Employing Workers with Student Debt? Bipartisan Bill Could Help.

$1.5 Trillion-that is with a T.  That is the amount of student debt currently owed by more than 40 million Americans, about 70% of whom are college graduates.  One in ten borrowers are at least 90 days delinquent on their loans.  No wonder economists and others believe it may be the next big bubble to burst.

With this in mind, members of Congress recently proposed a new bipartisan bill that would allow employers to pay down thousands of dollars a year tax-free toward employees’ student loan debt. Modeled after 401k retirement savings plans, the bill permits as much as $10,000 per year in tax-free contributions towards employees’ student loan debt. If the bill passes, it might be a first step toward alleviating a major obstacle for college graduates. Continue Reading

Employers Need To Deny This Employee Request: “Please Don’t Tell Anyone, But My Supervisor . . .”

HR folks – Have you ever had an employee tell you that he or she is being unlawfully harassed by a co-worker, but then begged you to keep the complaint confidential? Most often, employees ask their employers not to investigate their concerns because of embarrassment or fear of retribution.  Employers who honor such employee confidentiality requests, however, do so at their own peril.

When an employee claims unlawful harassment, three common employer reactions may occur. First, HR will agree with an employee’s request to keep the entire complaint confidential and not investigate.  Second, HR may decide to investigate anyway, but promise the employee “complete” confidentiality during the investigation.  Third, if the investigation determines that the employee was unlawfully harassed, HR may decide to discipline the harasser and not notify the employee of the disciplinary decision.  Are any of these decisions correct?   Short answer- No. Continue Reading

New Developments on Temporary Protected Status and Work Authorization

Over the past several months, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has terminated temporary protected status (TPS) designation for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti and El Salvador. The citizens of these countries in TPS will lose their work authorization and the right to remain in the United States.  A federal court in California recently entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting the termination of TPS for these countries.  On October 31, DHS issued a Notice in the Federal Register to comply with the preliminary injunction.

Individuals in TPS designations for Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador will retain their TPS designation while the preliminary injunction is in effect. In addition, DHS has automatically extended the employment authorization documents (EAD) of TPS beneficiaries from Sudan and Nicaragua through April 2, 2019.  The automatic extension through April 2, 2019 applies to nationals of Sudan and Nicaragua provided:

  1. Their EAD has the Category Code A-12 or C-19.
  2. Their EAD has an expiration date of 11/02/2017, 01/05/2018, 11/02/2018, or 01/05/2019.

Continue Reading

Is Your Office Halloween Party Frightening The HR Department?

Halloween office parties can be very scary-

HR folks need to be particularly wary.

Provocative costumes are a big “no no”;

Policy violators may receive the heave ho.

 

I guess my feeble attempt at poetry left some folks howling at the moon.

Halloween is just two days away, which means we’re all one inappropriate costume away from Halloween becoming the ultimate HR nightmare. To avoid your workplace becoming a house of horrors this Halloween, check out my spooktacular Halloween blog here.

Recruiting with Technology? Don’t Forget the “Human” in Human Resources

The public is generally familiar with the fact that Amazon.com, Google and other technology companies use computer programs and artificial intelligence to predict consumer behavior – think about the pop-up ads that seem targeted just to your interests. However, we recently learned that artificial intelligence (AI) recruiting tools may not be as robust in the hiring process.  Amazon recently abandoned its effort to use an AI recruiting system.  Amazon’s goal was to design computer programs that could instantly pick top talent from a pool of resumes. But the technology fell flat because it seemed, unintentionally, to favor male applicants.

The recruiting tool’s suspected gender bias stemmed from Amazon’s previous 10 years of hiring practices. The computer program examined successful resumes of a historically male dominated industry. As a result, it unwittingly penalized resumes with previously rare terms like “women’s” and downgraded graduates of all-women’s colleges. While the company used the recruiting engine to search for new hires, it never solely relied on its rankings. Ultimately, after losing hope for a gender and race neutral solution, executives scrapped the project. Continue Reading

Florida’s Minimum Wage: What Goes Up, Will Keep Going Up

2019 Florida Minimum Wage to Increase to $8.46 Per Hour

 

On January 1, 2019, Florida’s minimum wage will increase from $8.25 per hour to $8.46 per hour. This adjustment is based on the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers in the South Region. For a full-time Florida employee (working 2080 hours), the increase equates to $436.80 more in wages per year. The 21-cent increase was based on the Consumer Price Index rising just over 2.5% from August 2017 to August 2018.

Restaurant and hotel employers who take a tip credit, may still take up to a $3.02 per hour tip credit against the new minimum wage. That means that starting January 1, 2019, tipped employees must receive at least $5.44 per hour in direct wages.

Here’s something else to keep in mind, Florida employers must remember to replace their current Florida minimum wage poster with the updated poster reflecting the new minimum wage on January 1, 2019. Posters can be found here in EnglishSpanish, and Creole.

You Fire Your HR Manager for Encouraging Employees to Sue. No Problem, right? Think Again.

Imagine this. You hire an HR manager to investigate and resolve internal employee complaints.  You later learn that instead of doing her job, the HR manager is encouraging employees to file Charges of Discrimination and even referring employees to “her” lawyer.  During this time period, the HR manager also files her own Charge. You can fire the HR manager, right?  Well, only if you want to buy yourself a retaliation claim.

This was the fact pattern of a case recently decided by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals – which is the appellate court governing Florida, Alabama and Georgia.  In Gogel v. Kia Motors Mfg. of Georgia, Inc., the employer argued that the HR manager’s role was to investigate and resolve internal employee disputes, and by encouraging employees to pursue litigation, the manager failed to perform a core function of her position. Continue Reading

Political Out Of The Box Thinking On “Ban The Box”

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (and Democratic nominee for Florida Governor) about some areas of importance to him.  One of those is an issue called “Ban the Box.”

Ban the Box is a proposal that 33 states and 150 municipalities (including Tallahassee) across the country have adopted in some fashion. Ban the Box legislation requires the removal of inquiries on an employment application form about an applicant’s criminal background.  It delays the disclosure of this information until after the applicant has had an opportunity to interview with the prospective employer.  The goal is to give an applicant an opportunity to demonstrate that he/she can meet the requirements of a job and not be automatically denied consideration because of his/her criminal background. Continue Reading

This Is Important: Employers Need To Immediately Update Their FCRA “Summary Of Rights” Form

Effective September 21, 2018, employers who use outside agencies (consumer reporting agencies) to conduct employee background checks must use a new (and revised)  “A Summary of your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act” form. This updated form is one of the many notices employers must provide under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. The new form is available here in English and here in Spanish.

The new form adds information about an individual’s right to place a “security freeze” on his/her background information (limiting who gets such information). It also advises of the alternative right to place a “fraud alert” on his/her credit file, all at no cost to the individual. 

This change is a result of federal legislation passed in May in response to highly publicized data breaches.  Its goal is also to better protect individuals against identity theft. 

The new legislation does not limit an employer’s ability to perform background checks or otherwise change how those checks are conducted. However, failure to provide individuals with the new form could expose employers to class action litigation and claims for damages and attorneys’ fees.  Some might argue that requiring employers to use this new form (over the old form) is “form over substance”.  Time and future litigation will tell. As many of you already know there has been an uptick in the filing of these types of claims nationwide.  

For those employers who have not already done so, this might also be a good time to have all of your background check forms and procedures reviewed to ensure that you are complying with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

 

Kiwis Will Have the Protection of Paid Domestic Violence Leave. What About Floridians?

In April 2019, New Zealand employers will be required to provide victims of domestic violence 10 days of paid leave. The purpose of the paid leave is to allow domestic violence victims to relocate, seek legal help, and address their trauma without fear of losing their income.

In Florida, employers (with 50 or more employees) are required to provide eligible employees (employees who have worked 3 or more months) 3 working days of unpaid domestic or sexual violence leave in any 12-month period. The leave provides the victims with some level of support or flexibility. However, the employer can require the employee to first exhaust all vacation leave, personal leave, and sick leave before taking the 3 days. Additionally, the leave may be paid or unpaid, at the employer’s discretion. To learn more details about the statute’s requirements read our own Lisa Berg’s blog post. Continue Reading

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