10 Thoughts on Working through an ADA Accommodation

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was originally published in 1991, with revisions and updates in the mid-2000’s.  The legislation prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the workplace.  This article will focus on disability and accommodation during the application and employment relationship.  How does this impact our organizations?  What should we consider if an applicant or employee requires reasonable accommodation?  The steps below will assist our organizations in working through the complexity of accommodations.

Below are the 10 thoughts on ADA accommodations:

  1. Are you covered by the ADA? All employers with 15 or more employees are covered under the ADA at the federal level.  Review state regulations and legislation, to verify if there are stricter requirements at the state or local level. 
  1. Policies and Procedures in Place: Ensure your organization has handbook language, a policy, process and/or procedures in place to work through disability accommodations. This includes reviewing job descriptions; physical, standing, sitting or lifting requirements.  The more accuracy in the job descriptions, the better we can assess accommodations and determine the reasonableness of the accommodation request.
  1. Is the applicant qualified? The individual needs to satisfy the definitions under the ADA.  Applicants must meet the skill, experience, education and other job-related requirements.  They must be able to perform the essential functions of the position.
  1. The Interactive Process: Employers should engage in the interactive process in which the employee, health care provider and employer share relevant and important information on the position, the disability, accommodations and limitations of the applicant. This should be a good faith communication process between the parties.
  1. Employee Disability Under the ADA:
  • The ADA defines a disability as one of the following: a) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity; b) a record of a physical or mental impairment that substantially limited a major life activity; or c) being regarded as having such an impairment.
  • According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) includes impairments that would automatically be considered disabilities. They include deafness, blindness, intellectual disability, completely or partially missing limbs, mobility impairments that require the use of a wheelchair, autism, cancer, cerebral palsy, diabetes, epilepsy, HIV or AIDS, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy, major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia.
  • The definition of major life activities includes caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating and working. Major bodily functions include functions of the immune system; normal cell growth; and digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine and reproductive functions.
  • The definition of a disability also includes situations in which an employer takes an action prohibited by the ADA based on an actual or perceived impairment—for example, removing from customer contact a bank teller who has severe facial scars because customers may feel uncomfortable working with this employee or may perceive the employee as having an impairment when, in fact, he or she does not.
  • The ADAAA directs that if a “mitigating measure,” such as medication, medical equipment, devices, prosthetic limbs or low vision devices eliminates or reduces the symptoms or impact of the impairment, that fact cannot be used in determining if a person meets the definition of having a disability. Instead, the determination of disability should focus on whether the individual would be substantially limited in performing a major life activity without the mitigating measure. This rule, however, does not apply to people who wear ordinary eye glasses or contact lenses.
  • The following are not disabilities under the ADA: transvestism, transsexualism, pedophilia, exhibitionism, voyeurism, gender identity disorders not resulting from physical impairments, other sexual behavior disorders, compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, and psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from current illegal use of drugs.”[i]
  1. Reasonableness of the Accommodation: The accommodation can be a modification in the workplace. The price of reasonable accommodation will vary, case by case.  Determination of the accommodation should be an open process between the three parties and should be consistent throughout the organization with employees and applicants.
  1. Reasonable Accommodation versus Undue Hardship:
  • “The EEOC, when determining if the employee request creates an undue hardship to the employer, looks not only at the cost of the particular accommodation but also at the financial stability of a company. If the company is making significant profits or has a sizable net worth, the employer may not be able to prove that the requested accommodation would have a significant financial impact, therefore creating an undue hardship. For example, it may be an undue hardship for a nonprofit organization with limited funds to provide a special chair that costs $1,000 as an accommodation to an employee. However, the same request by an employee working in a for-profit organization that made sizable profits may not be seen as an undue hardship for that employer.
  • Accommodations that could result in an undue hardship include modifications that are “unduly extensive or disruptive, or those that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the job or business,” according to the EEOC. For example, small employers that require their employees to be able to perform a number of different jobs and tasks may not find it feasible or cost-effective to provide job restructuring as a “reasonable accommodation,” whereas in larger organizations, this may be a free or low-cost option.
  • The EEOC does not see impact on employee morale as a reasonable undue hardship defense.”[ii]
  1. Communication is Critical: The organization should notify the employee in writing if the accommodation has been approved or denied.  Details of the anticipated accommodation start date or reason for the denial should be included.  Copies of all material should be included in the employee files.  Make copies of all information.
  1. Review, Modify and Evolve: Just as we manage PFL and FMLA claims, we need to continue to review open accommodation cases, in the event accommodation requirements change, we need to be aware of these changes. Work with the employee and health care provider to ensure the communication channels remain open.
  1. Job Accommodation Network (JAN): “The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) is the leading source of free, expert, and confidential guidance on workplace accommodations and disability employment issues. Working toward practical solutions that benefit both employer and employee, JAN helps people with disabilities enhance their employability, and shows employers how to capitalize on the value and talent that people with disabilities add to the workplace.”[iii] This is a great resource with helpful information.  The forms, templates and accommodation recommendations are useful for all organizations.  Be proactive and strategic in your approach to accommodations.

Job Accommodation Network

Below are the links for upcoming training’s both in person and online webinars:

Upcoming Compliance Key Trainings

Elmira College: SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course- Fall 2018 & Spring 2019

Upcoming Compliance Online Training

Compliance IQ Webinar

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/how-to-guides/pages/requestreasonableaccommodation.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/how-to-guides/pages/requestreasonableaccommodation.aspx

[iii] https://askjan.org/about-us/index.cfm

6 Final Guidance Updates to the New York State Sexual Harassment Prevention Laws

As we are all aware, in August 2018, the state published drafts of guidance materials concerning the new legislation, including a model sexual harassment prevention policy, a model complaint form, and model training materials. The state accepted public comments on these materials and, in the October 1, 2018 final guidance, made several changes as a result. On October 1, 2018, New York State released final guidance on the state’s new sexual harassment prevention laws. The new legislation requires all employers in New York State to publish policies concerning sexual harassment, adopt a sexual harassment complaint form, and conduct sexual harassment training.

 Below are final guidance updates:

  1. Employers have additional time to ensure all employees receive the required sexual harassment training. Training must now be completed by October 9, 2019, rather than the original January 1, 2019 deadline.
  1. New hires must be trained “as soon as possible.” Previously, the draft guidance specified new hires should be trained within 30 days of their start date.
  1. The model sexual harassment prevention policy was modified in several respects, including:
    1. The definition of harassment was amended to include harassment based on “self-identified or perceived sex” and “gender expression.”
    2. “Sex stereotyping” was added as an example of sexual harassment.
    3. The language concerning investigations was softened, with the policy now noting the investigation process “may vary from case to case.”
  1. The model complaint form was shortened to omit questions concerning whether the employee filed an external complaint or retained an attorney
  1. The training, which may be presented to employees individually or in groups; in person, via phone or online; via webinar or recorded presentation, should include as many of the following elements as possible:
  • Ask questions of employees as part of the program;
  • Accommodate questions asked by employees, with answers provided in a timely manner;
  • Require feedback from employees about the training and the materials presented.
  1. The training must:
  • Be interactive;
  • Include an explanation of sexual harassment consistent with guidance issued by the Department of Labor in consultation with the Division of Human Rights;
  • Include examples of unlawful sexual harassment;
  • Include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to targets of sexual harassment;
  • Include information concerning employees’ rights of redress and all available forums for adjudicating complaints; and
  • Include information addressing conduct by supervisors and additional responsibilities for supervisors.

The tools and resources that were released on October 1 include:

  • Updated website with resources for employers, employees, state contractors and targets of sexual harassment
  • Updated model sexual harassment prevention policy
  • Updated model sexual harassment complaint form
  • Updated model training (script book and PowerPoint presentation)
  • Updated minimum standards for sexual harassment prevention policies and trainings
  • Updated FAQs
  • Toolkits for employers and employees and a sexual harassment prevention policy poster are also being made available.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace 

Employer Resource Link

Frequently Asked Questions Link

Below are the links for upcoming training’s both in person and online webinars:

Upcoming Compliance Key Trainings

Elmira College: SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course- Fall 2018 & Spring 2019

Upcoming Compliance Online Training

Compliance IQ Webinar

-Matthew W. Burr

2018 W-4 Form, W-4 Requirements Annually, and changes to NYC Legislation

In late February, the IRS released the updated 2018 Form W-4 and an updated tax withholding calculator.  The calculator provides an opportunity for employees to check their 2018 tax withholding after the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, prior to filling out a new Form W-4.

2018 Form W-4

IRS Withholding Calculator

Do employee’s need to complete a new Form W-4 annually:

“Not necessarily. A W-4 form remains in effect until an employee submits a new one except when an employee claims to be exempt from income tax withholding.”

Employers should ensure they have new W-4s for:

  1. New employees. Employers should keep copies of the most current W-4s on hand.
  2. Employees who had a change in withholding events during the year.
  3. Employees claiming exemption from withholding. To continue to be exempt from withholding in the next year, employees must give employers a new W-4 claiming exempt status by Feb. 15 of that year. If an employee doesn’t give you a new Form W-4, employers must withhold tax based on the last valid Form W-4 for the employee that doesn’t claim exemption from withholding or, if one doesn’t exist, as if he or she is single with zero withholding allowances.”[i]

 

IRS Publication 15 provides guidelines for employers to remind employees before December 1 of each year to submit a new W-4 form if the withholding allowances changed or will be changing in the next year; due to added dependents, new tax legislation, etc.  As employers, we need to ensure all of our new hire paperwork is up-to-date.  This recent change should be noted as part of your organizations onboarding/new hire process.

 

NYC Evolving Legislative Changes:

NYC Mandates Temporary Schedule Changes 7/18/18

The new law provides employees with additional rights to demand changes to their schedule.  The law permits employees to demand two temporary schedule changes per calendar year for personal events.  The definition of personal events is broad, which leaves room for interpretation.  There are guidelines and certain exemptions to the new rule.  However, it is broad and will cover many organizations.

NYC Mandates “Cooperative Dialogue” 10/15/2018

This law codifies the organizations obligation to engage in a cooperative dialogue with any employee who may be entitled to reasonable accommodation.  “Specifically, you will need to engage in a good faith written or oral “cooperative dialogue” with the employee addressing:

  1. The employee’s accommodation needs.
  2. Potential accommodations that may address the needs, including alternatives to an employee’s requested accommodation.
  3. The difficulties that such potential accommodations may pose for your business.

After a final determination is made at the conclusion of the “cooperative dialogue,” you must provide the employee requesting the accommodation with a final written determination as to whether or not the accommodation is granted.”[v]

The  legislative changes in New York City will not impact employers in the Southern Tier, unless you have employees in the city.  However, as we have seen in the past, changes in NYC make their way to Albany, which result in statewide sweeping legislative changes, which can and do impact organizations in the Southern Tier.  Continue to watch for legal updates at the federal, state and local level.  If you are confused, seek guidance.  Legislative change is a continuous process and it can be complex.  As society evolves, so do our laws and regulations.  Asking questions, attending trainings, working with consultants and attorneys will provide you with a clearer picture of the evolving legislation.

Interested in learning more from me? Check out the options shared here: 

Upcoming Compliance Key Trainings

Elmira College: SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course- Coming in Spring 2019

Upcoming Corning Community College Training’s

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/cms_015244.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/daylight-saving-time-wage-hour-problems.aspx

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/compensation/pages/daylight-saving-time-wage-hour-problems.aspx

[iv] Burr Consulting, LLC, “3 Daylight Savings Time Wage & Hour Considerations”, Burrconsultingllc.com, November 6, 2017

[v] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/new-york-city-employers-reasonable-accommodations.aspx

-Matthew W. Burr

3 Thoughts on What Should and Should Not Be Included in the Personnel Files

In a March 2015 article written by the Society of Human Resource Management, the article provided guidance on separating employee files for relevancy and confidentiality.  Employee records can be separated into three types of files.  “A general personnel file, a confidential employee file and a common file.”[i]  Organizations should always consider and be aware of sensitive information (date of birth, marital status, Social Security numbers, HIPAA protected information, criminal history, court orders, financial history, etc.), that can be included in any of the three separated files.  Other considerations should include relevancy to the supervisor or management of the workforce.  “Is it related to the employee’s performance, knowledge skills, abilities or behavior?”[ii]  This should also be a determining factor, when separating information and organizing new files.  Does the supervisor or manager need access to all the information?

The Basic Personnel File (supervisor and manager relevant):

  • Recruiting information, resumes, job application and academic transcripts
  • Job descriptions (signed)
  • Job offer, promotion, rates of pay, compensation information, training records
  • Handbook and policy acknowledgements (including revised policies)
  • Recognition
  • Disciplinary information, warnings, coaching and counseling
  • Performance evaluations
  • Termination records, exit interview, closure of the file (goes without writing)

The Confidential Personnel File:

  • EEO records
  • Reference and background checks
  • Drug test results
  • Medical and insurance records
  • Child support and garnishments
  • Legal documents
  • Workers compensation and short-term disability claims
  • Investigation notes
  • Form I-9*

The Common File:

  • Form I-9 Audits
  • Form I-9’s* (my recommendation is to put active employee’s I-9’s in a binder that is accessible, confidential and locked in a cabinet, for auditing and reviews).

Regardless of the filing process(s) your organization has implemented, the information contained in any of the employee files needs to be kept confidential and locked in secure filing cabinets.  During trainings with supervisors and managers, my statement is simple, treat your employee’s information as it is your own confidential information.  The last thing we want is open personnel files on desks, doctor’s notes attached to calendars and unlocked filing cabinets.  When an employee exits the organization, I consolidate all files and information into one folder and store in a terminated employee file section, with the exit interview (if applicable).  “Maintaining records in separate files as discussed above allows managers, employees and outside auditors to see the information they need to make decisions, yet does not allow inappropriate access.”[iii]  Filing and organizing paperwork is not always fun, but it is necessary to ensure legality and confidentiality.  If you are confused on employee files and appropriate storage, seek guidance.  Electronic files and legal requirements related to electronic filing can vary by state, a thorough understanding of these laws is necessary prior to implementing an electronic filing system.  We should be proactive and take all precautions, related to employee records and record retention.

[iv]

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/includedinpersonnelfile.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/includedinpersonnelfile.aspx

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/tools-and-samples/hr-qa/pages/includedinpersonnelfile.aspx

[iv] http://cyquesthr.com/access-personnel-files-laws-50-states/

9 Statistics on 2017 EEOC Claims

On January 25, 2018 the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that a decreased number (from 2016) of 84,254 workplace discrimination charges were filed with the federal agency during the fiscal year of 2017.  These charges, lawsuits and settlements, secured $398 million for victims in private sector, state and local government workplaces, costing organizations and tax payers a significant amount of money.  “Retaliation, which topped the list, occurs when employers treat some people less favorably than others…that includes job applicants, employees, and former employees…the 41,097 retaliation charges the EEOC received made up nearly 49 percent of the complaints.”[i]

9 statistics on 2017 EEOC claims:

  1. “Race: 28,528 charges (33.9 percent).
  2. Disability: 26,838 charges (31.9 percent).
  3. Sex: 25,605 charges (30.4 percent).
  4. Age: 18,376 charges (21.8 percent).
  5. National origin: 8,299 charges (9.8 percent).
  6. Religion: 3,436 charges (4.1 percent).
  7. Color: 3,240 charges (3.8 percent).
  8. Equal Pay Act: 996 charges (1.2 percent).
  9. Genetic information: 206 charges (.2 percent).

*The percentages add up to more than 100 because some charges allege multiple bases.”[ii]

The EEOC also received 6,696 sexual harassment charges and obtained $46.3 million in monetary relief for the victims of these claims.  There are two types of sexual harassment claims included; quid pro quo (this for that) and creating a hostile work environment (a variety of issues in the workplace).

Overall, the number of EEOC filings decreased, as compared to 2016 data.  However, retaliation claims are on the rise and have been on the rise for many years.  As leaders, we need to understand that an employee filing a charge with the EEOC or the Department of Human Rights (NYS legislation), is as easy as going to a website and working through the steps, as outlined on the respected site.  The EEOC, in the past, has tweeted steps to submit a claim, through Twitter.  These claims are real, do not assume “this can never happen to our organization.”  It can, and it does happen to organizations of any size, in any location.  A culture of respect and zero-tolerance for discrimination and retaliation, while following up on allegations, will set the tone for reducing the likelihood of claims against our organizations.

The Department of Human Rights has not released statistics for 2017 claims.  Employees can file claims with the EEOC and/or Department of Human Rights, if there are issues in the workplace. Use the link below to learn more about what to do in the case of receiving an EEOC charge of discrimination, and as always, if you are uncertain about your compliance or HR practices, seek the assistance of a consultant and/or legal team for guidance.

What should I do if I receive an EEOC charge of discrimination?

[i] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/behavioral-competencies/global-and-cultural-effectiveness/Pages/EEOC-Retaliation-Makes-Up-Almost-Half-of-Discrimination-Charges.aspx

[ii] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-25-18.cfm

 

4 New Hire Forms Needed in New York State

As we have now entered the second month in 2018, some of our organizations will be hiring new employees for continued operation and some for the upcoming seasonal summer months.  Hiring new employees into the workforce is great, we have a tremendous opportunity to set the new hire up for success with a great onboarding process and introduction to the organization.  With new hires, comes legal paperwork.  State and federal forms get updated and posted on government websites for all of us to use.  As leaders and business owners, we need to ensure our forms are updated and legal.

Below are the new hire forms needed in New York State:

  1. Form I-9, Eligibility to work in the United States: This form is required in every state for new hires and needs to be reviewed for expired ID’s; driver’s license, passport, etc. Organizations must verify that each new employee is legally eligible to work in the United States.  Ensure the form is filled out correctly and signed by the right person in the organization.  This form changed in late 2017.
  2. Form W-4, wage Withholding Allowance Certificate: This form is necessary for federal withholdings. All employees should complete and sign a Form W-4 prior to starting work.  Currently, the 2017 form is still being used.  Watch for any updates or changes in 2018, related to the new tax legislation.
  3. Form IT-2104, Employer Allowance Certificate (NYS): This is the New York State withholding form required to be completed in full prior to an employee starts working for the organization. Ensure you are using the 2018 version of the form.
  4. Wage Forms Required by New York Labor Laws: Organizations are required to provide wage notification forms to all employees. The forms vary by hourly, salary, salaried nonexempt, etc.  The link above provides a definition on which form to use based on the classification of the employee.  Reminder, these forms were updated in 2017 as well.

These are the legally required forms that employees are required to complete prior to starting work (I-9 the first three working days).  Other forms will vary by organization; direct deposit, safety rules and regulations, handbooks and policies, IT and login information, safety and security, vehicle registration, cellphone policy, tour of the facility, labor and employment posters, payroll deductions, payroll processing, etc.  Remember, state forms will vary.  Pennsylvania uses a different withholding form from that used in New York.  Consultants should be providing a signed an updated (revised 11.2017) federal Form W-9.

Develop a checklist for your organization to ensure we consistently cover information for all new hires.  The onboarding process is an important part of the employment relationship and many people will decide during this process how long they will potentially stay with an organization.  As leaders, we need to ensure all employees feel welcome and engaged on day 1, while covering the legalities of the employment relationship.  If you need assistance developing a new hire orientation checklist, seek guidance, the last thing we want is to place a new hire in a conference room and have the individual read policies and sign paperwork alone all day.  I have been part of process like this and it does not work!

4 EEOC Guidelines on Workplace Harassment Prevention and Cadillac Healthcare Tax Updates

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently released the “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment.”  This is a guidance document for employers, that contains harassment prevention recommendations for all employers in four categories.  As leaders we have a responsibility to take all harassment claims serious and need to ensure a proactive approach to investigations, communication and accountability as it related to workplace harassment claims, sexual harassment, retaliation, bullying, workplace violence concerns, etc.

The Four Categories:

  1. Leadership and Accountability: “The cornerstone of a successful harassment prevention strategy is the consistent and demonstrated commitment of senior leaders to create and maintain a culture in which harassment is not tolerated.”[i]
  2. Comprehensive and Effective Harassment Policy: “A comprehensive, clear harassment policy that is regularly communicated to all employees is an essential element of an effective harassment prevention strategy.”[ii]
  3. Effective and Accessible Harassment Complaint System: “An effective harassment complaint system welcomes questions, concerns, and complaints; encourages employees to report potentially problematic conduct early; treats alleged victims, complainants, witnesses, alleged harassers, and others with respect; operates promptly, thoroughly, and impartially; and imposes appropriate consequences for harassment or related misconduct, such as retaliation.”[iii]
  4. Effective Harassment Training: “Leadership, accountability, and strong harassment policies and complaint systems are essential components of a successful harassment prevention strategy, but only if employees are aware of them. Regular, interactive, comprehensive training of all employees may help ensure that the workforce understands organizational rules, policies, procedures, and expectations, as well as the consequences of misconduct.”[iv]

For additional information on the Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment guidance (each of the four have additional recommendations on the website) for your organization and workforce, the link is below:

Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment

Cadillac Tax Updates

Congress passed a law on January 22 to delay the affordable Car Act’s 40 percent excise tax on high-value healthcare plan for two years.  The Cadillac tax was set to take effect in 2020, under the new law, the tax will be delayed until 2022.

What to expect in 2022:

  • $10,200 for individual coverage ($11,850 for qualified retirees and those in high-risk professions).
  • $27,500 for family coverage ($30,950 for qualified retirees and those in high-risk professions).[v]

Under the new administration we could see significant changes to the Affordable Care Act and healthcare in general.  Continue to monitor for updates and changes, that can and will impact your workforce.  If you are confused seek guidance, healthcare law continues to evolve in complexity at the federal and state levels.

[i] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[ii] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[iii] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[iv] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/promising-practices.cfm

[v] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/congress-delays-cadillac-tax-until-2022.aspx

 

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

5 Changes to New York City Fast-Food and Retail Scheduling Laws

On Sunday, November 26, 2017, employers in New York City were required to be compliant with the new employee-scheduling laws.  The laws impact “retail” and “fast food” employers throughout the city.  These significant changes impact; breaks between shifts, predictable hours and on-call scheduling.  These laws do not impact employers in Upstate New York, however, we should be aware of any changes impacting entire industries.

Below is a summary of the 5 legal changes to the NYC fast-food and retail industries:

  1. Voluntary paycheck deductions: This new change allows fast-food employees to designate part of their salary to a non-profit organization. Employer’s must deduct from paychecks and provide the funds to the non-profit organization.
  2. Rest between shifts: This rule establishes time between shifts and bans “clopening” shifts.  When an employee works a closing shift one night and opens the next day.  The law prohibits these consecutive shifts unless there is an 11-hour break between shifts.  However, employees can agree to clopening shifts, but must be paid $100 each time.
  3. Extra hours: Employers must now post additional hours for part-time workers before hiring new workers. The communication must be posted at the worksite and sent electronically.  “Employers would only be required to offer hours to current employees up until the point at which the employer would be required to pay overtime, or until all current employees have rejected available hours, whichever comes first.”[i]
  4. Predictable scheduling: Requires employers to provide new hires an estimate of their work schedule at the start of their employment. Employers must now communicate to their existing staff their schedules 14-days in advance.  “If employees receive schedule changes with less than 14-days of notice, they must be paid a premium between $10 and $75, depending on how little notice they receive.”[ii]
  5. On-call scheduling: Prohibits certain retail businesses from requiring workers to be on- call. The new law also states that employers cannot cancel, change or add shifts with 72-hours and they must post the schedule 72-hours in advance.  There are additional exceptions for workers covered by collective bargaining agreements.

These significant legal changes are a result of the “fight for $15” movement, that we have seen in major cities across the United States.  The fight for $15 has a goal of raising minimum wage to $15 per hour and add legal protections for many low-wage earners.  If this impacts your organization, ensure you understand your obligations as an employer under the law.  Communicate and train supervisors and managers on these changes.  These are significant changes to the work relationship and will impact many organizations throughout New York City.

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/new-scheduling-laws-for-new-york-city-fast-food-and-retail-employers.aspx?_ga=2.159635643.727342918.1511008822-1767537919.1462374782

 

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/state-and-local-updates/pages/new-scheduling-laws-for-new-york-city-fast-food-and-retail-employers.aspx?_ga=2.159635643.727342918.1511008822-1767537919.1462374782

 

2 Updates to the 2016 Overtime Rule

As the year comes to a close, it’s important to note that on November 6, 2017 the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted motion to the Department of Labor (DOL), to halt litigation over the 2016 overtime rule.  This motion makes it unlikely that the 2016 overtime rule will ever take effect.  If you recall in November 2016, the minimum salary level threshold for overtime and exempt status would have been raised to $47,476 per year, impacting more that 4-million people.

Below are 2 updates from the recent ruling:

  1. No Ambiguity: “The DOL wants to preserve its right to have the 5th Circuit decide that it has the authority to set whatever salary level it ultimately selects…potentially removing a precedent that could serve as a basis for challenging the next overtime rule the department issues.”[i]
  2. New Rulemaking: When the DOL under the current administration issues a new rule, it can seek to have the current appeal dismissed and the court’s decision vacated.  The focus currently is on a new rule that incorporates a more modest increase in the salary threshold.

The rule making process is scheduled to begin in July 2018.  Remember, this is a federal law; state specific laws can vary on exempt and non-exempt status.  In New York State, we have laws that impact Executive and Administrative Classifications and overtime exemption level thresholds, based on the location throughout the state.  These rates will increase on January 1, 2018.  Remember to review state and federal guidelines, to ensure legal compliance.

NY State Administrative Exemption Rates and Questions

NY State Executive Exemption Rates and Questions

Additionally, the minimum wage rate in New York State is scheduled to increase on December 31, 2017.  This again is based on location.  In Upstate New York, the rate increases from $9.70 to $10.40/per hour.  The federal minimum wage has not been increased since 2009.

NY State Minimum Wage Rates and Information

Federal Minimum Wage Chart

If you are confused by the classifying positions and exemption changes in New York State, seek guidance and ask questions.  Classifying positions can be complex.  Do not assume when classifying positions as exempt or nonexempt.  There have been multiple court rulings lately regarding mis-classification of positions as exempt.

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/overtime-rule-stay-granted.aspx