Must-do HR Updates for 2016

Happy New Year! Now, to begin your company’s new year as friction-free as possible, read through these must-do HR updates for 2016 and implement changes wherever they apply to you.

Review your handbooks

employeehandbook_pop_6467-resized-600The new year means changes to legislation and specific updates at the state level. Make sure to revise any updated policies or procedures in your handbook in order to remain compliant.

Paid Leaves

Be aware that several cities and states will have paid sick leave laws go into effect in 2016. For instance, Oregon’s new paid sick leave law takes effect on January 1, 2016 and Tacoma, WA has enacted paid sick leave legislation effective February 1, 2016.  San Diego, CA, Montgomery County, MD, and other various localities are following suit if they haven’t already, so it is important to reach out to your HR Account Manager regarding your location(s) and what state/local leave laws may be affecting your  location(s) and what state/local leave laws may be affecting your business.

Commuter Benefits

  1. New York City – Effective 1/1/2016 under the New York City Transit Ordinance, all New York City employers with 20 or more full-time employees are required to offer pre-tax transit benefits. There is a 6-month grace period on this ordinance, so penalties will not be sought until July 1st, 2016.
  2. Washington D.C. – Effective January 1st, 2016, the transit benefit requirement applies to employers with 20 or more employees. Employers can offer either a pre-tax transit benefit, an employer-paid benefit program with a transit pass or reimbursement of vanpool/bicycling costs, or employer-provided transportation in a vanpool or bus.

Many large companies across the country already offer commuter benefits. Looking ahead to 2016, more states will introduce new commuter benefit requirements, and more employers may begin to offer this benefit to their employees to keep up.

Ban the box

Be wary of “Ban the Box” or “Fair Chance” laws that are popping up in various cities and states in order to ensure that criminal history does not play a part in making hiring decisions for new hires until later in the recruitment process. These laws prohibit employers from asking criminal history questions on job applications or in initial interview situations (exact requirements depend on each state law or ordinance).

There are already over 100 cities and counties with these laws, and now in 18 states as well! For example, New York City’s Fair Chance law just went into effect in October 2015 and Oregon’s new Ban the Box law will take effect on January 1st, 2016. Please reach out to your HR account manager to discuss how to safe guard your hiring practices from potential liability associated with these new restrictions.

Labor Law Posters

Remember to order new federal and state labor law posters for 2016 if you haven’t updated them since last year. This will ensure all new and pertinent labor law notices are posted for your employees’ reference. Check out this link for more information.

ACA Reporting Plan

ACARemember if you are an Applicable Large Employer (50 or more FT/FTE employees) you are required to report in 2016. Make sure you have a plan in place for the 1095-C form.

Important Update: The IRS recently released a notice delaying the deadline for furnishing the Affordable Care Act Form 1095-C and 1095-B statements to individuals by two months –from February 1 to March 31. The IRS also delayed the deadline for filling the statements with the IRS from February 29 to May 31 if filing by paper and March 31 to June 30, if filing electronically.

The notice also includes guidance to individuals who do not receive a 1095-C or 1095-B before they file the 2015 tax returns.

StratEx offers ACA reporting services, so please reach out to your HR Account Manager with further questions on this subject.

Pending Federal Legislation

There are several federal acts that are currently under review. Be on the lookout for final decisions or updates throughout the year. If you are a StratEx client, we will alert you as we are made aware of these decisions or updates.

  1. Working Family Flexibility Act – Amend the FLSA to provide compensatory time for employees in the private sector.
  2. EEOC Transparence & Accountability Act – The EEOC must maintain up-to-date information on its website regarding charges and actions.
  3. Guaranteed Paid Vacation Act – This act would guarantee 10 days paid vacation per year.
  4. Pay Workers a Living Wage Act – This would increase the Federal minimum wage.
  5. DOL updates regarding the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – This act proposes an increase to the salary basis for exempt employees from $23,660 per year to $50,440 per year. A yearly calculation would be implemented to update the salary basis. Other potential updates are including non-discretionary bonuses in the calculation of an employee’s salary and updates to the duties test. The DOL will likely release these updates early in 2016. Since the grace period to implement these changes will likely be brief, start by reviewing your current classifications and job descriptions to prepare for the application of any changes. For information from the DOL on this subject, you can reference this factsheet.

The new year and employment changes are coming– keep these things in mind and make updates wherever necessary to keep your company as friction-free as possible. And don’t hesitate to contact your HR Account Manager at StratEx with any questions on these, or any other HR topics.

Note: This blog post was written in tandem with Madeline McDonnell, StratEx HR Account Manager.

StratEx: National “Best and Brightest” 2015

StratEx Awarded National 2015
“Best and Brightest Companies to Work For®”

National Association for Business Resources Recognizes Human Resources Software Firm with National Best and Brightest® Award

NationalBBlogowin15_RGBChicago, IL, December 14, 2015 – StratEx, a Chicago-based provider of human resources software and service, has been honored as one of the “National Best and Brightest Companies to Work For®” by the National Association for Business Resources (NABR).

Earlier this year, StratEx was recognized by NABR as one of the “101 Best and Brightest Companies to Work For in Chicago.”

“It was an honor to be recognized as a best place to work in the Chicago market, and now to be awarded nationally is a great accomplishment,” said Adam Ochstein, Founder and CEO of StratEx. “When I founded StratEx, I wanted to create a place people wanted to be a part of, and this award is a testament to achieving that.”

With over 20 years of experience conducting Best and Brightest Company competitions, the National Association for Business Resources (NABR) have identified numerous best Human Resource practices and provided benchmarking for companies that continue to be leaders in employment standards.

“We understand the importance that software plays in enhancing the lives of our customers,” said Sami Abualsamid, President of StratEx. “Our team embodies the right cultural attributes that helps set us apart.”

The 2015 winning companies were assessed by an independent research firm, which reviewed a number of key measures relative to other nationally recognized winners. They include Compensation, Benefits and Employee Solutions; Employee Enrichment, Engagement and Retention; Employee Education and Development; Recruitment, Selection and Orientation; Employee Achievement and Recognition; Communication and Shared Vision; Diversity and Inclusion; Work-Life Balance; Community Initiatives; Strategic Company Performance and the Best of the Best Small Business.

“Nationally recognized award recipients keep innovative human resource initiatives at the forefront of their company culture and make it a priority to consider their workforce as an essential aspect in their company success,” said Jennifer Kluge, NABR president. “Our Association is proud to recognize and honor these winning companies for this impressive achievement.”

StratEx Webinar: ACA Reporting Requirements and our ACA Module

Did you know: failure to comply with the requirements of the ACA will result in tax penalties, which will be up to $500 per 1095C not filed.

If you are not sure how your company will handle the ACA requirements, we encourage you to attend our webinar at 1pm CST on November 17th. The webinar will cover the most important and challenging parts of the ACA, as well as what our software can do to make your company’s process as friction free as possible.

The webinar will serve two purposes:

  1. To help you understand the vital sections of the ACA that need your attention. We will cover in some detail:
    • The Employer Mandate
    • ACA reporting elements for applicable large employers (ALEs)
    • The Look-back Method
  2. To show you the ACA module in eStratEx and how it can provide you the tools you need to handle all of the requirements of the ACA. This includes:
    • A tool to help you determine if your company is an applicable large employer (ALE)
    • A tool to help you apply the ‘look back’ methodology for tracking variable hour employees’ hours
    • Reporting and filing services included with the module. This includes annual reports that must be filed with the IRS, and annual statements that must be provided to employees


Date: Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
Time: 1:00pm- 2:00pm CST

Who should attend: Management, HR professionals

To learn more about the ACA, and how we can help you navigate the requirements with our ACA module, please join our webinar by registering here:

StratEx HR Webinar: Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

unnamedAre you currently running Background Checks for your applicants or employees?

Do you run credit checks?

Do you ever decide not to hire an applicant based on the results of his/her background check or credit check?

As part of its Human Resources Management Training Series, StratEx is hosting a free webinar on the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) on Tuesday, September 15, 2015 from 1pmCT to 2pmCT to help give clear answers to questions like those.

There recently has been an increase in the number of lawsuits regarding background checks, and this webinar is designed to help human resources professionals decrease the risk associated with running background or credit checks, focusing on the FCRA.

“We hope to arm human resources professionals and managers with insight that allows them to address the latest challenges facing the industry with confidence,” said Gretchen Van Vlymen, Human Resources Practice Leader at StratEx.

This webinar will also discuss Disclosure and Authorization Forms, Ban the Box, and the Adverse Action process.

To register for the webinar, go to:

Best and Brightest 2015

StratEx Awarded Chicago’s 2015 “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For®

Chicago, IL., June 11, 2015 – StratEx, a Chicago-based provider of human resource services and software, was honored as one of the “Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® in Chicago” by the National Association for Business Resources (NABR).

Chicago101BBWin15_RGB“It is an honor to be recognized amongst some of the top organizations in the Chicagoland area,” said Adam Ochstein, Founder and CEO of StratEx. “We commit ourselves to providing our employees with the best work environment to build a better business and grow stronger as a team. This award truly validates the growth that we as a company have accomplished over the years.”

Sponsored by the NABR, this award identifies organizations throughout Chicago that display a commitment to excellence in human resource practices and employee enrichment.

“Living on the bleeding edge of technology is a way of life for us,” said Sami Abualsamid, President of StratEx. “In today’s world, if you are not at the forefront of technical innovation you cannot attract the best and brightest.”

Of the hundreds of nominees, 152 businesses were chosen based on key progressions in employee solutions, engagement and retention, employee development and enrichment, selection and orientation, community initiatives, and strategic company performance.

“These companies have created impressive organizational value and business results through their policies and best practices in human resource management,” said Jennifer Kludge, NABR president.

“This award is a powerful recruitment tool in the drive to attract and retain exceptional employees in the Chicagoland area.”

The 2015 Best and Brightest awards ceremony will be held on Friday, July 10, 2015 at the Chicago Marriott Oak Brook, located at 1401 W. 22nd St., Oak Brook, IL 60523 from 8amCT to 1:30pmCT. For more information on the award, please visit

For more information on StratEx, please visit or contact Heather Youkhana at 312-496-6562 or


About StratEx

Founded in 2003, StratEx is a provider of human resources services and software, helping companies manage the entire employee lifecycle all online, through its proprietary software, eStratEx. From filing resumes and applications, to hiring and onboarding, to time-off requests and payroll processing, to termination, resignation or exit interviews, StratEx helps companies manage the processes so businesses can focus on employee relations StratEx has offices in Chicago, Orlando, NYC, Denver, and Phoenix. For more information on StratEx, please visit, or call 312-216-2200.


StratEx: A Best Place to Work in Illinois 2015

A few weeks ago, I was getting ready to head into the office on a Monday morning after being on vacation with my family for a week. As I wished my kids a good day at school, they expressed how depressed they were to go back. I asked “Why?”, and my daughter bemoaned, “What do you mean? Don’t you hate going back to work?” I laughed and said, “Actually, I am excited and I missed work very much. I missed everybody and am looking forward to seeing everybody.” She quickly responded “Yeah, that’s because you get to choose where you work and you don’t have to go.”

It’s true. We each make a choice about where to work, and I am grateful for every person that makes the choice to work at StratEx; the choice to be a part of our unique culture, by adding to the overall fabric of what makes our company what it is. This is what excites me to show up every day.award1

So, it’s gratifying that the rest of Illinois is finally starting to get to know what we already know: The Daily Herald Business Ledger and HRMA selected StratEx as an honoree of the Best Places to Work in Illinois award in the small business category. Out of hundreds of small business nominees, we were selected as the 9th best place to work in the state.

We are honored by the award and look forward to continuing our mission of bringing Friction Free service to the masses.
StratExians (l to r): Andrea Ljevar, Mackenzie Malloy, Dave Banaszak, Libby Hagemeyer and Madeline Skaggs

Press Release: StratEx Named a 2015 Best Place to Work in Illinois

Get a tech job… in Chicago?

According to CBRE, the number of tech jobs in Chicago rose 26% from 2010 to 2013.

WBBM Noon Business Hour recently asked me about this statistic and my opinion on what is driving this huge increase. I believe there are a couple of factors leading to a growth in tech jobs in Chicago.

First, companies like Groupon and GrubHub have gone public, which expands our exposure nationally and helps to solidify Chicago on the tech map. Companies like these have been a solid source of innovation and growth over the years, which has stimulated the need for workers with a tech background, and increased the pool of tech workers with experience in the city.

Second, in the recession of 2008, organizations realized they had to do more with less. This resulted in technology replacing a lot of administrative and lower-end service jobs. Those jobs were eliminated, but with technology, you need to have people to maintain the databases and software, which creates a whole ecosystem of jobs that feed off of that new need for technology. This is true for tech companies as well as manufacturing, the service industry, restaurants, etc. Everyone is using more technology to run their businesses better.

The hype with River North and tech incubators is legitimate. 1871 is running out of space, Built in Chicago membership is at an all-time high, Google Midwest Headquarters will be in the chi_08West Loop, and even Class-A addresses on Michigan Avenue are trying to attract tech companies.

As far as bidding wars for top tech talent, there will always be a war for good talent. Chicago is a mecca for new grads in the Midwest, and if you’re interested in working in the tech sector, the landscape has changed– you don’t have to move to one of the coasts for great tech jobs.

As companies realize they don’t have to be in the traditional tech sectors to start-up or have access to a top-notch tech workforce, this trend in Chicago will only continue.

Your No-PTO Policy: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

In a recent campaign aired by MasterCard, children of working parents are trying to understand the rationale of giving up PAID vacation days. These idealistic children imagined all the fabulous things that could come from taking back that one day. We all remember being kids and the excitement we had in anticipation of a day off. Why hasn’t that same excitement transpired into our adult life? Last year 40% of Americans left vacation time on the table, expired and essentially taken away.

So, what if there was no structured time away from work policy at all? Many employers are now opting for a No-PTO policy that essentially provides unlimited PTO taken by employees as needed. Would more employees take time off? Would your workforce abuse this? Would productivity soar or fall flat? These questions are forcing employers to ask if unlimited time off is the right move for them.

The Good:

A strong work-life balance plays a major role in the recruitment and retention of employees.  Allowing employees the ability to manage their own time and essentially create their perfect work-life balance ensures that everyone wins.

In states that mandate employers to pay out all unused accrued vacation /PTO time at termination, time away from work policies can be costly; the absence of a PTO or vacation policy can possibly remove this liability if executed properly in a compliant manner.

From a recruiting standpoint, if your goal is to hire motivated, responsible employees who seek to balance their time off with completing their projects – you now have the ultimate recruiting tool. Further, some employers may be betting that motivated employees will intrinsically take slightly less PTO under an employee-directed “no-PTO” policy, and use only what they truly feel they need.  This should not be the main goal of this PTO structure, but it could be a nice perk if it results in increased productivity and cost-savings!

The Bad

No one likes a perceived value. It’s in our human nature to associate tangible things with value. If there is no policy on how time off is taken, many employees will find it challenging to see this as a benefit of their employment.

Using the term unlimited instead of simply having “no policy” for time off can also be dangerous for those employers in states that require payment of unused accrued time at termination.  What is the value of unlimited when it comes to accrued time? There are strict state-specific guidelines for executing this no-PTO-policy in order to eliminate the payout liability at termination.  If employers do not adhere to these guidelines, they could be on the hook to pay out unlimited PTO.  Yikes!

Currently only 1% of companies are adopting these standards. That’s because it’s simply too difficult to administer in most industries and work environments.

The Ugly

Unless you have a company full of salaried exempt employees, having a no PTO policy in place is confusing to execute as hourly employees simply aren’t paid when they don’t work.

We all hope that we can trust employees to not abuse a policy, but let’s be real, that isn’t always the case. If work isn’t being completed then odds are your bottom line is being affected – the C-suite’s worst nightmare.

Even under current standards of employers giving a prescribed amount of time off to employees, they aren’t taking time. With no structure in place it is likely some employees will take less time instead of more. This could do more harm than good, including but not limited to: employee burnout, extremely unbalanced work-life ratio, stress, poor work product and many other key factors that hinder an employee’s performance.

The Key to Compliance

Kind of sounds like a double-edge sword, right? If you are an employer considering going rogue with your vacation/PTO policy, the best bet is to ensure consistency, set guidelines, and be completely transparent with how it would work.  The rest is up to the employee.