Press

Two thousand twelve was a very busy year in terms of employment law developments.  As a result, employers have a lot on their plates for 2013.  Here are just a few of the issues that need to be addressed.

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

The new health care law continues to require implementation of various steps as its provisions become effective. Among those are:

  • Employer W-2 Reporting
  • Summary of Benefits and Coverage
  • Claims and Appeals
  • FICA Medicare Tax Increase
  • Notice of State Insurance Exchanges

Corporate Social Media Policies

Recent National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decisions dramatically impact the ability of employers to restrict employee use of social media in an overbroad manner which may prevent employees from exercising their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (“NLRA”). The NLRA protects the right of employees to (a) form, join, or assist a union, (b) choose representatives to bargain with an employer on their behalf, (c) act together with other employees for their benefit and protection, or (d) choose not to engage in any such activities. Employers who fail to comply with NLRB decisions by having social media policies which prevent employees from discussing their wages and conditions of employment, and various other matters, may find themselves in trouble.

Domestic Or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, Or Stalking

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued a Fact Sheet that provides questions and answers on The Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking.

For additional information on these issues or for a more comprehensive listing, contact Prestige.

Keeping You Compliant With The Latest Government Regulations!
Prestige is working diligently in 2013 to ensure our clients stay in compliance with all the new laws and regulations affecting small to medium size businesses.

GOVERNMENT REGULATION

For the second time since the enactment of New York’s Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA), New York employers must inform all New York employees by issuing a written annual notice and acknowledgement of pay rates and pay dates between January 1, 2013 and February 1, 2013.  In addition, NYS employers must inform employees of their classification as an exempt or non-exempt employee.

New York employers must provide notices to not only new hires, but ALL employees that contain the following information:

  • Rate or rates of pay
  • For non-exempt employees, the regular rate of pay and overtime rate of pay
  • Allowances, if any, claimed as part of the minimum wage, including, tip, meal, or lodging allowances.
  • The regular pay designated by the employer
  • The name of the employer, including any DBA names used
  • The physical address of the employer’s main office and telephone number
  • Other information as the Commissioner of Labor deems material and necessary.

PRESTIGE SOLUTION

What Prestige Is Doing To Make You Compliant

Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc. is taking the burden off of our clients by pre-populating the wage forms based on current information on file for employees.  All forms are being completed by Prestige’s Human Resource Business Partners and sent to clients for review.

This eliminates the cumbersome and tedious task of completing the forms for all employees. Clients only need to review and approve each form to stay in compliance with New York’s Wage Theft Protection Act.  Prestige is kicking off the new year in the right way and making the process seamless for clients, so they can focus on more important issues like growing their businesses.  Prestige is committed to keeping our clients compliant in 2013 and will continue to send compliance alerts.

January 2013 marks the 12th anniversary of National Mentoring Month, an annual campaign to recruit volunteer mentors for young people. 

Mentors, backed by quality mentoring programs, play a powerful role in preventing substance abuse and youth violence, as well as boosting academic achievement and workforce readiness. Studies have shown a more than 250 percent return on a $1 investment in mentoring and a myriad of quality of life benefits to the mentor, too. Mentors help build young people’s character and confidence, expand their universe and help them navigate pathways to successful adulthood. Despite this proven impact, the gap between the number of mentors and the number of young people who need a mentor is still too large. While three million young people have a mentor, 15 million need a caring adult mentor in their lives. 

For additional information about National Mentoring Month, visit SERVE.gov/MENTOR.  For more information and resources on quality youth mentoring and MENTOR’s network of Mentoring Partnerships and programs, visit www.mentoring.org or contact Prestige.

December 1…To All Employees 

I’m happy to inform you that the company Christmas Party will be held on December 23rd at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbecue. There will be lots of spiked eggnog and a small band will play traditional carols…feel free to sing-along. And don’t be surprised if our CEO shows up dressed as Santa Claus to light the Christmas tree.

Exchanging gifts among employees can be done at this time. Please remember to keep gifts to the agreed $10 limit.

Merry Christmas to you and yours,

Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 2…To All Employees 

In no way was yesterday’s memo intended to exclude our Jewish employees. We recognize that Hanukkah is an important holiday and often coincides with Christmas (although not this year). However, from now on we’re calling this party our Holiday Party. The same policy also applies to employees who are celebrating Kwanzaa at this time. There will be no tree or Christmas carols sung. 

Happy holidays to you and yours.

Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 3…To All Employees 

Regarding the anonymous note I received from a member of Alcoholics Anonymous requesting a non-drinking table, I’m happy to accommodate your request but please remember that if I put a sign on the table that reads “AA Only” you won’t be anonymous any more. 

In addition, we’ll no longer be having a gift exchange because union members feel that $10 is too much money. 

Patti Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 7…To All Employees 

I have arranged for members of Overeaters Anonymous to sit farthest away from the dessert table and for pregnant members to sit closest to the restrooms. Gays are allowed to sit with each other. Lesbians do not have to sit with gays; each group will have its own table. And, yes, there will be a flower arrangement for the gay men’s table. 

Happy now? 

Patty Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 9…To All Employees 

People! People! Nothing sinister was intended by wanting our CEO to play Santa Claus. Even if the anagram for “Santa” does happen to be “Satan.” There is no evil connation to our own little “man in a red suit.” 

Patti Lewis, Human Resources Director

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December 10…To All Employees 

Vegetarians! I’ve had it with you people. We’re holding this party at Luigi’s Open Pit Barbecue whether you like it or not. You can just sit at the table farthest from the “Grill of Death” as you call it, and you’ll get salad bar only including hydroponics tomatoes. Tomatoes have feelings too, you know. They scream when you slice them. I can hear them now. I hope you have a rotten holiday. 

You Know Who This Is!

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December 14…To All Employees 

I’m sure I speak for all of us in wishing Patty Lewis a speedy recovery from her stress-related illness. I’ll continue to forward your cards to her at the sanitarium. In the meantime management has decided to cancel the Holiday Party and give everyone the afternoon of the 23rd off with full pay. 

Terri Bishop, Acting Human Resources Director

Effective January 2013, two new California laws will broaden what constitutes discrimination based on an employee’s sex or religion.  Practices that may have been lawful for 2012 could now create liability and litigation for 2013. 

Breast-Feeding Discrimination
Although the California Labor Code already requires employers to provide accommodations for women who are breast-feeding, a new law provides additional recourse for women who have encountered breast-feeding discrimination. 

Historically, Title VII has been the most common statute for women seeking recourse for breast-feeding discrimination, but several federal courts have rejected these claims.  The Obama administration’s health care reform law requires employers to provide nursing mothers with a reasonable break time and place to express breast milk, but it does not provide recourse for discrimination related to breast-feeding. 

Businesses must be ready to meet the challenges of implementing this new law.  First, employers should consider updating their employee handbooks or implementing a breast-feeding policy.  Second, employers should take seriously any complaints from employees relating to breast-feeding and should treat these complaints with the same seriousness as they would a complaint based on race or age discrimination. 

Religious Dress and Grooming Practices
Another new law deals with religious discrimination, requiring employers to reasonably accommodate an employee’s appearance at work. 

The law clarifies that “religious dress and grooming practices” are covered by the protections against religious discrimination.  These terms are broadly construed to include religious clothing and coverings (such as turbans and yarmulkes) and jewelry and artifacts (such as a cross or Star of David), or anything else that is part of the observance of an individual’s religious beliefs.  An employee’s head, facial or body hair that are part of the observance of an individual’s religion are also protected. 

Employees observing their religion must be reasonably accommodated.  However, the new law specifically states that segregating an employee from the public or other employees is not a reasonable accommodation. 

So what do employers do?  Just as they do with disability accommodations, employers should work with employees to find a solution suitable to both parties.  Any inclination to isolate or segregate an employee, or any other solution that may be perceived as a punishment or a demotion, should be avoided.  Of course, documenting an employer’s proposed reasonable accommodations is a must. 

For assistance with implementing solutions to these new laws, contact Prestige.

Yesterday we addressed the issue of holiday gift giving in the workplace.  Today we look at another side to the holiday season… depression.

It’s that time of year again: caroling, Charlie Brown, trees, mistletoe, shopping, and family. All the good stuff, right? For most people, that’s true. But for some people, the holidays are a time of sorrow and loneliness. And for people with clinical depression, they can be especially trying. As an employer, you’re in a bit of a bind ― while the holiday blues are temporary, ongoing depression isn’t, and clinical depression likely qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Lifting spirits without increasing liability
How do you tell the difference between the blues and depression? You may not be able to, which means that if you’ve got an employee who seems particularly down as the holiday season bears down on him, you need to be very sensitive; you might be dealing with a disability that requires accommodation. How do you avoid a misstep when you can’t ask the employee if he’s been diagnosed with depression? It isn’t easy, but here are a few suggestions that might make your task ― and your employee’s ― a little easier.

Make your office holiday festivities truly optional
Lots of employers require attendance at holiday parties, while others claim they’re optional but really expect their employees to be there. Also, many workplaces have other holiday activities that everyone’s expected to join in, such as adopting a family for Christmas or coming together to decorate an office Christmas tree. Don’t get me wrong, all of those things are great . . . but do yourself and your employees a favor by making sure everyone knows that the events really are optional and that no action ― formal or informal ― will be taken if they don’t attend.

For employees with depression, whether permanent or situational, gearing up for festivities can be very difficult. When everyone around them is bubbly and joyous, they may feel isolated and have increasing feelings of sadness. And while they may be able to pull off the appearance of feeling fine, they might not be able to stay “up” for a five-hour shindig. If you have an employee dealing with clinical depression, excusing him from the annual holiday festivities would certainly qualify as a reasonable accommodation ― so make it, without being asked. Your employees probably all want to join the party, but some of them simply can’t.

Don’t try to spread the holiday spirit

Lots of people respond to people who are sad and withdrawn ― especially around the holidays ― by trying to cheer them up and getting them to share in the happiness. But when people are depressed, your efforts aren’t going to work. And if you’re the employer, chances are they’ll feel pressured to buck up and join in because their boss wants them to. Instead, give them some space, and let them decide what they’re capable of when it comes to holiday festivities.

You’re not a doctor, so don’t try to play one in the office
Thanks to the Internet, the world is at our fingertips. As a result, lots of us feel like we know a little something about many, many things. Maybe we do. But no amount of self- diagnosing on WebMD makes you qualified to tell your employees that they’ve got depression . . . or that they don’t.

If your employee has a medical condition that he wants you to know about, he’ll tell you. Don’t try to diagnose one for him. Whether you’re right or wrong, he’ll likely resent your “diagnosis.” What’s more, it can land you in legal trouble. Even if the employee isn’t depressed or disabled under state or federal law, he may now be able to claim that you regarded him as disabled ― a protected class under antidiscrimination laws. React to his behavior if it’s appropriate, but don’t try to categorize it as a medical condition.

Don’t worry, be happy?
Whatever you do, don’t tell a depressed employee to act happy. Really, this stuff actually happens! I’m aware of employees suffering from depression who’ve been instructed to act happy in the workplace because their apparent unhappiness was affecting others. If you have an employee who is suffering from clinical depression, you’ve essentially just told him that he needs to hide his disability at work.

You don’t have to have a workplace full of people moping around. And generally, it’s OK to have your employees check their personal issues at the door when they come to work. But unless your employee is Julie the Cruise Director, chances are that “maintaining employee morale” isn’t an essential function of the job. If she’s in a service industry in a position that involves working with the public, you might be able to claim that an outgoing and upbeat personality is a qualification for the position. But generally, acting happy isn’t an essential job function, and you can’t require a depressed person to be happy without running afoul of antidiscrimination laws.

Bottom line
It’s difficult for anyone without medical training to tell the difference between seasonal blues and clinical depression. One requires accommodation under state and possibly federal law, and the other doesn’t. But since you probably won’t know the difference, it’s safest to avoid taking any steps that might be considered a refusal to accommodate while you’re learning about the situation. You don’t want to find yourself facing a discrimination charge that could have been avoided relatively simply. So consider accommodating your employees with the gift of a pressure-free holiday season (at least on the social front). If it helps avoid a possible claim, it’ll turn out to be a gift for you, too!

This article first appeared on HRHero.com on November 22, 2012.  For more information, contact Prestige or check out the following articles:

 

A Guide To Managing Employees With Holiday Depression And Stress
http://www.thegrindstone.com/2011/11/30/work-life-balance/a-guide-to-managing-employees-with-holiday-depression-and-stress-571/

How to not let holiday blues color your job
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22201569/ns/business-careers/t/how-not-let-holiday-blues-color-your-job/#.ULOB1aW1Out

In the bleak midwinter: When holiday blues linger, talking about it can help
http://herald-review.com/lifestyles/health-med-fit/70aad8ee-30dc-11e1-8c95-001871e3ce6c.html

How to fight off the post-holiday blues
http://www.ceridian.com/corporate_health_article/1,6266,15759-76521,00.html

Coping with the Holiday Blues
http://www.valueoptions.com/clients/Initiatives/suicide_prev/html%20pages/images/PDFs/Coping_With_the_Holiday_Blues.pdf

Beating the Holiday Blues
http://www.justice.gov/dea/careers/eap/library/holiday_blues.pdf

It’s that time of year again.  Good food, good music, Secret Santa, and the potential for employee misbehavior, especially if alcohol is served.  Which means it’s also time for the Prestige annual tradition of offering some helpful strategies you may want to employ if you plan to serve alcohol at this year’s party:

* Timing is everything.  Choose to have alcohol available either pre-dinner or during dinner only.  If you decide to have the bar open during the entire party, make sure it closes at least one hour before the party ends.

* There’s more to the party than just drinking.  Promote the other aspects of the party, such as the menu and entertainment.  Give employees something else they can look forward to, such as the food and dancing, rather than the liquor selection.

* Choose the menu wisely.  Serve only beer and wine, not hard liquor, and limit the amount of salty, greasy, or sweet foods because they tend to increase thirst.

* Invite families, clients and/or vendors.  The presence of employees’ family members or other work-related colleagues should encourage employees to be on their best behavior.

Even with these precautions in place, there is still the chance that employees may get out of hand with their behavior or be too impaired to drive.  Here’s how to prevent those situations from happening:

* Designate managers to monitor employees’ behavior.  They should look out for: how much employees drink and whether they have a safe ride home; employee interactions, especially those who become “too friendly” with each other or if tempers rise; any other employee activities that may be dangerous to themselves and others.

* Cover all transportation bases.  Ask employees to designate a driver ahead of time or carpool with each other, or arrange for a taxi or car service for employees.  Just be mindful not to make employees feel like that is a requirement.

Prepare for the possibility of pre-partying. It’s safe to assume that some employees will start the party on their own before they arrive to the actual party, so to minimize that possibility:

* Let employees know that those who arrive drunk will not be admitted to the party.  Pre-designate a driver (e.g., an employee-volunteer or a taxi) to take the intoxicated employee home.

* Arrange for free transportation from your company’s site to the party site and back, so employees don’t have an opportunity to hit happy hour beforehand.

* Remind employees about your company’s Code of Conduct, which will be enforced at the party, by circulating e-mails and memos a few days before the party.  This is much more effective than trying to explain it to an employee who is already drunk.

Prestige wishes all of you a happy and safe holiday season!

This article by Steve Bruce first appeared on hrdailyadvisor.blr.com on October 08, 2012, with flex/telecommuting tips offered by Consultant Dayna Fellows, founder and president of WorkLife Performance, Inc.

Flexible scheduling and telework invariably raise the question in managers’ minds, How do I know they’re working?  Fellows says, If they’re getting the job done, maybe you shouldn’t care about the laundry. 

One of the advantages to telecommuting that many organizations find is that it forces managers to manage by results rather than by hours in the office.

Flex Program Evolution

Flex started in early 80s as a nice-to-have reaction to the influx of women in the workplace, and the requests of parents of both sexes who wanted to parent differently. But now it’s a business imperative.

Business Drivers

It’s important for managers to support flex as a work methodology, not a “little HR deal”.  Here Fellows lists the typical business drivers that favor flex.  Which will be important to your organization?

  • Enhances recruiting—applicants are looking for it
  • Gives employees a measure of flexibility and control
  • Sends a message of respect, trust, accountability
  • Addresses labor pool considerations (is attractive to women and millenials)
  • Gives global access to talent—employees don’t have to be in your city (or country)
  • Sends a message about your culture regarding work/life balance
  • Increases morale–for example, people can use a compressed day off for children’s orthodontia or the dentist—they don’t have to take work time
  • Similarly, offers greater productivity with fewer distractions
  • Increases loyalty
  • Offers critical flexibility to retirees
  • Increases internal referrals
  • SimplifiesADAaccommodation, hiring of Wounded Warriors
  • Reduces absenteeism
  • Improves traffic congestion/air quality–contributes to “green” and sustainability goals (and good community citizenship)
  • Reduces “Presenteeism,” that is, employees who come in sick. (They don’t get much done, and they share their germs)
  • Reduces real estate expenses, parking, transportation subsidies (These are hard-dollar metrics)
  • Provides for business continuity in the event of harsh weather, hurricanes, etc. People are already set to work from alternate sites.
  • Provides incentive in light of congestion, commuting costs
  • Mitigates relocation costs

The 6 Challenges Managers Raise

The biggest challenge for flextime and telecommuting in particular is manager resistance. The reality is that managers are still accountable for what people do and they want answers.

  • “How will I know they’re working?” Offer training around performance management and measurement, says Fellows. Move toward a results-oriented approach.
  • “I need quality office coverage at all times.” Put in the policy that “business comes first.” This may limit flex options, but the manager has right to say, I need you in the office tomorrow.”
  • “If I let one person do it, everyone will want to.” Make it clear that not everyone is eligible. The manager is in control.
  • “I’ll never be able to find anyone.” That is unacceptable, so off-site workers have to be available. You may need multiple ways to reach people.
  • “We’ll lose all our sense of being a team.” Limited the number of days people can be offsite. Establish one day that everyone’s in. Be forthright to all offsite workers—“I will expect great collaboration.” And to a seasoned employee you might say, “I expect that you will still be a mentor every day, wherever you are.”
  • “How do I keep them from doing laundry in the middle of the day?” You can’t, says Fellows. But if they are always doing what they need to do, and are always available when you need them, why worry?

 For more informatioabout this, or any other HR-related matters, contact Prestige.

 

Watching news coverage of Hurricane Sandy, many people want to know what they can do to help. No matter where you are, you can help those who were in Hurricane Sandy’s path. Relief groups are already on the ground assessing the situation and offering assistance. The best way to help from a distance is to lend your support to experienced, reputable relief groups that are already assisting in the recovery effort. Below are some nationally recognized organizations that are working in the areas impacted by Sandy. You may also want to consider lending your assistance to smaller, local organizations doing similar work.

 

Donating Money to Relief Organizations

 

As always, be sure that the relief organization you choose is a reputable one that uses your donation responsibly. A good online resource to use for this purpose is Charity Navigator (http://www.charitynavigator.org), a nonprofit organization that has been independently reviewing charities on the basis of their financial records for the past 10 years.

 

Helping With Shelter, Food, and Emergency Supplies

 

The American Red Cross is providing emergency shelter and meals for evacuees. It is accepting donations on its Web site at http://www.redcross.org/. You can also donate $10 to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief, which helps people affected by disasters such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and tornadoes, by texting REDCROSS to 90999

AmeriCares (http://www.americares.org/), Direct Relief International (http://www.directrelief.org/), and Feeding America (http://feedingamerica.org/) are providing food, medical supplies, and emergency kits for people in need. All are accepting donations on their Web sites as well as posting updates about what they are doing to help those in Hurricane Sandy’s path.

 

 

 

Helping Children

 

Save the Children (http://www.savethechildren.org) is a nonprofit organization that focuses on improving the lives of children in the U.S. and around the world. Its mission has taken on a local focus as it is headquartered in Connecticut and is close to the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Visit Save the Children’s Web site to learn how it is helping children affected by the storm and how you can help them.

 

Helping Animals

 

As always, the Humane Society of the United States (http://www.humanesociety.org/) is on the ground and is working to rescue animals caught in the storm and reunite them with their owners. The organization is asking for donations. Also, it is posting daily updates, advisories, and suggestions for how people can help on its Twitter feed at http://www.twitter.com/humanesociety. Headquartered in New York City, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is in the thick of rescue efforts for animals in the city affected by Hurricane Sandy. The ASPCA is asking for donations on its Web site (http://www.aspca.org/) and posting advisories, information about resources, and updates on its rescue activities on its Twitter feed at https://twitter.com/ASPCA/.

 

Donating Blood

 

The American Red Cross had to cancel more than 100 blood drives because of the storm, and supplies are always running low. You can schedule an appointment or search by zip code for blood drives near you at http://www.redcrossblood.org/.

 

Helping to Clean Up

 

There are many groups organizing volunteer cleanup crews throughout the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy. You may want to check for opportunities with your local government, volunteer, community, and religious organizations.

 

 

 

This is intended for general information only. It does not provide the reader with specific direction, advice, or recommendations. You may wish to contact an appropriate professional for questions concerning your particular situation.

 

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) regulations, even a clearly communicated policy prohibiting unauthorized overtime does not relieve an employer from its legal obligation to pay employees for all hours worked. Therefore, if the employer allows the employee to perform the work, the employer is liable for compensating the employee. However, the FLSA does not prohibit employers from implementing a policy or enforcing an existing policy that prohibits unauthorized work, and it does not prohibit employers from disciplining employees for violating the policy.

For compliance assistance with FLSA regulations or any other Federal, State and Local laws, contact Prestige.