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January 31, 2012

DOL Proposed Amendments to FMLA to Affect Military and Airline Crews

Filed under: Employment Law,FMLA3:38 pm

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) has undergone several amendments over the years intended to expand its reach and simplify administration.  From the Department of Labor:

“The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. Eligible employees may take up to twelve workweeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period for the birth, adoption or placement of a child, to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or because they are unable to work due to their own serious health condition. The FMLA was amended in 2008 to provide an expanded leave entitlement to permit eligible employees who are the spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin of a servicemember (National Guard, Reserves, or Regular Armed Forces) with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty to take up to twenty-six workweeks of FMLA leave during a single 12-month period to care for their family member (military caregiver leave), and to add a special military family leave entitlement to allow eligible employees whose spouse, child, or parent is called up for active duty in the National Guard or Reserves to take up to twelve workweeks of FMLA leave for “qualifying exigencies” related to the call-up of their family member (qualifying exigency leave). The Department issued an earlier set of regulations implementing and interpreting these amendments.”

This week, the DOL announced its intention to publish a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would implement and interpret some statutory amendments to the FMLA.  This NPRM is now available for public comment.  The major provisions of the NPRM include:

  • the extension of military caregiver leave to eligible family members of recent veterans with a serious injury or illness incurred in the line of duty;
  • a flexible, three-part definition for serious injury or illness of a veteran;
  • the extension of military caregiver leave to cover serious injuries or illnesses for both current servicemembers and veterans that result from the aggravation during military service of a preexisting condition;
  • the extension of qualifying exigency leave to eligible employees with covered family members serving in the Regular Armed Forces;
  • inclusion of a foreign deployment requirement for qualifying exigency leave for the deployment of all servicemembers (National Guard, Reserves, Regular Armed Forces);
  • the addition of a special hours of service eligibility requirement for airline flight crew employees; and
  • the addition of specific provisions for calculating the amount of FMLA leave used by airline flight crew employees.

Once available, the public is invited to submit comments via


January 30, 2012

W-2 Changes for 2012 – Prepare Now!

We heard it was going to happen and now it is just around the corner.  What am I referring to?  The requirement as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which mandates employers must report on employess’ W-2 forms the cost of their group health insurance coverage.  This information must be furnished on 2012 W-2 forms, which generally must be provided to employees by the end of January 2013.

Although this is a year away, some of the calculations may be time consuming so it is advised to begin capturing this data now in order to be prepared when January 2013 rolls around.  The new reporting requirement applies to employers that file 250 or more W-2s.  The reported amount should reflect the aggregate cost of all reportable benefits that the employee received under all group health plans that the employees’ participated in during all or part of the 2012 plan year.   What does this include?  Some examples are:

  • Major medical benefits
  • Integrated vision plan coverage
  • Executive physicals

For more specific information, please go to the IRS’s website and review  Notice 2012-9.





January 27, 2012

HR Fact Friday: FLSA Companionship Exemption To Be Narrowed?

Filed under: Compliance,Employment Law,FLSA,General HR Buzz6:00 am

For many years, the DOL has recognized an exemption from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) for persons employed as domestic companions. The exemption excluded many home care and personal assistance workers, who provided companionship services for the sick and elderly at home, from FLSA’s overtime and minimum wage requirements. A detailed DOL discussion of the existing exemption can be found here: DOL is proposing the change this exemption. Here is DOL’s own summary of its proposed changes: “The Department is proposing to revise the regulations to accomplish two important purposes. First, the Department seeks to more clearly define the tasks that may be performed by an exempt companion. Second, the proposed regulations would limit the companionship exemption to companions employed only by the family or household using the services. Third party employers, such as health care staffing agencies, could not claim the exemption, even if the employee is jointly employed by the third party and the family or household.” A more detailed summary of the proposed DOL changes can be found here:


January 26, 2012

Company Leaders’ Personal Style

Filed under: General HR Buzz12:25 pm

I’m sure there was someone who said “Behave your way to success,” long before Dr. Phil ever did, but whoever that was, my tired brain (and Google) can’t seem to find it right now.  In any case, it is good advice for all sorts of applications.  I have wondered how certain people rise to the top in an organization and why others don’t.  What qualities make that person a good leader?  But, I’m not going to explore anything that lofty today. (I said I was tired, remember?)

What really keeps me up at night is not how to develop myself as a leader, but wondering what kind of car I’ll drive when I’m the boss.  (I’m kidding.)  But, it provides a nice segue into sharing the results of a recent survey.  The survey was conducted in August of last year, and included responses from more than 550 individuals in senior leadership positions.

What they wear – Tired of that suit you wear every day?  Survey respondents showed it’s good to be the boss: more than 60% identified business casual as their uniform of choice.  A little fewer than 20% said they wear jeans or shorts.  The business suit came in at last place.  Men in senior leadership positions prefer navy blue, and women have a much higher tendency to wear black.

What they drive – More of those surveyed – 27% – said they drive SUVs to work.  In case you think most bosses are like Bill Lumbergh and drive a Porsche to work, only 8% drive sports cars or convertibles.

What they drink – When they were asked what they drink at happy hours or company parties, one-third of respondents said they don’t drink alcohol at all at those events.  For women who do imbibe at the company party, one-third said wine is their preferred drink, while a quarter of men said beer or wine was their choice.

What they eat – If you think most of the big bosses are heading out for two-hour lunches at the nicest restaurants, think again.  More than half of women (57%) and 36% of men said they typically brown bag it.  Nearly one-quarter of respondents said they normally don’t have lunch at all.

I’ll leave you with one of those interesting facts you can share at your next party: three in ten senior management leaders reported they part their hair to the right.

Source: “Emulating the Big Cheese”


January 25, 2012

HR Metrics: You Have the Numbers – Now What?

Filed under: General HR Buzz5:07 pm

Congratulations!  You’ve identified some HR Metrics you want to capture, taken the measurements and have the results.  In fact, you probably have a nice graph put together to present to your Manager with color-coded columns and assorted data points.  Things are looking good – you finally have something, ie., data, to prove to Management that HR does add value.

But that is only the beginning. HR metrics without careful evaluation are just that – metrics.  I like to think of the next step of the process as an HR metrics Opportunity.  This is when the data can produce useful knowledge and predict trends in the workplace.

HR metrics can be used in benchmarking activities and results, assess compliance, predict performance – good and bad, assess internal controls and risk management performance, and used to improve performance.  HR metrics fail when wrong or limited-value metrics are used, the goal is not clear, risks are not considered, or if there is poor communication with the end user.

Examples of evaluating turnover metrics could include the following:

  • Calculation of metric based on voluntary / involuntary turnover
  • Breakdown by length of service and time on job
  • Breakdown by department
  • Breakdown by manager
  • Breakdown by performance rating

By drilling down the metric to specific pieces, underlying issues causing turnover may be exposed such as needs for management training, improvement in onboarding processes, or not hiring the right fit for the job.

It is the qualitative pieces of metrics that provide the opportunity to bring value to the table.  For more information on this topic, please stay tuned for upcoming blogs and check out our next whitepaper.



January 24, 2012

Six Trends in 2011 That Will Shape Employment Law in 2012

Filed under: EEO,Employment Law4:19 pm

Two major class-action rulings in 2011 have far-reaching and enormous financial risks.  Seyfarth Shaw, an employment law firm, recently released its annual Workplace Class Litigation Report, and they predict the current economic conditions could lead to even more in 2012.

The annual report is written by the firm’s labor and employment attorneys, and analyzes the leading class-action and collective-action decisions in 2011.  The claims involved were brought against employers in federal court under Title VII, Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), and other federal employment laws.  Also included are actions brought under state law.

The report identified six key trends:

  1. Both major class-action rulings, Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes and AT&T Mobility v. Concepcion, had a “profound influence” on the course of class-action rulings in 2011.  Dukes brought to bear a higher standard for the types of allegations that could be brought in one action.  Concepcion upheld the enforceability of class-action waiver provisions in arbitration agreements.
  2. More discrimination charges were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2011 than in any previous year since the commission was founded in 1994.
  3. Continuing economic problems in 2011 fueled more class-action and collective-action litigation.
  4. Wage and hour litigation outpaced all other types of litigation, as it has in the past.
  5. The plaintiff’s class-action bar has created new theories of classwide liability and new approaches to class certification.
  6. Even with increased ERISA class actions and government enforcement actions over 2010, the settlement of employment discrimination class actions were less frequent and smaller than in previous years.  This means we are already seeing the impact of Dukes.

“The lesson to draw from 2011 is that the private plaintiffs’ bar and government enforcement attorneys are apt to be equally, if not more, aggressive in 2012 in bringing class-action and collective-action litigation against employers,” the report concluded.

As always, the best approach defense against a lawsuit is to protect your company from liability as best as possible.  Keep those policy manuals up to date and be sure those policies are applied fairly across the board.

Source: SHRM


January 23, 2012

Wellness Programs = Saving Money (?!)

It seems that health and wellness have been the focus of my blogs this month.  The reason is twofold:  1) it is the “time of the year” when I try to refocus my personal wellness goals; 2) it seems to be the topic of conversation in many of the articles and email newsletters I receive.

An article published by BNA caught my attention with this title:  “Wellness Programs Are Saving Employers Money, Officials Say.”  Having been on the “other side” of HR, I believe I have heard most every argument against wellness programs, generally focusing on the cost aspect as it is difficult to determine the actual ROI of wellness programs.

The article goes on to say that during a Capitol Hill briefing on November 30, Mary Grealy, president of the Healthcare Leadership Council (HLC) stated that programs aimed at keeping workers healthy are saving employers more money than they cost.   She stated that companies that have adopted wellness programs have reduced absenteeism, medical claims, and workers’ compensation expenses.  When wellness programs are expanded to cover larger populations or target particular communities or workforces, the positive outcomes will only increase.

The piece that makes this article most intriguing is that this isn’t just based on her own personal opinion.  It is based on a report that was released at the briefing, HLC Wellness Compendium:  Successful Private Sector Wellness and Prevention Initiatives, which outlines employer programs that have been successful in keeping employees healthy and lowering companies’ overall health costs.    We are now benefiting from wellness programs that have been in place for 5 to 10 years or longer, so viable data can now be measured.

When 7 out of 10 deaths in the United States are attributable to chronic diseases and $.75 of every $1.00 is spent on health care to treat these diseases, it seems like there is no other option than to implement a wellness program.  What is your company doing to address wellness?  Please share…I’d like to hear your success stories!


January 20, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Know What Works in Performance Management

Filed under: Performance Management,Performance Pro6:00 am

What is it about the start of a new year that triggers a wave of online banter from one expert or another regarding what does or does not work in regard to annual performance evaluations? Why do we have them? They are a waste of time! Performance reviews are an outdated, antiquated fossil from the “dare I say it” Baby Boomer generation. Manager/mentor coaching is more effective. Social performance collaboration is the new black! Social, Social, Social!

It is part of my job to stay abreast of industry trends in the area of performance and talent management. I enjoy this research and have been doing it for quite a number of years so I feel I am somewhat qualified to throw my two cents into the ring every now and again.

Number 1: I understand marketing and I understand the HR services and technology industry. I have seen the performance management competitive marketplace grow from 5 primary competitors in as recently as 2004 to what now numbers by my best estimate, and inclusive of the many mergers and acquisitions in the industry, approximately 30—each trying to differentiate themselves and sell their service in a very crowded marketplace as unique, effective and innovative.

The plain facts are—and what any performance management program worth its salt must do, and do very well are:



January 19, 2012

Are Your Workplace Policies Alienating Flexibility?

A couple of months ago, I blogged about ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment).  For many, the thought of changing the way we work is just a little bit too “out there.”  Some managers are so ingrained in the belief that if they can see their employees, they know they’re working, they can’t imagine anything else working.

The topic of flexibility is thrown around – every company thinks they provide it to their employees.  Take a moment, though, to consider the policies, procedures, and tools you have in place at your organization.  Do they facilitate flexibility, or do they bring it to a screeching halt?

One of my favorite blogs to read is Suzanne Lucas (aka Evil HR Lady), and yesterday’s blog was one of the best I’ve ever read.  Her discussion centers around a couple of emails she received: one from an employee who is penalized by arriving to work 5 minutes late; the second is from a new manager who is concerned about their employees showing up 15-30 minutes late.

Of course, she acknowledges that in some cases, arriving late can be bad: “If your employees are nurses and the last shift can’t give report and go home until the next shift is there, then that’s a bad thing. If you’re a call center that starts taking calls at a certain time, then that’s a bad thing.”

The takeaway point is this – spend time focusing on what really matters when it comes to your employees.  What kind of results do they achieve?  How is their performance?  Use a calm sense of reason to manage your employees.  If you spend too much time watching the clock, you may find your best employees headed straight for the door.

Evil HR Lady’s Blogpost: “Stop Managing by the Clock.”


January 18, 2012

Turnover: HR Metrics – How and What to Measure

It seems that January is the time for measurements, especially if you are like many of us who begin an exercise regimen in hopes of reducing our waistline measurement (my personal goal), or perhaps increasing our bicep measurement (if you are like my 16-year old son).  The world of HR is no different.  We often begin the year by defining our goals and objectives.  The last few years, there has been increased focus on measuring the value of HR.  Is HR merely overhead, or can our goals and objectives be measured and considered an integral piece providing input to the strategic direction of our organization?

I like to think the latter is true.  Although many of the processes and services we deliver are difficult to measure, I believe there are many areas that can be evaluated and assigned a quantitative value.  That is true in the area of turnover.  As our 1st quarter HR theme is turnover, we will be looking at it from various perspectives, building on what Olivia posted earlier this month relating to the costs and consequences of turnover.

HR metrics should be looked at as opportunities to provide valuable decision making data, assess internal controls, and improve performance.  However, metrics should be looked at as more than data.  The real value arrives when we can take the quantitative data and look at it from a qualitative perspective.   A simple way to look at the difference is as follows:

  • Quantitative – measures how much there is and usable for simple factors; should be compared to a “standard”
  • Qualitative – tells you what you are measuring and is reflective of actual workplace behavior

Olivia’s blog provided a calculation for turnover rate, which is an example of a quantitative metric:

  •  Dividing the number of terminations by the total employee census

The qualitative metric regarding turnover would take this data and complete the following assessment:

  •  Look at who left and why, digging into additional information such as what departments/managers had turnover, was it new hires or long-term employees, etc.

What are some other HR metrics that one might want to include when assessing turnover?  We will be expanding on this topic in our monthly whitepaper.  I believe you will be surprised at some of the new metrics that are emerging in the area of HR.  I hope you already receive our whitepapers, or if not you can sign up by clicking .   Remember they are free (which results in a quantitative metric of $0)!

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