thinkstockphotos 498422290New Year, new rules!  Are your forms up to date?  Are you paying the correct minimum wage?  Are you familiar with the new OSHA reporting requirements?
 
On Nov. 14, USCIS released a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. Employers may continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 03/08/2013 N. through Jan. 21, 2017. By Jan. 22, 2017, employers must use the revised form. Visit I-9 Central for more information.
 
New OSHA Provisions call for employers to electronically submit injury and illness data that they already record. New reporting requirements and anti retaliation protections became effective Dec 1, 2016.  Learn more here:  https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/finalrule/
 
The state of Florida has just updated its minimum wage posting to reflect the new rate for 2017. Effective January 1, 2017, the new rate will be $8.10 per hour and $5.08 per hour for tipped employees, in addition to tips.  Not in Florida?  Check your state to see if your minimum wage changes for 2017! https://www.dol.gov/whd/minwage/america.htm
 
On December 13, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the 2017 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes. The charitable rate is set by law.  In 2017, the standard mileage rate is $0.53.5
 
Posters!! You’ll want to make sure you have the following posters hanging in a conspicuous place frequented by all employees. This can include a break room, near a time clock or somewhere all employees can reasonably see it.
 
Mandatory posting requirements can differ widely from state to state. The requirements are usually listed on state government websites. Mandatory federal posting requirements for covered employers are consistent. The following federally mandated posters and information should be clearly posted. A comprehensive list including these posters and others can be found on the DOL website.
  • OSHA poster
  • EEO is the Law
  • FLSA
  • Employee Right for Workers with Disabilities
  • Your Rights Under the FMLA
  • Your Rights under the Uniformed Services Employment & Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA)
 
Unsure if you are compliant?  Need help finding the forms, posters, or guidance?  Contact your HR advisor today!

Now HiringYour business is growing!  Yay!  But wait.....

The growth phase of a small business can be both exciting and scary. It’s exciting because your business is growing. This is awesome! Except that you’re so busy you have to turn down new work and clients. You’re not able to do it all by yourself or with the current team you have. Sure, you could take on more business if you had more help. It seems logical to grow your team so you can grow your business.

You know deep down you need help but you start second guessing if it’s really the right thing to do. You think to yourself…

  • How do I find the right person?
  • Do I even have time to look for someone and go through the hiring process?
  • Will it be easier if I just do it myself than have to hire and train someone?

Relax. Everyone goes through this when their business grows, so how do overcome the fear of hiring?

#1 Keep It Simple
Don’t overcomplicate the process. Put together a few check points in place of how you’re going to tackle taking on a new person and then just do it.

#2 Prepare a Job Description
Write a brief job description and make sure you’re working on it over a period of time so you have a clear understanding of what you want and need this new person to do. It doesn’t have to be a complex description. Bullet points are fine.

#3 Check References
Checking references is critical in making the final decision between candidates. Reference checks can reveal information that not only can help you determine your top choice but also can help you better understand how the new employee might transition in to the new role and your company

#4 Learn to Delegate
Develop your skills so you’re able to delegate. You need to be able to trust this new person so you don’t end up micro managing.

#5 Leverage the Probation Period
Many employers wait until the end of a probation period to assess if they’re ready to take someone on long term. The problem is, by that time it’s too late, use this time to your advantage by being proactive. Schedule regular “check ins” so you can gauge their progression. Again, keep it simple. Keep it short and sweet. Check that they know what they’re supposed to be doing and have an opportunity to ask questions. Create an environment where they’re comfortable asking questions and pay attention to the questions they ask.

By using the probation period to assess your new employee regularly, you’ll be able to tell if it’s going in the right direction for you and for them. Monitor changes in yourself during their probation period as well. Are you able to work better because they take more responsibilities off your hands? Are you still maintaining the same level of service? If the answer is yes, you know you’re in the right direction. It’s also helpful to set goals or targets for this person during their trial period. See how they’re able to adapt and reach these targets throughout their probation, instead of at the end when it’s too late.

Today the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) released new rules dramatically increasing the new minimum salary level for the executive, administrative, and professional employee exemptions (salaried employees) under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to $913 per week, or $47,476 per year.  This new salary threshold—which will become effective on December 1, 2016—more than doubles the current minimum salary level of $455 per week, or $23,660 per year, and will have a dramatic impact on employers.

The new salary requirements will apply to the salaried employees you have in executive, administrative, and professional exemptions. Employees who do not meet the new salary requirements (those who do not make at least $913 weekly) when the final regulations become effective will no longer qualify for one of these exemptions, which means they will have to be paid overtime compensation when they work more than 40 hours in a workweek.

Other major highlights from the final regulations include the following:

  • Increase to the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees from $100,000 to $134,004 per year.
  • Future automatic updates to the above thresholds will occur every three years, beginning January 1, 2020.
  • The salary basis test is amended to allow the use of nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.

The final regulations will become effective on Thursday, December 1, 2016.

How Can Organizations Prepare?

Determine Who Needs to Be Reclassified

Employees who are currently classified as overtime-exempt (salaried) may need to be reclassified as nonexempt under the new regulations, especially if they:

  • Earn less than $50,000 a year
  • Hold the same position occupied by many other employees in the company; or
  • Work in jobs as accountants, assistant managers, sales and sales support workers, help desk employees, customer service representatives, technicians and business analysts.

Develop a New Compensation Plan for Reclassified Employees

Employers should compare the cost of giving raises to employees who are currently exempt but make less than $50,000 per year against the cost of reclassifying those employees as nonexempt and paying them overtime, given the number of hours those employees are currently working. Another option is a cost-neutral solution under which hourly pay is set at a rate will result in the same weekly compensation as the formerly exempt employee’s salary. This only works if an employer can accurately estimate how many hours per week a reclassified employee will work.

Review Wage and Hour Policies and Processes

If exempt employees are reclassified as nonexempt, it is crucial to implement timekeeping processes. The time worked by nonexempt employees must be accurately tracked and documented. Employers should also adopt policies on unauthorized overtime work, meal and rest breaks, travel time and mobile device usage.

Communicate!

Employers should develop a strategy for communicating any changes in classifications, policies or procedures to employees. Identify who will deliver the news, when the news will be delivered, and the format in which the news will be delivered.

Train the Reclassified Employees and Their Managers

You might have employees who have been exempt forever, and all of a sudden you have to start tracking their time, or managers who never managed hourly employees.  Supervisors and managers need to know what constitutes "working time", and employees need to know what the company’s policy is regarding overtime.

Fact sheets and other materials to help employers and workers understand how the rule will affect them and the broader economy are available dol.gov/overtime.

AttendanceEmployee absences can cost employers up to one-third of their payroll costs, according to some estimates. Ensuring that your employees stay at work, or return to work quickly and easily after a simple illness, therefore directly affects your company’s bottom line. Here are five quick tips for managing absenteeism at work:

  1. Be sure attendance expectations are clearly set. Some absences and tardiness can be attributed to simple misunderstandings about the time work should begin. The solution may be as simple as creating a clear attendance policy if one does not already exist. Setting expectations also requires clear communications about the policy and the repercussions of absences.
  2. Enforce the attendance policy consistently. This is more difficult than it sounds. It can be tempting to allow more absences than the attendance policy outlines when employees are facing difficult situations. While an employer is, of course, free to do so, it’s better to have a policy that has flexibility built into it so that it can be implemented consistently and not incite claims of favoritism or discrimination when it’s applied differently for different individuals.
  3. Ensure all employees know what to do when they need to be late or miss a day. Workers should know when and who to call and what information needs to be provided. They should also understand what documentation, if any, they will be required to provide to the employer upon return (e.g., a doctor’s note).
  4. Consider rewarding good attendance. Be sure not to penalize those who have taken protected leave, but consider implementing rewards that encourage good attendance practices, as these can be good motivators. This can even be as simple as providing positive feedback and encouragement to employees with good attendance.
  5. Consider changing schedules when appropriate to accommodate differing employee needs. Sometimes a small schedule change can eliminate problems.

Employee-TerminationOn the surface, terminating an employee for poor performance seems simple. It’s nothing personal. The employee just isn’t getting it done and would be better off in another job. But even when a termination is 100% justifiable, managers must be extremely careful how they conduct themselves. Terminations, no matter how clear cut, can have legal ramifications.

Most businesses are protected to a certain extent by at-will laws, which allow the firing of employees for no reason. However, at-will employment does not keep an employee from filing a lawsuit for wrongful termination and, even if the courts rule in your favor, your business will be required to pay court costs. It’s best to take a few measures to protect yourself before firing an employee to avoid a costly legal process.

Here are 5 Tips to Termination:

  1. Document, document, document! Detailed, consistent documentation can defeat many claims of defamation, discrimination and wrongful discharge. Great documentation shows a pattern of clear expectations on your part, and repeated failures on the employee’s part.
  2. Make your Employee Handbook work for you and not against you. Make sure your employee handbook and policies are clear and concise.  If you just downloaded one from the Internet, chances are it needs updating.  Review the handbook annually, and get a new acknowledgement from employees every year.
  3. Make sure your termination process is fair and standardized. It should be delivered consistently no matter who the employee, in fair, non-emotional way.  Don’t embellish the reasons for termination, you don’t want a defamation case on your hands!
  4. Conduct a proper termination meeting. Unless the employee is volatile, do not terminate them via email, phone, or text.  If possible conduct a proper termination meeting.  Have witnesses, be brief and concise, and document!
  5. Involve HR! If an employee is in a protected class, has a known medical condition or disability, has taken job protected medical leave, or if there is suspicion of any other legal issue (e.g. harassment, retaliation), be sure to consult with HR or an employment attorney before terminating.