What’s New in HR?

Proposed FFCRA Paid Leave in 2021 & New York Paid COVID Sick Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act expired on December 31, 2020, with tax credits extended through March 31, 2021 for any employer opting to continue providing the paid leave.  Under the current administration, there has been a proposed reinstatement option for the FFCRA, which would reinstate paid leave through September 30, 2021. 

Below is additional information on the Biden proposal:

  • All employers, including businesses with fewer than 50 or more than 500 employees, along with the federal government will be required to provide FFCRA leave.
  • Healthcare workers and first responders will be entitled to FFCRA leave under the new proposal.
  • Other considerations- the amount and the potential duration of FFCRA benefits might increase under the new plan.
  • End date of September 30, 2021.

New York COVID Sick Leave Update:

Number of Employees 
(As of Jan. 1, 2020)
Amount of Sick Leave Supplemental Benefits
0-10 employees; net income of $1 million or less in the prior tax yearUnpaid leave for duration of the orderCombined COVID-19 Paid Family Leave (PFL) and Disability Leave Benefits (DBL) for the duration of the order
0-10 employees; net income of more than $1 million in the prior tax year5 days of paid sick leaveCombined PFL and DBL for the duration of the order
11-99 employees5 days of paid sick leaveCombined PFL and DBL for the duration of the order
100+ employees14 days of paid sick leave 

Public employers must also provide 14 days of sick leave at the employee’s regular rate of pay when an employee is covered by the NY COVID-19 sick leave law.

The Jan. 20, 2021 guidance states that employees are entitled to COVID-19 sick leave under the following circumstances:

  • If an employee tests positive for COVID-19 following a period of mandatory quarantine or isolation, the employee cannot report to work, is automatically deemed subject to a subsequent mandatory order of isolation from the Department of Health and is entitled to paid sick leave under the NY COVID-19 sick leave law (even if the employee already received NY COVID-19 sick leave for the first period of mandatory quarantine or isolation). In order to receive NY COVID-19 sick leave for the second time, the employee is required to submit documentation of the positive COVID-19 test result from a licensed medical provider or testing facility to the employer or to the employer’s insurance carrier, if applicable (unless the employer gave the employee the COVID-19 test).
  • If an employee is subject to an order of quarantine or isolation and continues to test positive for COVID-19 at the end of the quarantine or isolation period, the employee may not return to work, is automatically deemed subject to an additional mandatory order of isolation and is entitled to COVID-19 sick leave for the second period of isolation. The employee is required to submit documentation of the subsequent positive COVID-19 test result from a licensed medical provider or testing facility to the employer or to the employer’s insurance carrier, if applicable (unless the employer gave the employee the COVID-19 test that showed the positive result). (BSK)

Current FFCRA Considerations in 2021:

  • Offering EPSL and EFMLA after December 31 will become optional for employers.  
  • An employee will no longer be entitled by law to take EPSL or EFMLA, even if they have a qualifying reason.
  • Employers who choose to offer these paid leaves can still receive a tax credit if they follow the current EPSL and EFMLA rules, including job protection.
  • The extension of the tax credit will be available for leaves taken through March 31, 2021.
  • Employees will not get new hours to use—the unused portion of their original allotment that remains on January 1 is how much they will be able to use through March 31. For instance, if an employee who was entitled to 80 hours of EPSL between April 1 and December 31 used 40 of those hours in 2020, they would have 40 hours left to use between January 1 and March 31, 2021.
  • There is a possible exception when an employee’s EFMLA bank could reset if employers use the calendar year or another fixed FMLA tracking period that starts before March 31 and the DOL fails to readopt the regulations they wrote related to EFMLA. We expect the IRS, DOL, or both, to provide guidance soon that will clear up whether certain employers will need to offer additional hours. We will update the HR Support Center as information becomes available. (HR On the Move)

Other Considerations:

  • Frequently asked questions on the DOL
  • Current employer policy and procedures
  • Labor and Employment Law Posters (mandatory or recommended)

Continue to monitor for updates by the local, state, and federal government.  These changes do impact organizations both large and small. Review call-in procedures and create a form that is easy for tracking leave usage as well.  I am happy to work with any organization that has questions or concerns regarding current leave.

EMPLOYEE REQUEST FOR EMERGENCY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE

Employees requesting Emergency FMLA (EFMLA) pursuant to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) must complete this form. You must provide as much advance notice as is reasonably practicable. Upon completion of this form, submit it to Human Resources for processing.

2021 New York State Minimum Wage, Tip Credit and Exempt Salary Changes

Employers in New York are subject to different minimum wages, allowable tip credits, and minimum exempt employee salaries based on where employees work and what kind of work they do. The wage increases listed below took effect on December 31, 2020.

Minimum Wage in Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties
The minimum wage in these counties will increase to $14 per hour.

Minimum Wage in the Rest of the State
The statewide minimum wage will increase to $12.50 per hour. This applies to employees outside of New York City and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester Counties, except for fast food employees.

(New York City’s minimum wage previously increased to $15 and applies to all workers in NYC.)

Minimum Wage for Fast Food Employees
The minimum wage for fast food employees working outside of New York City will increase to $14.50 per hour. The final scheduled increase to $15.00 per hour will take effect on July 1, 2021

Tipped Employee Minimum Cash Wage
The minimum cash wage for tipped employees will increase as follows:

Service employees (other than at resort hotels) covered by the Hospitality Wage Order:

  • Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties: $11.65
  • The rest of the state: $10.40
  • (New York City’s minimum previously increased to $12.50)

Food service employees:

  • Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties: $9.35
  • The rest of the state: $8.35
  • (New York City’s minimum previously increased to $10.00)

Tip Credit Eliminated in Miscellaneous Industries
Employers of employees covered by the Minimum Wage Order for Miscellaneous Industries won’t be able to take a tip credit as of December 31, 2020.  

Tips and Gratuities Frequently Asked Questions


Exempt Administrative and Executive Minimum Salaries
The minimum salary for exempt executive and administrative employees in New York will increase as follows:

  • Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties: $1,050 per week, which equals $54,600 per year.
  • The rest of the state outside New York City: $937.50 per week, which equals $48,750 per year.
  • (The minimum in New York City previously increased to $1,125 per week.)

(HR On the Move Article)

Now is the opportunity to review payrates and job descriptions.  Is the position truly an exempt executive or administrative position?  Ensure that job duties align with requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act.  I am happy to work with any organization to determine exempt vs. non-exempt duties and responsibilities.  Continue to monitor for any significant changes at the federal level in 2021 as well, minimum wage has not been increased federally since July 2009.

Creating a Student Loan Assistance Policy in Any Organization

“Employers are aware of the effects of student loan debt, according to HR consultancy Buck’s annual Financial Wellbeing and Voluntary Benefits Survey Report, based on input from 164 employers with 500 or more employees, polled from late 2019 through February 2020. Some key findings:

  • 41 percent of employers—compared to 23 percent in 2017—said that student loan debt was a top motivator for their financial wellness offerings.
  • Student loan repayment contributions were viewed as one of the best solutions for addressing financial stress, ranking just behind financial coaching and supplemental medical plans.” (SHRM)

Additional Information on Current Legislation:

Employer-provided student loan repayment. The CARES Act temporarily allowed employers to provide student loan repayment as a benefit to employees through Dec. 31, 2020. Under the provision, an employer may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee’s student loans, and such payment would be excluded from the employee’s income. The $5,250 cap applies to both the new student loan repayment benefit as well as other educational assistance (e.g., tuition, fees, and books) provided by the employer under current law. The provision is extended through Dec. 31, 2025.

Developing the Policy:

Objective

The objective of this policy is to assist in repaying student loan debt to further the financial well-being of employees.

Policy

The student loan assistance program provides eligible employees up to [$] per month paid directly to the employee’s student loan servicer. Employees are expected to continue to make minimum monthly payments to the loan servicer in addition to the assistance provided under this policy. Student loan assistance is limited to [$] per year with a [$] cap and is reported as taxable income on the employee’s W-2.

Eligibility (Ensure this is Consistent)

Eligible employees include full-time employees who have received a graduate or undergraduate degree within [amount of time] of the date the employee first applies for assistance under this policy. New employees are eligible after [amount of time] of continuous employment with [Company Name].

Student loan assistance payments will continue for employees on an unpaid leave of absence for up to [amount of time].

Loans eligible for repayment assistance include U.S.-based education loans borrowed by the employee for the employee’s own education.

Procedures

Eligible employees must complete a student loan assistance application and provide proof of graduation documentation and loan documentation. Loan documentation must include:

  • Employee’s name.
  • Loan servicer’s name.
  • Loan account number.
  • Current balance.
  • Required monthly payment amount.
  • Monthly payment due date.

The amount of student loan assistance paid to the loan servicer each month will be the employee’s minimum monthly payment or [$], whichever is less.

Student loan assistance payments will begin on the [date] of the month following receipt and approval of a completed application. Employees will receive written notice of approval or denial of the loan assistance application.

Termination

Loan assistance payments will cease immediately upon an employee’s voluntary or involuntary termination from employment with [Company Name] or change in eligibility status, such as a reduction to part-time hours.  Does the employee have to repay any amount paid by the organization if they do not fulfill a certain time with the organization?  Similar to relocation or bonuses.

Create a policy and program that fits the organization and the culture of the organization.  Very few organizations are taking advantage of student loan assistance for employees.  This is a great opportunity to create a unique perk, while recruiting and retaining top talent.  Survey the workforce to understand the financial wellness needs of employees.  Communicate the results and develop programs that will make a positive impact on employees.   

Originally published in 2018

11 Student Loan Repayment Perks Offered by Organizations

Below are 11 of the perks now being offered by organizations throughout the country:

  • “Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) launched its Student Loan Paydown program in 2016. Forty-five percent of the firm’s 46,000 junior employees (with six years’ experience or less) signed up to receive up to $1,200 annually for six years. The firm has found that this program has become a contributing factor in the job acceptance rate among applicants.
    • Starting this summer, PWC will give employees $100 a month (amounting to $1,200 each year) to help pay down student loans.  The company’s offer is good for up to six years.  That is a big draw for the company, which recruits 11,000 new employees from college on campuses each year.
  • Fidelity’s holistic approach to addressing employee student loan debt includes a Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) (that pays $2,000 per year with a $10,000 cap), and financial counseling and education for employees at all career and life stages. In the development of the program, Fidelity leaders often heard employees express regret that they wish they had known more when they were in high school and making decisions about how to finance their college education.  In response, Fidelity Labs, an in-house product incubator, created an online education platform called the Student Debt Tool to help employees better understand their situation and their options. The tool includes a student loan refinancing platform to help consolidate loans to achieve lower lending rates. It also offers tools and advice to help employees save for future college costs for themselves and their children.”[i]
  • “Freedom 2 Save program works at Abbott, a research and development company headquartered in Lake Bluff, Ill. Full- and part-time employees who qualify for the company’s 401(k) and are also contributing 2 percent of their eligible pay toward their student loans through payroll deductions receive an amount equivalent to the company’s traditional 5 percent 401(k) match, deposited to their 401(k) accounts. The twist is that program recipients will receive the match without being required to make any 401(k) contributions of their own, allowing them to use more of their earnings to pay off student debt.  Abbott’s approach avoids the taxes triggered when an employer directly gives employees funds to help pay off their student loans.”[ii]
  • “New York Life recently launched a student-loan repayment program offering up to $10,200 over five years for eligible employees—which tops out at $170 a month.
  • Rise Interactive launched its program by offering a loan-repayment contribution of $50 per month.”[iii]
  • “Startup lenders CommonBond and LendEDU both pledges to pay off your entire student loan balance, regardless of how much debt you have, if you’re an employee. Common Bond will provide $100 a month and LendEDU $200 a month until your debt is settled. Unfortunately, the odds of being an employee at either company are slim: Common Bond has less than 100 employees and LendEDU has just six.
  • Natixis Global Asset Management, the Boston-based division of French investment bank Natixis, rewards loyalty with $5,000 put toward employees’ student loan balance after their five-year work anniversary. They also receive $1,000 a year for the next five years.
  • Online homework helper Chegg offers employees a $1,000 annual contribution, after taxes, toward their student loan balance. It also provides an online student loan management tool to help workers maximize their payments.
  • Nevada’s Moonlite Bunny Ranch will match their employees’ student loan payments 100% for two months.  When you consider that employees reportedly make about $3,000 a week at the brothel, the program could work out to be a lucrative offer.”[iv]
  • “The American Bankers Association said that next month it would begin helping employees with their college-related debts.  The ABA will pay up to $1,200 per year per eligible employee toward student loans, above and beyond salary and any other benefits. The organization, which represents banks that employ more than 2 million people, said it is encouraging each member bank to take a similar step.”[v]

Below are relocation options, currently being offered or being developed: 

Currently, only 4% of employers are now offering perks outlined above.  As the war for talent continues to increase and turnover continues to be a driving concern in organizations, these perks will grow in popularity.  Will these perks work for your organization?  Maybe or maybe not.  However, 44+ million people with student loan debt is a tremendous labor pool.  Before implementing a program such as this, benchmark options, know the tax advantages and disadvantages and ask your current workforce.  I personally believe there is value in programs such as this and would be happy to work with any organization in implementing a student loan repayment option for the workforce.  It will separate you from your competitors.

“On Aug. 17, the IRS made public its Private Letter Ruling (PLR) 201833012, which was issued to the requesting company on May 22. The letter responds to an unnamed employer that proposed amending its 401(k) plan to offer a student-loan benefit program under which it would make special 401(k) contributions into the accounts of employees who are making student loan repayments.”[i]

IRS Letter Amending 401(k)

20 Companies that Help Employees Pay Off Their Student Loans (Student Loan Hero)

Labor Poster Updates:

Nevada OSHA poster has been updated to reflect new mandatory penalty amounts for each serious violation, non-serious violation, and daily penalty for failing to correct a violation. This posting appears on the Nevada Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

Virginia Pregnancy Accommodation poster has been updated to reflect a new agency name for employees to file discrimination complaints within the Office of the Attorney General. The Virginia Division of Human Rights has been changed to the Virginia Office of Civil Rights. This posting appears on the Virginia Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act During COVID-19 poster has been updated to reflect that the temporary amendments to the District of Columbia Family and Medical Leave Act to create new job-protected leave for employees for various COVID-19 reasons has been extended through May 22, 2021. This is a mandatory change.

Utah Unemployment Insurance poster has been updated to clarify how employees can file unemployment insurance claims. The poster was also updated to reflect a change to the website address and to the phone numbers and addresses for several state employment centers. This posting appears on the Utah Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

California Fair Employment poster has been updated to reflect recent amendments to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  A new leave law amendment expands the definition of family member to include grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, and permits leave for certain military exigencies and also expands the law to now apply to employers with five or more employees.  This posting appears on the California Combination Poster, Part 1. This is a mandatory change.

Michigan Paid Medical Leave poster has been updated to reflect a correction when filing a complaint. An employee may file a complaint with the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO) within 6 months of the violation. This posting appears on the Michigan Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.


[i] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/IRS-allows-401k-match-for-student-loan-payments.aspx


[i] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/employers-explore-repaying-student-loan-debt.aspx

[ii] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/401k-twist-on-student-loan-aid.aspx

[iii] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/launching-student-loan-repayment-benefit.aspx

[iv] http://time.com/money/4261054/employee-student-loan-repayment-programs/

[v] http://time.com/money/4555841/student-loans-employer-benefit/

[vi] “Student Loan Repayment Assistance.”  Burr Consulting, LLC Article. March 2016

[vii] http://time.com/money/4810605/memphis-employee-benefit-student-loans/

[viii] “Student Loan Repayment Assistance.”  Burr Consulting, LLC Article. March 2016

DOL Guidance on Posting Requirements for Remote & Hybrid Workplaces

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently provided guidance on complying with its notices and posting requirements when in a remote work environment.

Posting Guidance:

(1) all of the employer’s employees exclusively work remotely,

(2) all employees customarily receive information from the employer via electronic means, and

(3) all employees have readily available access to the electronic posting at all times. This ensures the electronic posting satisfies the statutory and regulatory requirements that such postings be continuously accessible to employees. Where an employer has employees on-site and other employees teleworking full-time, for example, the employer may supplement a hard-copy posting requirement with electronic posting and the Department would encourage both methods of posting.

If an employer seeks to meet a worksite posting requirement through electronic means, such as on an intranet site, internet website, or shared network drive or file system posting, the electronic notice must be as effective as a hard-copy posting. As a number of the statutory provisions below require that affected individuals be able to readily see a copy of the required postings, where an employer chooses to meet a worksite posting requirement through electronic means, the same requirements apply in the electronic format. As a practical matter, a determination of whether affected individuals can readily see an electronic posting depends on the facts. For instance, the affected individuals must be capable of accessing the electronic posting without having to specifically request permission to view a file or access a computer.

Impacted Federal Posters:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act
  • Family and Medical Leave Act
  • Section 14(c) of the FLSA
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act
  • Service Contract Act

DOL Guidance

DOL Poster Advisor Link

Additional Recommendations:

  • Design an easily accessible space in your company intranet or employee portal for federal and state posters. “Consider making your company intranet or portal appear automatically on employees’ computers upon logging in,” he said.
  • Use your employee handbook or handbook acknowledgment page to inform employees of the virtual location of postings.
  • Incorporate all required notices in your applicant portal and applicant tracking system if hiring is conducted remotely.

Work with your labor poster provider and seek guidance with any questions or concerns related to remote postings.  Remember, there are local and state requirements as well, with remote workers.  I am happy to answer any questions regarding posting requirements.

Washington Paid Family and Medical Leave poster has been updated to reflect an increase to the cap of weekly benefits by the Washington Employment Security Department.  The maximum allowed for weekly benefits increased from $1,000 to $1,206. This posting appears on the Washington Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

California Pregnancy Disability and CFRA Leave poster has been updated to reflect recent amendments to the California Family Rights Act (CFRA).  A new law expands the definition of family member for CFRA purposes and also expands the CFRA to now apply to employers with five or more employees.  This posting appears on the California Combination Poster, Part 2. This is a mandatory change.

California Industrial Welfare Commission Wage (IWC) Industry Wage Orders have been updated to reflect the 2021, 2022 and 2023 increases to the state minimum wage and revised updated meal and lodging credit amounts. The web address for computer software employees overtime exemptions has also been revised. This is a mandatory change.

Alaska Minimum Wage poster has been updated to reflect an increase in the minimum wage. The minimum wage rate will increase from $10.19 per hour to $10.34 per hour effective January 1, 2021. This posting appears on the Alaska Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation poster has been updated to reflect a change to the state’s workers’ compensation law adding chiropractic services to allowable medical treatment. This posting appears on the Oklahoma Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

California Fair Employment poster has been updated to reflect recent amendments to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act.  A new leave law amendment expands the definition of family member to include grandparent, grandchild, or sibling, and permits leave for certain military exigencies and also expands the law to now apply to employers with five or more employees.  This posting appears on the California Combination Poster, Part 1. This is a mandatory change.

OSHA 300 Recordkeeping Rules & Requirements

Under OSHA’s recordkeeping regulation, certain covered employers are required to prepare and maintain records of serious occupational injuries and illnesses using the OSHA 300 Log. This information is important for employers, workers and OSHA in evaluating the safety of a workplace, understanding industry hazards, and implementing worker protections to reduce and eliminate hazards.

Is your organization required to prepare and maintain records under current rules?

To find out if you are required to prepare and maintain records under the updated rule, first determine your NAICS code by:

  1. Using the search feature at the U.S. Census Bureau NAICS main webpage.  In the search box for the most recent NAICS, enter a keyword that describes your business. Choose the primary business activity that most closely corresponds to you, or refine your search to get more choices.
  2. Viewing the most recent complete NAICS tables on the U.S. Census Bureau NAICS main webpage. Select the two-digit sector code and choose a six-digit industry code to read its definition.
  3. Using an old SIC code to find your NAICS code using the detailed conversion tables on the U.S. Census Bureau Concordances page.
  4. Contacting your nearest OSHA office or State agency for help.

Once you have found your NAICS code, you can use the following table to determine if your industry is exempt from the recordkeeping rule.

NOTE: Establishments in companies with 10 or fewer employees at all times in the previous year continue to be exempt from keeping OSHA records, regardless of their industry classification.  The partial exemption for size is based on the number of employees in the entire company.

Forms Needed for Completion:

The OSHA injury and illness recordkeeping forms are:

  • the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300),
  • the Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA Form 300A), and
  • the Injury and Illness Incident Report (OSHA Form 301).

Employers must fill out the Log and the Incident Report only if a recordable work-related injury or illness has occurred. Employers must fill out and post the Summary annually, even if no recordable work-related injuries or illnesses occurred during the year.

In place of the OSHA forms, employers may also use equivalent forms (forms that have the same information, are as readable and understandable, and are completed using the same instructions as the OSHA forms they replace). Many employers use an insurance form instead of the Incident Report, or supplement an insurance form by adding information required by OSHA.

Additional Information:

OSHA Fact Sheet

OSHA Exempt Industries FAQ Sheet

OSHA Recordkeeping Forms

OSHA 300 & 300A PDF Forms

Six Thoughts on Destroying Student Loan Debt

Student loan debt is impacting millions of borrowers across the world.  Borrowers throughout the United States currently owe $1.7 Trillion dollars in outstanding debt.  Federally backed loans will become due again in 2021, regardless of the promises made by politicians about eliminating $50,000 of debt from each borrower.  I know many people that owe much more than $50,000 in student loan debt.  I myself have borrowed and repaid over $200,000 of student loans throughout my academic career and will owe close to $20,000 in 2021.  Below are a few thoughts I have on repaying student loan debt quick.

My Thoughts on Destroying Student Loan Debt:

  1. Do not ignore the debt.  Anyone who has borrowed money for student loans should have a general understanding of how much is owed and to which lending houses.  Review all loans and prioritize the loans with the highest levels of interest.
  2. Be prepared to make sacrifices.  Yes, that means not buying $6.00 cups of coffee every morning, going out to eat 4-days per week, taking unnecessary luxury vacations and leasing brand new vehicles.  Sacrifice now for freedom later in life.  Debt freedom is something that profoundly changes your life.
  3. Start payments immediately.  We all have six months to start making payments on student loans after completion of the program.  However, if you receive money for graduation or have money in savings, I highly encourage you to make payments regardless of the amount or how often.  I never wait the six months to start making payments.  It will keep interest accrual at zero, which is the goal for any debt repayment.
  4. Make more than the minimum payment.  Following the advice above, making more than the minimum payment will help knock down the interest accrual, to ensure we are attacking the principal amount of the loan.  Even if the overpayment is $10 or $20 its better than the minimum payment.
  5. Pay more than once per month.  This follows the advice in #3 and #4.  Make additional payments throughout the month if you can.  Continue knocking down the interest and principal.  This is called the snowflake method of repayment.  I keep the interest on my loans a $0, to ensure my payments knock down the principal.  This requires you to review your accounts often as well, which will make the debt a priority.
  6. Reward yourself for successes.  If you are successful at eliminating debt, take time to reward yourself with a nice meal, a short vacation, etc.  I am not encouraging a luxury cruise or vacation to Europe.  Think need vs. want.  Do you really need it, or do you want it?

These are just a few thoughts on destroying student loan debt.  My upcoming book “Slay the Student Loan Dragon Tips and Tricks on How to Conquer the Student Loan Game” will have many more suggestions and tips on knocking out any level of debt.  The release date is scheduled for January 19, 2021.  At the end of the day, it is a simple, we can sit around and complain about the rules and how unfair it is to have student loan debt, or you can beat the game.  Student loan debt is not easy to discharge in bankruptcy courts and the government will garnish everything, including social security.  The financial sacrifices today will set you up for long term financial successes throughout your entire life.

Release date: January 19, 2021. Available for purchase on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions.

2021 Revised State and Federal Forms Needed in New York State, IRS Mileage Rate, FMLA Updates in the New Year

As we are only a few days into 2021, some of our organizations will be hiring new employees for continued operation and the upcoming seasonal summer months.  New hires require new and legally updated paperwork.  State and federal forms get updated and posted on government websites for all of us to use, in either an electronic or downloadable PDF form.  These forms are not always updated at the beginning or end of the year.  Ensure you have the most current forms. 

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.  Organizations must verify that new employees are legally eligible to work in the United States.  Ensure the form is filled out correctly and signed by the right person in the organization, audits are a great option for an organization to review old I-9 forms.  This form expires 10/31/2022.  We could see changes in 2021.
  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.  The 2021 form is now available through the link or an internet search.
  3. Form IT-2104, Employer Allowance Certificate (NYS):This is the New York State withholding form required for all new employees or any revised withholding information. Additional NYS Forms
  4. Pennsylvania Employer Withholding Forms
  5. Wage Prevention Fact Sheet: Organizations are required to provide wage notification forms to all employees, if they do not carve out specific language in the employees offer letter.  See fact sheet and frequently asked question links below to understand specific requirements on offer letters.  The forms vary by hourly, salary and salaried nonexempt.  The link above provides a definition on which form to use based on the classification of the employee.  Reminder, these forms were last updated in early 2017.

Wage Prevention Frequently Asked Questions

Notice of Pay for Hourly Employees

Notice for Exempt Employees

Notice for Employees Paid a Weekly Rate or a Salary for a Fix Number of Hours (40 of Fewer in a Week)

6. 2019 W-9 Form: (Revised October 2018) these forms are utilized for consultants and others that might be working within your organization.  This form was updated in October 2018.  Ensure you have an updated form from any consultants or others that are issued a 1099. No current changes. Additional Information

7. FMLA Forms: “The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. It also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.

FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.

FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:

  • For the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
  • For placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
  • To care for an immediate family member (i.e., spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
  • To take medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.

Employees are eligible for leave if they have worked for their employer at least 12 months, at least 1,250 hours over the past 12 months, and work at a location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles. Whether an employee has worked the minimum 1,250 hours of service is determined according to FLSA principles for determining compensable hours or work.” (DOL Website)

a. WH-380-E Certification of Health Care Provider for Employee’s Serious Health Condition (PDF)

b. WH-380-F Certification of Health Care Provider for Family Member’s Serious Health Condition (PDF)

c. WH-381 Notice of Eligibility and Rights & Responsibilities (PDF)

d. WH-382 Designation Notice (PDF)

e. WH-384 Certification of Qualifying Exigency For Military Family Leave (PDF)

f. WH-385 Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of Covered Servicemember — for Military Family Leave (PDF)

g. WH-385-V Certification for Serious Injury or Illness of a Veteran for Military Caregiver Leave (PDF)

Remember to watch for the FFCRA posting and additional changes to this law as well.

2021 IRS Mileage Rate:

Standard Mileage Rate Website (Additional Information)

Beginning on January 1, 2021, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 56 cents per mile driven for business use, down 1.5 cents from the rate for 2020,
  • 16 cents per mile driven for medical, or moving purposes for qualified active duty members of the Armed Forces, down 1 cent from the rate for 2020, and
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations, the rate is set by statute and remains unchanged from 2020.

NY State Posting Requirements (NYC has variations):

Notice to Employees (IA 133)  

Complete this form if you would like to order the Unemployment Insurance Notice to Employees (IA 133) poster. The poster is available in various languages. You are required to display this poster.

Understanding Unemployment for Employers

The federal government has allowed states to change their unemployment benefits laws. It lets them provide unemployment benefits for situations related to the coronavirus (COVID-19).  And, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has expanded benefits further. It authorizes:

  • Self-employed workers and gig workers to receive unemployment benefits
  • All unemployed workers to receive an extra $600 a week for up to six months
  • Unemployed workers to get an extra 13 weeks of benefits beyond the number a state currently provides

As we begin reviewing options to reopen the economy, many of us are wondering how to bring employees back to work, as the unemployment benefits are significant through the end of July 2020.  This is a concern I have addressed over the past few weeks.  Below are a few questions/answers, other options and additional information.

Questions & Answers for Employers:

My employer has remained open because it is essential. I’m not sick, nor is anyone in my household sick. I do not have children or care for someone who cannot care for themselves. However, I’m afraid of getting coronavirus from customers coming to the store, so I quit and filed for unemployment. Can I obtain benefits under the CARES Act?

No. Under the CARES Act, you may be eligible for benefits if you meet one of the circumstances listed in the Act, but none include the scenario described. On these facts, you are not eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) because you do not meet any of the qualifying circumstances.

There are, however, circumstances under the CARES Act in which specific, credible health concerns could require an individual to quit his or her job and thereby make the individual eligible for PUA. For example, an individual may be eligible for PUA if he or she was diagnosed with COVID-19 by a qualified medical professional, and although the individual no longer has COVID-19, the illness caused health complications that render the individual objectively unable to perform his or her essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation. However, voluntarily deciding to quit your job out of a general concern about exposure to COVID-19 does not make you eligible for PUA.

I was furloughed by my employer, but they have now reopened and asked me to return to my job. Can I remain on unemployment?

No. As a general matter, individuals receiving regular unemployment compensation must act upon any referral to suitable employment and must accept any offer of suitable employment. Barring unusual circumstances, a request that a furloughed employee return to his or her job very likely constitutes an offer of suitable employment that the employee must accept.

While eligibility for PUA does not turn on whether an individual is actively seeking work, it does require that the individual be unemployed, partially employed, or unable or unavailable to work due to certain circumstances that are a direct result of COVID-19 or the COVID-19 public health emergency. In the situation outlined here, an employee who had been furloughed because his or her employer has closed the place of employment would potentially be eligible for PUA while the employer remained closed, assuming the closure was a direct result of the COVID-19 public health emergency and other qualifying conditions are satisfied. However, as soon as the business reopens and the employee is recalled for work, as in the example above, eligibility for PUA would cease unless the individual could identify some other qualifying circumstance outlined in the CARES Act.

One of my workers quit because he said he would prefer to receive the unemployment compensation benefits under the CARES Act. Is he eligible for unemployment? If not, what can I do?

No, typically that employee would not be eligible for regular unemployment compensation or PUA. Eligibility for regular unemployment compensation varies by state but generally does not include those who voluntarily leave employment. Similarly, to receive PUA, an individual must be ineligible for regular unemployment compensation or extended benefits under state or federal law, or pandemic emergency unemployment compensation, and satisfy one of the eligibility criteria enumerated in the CARES Act, as explained in Unemployment Insurance Program Letter 16-20. There are multiple qualifying circumstances related to COVID-19 that can make an individual eligible for PUA, including if the individual quits his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19. Quitting to access unemployment benefits is not one of them. Individuals who quit their jobs to access higher benefits and are untruthful in their UI application about their reason for quitting, will be considered to have committed fraud.

If desired, employers can contest unemployment insurance claims through their state unemployment insurance agency’s process.

(https://www.dol.gov/coronavirus/unemployment-insurance#faqs)

New York State Shared Work Program:

Shared Work can be used as an option to avoid layoffs and retain the skill sets of a valuable workforce.  The specifics regarding Shared Work are found here and a quick review follows.  As you will see in the hyperlink, also included are related videos, in addition to management and employee testimonials.

  • Flexibility – the employer determines which employees (Shared Work claimants) will be on the plan and how much their hours will be reduced (between 20 and 60 percent).  If the needs of the business change, the plan can be amended.
  • Employee wages and benefits remain intact.
  • Employees included on a plan can be full-time, part-time, temporary, or seasonal.
  • A plan can include as few as two employees.
  • A Shared Work plan can be filed online.  This can be done even after a New York State WARN is submitted.  This option assists the business to meet contracted service fulfillment in the event that the closure date is ultimately extended.
  1. The Shared Work Program FACT Sheet: https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/ui/SW1.pdf
  2. How to File for Unemployment Insurance: https://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/factsheets/pdfs/P800.pdf
  3. Rapid Response for Businesses: https://www.labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/factsheets/pdfs/p481BUS.pdf
  4. Rapid Response for Customers: https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/factsheets/pdfs/p481WKR.pdf
  5. Business Services: https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/factsheets/pdfs/p469.pdf

WARN Act Information:

WARN

False Unemployment Claims & Fighting Unemployment:

  1. Document all conversations with employees in writing and send certified letters. Ensure you have any text messages, phone records and witnesses that listened to the employer offering a return to work option to the employee.
  2. Be proactive in your responses and information submission to the Unemployment Department.
  3. Spend the time needed to prepare for the hearing or dispute the claim.
  4. Offer a Shared Work Option in which employees can take time off during the week and phase back into full-time. This is not the best approach, but it might be a collaborative process to consider.

Fighting unemployment claims is never an easy process to go through.  It can be time consuming and either side can appeal the ruling.  Remember your time is worth money as well, when considering fight these claims.  However, we should not allow unemployment abuse or false unemployment claims. If there is work, hold employees accountable to return to work.  I am happy to offer any guidance related to a phase in process or disputing an unemployment claim for any organization.

Additional Links:

3 Changes to I-9 Regulations & Policy Due to COVID-19

 

3 Changes to I-9 Regulations & Policy Due to COVID-19

As we did see in April 2020, The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued temporary changes to the I-9 verification process for virtual verification, the DHS recently issued a temporary policy to allow employers to accept expired List B documents when completing the Form I-9 beginning May 1.

This updated policy is intended to account for the fact that many people are unable to renew their driver’s licenses or state ID cards at this time due to stay-at-home orders. While some states have extended the expiration of drivers’ licenses and state identification cards, which are common List B documents, others have not. The temporary policy addresses both situations.

New York State DMV Information

In response to the global emergency, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order No. 202.8: Continuing Temporary Suspension and Modification of Laws Relating to the Disaster Emergency. In accordance with this Order, DMV field offices, road test sites, and Traffic Violations Bureaus are closed, and certain DMV services are temporarily unavailable. Many expiration dates have been extended. Please see below for more information on impacted services.

Pennsylvania Information

Department of Homeland Security has postponed the enforcement date for REAL ID from October 1, 2020, to October 1, 2021, in response to COVID-19 and the national emergency declaration. PennDOT made the decision to pause REAL ID issuance in the Commonwealth out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of public health. All Driver License Centers and Photo License Centers in Pennsylvania will be closed until further notice.

Temporary Extension for Expired List B Documents That Have Not Been Extended
List B documents that expire on or after March 1, 2020 and have not been extended by the state may be treated the same as if the employee presented a valid receipt for an acceptable document for Form I-9 purposes.

If an employee presents their driver’s license that expired on or after March 1 and it was not extended by the state, employers should:

· Record the documentation information in Section 2 under List B, as applicable; and

· Enter the word “COVID-19” in the Additional Information field.

When the DHS ends this temporary policy, employers must require the employee to provide a valid unexpired document within 90 days. (The replacement for the expired document is preferred, but employees may choose to present a different document or documents to satisfy the I-9 requirements.) At that time, in the Section 2 Additional Information field, employers must:

· Record the number and other required document information from the actual document presented; and

· Initial and date the change.

Procedure for List B Documents That Have Been Extended
If the employee’s List B identity document expired on or after March 1, 2020, and the issuing authority has extended the document expiration date because of COVID-19, the document is acceptable as a List B document for Form I-9 (not as a receipt) during the extension timeframe specified by the issuing authority. In that case, the employer must:

· Enter the document’s expiration date in Section 2; and

· Enter “COVID-19 EXT” in the Additional Information field.

Employers may also attach a copy of a webpage or other notice indicating that the issuing authority has extended the documents. Employers can confirm that their state has auto-extended the expiration date of state IDs and driver’s licenses by checking the state Motor Vehicle Administration or Department of Motor Vehicles website.

The employee is not required to present a valid unexpired List B document later.

E-Verify
Employers participating in E-Verify should use the employee’s expired List B document number from Section 2 of the Form I-9 to create an E-Verify case as usual within three days of the date of hire. Even if a state has automatically extended the employee’s driver’s license because of COVID-19, employers should enter the expiration date as printed on the employee’s document when creating the E-Verify case.

Reminders
Employers are required to complete an employee’s Form I-9 within three days of their first day of work. The HR Support Center has various resources regarding I-9 requirements, including the revised Form I-9 (dated 10/21/19), which became mandatory on May 1.

The DHS has temporarily suspended the physical presence requirement for fully remote workplaces. Additional information is available in the HR Support Center by searching for “In-Person I-9.”

Additional Link What’s New USCIS

Ensure your organization is following all laws and regulations related to I-9 and E-Verify verification processes.  More than likely we will see additional changes and easing of in-person verification of documentation during the pandemic.  Auditing these records is necessary to ensure legal compliance.  I’m happy to work with any organization in auditing I-9’s or offering guidance on how to correct mistakes.

EEOC DELAYS EEO DATA COLLECTIONS DUE TO COVID-19 PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

“WASHINGTON — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will delay the anticipated opening of the 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 data collection and the 2020 EEO-3 and EEO-5 data collections because of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health emergency, the agency announced today in a Federal Register notice.

The EEO (equal employment opportunity) surveys collect data from employers in different sectors of the workforce. The EEOC was planning to open the following EEO surveys in 2020: the 2019 EEO-1 Component 1 (Employer Information Report); the 2020 EEO-3 (Local Report); and the 2020 EEO-5 (Elementary-Secondary Staff Information Report).

The EEOC recognizes the impact that the current public health emergency is having on workplaces across America and the challenges that both employers and employees alike are now facing. Filers of the EEO-1, EEO-3 and EEO-5, which include private sector employers, local referral unions, and public elementary and secondary school districts, are dealing with unique and urgent issues. Delaying the collections until 2021 will ensure that EEO filers are better positioned to provide accurate, valid and reliable data in a timely manner.

EEO-1, EEO-3 and EEO-5 filers should begin preparing to submit data in 2021. Pending approval from the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) the EEOC would expect to begin collecting the 2019 and 2020 EEO-1 Component 1 in March 2021 and will notify filers of the precise date the surveys will open as soon as it is available. The EEOC would expect to begin collecting the 2020 EEO-3 and the 2020 EEO-5 in January 2021 and will notify filers of the precise date the surveys will open as soon as it is available.

In addition to updates to the agency website, the EEOC will be reaching out directly to EEO-1, 3, and 5 filers regarding the delayed opening of the surveys.” (EEOC Email)

Nevada Annual Daily Overtime Bulletin

Updated to reflect an increase to the hourly daily overtime wage rates for employees with and without qualifying health benefits effective July 1, 2020. The daily overtime wage will increase to $12.00 per hour for employees offered qualifying health benefits. The daily overtime wage will increase to $13.50 for those employees not offered qualifying health benefits. This posting appears on the Nevada Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

Statutory language regarding this posting: The Nevada Office of the Labor Commissioner, Department of Business and Industry has increased the daily overtime wage from $10.875 per hour to $12.00 per hour for employees offered qualifying health benefits and from $12.375 per hour to $13.50 per hour for employees not offered qualifying health benefits.

Nevada Annual Minimum Wage Bulletin has been updated to reflect the minimum wage effective July 1, 2020. The minimum wage will increase from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour for employees to whom qualifying health benefits have been offered or made available. The minimum wage will increase from $8.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour for all other employees. This posting appears on the Nevada Combination Poster. This is a mandatory change.

Statutory language regarding this posting: The Nevada Office of the Labor Commissioner, Department of Business and Industry has increased the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $8.00 per hour for employees to whom qualifying health benefits have been offered or made available. The minimum wage will increase from $8.25 per hour to $9.00 per hour for all other employees.

Additional resources:

Financial Budgeting and Fiscal Responsibility During a Crisis

Budgeting and fiscal responsibility are difficult during the good times, but even more challenging during a crisis. The Coronavirus has impacted millions of people across the world in a variety of ways. Many aspects of life are out of our control, the one thing we can control is our fiscal responsibility and become disciplined on our personal and small business budgets.

Recommendations on Budgeting & Fiscal Responsibility:

1.     Budget, Budget, Budget:  We all have time to review our finances during the continued month of social distancing and remote work. Take the time to review where your money is being spent and how much is being spent per day. It is never a fun process to undertake, but one that is necessary to truly understand.

2.     Making Hard Choices: Where can you make cuts? If your gym has not stopped charging you for the monthly membership, it might be time to cancel the membership for a while. Is there any opportunity to reduce your monthly cellphone bill? Does your organization offer a discount you have never taken advantage of? What about an online defensive driving course to reduce your car insurance payments? Is there opportunity to renegotiate interest rates on car, mortgage, credit cards? Look for creative opportunities to cut costs, when it starts to hurt, cut more. Not a bad time to look for coupons and other discount options.

3.     Food & Grocery Lists: Shop for only the necessities and find ways to reduce costs in the grocery stores. Healthier options are more expensive; however, we should be focusing on physical wellness as well. Look for discount options and only shop once per week if possible. Make a list and stick to only what is on that list.

4.     Student Loans: The federal government has suspended payments and interest accrual on all federally backed student loans through the end of September 2020. Now is the time to check with private lenders to ask about suspended payments during the same time period. Remember one thing, payments are not going away, and they will be due in the future. I recommend paying down as much as possible when no interest is accruing if you can afford to pay.

5.     Retirement & Savings: If you can maintain the match contribution for retirement, I highly encourage anyone to do so. Do not leave free money on the table, if the organization is matching, ensure you maxing out the match. Liquid savings is there for situations such as this. If you do not need to use the savings, do not touch it. If you can make contributions to savings, as little as it might be, continue to save. Look for high interest online accounts, it makes it hard to dip into the savings account, which maintains fiscal discipline.

6.     Ask for Help: Setup time with your financial advisor or retirement planner. Most retirement providers are offering virtual sessions. Look for additional resources, aps, webinars, tools, budget spreadsheets, etc.

Set challenging goals and reward yourself when you do meet one of these goals. Thoroughly understand need versus want during. Do you really need, or do you just want it? Once you embrace this mindset, you can make significant changes in your financial health. Financial discipline is something I have practiced for many years. Embrace the challenge and evolve your thinking about finances. Look for opportunities to reduce waste and change to a lean approach to budgeting, both personally and professionally.