Monthly Wage Reporting: Here to Stay

Ask anyone who processes payroll… if there’s one task they don’t need, it’s filing another report. Make it a time-sensitive, penalty-threatened report, and the topic becomes grim quickly.

Here’s an example hitting some of our clients: In June of 2012, Illinois governor, Pat Quinn, signed the Save Medicaid Access and Resources Together Act, more commonly known as the SMART Act. The Act included a mandate for Illinois employers to file a report with their employee wages on a monthly basis. It went into effect in January of 2013 for employers with 250 or more employees, and that threshold has been systematically reduced to employers with 25 or more employees over the last year and a half. Critics say (quite rightly, in our opinion) that the required monthly wage reporting has presented employers with yet another burden of risk and increased administration costs.

The monthly wage reporting has been a hot button issue since it was enacted. Prior to the Illinois monthly reporting mandate, most payroll departments were only equipped with software to report wages on a quarterly basis. Employers and payroll service providers were given a short six months to develop software that would fit the specifications to meet the electronic filing requirement. Meanwhile, the Illinois Department of Employment Security has been quick to assess penalties for companies that have not been in compliance. The penalty for filing late ranges from $5 to $10 per $10,000 in wages filed.
Unfortunately, monthly wage reporting does not appear to be going away. In fact, it may be slowly catching on with other state employment agencies. In May of 2014, New Jersey introduced a bill that, if passed, would require employers with 50 or more employees to report employee wages to the agency within 20 days after the end of each month. This mandate would include “every form of remuneration.” The American Payroll Association notes that this would be an even bigger burden than the Illinois mandate because both the due date is ten days earlier and the types of payments/benefits that would qualify as remuneration in New Jersey can be difficult for a payroll department to calculate on a monthly basis.

The costs associated with developing and administrating these monthly wage reports along with the potential penalties have made this mandate a gloomy topic in the payroll world. Small businesses that process payroll in house feel the increased costs and frustration with these ever-changing mandates most acutely. No good news here… sorry to say that the reporting mandates don’t appear to be going anywhere.

Minimum Wage Updates for 2015

If your company pays minimum wage to any employees, one payroll year-end task is surely on your checklist: updating minimum wage rates.

To help in your endeavor, here’s a quick overview of states that have minimum wage changes beginning this Thursday (or Wednesday, in NY’s case):

Alabama– $7.25 Montana– $8.05
Arizona– $8.05 Nebraska– $8.00
Arkansas– $7.50 New Jersey– $8.38
California (San Diego only)– $9.75 *New York– $8.75
Colorado– $8.23 Ohio– $8.10
Connecticut– $9.15 Oregon– $9.25
Florida– $8.05 Rhode Island– $9.00
Hawaii– $7.75 South Dakota– $8.50
Massachusetts– $9.00 Vermont– $9.15
Maryland– $8.00 Washington– $9.47
Missouri– $7.65 West Virginia– $8.00

*effective December 31, 2014

An Annual Tradition (SOC-1)

When I was a kid, there was little I looked forward to more than the Holiday Season. My family, like most, had a number of annual traditions. Whether it was gathering with distant relatives or watching Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, these traditions had a carefree energy unmatched the rest of the year.

These days, the end of the year still brings the same excitement and traditions, but it is no longer quite as carefree as it was when I was little…In our industry, the end of a calendar year brings “traditions” such as payroll reconciliation, tax filing, and the issuing of employee tax documents (not to mention the introduction of a number of new laws/rules that must be learned and abided by…).

Whatever your personal and professional traditions are this time of year, we at StratEx hope you enjoy! And for those annual obligations that bring stress rather than relief, it is our goal to help in any way we can.

To that end, we have again completed one of our own annual traditions; An independent audit of operations in accordance with SSAE No. 16, Reporting on Controls at a Service Organization. We hope this year’s SOC-1 Report will bring you peace of mind regarding the StratEx portion of your year-end responsibilities. If you would like a copy of the report, please contact us.

Please let us know if you have any questions, and Happy Holidays!

Ending Support for Old Versions of Internet Explorer

As we continue to push out beautiful new releases to our flagship software, we are announcing that we are matching Microsoft’s and Google’s policies and ending support for old versions of Internet Explorer.

We continue to utilize new technologies that were not around a decade ago when IE 7 and IE 8 were released and thus cannot continue to support those versions while still providing you with the best possible experience in our system. While IE9 is slightly newer, it is still three major releases behind the current IE11 and lacks in many ways.

Thus, going forward we will only support IE11 and IE10 not running in compatibility mode, because it is time for out with the old.

Any questions? ask your friendly service specialist, or tweet me @born2code

eStratEx Development Update: 2014R7

We’re excited to announce the latest updates to eStratex. There are several updates that you will want to be aware of, so please download the Release Notes here and read through them carefully.

 In addition to the items described in the Release Notes, you will immediately notice a new look and feel throughout the system. A few weeks ago, we informed you of our plan to rethink HR. This release is the first step in our journey towards a more beautiful, more responsive and more intuitive application designed to truly streamline your business.

 While we have a strong vision for the next generation eStratEx, we cannot and will not succeed in this effort without you. We have set up a mailbox dedicated to your feedback. Please do not hesitate to drop us a note at feedback@stratex.com with your comments, concerns, criticisms and/or kudos :).

 As always, questions regarding items outlined in the Release Notes can be directed to your friendly Service Team.

eStratEx 2014R7 Release

The 2014R7 release of our flagship software has been released last night. As our users know, we release in place, with no down time and no interruptions. There has been nearly 50 items in this release, those impacting the end user are detailed in the release notes. We will have a separate blog post describing some of the functional changes in this release but I wanted to touch on some of the technical changes today.

As you may know the eStratEx stack is built on a MySQL back-end running on Ubuntu. We use Percona MySQL and not just because Percona is a client, as we used them before they became a client, but because of its superior performance.

The data access layer and the business layer are written in .NET, specifically VB.NET and C#. They currently run on II7 deployed on Windows 2008R2 but with the recent decisions of Microsoft to open up .NET and to make it truly cross platform we may be running it on Ubuntu in the future.

The front end is written using HTML, Javascript, CSS. We hand crafted a lot of our front end code with jQuery being the main library we typically used in our system. As of this release we are starting to use Bootstrap V3 for eStratEx.

eStratEx Login

This will allow us to provide a crisp, modern, refresh to our user interface. It will also allow us to focus on Mobile First strategy, where each aspect of our application is meant to run beautifully in your favorite mobile device. After some debate we chose this approach over releasing a handicapped, limited app providing minimal functionality to our users as have been adopted by others.

In conjunction with our Bootstrap v3 change we have switched to using Knockout v3. We have used knockout in the past on few admin pages but now we are fully embracing the Model-View-View Model (MVVM) pattern across the application. Our front end and middle layers are now very similar to what Microsoft is doing with their Azure portal.  When we started eStratEx however ASP.NET MVC was a very nascent technology and thus we went with class asp.net web forms. Two million lines of code later we are not about to re-do our system in MVC. However, all the neat stuff Microsoft is doing for web forms is making that a moot point. We are using Friendly URLs, as described by Microsoft’s Scott Hanselman (@shanselman), and URL routing to build out MVC style interface using web forms. Microsoft has a vision for a unified ASP.NET and we are capitalizing on that fully.

As soon as you login to the application you will start to notice the new changes made possible via combining the best of knockout, bootstrap, .Net and MySQL.

@Born2Code

 

Our StratEx Family

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Our StratEx family is spread out over half a dozen offices in six states. As such, we do not always get to see each other. Thus we make it a tradition that once a year everybody in the StratEx family gets together at our flagship office on beautiful Michigan Avenue for our annual Holiday Party.

The office sits on the 28th floor in a skyscraper in the middle of Michigan Avenue. The first skyscraper was built in Chicago after all, so it is apropos that we pay homage to our hometown and reside in one. The views are majestic day or night, overlooking the endless Lake Michigan or the car lights fading, seemingly endlessly, into the night. It is all gorgeous.

Years ago our holiday party included clients and partners. As we grew and our wings spread and our offices reached the farthest ends of our beautiful land, from sea to shining sea, we decided our StratEx family needed more “us” time to get to know each other better. Now a days we celebrate the holidays with our family, our loved ones and the occasional StratEx alumni that misses the vibe and wants to join in the festivities.

We celebrate the end of one year, we look forward to the start of another, most importantly, we celebrate each other.

Cheers my friends, my colleagues, my StratEx family.

@Born2Code

to Node or to Go

The recent news of trouble in node land is unsettling. Nodejs is am amazing technology with a big following. Companies such as Linked-In bought into it from the early beginning. Microsoft is making it a first class citizen in the Visual Studio eco system. AWS just launched a new service based on node, and has a great sdk for it. Joyent has embraced it from the get go and is now the corporate sponsor.  This is just a small set of nodejs related projects and companies, the list is huge.

We use nodejs for our home grown development tracking and management system and we are currently in the process of building out micro services to support our ever growing SaaS offering. Up till now the plan was to build out those micro services in nodejs. Now, being micro services, they do not really need to be all written in a single language. Especially those days with Docker taking over the world, it is very easy to develop different services in different technologies.

None the less, we would like to know that we have a goto option for a micro service build out, that we made a strategic decision to commit to a direction. Up till few days ago, that direction was Nodejs.

We have not changed our minds yet, Nodejs is not going away, and it still supported by a strong backer and if good things happen the rift will be healed and the community will come back together and keep pushing it forward.

However, we are now considering other options. One of the things that we have considered seriously is Google’s Go. It is a beautiful language, statically linked, so it is perfect for Docker deployment. It is supported by Google and has a ton of packages. What it does not have, yet, is an official AWS SDK from Amazon. That’s really the main reason that tilted the scale in favor of nodejs, up till now.

Now, it is decision time, to Node || to Go