4 Need to Knows on Inclement Weather and W-2 Scams Updates

The weather, throughout the country during this time of year can be extreme, causing delays, and at times we will need to shut down operations because of inclement and unpredictable weather.  As most of us know, a few weeks ago the extreme cold was a perfect example of weather causing operations to close.  As leaders, we need ensure safety of our workforce and to fully understand the laws and regulations related to pay for both exempt and nonexempt workers, if the organization closes due to inclement weather.  

Below are 4 need to knows on inclement weather and pay:

  1. Exempt Employees: Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, exempt employees almost always must be paid during inclement weather and/or a natural disaster.  The Department of Labor has a list of instances in which an employer can dock an exempt employees pay, inclement weather and/or a natural disaster does not fall into pay docking.  The exempt employee must be paid for the entire day.  If the organization plans to close for an entire week due to weather or a disaster, at this time, an organization would not have to pay an exempt employee.
  2. Nonexempt Employees: Under the FLSA (federal law), employers are only required to pay hourly, nonexempt employees hours worked.  Certain states have report-in or call-in pay laws that can require employers to pay nonexempt employees if they show up to work as scheduled.
  3. New York State Nonexempt Laws: The New York Labor Law “Call-In Pay” provisions state, “that an employee who, by request or permission, reports to work on any day shall be paid at least the lesser of: a) four hours at the basic minimum wage rate; or (b) the number of hours in the employee’s “regularly scheduled shift” at the basic minimum hourly rate.”[i]  In inclement weather or a natural disaster, call-in pay will be due regardless of whether or not an employee was called in or showed up for work during their regularly scheduled shift and is informed  at that time, the organization is closed.

NYS DOL Minimum Wage Order Language

  1. Federal versus State Laws: In this situation, state law will supersede the federal laws related to inclement weather and nonexempt employee pay.  State laws on this subject will vary, this is just an example from New York State.  Be aware of legal requirements during this season of unpredictable weather.  If a nonexempt employee is working from home (emails, phone calls, etc.) during the inclement weather, this would also constitute payment for hours worked.  

Communication is critical in situations involving inclement weather or natural disasters.  We need to be proactive with our communication, while ensuring our employees know about closures prior to showing up for work.  Communication should be the normal communication process in the organization (phone, email, text, etc.)

W-2 Scams:

I wrote about this topic last year as well.  Cyber thieves continue to file fake tax returns and claim refunds.  Recently the thieves have posed as company executives and have obtained protected information from organizations about the employees.

Below are links to helpful resources regarding these scams:

Form W-2/SSN Data Theft: Information for Businesses and Payroll Service Providers

How to Handle W-2 Phishing Scams

Report Phishing and Online Scams

[i] http://www.hodgsonruss.com/newsroom-publications-inclement-weather.html

 

 

4 Updates IRS Deadline to Supply ACA Forms to Employees

In late December 2017, the IRS announced an extension for employer’s providing Affordable Care Act forms to employee’s.  As the future of the Affordable Care Act is still undecided, employers should be proactive in distributing and communicating information to the workforce.

Below are 4 updates for the ACA:

  1. Extension: The IRS extended the date to March 2, 2018 to distribute the 2017 forms to employees.  This is a 30-day extension to the regularly scheduled date of late January 2018.
  2. Penalty: “The IRS, which announced the extension December 22 in Notice 2018-06, also said it will not impose penalties on employers that can show that they made good-faith efforts to comply with the Affordable Car Act’s (ACA’s) information reporting requirements for plan year 2017.”[1]

Notice 2018-06

Information Reporting Requirements for Plan Year 2017

  1. IRS Filing Deadline: The due dates for filing 2017 returns with the IRS is not extended.  The due dates to file information returns with the IRS remain; February 28 paper filers and April 2 electronic filers.
  2. The Future and Beyond: “Although this is the third year that the IRS has granted transition relief for reporting, the notice states significantly that the IRS does not anticipate granting transition relief for 2018 or future years,” Jost pointed out. “This statement highlights the fact that, although the individual mandate penalty is repealed as of 2019, the reporting requirements that support it, as well as the employer mandate, remain in effect.”[2]

Affordable Care Act (ACA) Tax Provisions

Form 1095-B

Form 1095-C

As leader’s, we must be proactive in approaching the Affordable Care Act’s current and future legislation.  As the individual mandate penalty is repealed, the healthcare law is still the law of the land, for now.  Continue to watch for more changes in 2018 and 2019.  The ACA is complex, seek guidance if you are unclear on a path-forward.

Below is a link to the NYS Paid Family Leave Resources:

NYS Paid Family Leave Employer Webinar

PFL Resource Page

Model Language for Employer Material

[1] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/irs-extends-aca-form-distribution-deadline.aspx

[2] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/irs-extends-aca-form-distribution-deadline.aspx

3 Definitions in Federal and State Overtime Pay Rules

As we are approaching the end of 2017, understanding the federal and state overtime rules is necessary, as certain thresholds will change.  The current federal law requires employers to pay non-exempt workers time and a half for all hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek.  A workweek does not have to be the same as a calendar week, it can be defined as a regularly recurring block of seven consecutive 24-hour periods.  The Fair Labor Standards Act, “reserves to states the right to enact more-generous overtime laws.”[i]  In New York State, we see a difference in non-exempt and exempt salary definitions for the Executive and Administrative exemption definitions, which currently follow the FLSA definition on duties tests.

Below are 3 definitions in federal and state overtime pay rules:

  1. Holiday, Vacation, PTO and Sick Leave OT Accrual: Under current federal and NY state FLSA regulations, overtime does not have to accrue on top of leave. If a holiday falls in a seven-day workweek and an employee works 40-hours, the 4 remaining days during the week, the employee would be eligible for 48-hours of pay at straight time rate.  However, I have seen employers accrue overtime on top of leave time.  Be consistent with your overtime payments and ensure it is in your policy.  If you make a change to not accrue, communicate the change to your workforce.
  2. Executive and Administrative Exemption: The federal FLSA has an overtime threshold at $455 per week. In NY State (Southern Tier), the threshold for Executive and Administrative positions is $727.50 per week.  This will be increased to $780.00 per week after 12/31/17.  We could see changes to the federal FLSA in 2018, under the current administration, but no changes have been decided, currently.
  • $727.50 per week on and after 12/31/16
  • $780.00 per week on and after 12/31/17
  • $832.50 per week on and after 12/31/18
  • $885.00 per week on and after 12/31/19
  • $937.50 per week on and after 12/31/20[ii]

https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/Part142.pdf

  1. Multi-State Employers: Research current laws and regulations at the federal and state level. Laws across the country vary by state.  Laws regarding overtime pay and double time pay will vary.  Industry specific laws also exist in certain states.  “Employers must also be industry-specific daily overtime rules-such as in Oregon, where manufacturing workers must be paid premiums working 10 hours.”[iii]

The Fair Labor Standards Act was established in the 1930’s and regulations have evolved, as our society has evolved.  We continue to see significant changes at state levels and could see changes at the federal level, related to exempt and non-exempt thresholds, as well as minimum wage.  December 2017 is approaching quickly, ensure that your executive and administrative positions are defined and legal under current NY State exemption law.  Also remember that minimum wage will be increase in NY State.  Are you prepared?  Do you have updated labor and employment posters?  If you are unclear in defining the roles, seek guidance.

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/state-overtime-pay-rules-differ-from-federal-law.aspx

[ii] https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/wp/Part142.pdf

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/state-overtime-pay-rules-differ-from-federal-law.aspx

-Matthew W. Burr

7 Updates for New York State Paid Family Leave

New York State has communicated new forms that pertain to the upcoming January 1, 2018 roll-out of the Paid Family Leave, which will impact most employers throughout the state.  Below are links to the six forms that have recently been released from the state and more information on PFL tax withholding’s for employees.

Form Overview Page

  1. Employee Paid Family Leave Opt-Out: If an employee does not expect to work long enough to qualify for Paid Family Leave (a seasonal worker, for example), the employee may opt out of Paid Family Leave by completing the Waiver of Benefits Form.
  2. Bond with a Newborn, a Newly Adopted or Fostered Child: Employee is requesting Paid Family Leave to take time off to bond with a newly born, adopted or fostered child.
  3. Care for a Family Member with Serious Health Condition: Employee is requesting Paid Family Leave to take time off to care for a family member with a serious health condition.
  4. Assist Families in Connection with a Military Deployment: Employee is requesting Paid Family Leave to help relieve family pressures when someone is called to active military service abroad.
  5. Employer’s Application for Voluntary Coverage (No Employee Contribution): Employers exempt from providing mandatory Paid Family Leave may provide voluntary Paid Family Leave by completing PFL-135 (if no employee contribution is required).
  6. Employer’s Application for Voluntary Coverage (Employee Contribution Required): Employers exempt from providing mandatory Paid Family Leave may provide voluntary Paid Family Leave by completing PFL-136 (if they will be requiring an employee contribution).
  7. Tax Information: Benefits paid to employees will be taxable non-wage income that must be included in federal gross income, taxes will not automatically be withheld from benefits; employees can request tax withholding, premiums will be deducted from employees’’ after-tax wages, employers should report employee contributions on Form W-2 using Box 14 – State disability insurance taxes withheld and benefits should be reported by the State Insurance Fund on form 1099-G and by all other payers on Form 1099-MISC.

We will continue to see updates from the state on forms and potential policy changes to Paid Family Leave as the year comes to a close.  Continue to monitor for changes in policy and statewide communications.  Work with your payroll and disability providers to ensure that deductions start on or before January 1, 2018.  Be proactive in your communications with employees and ensure that policy, handbook and labor posters are up-to-date for the new year.  If you have questions regarding New York State Paid Family Leave, seek guidance on the processes and procedures.  This is a significant change at the state level, and it will impact most employers and employees in 2018.

 

5 Steps for a Successful Open Enrollment Period

During the months of October and November, employers annually conduct open enrollment sessions for employees and family members. These informational sessions, communicate upcoming benefit changes, new costs and any other relevant information that will impact the employee or employees family. The open enrollment sessions also provide an opportunity for the employee and/or significant other to ask questions regarding benefits and costs. SHRM published, “6 Simple Ways to Improve Open Enrollment,” in August 2017. Additional information or resource material, will be helpful to us as leaders and to our employees who need the information to make the best decision for themselves and their families, related to benefits.
Below are 5 steps for a successful open enrollment period:

1. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: Generate and disseminate information prior to open enrollment meetings. This will provide employees with the opportunity to review the information prior to the open enrollment sessions. Ensure that the information is communicated through the proper organizational channels and it is easy to understand. Do not make benefit information over complex or complicated. Develop a frequently asked questions sheet that will provide assistance to employees when thinking about questions and possible solutions. We cannot cover every questions, this format will help generate thought and answers.

2. Focus on the Employees: This step encompasses step #1, in that we need to prepare information for the workforce that is relevant and timely. Knowing your employees will add value to focusing on specific tools and resources for the open enrollment process.

3. Identify Needs: “Review the results of previous years’ open enrollment efforts to make sure the process and the perks remain relevant and useful to workers.” Do you send out a survey asking for feedback from last year’s open enrollment? What are the demographics of the workforce? Do you have metrics associated with benefit usage?

4. All Available Resources: Are we utilizing all the available resources inside and outside of the organization? Is the marketing department to develop material and communications? Are we partnering with brokers, insurance carrier and vendors to provide sufficient resources during the open enrollment process? Are we communicating all information? Remember NYS Paid Family Leave. Be creative. If you were in the employee’s shoes, what resources would add value and engagement throughout the enrollment process? Don’t assume that the carrier will say no, if you never ask, you will not know the answer.

5. Spouses Involvement: Many organizations provide the opportunity for spouses and domestic partners to be involved in the open enrollment process. Meeting times might need to be changed from day to night or weekend sessions. Other options could be webinars or one-on-one meetings. Involving the spouse will generate more questions and continued engagement.

Open enrollment can be a complex and confusing process for any employee. As leadership, we need to be aware of the needs of our workforce and find proactive solutions to manage and communicate these complexities. “Benefits enrollment strategies are always evolving. What worked last year may not be relevant this year. But you can’t go wrong putting employee’s needs first.” If it was you, what questions would you have during open enrollment?

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

Matthew@Burrconultingllc.com

Burr Consulting, LLC

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4 Updates on the 2016 Overtime Rule

On June 30, 2017, the Department of Justice released a brief to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, “that the Department of Labor (DOL) intends to revisit the $47,476 ($913 per-week) salary limit set by the rule through new rule-making.”[i]  Recall from the November 2016 district court ruling, which blocked the overtime rule.  The court blocked the rule based on the lack of authority by the Department of Labor to set any salary-level threshold for the exemptions.  The court case has been delayed since March 2017.  The new administration could set a new direction for the Department of Labor, overtime rule, and salary threshold.

Below are 4 thoughts updates on the 2016 overtime rule:

  1. 3-Part Test: This process to determine exemption has not changed in 75 years.  To be exempt, a worker must satisfy the following; be paid on a salary basis, earn a specified salary and satisfy a duties test.  Reminder the exempt levels for Executive and Administrative professionals in New York State will rise again at the end of 2017.
  2. Potential Changes: During his confirmation hearing, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta wants to raise the $23,600 threshold to “somewhere around $33,000.”[ii]
  3. New Rule-making: The Department of Labor will revisit the salary level(s) through the rule-making process.  Under the new administration we could see no need for any courts to evaluate the 2016 rule, blocking the overtime rule and new salary threshold.
  4. Appeals Court: The 2016 case has not been decided yet.  We could still see a ruling from the court system on the salary thresholds blocked in November 2016.  Continue to monitor for any potential updates on this case.

Under the new administration we can expect to see changes to the Department of Labor and potential salary threshold increases.  However, this is a federal threshold.  Remember that state thresholds can be higher than federal thresholds, based on exemption status and the duties tests.  This is comparable to what we see with minimum wage increases, state versus federal.  If you are confused about job classifications, duties tests and threshold levels, ask for guidance.  This legislation will could evolve in the court system or under the new administration.

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/dol-right-to-set-salary-threshold.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/dol-right-to-set-salary-threshold.aspx

-Matthew W. Burr