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January 29, 2009

Equal Pay Lawsuits Just Got Easier

Filed under: Legal Issues — Tags: , , , , , 2:47 pm

We knew that HR law would change with a Democratic Congress and administration. Well, the changes have begun.  President Obama has signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law. The law overrules the 2007 Supreme Court decision of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company, Inc., making it easier for employees to bring discrimination cases by allowing them more time to do so. The Act effectively increases the statute of limitations (or deadline) for filing federal pay discrimination claims, including those under Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. The Supreme Court had said that an employee must file a discrimination claim within 300/180 days of the company’s initial act of pay discrimination. Supporters of the Ledbetter law have argued that employees may not even be aware that pay discrimination has occurred until years later and so would be essentially foreclosed from taking legal action.

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January 28, 2009

Avoiding Retaliation Nightmares Just Got Tougher

Discrimination cases get the big headlines.  Often they include juicy tidbits involving sexual harassment or extremely boorish behavior by a Cro-Magnon boss.  It’s true that employment law cases involving discriminatory actions can be costly, time consuming, demoralizing, and embarrassing to an organization.  But don’t forget about the retaliation minefield.  The number of retaliation claims are growing and they’re often included with discrimination claims.     

The January 26, 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville has made things a little more interesting.  Well, maybe not “interesting” but certainly more complicated and potentially risky for employers.  The Court “clarified” and expanded the scope of Title VII retaliation protections.   The Court held that an employee, who answers questions and conveys information about discriminatory conduct during an internal investigation, is engaging in “protected activity” under Title VII.  Surprisingly, to me at least, some lower courts had found that such involvement would not constitute “active” opposition under Title VII. 

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January 26, 2009

That’s Stinky! Improper Job Classification Puts Potty Company in Deep Doo-Doo

Filed under: Legal Issues — Tags: , 8:00 am

Who knew that there would be HR lessons to be found in the world of porta potties? Apparently wage and hour law knows no bounds. According to the New York Daily News, a portable potty company, Call-A-Head, has found itself in the middle of a class action lawsuit. Employees claim that they were required to clean 100 toilets each day, which often took 15 hours to complete although they were paid for 10 hours daily. It’s alleged that the company had used hiring ads offering to pay $1000 weekly for 4 ten hour days of work. It is also claimed that employees were required to clock in but couldn’t clock out. The employees are seeking back overtime which could be over $1 million. The company denies the charges.

What can be learned from this case so that you can avoid flushing your profits along with your reputation in a Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) lawsuit?

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January 23, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Pay Discrimination Measure Among First To Be Signed By President Obama

Filed under: Legal Issues — Tags: , 2:49 pm

The Senate approved a measure Thursday, January 22, 2009 that would make it easier for workers to sue for pay discrimination. It will now likely be among the first that President Barack Obama signs into law.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which passed 61-36, would restart the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit each time an employee receives a paycheck that has been diminished by discrimination. It was part of a larger pay discrimination package that the House approved January 9.

The Senate decided to act just on the Ledbetter bill, which means it now must go back to the House, where quick approval is expected. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made the Ledbetter bill a centerpiece of campaign events designed to highlight women’s issues.

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January 22, 2009

ADA & FMLA Expansion

Filed under: ADA & Disability — Tags: , 7:54 am
The arrival of January marks the effective date of major changes to the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

The ADA Amendments, effective January 1, 2009, make it easier for employees to show a disability. Before the amendments, many ADA claims were thrown out of court on this issue. From now on, the focus instead will be on how well the employer assisted the possibly disabled employee. HR persons now must “re-learn” parts of the ADA. You can read a summary of the ADA changes here.

Effective January 16, 2009, the FMLA also has been expanded. It now covers leave to care for family members injured in active military duty or to assist a family member preparing to go on active military duty.

New FMLA regulations from the United States Department of Labor (DOL) expand employer notice obligations and otherwise significantly revise the details of FMLA compliance. It is time for your FMLA specialist to go back to FMLA school. You can read a summary of the FMLA changes here.

Here is a summary from the DOL

New FMLA forms are available here

You can see the new, required FMLA poster here

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January 19, 2009

Exercise to Cope with Stress – Please Make it fun!

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 9:39 am

Job and workplace stress is growing in these times of economic crisis. The ability to manage stress in the workplace can make the difference between success or failure on the job. The better you are at managing your own stress, the more you’ll positively affect those around you.

We all know exercise is a key strategy for managing stress but it is easier said than done. Perhaps busting the following exercise myths may help give you the nudge you need to start exercising and beat stress.

MYTH: You have to exercise for at least half an hour at a time, 7 days a week, to really make it work.

FALSE! Several 10 minute bursts each day can be as effective as working out for 30 minutes. Some simple ideas for 10-minute activities include climbing the stairs instead of using the elevator, parking a few blocks from your office and walking to work, and doing ten minutes of jumping jacks during your favorite television show at night.

MYTH: No pain, no gain – if working out doesn’t hurt, it isn’t working.

FALSE! While a true aerobic workout does need to push you hard enough to raise your heartbeat, many great forms of exercise, like walking, swimming, or gentle stretching don’t require any pain. And even more strenuous exercise doesn’t have to hurt –in fact, if it does, it may indicate an injury or muscle strain. You don’t need to harm your body in order to get results.

MYTH: I need special clothing to exercise – meaning extra time for changing clothes and showering.

FALSE! If you exercise in short spurts, you won’t perspire heavily enough to have to change clothing. Even for heavier workouts, you don’t need special “gear”. Working out need not be a fashion show – an old pair of sweats and t-shirt will do.

MYTH: Exercise tires you out. I’m already exhausted, working out will just make it worse.

FALSE! Actually, the opposite is often true. Exercise releases endorphins that relax and energize your body and mind. This is not to say that running a marathon won’t leave you exhausted, but in moderation, physical activity makes you more alert.

MYTH: In order to exercise, I need to join a gym.

FALSE! Gyms are not for everyone. They can be intimidating, inconvenient, and expensive. There is no need to jump on the health club bandwagon – there are many activities you can do in the privacy of your own home, in the outdoors, or basically anywhere other than a gym. Simply signing up for the gym won’t help you if you never actually go there!

Source: helpguide.org

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January 16, 2009

HR Fact Friday: $1000 Health Care Deductibles Now The Norm

Filed under: Insurance12:39 pm

U.S. employers held health benefit cost increases to about 6% in 2008 for a fourth straight year. This statistic is deceptive and would lead one to believe that health care insurance premiums are leveling out. The fact is that employer cost increases have held at 6% because more cost has been shifted to the employees.

The median deductible required by employers for individual coverage in preferred provider organization (PPO) health plans DOUBLED to $1000 from 2007 to 2008, according to the National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans conducted annually by HR consultancy Mercer. In 2000, only about half of employers imposed a deductible for PPO coverage (compared to about four-fifths in 2008), and when they did, the median amount was just $250. PPOs are the most popular type of group health plan, enrolling 69% of covered employees.

What makes this finding noteworthy is that it refers to traditional PPO deductibles reaching as high as $1000, not high-deductible health plans. $1000 deductibles are the norm for high-deductible health plans that allow an employee to contribute to a tax-free health savings account (HSA) which is used to pay for health care expenses. These consumer-directed health plans are growing rapidly and illustrate the change that has taken place in the employer health care insurance industry where employer costs have stabilized while employee costs continue to increase at a double digit annual rate. Raising the deductible has become the fallback for employers faced with cost increases they can’t afford.

Source: HR Magazine, January 2009, Stephen Miller

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January 9, 2009

HR Fact Friday: CEO Salaries in for Rough Year

Filed under: Salaries & Pay — Tags: , , , 11:57 am

There may be one common sense result from the current economic downturn and resulting unemployment and fiscal belt tightening.  After rising unchecked for years, CEO pay may be headed for a fall.

Compensation experts say the severe economic downturn, a shift in the political winds and shareholder outrage could finally combine to pressure companies to limit raises or, in some cases, even cut executive salaries.

That has occurred a few times already. Last month, Motorola Inc., facing drastic cost cuts, announced that its co-CEOs, Gregory Brown and Sanjay Jha, had agreed to take 25% reductions in 2009 salary. Caterpillar Inc. recently said its executives, including CEO Jim Owens, could see their total compensation decline by as much as 50% next year because of cuts in incentive pay. Both companies cut rank-and-file compensation as well.

Reducing executive pay has a minor impact on profits, but it helps companies avoid the perception that CEOs don’t suffer along with employees and shareholders.

It’s anybody’s guess who might join executives at Motorola and Caterpillar in having their wallets lightened. Candidates could include UAL Corp. CEO Glenn Tilton and Boeing Co. chief James McNerney.

Both companies face job cuts, and both men rank among the highest-paid CEOs in Chicago. United Airlines pilots, who are facing the loss of 950 jobs, have called for the ouster of Tilton and say he should at least take a pay cut.

A UAL spokeswoman said the company’s executive pay “is market-based and on par with other comparably sized companies.”

This year, compensation experts expect changes in federal law to impose so-called “say on pay” measures universally. The legislation likely will be introduced in the House early this year, two years after Congress last voted it down. The sponsor of the failed 2007 bill: then-Sen. Barack Obama.

Source:  John Pletz of Crain’s Chicago Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management.

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January 8, 2009

HRN Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Filed under: HRN News2:05 pm

hrn_20year_400x200

2009 marks the 20th year HRN Management Group has been in business serving the human resources employee management needs of a worldwide clientele that now numbers in the thousands.

Founded in 1989 by President and CEO, Jerry Nelson as an HR consulting company, HRN has rightfully earned a stellar reputation as a company that provides high quality products and services at an affordable cost. Since 1989 HRN has grown to be a leading provider of employee performance management, compensation administration, and HR regulatory compliance solutions. In addition HRN offers a wide variety of HR professional and consulting services.

Leading HRN products are Performance Pro online employee performance management solution and Compease Salary Planning and Compensation Administration software.

HRN Management Group is headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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New I-9 Coming

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs — Tags: , 1:45 pm

Employers will have to use a new I-9 Form beginning on February 2, 2009. The new Form includes changes to the types of documents that may be accepted to demonstrate identity and employment authorization.  The modifications include: 

All documents must be unexpired. In the past an expired passport was acceptable.

List A documents no longer include Form I-688 Temporary Resident Cards; Form  I-688A Employment Authorization Card; and Form I-688B Employment Authorization Card.

List A will now include certain foreign passports containing machine-readable immigrant visas and the new U.S. Passport Card.

The new I-9 Form is scheduled to be available on the USCIS website on February 2.   Go to:  www.uscis.gov .

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