2018 Year End HR Best Practices

Review your Handbooks

With the New Year comes changes to legislation and specific legal updates at the federal, state and local level. Additionally, if your employee headcount has increased over the course of the year, you may now need to adhere to federal, state, and local laws that previously were not applicable. 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 2019. This will ensure all new and applicable labor law notices are posted for your employees’ reference. GovDocs is a recommended vendor for ordering all-in-one labor law posters. Check out this link for more details. Otherwise, you can reference our Locally Sourced HR Newsletter for monthly labor law poster updates throughout the year.

ACA Reporting Deadlines

If you were an Applicable Large Employer in the 2018 calendar year (50 or more full time/full time equivalent employees) you are required to report in 2019. 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 Consultant with any further questions on this topic.

The deadline for filing has been extended as it has been the past few years. The deadline to distribute the 1095-Cs to your employees is March 4th, 2019.

Please keep an eye out for future StratEx communications that include important deadlines.

Prepare for State-Mandated Harassment Training

Be sure to act on any new and/or updated sexual harassment prevention training requirements if you employ in California, Delaware, and/or New York, as these three states have updated and/or implemented new training requirements effective as early as January 1st, 2019. As a reminder, Connecticut and Maine already have sexual harassment training requirements in place.

This is a good time to prepare when you’re going to conduct your training throughout the year. Reach out to your StratEx HR Consultant to discuss training solutions if you need to comply with these requirements.

Implement Sick & Family Leave Legislation

Several states, cities and counties will have new or updated paid sick or family leave legislation go into effect starting in 2019. A few specific ones to call out:

  • Remember New Jersey passed a Paid Sick Leave effective 10/29/18
  • Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Notice required to be sent on 1/1/2019 & employer and employee contributions begin on 7/1/2019
  • Michigan’s new Paid Sick Leave law is expected to take effect on 3/20/2019
  • Rhode Island Paid Sick Leave accrual and usage rate increase on 1/1/2019
  • Washington requires collection of employee contributions for paid family leave benefits beginning on 1/1/2019
  • Washington DC requires employer contributions for Universal Paid Leave on 7/1/2019
  • Westchester County, New York’s Paid Sick Leave law takes effect on 4/10/2019

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your HR Consultant 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 a great time to review for any mistakes from the past year and guard your company against costly fines. Your HR Consultant 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. As a reminder, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Albany County, New York, New York City, Westchester County, New York, Oregon, and Vermont already prohibit employers from asking about an applicant’s salary history. In 2019, Connecticut and Hawaii join them in prohibiting salary history inquiries.

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

If you’re wondering where your state(s) falls in all of this, reach out to your HR Consultant.

Prepare for EEO-1 Reporting

As a reminder, 2018 EEO-1 filing will be due March 31, 2019. As of right now, salary data will not be required to be reported. If you are required to submit EEO reporting, start reviewing your demographic data. There are several reports in eStratEx to assist you in identifying any gaps. Please reach out to your Service Team or your HR Consultant for any questions on the reports.

OSHA Electronic Reporting

Employers with 250 or more employees that are subject to OSHA’s recordkeeping requirements must submit data from Forms 300A, 300 and 301 by March 2, 2019.

Employers with 20-249 employees in certain high -risk industries must submit data from Form 300A by March 2, 2019.

State Plans that have not yet adopted this rule include: California, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. OSHA clarified that employers in State Plans are expected to electronically submit data, even if their state has not completed adoption of its own state rule.

If you are wondering whether these electronic reporting requirements apply to your organization, please reach out to your HR Consultant.

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

American Labor Unions – Laws and How To Protect Your Rights as An Employer

American labor unions have been labeled many things over the years; from the support system for common interests of blue-collar workers to the bane of employer’s existence. Over the last 70 years, the number of labor unions has decreased from 35 percent to 11 percent, with most unions existing in the public sector. However, earlier this year the country saw its first successful “wildcat” strike in over 40 years from the West Virginia Teacher’s Association. While the idea of unions has been polarizing throughout history, it’s not only important to understand how we got to the lowest level of union participation ever, but also review the laws surrounding the creation of unions and the rights you have as an employer.

Brief History of Unions

The labor movement began in 1935 with the signing of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which created the right for employees to unionize. The law also recognized some employers had created unfair labor practices surrounding unionization, which the NLRA declared unlawful.  The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was created to enforce the principals of the NLRA. Within the first decade of creation, the board helped reinstate 76,268 workers and reclaim $12,418,000 in wages owed. Today, many employers believe that the NLRB has created policies that make it too easy for employees to organize and put unrealistic constraints on employers (i.e. creating handbook policies that could be perceived as having a chilling effect on the movement). By the end of World War II, more than 12 million American workers belonged to unions. However, the same rights granted under the NLRA were not provided to minorities and women in the workforce.

The formation of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) continued to strengthen the power and appeal of labor unions. However, throughout the next 70 years unions saw both an influx of union friendly laws and laws that restricted the rights of unions and put more power in the hands of employers. By 2009, only 12 percent of American workers belonged to labor unions. Following the election of Barack Obama in January 2009, American Labor unions saw their first resurgence of pro-union policies since the early 1980s.  

Previous Administration

Under the former Obama administration, multiple executive actions were issued in what the administration called an attempt to “level the playing field for labor unions in their struggles with management”. The most striking changes came to the rules surrounding the election process known as “ambush elections”. These new guidelines shortened the time from when union elections could be held, from 38 days to 10 days. Thus, making it easier for unions to win elections against employers because they no longer have time to explain why not unionizing would be better for employees or address the company’s goals to meet employees’ requests or needs. However, many other smaller legal changes expanded the powers of unions and employees, including; 

  • Eliminating retaliation against employees for discussing wages with coworkers in the workplace
  • Five additional states passed “right to work” laws (AL, KY, MI, WI, WV)
  • Establishment of “micro-unions” within one company. Micro units allow certain groups of employees to unionize within their own group. For example, all servers unionize amongst themselves and at the same restaurant all line cooks unionize within their own group.
  • Changes to the definition of joint employers; creating a greater sense of liabilities for franchisers based on the unlawful practices of their franchisees.

Current State

Like President Obama, candidate and President Donald Trump coined himself as the man of working people and an advocate for the American union worker. Initially he reflected this in his first weeks in office by pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership and inviting the heads of top unions to the White House for a roundtable discussion. Following those initial meetings President Trump appointed new leaders (John Ring as chairman, Marvin Kaplan and William Emanuel-members) to the National Labor Relations Board. All new appointees are Republican leaning and have ties to big business. They’ve also made quick work at challenging and reversing many of the Obama era rulings previously discussed.

The most critical blow to unions under the new administration came not from the executive branch but the judicial branch in the Supreme Court decision Janus V. Afscme. In June 2018, in a 5-4 landmark decision the court ruled that it was no longer legal for unions to force the collection of fees from public employees who are not members of the union. The ruling stated, employees must “clearly and affirmatively consent before any money can be taken from them”. What does this decision mean? If you are a non-union employee working for a company that has other groups of employees who are unionized, you are no longer on the hook to pay “agency fees”. Unions believe they are due these fees because these non-union employees receive certain benefits created by the union’s presence in the company and cover collective bargaining costs. Labor activists believe this decision hinders the ability of workers to “join collectively behind the power of a unified voice”.

After understanding where we have come as a country when it comes to the establishment of unions and where things stand today, it’s important to understand your rights as an employer and how you can prevent all employees or units of employees from unionizing;

  1. Avoid Chilling Statements in Handbooks: When reviewing or writing your Company handbook ensure there isn’t any policy language that could be considered to chill employees in the exercise of protected activity; such as speaking of wages with co-workers or speaking out on social media about work conditions. Note: Avoid using overly general statements and instead focus on the interest of the employer by making a clear statement. If you believe any of your policies may have a chilling effect, please reach out to your HR department or your StratEx HR Consultant for review.
  2. Guidelines/Parameters for Solicitation: Companies can prohibit distribution of union election campaign material in all work areas during working hours. Restaurants specifically can prohibit solicitation in selling areas during both working and nonworking hours. However, prohibiting distribution in nonwork areas is illegal. Nonwork areas include locker rooms, rest rooms, parking lots and breaks areas. Note: If you let employees bring in materials for selling goods for a side business or their children’s school this could open the door for other forms of solicitation. Best case scenario is to stick to your policy and allow no solicitation.
  3. Be Proactive with Employees: Don’t catch yourself flatfooted and playing catch up when it comes to potential unionization in the workplace. Using the following best practices can help companies avoid a union coming into their workplace;
    • Engage with employees on a regular basis regarding work conditions, pay structure, and overall general satisfaction. Then be prepared to address the information employees provide. Letting things slip through the cracks will lead employees to go elsewhere to get their needs met.
    • Be transparent when new policies and work rules are put in place, so expectations are known and there is no room for misunderstanding.
    • Get management in the mix! Ensure they are committed to creating a culture that supports diversity of ideas and constructive feedback.
  4. Develop an Action Plan/Task Force: These small things could shift employees’ opinions in voting yes to unionization;
    • Be ready to push out your anti-union campaign and appeal to employee concerns about labor conditions should a successful union petition be submitted to the NLRB. Note: 30% of workers need to sign a petition for the process to begin. Also Note: Anti-union rhetoric should not be used prior to union petitioning occurring.
    • Be well educated on the history and current state of the labor union trying to enter your work place so you can provide details to your employees.
    • Hold meetings with your employees to answer questions and discuss the company’s position and concerns about unionization. Use these meetings to highlight positives of the company, provide more context on why joining a union would not be advantageous to them, provide a game plan for addressing employees’ concerns.
    • Ensure there is a member of management available to observe election procedures of fairness and accuracy.

Navigating a workplace that unionized can be extremely difficult. However, being proactive in gathering feedback from your employees and working with management to create a transparent environment will mitigate a company’s risk of having to deal with a unionized workforce in the future.

 

Seven Restaurant HR Challenges to Overcome

Seven Restaurant HR Challenges to Overcome

Entrepreneurs open restaurants because they have a love of food, or a cooking talent they want to share with the world. Restaurants are often a labor of love but, if there is a lack of attention relating to the human resource aspects of the business, this dream can turn into nightmare. Below we will dive into seven restaurant HR challenges and explore ways to manage them. Keep these in mind in order to stay within the letter of the law, lower you liability, and retain employees long term.

Payroll

Payroll for restaurants can be tricky because managers are on salary, servers earn tips & hourly wage, and cooks & dishwashers regularly work overtime. It becomes more complex when layered on are federal, state, and local wage rules. If workers aren’t paid the local minimum wage, or if anything mistakenly runs afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act, owners could face expensive fines and have unsatisfied employees.

How to Overcome – make sure to be aware of the minimum wage for all restaurants. This can vary from state to state and even within municipalities within the same state. For instance, California just overhauled its minimum wage rules at the beginning of 2017. It’s also important to have an understanding of how to handle employees earning tips. Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor mandated that restaurants cannot require servers and wait staff to share tips with back-of-house staff. Though this decision has been challenged and is now pending before the Supreme Court, it’s still currently enforced. Lastly, it is necessary to understand the overtime rules for each of restaurant location by tracking schedules closely, and preventing managers from cutting corners in order to fill up schedules. Overlooking overtime abuse can result in a massive employee lawsuit and a hefty fine from the government.

I-9 Compliance

Restaurants are a competitive industry with a high turnover rate, which makes it more susceptible to overlook I-9 requirements. You wouldn’t want a PR risk like having ICE knocking at the door of an establishment to lead away employees. Additionally, if the government finds out that an owner or operator isn’t dotting i’s and crossing t’s, it could lead to huge penalties and possible prosecution.

How to Overcome – Prior to a new employees start date, make sure to receive the right identification documents from every single employee and fill out Form I-9 when necessary. It’s required to keep Form I-9 for three years after the hire or up to one year after the employee is terminated. Yes, this takes more time, and it may eliminate candidates when desperate to fill positions, however following the law is always the smart move in the long term.

High Employee Turnover

It’s challenging to find people who are a good fit for a restaurants culture. According to the National Restaurant Association, for two consecutive years, beginning in 2016, the industry had a 70% turnover rate. The loss of these employees is expensive and frustrating to restaurant owners & operators. Each loss forces an owner/operator to re-strategize scheduling and forces HR teams to scramble to find replacements. Then it takes time and effort to train a new hire, and may cause customer service to temporarily suffer.

How to Overcome – Keeping good employees can be simple, yet can become challenging in an industry that runs on tight margins. If able, it’s best to pay competitive wages, offer benefits, and provide predictive scheduling for workers (even if it is not required by law.) To be successful, it is recommended to develop a strong onboarding process to train new employees quickly and thoroughly.

Safety & Risk Management

A typical restaurant is filled with sharp chopping knives, hot bubbling pans, and fast-paced servers carrying trays loaded with delicate glassware. The risk of cuts, burns, slips, and broken glass are standard operating procedure. Something as simple as a single slip could lead to a lawsuit from an injured customer or employee. Taking into consideration all the things that could go wrong, how can you keep your staff and customers safe?

How to Overcome – Risk is inherently a part of the restaurant business and can’t be avoided, but you can manage it. For starters, developing a safety manual for all employees will give you a guideline for handling issues that arise. It’s not enough to just write the manual, it’s necessary the management team actively enforce it. Make sure that all spills are cleaned up immediately, require all employees to wash their hands, and provide safety equipment, such as no-slip mats on the kitchen floor and cut-proof gloves. Additionally, it’s important to be prepared and invest in the right types of insurance or consultant to avoid a legal or PR crisis.

Discrimination

In the United States, as we continue to recognize the challenges of different minorities in our community, discrimination is at the forefront. Business owners must be sensitive to both overt and subtle discrimination. This means creating a safe and accepting workplace, addressing wage gaps and promoting equal access to job opportunities. The rules surrounding discrimination are becoming more complex and more strict for businesses of all types. The federal government passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which makes it easier for employees to file a complaint of wage discrimination against their employer. Recently, several states, including California and New York, have updated their gender pay equality laws. Lastly, the Equal Employment Opportunity could soon require large employers to submit information regarding employee compensation.

How to Overcome – Have a firm understanding on the laws regarding discrimination in your state and municipality. Writing up a clear & detailed anti-discrimination policy that is included in the company employee handbook. It’s important that appropriate training is provided to the management team & employees so that all accusations of discrimination are taken seriously. Additionally, consider providing employees with a means of submitting concerns and complaints securely. Finally, it would be proactive to perform an audit of all restaurants. Take a look at the racial and gender makeup of the staff. Analyze who is being hired, who is being promoted, and wage equality. If anything is cause for concern, address it immediately.

Costs

Regulating food and labor are important factors for a restaurant owner when controlling costs. Proper menu planning, sales forecasting and employee training are a large focus area when trying to prevent overspending. Looking at the big picture, you will spend the most when creating a valuable staff, purchasing supplies & equipment with the intention of providing quality dishes in a great environment. It might not be most cost effective to use a variety of planning, monitoring and evaluating techniques to control costs. It’s important to consider how your restaurant can save money each month, while still operating at an optimal capacity.

How to Overcome – Nowadays, everything is available with a digital copy, and a great way to avoid excess costs is by automating employee data into a paperless system. One great way to reduce expenses in your restaurant is investing in the appropriate tools for your staff. Between hourly wages, benefits and even training, the cost of employees are high. If you don’t currently have standardized hiring practices in place, there should be. Hiring the right people will decrease turnover, cutting down on training costs, and increase revenue through customer satisfaction.

Efficiencies

Making sure that your restaurant is running efficiently is crucial to its success. Having multiple systems and processes that don’t interconnect can cause delays in your business and prevent it from running smooth. Restaurant environments are generally fast-paced and require the utmost efficiency. This is due to being a customer service focused industry. Creating success heavily depends on the flow with which a restaurant operates — customers placing orders, orders being fulfilled and then delivered to satisfied customers.

How to Overcome –Review your current processes. Begin with how employees are hired, look at how you create your menu, How orders are placed, how are sales calculated, what is you payroll process, ect… Consider the technology you are using for these operating processes. Making the right investment in technology could allow for your staff to easily clock in & out, swap shifts, input orders, calculate tab totals, easily distribute tips and more. With an automated restaurant system in place, your staff is then able to focus on creating a better overall customer experience for your restaurant.

How to Manage It All?

It can feel overwhelming to try and manage all of these different risks while still trying to keep the restaurant operating seamlessly. While there is food to make, ingredients to order, and staff to manage it can be hard to find time to write an employee manual, develop an onboarding process, audit the restaurant hiring policies, and stay current on the local wage laws.
Luckily, there are resources available through Stratex to automate and simplify the additional restaurant responsibilities discussed here. Stratex is able to help handle the biggest HR risks, to lower liability and allow the focus to be on what’s enjoyed most– sharing unique dishes while creating loyal happy customers!

The Company Holiday Party: Yes or No Way?

We have to have a holiday party… right?

The holiday season is approaching, and you want to reward your employees for their hard work with a holiday party. But given the risks and liabilities associated with them, it may be time to consider if a holiday party is right for your company.

Is a holiday party the best way to reward your company?

Holiday parties in their best form can foster camaraderie, provide employees the chance to interact with new and familiar faces, and afford employers the opportunity to express their gratitude. But it is no secret that holiday parties pose significant risks: sexual harassment claims, religious discrimination, and drunk driving. New studies have also shown that not only are holiday parties a risky endeavor, they are frequently unwanted and the desired benefits of an end-of-the-year party are rarely received.

Unwanted Benefit

Despite their popularity, office holiday parties are not the preferred benefit for many employees. According to recent survey from Randstad, “90 percent of workers would rather get a bonus or extra vacation days than attend a company holiday party.” Even though this poll is not indicative of the entire workforce, it does demonstrate, when combined with the commonness of holiday parties, a failure by employers to listen and involve employees in the planning of end-of-year rewards. Holiday parties should be planned with the employee in mind, and catered to their needs.

Minimal Interaction

In theory, holiday parties can provide employees an opportunity to interact with new and familiar faces. However, according to a study conducted by Paul Ingram and Michael Morris of Columbia University called “Do People Mix at Mixers“, business persons are more likely to interact with friends at an event than engage with unfamiliar colleagues. This is true even when they had “…overwhelmingly stated before the event that their goal was to meet new people.”

Of course, all workplaces are different. Some are comprised of very outgoing and extroverted people who can take advantage of the social atmosphere parties provide. But most workplaces are comprised of a diverse collection of people, some of whom may not feel comfortable socializing in unstructured events. Organizations should attempt to connect their employees, but the setting and lack of structure in office holiday parties may be off-putting and unsettling for some employees. In these situations, it is crucial that employers accommodate for these differences among their workforce. A holiday party is just one way to reward and connect a workplace, and a risky one at that.

Counterproductive

Research has also found that workplace events can even be counterproductive for minority groups. Cheryl Kaiser, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington noted that even if unintentional, holiday parties can adopt subtle practices “…of the dominant group, all of which can convey a lack of belonging… to groups that do not share those preferences.” As noted earlier, employers need to be more attentive to their employees’ perspectives. Doing something because it is tradition is not an excuse to disassociate a certain group of employees. Employers need to be more cognizant of employee differences and make accommodations for these differences.

Why are you having a party?

Before you even consider having a holiday party, think about why you are having the party. If your goal is to reward your employees, consider other options such as replacing the party with time off or bonuses. Even better, involve your employees in this process by asking them about their preferences.

If your goal, in addition to rewarding your employees, is to foster a greater sense of camaraderie, plan more structured events that can more effectively engage your diverse workforce. Consider hosting a volunteer event that pairs unfamiliar departments, throw a luncheon, or schedule a structured activity or entertainment as an alternative to a traditional holiday party.

There is a reason holiday parties are so prevalent: they can be a fun and rewarding event, especially compared to the impersonal gesture of a bonus. But depending on your workforce’s attitude toward holiday parties, and given the inherent risk, it may be time to reconsider your end-of-year plans. Before making a decision, engage in a conversation with your employees and allow them to voice their opinions.

Additional sources:

Littler: Holiday P-A-R-T-I-E-S Protocol

HBR: 4 Reasons to Kill the Office Party, and One Reason to Save It

Daily Beast: Office Parties are Bad for Business

Top 6 HR Restaurant Issues

Owning and managing restaurants comes with many responsibilities such as handling costs, knowing competitors, creating new menu offerings, narrowing down vendors, pricing, and the list goes on. This can make it easy to overlook some of the HR related matters that can lead to overall successful operations. It’s important to be aware of HR issues and the laws that pertain to your business. Knowing how to handle issues as they come up will help your restaurant be a success.

Top six issues related to human resources are listed below:

Payroll and Reporting

Paying a large number of hourly employees can be very time-consuming and a primarily tipped workforce only furthers the level of difficulty. Then there is calculating taxes for all appropriate government levels, particularly for restaurants with multi-state operations, making payroll more complicated. If that wasn’t enough, you’ll need to include adding required reports such as, 940s, 941s, and annual W2s, as well as the collection and input of data from new hires, including W4s and I9s. Costly errors can occur from misplaced quarterly tax form submissions or neglecting to receive completed I9s.

Employee Benefits

The Introduction of the Affordable Care Act(ACA) brought issues around employee benefits to the forefront. An increasing number of employees began evaluating prospective employers based off their benefit offerings. For restaurants not previously offering healthcare benefits, ACA introduced the need to decide on questions such as whether to sponsor a health plan, how to evaluate plan options, how to avoid the employer mandate tax penalty, how to meet reporting requirements, and how to fund benefits. Once a restaurant decides on a plan the options need to be communicated to the employees, as well.

Unemployment Claims

Taking into consideration the annual nationwide restaurant turnover rate of 73%, unemployment claims can be a huge burden for an already-busy restaurant administrative staff. Although unemployment tax rates reflect the size of your organization and what you have paid into the system, they are also based on the amount of benefits collected by former employees. Avoiding wrongful terminations can help reduce the amount of benefits collected and maintain your lower rates. Though tax rates are part of the cost equation, you also have to factor in the time you spend on reviewing claims, discussing them, and negotiating with the review staff. Ensuring an effective way to track employee write ups and supporting documentation could save time and money when fighting claims.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

The good news is that you can have an impact on your rates. Premium rates, while regulated by each state, are based on your loss history and safety performance over a three-year period. Two ways to reduce your rates; 1) shop for the best rates, taking advantage of group buying power where possible and 2) reduce loss by creating a safer work environment.

Risk Management

 Anyone associated with a restaurant has seen various types of injuries from slips & falls, cuts, improper lifting, and many others because of a rushed environment. These injuries can lead to worker’s comp claims, higher premiums, and not to mention the pain experienced by the employee and loss of productivity in the restaurant. Two easy solutions for this problem could be; 1) to identify the causes for your most common (and most costly) injuries and 2) institute a process of ongoing communication, training, and coaching employees, to make safe operating practices a part of their everyday job. Risk management specialists can be of great assistance in this process.

HR Compliance

Important HR compliance practices could be slipping through the cracks, simply because you are unaware or don’t have the time to properly handle issues. Unfortunately, ignorance of regulations nor a lack of time serves as an adequate excuse for not staying compliant. If you terminate someone wrongfully, if your corrective actions aren’t effective, if your employment verification processes aren’t complete, if job classifications aren’t aligned with wage and hour laws—and so on it can become a problem. With the increase of regulations, which will only pick up speed as they constantly change from year to year, it makes this a critical piece of the puzzle. Owner/Operators must now pay close attention to compliance in order to survive in this tough industry.

 

StratEx Serves: The EDJA Foundation and Global Citizen Award


In our company-wide Summer Kickoff meeting last month, we were honored to have Tabitha Mpamira-Kaguri speak to the StratEx team.

Tabitha is the founder of EDJA, a non-profit organization whose mission is to combat child abuse, sexual assault & domestic violence in Sub-Saharan Africa. EDJA envisions a society where every woman and child is safe and protected from abuse. They are achieving their mission through actions that establish coalitions of advocates for victors and enforce prevention measures providing medical, legal, counseling and outreach services.

We were so deeply moved by Tabitha’s talk. She shared stories from women and girls about the systemic sexual assault and abuse in Uganda that EDJA is working to eliminate. And we were amazed by her own story and drive to stand up and fight for what is right. Through the EDJA foundation, she has become the voice for the voiceless and the strength and support for those who drastically need help.

We’d like to say thank you again to Tabitha for coming and talking to us and more importantly, we want thank her for the all the work she has been doing to raise awareness for EDJA’s mission. Lastly, we are very proud to announce that our employee led charitable committee, StratEx Serves, raised $1,500 in donations for EDJA at the StratEx Summer Kickoff!

While Tabitha was too humble to say this in her talk… she is also being awarded a the Global Citizen Award (this weekend 9/29/18)  – the award recognizes the excellence of individuals in their work to end extreme poverty, as well as $50,000 in funds for the EDJA foundation! Congratulations Tabitha!

To support EDJA go to: EDJAfoundation.org

To learn more about Tabitha and her Global Citizen award go to: This Activist Is Ending Patterns of Sexual Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa

UPDATE:
Video from the Global Citizen Awards

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.

Immigration Compliance for Employers in the Trump Era

As presidential administrations come and go, Congress continues to attempt (and so far fail) to pass sweeping immigration reform.

Immigrants, both naturalized and here on work visas, make up more than 17% of the American workforce, with an estimated additional 5% of the workforce working illegally. The Trump administration has taken a hardline approach on policies surrounding immigration, as seen in a 76% increase in ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids on businesses since January 2017.

Some of the most heavily impacted industries include restaurant and hospitality groups and manufacturing plants. With the administration’s recent Supreme Court win on the travel ban and no clear path to citizenship for individuals in the DACA program, companies must look inward and actively understand how to protect themselves under these new policies and guidelines.

Form I-9 Overview

Let’s start with the basics. In November 1986, under the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the Federal government created Form I-9 as a way combat unauthorized work in the United States.

What is Form I-9?

Form I-9 was created as a tool for employers to document and verify the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. No matter the size of your company, all employers must complete a Form I-9 for each employee hired. For employees rehired within three years of their original termination date, only Section 3, Re-verification, needs to be completed by the employer.

The employee must attest to their work authorization in Section 1 on (or before) the first day they begin employment, and a representative from the employer must review employee-provided documents supporting work authorization and proving identity in Section 2 no later than 3 days following the employee’s date of hire.

While seemingly straightforward, Form I-9 is huge source of not only financial risk, but also legal liability. ICE audits can lead to large fines, costly lawsuits, and potential mass loss of employees.

Best Practices to Protect Your Business from ICE Audits

Educate HR Personnel

  • Ensure all staff members who are responsible for completing Form I-9 for newly hired and rehired employees are aware of time sensitive deadlines for completing the form
  • Create procedures surrounding recertification of documents for those employees on work visas that may expire
  • Utilize resources, such as I-9 Central, to review proper documentation for List A, B, and C items

Formalize Policies

  • Create clear policies outlining the company’s desire to hire only eligible employees for work in the U.S.
  • Consider implementing the use of E-Verify, an online based system used to proactively review an individual’s ability to work in the U.S.

Conduct Self-Audits

If your company has not completed a self-audit, now is the time do so. Follow these steps when reviewing your documents:

  1. Review all documents and separate all terminated employees’ Form I-9 (Note: These must be retained for a period of 3 years from date of hire or 1 year from date of termination, whichever is longer)
  2. Review Section 1 for common errors such as date of birth, signature, date of signature and attestation of authorization to work
  3. Review Section 2 for common errors such as under/over documentation, using unapproved documentation, failure to complete the section
  4. Correct any errors with a single strike-through (Note: White-outs and erasures are not acceptable corrections) (ALSO Note: Only Employees can complete edits to Section 1 and only Employers complete edits to Section 2)

This process may vary slightly with the electronic Form I-9, but the basic principles of what to look for remain the same.

Employer’s Rights

Many employers are unaware of their rights in cases when an ICE agent shows up at their place of business. Companies should consult an immigration attorney when dealing with employees on visas or individuals losing status due to the expiration of programs such as DACA. For more guidelines surrounding employer rights, check out this helpful overview from the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Be Proactive

As the country ponders over the correct legislative fix for immigration, businesses should proactively review their practices and policies to determine their level of liability in complying with State and Federal laws around hiring and work authorization. While it will not always absolve you of any problems, the proactive approach will win you some favor when it comes to formal audits and potential lawsuits.

StratEx HR clients can reach out directly to their HR Account Manager with any questions on this topic.