Subject: HR Advisor Jan 2012


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The staff at EMEX Benefits.  www.emexbenefits.com    dwiest@emexbenefits.com  
881 Meander Court, Medina,  MN 55340
Phone: 763-478-9050, Toll Free 877-478-EMEX (3639)

 

 

 

Employer Incentives to Hire Employees in 2012

As businesses position themselves towards forgoing new success in the New Year, part of the planning often involves addressing the company’s workforce needs. Specifically, we’ll take a look at some incentives which may encourage employers to hire new employees in 2012.

On January 15th, be sure to visit the HR Support Center and listen to this month’s HRCast to learn more about this topic.

 

 

Establish Certified Physician’s Verification Expectations

For employee disability leaves, developing a policy that describes when a certified physician’s verification may be required. Some employers are lenient when they take an employee’s word for certain absences, and some employers require proof (as may be specified with the federal Family Medical Leave Act). As a best practice request a physician’s verification to ensure consistency, integrity, and documentation is upheld.

 

 

99,947

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) annual Performance & Accountability Report for its fiscal 2011 year, the EEOC received 99,947 new charges of discrimination. This number represents the most new charges filed in any year in the agency’s nearly 50-year history.

 

 

"Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential."

- John Maxwell

 

 

January 1:
New Year’s Day

January 16:
Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday

January 23:
Lunar New Year

 

 

EMEX Benefits
881 Meander Court
Medina, Mn 55340

Phone: 763-478-9050 Fax: 763-478-9014

Visit us online

 

 

January 2012

Welcome

The start of a new year is the perfect opportunity to update your HR Support Center account profiles, sign up for E-Alerts, and ensure your labor law posters are current!

HR Alerts

IRS Mileage Rate. Beginning on January 1, 2012, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be 55.5 cents per mile for business miles, 23 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes miles, and 14 cents per mile for service of charitable organization miles.

HHS Final Rule on Medical Loss Ratio Requirements. Regarding the Affordable Care Act's Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) requirements, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a final rule that is effective January 3, 2012. The new health care law mandates that health insurance companies in the small group markets spend at least 80% of premium dollars on medical care and health care quality improvement. In addition, employer-sponsored group health plans receiving rebates must ensure that the enrollee portion of the rebate is properly distributed for the benefit of enrollees.

Mobile Phone Use Restriction. Effective January 3, 2012, a new Department of Transportation (DOT) regulation restricts commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers from holding, reaching for, or pressing more than one button to operate mobile phone devices while operating their vehicles. CMV drivers may still use devices as long as usage is in compliance with the new rule (i.e. devices must be mounted or securely within reach of the driver’s control panel).

Required NLRA Labor Law Posting. As a reminder, do not forget that the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has issued a Final Rule that requires employers to notify employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Private-sector employers, including labor organizations, are required to post the NLRA employee rights notice where other workplace notices are typically posted. Based on a recent NLRB announcement, this notice must be posted no later than April 30, 2012; the previous date was January 31, 2012.

Form W-2. Employers must complete Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to report wages, tips and other compensation paid to an employee. A copy of this form must be given to the employee by January 31st.

DOL Enforcement Database Targets Company Profiles

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has developed an online resource called Enforcement Data 2.0. The online database represents a significant new employer threat as it provides public access to workplace-related information about certain companies. By leveraging database information (i.e. wage and hour, workplace injuries, etc.), the DOL and other enforcement agencies can more easily target specific businesses or industries.

Employers face several implications about this online tool. Multiple agencies can more quickly report employers deemed as non-complaint with its workplace obligations and make the same employers more easily discoverable. For example, if the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division enters information about an employer’s non-compliant minimum wage practices, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) could potentially use the information as a basis to explore unlawful discrimination issues in terms of the company’s equal pay treatment among its employees. In essence, the company’s exposure of designated non-compliance in one area increases the likelihood of inquiry or investigation into other areas of an employer’s policies, procedures, and practices.

For the time being, this online resource remains still fairly new and has not caught much media attention yet. However, with a new year already starting, the DOL and other agencies are clearly continuing to ramp up their compliance enforcement efforts against employers. In fact, the DOL has communicated that it will develop more features to its Enforcement Data 2.0 and will also rigorously educate the public about employee workplace rights and employers who demonstrate failure of employment law compliance.

Question & Answer

Controlling Information for Employee Verifications 

Q. If a company requests a verification of employment about a former employee, may I discuss any negative issues which our company experienced with the individual in question?

A. To minimize your exposure to defamation, retaliation, or other civil claims, we recommend only providing information that is objective in nature, such as dates of employment, job title, job description, and salary information. Some employers opt to state whether or not the former employee is eligible for rehire. Such information is generally considered objective in nature. In addition, you may reasonably divulge certain critical information such as clearly documented security and public safety concerns. Still you should share with caution and, of course, document accordingly.

Employee Political Activity and the Workplace

With 2012 as the new presidential election year, employers could likely observe a surge in political activities among their employees. Political conversations around the water cooler can easily erupt into personal confrontations with water coolers being thrown around. Thus, employers need to be especially aware of federal and state laws regarding the ability to limit employee participation in political activities.

Addressing employment treatment with regards to political activities, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) provides employees with the right to engage in concerted activity. Whether or not the NLRA protects employee political activity depends partially on any identified employment concern the employee’s are supporting. For example, a political activity that directly supports a particular political issue, candidate, or party and a specific employment-related concern (i.e. Health Care Reform) may be considered protected. In general, while non-disruptive activities taking place during an employee’s own time and away from the workplace are considered protected, some activities (i.e. those conducted on workplace premises) may be subject to company policy restrictions.

Some guidelines employers may consider include:

  • Political activities tied to specific employment-related matters are considered protected (i.e. “Vote for Candidate X, supporter of health care reform in the workplace.”).
  • Completely political activities or support (i.e. campaign T-shirts supporting a specific candidate) is not considered protected and may be prohibited by company workplace policies.
  • Campaign materials identifying a union’s name or logo generally cannot be prohibited. However, an employer may demonstrate reasonable exceptions (i.e. employee safety in terms of qualified personal protective equipment).

Thus, ensure that your company’s employee handbook policies comply with federal and state laws involving employee political activities (i.e. voting leave). Considering the wide range of interpretations on whether or not certain activities may be protected under the NLRA, look closely at the details of each situation before deciding to apply any disciplinary action against an employee.

Tool of the Month: 

2012 Minimum Wage Rates Guide

New minimum wage rates will affect certain states in 2012. It is vital for managers to stay in compliance with state and federal minimum wage laws. If the state minimum wage rate is different than the federal minimum wage rate, then the employer should apply the higher rate to its employees.

The 2012 Minimum Wage Guide helps you:

  • Get an overview of the federal and state minimum wage rates,
  • Determine which rates to provide employees in a particular state,
  • Confirm whether current minimum wage law posters are in place, and
  • Provides a historical perspective of minimum wage rates in past recent years.

To access the 2012 Minimum Wage Rates Guide, visit the HR Support Center, under the Essentials tab section, in the Guides area.

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