The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has been very busy! Form I-9 audits are on the rise. ICE enforces the law governing the Form I-9 and engages in effective worksite enforcement. Notice some of the worksite enforcement investigation statistics from 2012:
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) made 520 criminal arrests tied to worksite enforcement investigations.
- Of the individuals criminally arrested, 240 were owners, managers, supervisors, or human resources employees. They face charges such as harboring or knowingly hiring illegal aliens. The remaining workers who were criminally arrested face charges such as aggravated identity theft and Social Security fraud.
- HSI served 3,004 Notices of Inspection and 495 Final Orders, totaling $12,475,575 in administrative fines.
As this illustrates, the government takes immigration issues very seriously. What can an employer do to protect themselves and the company? Regularly performing self-audits is a good way to ensure compliance. Here are a few suggestions to include in your self-audit:
- Make sure you are using the current form dated 3/8/13.
- Verify that Section 1 is completed properly and by the employee. Section 1 must be completed after an offer is accepted, but no later than the first day of employment. Email address and telephone number are optional. SSN is optional unless you participate in E-Verify.
- Complete Section 2 within three days of the new hire’s first day of employment. Verify that all documents have been entered in their prescribed places accurately.
- Verify that the documents presented reasonably appear to be genuine. Documents presented for proof of identity and work authorization must be selected by the employee. An employer may not require certain documents to be used, nor may they ask for more documents than required. This can be considered discriminatory and is document abuse.
- Check Section 3 to ensure that any re-verifications of work authorization have been completed along with any legal name changes.
- Remove I-9s from personnel files. Retain current and terminated employee Forms I-9 separately. Retention rules state that I-9s must be retained either one year after termination or three years after hire, whichever is later. Shred documents as soon as the appropriate date has arrived.
While this is not an exhaustive checklist for your self-audit, it is a good starting point. Make sure you are familiar with the Handbook for Employers and that all employer representatives completing I-9s are properly trained.
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HRN Performance Solutions will be exhibiting at the upcoming SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition taking place at the McCormick Place Convention Center in Chicago, IL June 16-18. Stop by booth #2019 and visit with HRN representatives and view demos of our Compease and Performance Pro solutions. I will be there along with Gene Mandarino, Sr. HR Consultant, and look forward to reconnecting with our many clients that will be in attendance and also making new connections and contacts.
See you in Chicago! Travel safe.
V.P. Sales and Marketing
HRN Performance Solutions
Office workplaces are usually abuzz with activity! Mostly, we like to think it is productive work, but obstacles sometimes present themselves that slow our momentum and turn into downright distractions! Then you have those dynamic and unique interpersonal relationships starting as mere acquaintances sharing a common thread (work), but in time, if you are fortunate, you may make new friends. Studies have shown that your workmates can definitely affect your level of success in the office.
Ask.com recently commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a study on Office Workplace Productivity. The study revealed some interesting findings. 61 percent of distractions at work come from noisy colleagues. With the more prevalent cubicles and openness of office space, 27 percent (in spite of their noisy coworkers) prefer the open room setting. Curiously, 46 percent reported that while they were physically located close to their colleagues, they communicate electronically with them as opposed to face-to-face conversations.
Another big distraction comes from those friendly, well-meaning coworkers (40 percent) who decide to call an impromptu meeting by stopping at your work station at their convenience. Speaking of meetings, 24 percent feel they have “meeting fatigue,” from spending more time in meetings talking about work than doing it. While we all understand the importance of interaction and collaboration with our coworkers, 86 percent of the respondents stated that in order to reach maximum productivity they prefer working alone.
Everyone agrees that uninterrupted focus time is essential for peak productivity. Our brains operate better when we focus on one thing for a few minutes at a time that allows us to actually think. Minimizing distractions is difficult, and they won’t ever be completely abolished, but each employee can do their part. Will you think twice before you open that bag of chips in your cube or when you walk by a coworker’s desk and can’t resist the urge to interrupt them?
What distractions affect your workplace? We’d like to hear your comments!
Source: PRNewswire, “New Ask.com Study Reveals Distractions in Workplace,” May 7, 2013.
As performance and compensation specialists HRN Performance Solutions works with nearly 1000 clients annually to ensure they are paying their workforce according to current market rates for location, industry, employee position, responsibility and performance level. I know from firsthand experience how important it is to a company to manage workforce compensation cost, both from a fiduciary/competitive responsibility but also from a workforce retention standpoint. Companies don’t want to lose top performers. Why then do we continue to see that companies will invest in paying HR consultants to provide and analyze salary survey data and advise them on compensation matters but will be completely in the dark when it comes to basic payroll matters such as overtime or exempt vs. non-exempt classification.
For example, Corporate Counsel magazine recently reported that the number of wage and hour lawsuits filed against employers in federal court have increased for the fifth straight year. Claims are up 10% over a twelve month period measuring part of 2012 and three months of 2013. Typically, these are claims brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) involving misclassified employees seeking overtime pay, hourly workers claiming they were not paid for all hours worked, or restaurant workers claiming they were not properly paid under tip credit rules. Wage and hour claims can also result from state law issues. For example, a national coffee company recently had to pay $3 million for allegedly not providing California employees with required meal breaks and for issuing inaccurate wage statements.
I don’t mean to suggest that the ‘rules’ for payroll matters are easy to understand and apply. They vary by state and in some instances the language is difficult to understand and can be open to interpretation. However when headlines such as those made by the national coffee chain noted above become commonplace, as they are today, doesn’t it make sense to review all wage and hour pay policies for overtime, breaks, tips, position classification, etc. with an experienced legal advisor to avoid very expensive and negative litigious legal proceedings. Employees are much better informed today and jury’s are historically sympathetic to the worker vs. employer during periods of economic challenge and high unemployment. As the saying goes . . . an ounce of prevention . . .
Recently, I was working with a client whose managers were struggling to create and administer their employees’ goals. With over 2,000 employees, the HR team was finding it a challenge to analyze their data and pinpoint what the major issues were. We pulled a sampling of objectives and pretty quickly a pattern began to emerge. Over and over we saw short, vague goals that had little (or nothing) to do with their company. “Drink more water” and “Read four books this year” were some of my favorites. Of the goals that were business related, very few of them were business driven – i.e., goals that supported the overall health, direction, and strategy of the organization.
Business driven goals essentially connect top organizational strategies directly to their employees’ performance and pay. Doing so creates a powerful line-of-sight understanding for staff, fosters a greater understanding of company direction and priorities, and provides senior management with feedback on their businesses progress. Nobody would argue that these things are important for organizational success. However, most companies have no tools in place to do just that.
Ultimately we found that employees and managers want to be working towards the right thing, but they often don’t know what the right thing is! The good news—teaching your managers how to work with business driven goals can solve this problem. Here are some steps HR can take to get their managers and employees to start working more strategically:
- Provide an effective tool that broadly communicates company objectives. Best practice would be to disseminate these in your performance appraisal system but it could be a form that lists and explains all strategies.
- Tie employee goals to those objectives. Throw out non-business driven goals and link all employee goals to a company strategy.
- Talk to each employee about how their individual goals move the company towards success. This fosters employee trust and understanding on how their performance impacts the organization.
- Provide reporting and metrics on success of the company objectives based on the performance of employees. Providing this information to management will help them determine what is working and what needs more attention which will…
- Ultimately improve overall organizational performance!
Productivity is one of the most important aspects to the life of any organization. Without productive employees an organization will eventually cease to be. How do you know if your employees are productive? How is their productivity measured?
In the manufacturing industry, productivity is directly linked to the number of parts produced in a predetermined amount of time. Anything above or below the number of parts or the amount of time is the measurement for the employee’s performance. Pretty simple theory, but since we are not all manufacturers of thingamajigs or widgets, we have to be a little more creative.
For service and knowledge jobs, the metrics are more subjective. There is not a golden number of customers served in a day that makes a customer service representative a great ambassador for the organization, nor, does the number of lines of code make one a great software developer. This illustrates that it is not always quantity that tells the story of productivity, but quality is a vital part of measuring service and knowledge jobs. When serving customers, we want employees to give the customer not only quick and efficient service, but we want to create a superb experience that communicates to them who we are and allows us to build further on our relationship with them. A software developer may be able to write a shorter code that yields a program far superior to the program using longer code.
Effectiveness, reliability, and impact of the employee’s work, may be additional factors an employer wishes to measure for these types of jobs. To begin to do this and do it well, executives must define their strategy, develop action plans, and communicate to all employees the desired outcomes. Since many jobs are unique to certain industries, make sure you dwell on your vision carefully, then skillfully target the metrics you wish to capture so you can see productivity at work.
Source: Knowledge@Wharton, “Productivity in the Modern Office: A Matter of Impact”
I recently read that a “gentlemen’s” club in New York City has agreed to pay almost $9 million to settle a case brought by some 1,200 of its current and former exotic dancers who claimed they had been misclassified as independent contractors rather than employees. The plaintiffs also claimed they were not paid overtime or minimum wage, that their fees were confiscated and that the employer failed to pay for their…wait for it…uniforms. Stripped down to its bare bones, this lawsuit is clear evidence of the naked truth about employment law…no one is immune.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was designed to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in employment, as well as various other public sector arenas. For the ADA to afford protection to an individual, he must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, have a history or record of such an impairment, or is one who is perceived by others as having such an impairment.
An employer has particular obligations to employees and applicants with disabilities. An employer may not ask questions about an applicant’s disability before making a job offer, and it requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to the known physical or mental limitations of otherwise qualified individuals with disabilities, unless it results in undue hardship. Reasonable accommodations require several things, but we are going to focus on these two:
- Treat the person as an individual. Don’t make comparisons or generalize their disability.
- Commit to and engage in the interactive process.
A recent case to consider is that of Nicholas Keith who became certified as a lifeguard in Oakland County, Michigan. Keith was offered a lifeguard position with the county contingent on a medical exam, but was later rejected. I should mention that Nicholas Keith was born deaf and cannot speak. After a doctor examined Keith and a consulting firm performed a job-analysis for the tasks he would perform as a lifeguard, both determined he could not do the job. Keith sued the county for allegedly violating the ADA. The district court dismissed the case, but the appeals court upheld his case and sent it back to the district court to be reviewed again. One of the things the appellate court considered in its determination was that the county did not engage in an interactive process with Keith. Rather, the county accepted the opinion of the doctor and consultant instead. Interactively conversing with Keith to determine if there were any reasonable accommodations of which he was aware that would allow him to be a lifeguard could have saved the county a lot in legal fees. If the county would have asked him, Keith could have told them has the ability to detect loud noises because he has a cochlear implant!
The takeaway is not to judge someone by what we think we know. Communicate with your employees and applicants to whom you have made an offer, who may need accommodations that are not hardships on your company. Both you and your employees will benefit!
The EEOC has filed what is believed to be the first two lawsuits under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). GINA prevents employers from demanding genetic information, including family medical history, and using that information in the hiring process. In the EEOC’s first lawsuit (which was settled for $50,000 right after filing), the plaintiff was a temp working as a memo clerk for an Oklahoma fabrics distributor. When her temporary assignment was coming to an end, she applied for a regular job in that position. The employer made an offer of employment and sent the plaintiff to its contract medical examiner for a pre-employment drug test and physical. At the physical, the employee was required to fill out a questionnaire and disclose the existence of numerous separately listed disorders in her family medical history (e.g. heart disease, hypertension, cancer, tuberculosis, diabetes, arthritis and “mental disorders” in her family). The lawsuit followed after the company rescinded its job offer.
Regarding the lawsuit, EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said, “Employers need to be aware that GINA prohibits requesting family medical history. When illegal questions are required as part of the hiring process, the EEOC will be vigilant to ensure that no one be denied a job on a prohibited basis. “In the second lawsuit, according to the EEOC, a New York employer (a nursing and rehabilitation center) conducted post-offer, pre-employment medical exams of applicants, which were repeated annually if the person was hired, and as part of this exam the employer requested family medical history, a form of prohibited genetic information.
Stress is a very normal part of life. It can be helpful when we have deadlines to meet or need to accomplish a task quickly. However, there is the other side of stress that is harmful. When we experience harmful, long-term stress we will begin to see physical manifestations of the constant barrage of stress hormones on our bodies. Long-term stress causes depression, anxiety, pain, heart disease, and various other maladies. Stressors such as public speaking, being late, money worries, or conflicts with coworkers can affect individuals differently. It is good to note that something stressful to one person may not be stressful to someone else.
Managers usually notice when an employee is not happy. Productivity can decline when an employee is stressed whether at work, at home, or both. It is important to address any productivity issues early by helping employees identify and resolve concerns that affect job performance. Managers can help if they keep the lines of communication open between themselves and the employee. These few steps may prove to be invaluable in managing stress and improving productivity:
- Prioritize tasks – - Such action reduces the feeling of being overwhelmed.
- Reduce clutter – - Both physical and mental clutter can lead to a sense of hopelessness and exhaustion.
- Focus/concentrate – - Complete only one task at a time without the distraction of interruptions, i.e. email, television, mobile devices.
- Plan ahead – - List activities and mentally frame them as to how they will be completed. (Expect that even the best laid plans may not come to fruition, so have a back-up plan!)
- Relax – - Granting yourself time to relax, interact socially, and to foster close friend and family relationships will do wonders for reducing stress levels.
- Be positive – - Make a conscious effort to be positive at home and work. Positive people live longer!
Achieving work/life balance by reducing stress is essential to one’s livelihood. Take stress seriously and don’t wait until you become a burned out member of society to make yourself healthy and happy!
Check out the tips for managing stress and share them with your employees!