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May 30, 2011

Around the States

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

The Health Benefit Exchange will go into effect for at least two states during the month of June.  Certain employers and individuals can purchase qualified health plans through the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange effective June 1, 2011, and through the West Virginia Health Benefit Exchange effective June 11, 2011.

A bill passed on April 14, 2011, requires employers in Georgia that have a Georgia business license to use the federal E-Verify identification system to confirm the eligibility of new employees.  This bill was passed on April 14, 2011.

The minimum wage in Florida will increase to $7.35 per hour, effective June 1, 2011.  Businesses with “tipped employees” who are eligible for the federal tip credit will be required to pay a direct wage of $4.29 plus tips, also effective June 1, 2011.

In Montana, employees working in mines, quarries, smelters, or cement plants are limited to eight hours of work per day unless there is a prior agreement.

Equal Employment Opportunity has been in the forefront recently for many states.  In New Jersey, effective June 1, 2011, employers and their agents, representatives, and designees cannot knowingly or purposefully publish, in print or on the internet, advertisements for job vacancies that contain provisions stating that job qualifications include current employment.  Effective October 1, 2011, in Maryland, employers cannot deny applicants employment, discharge employees, or determine compensation or terms, conditions, or privileges of employment based on credit reports or credit history.  Employers in Hawaii cannot discriminate based on gender identity or expression, effective May 2, 2011.



May 25, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym – KSAs

If you have spent any time working on job descriptions, most likely you have run across the term “KSAs”.  Individual KSAs are demonstrated through qualifying experience, education, or training and are defined as:

  • Knowledge – an organized body of information, usually factual or procedural in nature.  Often, knowledge may be specified at different levels, such as basic knowledge, working knowledge, and thorough knowledge.
  • Skill – the proficient manual, verbal, or mental manipulation of data or things. For example, having a skill of Active Listening – giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times – would be a skill requirement for a Teller position.
  • Ability – the power or capacity to perform an activity or task.   Abilities are sometimes the most difficult to define as they are somewhat subjective, referring to enduring attributes of an individual that may affect performance.  An example of an ability requirement for an Accountant would be Mathematical Reasoning — the ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.

KSAs are an important piece of a job description as they define the standards to perform the job at an expected level.  They are also used in evaluating and determining the salary grade of positions. 

Did you know HRN has a complete library of job descriptions?  For more information, contact your HRN Client Service Specialist.


Exempt or Non-Exempt? What do the Courts Say?

Filed under: FLSA6:00 am

Once again, wage and hour cases continue to dominate the courts, with two recent cases providing victory for employers.  The first case, Hodge v. Aon Ins. Serv. (02-24-11), concerns workers’ comp-ensation claims adjusters.  The California Court of Appeals found these employees qualify for the administrative exemption as they demonstrate more than “production” work in their daily tasks.  The court focused on the actual work being performed, which was determined to be exempt.  The tasks included developing litigation strategies and setting reserves amounting to matters of significant money to the insurance company clients.  This is in contrast to a longstanding case, Bell v. Farmers Ins. Exchange (2001), in which case the adjusters were defined as “production” workers and therefore nonexempt.

In the second case, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Christopher v. SmithKline Beecham Corp., DBA GlaxoSmithKline (02-24-11) determined that pharmaceutical sales representatives (PSRs) qualify as exempt outside sales representatives and are not entitled to overtime pay.  This case is in direct conflict with the finding of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. v. Lopes.  The U.S. Supreme Court declined to grant review of the Novartis decision so it remains controlling in the 2nd Circuit.   Complicating the matter is the 3rd Circuit’s decision which found PSRs to be administratively exempt in Smith v. Johnson & Johnson and Baum v. AstraZeneca. It is anticipated that the last word on this subject affecting more than 90,000 PSRs will be rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2010, there was a 10% increase from 2009 in wage and hour cases under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  As misclassifications are more common than you think, it is important to review your exemptions regularly.


May 24, 2011

Maximum HSA Contributions to Rise Slightly for 2012

Filed under: Benefits,Insurance — Tags: , , , 10:34 am

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has released the maximum Health Savings Account (HSA) contribution amounts for 2012.  Under IRS Revenue Procedure 2011-32, the maximum contribution will increase as follows:

                                                           2011                             2012

  •  Single Coverage               $3,050                       $3,100
  • Family Coverage               $6,150                        $6,250

 Maximum out-of-pocket expense, including deductibles will also increase for 2012 as indicated blow:

                                                          2011                             2012

  •  Single Coverage                $5,950                   $6,050
  •  Family Coverage               $11,900               $12,100

 HSA’s must be linked with a high-deductible health insurance plan.  According to America’s Health Insurance Plans, about 10 million people were enrolled in this type of insurance plan, which was a 25% increase of 2009.  Enrollment figures for 2011 are expected to be released soon.


May 23, 2011

Who Qualifies as a Disabled Employee?

Filed under: ADA & Disability6:00 am

The final rule on the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) was issued by The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Friday, March 25, 2011.  If you have fifteen or more employees, the ADA and ADAAA apply to you.

The ADAAA dramatically expands the population that is considered “disabled” within the meaning of the ADA.  In summary, below are some of the major points of the new regulations:

  • It is now unlawful to discriminate not just against individuals with “disabilities” but against anyone because of a medical condition, whether actual, past, or perceived. The term “medical condition” also includes mental/ psychiatric conditions and learning disabilities.
  • The new interpretation does not require that a condition severely or significantly restrict a major life activity.
  • Protected individuals include those that are regarded as being only impaired.  The only perceived impairments are those that are of duration of less than six months and minor.
  • Conditions that are episodic (such as epilepsy) or in remission (such as cancer) are now disabilities under the new EEOC rules.
  • The final rule does not change the ADA’s provisions on items such as reasonable accommodation, medical examinations, or confidentiality.


So who qualifies as a disabled employee?  Based on the new broad definition, it may be best to always assume that everyone has an ADAAA disability.  To minimize any impact, it is very important to brush up on the new rules.  And, as you can imagine, employment discrimination attorneys are expecting a jump in lawsuits.


May 19, 2011

Ten Worst Jobs for 2011

Filed under: General HR Buzz11:20 am

Think your job stinks?  Take a look at the top ten worst jobs for 2011 and you are sure to instantly feel better!  The list, compiled by Career Cast, is based on work environment, stress, physical demands and hiring outlook.

View the slide show here



May 18, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym – AA and AAP

Filed under: Affirmative Action,Employment Law — Tags: 10:47 am

Affirmative Action (AA) is the set of public policies and initiatives designed to help eliminate past and present discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.  Affirmative action in the workplace covers such actions as hiring, firing, promotion, transfers, and training for protected groups of people.

Under Executive Order 11246, each non-construction federal contractor/subcontractor with 50 or more employees is required to develop and maintain a written Affirmative Action Program (AAP) if it:

  • Has a Federal contract or subcontract of $50,000 or more;
  • Has government bills of lading which in any 12-month period total, or can reasonably be expected to total, $50,000 or more;
  • Serves as a depository of Federal funds; or
  • Is a financial institution that is an issuing and paying agent for U.S. savings bonds and savings notes.

A typical AAP takes an organization, on average, 180 hours to complete and thereafter 70-80 hours each year to update in-house.

HRN has AAP professionals with access to tools and resources that simplify data collection and significantly reduce the time and cost of preparing and maintaining AAP’s.  Contact us if you would like more information!


May 16, 2011

Botox, Beer and Bikes

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

No, we’re not encouraging you to have some Botox and beer, and then hop on your bike.  We’re just identifying some of the latest perks in the workplace!  Depending what you are looking for, you are likely to find a company that may have just the perk to satisfy your desire.  Below is a partial list which you may find interesting:


Dermatology services, including Botox
Tanning beds and spray tanning services (may create the need for more Botox!!)
Tune-ups for your auto while you work
Two six-packs of beer given to each employee every week (obviously, this company is a brewery)
Bikes given to employees after one year of service (most likely to work off the weekly two six-packs of beer, which after one year has most likely created a beer belly!)
Doggy daycare for your “well-behaved” pets at the company onsite “pet care” centers

May 11, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym – EPCU

Filed under: Compliance,Retirement — Tags: , 2:52 pm

This week’s acronym is most likely one that not many of us are familiar with, but a very important acronym for us to be aware of.  Read on, and you will learn why.

The Employee Plans Compliance Unit (EPCU), a dvision of the IRS, develops compliance projects and performs data analysis to focus on areas of potential non-compliance. Taxpayers are contacted by correspondence, telephone and/or other media (not e-mail) and most issues are resolved without an on-site examination of the books and records of the plan.

As part of a larger IRS compliance initiative, the current featured project of the EPCU are 403(b) plans that colleges and universities sponsor.  If you are a plan fiduciary, take note.  According to a press release issued by the IRS, over 300 large, small, public, and private higher education institutions will receive a 21-item questionnaire from the IRS. 

Make sure to respond!!  Failing to respond will almost guarantee a follow-up by the IRS and result in a formal IRS audit.  As the IRS warns “failure to provide the information could result in further action or examination of your plan.”  What appears to be a major focal point of the plan inquiry is whether the plan offers all employees an “effective” opportunity to participate…the “universal availibility” requirement. 

If we are to learn anything from other recent audits, such as the most recent 401(k) plan audit initiative, it is to respond timely to hopefully eliminate the need for further action or examination of your plan.


May 9, 2011

Service Quality Strategies with Olivia – The Policy Gap

Filed under: Communication,Compliance,Management Practices10:27 am

Last month, we explored the first in a series of seven service quality gaps. Today, we will discuss the second in the series.

The Policy Gap

The Policy Gap is the difference between quality standards for a service set by HR and the employees’ expectations of the service.

In addressing this gap, consider ways that you can clarify HR standards. Some suggested strategies:

  • Ensure employees have an understanding of the standards and expectations through clear and continuous communication.
  • The Employee Handbook should be easily accessible to employees and comply with legal requirements.
  • Where possible, consider offering tiered service products, such as different insurance plans to fit varying needs.

HRN is ready to assist you! Our consulting services can help you with HR forms, such as the employee handbook, management training, and more. Contact us at 800-940-7522.

Next month: addressing the Delivery Gap

Part 1: The Knowledge Gap


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