Viewing posts from: January 2017

FLSA & Inclement Weather Policies

Posted January 31, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Weather is an unpredictable force. Just last week we were relishing in 60-70 degree weather to now watching through the windows as snow comes falling down like a white sheet from the sky. As beautiful as the fluffy stuff is, it can also wreak havoc on school, work and life in general!

So what does it mean for you when your company has to close due to inclement weather? Here’s a refresher on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) rules:

Non-Exempt Employees

  • Paid hourly (the majority of most workforces)
  • Compensated only for each hour worked

As a general rule, it is only required to pay an employee for the hours they worked and not for the intended scheduled workday if a business were to close early due to inclement weather. If a business were to close for an extended period of time, either from a single day to multiple weeks, then the employer is not obligated to pay a non-exempt employee during the period which the employee is not performing work. It is common that employers have “liberal leave” policies in place for such occasions.

Exempt Employees

  • Paid on salaried basis
  • Performs duties to match the claimed exempt status
  • Not entitled to overtime

In the event of inclement weather or any other event that may prevent a business from opening (i.e., fire, loss of power), an employer must pay the employee for any day which they are “ready, willing and able to work.” So if an exempt employee works only a portion of the week, the employer must pay the employee for the entire workweek. But if a business has to close for an entire workweek and an exempt employee does not perform any work during the week, then the employer does not have to pay an exempt employee for that workweek. Vacation time/PTO can be used to cover the unpaid time.

Remote Working Policy

If an employee is able to work from a remote location, then they are to be compensated like normal. But, should a business decide to stay open during inclement weather and the weather prevents an employee from coming to work, the employer may be able to deduct the missed time from the employee’s accrued leave. For best practices, it is best to review these policies and procedures, but also look into your state’s laws as they may have an impact on your policies.

Telework Policies

It may be a good idea to set telework policies in place in case of inclement weather or other business interruptions so that employees are still able to work from home.

A blizzard doesn’t have to stop production completely!

Source: Woods Rogers Attorneys at Law | Time for a Quick Review: Inclement Weather Policies and the FLSA

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Review Your Employment Policies & Practices

Posted January 25, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Start off the year right and make sure your employment policies and practices are up to par with the aggressive standards of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

To ensure compliance, review your policies and practices in these following areas:

  1. Pay Practices
    Equality has been in the forefront of the news for a quite a while now and the EEOC and OFCCP are very focused on pay equity. Review your compensation practices in case there are any pay discrepancies between comparable jobs and fix it. For best practices, document the basis for the starting pay levels and even have your attorney handle this to maximize attorney-client privilege protection.
  2. Independent Contractors
    The DOL and IRS do not play around with misclassification of independent contractors and their hefty penalties speak for themselves. Review the classification of your independent contractors and if some are not meeting the standards, then you may be able to restructure how they’re performing their services to comply with their classification, which could also possibly mean classifying them as employees.
  3. Social Media
    The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows for “protected concerted activity” in social media, so the NLRB has ruled that social media communication may be protected when employees discuss their terms and conditions of employment. Consider removing any language from your policies that would obstruct and penalize employee communication about the terms and conditions of their employment.
  4. Medical Leave
    The EEOC contests that employers have a duty to discuss reasonable accommodation for employees who need medical consideration instead of automatically jumping to termination if an employee needs to take medial leave. Review your leave policy to ensure it does not call for arbitrary termination of employees who need extended or fixed periods of leave.
  5. Background Checks
    Criminal background and credit checks have been the norm for job applicants for quite some time, but the EEOC find that such checks have an imbalanced impact on minorities. You should be open to learning of the nature of the crime and the relationship the crime has to the position before automatically prohibiting applicants from a position if they were convicted of a crime.

Source: Business Management Daily – Employment Law | Your annual HR policy review: 5 critical items to check

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Which PTO Plan is Best for Your Company and Employees?

Posted January 23, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Paid time off (PTO) is not a universally blanketed benefit. Companies are able to put their own PTO policy into effect and it could range from a set number of days a year to accrued days to a new policy that has begun to shake things up, “unlimited” PTO.

More employers have begun utilizing PTO banks that bundle together most forms of PTO for employees to use as they please, rather than assigning a certain number of sick time, vacation, and so on. Rich Fuerstenberg, of Mercer in Princeton, NJ, states that “this is part of the trend toward allowing employees more freedom of choice in general, including how they use their paid time off” in hopes that employees will have more appreciation of PTO as an employee benefit. Mercer’s survey on Absence and Disability Management of over 450 U.S. employers found that PTO banks went up to 63% in 2015 from 38% in 2010.

Although, in some states, such as California and New York, there are state and local laws in place that require employers to provide their employees with a certain amount of paid sick leave which puts a growth cap on the use of PTO banks across the nation.

Balancing Act
Some concerns of PTO banks:

  • Encourages employees to come to work sick and risk getting their coworkers sick as well
    • If sick days aren’t assigned, then employees don’t want to waste their PTO/vacation days as sick days
  • Employees run out of their banked PTO before the end of the year
    • If all PTO days are used up before the end of the year and the employee ends up getting sick, then they’re forced to either come in, advance time from the next year or take unpaid time off

One way to alleviate some of these said risks is to have employees accrue PTO days throughout the year. Jennifer Loftus, director of HR consulting at Astron Solutions, says “that can help to mitigate some of the chances for misuse or abuse of the PTO bank” by having employees earn 1-2 days per month to add to their allotment of PTO.

5 Questions to Ask
If you’re considering to implement a PTO bank, please review some of these questions:

  1. Will employees roll over unused time to the next year, either on an unlimited basis or up to a certain amount?
  2. Should employees be allowed to cash out unused time at year end and keep the cash or contribute it to a 401(k) plan or health savings account?
  3. Can current payroll systems and HR information systems handle administrative requirements?
  4. Is the organization prepared to communicate about the PTO bank, including what it is, how it works and how employees can track their accrued PTO?
  5. Are managers supportive of this approach and prepared to adjust scheduling and other issues as needed?

There are pros and cons to PTO banks, but your organization needs to consider everything carefully before deciding if this new policy is a good fit for the organization and your employees.

Source: SHRM | Employers Are Banking on Paid Time Off

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

AssuredPartners Webinar | A Brave New World: ACA “Repeal and Replace” and Reimbursements for Individual Market Plans

Posted January 17, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

In a perfect world, the ACA would be repealed and replaced at the same time. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world. It appears that Republicans recognize this reality, and they have adopted a strategy to repeal portions of the ACA in the short-run, and replace the ACA in the long-run. Although not ideal, many argue that this strategy gives Republicans the opportunity to meet certain political demands, while working out the practical details to ensure minimal disruption as the health insurance industry transitions away from the ACA to a new set of insurance standards. Can they pull it off? It’s an open question. Our program will walk through the ACA “repeal and replace” exercise step-by-step, and we will discuss what it all means for employers.

In other news, legislation was recently enacted to allow employees of employers with fewer than 50 “full-time equivalent employees” to purchase an individual market plan with tax-free employer contributions, provided certain requirements are met. What are these requirements? Our program will decipher them for you.

Webinar Details:

  • Thursday, January 19, 2017
  • 2:00 – 3:00pm EST
  • No Cost to Attend

About the presenter:
Christopher E. Condeluci is principal and sole shareholder of CC Law & Policy PLLC in Washington D.C. Chris’s practice focuses on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) and its impact on all stakeholders. Prior to forming CC Law & Policy, Chris served as Tax and Benefits Counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee. During his time in Congress, Chris participated in the development of portions of the ACA, including the Exchanges, the insurance market reforms, and all of the new taxes enacted under the law. He is one of the few senior Congressional staffers who actively participated in the health reform debate to join the private sector since the ACA’s enactment, and based on his experience as an employee benefits attorney, he possesses a unique level of expertise on matters relating to tax law, ERISA, and the ACA.

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Intermittent Leave vs. Reduced Leave Schedule

Posted January 13, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Intermittent Leave – Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave that is taken in irregular intervals for a single qualifying reason. For this, an employer may not require an individual to take more leave than necessary for the qualifying reason as well as the leave may only be counted against the individual’s FMLA entitlement for leave and not for the hours worked for the employer. Employers must also track the FMLA leave using the smallest increment of time used for other forms of leave subject to a 1-hour maximum.

Reduced Leave Schedule – Leave schedule that reduces an employee’s hours per workweek or workday for a period of time. This normally changes an employee from full-time to part-time for the period of time. An example of a reduced leave schedule is an employee who is recovering from a serious health condition and is not yet strong enough to work a full-time schedule.

Circumstances to take Intermittent or Reduced Leave Schedule:

  • Medical need – For one of these leaves to be taken due to an employee’s or a covered family member’s own health condition, or to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, there must be a medical need for leave. The medical need must be one that is best accommodated through one of the two leaves.
    • Leave may be taken when medically necessary for:
      • planned and/or unanticipated medical treatment of a serious health condition or of a covered service member’s serious injury or illness;
      • recovery from treatment or recovery from a serious health condition or a covered service member’s serious injury or illness; or
      • providing care or psychological comfort to a covered family member with a serious health condition or a covered service member with a serious injury or illness.
  • Periodic treatment by a healthcare provider – Intermittent leave may be taken for an employee’s or covered family member’s own serious health condition, or of a covered service member with a serious injury or illness, that requires treatment by a healthcare provider periodically instead of one continuous period of time.
    • Examples for intermittent leave may include leave needed for occasional medical appointments, or leave taken several days at a time spread over a 6-month period for things such as chemotherapy.
  • Pregnant employees – Intermittent leave may be taken for prenatal examinations or for her own conditions, such as periods of severe morning sickness.
  • Chronic serious health conditions/serious illness or injury – Either of these leaves may be taken for absences where the employee or covered family member is incapacitated or unable to perform essential functions due to the chronic serious health condition or a serious injury or illness of a covered service member, even if he/she does not receive treatment by a healthcare provider.
  • Birth or placement – Leave may be taken after the birth of a healthy child or placement of a healthy child for adoption or foster care only if the employer agrees. However, an employer’s agreement is not required for leave during which the mother has a serious health condition in connection with the birth of her child or if the newborn child has a serious health condition.
  • Qualifying exigency – Either leave may be taken due to a qualifying exigency.

Source: HR Daily Advisor | Managing Intermittent and Reduced Schedule Leave

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Top Employee Participation and Engagement Trends for 2017

Posted January 10, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

Has your company proposed their New Year resolution yet? How about resolving to keep your employees happy…

This New Year has companies investing in greater cultural and professional development in their employees. TINYpulse surveyed more than 1,000 organizations and identified the top 5 employee engagement drivers that could dominate the workplace in the coming year.

  1. Peers are important to employees. According to TINYpulse’s 2015 survey, employees said that their peers were the top thing they loved about their job. But this wasn’t the case in 2016, as employees did not feel connected to their coworkers. Employers will need to find a way to encourage the connections between their employees to strengthen and improve the office morale between everyone, not just the top performers.
  2. Employees are willing to jump ship in an improved job market. If your employees aren’t happy then it makes it that much easier for them to find happiness elsewhere. Some strategies to build stronger employee retention include career development, thriving work culture and work-life balance. TINYpulse’s analysis found that 25% of employees are willing to leave for a 10% pay increase – so it’s obviously not taking much enticing.
  3. Middle managers are important. Wise employers will keep middle managers and provide them with the tools necessary to engage employees. The survey says 53% of employees would prefer that their direct managers handle the employee engagement.
  4. Employees want feedback. The survey found that 69% of employees didn’t believe they were meeting their full potential at work. Employers should increase one-on-one meetings and provide ongoing coaching and feedback.
    Employees who receive consistent feedback believe that:
    – management is 14% more transparent;
    – their organization is 11% better at taking action on their feedback;
    – they feel 11% more valued at work;
    – their work environment is 12% better; and
    – they are 9% more likely to refer someone to work at their organization.
  5. Companies need to implement leadership programs. According to the Insured Retirement Institute, 10,000 employees will be retiring a day through 2030. With all these baby boomers retiring, leadership positions will steadily become available. So it is not only essential to ready employees for these leadership positions, but employees who have access to professional development programs are 10% more likely to stay with the company.

Source: BenefitsPRO | Top employee engagement drivers for the workplace in 2017

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

Expect More When it Comes to Your Employee Benefits in 2017

Posted January 6, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

It’s that time of year where you’ve either just finished up or are in the process of selecting your employee benefits during your company’s open enrollment; and it’s no secret that healthcare costs have been on the rise. The Kaiser Family Foundation/Health Research & Education Trust 2016 Employer Health Benefits Survey found that premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage is up 3% from last year, amounting in $18,142.

According to President of the JP Griffin Group, Jeff Griffin, many employers are settling on high-deductible health plans and telemedicine to regulate costs. Griffin explains that telemedicine technology, such as using the phone or video chat, help to “facilitate access to coverage but keep the cost low as well.” Many basic types of care that include doctor visits for things such as strep throat, pink eye, and ear infections can be administered through these virtual visits.

The major change that everyone is concerned about for 2017 is what is going to happen under the new presidential administration. Republicans and Democrats met respectively on Capitol Hill this week to discuss future plans for the ACA, so as of right now it is still unclear the direction in which healthcare benefits is going. Everything will stay on course under the current regulations for now, but employers need to be prepared if new options come to play during the year.

Aside from healthcare costs, here’s what the new year could mean for your employee benefits:

  1. More help navigating the healthcare system. As most employees are left to fend for themselves when it comes to using their healthcare benefits, there are now companies that can help guide employees through their insurance and healthcare questions. These companies are available to answer any of your questions as well as provide recommendations for alternative benefit usage.
  2. Ancillary benefits. More employers are offering their employees more options such as accident coverage, critical illness coverage, pet insurance or group legal plans. As most employers don’t pay for these added benefits, it gives the employees a chance to benefit from group rates on a particular coverage that otherwise may be too costly for individual purchase.
  3. Continued interest in wellness programs. Employers continue to recognize the value of wellness programs to assist in keeping their employees’ physical and emotional well-being up, but sometimes the monetary incentives or lower premium rates would have some employees playing the system. So instead of cash prizes, some employers may do a Fitbit challenge and award the winners with a free lunch party, an extra break or a jeans day so that it still incentivizes the employees but keeps the competition friendly.
  4. Growth of financial wellness programs. There’s still a very small number of employers offering this benefit, but financial wellness programs have slowly been picking up steam the past few years. Employers provide tools and resources to help employees learn how to create a budget, plan for major expenses such as college or a new home, and understand other money concepts.
  5. More telecommuting. Employers offering telecommuting on an as needed basis has increased from 45% in 2012 to 56% in 2016, according to a 2016 Society for Human Resource Management survey on employee benefits. Telecommuting and flexible work schedules are an attractive benefit to employees, so with the continuing advancements in technology it makes it easier for employees to constantly have their work right at their fingertips no matter where they are.

Source: U.S. News | 5 Employee Benefits Trends to Watch in 2017

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

HRCI & SHRM Pre-approved AP Benefit Advisors Webinar | There’s an App for That? Apps, Sites and Features That Can Help Empower Healthcare Consumers

Posted January 5, 2017 by Megan DiMartino

The health insurance and healthcare delivery landscape in the United States is experiencing unprecedented change and disruption. One of the most significant forces behind these changes is technology, and the need for consumers, employers, providers, and plan sponsors alike to peel back the layers of our complex system and have greater access to information and transparency. With all of the new innovations and players in the healthcare technology space, it can become confusing as to what is available, what is not, and how all these new technologies can interact.

Join AP Benefit Advisors’ Director of Data Analytics, Scott Mayer, for this HRCI* and SHRM** pre-approved, one-hour, complimentary webinar as he shows you some of the newest tools and toys in the marketplace, and how they can enhance your ability to effectively and efficiently manage your health and welfare benefits.

Topics include:

  • Pricing Transparency
  • Scheduling & Access
  • Telemedicine
  • Bundled Payments
  • Quality Assurance

Webinar Details:

  • Thursday, January 26, 2017
  • 1:00 – 2:00pm EST
  • No Cost to Attend
  • This webinar is open to all HR and Finance Professionals – but not to brokers, agents, TPAs and PEOs.

*The use of this seal confirms that this activity has met HR Certification Institute’s (HRCI) criteria for recertification credit pre-approval. This activity has been approved for 1 HR (General) recertification credit hours toward aPHR, PHR, PHRca, SPHR, GPHR, PHRi, and SPHRi recertification through HRCI.

**AP Benefit Advisors is recognized by SHRM to offer Professional Development Credits (PDCs) for SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. This program is valid for 1 PDC for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP. For more information about certification or recertification, please visit

For more information contact The information contained in this post, and any attachments, is not intended and should not be misconstrued as legal advice. You should contact your employment, benefits or ERISA attorney for legal direction.

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