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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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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.

How many hours can I assign to a part-time employee?

By |July 5th, 2019|

Question:

How many hours can I assign to a part-time employee? Is there a limit?

Answer from Laura, SHRM-CP:

There’s no specific limit to the number of hours you can assign to a part-time employee, as it’s up to you to decide how many hours employees need to work in a week to be considered full-time. I recommend abiding by the standards you’ve set. So, for example, if you define full-time as working 35 or more hours per week, then you’d want to make sure you were assigning part-time employees fewer than 35 hours in a week.
If you are regularly assigning a part-time employee a full-time schedule—and full-time employees receive additional benefits, such as paid time off—you should consider reclassifying the employee to avoid claims of unfair treatment or discrimination. Also note that for certain laws (including the ACA) and for purposes of insurance or retirement plans, benefits will kick in when an employee hits a certain number of hours per week, regardless of whether you internally call them part-time or full-time.

Laura has 7 years of HR experience, spanning public- and private-sector work in the education, transit, and insurance industries. After completing a B.A. in Asian Studies from Knox College, she received her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from University of New Haven along with graduate-level certificates in Human Resources Management and Psychology of Conflict Management. Laura enjoys fencing, baking, cross-stitching, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

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

Accommodating Pregnant Employees

By |July 3rd, 2019|

Let’s imagine a situation. Wendy, who’s been on the job for only four months, informs her employer that she’s pregnant. She requests light duty and asks if temporary leave is an option.

Instead of accommodating Wendy, the employer terminates her employment, explaining to her that her employment is at-will and that they don’t have the staff to modify her duties or cover her responsibilities while she’s away on leave. They remind her that during her job interview, they asked if she had plans to become pregnant and she had said no.

Then her manager makes a point of highlighting instances in which her job performance was less than satisfactory – an assessment they had not, up till then, given to her.Was the employer right to terminate Wendy’s employment?

Her employment was at-will, but we should remember that at-will employment has limits. There are illegal reasons for firing someone, and pregnancy is one of them. Pregnancy discrimination includes pregnancy, childbirth, or a medical condition related to pregnancy or childbirth. And the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) prohibits discrimination and harassment based on pregnancy when it comes to any aspect of employment – hiring, termination, layoff, pay, benefits, and any other term or condition of employment.

Therefore, the decision to terminate Wendy’s employment was a highly risky move. Wendy could claim that she was illegally discriminated against. Her employer would have a difficult time arguing that the termination was for cause – i.e., her poor performance – when they hadn’t documented the instances of unsatisfactory performance or given her any opportunity to improve (particularly since they told her that the pregnancy was a problem for them).

Refusing leave or light duty was also potentially risky. If Wendy was temporarily unable to perform her job due to a medical condition related to her pregnancy, then her employer, under the PDA, must treat her the same way it treats any other temporarily disabled employee. If Wendy’s employer had previously made accommodations for other temporarily disabled employees, then refusing accommodations to Wendy would be discriminatory.

“…The decision to terminate Wendy’s employment was a highly risky move.”

Other laws may also come into play. Some impairments related to pregnancy may be disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Family and Medical Leave Act provides protected leave for some employees incapacitated due to pregnancy, prenatal medical conditions, or childbirth. State laws may apply here as well. California and Maryland, for example, have pregnancy disability leave laws.

The takeaways: Pregnancy is a protected class under state and federal law. It’s a good idea to know what those laws require and whether they apply to your business.

Three Ways HR Makes Employment More Profitable

By |July 2nd, 2019|

HR covers a lot of territory—much of it cluttered with paperwork—but it really does have a precise business purpose. The point of HR is to make employment more profitable. HR does this in three fundamental ways. First, HR protects the organization against employment-related lawsuits and fines. Second, it reduces the costs of employment. And third, it maximizes employee productivity. In short, HR helps the employer save money and make money in all things related to employment.

Protection from Lawsuits and Fines
Nothing can prevent an employer from being sued, but good HR can substantially reduce the risk of lawsuits and other costly consequences of non-compliance by ensuring that the organization follows federal, state, and municipal legal requirements.

The government has multiple agencies tasked with investigating violations and administering fines. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigates discrimination claims. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration looks into workplace hazards and safety violations. The IRS and Department of Labor may ask to see your books. And the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services might audit your I-9s.

The penalties for violations can range from amounts that are mildly inconvenient to those that are financially devastating, so you don’t want to leave these areas to chance or hope you stay under the radar. Employing people comes with risk, and it’s an HR job to manage and reduce that risk.

“Ignoring HR or neglecting its responsibilities puts the organization at greater risk, wastes money on subpar and inefficient operations, and hinders employers and employees from reaching their full potential.”

Reduction of Employment Costs
Competitive wages and benefits, office perks, and first-rate technology can help you find and keep great workers, and they can help you improve your products, boost your sales, and grow the business. But there are also employment costs HR can help cut. Hiring and recruitment processes can be streamlined and assessed for inefficiencies. Turnover costs can be reduced by improving your onboarding process, communications, and engagement efforts. Inefficiencies can be resolved through performance management and discipline. And offering some form of Paid Time Off can enable sick employees to stay home and rest so they don’t come to work sick, spread their germs, and reduce the productivity of the office even more than if they’d stayed home.

Increased Employee Productivity
In addition to preventing and reducing costs related to employment, HR can also help the organization increase its revenue by encouraging and helping employees to be more collaborative, innovative, creative, knowledgeable, skilled, and just plain better at their jobs. Coaching, training, skill development, career advancement, outside education, and culture advancements are tried-and-true productivity-building methods. They also have the added perk of directly benefiting your employees.

When HR works on maximizing productivity, it’s able to serve the interests of both the employer and employees in ways that are visible and appreciated by all parties. Employers bring in more revenue, employees develop professionally, and customers get better service. Everybody’s happy.

Good for Business
The business case is the case for HR. Ignoring HR or neglecting its responsibilities puts the organization at greater risk, wastes money on subpar and inefficient operations, and hinders employers and employees from reaching their full potential. Investing in HR reduces risk, eliminates inefficiencies, and improves productivity. Whether you’re a business owner, office manager, HR department of one, or on a team of HR practitioners, spending time on HR bolsters everyone’s success.

The Advantages of Skill-Based Training

By |July 1st, 2019|

Often, when employers hear about on-the-job training, the training pertains either to general knowledge or to policies and procedures that are unique to the company. Skill-based training is somewhat different—it focuses on how to do something specific and results in a learned skill that can be put to immediate use. Here are some examples of skill-based trainings:

  • Mastering advanced welding techniques
  • Setting up and using Excel pivot tables
  • Keeping your cool during a hostile phone conversation
  • Writing concise emails
  • Coding in Ruby

Skill-based training is beneficial for most companies, but since good courses are often (but not always!) an investment, HR professionals should focus on where they can maximize value. Two types of employees come to mind as the best candidates: those who want to succeed but are struggling to meet expectations, and top performers who you feel may be a flight risk.

For the strugglers, you must first find out what they need to learn to reach their potential. Are they spending way too much time trying to figure out Excel on their own? Are they a new manager that doesn’t know how to coach? Giving these people access to skill-based training could make a huge difference in both their efficiency and happiness—as well as your bottom line.

The high achievers, on the other hand, should be asked what they want to learn. It’s likely they’ve already thought about next steps at your organization and in what new ways they could contribute. Give them a chance to shine! Your investment in their future won’t go unnoticed; employees who receive training are more likely to be engaged and less likely to leave.

Customers Complained About An Employee’s Hygiene

By |June 27th, 2019|

Question:
Customers have complained about an employee’s hygiene. What should we do?

Answer from Daniel, SHRM-CP:

You should address the poor hygiene directly with the employee. A sensitive and straightforward approach is usually best.

If this will be your first conversation with the employee about their hygiene, then there shouldn’t be any need for discipline. Simply explain to them how their hygiene is affecting the workplace, citing any relevant company policies. A private location is best for this conversation.

Avoid trying to figure out the cause of the bad hygiene or offering suggestions for how to improve it. Instead, focus on expectations, and leave it to the employee to figure out how to meet them. On rare occasions, bad hygiene may be the result of a disability or the consequence of a religious preference. If the employee indicates that their hygiene relates to one of these, please let us know.

Daniel has over 10 years of experience in the communications, government relations, political advocacy, and customer service fields. He has a BS in Journalism and Communications. He has run a small business of his own and sat on the Board of Directors of several local non-profits. In his free time he enjoys cooking, hiking, camping, 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.

Racially Insensitive Comment Made by an Employee

By |June 12th, 2019|

Question:
How should we respond to a racially insensitive comment made by an employee?

Answer from Margaret, PHR, SHRM-CP:

A racially insensitive comment could be considered harassment—and it would be unlawful harassment if putting up with such comments became a condition of continued employment (essentially, management was unwilling to put a stop to it) or if the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider hostile.

Since you have a duty as an employer to stop unlawful harassment, we recommend that you investigate the alleged comment and, if you find evidence to support that your harassment or other conduct policies have been violated, discipline the employee who made it. Make sure that the punishment fits the crime. For instance, something that was, in fact, just insensitive may warrant a verbal warning, whereas calling someone by a racial slur may warrant a final warning or even termination, depending on the circumstances. Be sure to document your findings and any disciplinary actions taken.

You can learn more about conducting investigations and disciplining employees by searching harassment on the HR Support Center.

Margaret holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology from Portland State University and a Professional Certificate in Human Resources Management. She has worked in a variety of HR roles in a multi-state capacity. Margaret regularly attends seminars and other continuing education courses to stay current with new developments and changes that affect the workplace and is active in local and national Human Resources organizations.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.

PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]

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.

Only Hours Actually Worked Count Toward Overtime

By |June 5th, 2019|

Did You Know?

Only hours actually worked count toward overtime when determining if employees are owed time and a half for hours over 40 in a workweek. For instance, if Monday was a paid holiday observed by the company—meaning no one worked and everyone got paid—a non-exempt employee could still work a full 40 hours in that workweek without being in overtime territory (barring any daily overtime that might be applicable).

In the case of a paid 8-hour holiday and 40 hours of work, the employee would receive 48 hours of straight time; the breakdown of holiday pay and regular pay should be reflected on their paystub to avoid confusion and fend off future wage claims. The same applies to vacation time, sick time, and other non-working leaves—the overtime premium only applies if more than 40 hours of real work are done.

EEO-1 Reporting Requirements Finalized

By |June 4th, 2019|

The hotly contested issue of what exactly needs to be filed for EEO-1 reporting this year has been resolved—at least for now. Pay data for both 2017 and 2018 must be reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by September 30, 2019. The data that has been required in years past was still due by May 31, 2019. An appeal of the latest decision has been filed, so it’s possible that there could be yet another change to the requirements, but employers should plan to comply with these deadlines, as described below.
Read more…

Causes of Conflict

By |June 3rd, 2019|

The recipe for workplace conflict is decidedly simple: bring two or more people together and assign them a task. Unless the stars have aligned in your favor, there’s going to be some cause for disagreement between them, and if conflict ensues, their ability to cooperate will suffer.

Regrettably, too often employers tolerate unresolved conflict because it isn’t a legal matter with potential fines, they’re busy with other things, they don’t know how to manage it, or because doing so is sure to be uncomfortable. But unresolved conflict is one of the most dangerous threats to an organization because it prevents people from collaborating and working efficiently, and successful teamwork is essential to your bottom line.

Causes of Conflict
Before we examine strategies for resolving conflict in the workplace, let’s look at the common underlying causes of that conflict. Understanding how conflicts arise will help you determine which strategy to use.
Read more…