4 Considerations for an I-9 Compliance Audit

With changing legislation surrounding Form I-9 compliance, organizations need to be proactive, to ensure accurate record keeping on all required documentation.  This includes auditing I-9 records every few years, to ensure all information is up-to-date and forms are correctly filled out.  The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customers Enforcement (ICE) has the legal right to review your organizations I-9 records at will.

Below are 4 considerations for an I-9 compliance audit:

  1. Fill Out All Sections Accurately: The basic information on the I-9 from should be filled out completely and accurately.  This includes; dates and names on all forms.  “A construction company was recently penalized $228,000 for multiple compliance violations…submitting I-9 forms for dozens of employees with incomplete Sections 1 and 2.”[i]  Take the time to review instructions and ensure that the employee has filled out the form properly.  If not, correct the issues.
  2. Employee Roster Information Updates: Ensure you have an accurate headcount list of current and past employees, prior to beginning an audit.  Remember, employees hired after November 6, 1986 must have an I-9 on file.  If an employee is missing an I-9, the organization must obtain one as soon as possible.
  3. I-9 Documentation: “Documentation for former employees is only needed for one year after separation or three years from date of hire (whichever is later), so no need to clutter your files with unnecessary information.”[ii] Ensure that you are obtaining the required documentation from List A or List B and List C.
  4. Necessary Signatures: This is consistent with the requirements mentioned previously.  All forms need to be signed by an employer representative and the new hire employee.  This includes remote workers.  The process isn’t complete until the forms are verified for accuracy and contain the proper information with signatures.

The SHRM article quoted throughout, contains other examples of companies that failed to complete accurately and sign the I-9 forms and the fines for these violations.  The form contains directions for both the employer and employee.  Work through the steps and ensure that the forms are accurate and up-to-date, to protect the organization from any violations and fines.  If you have questions about mistakes or conducting an audit, seek guidance and be open to suggestions.  Proactive audits necessary to ensure compliance, as the laws and forms continue to evolve.  Remember, using the new I-9 form is required now and has been in effect as of September 18, 2017.  The link to the new form and other instructional information is here: Updated Form I-9

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/prepared-for-i9-compliance-audit-ice.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/prepared-for-i9-compliance-audit-ice.aspx

 

4 Tips Complying with State and Federal Workplace Safety Standards

Workplace safety rules and regulations continue to evolve at the federal and state level, just as labor and employment laws and regulations have.  As I have recently started revising a safety manual for a client, I now have a profound respect for workplace safety professionals.  Because laws and regulations do vary at both the federal and state level, we as leaders need to be aware of changes in legislation, that can and will impact our organizations.

Below are 4 tips on complying with state and federal workplace safety standards:

  1. Federal OSH Act: Passed in 1970, “covers most private employers and their workers. However, OSHA allows states to develop their own workplace health and safety plans, as long as those plans are “at least as effective” as the federal program.”[i]
  2. Multi-State Employers: Currently, twenty-one states and Puerto Rico have OSHA-approved plans that cover government employees at the state and local level, as well as private employers. Five other states and the U.S. Virgin Islands currently have plans that cover only state and local government employers.
  3. State Laws: States can have laws more stringent than the federal requirements and/or standards that are not addressed by federal OSHA. This is comparable to HR laws and regulations; minimum wage, paid family leave, exempt/non-exempt status, background checks, etc.  Review state and local requirements, as well as OSHA approved state plans.
  4. Compliance: Employers should review the federal requirements to ensure compliance and then review state compliance standards. “”Stay on top of the state plan regulations,” Martin said. “Assuming the state plan has the same regulations as federal OSHA may be a safe bet 80 percent of the time, but the differences can burn you.””[ii]

For Additional Information: OSHA State Plans Website

As we have seen under the current administration, laws and regulations continue to change.  This will have an impact on OSHA standards at the federal level.  Under the Obama administration, a law was passed that required certain employers to submit workplace injury and illness records through a portal on the OSHA website in July 2017.  The Trump administration pushed compliance back to December 1, 2017, to evaluate the rule and requirements.  Regardless, the electronic record keeping requirement can still be implemented at a state level, in certain states.  Be aware of these changes and recognize the impact they can and will have on your organization.  If you have questions, continue to seek guidance.

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/state-workplace-safety-standards-may-differ-from-osha.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/state-workplace-safety-standards-may-differ-from-osha.aspx

 

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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8 Thoughts on Selecting an HRIS or Payroll Management System

Recently, I conducted a webinar on HRIS and Payroll Management Systems.  As leaders, we need to have a clear understanding of organizational needs for these systems.  Is the organization prepared to implement a new system or upgrade to a different system?  Are either of the systems necessary for the success of the organization?  Will it make the organization more efficient?  Are we prepared to pay for the new system?  Can we internally manage the new system?  There are many questions to consider prior to purchasing a system or buying software.

Below are 8 thoughts on selecting an HRIS or Payroll management system:

  1. Organizational assessment: Do you have the resources inhouse to select a system or should an external consultant (neutral) guide the organization through the process?
  2. Organizational needs: How would a new system work within the strategic plan of the organization?  Who is responsible for processing payroll?  Which reports do we need?  Turnover, terminations, new hires, Affirmative Action and other compliance reports.  Do we want an employee-self service module?  What about cellphone aps?  Will employees enroll in benefits on the new system?  Is it just for payroll processing?  What about all these modules?
  3. Project planning: What is the budget for the new system?  Do we have IT support to manage the new system?  Do we have server space for the new system?  Do we have the time to invest in project planning and project implementation?  As we approach the fall months, open enrollment, holidays and performance reviews will take priority.  Time is important for the success of a major implementation.
  4. Evaluating available systems: Develop a spreadsheet that ranks and rates the available system, based on the needs assessment.  What does the organization need and how will we measure available systems?
  5. Project team: “Critical stakeholders may differ from organization to organization, but the considerations and evaluation committee should at least include members from the following departments: IT, payroll/finance/accounting, HR, compensation, performance management, training, recruiting, operations.”[i] Operations is a major stakeholder in the selection process.  Supervisors, managers and employees will be inputting and approving timesheets.  They need to be included in the selection process.  Slow and inefficient systems take away from operations.
  6. Requesting the proposals: Utilize the RFP process within your organization and seek four to seven bids from vendors.  Include information about the organization, project specifications (organizational needs), high-level budget information and project schedule/implementation dates.  Ensure you leave enough time to evaluate systems, 3-6-month commitments on current pricing schedule.
  7. Trial the systems: The project team should meet with three to four potential vendors.   A demonstration of the systems should be included in the evaluation.  Utilize the evaluation spreadsheet that was developed and be prepared to ask questions.  The entire team should be present during the demonstrations and evaluation discussions.
  8. Make your choice: Upon selecting one or two final systems, a request should be made to each vendor for references and potential onsite visits.  The vendors should provide current or past clients.  If they avoid providing references, this might a red flag during the selection process.

Once the finalist has been selected, the organization should negotiate a service contract.  Other negotiation considerations; training, IT support, cloud support, compliance updates, software updates, warranties, self-service, cellphone aps and modules.  Does the organization need a system with all the bells and whistles?  Ensure that you are not upsold on modules and system add-ons you do not need or will not use.  Hold the vendor accountable to the agreed upon service contract.  If you are unclear on the process seek guidance and welcome advice.

 

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

Burr Consulting, LLC

 

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

5 Updates on Job Description

Job descriptions are an important part of the employment relationship.  Once we complete, modify or update the job description, we might assume that the work is done.  However; essential functions, duties, technology, responsibilities, etc. can and change throughout the employment relationship.  As leaders, we need to review job descriptions and ensure these documents are up-to-date with accurate responsibilities and essential functions.  The link at the end of the article provides additional information on legal cases in which a job description protected the employer and one that harmed the employer.

Below are 5 thoughts on job descriptions:

  1. Current and Accurate: Keep all job descriptions current and accurate.  These descriptions can be reviewed during the annual review process or throughout the year.  Ask the employee for input on duties and responsibilities.  They should know the job!
  2. Essential Job Functions: Ensure that the essential job functions section is accurate and up-to-date.  Physical skills should be included in the essential functions or in another area of the job description.  Is prolonged walking or standing an essential function?  What about lifting material?  How many pounds and how often?  This should also be included in the job description.  Do not forget time spent at a desk.  If the job requires 6-8 hours on the computer, this should be included.  This section can be lengthy or detailed.
  3. FMLA Leave: “If the job description is out of date when an employee seeks FMLA leave, create a current and accurate list of essential job functions, indicate in the designation notice that the employee will be required to submit a fitness for duty certification addressing his or her ability to perform his or her specific job, and provide the list of essential job functions with the notice.”[i]
  4. Approval and Signature: My recommendation is to have more than one individual review and approve the job description prior to finalizing the draft.  There should be a signoff/approval process to ensure we have not missed anything.  Once the description is approved, the employee should review and signoff on the job description.
  5. Internet Search: It is easy to search the internet and find thousands of job descriptions.  However, this does not mean the information is legal, up-to-date or fits the job within your organization.  O’net and SHRM are great resources when drafting or updating job descriptions.  These can be used as templates and resources, to help lay the foundation of a job description that fits the needs of your organization.

As jobs and responsibilities change, so too should job descriptions.  As leaders, we should ask for input when modifying and updating job descriptions, to ensure accuracy and employee engagement.  If you are unsure on where to begin or how to draft a job description, ask for assistance.  Do not assume an internet search will provide legal and accurate information.  The case below is an example of when an inaccurate job description harmed an employer and references a case in which a job description helped an employer.

SHRM Saved – Or Sunk – By the Job Description?

 

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

 

[i] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/Saved-Sunk-Job-Description.aspx

 

5 Considerations for Effective Workplace Investigations

We recently completed a successful training on effective and legal workplace investigations.  During the recording of our next podcast for Upstate HR, we also discussed workplace investigations and the importance of proactive investigatory processes.  Throughout my career, many of my experiences have provided valuable insight into the importance of effective and efficient workplace investigations.  As leaders, we need to take complaints and investigations seriously, as these issues can escalate into additional problems in the workplace, on social media,  and create stress outside of work.

Below are 5 considerations for effective workplace investigations:

  1. Don’t ignore the issue/complaint. If any employee approaches the organization with a complaint or allegation, we need to take this seriously.  Ignoring or hoping the issue goes away or resolves itself is not the right approach; we need to address the underlying issues.  Ask questions and ensure you understand the details of the issues/allegations.
  2. Never assume: Remember, there are two-sides to every story.  Do not assume that one party is guilty, because we only hear one-side of the story.  In most cases, fact-finding means understanding the entire allegation/situation before making a decision.
  3. Prepare, Prepare, Prepare: Preparing for the investigation interviews and fact-finding is challenging.  What questions do we ask?  What information do we need?  Who should we talk too?  The answer to this is that it depends on the situation.  Creating a template or checklist to ensure consistency and accuracy will help in working through the process efficiently and proactively.  Ask leading questions that force individuals to answer questions with more information, versus “yes” or “no” answers.  The more prepared you are, the more efficient the process will become.  Investigations are not easy and questions that are asked will not always be enjoyable for people to answer.  I have asked many of these questions throughout my career.  Be prepared, and know laws, policies, procedures, contract language, etc. that may be involved or impacted by the investigation.
  4. Neutrality: This consideration defaults back to consideration #2.  Remain neutral throughout the investigation and recommendation process.  This takes practice and is not easy in small organizations.  If you as a leader feel that neutrality is not practical internally, it is not always a bad idea to bring in a third-party to conduct the investigation and draft a finding of facts.  Using a third party all but ensures neutrality throughout the process.
  5. Closure/Conclusion/Recommendation: Throughout my career, I have seen this final step as the biggest hurdle for many organizations.  The investigation is conducted, information is gathered and then nothing happens.  Regardless of the outcome or recommended outcomes, the investigation needs to be closed.  I’m not suggesting revealing confidential information, but we do need to close the loop of communication with the parties involved.  Without proactive communication, we could see increased employee relations issues, decreased employee morale, and potential retaliation issues.  This is one of the most important pieces of the investigation process.

We closed out the podcast yesterday on a positive note.  Not all workplace investigations are negative or lead to discipline.  Workplace investigations are great for process improvement, addressing safety concerns, Six Sigma change, employee engagement, and efficiency.  Regardless, we need to take the investigation process seriously and manage it proactively, by reinforcing rules and policies throughout.  If you are unclear on how to investigate, ask for assistance or hire a third-party neutral to manage the process for the organization.

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

 

Below are the for upcoming training’s I will be conducting at Elmira College, Corning Community College (CCC), 247 Compliance and Compliance Online (July & August):

Elmira College: SHRM Certification Exam Prep Course- September through November

Upcoming Corning Community College Training’s

247 Compliance: Performance of Dashboard Using KPIs and Designing

 

Below is a link to our new Podcast Upstate HR:

Recruitment in the Modern Age

iTunes subscription will update you whenever we post a new podcast.

New podcast recently updated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4 Updates on The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act

Progress is being made.  On May 17, 2017, the House Education and the Workforce Committee voted unanimously to move The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act forward.  This new act “would provide federal funds to increase access to career and technical education (CTE) and, in particular, to extend such access to more students from disadvantaged communities.”[i]  As businesses needs have evolved, so too must the skills of our employees.  Skilled workers are needed in many industries throughout the country; manufacturing, construction, carpentry, healthcare, computer programming, engineering, auto mechanics, transportation, HVAC, plumbing, electric and welding.  The bill is designed for U.S. workers compete in a global economy.

Below are 4 updates on expectations and path-forward:

  1. Employers need to be involved in the training and education processes for current or prospective workers. “Organizations must ensure that state and local governments know what their skill needs are so that officials can create programs under this legislation.”[ii]  Do not be afraid to provide feedback on both the positives and negatives of a program.

 

  1. State and local governments would be responsible for crafting and designing programs that best fit the needs of employers in the local communities. Upon approval and implementation, state and federal governments would also have to submit results of the effectiveness of the CTE trainings to federal agencies. 

 

  1. In 2016, a similar bill went to the Senate, but ran out of time when it was delayed by debates over the education secretary’s role in deciding how states can potentially spend money under the 2016 proposed law. The role of the Senate debates or education secretary is yet to be determined on progressing the new bill forward and spending.   

 

  1. The legislation is focused on post-secondary training for trade jobs in the U.S., that do not require a four-year degree. The impact of this bill, if passed will be significant as there is a need throughout the country to have trained and skilled workers in many industries. 

The value of The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, could have great potential for additional training’s in our area.  Remember, this is federal legislation and does not include any training funding from New York State.  The key to any legislation such as this is the effectiveness of the training.  As employer’s we need to offer feedback and input into these programs, while holding state and local government entities accountable.  Developing training takes a tremendous amount of resources, resources that we are paying for.  You get out what you put in.  The employees and/or potential employees do have responsibility in ensuring that the training is effective and successful as well.  We will continue to monitor the act as it progress through the different branches of government for any amendments or updates.    

– Matthew Burr, HR Consultant

 

[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bill-upskill-us-workers-carl-perkins-act.aspx

 

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/pages/bill-upskill-us-workers-carl-perkins-act.aspx