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MANAGING STAFF

Post-pandemic period a chance to try flexible staffing strategies

By Lynne Curry bio Question: COVID-19 hit our northern U.S. law practice hard. We cut employees, then salaries, and then we cut again. We lost half of our clients as their fortunes failed; other clients cut their work to the bone. Our revenue is down 70%. Some office staffers left our state when their spouses’ high-paying jobs evaporated. Others took off when COVID-19 combined with our cold, dark winter proved too much. Because these employees had talents we needed, we kept them as “snowbirds”. At first, it didn’t cause trouble. Everyone was working from home, so it didn’t matter where “home” was. Now that we’ve moved back into the office building, our local employees complain about the snowbirds. They feel the fair weather staff get an unfairly sweet deal, as… . . . read more

MANAGING STAFF

What I really wanted for Christmas

By Lynne Curry bio “What I really wanted for Christmas,” the woman said, “Wasn’t a turkey or a ham. It’s communication. The management around here keeps us in the dark, but then expects us to carry out their last minute orders without knowing the full story.” Have you thought about how you could have wished your employees happy holidays this year? Did you throw them an end-of-the-year party, hand out bonus checks or give them well-chosen presents? Or did you give them gifts that last longer—more of what they wanted in their jobs? Communication When changes loom, senior management often calls mid-level managers into closed door meetings and gives them information about what’s coming so they’ll know what to expect. The mid-levels then return their desks or stations and get right… . . . read more

HR Q&A

Does your law office owe employees paid sick leave when they self-quarantine?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: After I spent a weekend bar hopping, I felt remorseful, and self-quarantined so I wouldn’t bring COVID into my workplace and make others ill. I also took a COVID-19 test and luckily tested negative. Since my law office employer had moved everyone back on-site, I couldn’t work remotely and labeled my time off as sick leave. I just got my paycheck and apparently my employer has denied my sick leave. What’s my recourse? Answer: The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) allows most private sector employees up to 80 hours of paid sick leave in five instances. A health care provider advises the employee to self-quarantine; the employee is seeking a diagnosis for COVID-19 symptoms; the employee or someone the employee is caring for is… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

How HR regulations could change under Biden administration

By Mike O’Brien bio Employers may be wondering how a Biden administration will affect workplace laws. Prior to the election, Biden’s campaign website gives some clues as to his priorities in this area. Biden lists the failure to pay minimum wage and overtime pay, forcing off-the-clock work, and misclassifying workers as problems resulting in billions of dollars a year in wage theft. To address those issues, he proposes a phased-in implementation of a $15 per hour federal minimum wage (including eliminating the tip credit). He also supports the adoption of a more stringent test for classifying workers as independent contractors, similar to the ABC test employed by California. This type of test would almost certainly result in many more workers being deemed employees and fewer being properly classified as independent… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

COVID, opioids and payroll taxes on HR radar

By Mike O’Brien bio Applicants, testing, and screening The EEOC has said you cannot test applicants for COVID-19 until after a conditional job offer. Fine, makes sense. What about taking temperatures? You can take a temperature of visitors to your business/office to make sure they are not bringing COVID-19 with them. In fact, you may have an OSHA duty to do so to protect your workers from the pandemic. What about applicants visiting your office to apply to interview—can you subject them to the same temperature screening as all other visitors? Logic would say yes; but the EEOC guidance says no, you can only take an applicant’s temperature after a conditional job offer. Yet, a visiting applicant with COVID-19 could turn your office into a virus hot spot, thus attracting… . . . read more

COVID & Telework

Are employers responsible/liable for an employee’s home ergonomics, safety and expenses?

By Lynne Curry bio Question: COVID-19 has caused employers large and small to require the employers work from home rather than their employer’s worksites. Word has it that this may continue beyond weeks and months and become the new normal. What is my employer’s responsibility/liability for workplace ergonomics and safety when my home becomes my workplace? Do they need to compensate me for my expenses in upgrading my WIFI and getting a new office chair? Answer: “That depends,” says FisherBroyles management-side employment attorney Eric Meyer. According to Meyer, because the “Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) ensures safe and healthful working conditions–even outside of the normal workplace, employers technically have a duty to protect remote workers at home.” “But in reality,” notes Meyer, OSHA won’t inspect employees’ home offices. Additionally,… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Employment law changing on the fly in response to COVID-19

By Mike O’Brien bio COVID-19 has ushered in a variety of new, and fast-evolving employment law changes, from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). EMPLOYEE RETENTION TAX CREDIT:  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes a tax credit for employers that retain employees during the COVID-19 crisis.  The credit generally provides relief to employers of all sizes in the form of a refundable payroll tax credit of 50% of all “qualified wages” paid (up to $10,000 per employee) during the COVID-19 crisis if (i) operations were fully or partially suspended or subject to a shut-down order; or (ii) gross receipts declined more than 50% compared to the same quarter in the prior year.  Note that for… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

New overtime rule now in effect

By Mike O’Brien bio Jan. 1, 2020 was the deadline to comply with new FLSA overtime rule. At the end of September the Department of Labor issued its long-awaited final rule updating the salary level test for white-collar overtime exemptions under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Under the new rule, the minimum salary level for exemption is raised from $455 a week to $684 a week, or $35,568 annually. The change marks the first increase in the minimum salary level to take effect in more than 15 years. It is expected to bring overtime eligibility to over a million employees who are ineligible under the current threshold. Although the DOL released a final rule raising the salary level in 2016, the rule was blocked by a federal district court and… . . . read more

EMPLOYMENT LAW UPDATE

Pay rates, vacations while recovering, gig economy

Department of Labor enters final stage of update to ‘regular rate’ rule under FLSA. As we have discussed previously in these updates, the Department of Labor has been working to update the definition of “regular rate” of pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act

MANAGING THE OFFICE

The importance of recognizing your employees’ hard work

Happy Administrative Professionals Week! What have you got planned to acknowledge your hard-working support staff? If you’ve decided to do nothing this year, you may want to…


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