5 Considerations on Bereavement and Funeral Leave

Recently we recorded an Upstate HR Podcast episode discussing bereavement and funeral leave policies within organizations and concerns with not enough time or inconsistencies.  In the unfortunate event an employee needs to use leave for bereavement or funeral leave, organizations need to have policies and processes in place that ensure consistency throughout the workforce.  As family relationships have evolved, so to should our policies and procedures.

The 5 considerations on bereavement and funeral leave:

  1. Notification Process: If an employee needs to take time off for leave, who should they notify and what is the process for approving the time? Should the employee contact their supervisor or the human resources department?  Does the supervisor contact a manager or the human resources department?  Email, phone, text message, etc.? More than likely the employee will notify their supervisor, but we need to outline the processes in the policy.
  2. Extended Leave: Will we grant extended leave for an employee who needs additional time to cope with the loss or coordinate family affairs? Can the employee use PTO and/or vacation time?  Remember, there might be legal issues, funeral planning, estate meetings, etc. that an employee must deal with in relation to the loss.  Situations will vary.  If the death happens in the winter, will we allow time off in the spring for the burial? These are areas we don’t usually consider but need to recognize.  Most organizations are lenient with granting additional time off, but we should outline it in the policy.
  3. Paid Bereavement Leave: This will vary by organization. Organizations might grant unlimited leave to cope with a loss.  Other organizations have a set number of days based on the relationship in the family.  Below is a simple draft outline to consider as part of your leave policy:
    1. “Employees are allowed up to four consecutive days off from regularly scheduled duty with regular pay in the event of the death of the employee’s spouse, domestic partner, child, stepchild, parent, stepparent, father-in-law, mother, mother-in-law, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, or an adult who stood in loco parentis to the employee during childhood.
    2. Employees are allowed one day off from regular scheduled duty with regular pay in the event of death of the employee’s brother-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt, uncle, grandparent, grandchild or spouse’s grandparent.
    3. Employees are allowed up to four hours of bereavement leave to attend the funeral of a fellow regular employee or retiree of the company, provided such absence from duty will not interfere with normal operations of the company.”[i]

Relationships in families vary, the policy needs to be flexible, but consistent.  Ensure you are providing the needed time off for the workforce.

  1. Providing Documentation: Organizations I have worked for in the past have required notice if an employee does ask for bereavement and funeral leave. We have requested obituary notices; newspaper or website and employees have returned with copies of the funeral documentation.  Unfortunately, I have seen employees abuse leave and lie about their need for bereavement leave.  If you do require documentation, ensure you are doing so consistently.
  2. Pay Policy: “Bereavement pay is calculated based on the base pay rate at the time of absence, and it will not include any special forms of compensation, such as incentives, commissions, bonuses, overtime or shift differentials.”[ii] Policies will vary; this sentence is short and covers the details.

The loss of a loved one is challenging for anyone.  The organizational policies are necessary, but showing compassion and understanding is the most important thing we can do for our workforce.  Remember to offer Employee Assistance (EAP) to any employee that is struggling with the loss, as these services provide additional support for our employees and their families.  Be consistent and flexible with the policies.  Ensure that the policy is reviewed and updated.  As always, remember to seek guidance if you need assistance reviewing and updating all policies.

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/cms_006397.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/policies/pages/cms_006397.aspx

-Matthew W. Burr

2018 Employee Handbook Changes, IRS Mileage Rate and Labor Poster Updates

A new year brings new changes to our organizations, employment relationships, laws, regulations, handbooks and policies.  As more states continue to pass state specific legislation, we need to ensure that our handbooks and labor posters are updated accordingly.

 Below are 5 areas to watch related to employee handbooks:

  1. Workplace Conduct and Social Media: Under the new administration, we could see more flexibility in social media policies (pro-employer).  Social media is a concern in many organizations, ensure that your policy is legal, up-to-date and not overreaching.
  2. Arbitration Agreements: There are multiple lawsuits in federal courts related to employer arbitration agreements.  These decisions can impact our organizations.  I have not implemented arbitration agreements.  However, they are growing in popularity.
  3. Sexual Harassment/Harassment Policies: This speaks for itself.  California and Maine have modified their current laws related to sexual harassment, we could see significant changes in New York State, as stated by the Governor recently.  Ensure that there is a zero-tolerance and retaliation policies in place, and all employees are trained on current policies and procedures.  Organizations need to be proactive and not reactive to issues.
  4. Parental Leave: Paid Family Leave was effective January 1, 2018. Ensure that you have updated policies and handbook language to reflect this significant legislative change.  The state has a website full of information to utilize as we move forward in 2018.

PFL Resource Page

Model Language for Employer Material

  1. Disability and Other Accommodations: Review language related to the ADA, FMLA and medical marijuana.  Medical marijuana law(s) continues to evolve.  “In 2017, several courts ruled that registered medical marijuana users who were fired or passed over for jobs because of their medicinal use could bring claims under state disability laws.”[i]

As laws continue to evolve, now is the time to review handbooks, policies and procedures.  If you are unclear on a path-forward or what to look for, seek guidance.  Do not assume a Google search will provide legal and accurate information, draft handbook language or valid training material.

2018 IRS Mileage Rate:

“Beginning on Jan. 1, 2018, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also a van, pickup or panel truck) will be:

  • 5 cents for every mile of business travel driven, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations, unchanged from 2017.”[ii]

Notice 2018-03

Mandatory State Labor Law Poster Changes Effective January 2018:

  • Alaska— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Arizona— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • California— Transgender Rights, effective Jan. 1, 2018, Discrimination, Jan. 1, 2018
  • Colorado— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Florida — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Hawaii — Wage and Hour Laws, effective July 10, 2017, OSHA, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Maine — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Minnesota– Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Missouri— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Montana— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Nevada — Rules to Observed by Employers, effective July 1, 2017
  • New Jersey— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • New York— Minimum Wage, effective Dec. 31, 2017
  • North Carolina — Wage and Hour Notice to Employees, effective Dec. 31, 2017
  • Ohio— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Rhode Island — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • South Dakota — Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Vermont— Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnancy, effective Jan. 1, 2018
  • Washington— Minimum Wage, effective Jan. 1, 2018, Your Rights as a Worker, Jan. 1,2018

[i] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/5-Employee-Handbook-Issues-to-Watch-in-2018.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/2018-standard-mileage-rate.aspx

As always-if you feel uncertain or want an extra set of eyes, finding a consultant or strategic legal partner is a good idea. For more information about these subjects, click on the links here or reach out to schedule a meeting and consultation.

-Matthew W. Burr

3 Changes in New York State and 3 to Watch in 2018

As we near the end of 2017 and begin planning for 2018, leaders need to be aware of upcoming changes and potential changes in New York State and at the federal level in 2018.  The law continues to evolve, which causes greater complexity for organizations throughout the country.  Proactive knowledge and planning will help any leader in managing through these significant changes.

Below are 3 upcoming changes in New York State:

  1. 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[i]

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

  1. Minimum Wage Increases: Minimum wage will increase on 12/31/17, from $9.70 per hour to $10.40 per hour in the Southern Tier.  The rates vary in NYC and Long Island, but they also increase.  Watch for wage compression in your salary schedules.

https://www.ny.gov/new-york-states-minimum-wage/new-york-states-minimum-wage

  1. Paid Family Leave: This is a significant change throughout the state and will impact most organizations.  Ensure that your organization is prepared for the change on January 1, 2018.

Below are 3 potential changes to watch in 2018:

  1. NY State Call-In Pay Proposal: If passed, this law will be a significant change to the call-in pay, employees wearing a pager and scheduling laws in New York State.  This is currently a proposal and has not been finalized yet.  More to come in 2018
  2. Medical & Recreational Marijuana: Continue to watch for changing legislation in the state and at the federal level that could impact medical marijuana legislation.  These laws continue to evolve at the state level throughout the country.
  3. Salary History Requirements: These laws have changed in certain states and cities throughout the country.  We could see more change to these laws, locally and nationally.

Other changes to monitory; ban the box, federal exempt level changes, federal minimum wage, FMLA, healthcare, tax legislation, NLRA changes (significant changes proposed under the new administration) and immigration legislation.  Be proactive in your approach to these changes and ask for guidance if you are confused or unclear on expectations.  Enjoy a safe & Happy New Year!

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