It may come as a surprise to some employers, but undocumented workers who are injured on the job are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, at least in New Mexico. However, there’s an important exception that applies to all employers.
If the employer didn’t know or reasonably couldn’t have known at the time it hired the employee that he was undocumented, the employer won’t be liable for the full extent of the workers’ comp benefits, resulting in a much smaller benefit payment to the worker. In the following case, that saved the employer $144,000 in benefits.
A Primer on Workers’ Comp Law
Workers’ comp laws are designed to compensate workers who are injured on the job, usually regardless of the circumstances. In New Mexico, when a worker is injured on the job and cannot return to work within 1 week, he is considered to have a temporary total disability (TTD).
During a TTD, the worker receives two-thirds of his average weekly wage, enough to enable him to pay his essential bills, but not enough to encourage him to malinger. When the injury has been treated and no more lasting improvement is expected, the worker is considered to be at maximum medical improvement.
Some workers, due to the nature of their injury, may be at maximum medical improvement but still have a permanent partial disability (PPD). In layman’s terms, think of a permanently bad knee or a compromised shoulder, even after surgery and months of physical therapy. PPDs are measured in percentage points based on standardized medical impairment guides.
Modifier Points Help Permanently Injured Workers
Not all workers with a PPD can find work at their preinjury wage. Workers in heavy-duty jobs must have certain physical abilities, including agility and strength, and unfortunately, some workplace injuries preclude workers from returning to those types of jobs. The Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) tries to compensate for that scenario.
As long as the worker is working at a rate lower than his preinjury wage, he is entitled to benefit payments based on “modifier points,” which are calculated on the basis of his education, age, job training, skills, and postinjury change in physical abilities. Modifier points are added to the PPD percentage, and the resulting figure is the percentage used to calculate the worker’s PPD benefits.
The goal of the WCA is to return healthy workers to the workplace. Therefore, the Act includes incentives to get workers back to work and to encourage employers to rehire injured employees at their preinjury wage. If a worker returns to work at his preinjury wage, he’s entitled to receive a portion of his preinjury average weekly wage for 500 weeks measured by the percentage assigned as a result of his PPD, but not by his modifier points.
But the WCA contains a disincentive, too. If a worker is offered a job at his preinjury wage and unreasonably refuses the job offer, he will have to take a permanent reduction in his workers’ comp benefits. The employer is no longer obligated to pay modifier points and is liable only for the smaller portion of the benefits measured by the PPD percentage.
Injured Undocumented Workers Create a Dilemma for Employers
What happens when an investigation conducted after the on-the-job injury reveals that the worker is undocumented? If the employer rehires the undocumented worker, it will be breaking federal law because it is knowingly hiring an undocumented worker. However, if the employer doesn’t offer the undocumented worker a job at his preinjury wage, it will be liable for much higher benefits based on the modifier points. That creates a dilemma for the employer.
The most recent workers’ comp case before the New Mexico Court of Appeals involving an undocumented worker is typical. “Paz” is an undocumented worker from Mexico who had been coming to the United States since 1979 and had worked in a variety of agricultural and construction jobs. In 2006, he applied to Salls Brothers Construction and was hired as a construction laborer. Eighteen months later, he fell off scaffolding and injured his back, ultimately resulting in a PPD.
When Paz was hired, he presented a false Social Security card, a false resident alien card, and a false Colorado identification card. Neither Salls Brothers nor Paz filled out the I-9 forms completely. The workers’ comp judge who conducted a nonjury trial of the matter found that Teri Salls, who had interviewed Paz, accepted the false documents in good faith and believed that they were legitimate.
Undocumented Worker’s PPD and Modifier Points
Paz was treated for his back injury for almost 2 years. Twenty-two months after the injury, he was placed at maximum medical improvement and given a 3% whole body permanent impairment. He had permanent lifting restrictions and restrictions on bending, squatting, twisting, and climbing. He was cleared only for light work.
Both Paz’s preinjury job and his work history consisted entirely of heavy-duty work. Based on his fifth-grade education, his age (56), and other factors, his modifier points were 60. When those points were added to his PPD of 3%, his workers’ comp benefits would have been paid at 63% for 500 weeks because he was unable to find a job that paid his preinjury wage. As a result, his workers’ comp benefits with modifier points would have been $302 a week for 500 weeks. Without modifier points, his workers’ comp benefits at 3% would be $14 a week for 500 weeks.
The difference between the two payments over 500 weeks was $144,000. Although the workers’ comp insurance company would have paid the benefits, the ultimate cost would rest on the construction company because its insurance rates would be substantially affected.
Return-to-Work Conundrum for Undocumented Workers
Once Salls Brothers learned that Paz was undocumented and not legally entitled to work in the United States, it was unable to offer him a job of any type. Yet under the WCA, it needed to offer him a job at his preinjury wage to avoid liability for $302 a week in benefits for 500 weeks.
The New Mexico Supreme Court addressed this problem in 2013 in a case involving an undocumented worker hired as a painter’s helper. In that case, the court held that if the employer knew or should have known at the time of the undocumented worker’s initial hiring that he was not eligible to work in the United States, the offer of rehire after the injury couldn’t be a bona fide offer. If the offer to rehire is a sham, the employer is liable for modifier points and would have to pay the higher workers’ comp benefits package (in that case 52% versus 3%).
As the court of appeals noted when it reviewed the painter’s helper’s case, “employers have a perverse incentive to ignore immigration laws at the time of hiring but insist upon their enforcement when their employees complain” or, as in these cases, when it comes time to pay workers’ comp benefits.
In Paz’s case, the workers’ comp judge found that Salls Brothers reasonably believed he was authorized to work in the United States based on the documentation he presented at the time of his hiring. As a result of its good-faith belief in the legitimacy of his sham documents, the worker wasn’t entitled to modifier points.
Between the two parties—an undocumented worker who presented false documents and an employer that failed to thoroughly investigate the documents—the worker was at greater fault, the court held. As a result, his PPD benefits would be limited to only the impairment rating of 3%, or $14 a week for 500 weeks. Melendez v. Salls Brothers Construction, Inc., 2018-NMCA___, ___ P. 3d ___, NM Court of Appeals Decision No. A-1-CA-34971, January 17, 2018.
Whether you will be liable for higher or lower workers’ comp benefits depends on your reasonable belief at the time you hired the employee. If you reasonably relied on a worker’s documents, even if they are later shown to be false, and there was no reasonable basis for you to know that the worker was undocumented, then he will not be eligible for modifier points if he is later injured and cannot earn his preinjury wage.
The court’s ruling in this case is a substantial economic blow for Paz, but for Salls Brothers and similarly situated employers, it’s a wake-up call to examine workers’ documents closely and fill out I-9 forms carefully during the hiring process.
Companies are being forced to innovate new ways of attracting employees in the challenging recruiting landscape. What better way than with a video job description?
At RecruitCon 2018—in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month—Elena Valentine, CEO of Skill Scout, took attendees on an exciting “field trip” around the Hilton Hotel in downtown Nashville. Attendees had the chance to learn how to create their own video job descriptions by seeing how it’s done firsthand.
Valentine was able to secure an interview with a Hilton employee, who graciously agreed to talk about his role and his day-to-day activities. After the interview was complete, attendees split into two groups.
One group followed the Hilton employee and videotaped his day-to-day activities and encounters with hotel “guests” (in this case, two RecruitCon attendees filled this role in order to respect hotel guests’ privacy). The second group was responsible for filming “B-roll footage.” B-roll is basically background imagery, and in this case, attendees shot videos of the Hilton and local hot spots in Nashville.
The video below shows a behind-the-scenes look at this very exciting RecruitCon session.
#RecruitCon2018 | Behind The Scenes of a DIY Video Workshop at the Hilton Nashville Downtown - YouTube
It doesn’t take an MIT engineering whiz to tell you that stress is a serious problem. But it might open your eyes to learn that even MIT brings puppy therapy onto its campus to reduce students’ anxiety and the negative, sometimes nonobvious consequences of stress.
As an employer, you can’t necessarily turn your workplace into a playroom for romping pooches, but you do need to think creatively about ways to combat job-related stress. After all, despite it being a naturally occurring phenomenon, it’s causing everything from tension headaches to hair loss to high blood pressure.
And those are just the more noticeable, easily measurable effects.
The stress outcomes you don’t necessarily notice are equally sinister and dangerous—especially to your profit margins. Consider irritability, for instance. An irritable teammate is less likely to “play nice” with others and might stir the pot, potentially making every meeting toxic. Similarly, a worker under significant strain might experience difficulty focusing, leading to mistakes and overlooked assignments.
Of course, you can’t remove all stress; some of it is necessary to spur action. However, you need to take another look at how it’s impacting your workforce, as well as how you can temper known and anticipated stressors.
We’re all Aware of Stress. Now, We Need to Act on Our Awareness.
The Harris Interactive “Work Stress Survey” discovered that not only had the number of national residents under stress at work increased from 73 to 83 percent in the past year, but also the vast majority were in the Generation Z, Millennial, and Generation X categories. Only Baby Boomers seemed to feel a reduction in stress levels.
Why the generational discrepancy? One possibility is social media and its “idealistic” aspect.
Most people only post good things on their social accounts, shining a positive light that can produce frustration and anxiety in others. When Dave sees Danielle’s Facebook albums of the Jamaican trip she won for being the top salesperson at her company, he might immediately question his own life. Why aren’t his sales numbers up to par like hers are? Why doesn’t his organization offer great trip incentives? Does Danielle make significantly more than he does?
Although this type of social envy might only last for seconds, it builds up during the day. According to research from Pew Research Center, 88 percent of people under the age of 30 use at least one form of social media. Contrast that number with 36 percent of individuals over age 65 who do the same. Perhaps all those clicks, swipes, and follows are producing as many feel-bad thoughts as feel-good ones, explaining why a 68-year-old complains of stress far less often than someone 40 years her junior.
While you can’t necessarily retrain your younger employees to spend less time on Instagram or Facebook, you can help everyone relax and more fully engage while on the clock by doing a few simple things:
Encourage work/life balance through boundaries.
You might pride your top superstars for being workhorses, but even thoroughbreds require downtime. Periodically, do spot checks to ensure staff members are using their paid time off and not simply stashing it away. Similarly, make it a standard policy for managers to go around at the end of the day to encourage workers to wrap things up and head home. You can even have employees set flexible schedules as workload allows.
Not sure those techniques will work with your driven team of ultra-competitive rock stars? Bring stress relief to them if they won’t go after it. Some workplaces offer occasional chair massage therapist visits and similar events as treats to let go of built-up tension.
Become a proponent of office exercise.
Nothing takes the bite out of stress better than a 10-minute exercise break. Don’t worry about setting up a full-on gym at your company; set aside a space complete with a few stretch bands, medicine balls, ab exercise balls, and maybe even a piece of cardio equipment. Use the area yourself to illustrate that it’s completely OK to take a few moments to boost endorphins and promote creativity.
Looking for inspiration for your exercise oasis and future possibilities? Boston’s Drizly organized volleyball and kickball teams, credited workers with a stipend to go toward fitness, and eventually offered on-site classes. The company’s move toward a healthier workplace progressed organically; yours can and should, too.
Ask employees how they like to relax.
Why put pressure on yourself to become a mind reader? Survey your employees to find out how they like to reduce stress, and then pull together a list of ways you can make those moments happen in the workplace.
For instance, you might encourage people to listen to music throughout the day. Have a few extra dollars to throw at an innovative concept? Buy team members an upgraded Pandora or Spotify subscription so they can generate soothing playlists. While it’s important to ensure your employees are still meeting deadlines and getting their work done, you’ll know that your people are getting some music therapy—and destressing at the same time.
Provide healthy snacks for the office.
You can’t do much about your workers’ nutritional choices at home, but be sure to have nutrient-rich snacks on hand in the office. You might even want to bring in a balanced lunch for your employees once a week or month. Even just keeping a supply of healthy office snacks on hand can ward off the “hangries” and improve performance.
Everyone falls for stress eating sooner or later, so the healthier you can make the selections, the better. Why add to the growing waistline problem, which could eventually chip away at your own healthcare costs?
Whether you realize it or not, people give off energy. The more positive the energy in your workplace, the more positive the environment. It’s such a simple formula: Encouraging successful workers leads to better ideas, output, and profit margins. No MIT degree needed.
Jonathan Shapiro is the founder and chief snack officer at WorkPerks, a company that’s helping organizations improve office culture and client relationships by providing unique snack experiences for the workplace and one-of-a-kind gifts for clients. “Hangry” employees aren’t productive, and unhappy clients are bad for business. WorkPerks aims to solve those problems one snack at a time.
In person body language conveys a lot of meaning. But what about over the phone? It turns out, body language still matters even when the person you are talking to can’t even see you.
Source: bernardbodo / iStock / Getty
Wait … over the phone? Direct Tutor argues that even though the person on the other end of the line can’t see you, your body language can still come through and impact your message. “Not only does your body language impact your attitude, it could also impede good vocal production … If you have an ultra-casual, laid-back, feet-on-the-desk posture, it is sure to come through in your voice and your attitude.”
Salespeople have long been exhorted to keep a broad smile on their faces as they talk to prospects; customer service representatives in call centers are even often encouraged to keep a mirror nearby so they can keep a smile on their face. Yes, it makes a difference!
In the absence of face-to-face communication or video conferencing, a phone call is perhaps the most personal way we can communicate with each other. Via this medium, vocal inflection is the closest thing we have to body language. Raising one’s voice can be a sign of anger, rapid speech can convey a sense of urgency, and silence can indicate disagreement, etc. Being alert to how your voice inflection can impact your ability to communicate effectively with others can boost the effectiveness of your interactions.
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While pauses may sometimes convey disagreement, pause can also be used in a positive manner. Sometimes what isn’t said can be as powerful as what is. A pause over the phone, after you make a statement, can draw in the other party’s attention, and it helps to accentuate what was just said.
Let’s turn now to text communication—specifically e-mail. When using e-mail, thinking about how the recipient of your message will see the information can help you make your point clearly and quickly. For instance, the use of highlighting can be very effective for attracting attention or accentuating a key point. It’s almost like the textual equivalent of shouting. See, for example, this article in Net M@nners.
Using bulleted lists, instead of long blocks of copy, can help to make your message more appealing and help the recipient clearly see your key points.
When we think of emoji, we typically think of teenagers texting their friends on their phones. But emoji can actually have a place in professional communication as well. For example, certain messages can be interpreted as harsh or combative via text even when this isn’t the intent simply because there is no vocal inflection to add context. A simple smiley face emoji can make clear to the recipient that there is no negativity intended. Keep in mind, though, that the use of emoji can create other issues—even issues related to harassment—so they should be used sparingly, and appropriately.
It’s not only face-to-face communication that can cause unintended communication issues. How we communicate over the phone and via text (e-mail or text messages) can greatly influence how our messages are received and interpreted. This is increasingly important as more and more of our workforce becomes remote.
Q I am an HR manager. My company just received notice of a charge of discrimination from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) along with a request for information (RFI) seeking sensitive personnel data about several other employees at the company. Can you advise me about the best way to respond?
A Receiving an EEOC charge can be unnerving, especially when it’s accompanied by an RFI seeking voluminous amounts of confidential information about other employees. While it’s important to be responsive and cooperative, you also have the right to object to broad requests or negotiate the scope of the requested information with the EEOC investigator. Let’s examine some of the steps you should take.
First, identify the deadlines for responding to the individual charge of discrimination, and put them on your calendar. It’s important to respond to the EEOC in a timely manner. Notify the appropriate people in your company that a charge has been filed with the EEOC and you have received an RFI.
Next, consider who should investigate the allegations, whether it’s you and your staff in HR, an in-house attorney, outside counsel, or other outside consultants. Identify key players to be interviewed, and ensure that their documents and e-mails are gathered and preserved. Make sure interviews conclude with a reminder of your company’s antiretaliation policy and a request that witnesses keep the information discussed during the interviews confidential.
Responding to the Charge and RFI
You’ll have to submit a position statement in response to the EEOC charge. This is your chance to introduce your company, your antidiscrimination policies, and your side of the story. Note that the response will be based solely on the allegations made in the charge. You should request an opportunity to respond to any additional information gathered by the EEOC.
When you analyze the additional personnel information requested by the EEOC, be aware that the agency now shares employers’ responses with charging parties. If you’re providing information about other employees, make sure to designate medical, financial, and other sensitive information as confidential and produce it separately. If the confidential information being sought appears unrelated to the individual charge of discrimination, consider talking to the EEOC investigator about narrowing the scope of the request.
Be cooperative but resolute in seeking to narrow the scope of the information. For example, a request for sensitive information about all personnel employed by an organization nationwide can be challenged on the basis that it’s overly broad, burdensome (expensive and time-consuming), and not related to the charge of discrimination. The EEOC investigator may be satisfied with a subset of the information (e.g., employees with the same job titles at the same store). Consider conferring with legal counsel before challenging the scope of the RFI to determine how best to respond to a potential subpoena.
If You Get Subpoenaed
If you receive a subpoena, you must determine quickly whether you wish to object because the EEOC provides only five business days to do so. Keep in mind that the costs associated with legally challenging the subpoena could be much higher than the cost of simply providing the information. However, don’t be afraid to object if it’s warranted, especially when it appears that the EEOC is trying to create a class action out of a single claim of discrimination.
Although the EEOC has broad powers to investigate, its authority is limited. Last year, the 10th Circuit rejected the agency’s subpoena for a list of all pregnant women at one employer irrespective of whether they had ever requested an accommodation because it had no connection to the single charge of discrimination. While employer challenges are rare, the 10th Circuit has rejected subpoenas seeking nationwide information in response to a local discrimination charge as well as information about employees who didn’t have the same experience as the charging employee.
Responding to an EEOC charge in a cooperative and reasonable manner, even when the agency’s requests appear intrusive and burdensome, will make the process more manageable for both your company and the EEOC.
Sarah K. Downey, a partner with Jackson, Loman, Stanford & Downey, focuses her practice on labor and employment matters. She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
In yesterday’s Advisor I explored Susan Vitale’s RecruitCon 2018 session titled Outlook on the 2025 Workplace: How to Attract the Next Generation of Talent by Effectively Recruiting Millennials and Gen Z. Today we’ll look at more from that session.
Source: vgajic / E+ / Getty
Vitale is the Chief Marketing Officer at iCIMS, a company you may recognize from its suite of applicant tracking and recruiting software solutions. One of the benefits of working for a company like iCIMS is access to a database of over 3500 customers and 61 million applications, information that has proven useful in analyzing trends and conducting research on recruitment and retention.
In this article, I’ll focus on the consumer mindset to the recruiting process and how you can ensure your candidates get a good experience.
Bring a Consumer Mindset to the Recruiting Process
Consider how your recruitment process compares to the services and technologies that Millennials and Generation Z applicants are accustomed to using. Millennials bring a consumer mindset to the hiring experience, so iCIMS asked candidates—in a recent survey—about the types of consumer services and experiences they expect to find in the recruiting process. Tools such as Tinder, Netflix, and Yelp had very clear applications to the hiring process.
For example, the Tinder-like ability to “swipe left” and “swipe right” to sort through numerous job listings, rather than opening and wrangling a series of website tabs, was of interest to more than half of survey respondents. Also of interest was a Netflix-like experience in which candidates could receive job recommendations based on their profile and preferences or the experiences of applicants with similar skills, résumés, and backgrounds.
Thanks to Google and machine learning technology, Vitale points out that this experience is not that far off. She also highlights another benefit of this customized recommendation approach: “Entry level talent doesn’t know what your jobs are,” as applications and job descriptions tend to use a lot of jargon.
Just as you may not know whether you’ll enjoy a TV series based on the title, you may not be able to learn much about a job from its title or “synopsis” either. A Netflix-like experience based not only on the applicant’s profile, but the collective experiences of similar applicants, can ensure the right matches are made.
Millennials and Generation Z are also used to being able to read reviews, as with Yelp. So, they will look past your marketing materials and will conduct their own research, not only on sites such as Glassdoor, but also via your social media portals, and a standard Google search. Here, they’re looking for a feel for your workplace culture, including real photos of your workplace and employees.
Speaking of Google, 73% of candidates start a job search on Google.
Ensure Your Candidate Experience Reflects Your Organization
As with our expectations relative to entry-level work experience, Vitale reminds us to consider whether our candidate experience is reasonable and efficient. For example, she cautions against processes that waste candidates’ time, as one of the top reasons candidates withdraw from the hiring process is having their time disrespected.
So, consider whether you’re requiring candidates to come in multiple times and meet with multiple people—would a quick Skype interview reduce this burden for everyone involved? Consider that younger workers may have more difficulty managing their schedules to come in for multiple interviews—what may entail a few hours of paid time off for established workers can mean an entire missed workshift for younger workers in hospitality and service roles.
Next, what about your application process? Does it really need to take 45 minutes for a candidate to complete your application? Is your application mobile friendly—not only accessible on a mobile device, but do your questions make sense for mobile submission? Are you requiring candidates to type an essay using their thumbs? Does your application allow candidates to upload documents, such as a résumé, from cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive?
Vitale also recommends sharing your expectations regarding time to fill positions. Even if you expect to require 6 weeks to make a final decision, simply being transparent and sharing this information shows respect and helps build trust.
And So Much More …
Vitale also covered retention tactics, how communication expectations have changed, and the importance of training, development, and mentorship. Her RecruitCon 2018 presentation was truly knowledge-packed and data-backed, and even after these highlights, I’ve only touched on a few of the insights and practical tips she had to offer. If you have the opportunity to hear her speak on this or other recruiting topics in the future, you won’t be disappointed.
Holly K. Jones, JD is a Senior Legal Editor for BLR’s human resources and employment law publications. She understands the existing and emerging needs and challenges of human resources professionals thanks to several years of experience managing, writing, and editing key legal and compliance publications for BLR. Prior to joining BLR, Ms. Jones worked for the Tennessee Legislature’s Office of Legal Services.
She graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a BA in English Rhetoric and Writing, Political Science, and Psychology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, where she also received a 2001 Citation for Extraordinary Academic Achievement. She received her law degree from Vanderbilt University Law School and is licensed to practice law in Tennessee.
A common misconception is that an organization becomes a Best Place to Work simply because it offers health care and added benefits and has a rec room set up with ping pong or free coffee and snacks for the taking. In fact, being recognized as a Best Place to Work not only takes a lot of hard work but also takes a commitment by the organization to cultivate this kind of culture—and a realization that this type of accolade is not usually something earned overnight, or even over the course of a year, but earned as a result of long-term dedication and commitment to the goal.
Source: Victor_85 / iStock / Getty
As a company starts out, it’s important to consider the why—why do you want your organization to be named a Best Place to Work? Certainly, there is a prestige factor, but the implications can run much deeper than that. Achieving a culture that an outside organization recognizes as a top working environment typically (and not surprisingly) translates into an organization where most of the employees are very happy and love their jobs. This, in turn, tends to result not only in higher levels of productivity but also more overall positive company outcomes, as employees are encouraged to innovate and develop their own ideas and/or solutions to issues. Additionally, this positive employee morale is noticeable, and a company’s employees tend to become one of the best recruitment tools when looking for other like-minded employees. This type of recognition is also great public relations—being seen as an industry leader among similar companies positions an organization that much further ahead and can be a standout differentiating factor. Executives in the company will be looked at as thought leaders in their field, and overall pride in the organization will undoubtedly increase (leading to even higher levels of productivity and stronger recruitment, continuing the positive cycle).
For many organizations, becoming a Best Place to Work needs to be a goal woven into a big-picture road map, like a 5-year strategic plan, for example. A company’s leaders should start by understanding the baseline of employee engagement. From there, this feedback can be developed into a very clearly defined 5-year plan that the entire organization can align itself with. Communication is key to this process—in fact, communication, or a lack thereof, is one of the biggest feedback areas companies tend to receive and on its own can be one of the biggest foundation blocks toward helping to raise employee engagement levels. Define the 5-year plan and communicate it broadly to make sure that everyone understands where the company is going and how it’s going to get there. Fortify this process by implementing a performance management system that supports the goal-setting process and revolves around rewarding both individual results and behaviors—so not just what the individual accomplished but how he or she got there.
Organizations with leaders who demonstrate a commitment to this plan end up being more successful more quickly. Your company’s executives should plan to spend some time with their employees in a setting different from the day to day. Especially for companies with more than one location, “listening tours” go a long way to show that leadership is committed to making the organization a great one to work for by taking time out to travel to them and engage them in thoughtful conversations that hit on what’s going well and maybe what’s not going so well, as well as what kind of corporate support employees might need to be able to do their jobs better. These opportunities also offer the sense to employees that they are truly being listened to (especially when topics that are brought up the day of the event are followed up with) and give everyone an opportunity to get to know their colleagues in a more meaningful way.
Teambuilding activities (again, with participation from the top down) also go a long way toward instilling a feeling that everyone is valued and integral to the overarching mission. Again, for companies with more than one location, providing opportunities for team members from other locations to interact with each other is also crucial toward expanding rapport with other colleagues throughout the company, building networking ties with each other, and overall instilling a sense of unity throughout the company. Family events are also a great way to show an organization’s commitment to work/life balance and engage the entire family with the company (which offers employees another important support tool).
Being open to receiving employee feedback is also important—and sometimes harder than it sounds. But demonstrating that your company is open to honest, constructive comments helps develop a sense that the company really is trying to be the best—from the employees’ perspective. One way to achieve this might be to create an e-mail address for comments that goes right to the top leadership; another is to encourage employees to post reviews on websites that potential employees might visit to research more about your company’s culture (which, in turn, is a great tool for attracting similarly committed employees). The most important thing when receiving this feedback, however, is to ensure that you reflect it’s not falling on deaf ears but rather instilling the trust that something will be done.
If your company starts applying for Best Place to Work honors, recognize that you are asking your employees to take time out of their lives to respond to surveys. You don’t ever want to imply that it’s a requirement for an employee to respond to a survey, but hopefully the work you’ve done will create an environment in which employees are proud of their company and, therefore, happy to have the opportunity. Still, be aware of survey fatigue, and give your employees a break now and again. And when you do ask them for their comments in a more formal written assessment, remind them that it’s in part because the leadership of the organization wants to be tuned in to their impressions, which they know can change over time. Finally, be sure to show your gratitude to employees who do take the time to complete surveys or write reviews—after all, it’s their opinions that, in the end, lead to the accolades and promising new recruits!
As mentioned above, these changes don’t happen overnight, but with perseverance, your company should start to notice a shift in culture well before reaching the 5-year point. Recognitions received at this time are a result of setting the path and following through, but don’t let early success lead to complacency. Build on the momentum of your company’s efforts, and you can continue to cultivate an organization that truly is, and remains, a Best Place to Work.
Dana Smith is Vice President, Human Resources, and Whitney Pulsifer is Senior Director, Strategic Initiatives for Peabody Properties (www.peabodyproperties.com), a full-service real estate and property management firm that was named a 2017 Top Place to Work by the Boston Globe and a 2018 Glassdoor Best Place to Work.
If it wasn’t for broader, more serious organizational and ethical breaches swirling around a variety of Trump appointees and agencies, the disarray at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) might attract some attention. The situation at the NLRB is an all-but-perfect example of a “Washington dilemma,” made up of equal parts of political posturing, self-interest, and a serious ethical quandary. It’s also a situation that has profound ramifications for employers and employees.
Source: mixmagic / iStock / Getty
The NLRB was designed by Congress to reflect the policies and positions of the president. In that sense, it represents one of the most straightforward ways in which a new president can see his policies effected. Its direct impact on employment practices has made the Board one of the most politicized agencies in our government. In this highly politicized moment in a highly divided government, the tugs and pulls on the NLRB are at the point of dismembering the institution.
It all started quietly enough. Two new Republican members were appointed to fill vacancies at the NLRB, creating a Republican majority on the Board. As is often the case under a Republican administration, the new members are experienced attorneys who have devoted much of their careers to representing employers and employer associations. In every respect, the new members are “management” counterparts to the “labor” representatives appointed by Democratic presidents, whose careers have been devoted to representing unions and other employee organizations.
One of the new NLRB members is William Emanuel, a partner in a large law firm that represents management. His appointment coincided with the hearing of a new case, Hy-Brand Industrial Contractors, Ltd., in which the Board overturned Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., a highly controversial 2015 decision. In Browning-Ferris, the NLRB held that a business that exerts indirect control over another business’s workers can be considered their “joint employer” in union election cases and unfair labor practice proceedings. That ruling created confusion about the bargaining obligations and business relationships of employers everywhere, especially among franchisers and franchisees, and contractors and subcontractors.
In addition to reinstating the decades-old standard for determining who is considered “in charge” of a workforce, Hy-Brand created jurisdictional turmoil in the courts. The Board’s Browning-Ferris decision had been appealed and argued. Was that appeal still pending, or was the case moot? And while those legal matters were spinning, the ethical shoe dropped. Under pressure from union advocates and some members of Congress, the NLRB’s inspector general (IG) issued a report (itself controversial) in which it found that Emanuel should have recused himself from the Hy-Brand case because his law firm represented one of the affected parties. With Emanuel absent, the Board then ruled to rescind the Hy-Brand decision.
The wisdom and propriety of that rescission has been questioned ever since. The appeals court hearing Browning-Ferris has all but thrown up its hands and told the NLRB to settle the issue before it will deal with the appeal. The NLRB’s General Counsel has challenged the legal sufficiency of the rescission. Hy-Brand recently filed a motion alleging the Board violated its own procedures when it vacated the decision. More important, Hy-Brand challenged the IG’s authority to interpret the Trump administration’s ethics rules and alleged its report was legally insufficient in every respect. Perhaps most significant, the criteria for recusal have been thrown into chaos.
Since the NLRB’s inception, Board members have been selected from jobs in which they represented management or labor. Emmanuel insists that he had no role in his firm’s representation of Hy-Brand and notes that his role in a firm of more than 1,000 lawyers was limited to a tiny percentage of matters. But the simple fact that he was a partner in that “management” law firm was the basis for his recusal. If that’s the case, it’s hard to know if there’s a bright line anywhere. Indeed, the newest Republican Board member, John Ring, has already been challenged by union representatives because he, too, was a partner in a large management law firm that represents employers.
If “issue recusal” is now the standard at the NLRB, it’s just as likely that Democratic members will be banned from participation in certain cases, too. After all, they’ve represented unions, and even worked for unions, before coming to the Board. Indeed, if the “Emanuel standard” is the new ethical criterion for recusal, it may not be possible to have a functioning NLRB.
In these turbulent times, when ethical issues have been politicized and “weaponized,” it’s difficult to see how NLRB members can withdraw to the prior “specific matter” recusal standard. Only the necessity of having an NLRB that can perform its statutory functions may force a resolution.
Burton J. Fishman is an attorney with Fortney & Scott, LLC, in Washington, D.C. You can reach him at email@example.com.
Generally, an employee’s payments must be post-tax, for the reasons outlined below.
A telemedicine program that’s voluntary must meet several requirements to qualify for a safe harbor so that it’s not subject to ERISA as a group health plan. Employers may want to avoid having a program become an ERISA group health plan because that brings with it all the ACA mandates, including no annual dollar limits and first-dollar preventive care.
A telemedicine program could theoretically be “integrated” with a major medical plan that does comply, but then participation could not be “voluntary” to major medical participants (or available to nonparticipants).
It’s also important to note that, depending on what the program offers, a standalone telemedicine plan may affect an employee’s HSA eligibility because the federal tax code prohibits an employee from being covered under any other health plan that is not an HDHP (except for certain permitted insurance like workers’ compensation and certain benefits like vision/dental coverage).
With these points in mind, a plan generally is considered voluntary if:
The employer does not sponsor or endorse the plan,
The employer does not contribute to the premiums,
The employer does not receive any benefit from the plan
The plan is completely voluntary.
Allowing employees to deduct premiums through a cafeteria plan will generally be viewed as an employer endorsement, therefore, employees must pay their premiums on an after-tax basis. The employer may collect the after-tax premiums paid by employees and submit the payment to the telemedicine provider.
The annual contribution limits for health savings accounts (HSAs) are going up in 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced May 10. The maximum out-of-pocket limits for an HSA-eligible high-deductible health plan (HDHP) also will be increased for inflation, according to Revenue Procedure 2018-30.
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For self-only plans, the contribution limit (employer + employee) for calendar year 2019 is $3,500; this represents a $50 increase over the 2018 limit. For family plans, the 2019 limit is $7,000, a $100 increase from 2018.
For 2019, annual out-of-pocket expenses (deductibles, copayments, and other amounts not including premiums) for an HDHP cannot exceed $6,750 for self-only coverage or $13,500 for family coverage (compared to $6,650 and $13,300, respectively, for 2018). However, the minimum deductible for an HDHP will remain $1,350 for self-only coverage or $2,700 for family coverage.
Note that the 2019 out-of-pocket limits are different for Affordable Care Act compliance, at $7,900 for self-only plans and $15,800 for family plans, as indicated in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ “Notice of Benefit and Payment Parameters” rule (83 Fed. Reg. 16930, April 17, 2018).