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* Jeffry D. Proul, Registered Representative of LifeMark Securities Corp., 400 West Metro Financial Center, Rochester, NY 14623 (585) 424-5672 Member NASD/SIPC Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc. is not affiliated with LifeMark Securities Corp. CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: Communications are Confidential Information of LifeMark Securities Corp. and may also be privileged.

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Guide to Running Background Checks

By |September 18th, 2019|

Question:
We don’t typically do background checks, but we’re hiring a driver who will be operating a company vehicle. We want to do a background check for this position, but since we’ve never done one for anyone else, we’re worried it would look discriminatory.

Answer from Kate, SHRM-CP:

You may conduct a background check for this job even though you haven’t done one for others. You can elect to run a background check on only certain positions based on the nature of a position, but you’ll want to be consistent for all individuals in a specific position. if you only ran a check on this candidate, that could certainly appear discriminatory. Additionally, as a best practice, we recommend that background checks be done after a conditional offer of employment has been made.

In this case, it would be logical to look for and consider DUIs, traffic tickets, and any convictions related to the work the candidate would do for you. We would recommend, however, against making a hiring decision based on convictions or other information that are not relevant to the job. If you receive results that you believe would preclude an employee from working for your company, it’s very important to allow the employee to dispute the negative information before you make any decisions.

If you decide to do a background check, there are state and federal laws governing when and how they should be done, which you can learn more about on the Laws pages in the HR Support Center.

Kate has several years of experience working in customer service and quickly moved into HR. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Kate loves to explore the country with her husband and friends.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

California Law Alert | Harassment Training

By |September 6th, 2019|

California Law Alert
September 5th, 2019

California Harassment Training Deadline Extended

California has passed an emergency bill to extend the deadline for the first round of sexual harassment training by one year. Previously, employers with five or more employees were required to provide interactive sexual harassment prevention training to all employees in California by January 1, 2020; the deadline is now January 1, 2021.

The substantive requirements remain the same. Employers must provide:

  • At least two hours of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all supervisory employees
  • At least one hour of classroom or other effective interactive training and education regarding sexual harassment to all non-supervisory employees
  • “Refresher training” every two years thereafter
  • The applicable training within six months of hire for new employees or within six months of entering a supervisory position
    Employers who provide training that complies with the law in 2019 do not need to do so again until two years have passed from the date of training. For instance, if you trained all employees on July 14, 2019 (good work!), you would have until July 14, 2021, to retrain those same employees. However, if you hire new employees or promote any existing employees to supervisory positions, they need to receive the applicable training by January 1, 2021.

A Catch: Seasonal and Temporary Employees
The training timeline was not changed for seasonal and temporary employees. Beginning January 1, 2020, employers must provide training for seasonal and temporary employees, as well as any employee who is hired to work for less than six months, within 30 calendar days of hire or within their first 100 hours worked, whichever comes first. Temporary services employers are responsible for training their employees.

Why is there a different timeline for seasonal and temporary employees? Think of it this way: California wants everyone who holds a job in 2020 to be trained by Jan 1, 2021. To achieve that, the state needs to maintain the previous training timeline for seasonal and temporary employees; otherwise, someone who works only in the summer, or between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, may not receive training by the deadline.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Pay Employees When Your Company Closes Due To Inclement Weather

By |September 4th, 2019|

Question:
If our company closes due to inclement weather, are we required to pay employees? Can we require PTO use?

Answer from Kelley, PHR:

The answer depends on whether the employees are exempt or non-exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Exempt employees must still be paid when you close due to inclement weather. Non-exempt employees, however, only need to be paid for actual hours worked, plus any reporting time pay that may be required by state law. If nonexempt employees are contacted by the employer prior to reporting to work, no pay is due for the day.

That said, you should also be consistent with your own policy and practice. If you have been paying all employees—regardless of their employment classification—for hours they would have worked had you not closed for bad weather, then you should continue to do so. If you would like to end that practice, we recommend creating a clear written policy and distributing it to all employees prior to implementation.

Many employees like the option of using accrued paid time off or vacation when there is an unexpected closure. This is something you can allow, but if your office has closed for weather in the past and you have not required employees to use paid time off or vacation, it would be risky to take up that practice now without giving them a heads up. When it comes to accrued paid time off or vacation, it is safest to give employees advance notice if there are situations where you will use their accrued hours whether they like it or not. Whether you allow or require the use of accrued hours in these circumstances, it’s best to describe your practice in a written policy and ensure employees have a clear understanding of what to expect.

Kelley has 5 years of HR experience in Payroll and Benefits Administration and Employee Relations in small businesses. She graduated from Columbia Southern University with a Bachelor of Science in Human Resources. In her free time, Kelley enjoys spending time outdoors in the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains with her daughter and running races.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Requiring Employees To Keep Tattoos Covered

By |August 28th, 2019|

Question:
We’re thinking of requiring employees to keep tattoos covered. Is this something we can do? What considerations should we make?

MeganAnswer from Megan, PHR, JD:

Yes, you may prohibit visible tattoos entirely or you may simply prohibit those that are offensive, distracting, inappropriate, or over a certain size.

Tattoo policies usually depend on the culture of the workplace and are often found within a broader dress code policy. Some employers avoid restrictive dress codes because they may deter impressive job candidates from applying or drive away high-performing employees. Employers who want to maintain a certain company image, however, might prefer a strict dress code. Striking a middle path is also an option—something like “Tattoos must be appropriate and in keeping with a professional image.”

When creating your policy, make sure it doesn’t discriminate based on a protected class. This would include, for example, making religious accommodations. You should also be sure to communicate your reasons to employees and apply the policy consistently (while allowing for required exceptions).

Megan graduated from the University of Maryland, magna cum laude, and from Lewis and Clark Law School, cum laude. She has extensive work experience in a variety of industries, which she draws on to help clients with their HR questions.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Smoking Employees Smell Strongly of Smoke, Employee Oder

By |August 21st, 2019|

Question:
Do we have to give employees who smoke additional smoke breaks or allow them to return to work smelling strongly of smoke? We’ve received complaints from both other employees and customers.

Emily, PHRAnswer from Emily, PHR:

No, you’re not required to provide additional breaks to employees who smoke, and you also don’t have to tolerate them smelling like smoke. These employees can be expected to adhere to the same policies as any other employee. To that end, if you allow for a certain number of breaks of a certain length, employees who smoke aren’t entitled to anything extra. And if you have a policy that addresses smells, you can refer to that when addressing the odor of cigarettes.

If you don’t have specific policies addressing breaks and smells, there’s no time like the present to implement them. Break policies are fairly straightforward, but employers sometimes struggle with delicate issues like hygiene. We recommend saying something like, “The excessive use of perfume or cologne is unacceptable, as are odors that are disruptive or offensive to others or may exacerbate allergies.” This language can be added wherever you think is most appropriate; we fold it into the Personal Appearance and Hygiene policy.

Emily’s robust experience overseeing HR in the non-profit, healthcare, and hospitality industries brings valuable knowledge to clients. She graduated college with degrees in Music and Entrepreneurial Business, and her passion for helping and working alongside people led her to the field of HR. In her free time, Emily enjoys traveling and home brewing.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

One of Our Employees Harassed Another

By |August 14th, 2019|

Question:
We suspect that one of our employees harassed another, but we only have their conflicting stories to go on—no witnesses, video, or emails. The accuser’s account of the incident seems much more credible than that of the accused. Can we discipline with only this information?

Answer from Monica, SPHR, SHRM-CP:

Probably. It would be a good idea to consider whether your investigation was thorough. If it was, and all you have to go on is the testimony of the accuser and the accused, then you should take their credibility into consideration and make a determination based on their respective accounts.

Here are some factors to consider when determining credibility:
• Each employee’s reputation for truthfulness and accuracy
• If the story each employee presents is plausible
• Whether one of the employees has a motive to be untruthful
• Whether one employee’s statements regarding the incident are more detailed and consistent

While disciplining an accused employee who did nothing wrong would be unfortunate, it wouldn’t be illegal. As in all cases of alleged harassment, it’s best to have documentation of the allegations, the steps of your investigation, your conclusions, and any disciplinary actions you took.

Monica has held roles as an HR Generalist and Payroll and Benefits manager at a large ski resort, providing HR guidance to more than 500 employees. She also has HR experience in the healthcare field and the non-profit world. Monica holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Linfield College.

Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Best Tips, Trends And HR Practices

By |August 1st, 2019|

Seven SHRM 2019 Takeaways for Small and Midsized Businesses

Nearly 20,000 HR professionals attended this year’s annual SHRM conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. If that sounds like a packed convention center, it was!

The theme for the conference was “Creating Better Workplaces.” The sessions themselves covered a range of topics across the HR landscape. A lot of important work is being done to improve HR departments and workplaces around the world. People are eager to share their ideas and learn from those around them. Here are seven big themes we noticed at this year’s annual SHRM conference.
Read more…

Preventing Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

In 2018, over 13,000 sex-based harassment claims were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). This number doesn’t include charges filed with state and local agencies or situations where employees went directly to an attorney. And many employees who are victims of sexual harassment or are affected by it never report the incidents at all.

Victims and witnesses of harassment often refrain from reporting because the harasser has the power to retaliate or because the organization has not set up adequate channels for reporting. In other cases, victims report the harassment, but nothing is done about it. The harassment is excused, and the complaints are rebuffed. Word gets around that the organization tolerates harassment, and people stop bothering to report it. They either keep quiet, file charges with a governmental agency, or call an attorney.
Read more…

What Is Culture, Anyway?

When you belong to an organization, there’s usually a reason, right? Whether the organization is a business, club, or other group, something about it appealed to you, and you chose to associate yourself with it. You personally identified with it and felt like you would fit in, so you joined. Alternatively, you may have considered joining an organization, but decided against it because it didn’t feel like a good fit. Or you joined for a time, but then decided the place wasn’t for you.

What creates this sense of belonging or not belonging to an organization is the organization’s culture. Every organization has a culture, and every culture has three components. These are the organization’s rules, traditions, and personalities.
Read more…

Contact Us

Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]

Copyright ©2019 All Rights Reserved – Terms and Legal Conditions.

Legal Disclaimer: This message does not and is not intended to contain legal advice,
and its contents do not constitute the practice of law or provision of legal counsel.
The sender cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Determine Whether a Position is Exempt or Non-exempt?

By |July 31st, 2019|

Question:
How do I determine whether a position is exempt or non-exempt?

Kara, JD, EPHRAnswer from Kara, JD, SPHR:

Exempt and non-exempt are classifications under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a federal law requiring that most employees receive at least minimum wage for each hour worked and overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Employees who are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime are called non-exempt, while those who are not entitled to both are called exempt.

Any position can be non-exempt, meaning that employees in that position are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime pay. If you would like to classify a position as exempt, it would need to qualify for one of the exemptions listed in the FLSA.

The most commonly used (particularly in office settings) are the executive, administrative, and professional exemptions. These are known as white collar exemptions, and employees who are properly classified this way are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime. But, to qualify, each position must pass a three-part test:
1. Duties: The employee must perform specific tasks (such as managing at least two people) and regularly use their independent judgment and discretion. Each exemption has its own duties test.
2. Salary level: The employee must make at least $455 per week (expected to be ~$679 per week starting around January 2020).
3. Salary basis: The employee must be paid the same each week regardless of hours worked or the quantity or quality of their work. Reducing an exempt employee’s pay is only allowed in very narrow circumstances.
If a position meets all the criteria under one of the white collar exemptions, the employee may be properly classified as exempt and will not be entitled to minimum wage or overtime pay. If the position does not meet all the criteria under a specific exemption, the employee must be classified as non-exempt and paid at least minimum wage and overtime when applicable.

Kara practiced employment law for five years and worked in Human Resources for several years prior to that. As an attorney, she worked on many wage and hour and discrimination claims in both state and federal court. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Oregon State University and earned her law degree from Lewis and Clark Law School.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Reducing Employees Hours To Force Them To Quit

By |July 17th, 2019|

Question:
A fellow business owner told me I should substantially reduce the hours of employees I want to terminate so they’re forced to quit and can’t collect unemployment. Have you heard of this practice before?

Answer from Kyle, PHR:

We have, yes, and we don’t recommend it. First, the practice doesn’t prevent the employee from filing for unemployment, and they may be able to collect unemployment even if they remain employed with you while working reduced hours. Second, when you reduce someone’s hours in the hopes that they quit, you risk creating a perception among employees that a cut in hours is meant to be punitive. And if the employee with reduced hours becomes disgruntled, they may be a threat to morale or choose to file a complaint with an outside agency. Third, the effect of a single unemployment claim on your insurance rate is pretty much negligible—and certainly nothing compared the costs of continuing to employ someone who should be terminated.

In general, if you need to terminate an employee and you have documented the reasons for doing so, it’s best just to terminate them. The possibility of a higher unemployment insurance rate shouldn’t be a factor in your decision.

Kyle is a professional author, editor, and researcher specializing in workplace culture, retention strategies, and employee engagement. He has previously worked with book publishers, educational institutions, magazines, news and opinion websites, nationally-known business leaders, and non-profit organizations. He has a BA in English, an MA in philosophy, and a PHR certification.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630 Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

What is an employee’s regular rate of pay?

By |July 11th, 2019|

Question:
What is an employee’s regular rate of pay? Is it just what they make per hour of work?

Answer from Marisa, SPHR:

Not exactly. An employee’s “regular rate of pay” is the amount used to calculate their overtime rate for a given time period. You might think of it as an average, of sorts.

An employee’s regular rate is determined by adding up the amount paid for their work, as well as earnings from non-discretionary bonuses (such as those tied to performance or retention), then dividing that amount by the total hours worked.

For example, let’s say Anna earns $10/hour for inside sales work and $15/hour for bookkeeping work. This week, she worked 24 hours in inside sales and 20 hours as a bookkeeper. She also received $50 in commissions that are attributable to this workweek. Her regular rate of pay for this workweek would be calculated as follows:

($10 x 24) + ($15 x 20) + $50 / 44 hours = $13.41/hour (her “regular rate” for the workweek)

Under federal law, non-exempt employees should be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. This means that Anna’s overtime rate would be $20.11 per hour, based on her mix of hourly rates and commission.

Marisa has experience working in a wide variety of HR areas, including payroll, staffing, and on-/ off-boarding. She has worked at both national and local companies, in a wide range of businesses and industries. Marisa earned her B.S. in Business Administration and Communications from the University of Oregon. She loves watching football and basketball, volunteering, and spending time with her two dogs.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630 Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.