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Sitting is the New Smoking

Recent studies have indicated that sitting for a long period of time can be associated with numerous health concerns including but not limited to diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, and foggy brain. For employers and employees alike, this is nerve-racking considering the majority of us spend a good part of our work-day sitting at a desk. Even employees that exercise daily are still exposed to the health risks of excessive sitting! In fact, just two hours of sitting can have significant impacts on an employee’s health. Sitting for just two hours will raise blood sugar, reduce blood flow, and lower good cholesterol by 20%.

So what can employers and employees do to avoid excessive sitting in the workplace?
  • Encourage employees to start a walking club during lunch breaks, or before or after work; going for a brief walk at work helps employees to de-stress and increases productivity!
  • Encourage employees to wear a pedometer or Fitbit to inspire friendly competition   between coworkers and increase physical activity at work
  • Encourage employees to take the stairs instead of the elevator; seven minutes of stair climbing a day can halve the risk of heart attack over 10 years!
  • Invest in elevated desks; approximately 1,000 extra calories are burned each week from simply standing at your desk each afternoon!
  • Educate employees on how to sit with proper posture; sitting with upright posture leads to increased oxygen levels, improved mood, and reduced stress levels!

            Have questions about your employees’ health in the workplace? Call our office to speak with a human resource professional about your company’s policies at 631.794.7400 or write to us at info@compasswfs.com

NYS New Minimum Salary Requirements

Last Minute and Not Well Publicized – By Christine Ippolito SPHR, SHRM-SCP, Founding Principal at Compass Workforce Solutions, LLC

When I see advertisements for doing business in New York State, there’s always this sense of conflict.  I started my own business here on Long Island, servicing clients’ HR needs across New York State with a focus on Nassau County, Suffolk County, the 5 boroughs of New York City, and Northern New Jersey.  This internal conflict I experience doesn’t stem from a lack of great business opportunity in New York State, but from the inordinately high level of complexity of business operations in New York as a heavily regulated state. To some degree, my company benefits from the complexity of our environment.  In fact, understanding, communicating, and summarizing these regulations is a key element of our value and service proposition to clients.  Although myself and the Compass team is able to convey these rules and regulations successfully to our clients, as a business owner here in New York, I am subject to those same policies and divest as much time in deciphering them as I would for any of our clients.

The recent last minute change in regulations regarding the minimum salary requirements for New York State is one such example of this complexity. This then begs the question, if the intent is for employers to remain aware of, understand, and follow the employment requirements, why do labor regulations need to be so complex?

Even New York State regulators believe that our labor laws are complicated, making this statement on the Department of Labor’s Website “The New York State labor law can be very complicated and it is easy for employers to make a mistake. Many honorable employers are found to owe back wages and penalties that turn out to be quite costly.”

The majority of employers seem to have a sense of awareness of the upcoming changes in New York State’s minimum wage.  The increase to $15.00 an hour over the next five years will be based on company size and location.  These changes were released in early 2016, and received a lot of press coverage including several press releases by Governor Andrew Cuomo with detailed explanations of the New York State Department of Labor website www.labor.ny.gov.

In the last week of December, a Texas Federal Judge suspended the Federal rule changes that were intended to raise the salary basis for employees exempt from overtime that was slated to go into effect on January 1, 2017.  However, New York State Department of Labor on December 28th, 2016 increased the salary basis to mirror the increase in the minimum wage.  As of December 31, 2016, the minimum salary for workers exempt from overtime ranges from $727.50 per week to $825.00 per week, dependent upon the employers’ size and location, under the Executive and Administrative exemption. These increases were included in a 93 page amended wage order, yet another example of the complexity of New York State’s Labor regulations.

Historically, New York State has upheld a higher salary basis for exemption under the Executive and Administrative exemptions than the Federal requirement of $455 per week. In 2016, the salary basis was $675.00 per week. The salary basis is tied to New York State’s minimum wage regulations, and has increased over time with the increases in minimum wage.

Employers who violate the Minimum Wage Law are subject to criminal prosecution and penalties. Action may also be taken against the employer in civil court. The Commissioner of Labor may require an employer to pay minimum wage underpayments and liquidated damages, plus interest and civil penalties of up to 200% of the unpaid wages.

Our business at Compass is to understand, summarize, and communicate these requirements for our clients. Please contact us at 631-794-7400 or Info@compass.com for a full summary of the changes taking place with the New York State employment requirements in 2017. Below is an updated outline of the new salary requirements for employers by business size and location.

Nassau, Suffolk & Westchester Counties

Exempt Employee Minimum Salary:

  • $750.00 per week on & after December 31, 2016
  • $825.00 per week on & after December 31, 2017
  • $900.00 per week on & after December 31, 2018
  • $975.00 per week on & after December 31, 2019
  • $1,050.00 per week on & after December 31, 2020

 

Remainder of New York State except New York City

Exempt Employee Minimum Salary:

  • $727.50 per week on & after December 31, 2016
  • $780.00 per week on & after December 31, 2017
  • $832.00 per week on & after December 31, 2018

New York City, small employers (10 or less employees)

Exempt Employee Minimum Salary:

  • $787.50 per week on & after December 31, 2016
  • $900.00 per week on & after December 31, 2017
  • $1,012.00 per week on & after December 31, 2018

New York City, large employers (11+ employees)

Exempt Employee Minimum Salary:

  • $825.00 per week on & after December 31, 2016
  • $975.00 per week on & after December 31, 2017
  • $1,125.00 per week on & after December 31, 2018

You’re Going to Wear That…to Work!?

summer dress code hr

Many companies allow their employees to dress more “casually” during the summer months. It is fully understandable if employees want to wear more comfortable clothes when it’s hot and humid outside, but where do you draw the line?

Wearing less clothing will help employees stay cool but it may give a bad impression if you are not careful. For the sake of your business, I’d discourage you from allowing certain summer attire in the office, such as:

Flip Flops: Feet that are exposed or not clean are not fun to look at. Period. What happens if someone spills their morning coffee on them? Ouch! Plus, that annoying sound of a flip flop hitting someone’s heel is not only annoying – but unprofessional!

Shorts: Shorts are for sports and we need clear boundaries between work and relaxation. Plus, do you really want to see guys comparing calf muscles? I didn’t think so.

T-Shirts: V-necks that go down to our belly buttons are not considered T-Shirts. It might be an awkward situation to tell your employee that he is not Tom Selleck and no one needs to see that much chest hair.

Short Skirts: What happens when a sudden wind blows in and you have a Marilyn Monroe moment in the office? Quite simply – if your mother would have given you a hard time about leaving home wearing it – it’s likely not for the work environment either.

Beachwear: We would all love to have volleyball tournaments at work, but the sand is at the beach, not in your office. Bikini tops and bathing suits should stay at the beach as well.

What should you include in your policy?
So now that I have convinced you to dress appropriately for work, here are some tips to creating a summer dress code:

  • Put a dress code in place months before summer arrives: This guarantees that everyone is notified of the rules and they have plenty of time to ask questions if they are unsure about the company’s policy.
  • Be specific: Spell out exactly what type of clothing is restricted and why, this way the employee fully understands the issues of the restricted garments. The dress code should specify all consequences for transgressions.
  • Treat all employees equally: Do not handle cases differently based on age, gender, attractiveness or seniority. Yes, some people do look good in spandex but this is a select few. It is not sexual harassment to tell an employee that they cannot wear a certain article of clothing to work. As soon as one employee gets away with wearing something inappropriate, others will surely follow.

What should you do if someone violates your company’s policy?
Speak to that employee in private. There could be a disability or religious reason for the violation. If not, see if the violation can be corrected without sending the employee home.

If you need help creating a proper dress code policy, or have any further questions, we can help. Call our office; speak to a human resource professional about your company’s policies or employee handbook at 631-794-7400 or write to us at: info@compasswfs.com

This is not legal advice and will not cover all situations and circumstances.

Workplace Etiquette – It’s Flu Season

“A recent study showed that a virus went from the front door to half the office in four hours!”

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Little Known Facts:

  • The average adult brings their fingers to the nose, mouth or eyes about 16 times an hour.
  • Coffee pot handles were some of the first places the virus spread.
  • A workspace with plastic and Formica surfaces and a grooved keyboard offers a hospitable environment for germs.
  • A light switch – common respiratory viruses can survive on a surface for a maximum of two to
    four days.

Employers:
I think we’d all agree we would rather not have employees around the office when they are sick. After all, the sick employee is likely not very productive and there is an increased chance of someone else in the office picking up the bug.

However, work place culture and job insecurity may be affecting the decision-making process for some employees. If you are a manager or a business owner you have to ask yourself the question:

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What kind of employer do I want to be?
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A little general kindness and empathy can really make a difference in how your workplace is perceived. In addition, while this shouldn’t be the motive, you get something back when you do good by your employees.

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“Take the rest of the day off. Go home, take a nap. I hope you feel better.”
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One key to molding the perception of your business is to evaluate your existing policies and benefits. You have to ask yourself, do our policies reinforce what our ‘vision statement’ says about us? Do you really want to be considered ‘an employer of choice?’

Cleanliness is next to godliness – speak to your cleaning crew. Find out their regimen and consider modifying during peak flu season. Change habits and focus on high contaminant areas. Are hand cleaners available in multiple locations? Are restrooms stocked with the necessary supplies?

Compass Workforce Solutions can help you review, compare, evaluate, and communicate the values and benefits your business wants to be associated with.

Employees:
You know when you are beginning to feel sick. You woke up with a sore throat. You’ve started to sneeze, a few sniffles are apparent…

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Time to take action!
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Let common sense rule. Be careful what you touch and take extra precaution to avoid possibly infecting others. Use tissues, wash your hands repeatedly, and avoid touching general usage areas unless you know your hands are clean. Use disinfectant wipes on your phone, door-handle, key board, and desktop. Don’t shake hands with others.

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The next stage
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Now you are really sick…stay home! Follow the standard care procedures: rest, fluids, more rest. Are you contagious? Not sure? See the doctor. Get an Rx, if needed.

Word of caution to the ‘paid time off’ abusers…invariably if you ‘called in sick’ several times to extend your weekends, you will get sick in November and really need those days to recover from the flu…
Just sayin’

Other Considerations:

  • If you have medical coverage, check with your carrier, a seasonal flu shot might be covered.
  • If you don’t have coverage, check local pharmacy chains, they advertise inexpensive, no-waiting flu shots.
  • If you are out of sick time – speak to your manager or human resource personnel, you may be able to use vacation or personal time. You may be able to ‘borrow’ time from next year’s allocation.

Compass Workforce Solutions can help– we can assist you in managing your workforce and in creating human policies for the realities of life. Call our office; speak to a human resource professional about your company’s policies or employee handbook at 631.794.7400 or write to us: info@compasswfs.com

This is not legal advice and will not cover all situations and circumstances.

Halloween In the Office – Trick or Treat?

Halloween in the office can be a tricky endeavor and not a treat for the Human Resources Department.  Many employers allow employees to decorate the office and dress up on Halloween.  Halloween is now considered the 2nd most popular holiday (Christmas being first).

It’s fun to dress up and act silly but employers should be mindful and prepared.  Participation in any office Halloween activities should be voluntary.  Selecting a Halloween Costume for the workplace can pose problems on several levels.   A costume that is suitable for a house party, club or bar may not be suitable for the office.  Employers should remind employees that professionalism and office policies are not suspended on Halloween.  This year we anticipate several Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton costumes.  Costumes of famous public figures are fine as long as the employees are not using Halloween to proselytize their political opinions or religious beliefs on their coworkers.  Employees should not feel uncomfortable or unwelcome at work because the office is permitting a Halloween celebration.  Policies that can easily be violated are:  Non-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment, EEO, Safety, and Social Media.

Managers should be mindful that the costume that an employee wears on Halloween should not influence future performance reviews, promotions or raises.

If you are allowing employees to dress up on Halloween, set guidelines about costumes.  When posting or inviting employees to dress up for Halloween, include a comment to be professional and respectful.  If an employee is unsure if a costume is office appropriate, have them confer with a manager or HR.  Be sure to mention that costumes that are sexually suggestive or offensive based on a protected group are not allowed and the employee will be asked to change or if necessary go home.  Here are some examples of inappropriate costumes:

  • Super Hero in tight spandex
  • Religious costumes such as nun, priest, rabbi
  • Sexy maid costume
  • Pimp
  • Costumes with an overt racist message
  • No props that are weapons (toy guns, swords)

Halloween is spooky.  Hope we didn’t scare you too much but if we did, one of our HR consultants can provide you with solutions at 631.794.7400.

Hurricane Season has Arrived: June – November

We had a very snowy winter and some employers were ready with an Inclement Weather policy…others were scrambling.  Just because it is summertime, you are not off the hook.  Hurricane season runs June to November.  With it comes flooding, power outages, you know the drill.

If you still haven’t drawn up an Inclement Weather Policy, there is still time!   The policy does not need to be part of the company handbook but should be communicated to employees in advance and/or as a reminder when inclement weather is anticipated.  Things to consider are:

How will the company advise employees if the office is open or closed?

We suggest you establish a procedure for notifying employees of an office closing or delayed opening.
If an employee reports to work and they were not notified of the office closing, you will be obligated to pay:
State of New York at least 4 hours
State of New Jersey at least 1 hour

Consider making an announcement early in the morning – 5 AM or 6 AM – if the office is closed or open for business.  There are many venues to use:

  • Recorded message on the firm’s main phone line
  • Announcement on company Webpage, Facebook or other Social Media
  • Email Distribution
  • Managers calling employees

Be Specific in the Message.  Don’t assume employees will know that the office is open just because there is no message to the contrary.  Be specific about the date, etc.  Here are examples:

The offices of XYZ are open for business today Monday, January 1.  If you are unable to commute to work due to the weather conditions, please call your manager before your scheduled start time to notify them you are not reporting to work.

Or

The offices of XYX are closed today Monday, January 1 due to inclement weather.  The office will reopen tomorrow, Tuesday, January 2 at 9 AM.

Do employers need to pay employees if the office is closed for inclement weather?

This is a time when Exempt and Non-Exempt classification of employees is important.  Exempt employees must be paid their full weekly salary when they work any part of a workweek.  An employer can deduct accrued paid time off or vacation leave from exempt employees.  However, if the exempt employee does not have any paid time off or vacation leave, they still must be paid their full salary if they work a partial or whole day.

For non-exempt employees, employers are only required to pay for actual time worked.  However, because of the circumstances, employers may want to consider if the staff can make up the missed time or use paid time off or vacation leave.

Keep safety in mind.  When establishing a policy, the company should stress the safety and well-being of the employees.  Always let the employee decide if they should commute to work as conditions are different across regions.   You don’t want it to be reported on the 6 o’clock news that an employee was endangered because the employer said they were required to come to work.  If there are essential duties that need to be conducted, be sure you have the necessary tools in place prior to inclement weather so business can continue.

Need help creating a policy or classifying employees correctly, contact us:  info@compasswfs.com

Compass Workforce Solutions can help.  Call our office, speak to a human resource professional about your company’s policies or employee handbook at 631.794.7400.

This is not legal advice and will not cover all situations and circumstances.

Cupid’s Arrows Sting Employers

Yes, nothing like Valentine’s Day to make every romantic’s heart become soft and vulnerable.  Florists, Chocolate purveyors, and Greeting Card companies all rejoice over the ring of the cash register.
Employers, on the other hand, have to be concerned about the mischief these warm feelings can cause in their workplace.

Romance in the workplace is dangerous on many levels.  For starters, the vast majority of relationships don’t end with a trip down the aisle.  I can’t help thinking about Meatloaf’s lover’s provocative question:

Will You Love Me Forever!?!

Let’s face it, at some point the participants break up!! Now there is tension and oftentimes downright resentment toward one or both parties.  Not only that, but co-workers and friends of either party may be brought into the fray.

Forgive this Human Resource professional for putting a damper on the big day and love in general.  But the story only gets worse . . .

“Beware Cupid’s Arrows”

Picture a Supervisor smitten by the cute, young, social media expert in the Marketing department.  Supervisor knows it is not a good idea but like Meatloaf he thinks on it, thinks on it, and then gives in and professes “I’ll love you forever . . .”

Ms. Social Media likes the boss too and all is fine for a while – until it is not.  It doesn’t take much of an imagination to consider what could happen if a pay raise may be considered, or perhaps a performance review that is skewed one way or the other.  Hold your breath employer if there is promotion for anyone in the department on the horizon!!

Sexual Harassment ** Discrimination ** Hostile Work Environment

In today’s litigious society most employers frown upon office relationships and actually prohibit them between members of the same department or if there is any supervisory oversight.  Many have specific policies in their employment handbooks that require disclosure of the relationship or downright forbid it.

What Does Your Policy Say About Workplace Relationships?

Compass Workforce Solutions can help.  Call our office, speak to a human resource professional about your company’s policies or employee handbook at 631-794-7400.  We can help provide a shield to block Cupid’s arrow before it strikes!

Do You Work For Us?… Are you an Employee or 1099?

Picture this scenario. We are a small company.  We need an IT expert to help us make sure the software is up-to-date, the anti-virus actually works,  someone who can reset passwords and set up new computers.  We most certainly do not need a full-time employee – there probably is not enough work for a part-time position.   We need someone who can come in once a month to check up on things; maybe once a week when we grow. Bob in Customer Service has a friend who can do this for us.  He is a retired IT guy and has a few other companies he goes to.

Biz on a Handshake?

So, we hire Bob’s friend John as a 1099.  Nice enough guy, comes in when we ask, does a good job.  Is he an employee or an independent contractor?   Can we do business with him on a handshake?  Few months in John IT is getting more and more requests for his services.  Not enjoying his retirement the way he wants,  he hires three staff to help him out and sends a new person to our office once a week.  Can he do that?

Where’s the Agreement?

Well here’s the deal.  Companies hire independent contractors all the time to help out with things like IT, Human Resources, Accounting, Maintenance, Consulting and the list goes on.  There is nothing wrong with that.  What most companies do not do is have the Independent Contractor sign an Agreement that they are an Independent Contractor and not an employee. You need more paperwork than just the W-9 for the file.  You ask, “Why? We have been doing business like this for years and never had a problem.”  Answer: you have been lucky!

Anyone who your company hires to perform services and is not paid on payroll, needs to have an Independent Contractor Agreement in place.  Basically the Agreement should state they are not an employee of your company, they are responsible for all taxes, they are not entitled to any benefits offered by your firm, and it will allow you to ask for proof of insurance such as Professional Liability….and if they employ anyone besides themselves — Workers’ Comp.

Best Scenario

The best scenario to have is a service provider that is a Corporation or LLC.  If a check is made out to an individual such as John IT, it will send a red flag to an auditor.  The first auditor to notice will more than likely be the Workers’ Comp auditor during your annual audit.  They will ask to see any Agreement in place, invoices, and Certificates of Insurance.  If they do not have Workers’ Comp they will more than likely include them in your policy.

You say that’s not so bad.  But what about taxes, benefits, unemployment insurance?   What if John IT has not filed or paid his federal or state taxes?  The IRS tracks his income to your company.  Guess who will be contacting you or making a visit to your office?

What if John IT fires the worker that comes to your office once a week?   The worker files for unemployment but John IT has not been filing unemployment tax.  Unemployment asks the worker, where did you work?

What happens if one of these agencies determines that the Independent Contractor was actually your employee?  Not only will you receive a fine but you will need to pay their back taxes and provide any benefits that other employees in the firm are entitled.

To protect your firm, have everyone that receives a 1099 sign an Independent Contractor Agreement. Ask to be listed as an additional insured and receive a copy of the Insurance Certificate. Need help sorting this out? Contact us: info@compasswfs.com

Compass Workforce Solutions can help. Call our office, speak to a human resource professional about your company’s policies or employee handbook at 631.794.7400.

This is not legal advice and will not cover all situations and circumstances

 

Many businesses participate in providing summer intern opportunities.   And, why not?  It’s a ‘feel-good’ chance to give a student some real-world work experience AND gets some of that extra project work done or assists the business in keeping its head above water during the busy summer vacation season.

 

Some business owners also get the idea that interns are “FREE” help.

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Do I have to pay interns?

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The short answer is “Yes” – that is, if you have them doing any work at all.  In my experience interns are expected to do some work.  So, even if they are receiving college credit for being in your  business, yes, you do need to pay them if they are doing any productive work.

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But aren’t we helping them?

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That may be true but it doesn’t overshadow labor law.  If you work, you get paid.  Period.  There is a very small possibility that you have an intern program that is completely for the benefit of the student (i.e. – where the intern ‘shadows’ and receives mentoring; but does no work) – my advice would be to speak to legal counsel if you ‘think’ you don’t have to pay them.

Are There Other Issues I Need to Think About?

  • Dress Code – especially in the summer. Give them a copy of the company dress code or have HR have a frank discussion about professional business attire.
  • Smart phones – make sure interns understand your workplace rules before they start work.
  • Schedule – they are eager to find a spot so they’ll agree to practically anything (8-5 M-F); but the truth is, it’s summer; and they will likely have to work for the rest of their lives. Let the intern have some fun.  How about M-Th with Friday off?  Or…starting at 10 a.m. so they can stay up late AND still come to work rested?
  • Romance – careful here – we blogged in February about the dangers of office relationships. Interns sometimes attract an inordinate amount of attention.
  • Pay – or should I say – Appropriate Pay – this is not so complicated a question. Just ask yourself, what would you pay Your Kid for the job you are asking them to do?
  • Monitoring the work – it’s important to keep them busy AND have a senior manager get involved in making sure they have a productive summer.
  • School requirements – yes, paperwork may be a pain. But this is a responsibility that must be done in a timely manner so the intern receives appropriate credit upon returning to college.

Have questions about interns in your office? Compass Workforce Solutions can help.  Call our office, speak to a human resource professional about your company’s policies or employee handbook at 631-794-7400 or write to us at info@compasswfs.com.

 

Jersey City Mandatory Sick Time Ordinance

What Businesses Need to Know:

Concerned business owners are scratching their heads over how and why the Jersey City Council thought it necessary to institute their own version of employment labor law.  Others suggest this is just a copycat version of the NYC paid leave law.  Be that as it may, if you own a business within the confines of Jersey City, effective January 23, 2014 you will need to comply with this new law or risk fines and penalties.

The following are key factors you will need to know and consider:

Size of Business

Under 10 employees – you are required to accrue unpaid sick time.

10 or more employees – you are required to accrue paid sick time.

Accrual Amount – you are required to accrue one hour of time for every 30 hours an employee works up to forty (40) hours in a calendar year.

Eligibility – all employees that work at least 80 hours in Jersey City and are employed for 90 calendar days are entitled to use the sick time accrued.

Notice Requirements – all employers are required to notify the employee of the policy/ordinance at the time of hire (or upon starting work in Jersey City if employed at some other location) AND to have a poster displayed at the work location.  Fines are $100 per employee/$500 per location.

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You are encouraged to read the full ten page text of Ordinance 13.097

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What to do now – Plan to comply!

The law specifies a number of other requirements too specific to get into here (translation to foreign languages/retention of records/rehire requirements/time carryover provisions).

You may wish to work with one of our consultants; Compass Workforce Solutions can help – call 631-794-7400.