI), a benefit that may not be used every day, but is important nonetheless.

This specialized insurance is designed to protect against losses incurred in litigating and settling wrongful employment practices liability claims. It covers such things as discrimination, breach of contract and wrongful discharge suits, which usually are not covered by general business liability insurance.

In today’s business world, the threat of being sued is an everyday reality. The dangers are even more real if your company doesn’t’t have a dedicated human resources department or formal training to deal with myriad laws, rules and regulations that exist to protect employee rights.

Statistics show that in a bad economy employment lawsuits increase dramatically. One disgruntled worker can put your entire business at risk if he brings a lawsuit or discrimination charge against you — whether valid or not. The cost to defend the allegations alone could put your company out of business, not to mention the price you would pay if you lose.

The top 5 reasons for EPLI coverage

  1. Employee lawsuits and discrimination charges are excluded under standard general liability policies;
  2. Every employer, large or small, can be the target of legal action from past, present, and prospective employees;
  3. Owners’, directors’ and officers’ personal assets can be at risk;
  4. Employees file more than 90,000 complaints each year with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
  5. Employees can easily file lawsuits, often with no risk or cost to them.

While you are responsible for deductibles and legal costs not covered by the policy,  BCN Services has made it easier and cost efficient in 2013 to mitigate your expenses of a claim by negotiating an arrangement with our carrier to allow us to provide the initial investigative work to our clients on EPLI claims with our law firm’s oversight, saving significantly on legal expenses.  To minimize claims, BCN’s trained and certified HR professionals will help guide you through employee relations and other compliance issues thereby greatly reducing your risk.

Remember to always call us to report any incident which could give rise to a claim immediately to the BCN Human Resource Department.  For further information about EPLI,  contact us for assistance.

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Kate Douglass, Senior HR Generalist

Be cautious asking for confidentiality during workplace investigations

As an owner or manager of your company, complaints, allegations of harassment, or other types of grievances will inevitably come to your attention from time to time, meriting an investigation

In the past, you may have been involved with investigations where an employee was required to maintain confidentiality except with the person doing the investigation. Confidentiality is beneficial in an investigation if you are attempting to learn each person’s individual take on a situation and not have employees collaborating and tainting what is shared by their conversations.

But recent guidance from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) states that employees are allowed to discuss investigative situations as they are allowed to discuss job-related factors such as wages, job conditions and work assignments. The NLRB considers this a legally protected right of employees. There have been judgments against companies who have required employees to sign confidentiality statements when participating in investigations, especially when a company terminates an employee in the process of enforcing those statements.

Workplace investigations are best handled by BCN Services, which has professional staff to assist you and can provide an impartial, professional investigation of the situation. BCN will work with your management team as appropriate, and make recommendations designed to help defuse situations and protect the company from legal issues down the line.

Your management team will likely be involved in these discussions, too. It’s important that the BCN HR staff and your mangers be on the same page in approaching the investigation and what’s required or asked of employees.

The bottom line for employers: It’s acceptable to request confidentiality and explain how it will help the integrity of the investigation process, but use caution when prohibiting the discussion of sensitive information. Any disciplinary action plans related to the sharing of information should be carefully reviewed with the experts at BCN prior to taking action.

Trisha Crigger, Human Resources Generalist

U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage impacts some employer-sponsored benefits

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution compels all states to issue marriage licenses to two people of the same gender and recognize legal marriages between two people of the same gender.

The Obergefell v. Hodges decision was sweeping, all but ending a decades-long battle to bring marriage equality to gay couples. Thirty seven states and the District of Columbia already recognized same-gender marriages before the ruling. Michigan was among 13 states that banned gay marriage through a state constitutional amendment defining marriage to be between one man and one woman.

With this historic decision, all U.S. states and territories can no longer ban same-gender marriage either by state constitutional amendment or popular ballot vote.

Although the decision comes from the highest court of the United States, there are many unanswered questions. The decision did not address matters of discrimination based on religious beliefs, nor did it lay out a step-by-step plan for employers and health insurers to handle the new legislation. This blog specifically focuses on the impact the SCOTUS decision has on employer-sponsored benefits.

Fully insured health plans are now legally bound to recognize same-gender marriages exactly as they would marriages of opposite genders. Although 2013’s United States v. Windsor SCOTUS ruling extended favorable tax treatment on premium dollars paid by employees towards same-gender spouses and dependents coverage, that ruling did not extend those benefits nationwide. The favorable tax treatment of premium dollars now applies to same-gender married couples in every U.S. state and territory.

Small-group employers have always had the option of excluding spousal coverage under their benefit plans. Now, however, the exclusion must be uniform and not directed at same-gender marriages. If an employer disqualifies spousal coverage or requires spouses to take insurance through their own employer prior to enrolling in the company’s plan, the condition must be applied to both same-gender and opposite-gender spouses.

Employers with self-funded medical plans are not forced by the Obergefell ruling to allow same-gender spouses to enroll in their group health plan. It is advised that employers with self-funded plans consider the potential for litigation if they choose, at this point, not to allow same-gender spouses to enroll in their group health plans.

There are still several roadblocks and gray areas due to this ruling: How do groups handle their plan if they already allowed “domestic partners” to enroll? Is there a time limit that vendors will allow domestic partners to become legally married before they disallow coverage? If employers choose to continue allowing domestic partner coverage for same-gender couples, they should be sure to open it to opposite-gender domestic partners, if they did not before.

As always, BCN Services will guide clients and employees through these complexities as they occur. Please encourage your employees to call us with any questions they may have. Timeliness can play a factor, depending on the specific situation

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Frank Lewandowski, Partnership Manager