Make Your Internship a Win-Win!

Make Your Internship a Win-Win!

by: Sam Peregrine, Craila Nixon, Rosemary Rojas, and Matt Brunner

The decision to start an internship program involves planning and thoughtful consideration. As employers are increasingly looking for employees with experience, why shouldn’t new hires gain that experience at your company?! Knowing where to begin can seem overwhelming, but before you reject the idea of an internship program, consider these benefits and helpful tips.

Expand Your Network

Interns have a vast network of relationships, and building an internship program can help you effectively tap into those networks. By creating a meaningful and exciting internship, interns will be quick to share their experiences with friends, family, and classmates. So, if you are proud of your organization and its culture, why not share the experience?

Build Your Brand

An intern who has a positive experience can serve as a brand advocate and help develop your organization’s reputation as a desirable place to work. The best candidates will naturally be drawn to the organization with the strongest reputation. Additionally, in an increasingly socially-minded consumer market, guests and customers will pay attention to how you treat your employees.

Mold Your New Hires

Think about it, if you give your interns a genuine work experience at your company, you have a batch of eligible new hires just waiting there, ready to hit the ground running. They will be trained in the nuances of your business and be able to contribute right away. Isn’t a seasoned entree always better than a bland one?

Provide Meaningful Work

Interns will appreciate the opportunity to gain first-hand experience in their field of study, as well as seeing how their role impacts your company. Ensure you assign tasks that have a specific objective that benefit both your restaurant and intern. See below for some recommended job functions:

Order lunch for the office
Create marketing materials

(signs, flyers, etc.)

Clean the office
Shadow manager tasks

(Vendor orders, budgeting, etc.)

Coordinate events
Make copies all day every day
Learn BOH processes
Running personal errands

(Dry cleaning, babysitting, etc.)

Still wondering which internships make sense for your business?

Not all restaurant internships have to be aimed at aspiring chefs. Whether you’re looking for a social media guru or business major, you can find an intern who can benefit any of the various departments that contribute to a restaurant’s success. If you need guidance on responsibilities and job expectations for your interns, reach out to your HR Consultant for help. We can assist with job descriptions, FLSA compliance, and much more.

Posted in HR

Primer: Illinois Secure Choice Savings Act

The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Act was adopted in 2015 and is finally set to begin implementation in November of 2018.

Unless it isn’t.

In an eleventh hour move, on August 14, 2018, Illinois Governor Rauner issued an amendatory veto to the bill which would have a large impact if passed. The biggest impact would make the program permissive and not mandatory. At this time, a final decision may not be made until November. You can read the full proposed amendment here.

But because we like to be ready for anything, let’s get a fundamental understanding of the requirements of the Secure Choice Savings Act in case it does become mandatory.

A summary of the requirements:

Which Employers will be required to comply?

  1. Those that have at least 25 employees working in the state of Illinois,
  2. Have been operating in Illinois for at least two years, and
  3. Do not offer a qualified retirement plan to Illinois employees. (A qualified retirement plan under sections 401(a), 401(k), 403(a), 403(b), 408(k), 408(p), or 457(b).)

Which Employees are eligible?

  1. Full-time and part-time employees are eligible
  2. Seasonal employees are eligible if they work for more than 60 days with the employer

For required Employers, what will be their responsibilities?

  1. Distribute program information and materials that will be provided by the Secure Choice Program Manager
  2. Facilitate employee enrollments
  3. Setup payroll deductions
  4. Remit employee deferral contributions

The program will not require employers to make employer contributions, pay administrative fees, act as a plan managers or fiduciaries, or take on any obligations under ERISA.

Proposed Program Roll-Out

The program is currently set to be rolled out in three waves; starting with the largest employers late this year, moving to smaller employers by late next year. Here are the details:

Wave 1- November 2018
  • For employers with at least 500 employees
  • Employers have until December 2018 to enroll employees and deductions begin January 2019
Wave 2- July 2019
  • For employers with 100-499 employees
Wave 3- November 2019
  • For employers with 25-99 employees

What comes next?

The FAQs on the Illinois Secure Choice site explain that the State will notify employers directly when they will be required to register or certify that they are exempt from the program. The notice will include instructions and due dates.

Key Takeaway

If you do not already have a qualified retirement savings plan in place for your employees, now may be a good time to start a cost/benefit analysis comparing a qualified plan (401k, 403b, etc) vs. a state-based plan like the ones proposed in the IL Secure Choice Savings Act.

We will continue to keep StratEx clients updated as the situation unfolds.

Must-do HR Updates for 2018

(Note: This post was written in conjunction with Emily Quinn, StratEx’s HR Practice Leader.)

It’s almost time to say: Happy New Year! And with the new year comes our annual list of “Must-do” HR updates for a successful and friction-free year. Please read through our 2018 HR recommendations and implement them wherever they apply to you.

Review your Handbooks

With the New Year comes changes to legislation and specific legal updates at the federal, state and local level. Make sure to revise any updated policies or procedures in your handbook in order to remain compliant in the coming year.

Update Labor Law Posters

If there have been major updates since the last time you ordered labor law posters, you should order new federal and state labor law posters for 2018. This will ensure all new and applicable labor law notices are posted for your employees’ reference. Check out this link for more details about posters and how to order them.

ACA Reporting Deadlines

If you were an Applicable Large Employer in calendar year 2017 (50 or more full time/full time equivalent employees) you are required to report in 2018. Make sure you have a plan in place for issuing and filing 1094/5-C forms.

StratEx offers ACA reporting services. Please reach out to your HR Account Manager with any further questions on this subject.

If you are not using StratEx for reporting, as of right now, the deadline for filing has not been extended as it has been the past few years. So for now, plan for the January 31st deadline to have the 1095-Cs distributed to employees.

Implement Sick & Family Leave Legislation

Several states, cities and counties will have new paid sick or family leave legislation go into effect starting in 2018. A few specific ones to call out:

  • Washington and Vermont on the state level have passed sick leave for 1/1/18
  • New York has passed Paid Family Leave for 1/1/18
  • California has implemented an unpaid Parental Leave for small employers (separate from Paid Family Leave)
  • Rhode Island has passed sick leave for 7/1/18

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your HR Account Manager regarding which state and local leave laws may be affecting your location(s) and/or your business.

Conduct an I-9 Audit

With increased focus on immigration compliance, the new year is great time to review for any mistakes from the past year and guard your company against costly fines. Your HR Account Manager can assist both with audit best practices and proactive training to prevent further errors.

Review your Pay Practices

Many states have been passing Equal Pay laws over the past few months, and we anticipate that this trend will continue. Some states, such as Massachusetts and California, prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history.

Hedge your potential liability here by reviewing your current pay structures and your application materials.

If you’re wondering where your states falls in all of this, reach out to your HR Account Manager.

Prepare for EEO-1 Reporting Updates

The proposed requirements to add salary data have been put on pause. However, the reporting deadline extension of March 31, 2018 is still being respected. If you are required to submit EEO reporting, start reviewing your data. There are several reports in eStratEx to assist you in identifying any gaps. Please reach out to your Service Team or HR Account Manager for any questions on these.

Implement OSHA Changes

2017 OSHA Checklist
On November 1, 2017, employers should have:

  • Review your OSHA poster to ensure it is up to date
  • Updated/established reporting procedures
  • Reviewed and revised drug testing policies

Find more details on these requirements here.

2017 Electronic Reporting & Anti-Retaliation Provisions

  • These have been updated to apply to very specific industries.
  • You can read more about this topic and find out if this applies to you on the OSHA website here.

Webinar Recording Available

The new year always includes changes in employment law. Please keep these topics in mind and make updates wherever necessary to keep your company as friction-free as possible. For more detail on these and other exciting HR topics, you’ll want to watch this free webinar that our HR Account Management Team recently put together. It will walk you through some important updates for next year.

If you are a StratEx client and have any questions about these topics, please reach out to your HR Account Manager or your StratEx Service Team.

Keeping Politics Out of Your Restaurant

It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you fall on, things are tense politically these days. Whether your organization embraces the political banter or bans it, it’s true that strong opinions on many issues are leaking into the workplace, regardless.

pexels-photo-429247So, imagine this scene: You’ve met up with an old buddy at one of your favorite lunch spots. You quickly get into a discussion on the day’s political situation when your server approaches to take your drink order, and makes a direct rebuttal to your political point.

That’s an eye opener.

And a quick way for a server to receive a complaint and/or lousy tip. Not to mention the possibility of a longer term backlash for the restuarant due to a single social media post gone viral.

Our head of HR at StratEx, Gretchen Van Vlymen, contributed to an article for FSR Magazine on this very topic: Don’t Let Political Talk Destroy Your Restaurant

Check it out for an in depth discussion of politics in restaurants and how to avoid problems with a clear code of conduct, written expectations in handbooks, and an ongoing discussion with staff to ensure a pleasant dining experience — no matter what’s happening in D.C.

NY Employers: Prepare for Paid Family Leave

Starting January 1, 2018, the New York State Paid Family Leave Program (PFL) will be a mandatory benefit offered to most New Yorkers. The benefit will supply paid-leave for workers to bond with a new child, care for a loved one with a serious health condition, or to provide some relief to families when someone is called to active military service.


PFL Program Basics

  • All “Covered Employers” are required to purchase a PFL insurance policy or self-insure. Covered Employers include any private-sector company that has at least one employee
  • Generally, the policy will be included as a rider under an employer’s existing disability benefits policy, unless the employer self-insures
  • The PFL insurance premium is funded by employees through payroll deductions, unless the employer chooses to cover the entire cost of the plan
  • Employee contributions can be collected prior to obtaining insurance policy or self-insured approval
  • The earliest payroll deductions could have begun on July 1, 2017, but they are not required to begin until January 1, 2018

Employee Eligibility and Contribution Rates

  • Employee eligibility is based on:
    • Full-time employment with a regular schedule of 20+ hours/week for 26 weeks
    • Part-time employment with a regular schedule of less than 20 hours/week for 175 days
  • The Paid Family Leave rate is set by New York State Department of Labor’s Research and Statistics Division and can be adjusted on an annual basis on September 1, effective every January 1
  • There is no fixed contribution rate for the benefit, because it is based on the employee’s salary
  • The 2018 maximum weekly contribution for Paid Family Leave is 0.126% of an employee’s weekly wage, capped at current NY Statewide average weekly wage (NYSAWW) of $1,305.92. This means the 2018 maximum contribution is $1.65/week for employees earning the NYSAWW or above
  • There is no waiting period before an employer can take payroll deductions for PFL
  • Benefits are payable on first full day PFL leave is required, which could be as soon as January 1, 2018
  • Employees need to give 30 days’ notice for a foreseeable leave. This means, notices could come in by December 2, 2017

Timeline for the PFL Program

Paid Family Leave benefits phase in over 4 years with gradually increasing benefit duration and amounts:



How should employers prepare?

  • Determine if the company will self-insure, or will add a rider to the disability policy
  • Determine if the company will deduct the PFL contributions from payroll as employee deductions, or will cover the employee cost
  • Identify a process to determine each employee’s PFL contribution rate based on their wages (Note: StratEx can help with this)
  • Identify a process to track PFL time taken, since it can be taken intermittently (Note: We can help with this, too) 


  • Employers must include PFL program details in employee handbooks
  • A printed notice must be displayed, giving details of the PFL Program by January 1, 2018.

For more information regarding the NY PFL program, including helpful Employee and Employer Fact Sheets, please navigate to the New York State PFL website.


Ask StratEx HR: Sexual Harassment in the Kitchen

Everyone loves music and dancing, right? Well, after a little alcohol, definitely. But let’s say you’re at work. It’s been a stressful day, and you just “gotta loosen up those chains and dance” (thank you to the Dixie Chicks for understanding). We all need to let loose sometimes, so what could possibly be wrong with an impromptu dance party with your coworkers? Let’s take a look at a submission to one of our StratExperts, Ask StratEx HR, to find out.

Dear StratEx HR,

What a week! I am the defacto HR person for a casual restaurant chain, and I need some serious help!

So here’s what happened… One of our employees, Tiffany, was taking a break with a couple of coworkers in the kitchen. The radio was on and, as it was told to me, “Pony” by Ginuwine came on. Everyone started freaking out because “Omg, this is totally my song!!” Tiffany started to feel the beat a little in her shoulders, and then, she said that she just couldn’t help it, she had to break it down. (Seriously?!) Other coworkers started cheering, and a dance circle formed.

Their supervisor, Ron, came back into the kitchen, and, rather than shutting the party down, he started dancing with Tiffany. Not waltzing or leaving room for the Holy Spirit, if you know what I mean. Some would call it freak dancing, juking, or maybe even bumping and grinding. (If you need a reference point, think of the club scene in Save the Last Dance… you get the idea.) Suddenly, Tiffany started to feel uncomfortable, but didn’t want to be the Debbie Downer of the party. After a few minutes, the break was over, so she went back to work and escaped the situation without drawing attention to herself. This is all according to a conversation that I had with Tiffany this morning, so I have not confirmed this story with anyone else yet.

I cannot handle this drama! What action do I need to take??

Losing my Groove

Dear Losing your Groove,

It sounds like you have had quite the week! While the nitty-gritty details may be unique, this situation is not as out of the box as it may seem (and, in fact, it sounds quite similar to many situations in which StratEx HR has advised our clients). I know that many questions must be running through your head, so I’ve tried to break your action plan down into questions that we typically receive in situations like this.

As her HR Manager, what do you need to consider when Tiffany comes to you the next day to report harassment?

First, as the HR Manager and leader of the investigation, you need to set expectations with Tiffany, including a realistic idea of confidentiality, timeline of the process, and the importance of the integrity of the investigation. She should know that you will be interviewing other witnesses, including the manager she is accusing. This may come as a surprise to her, but the fact of the matter is that these incidents do not exist in a bubble.

While it is best to take action immediately, coordinating these interviews may take some time, so be up front with Tiffany about this. Be sure to ask if she feels comfortable working during the investigation, and if so, schedule her on different shifts from Ron. During this initial discussion, just in case the gravity with which you handle these investigations has not yet set in, you should also include an expectation of integrity as it pertains to the investigation. For example, if Tiffany is also messaging her supervisor on social media during the investigation, then her claim of harassment might be viewed in a different light.

Next, you need to gather statements from all of the witnesses that are available, as well as any other evidence that is available to you. Other evidence could include video footage from a security camera, time records indicating break times, a copy of the schedule, or email communication between parties, to name a few.

Was your sexual harassment policy violated by this supervisor, or is Tiffany at fault for being complicit in the behavior?

pexels-photo-29346One of the main issues we address again and again with harassment is that the intention of the offender does not matter if the conduct is unwelcome, prohibited, and based on a protected category.  So even though Ron may have thought he was being a “cool boss” by joining in, he was, in fact, making Tiffany and potentially others uncomfortable with his actions. Assuming that no other relationship exists outside of work between Tiffany and Ron, it is safe to say that Tiffany may have felt pressured to continue dancing rather than face the intimidating situation of confronting her manager in front of other employees.

That does not mean that other infractions against company policy will not come out during the course of an investigation. For example, if it is against your company policy to take a break in the kitchen, then you may need to coach employees during the process of investigating. You will want to balance consistent enforcement of policies with unintentionally scaring employees from reporting incidents due to their fear of being written up.

Should someone lose their job over a seemingly lighthearted interaction?

This is something that needs to be weighed on a scale of severity and pervasiveness. That means attempting to gauge to what extent or how grossly the incident violated the company harassment policy. It also means looking at performance history to see if this is the first time that an incident like this has occurred with this particular manager or if this has been a pattern. Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer here and will vary on a case-by-case basis.

Depending on your determination regarding the severity and pervasiveness, you need to consider if there a chance that employees will be able to move on working effectively in coexistence following this incident. If that manager has lost the respect of the employees, but you do not feel that the incident was severe enough, consider a transfer to another location. Keep in mind, however, that rumors may still spread to other locations. If you move forward with termination, remember that disciplinary action of any type should only be shared with the employee that action concerns. I would, however, recommend following up with Tiffany as the claimant and letting her know that you have taken action as you deemed necessary following the scope of your investigation (again this does not require specific details though).

The final item that you will want to look out for post-resolution is signs of retaliation, which can come from a few different arenas. The most obvious source of retaliation would be from Ron if he continues to work with Tiffany. This could come in the form of negative performance reviews, or even something subtler like scheduling her for the worst shifts. If Ron leaves that location or the company, other managers could even pick up the mantle of his grudge out of fear that Tiffany would report their actions. An unexpected form of retaliation could even come from Tiffany’s coworkers, who now single her out because they miss having a “fun” boss. I recommend squashing any such behavior before it has a chance to escalate, both to protect the company from further liability and to uphold the tenets of your harassment reporting policy.

I hope that this information helps resolve the drama. I’m confident that you will get back into the groove shortly!

StratEx HR (aka Groovemaster)

Illinois Company Handbook Updates for 2017

Now that we are halfway through the 4th quarter of 2016, it is time to start making changes to your 2017 company handbook. There are a number of Illinois law updates to keep in mind as you make changes.


date2017The Victims’ Economic Security and Safety Act (VESSA) was recently amended with changes that will go into effect on January 1, 2017. VESSA provides victims of domestic or sexual violence with unpaid leave to seek medical attention, obtain victim services or counseling, for safety planning, or to seek legal guidance. The existing law gives 8 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who work for an employer with 15-49 employees and 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who work for an employer with 50 or more employees. The amendment to the law provides 4 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who work for an employer with 14 or less employees.

For more information on VESSA leave, please visit the IL Department of Labor Website.

Illinois Employee Sick Leave Act (ESLA)

This is a new law that takes effect on January 1, 2017 and affects all employers who provide paid sick or personal time to their employees. This law does not require employers to provide additional paid sick or personal time to employees (not to be confused with the Chicago Paid Sick Leave law) but rather says that if you already provide paid time off to employees to use for their own illness or injury, you must allow them to also use these benefits for the illness, injury or medical appointment of a family member.

The law allows employers to limit the amount of time an employee can use to care for a family member to the amount that they would normally accrue in six months.  The ESLA defines family member as a child, grandchild, spouse (or domestic partner), parent, stepparent, mother or father-in-law and sibling.

Illinois Child Bereavement Leave Act

We sent a communication regarding this law on August 26th, 2016. To read that communication, click here.

Chicago Paid Sick Leave Law

We sent a communication regarding this law on August 12th, 2016. To read that communication, click here.

Illinois Secure Choice Savings Act-  Update

The Illinois Secure Choice Savings Act was signed into legislation in January of 2015 with the intention of being rolled out in 2017. Recently, the Illinois Treasury Department has released information stating that the program will not be rolled out until 2018 or maybe even 2019. This gives employers more time to prepare but it is still something to keep in the back of your mind!

For more information on this program, please visit the Illinois Dept of Treasury Website.

What’s this Health Insurance Marketplace Notice??

If your business has employees, there is a chance you may receive a notice in the mail from the Health Insurance Marketplace. This notice will let you know that you have an employee who submitted an application for health coverage through the ACA Marketplace and they have been determined to be eligible for a premium tax credit.

First: Don’t retaliate

Before we discuss what you need to do, it’s worth knowing that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) contains a non-retaliation provision. So if you receive a notice regarding one of your employees, it is very important to not take any retaliatory action towards that employee.

What does the notice mean for you?

If the employee receives a tax credit and you did not offer the employee affordable health care coverage, your company could be on the hook to pay the Employer Shared Responsibility Penalty to the IRS. If you are unfamiliar with these penalties, you can review this IRS Site for more information. Sample notice:


What if you did offer the employee coverage?

If you offered the employee coverage, this is your opportunity to appeal the notice. Here are some helpful hints when submitting an appeal:

  1. Download the Employer Appeal Request Form.
  2. The Marketplace will review appeals based on the following issues:
    a.  Whether or not the employee was offered health coverage that met the “minimum value standard”
    b.  Whether or not the health coverage you offered to the employee was “affordable”
    c.  Whether or not the employee chose to enroll in that health coverage
  3. To complete the appeal, fill out all of the necessary information, provide an explanation of your appeal, and then include supporting documents.
  4. Here is an outline of the documents you could use:


What if the employee was not offered coverage because he/she is not a full-time employee?

The Marketplace does not review eligibility based on employment status, but instead defers to the IRS to determine if an employer is subject to the Employer Shared Responsibility Penalty. This information will be reported to the IRS through your 1095-C reports; however, it is still important to make sure you have documentation to support your reason for not offering benefits.

If I win my appeal, does that mean my company will not receive a penalty from the IRS?

The Marketplace cannot determine if an employer owes a Shared Responsibility Penalty, as that determination is made by the IRS. With that being said, if a Marketplace appeal is decided in the employee’s favor, this could prevent the Marketplace from reporting to the IRS that an employer received a credit, or could reduce the period for which the employee was reported as receiving a credit. This process is still so new that we are waiting to learn more about how the IRS will assess and distribute penalties and if there will be an appeal process for employers to utilize.

Need Assistance?

If you are a current StratEx client, and have questions or need assistance with an appeal, you can always reach out to your HR Account Manager. If you are not a current client, contact us for more information on how we can help you work through questions around the ACA, Payroll, Benefits, and HR.