Updating Your Employee Records System

Posted February 22, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Do you feel weighted under a never-ending cascade of employee papers and files? It’s not your fault. You’re just keeping what the federal and state laws require you to keep.

New Year, New System

Make a fresh start of your record keeping system this year. Whether you’re going to stick with paper files, create a computer-based filing system or store records on the cloud, you need to create at least four separate sets of records for each employee.

Personnel file – This file outlines basic information such as name, address, phone number, emergency contacts, SSN and anything else that’s specific to the employee.

Payroll file – This file contains salary information, benefits, pay rate changes and any other documentation affecting the employee’s paycheck.

Medical file – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), requires employee medical information to be kept confidential. This file contains health insurance, life insurance, medical leave and other documents containing private medical information. Store these files so that managers or HR who need access to other files don’t have access to the medical files.

I-9 Form file – An I-9 work authorization form must be kept on file for every employee. The I-9 file must be kept separate from all other confidential employee files.

Keeping these files ensures you’re in compliance, protected in case of an audit or litigation, and keeps employee information from getting in the wrong hands.

Also, if you’re converting to electronic files, it is best practice to keep them in a format viable for future use such as a picture document (.jpg or .tif) or as a PDF file.

Sources: Business Management Daily | Update your employee records system: 4 essential components

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-approved Crawford Advisors Webinar | Voluntary Benefits: Tackling 2017’s Top Tax & Compliance Issues

Posted February 17, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Partly because of the ACA, the discussions surrounding voluntary benefits and the implementation of them have become much more closely tied to the underlying group medical plans. By some estimations, as many as 80% of voluntary benefits programs may be out of compliance in some way.

Join Crawford Advisors’ Director of Voluntary Benefits, Stephen Ivey, for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, complimentary, one-hour webinar as he explores current tax and compliance questions and issues surrounding today’s voluntary benefits.

Topics include:

  • ERISA
  • Pre-Tax vs. Post-Tax
  • Supplemental Health Plans Taxation Questions
  • Life & Disability Taxation Questions
  • HSA Compatibility

Webinar Details:

  • Thursday, February 23, 2017
  • 1:00 – 2:00pm EST
  • No Cost to Attend
  • This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals – but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.

 

*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.

**Crawford Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit shrmcertification.org.

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Finalized Paid Family Leave Law – Washington, D.C.

Posted February 15, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

The D.C. Universal Paid Leave Amendment Act of 2016 (UPLAA) was passed in December 2016 by the District of Columbia City Council and goes into effect as of July 1, 2020. This will guarantee certain periods of paid family and medical leave to private-sector employees. Beginning exactly a year before the effective date, payments will be funded by an additional .62% employer payroll tax that the city will collect from private-sector employees.

As of now the law applies only to D.C., but will have wide-ranging implications. The D.C. experience will serve as a model to a nationwide effort to seek passage of state and local paid-leave laws.

The D.C. Chamber of Commerce was opposed to the UPLAA and Mayor Muriel Bowser argued that many of the Maryland and Virginia residents who work in the city would reap the benefits of the $250 million tax increase on D.C. employers. However, Bowser did not veto the bill.

Shorter Paid-Leave Periods
The D.C. Family and Medical Leave Act (DCFMLA) is much more generous than the federal FMLA, allowing eligible employees of D.C. to take 16 weeks of unpaid leave for qualifying family and medical reasons compared to the typical 12 weeks.

However, UPLAA’s paid leave will provide shorter periods:

  • Eight weeks within a 52-week period to new parents
  • Six weeks for the care of a family member with a serious health condition
  • Two weeks for an employee’s own medical leave

In total, no more than eight weeks of paid leave is allowed within the 52-week period under the UPLAA.

Expanded Rights
The new UPLAA leave entitlement will apply to more private-sector employees than the DCFMLA:

  1. New employees will be entitled to take paid family or medical leave in circumstances in which they currently have no entitlement to take even unpaid leave.
    To currently qualify for unpaid leave, an employee must have worked for the employer at least one year before the leave request. But for the UPLAA, no such conditions apply. The UPLAA considers an individual eligible as long as they are a covered employee “during some or all of the 52 calendar weeks immediately preceding the qualifying event.”
  2. The UPLAA provides paid-leave rights to part-time employees, as long as they worked for the employer at some point in the prior year.
    The current local law only provides a right to unpaid leave to employees who have worked at least 1,000 hours during the 12-months prior to the request for family or medical leave, as opposed to the FMLA’s 1,250 hours in a 12-month period.
  3. The UPLAA applies to all private-sector employers regardless of size, except for those that are exempt from taxes in D.C. by federal law or treaty.
    This now allows employees of small businesses with fewer than 20 employees the right to take leave for qualifying family and medical reasons. Although, a clause in the law suggests that employees who work for small businesses with fewer than 20 employees are not entitled to “job protection” when returning from paid leave.
  4. The UPLAA broadens – although slightly – the class of family members for whom leave can be taken.
    The DCFMLA requires covered employers to allow unpaid leave to employees to care for family members with a serious health condition to also include:
    – A person to whom the employee is related by blood, legal custody or marriage
    – A child who lives with an employee who exercises parental responsibility
    – An individual with whom the employee lives and is in a “committed relationship”
    The UPLAA adds the following:
    – A legal ward
    – A son or daughter of a domestic partner
    – A person “who stood in loco parentis” to the employee when her or she was a
    child
    The UPLAA also includes provisions prohibiting retaliation against employees who exercise their right to paid leave. One provision goes as far as forbidding employers from retaliating by reporting, or threatening to report, an employee’s “actual suspected citizenship or immigration status” to federal, state or local agencies.

Sources: SHRM | Washington, D.C., Finalizes Paid-Family-Leave Law

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

IRS Warns of Dangerous W-2 Phishing Scam

Posted February 13, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) put out an alert about a W-2 email phishing scam that not only has taken on the corporate world, but is also invading the other sectors such as school districts, tribal organizations and nonprofits.

The IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, states, “This is one of the most dangerous email phishing scams we’ve seen in a long time. It can result in the large-scale theft of sensitive data that criminals can use to commit various crimes, including filing fraudulent tax returns. We need everyone’s help to turn the tide against this scheme.”

Cybercriminals use various spoofing techniques to disguise emails to make it look as though they’re from an organization executive. The email is then sent to an employee within the payroll or HR department of an organization asking for a list of all employees and their Forms W-2. This scam is often referred to as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES). So Security Summit partners are asking all employers to be extremely vigilant. The W-2 scam came about last year and is circulating earlier this year and to a broader scope of organizations, including school districts, tribal casinos, chain restaurants, temporary staffing agencies, healthcare and shipping and freight. The scam is also being sent to businesses that may have received the same email last year.

New Twist: Cybercriminals follow-up with an “executive” email to payroll and HR employees asking for a wire transfer be made to a certain account. Though this wire transfer is not tax related, it is being coupled with the W-2 scam and some companies have lost both employees’ W-2s and thousands of dollars due to the wire transfers.

The IRS urges all employers to share this information with their payroll, finance and HR employees and also consider creating an internal policy on the distribution of W-2 information and how to conduct wire transfers properly.

Steps Employers Can Take If They See the W-2 Scam

Organizations: Organizations that receive this email scam should forward it to phishing@irs.gov and put “W2 Scam” in the subject line. Organizations that receive the scam or fall victim to it should file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), which is operated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Employees: Employees whose W-2 have been stolen should review the recommended actions of the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov or by the IRS at www.irs.gov/identitytheft. Should an employee’s tax return be rejected due to a duplicate Social Security Number (SSN) or if instructed to do so by the IRS, should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.

Be Safe Online

Not only should taxpayers and tax preparers be leery of phishing emails, but also of using search engines to find technical help with taxes or tax software. Selecting the wrong “tech support” link could lead to a loss of data or an infected computer. Also, “tech support” software will not call users randomly so this would be another scam.

Sites for paid tax professional or free tax assistance:

IRS e-Services are also being manipulated by thieves sending emails asking e-Services users to update their credentials so they can then steal the information.

See Also

Affected employers and companies should also alert the state tax agencies by notifying StateAlert@taxadmin.org.

Sources: IRS | Dangerous W-2 Phishing Scam Evolving; Targeting Schools, Restaurants, Hospitals, Tribal Groups and Others

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Benefits Market & ACA Under President Trump

Posted February 10, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

 

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Is Paid Parental Leave Right for Your Company?

Posted February 7, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

The number of employers looking to offer paid parental leave is on the rise. A solid company policy is needed and Jeff Nowak from FMLA Insights has some of the best practices you can consider when drafting your policy:

  • Decide when it kicks in
    Employers, not the feds, are able to determine when the eligibility requirements of this benefit go into effect. So employers could require employees to work a certain number of hours before parental leave kicks in.
  • Watch for discrimination traps
    Per the EEOC’s new pregnancy discrimination guidance, it is absolutely acceptable to provide better medical benefits to new moms than to new dads when it comes to childbirth recovery…for obvious reasons. But for bonding leave, employers can’t treat mean differently from women. New dads should be offered the same amount of bonding leave as new moms otherwise, you could leave yourself open to a discrimination suit.
  • Consider other paid leave
    An unpopular leave tactic among employees would be to require them to use their other paid leave, such as vacation, sick and PTO, before utilizing paid parental leave benefits. But a more popular option that can keep employee morale up would be to require employees to use
    paid leave before parental leave, but allowing them to set aside a certain amount of days for future use in the year.
  • Use FMLA accordingly
    Employers have a legal right to run parental leave and FMLA concurrently. This also makes the administration of benefits much easier for HR and benefit pros. r

Source: HRBenfitsAlert.com | 4 keys to a solid paid parental leave policy

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Pennsylvania & New York Employment Law Updates

Posted February 2, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Philadelphia Passes Pay Equity Ordinance

Philadelphia Mayor, Jim Kinney, signed Bill 160840 on January 23, 2017, amending the city’s Fair Practice Ordinance, which will go into effect on May 23, 2017. The bill makes it unlawful for an employer to:

  • Inquire about, or require disclosure of, a prospective employee’s wage history, whether in writing or otherwise;
  • Condition employment or consideration for an interview or employment on disclosure of wage history; or
  • Rely on a prospective employee’s wage history obtained from a current or former employer in determining the individual’s wages at any stage in the employment process, including the negotiation or drafting of any employment contract, unless the applicant knowingly and willingly discloses his or her wage history to the employer.
  • Also prohibits retaliation against a prospective employee for failing to provide their wage history or for enforcing their rights under law.

New York DOL Releases Model Templates for Wage Payment Methods

The New York Department of Labor (NYDOL), under recent changes to wage payment methods, have issued model templates for written notice and consent for using payroll debit cards and direct deposit. These regulations will go into effect on March 7, 2017, after the public has had time to view and provide feedback on the templates. The deadline for feedback is February 10, 2017. The templates will be updated if applicable and posted prior to the effective date, along with translations into additional languages specified during the rulemaking process.

View templates

New York SDFS Prohibits Denying Commercial Crime Coverage

The New York State Department of Financial Services (NYSDFS) have recently issued regulations that require insurance companies to provide commercial crime coverage to employers who have knowledge of employees with a prior criminal conviction. The regulations only apply to insurers whose insureds have engaged in an analysis under Article 23-A of the Correction Law, which prohibits discrimination of a conviction for a previous criminal offense, unless:

  • There is a direct relationship between one or more of the previous criminal offenses and the employment sought or held by the individual; or
  • The granting or continuation of employment would involve an unreasonable risk to property or to the safety or welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

In determining the above, employers must consider the following:

  1. The public policy of the state to encourage the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one ore more criminal offenses.
  2. The specific duties and responsibilities necessarily related to the license or employment sought or held by the person.
  3. The bearing, if any, the criminal offense or offenses for which the person was previously convicted will have on his or her fitness or ability to perform one or more such duties or responsibilities.
  4. The time elapsed since the occurrence of the criminal offense or offenses.
  5. The age of the person at the time of occurrence of the criminal offense or offenses.
  6. The seriousness of the offense or offenses.
  7. Any information produced by the person, or produced on the person’s behalf, in regard to his or her rehabilitation and good conduct.
  8. The legitimate interest of the public agency or private employer in protecting property, and the safety and welfare of specific individuals or the general public.

These regulations apply to policies issued, renewed, or delivered in NY after July 1, 2017.

Sources:
ThinkHR | Pennsylvania Employment Law Update – January 2017
ThinkHR | New York Employment Law Updated – January 2017

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

FLSA & Inclement Weather Policies

Posted January 31, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Weather is an unpredictable force. Just last week we were relishing in 60-70 degree weather to now watching through the windows as snow comes falling down like a white sheet from the sky. As beautiful as the fluffy stuff is, it can also wreak havoc on school, work and life in general!

So what does it mean for you when your company has to close due to inclement weather? Here’s a refresher on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules:

Non-Exempt Employees

  • Paid hourly (the majority of most workforces)
  • Compensated only for each hour worked

As a general rule, it is only required to pay an employee for the hours they worked and not for the intended scheduled workday if a business were to close early due to inclement weather. If a business were to close for an extended period of time, either from a single day to multiple weeks, then the employer is not obligated to pay a non-exempt employee during the period which the employee is not performing work. It is common that employers have “liberal leave” policies in place for such occasions.

Exempt Employees

  • Paid on salaried basis
  • Performs duties to match the claimed exempt status
  • Not entitled to overtime

In the event of inclement weather or any other event that may prevent a business from opening (i.e., fire, loss of power), an employer must pay the employee for any day which they are “ready, willing and able to work.” So if an exempt employee works only a portion of the week, the employer must pay the employee for the entire workweek. But if a business has to close for an entire workweek and an exempt employee does not perform any work during the week, then the employer does not have to pay an exempt employee for that workweek. Vacation time/PTO can be used to cover the unpaid time.

Remote Working Policy

If an employee is able to work from a remote location, then they are to be compensated like normal. But, should a business decide to stay open during inclement weather and the weather prevents an employee from coming to work, the employer may be able to deduct the missed time from the employee’s accrued leave. For best practices, it is best to review these policies and procedures, but also look into your state’s laws as they may have an impact on your policies.

Telework Policies

It may be a good idea to set telework policies in place in case of inclement weather or other business interruptions so that employees are still able to work from home.

A blizzard doesn’t have to stop production completely!

Source: Woods Rogers Attorneys at Law | Time for a Quick Review: Inclement Weather Policies and the FLSA

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Review Your Employment Policies & Practices

Posted January 25, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Start off the year right and make sure your employment policies and practices are up to par with the aggressive standards of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

To ensure compliance, review your policies and practices in these following areas:

  1. Pay Practices
    Equality has been in the forefront of the news for a quite a while now and the EEOC and OFCCP are very focused on pay equity. Review your compensation practices in case there are any pay discrepancies between comparable jobs and fix it. For best practices, document the basis for the starting pay levels and even have your attorney handle this to maximize attorney-client privilege protection.
  2. Independent Contractors
    The DOL and IRS do not play around with misclassification of independent contractors and their hefty penalties speak for themselves. Review the classification of your independent contractors and if some are not meeting the standards, then you may be able to restructure how they’re performing their services to comply with their classification, which could also possibly mean classifying them as employees.
  3. Social Media
    The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows for “protected concerted activity” in social media, so the NLRB has ruled that social media communication may be protected when employees discuss their terms and conditions of employment. Consider removing any language from your policies that would obstruct and penalize employee communication about the terms and conditions of their employment.
  4. Medical Leave
    The EEOC contests that employers have a duty to discuss reasonable accommodation for employees who need medical consideration instead of automatically jumping to termination if an employee needs to take medial leave. Review your leave policy to ensure it does not call for arbitrary termination of employees who need extended or fixed periods of leave.
  5. Background Checks
    Criminal background and credit checks have been the norm for job applicants for quite some time, but the EEOC find that such checks have an imbalanced impact on minorities. You should be open to learning of the nature of the crime and the relationship the crime has to the position before automatically prohibiting applicants from a position if they were convicted of a crime.

Source: Business Management Daily – Employment Law | Your annual HR policy review: 5 critical items to check

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Which PTO Plan is Best for Your Company and Employees?

Posted January 23, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Paid time off (PTO) is not a universally blanketed benefit. Companies are able to put their own PTO policy into effect and it could range from a set number of days a year to accrued days to a new policy that has begun to shake things up, “unlimited” PTO.

More employers have begun utilizing PTO banks that bundle together most forms of PTO for employees to use as they please, rather than assigning a certain number of sick time, vacation, and so on. Rich Fuerstenberg, of Mercer in Princeton, NJ, states that “this is part of the trend toward allowing employees more freedom of choice in general, including how they use their paid time off” in hopes that employees will have more appreciation of PTO as an employee benefit. Mercer’s survey on Absence and Disability Management of over 450 U.S. employers found that PTO banks went up to 63% in 2015 from 38% in 2010.

Although, in some states, such as California and New York, there are state and local laws in place that require employers to provide their employees with a certain amount of paid sick leave which puts a growth cap on the use of PTO banks across the nation.

Balancing Act
Some concerns of PTO banks:

  • Encourages employees to come to work sick and risk getting their coworkers sick as well
    • If sick days aren’t assigned, then employees don’t want to waste their PTO/vacation days as sick days
  • Employees run out of their banked PTO before the end of the year
    • If all PTO days are used up before the end of the year and the employee ends up getting sick, then they’re forced to either come in, advance time from the next year or take unpaid time off

One way to alleviate some of these said risks is to have employees accrue PTO days throughout the year. Jennifer Loftus, director of HR consulting at Astron Solutions, says “that can help to mitigate some of the chances for misuse or abuse of the PTO bank” by having employees earn 1-2 days per month to add to their allotment of PTO.

5 Questions to Ask
If you’re considering to implement a PTO bank, please review some of these questions:

  1. Will employees roll over unused time to the next year, either on an unlimited basis or up to a certain amount?
  2. Should employees be allowed to cash out unused time at year end and keep the cash or contribute it to a 401(k) plan or health savings account?
  3. Can current payroll systems and HR information systems handle administrative requirements?
  4. Is the organization prepared to communicate about the PTO bank, including what it is, how it works and how employees can track their accrued PTO?
  5. Are managers supportive of this approach and prepared to adjust scheduling and other issues as needed?

There are pros and cons to PTO banks, but your organization needs to consider everything carefully before deciding if this new policy is a good fit for the organization and your employees.

Source: SHRM | Employers Are Banking on Paid Time Off

For more information contact info@crawfordadvisors.com. The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

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