Policies and Practices

Finally! New Overtime Rules

When new overtime rules were announced in 2016, a court injunction put them on hold. Since then new rules have been proposed and undergone public comment and are now final.

First the good news, the new level is $684 weekly which equals $35, 568 annually.

Why this number? It is set to the 20 percentile for full time salaried workers in the lowest wage Census region (the South). Given the current pay rates and very low unemployment in Northern Virginia, you are likely to be paying significantly more for workers.

What Should You Do Now?

The first step is to educate yourself. The US Department of Labor has a wide range of resources explaining the new rules and what has and has not changed. You can find the new rule at New overtime rules

Their Small Entity Guide Compliance Guide (PDF)

A Fact Sheet on How Positions become Exempt from overtime rules
Exemption Rewuirements

Remember, salary alone is not enough to make a position exempt from overtime rules, the work duties of the position must be analyzed.

You may also want to research local wages, employment statistics, and other labor force information at Labor Market Data

 

Second, assess exactly what the impact is in your organization.

Who is newly eligible to be exempt from overtime pay?  Who is borderline to the new rate?
What are your options for each affected person?
How many hours does each person currently work over 40 on average?  What are the reasons for overtime work?
What are the costs associated with the possible changes you are considering?
What does your culture imply you should do? What other impacts on your culture will this change lead to?

Once you have a plan in place, you need to begin communicating with your employees. […]

By |October 8th, 2019|Compensation, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on Finally! New Overtime Rules

What You Need to Know on Federal HR Laws

Many entrepreneurs and founders fear legal risks from human resources/labor laws. Common sense goes a long way in mitigating risks.  However, you do need to understand the basics. Here is a discussion of the most important federal laws for you to plan for and comply with.  Resources to understand these, as well as required posters, are listed at the end.

Laws that Apply with your First Employee

1. Wages and Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that establishes minimum wage and overtime requirements among other aspects. This law is probably the most difficult for many small employers as even employment lawyers, human resource professionals, and other advisors argue over some of its definitions. Written during the Depression, it governs what jobs must be paid overtime (often called non-exempt) and which may be exempt from those rules.

FLSA guide – Job Status and Exemptions

Small employers tend to try to make as many jobs as possible exempt in hopes of reducing overtime costs and that can get you in trouble.

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, a majority of states have higher rates as do some cities and counties. There are also special rules for jobs such as some tipped workers.

State and local wage and hour laws also govern requirements for paid or unpaid breaks, child labor, and tipped workers.

2. Immigration laws

Immigration laws, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), are designed in part to ensure that employers only hire candidates who are eligible to work in the U.S.

Employers must verify candidate eligibility through documentation ( I-9 forms) […]

By |January 8th, 2019|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on What You Need to Know on Federal HR Laws

Avoid These Hiring Errors

Recently I wrote a post for ClearedJobs.net on the myths and mistakes too many employers make. These errors are not confined to those in the cleared world, many organizations of all sizes and focus make most of them.

From erroneous ideas to problems identified in recent studies, take a look at this article and check out your organization’s practices. A tight labor market is tough enough without adding unforced errors to your hiring process.

Hiring Myths and Mistakes

By |January 1st, 2019|hiring, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on Avoid These Hiring Errors

It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

From Ailes to Weinstein, across the military, and in far too many organizations, sexual harassment is a significant problem. And no, your small business is not exempt!

Such harassment is sadly, maddeningly common. You have seen the recent news, the social media storm over #MeToo. So first some basic facts:

Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power.
Whether it is verbal or physical, it is abuse and a form of violence.
Women are the most common targets, but men are also sexually harassed.

Such harassment represents a real threat to your organization now and in the future. It directly impacts productivity and morale. It erodes trust. It increases turnover. And it can result in both legal and reputation risks.

What Do You Do?

The first step is to create a workplace culture that encourages trust and respect.

This will support many good things beyond dealing with harassment issues. And it does make identifying and dealing with harassment easier. You need policies, practices, and leadership to create trust and respect within the work place. A good basic policy of how you expect everyone to respect and work with each other, your clients or customers, vendors, and others you work with is a good start. Be clear about your intent. State how the policy works in everyday activities.

The harder step is to live up to what you expect others to do. Plus you must communicate your policy and intent regularly. And you must take action when anyone, in any role, does not fulfill the policy and your expectations.

Second, you must be very clear that you will not tolerate any harassment or discriminatory behavior.

When you reach 15 employees, you have legal requirements related to equal opportunity which […]

By |October 29th, 2017|Communications, culture, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

SPRING PREPARATION #1

Have you updated the I-9 form you need to use to ensure all employees are eligible to work in the USA? If not, the new form became effective in January:    I-9 form

It is also smart to take a look at your federally required posters. While updated versions are available from several sources, you do not need to spend that money as you can just download these directly.

Not sure which posters you may need? Start with the ‘e-laws’ help section which asks about the number of employees you have and what sort of business you are in to help show the posters you may need. http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm

Here are the most commonly required posters for small organizations, check for others if you have more than 49 employees.

Equal Opportunity
https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/pdf/eeopost.pdf

Fair Labor Standards Act
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageP.pdf

Occupational Health and Safety
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165.pdf

Military Service Rights (USERRA)
https://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/USERRA_Federal.pdf

Polygraph (yes, really even if you do not have anything to do with such tests)
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppac.pdf

 

State Posters

VA
http://www.vec.virginia.gov/employers/Required-Posters-for-Virginia-Employers

MD
https://www.dllr.state.md.us/oeope/poster.shtml

DC
https://does.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/does/page_content/attachments/EMPLOYEE%20INFORMATION%20AND%20EMPLOYER%20POSTING%20REQUIREMENTS.pdf

 

You can put a copy of these posters onto a bulletin board or hang them on a clipboard.  Hang them where employees can see them,  use your kitchen or break room or other space open to all employees.   Keep it simple.

By |March 3rd, 2017|Communications, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SPRING PREPARATION #1

New Overtime Tips

The salary level test for the Fair Labor Standards Act is rising on December 1 to $913 per week ($47,476 annually.) The duties test and salary basis test are unchanged. This means you must take action by December 1 to review the impact on your organization and make any needed adjustments. Many small organizations do not understand or comply with the duties tests –  this can present significant legal and financial risks if an employee or ex-employee reports you to the state wages and hours agency or seeks out an employment attorney. You may have seen legal ads for failure to pay overtime cases on TV in fact.

I did a webinar for the Alexandria SBDC on the new overtime rules – both the webinar and the annotated slides are available free. The webinar or slides can guide your thinking and action planning so that you are ready.

The New Overtime Law Webinar

The annotated slides

Guidance from the US Department of Labor  –  https://www.dol.gov/WHD/overtime/final2016/

It is smart to get started now on assessing the impact of the new salary level on your organization, as well as reviewing your compliance with existing duties test rules.  This process includes assessing what makes the most sense in terms of your desired or existing culture and extensive communications.  Ideas for these areas are included in the webinar and slides.

By |August 8th, 2016|Compensation, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on New Overtime Tips

Lessons from Biltmore

Recently, on vacation, I visited the Biltmore Estate and saw a staff which was what any organization would want. Each person I came in contact with was positive, helpful, and focused on what they could do to make my visit enjoyable. It made the day a real pleasure.  I spent money I might not have and got experiences I really enjoyed.  I even tweeted about Biltmore and its great staff.

If you want this for your organization, you need to focus on setting the conditions for people to succeed in their work. No matter how small you are now, these aspects are critical:

Hiring the right people
Training each person in their current role and developing them for the future
Providing an environment that supports everyone there
Managing effectively and consistently

Too often these seem like climbing Mt. Everest – more effort and cost than you can sustain. But, in fact, investing in your people leads to higher financial returns and lower long-term costs. For years the management gurus have pointed to the difference in how Walmart and Costco pay and treat their employees. Costco spends more on pay, benefits, and training but has higher profits. Now Walmart has begun to raise pay and benefits to attract and retain better employees to enhance the company’s future growth and profitability.

Take a look at your organization and assess your current practices. What could you do to improve these and help grow your future success? Each small step forward can make a real difference.

Help is available in other articles on this website, the SBA has an extensive online training program, and your local SBDC can assist you. The real issue for most of us is to take the first […]

By |June 7th, 2016|culture, Policies and Practices, values|Comments Off on Lessons from Biltmore

March 2016 News You Can Use

Many of my clients have some form of ‘respectful workplace’ policy or practice to guide employees on discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace. Whether you have such a policy or not, you may want to decide what you want to do about guns in the workplace if you are a Virginia employer.

While Virginia allows both open and concealed carry and makes many restrictions on carrying guns limited, employers can prohibit guns in their workplace. You cannot prevent them generally from being locked in cars in parking areas though. As you consider a new policy or statement in your employee handbook, consider adding other potential weapons to it.

A sample statement:

Organization name X strictly prohibits the possession, use, and/ or sale of all types of weapons on work premises or while engaged in company business off premises except where expressly authorized by X and permitted by state and local laws. This policy applies to all employees, including those who have a valid permit to carry a firearm. Weapons include but are not limited to all types of guns, explosives, and knives or other edged weapons.

Further you may want to consider whether you need a plan, employee guidance, and training related to ‘active shooter’ issues. There are very good resources listed and linked on this Homeland Security page:
https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

Many local police departments will assist in assessing vulnerabilities and provide resources to support your planning and training.

NEW: Virginia Safety Poster Requirement

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has updated their job safety and health protection poster. This is now effective and you need this new poster. Additionally there are new accident reporting information. All fatalities, injuries, or illnesses that result in patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an […]

By |March 13th, 2016|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on March 2016 News You Can Use

SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security

Recently Elizabeth Chisman Moon of Focus Data Solutions and I did a seminar on this topic for the Alexandria SBDC. Here are some basic ideas on managing your risks of security breaches.

Start by developing policies or practices that address the most important security needs of your business. These might include:

use of company equipment and software,
use of personal devices for work,
social media,
basic security procedures (physical and systems),
what you consider ‘company confidential’ or sensitive information.

Defining what you consider sensitive information is critical. This ensures you know what information deserves extra care in handling and storing so you can protect it. The policy also tells your employees what information you expect them to keep restricted and ensure others do not see. Common types of sensitive or ‘company confidential’ information include:

all data relating to services, applications, procedures, and/or products sold by the organization, excluding marketing literature designed for external use
research and/or development materials
information about clients or customers, excluding that within sales or marketing literature produced for external use
contractual arrangements between the organization and its clients or suppliers or vendors
purchasing, pricing, sales, or financial data
personnel data on any employee or ex-employee
information provided by other organizations under confidentiality agreements.

Development of basic policies can be done using samples from your professional/trade organizations or your network. However – it is vital to ensure that each policy is designed to support your desired culture. Having such policies checked by your lawyer, appropriate consultants, or vendors is important to ensure you minimize your risks. The policies then provide a basis for orientation of new employees as well as training of all employees and regular reminders on need for each employee to protect the organizations’ assets.

Remember that policies that are difficult or complicated lead to […]

By |February 22nd, 2016|Business planning, hiring, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SmallBiz Nightmares: Employees and Security

Millennials and Our Future

I am not a big fan of business books. So many are one small idea blown into a book and poorly written too. But I recently read a book with some ideas useful to any small business or non-profit.

When Millennials Take Over by Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant

This is an optimistic look at the future of business. It is a short, easy read. Better yet, you may already being doing parts of what they suggest is the future of business – to be digital, clear, fluid, and fast. As you know if we have met, I am not a big fan of the hype surrounding the millennials. They are not so different or so bad but are much like past generations were in their 20-30s. What they do bring is a different view of many technologies and of data-gathering. The book recognizes the hype early but uses them to organize its premise of the changes hitting most organizations over the past five to ten years and how millennials expectations can offer some solutions.

Digital refers to ‘organizing and working in ways that leverage’ the possibilities of digital technology.
Clear refers to the ‘value of clarity’ inside organizations. And many small businesses do this just to stay in business and grow.
Fluid refers to how the ‘heirarchy shifts and morphs decision-making’ as needed to be most effective.
Speed refers not to incremental steps but to the mindset and practices that allow your to leap forward as needed.

The book helps you make sense of ways to reduce the administrivia that stops many people from contributing all which they can. It not only demonstrates the critical aspects of your organizational culture to your success but also shows how that impacts the […]

By |December 29th, 2015|Business planning, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on Millennials and Our Future