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  • I just watched an interesting webinar from the Better Business Bureau on the 5 Gestures of Trust for employers to use when dealing with their customers.

    They are:
    Be Honest–honesty is what builds trust the most.
    Be Proactive–Anticipate what it is that our customer may want or need and then work together with them to achieve those goals.
    Be Equitable–it is not only about one party but the entire situation. We partner with our customers on their needs.
    Be Transparent–we have nothing to hide.
    Be Humble–I realize that without my customers, I would not stay in business. I strive to do right by my customers and to treat them with the best customer service that I can provide.

    What makes consumers trust businesses?
    Honesty/integrity/ethics/transparency. Compassion, sincerity, honesty; if you can treat your customers like this they will trust you.
    Good Reputation Built over time. Transparent fees, ethical behavior and a good reputation with your customers. History of doing the right thing, backing up your products and services.
    Good Customer Service/Quality. Providing excellent customer service will provide for this.

    So, add these items to your mission statement and then begin practicing them. You will be rewarded greatly by getting positive customer reviews!

  • Human Resources Comments Off on Pay Equity Wage Gaps

    Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

    Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men. IWPR’s report on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.

    IWPR tracks the gender wage gap over time in a series of fact sheets updated twice per year. According to our research, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take 44 years—or until 2059—for women to finally reach pay parity. For women of color, the rate of change is even slower:

    Hispanic women will have to wait until 2233 and Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay.

    IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project tracks the gender wage gap across states, by race/ethnicity and by age.

    Reasons for the gender wage gap are multi-faceted. IWPR’s research shows that, irrespective of the level of qualification, jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than jobs predominantly done by men. Women have made tremendous strides during the last few decades by moving into jobs and occupations previously done almost exclusively by men, yet during the last two decades there has been very little further progress in the gender integration of work. In some industries and occupations, like construction, there has been no progress in forty years. This persistent occupational segregation is a primary contributor to the lack of significant progress in closing the wage gap.

    Persistent pay inequality can have far-reaching economic consequences. According to a recent regression analysis of federal data by IWPR, equal pay would cut poverty among working women and their families by more than half and add $513 billion to the national economy.

    Since 1987, IWPR’s research on the gender wage gap and occupational segregation has changed the conversation on women’s pay and provided policymakers, journalists, and advocates the data they need to better inform the debate on women’s earnings.

  • Healthcare Reform Comments Off on House Replublicans introduce bill to delay ACA Taxes

    House Republicans have unveiled a set of bills that would delay some of the Affordable Care Act taxes that have bedeviled the healthcare industry.

    Most notably for health insurers, one of the bills would suspend the health insurance tax (HIT) for two years. The catch is that in 2018, the exemption will only apply to individual market, group market, Medicare Advantage and Part D plans, and insurers must provide the plan holder with a premium rebate. In 2019, though, the bill would delay the tax for all insurers.

    The HIT has long been opposed by the health insurance industry, which lobbied successfully to have Congress pass a one-year moratorium on the tax for 2017. One analysis predicted that the tax’s return in 2018 will raise premiums by an average of 2.6%.

    Another bill introduced by House GOP lawmakers would implement a one-year delay of the Cadillac tax on high-cost employer health plans. It would also give employers “three years of retroactive relief and one year of prospective relief“ from the ACA mandate that they provide health insurance to their employees—a provision that complements Republicans’ push to repeal the individual mandate in their tax overhaul legislation.

    The rest of the bills would implement a five-year delay on the medical device tax, enact a two-year delay on the tax on over-the-counter medications, and suspend the HIT for two years for health plans regulated by Puerto Rico, according to an announcement from the Ways and Means Committee.

    “As we continue working toward a patient-centered healthcare system, Ways and Means Republicans are taking action to provide targeted relief from taxes that stand in the way of affordable healthcare, innovative treatments, access to medications, more jobs and bigger paychecks for hardworking Americans,” said Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas.

    A spokeswoman for the committee told Reuters that the bills wouldn’t be included in the GOP’s broader tax overhaul bill. A more likely vehicle would be Congress’ year-end spending bill, but attaching them to that legislation could prove challenging because Republicans will need Democrats’ support.

    In fact, some Republicans’ resistance to delaying the Cadillac tax had reportedly been a sticking point in behind-the-scenes negotiations with Democrats—with some suggesting the GOP wants to keep the tax in play as leverage to boost future efforts to limit the tax-exempt status of employer plans.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on Dementia: A Public Health Concern with Personal, Occupational Consequences

    As a public health concern projected to gain momentum in the coming decades, Alzheimer’s disease presents substantial consequences not only for individuals and families but also within the larger American workforce. Alzheimer’s—along with other forms of dementia—therefore demands attention today and into the future.

    Statistics indicate that dementia is on track to present a host of complications for the U.S. healthcare landscape. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s in 2013, and as many as 14 million are projected to suffer from the disease in 2050. Alzheimer’s is among the top ten leading causes of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death for those aged 65-85. Finally, Alzheimer’s is costly: the disease incurred estimated costs between $159 and $215 billion nationwide in 2010, an amount that could rise to as much as $500 billion annually by 2040. [i]

    With dementia expected to strike millions of additional people in the coming years, experts anticipate wide-ranging effects not only on the individual level but also in the workplace.

    Defining Alzheimer’s
    Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, a degenerative neurological disorder that affects memory and cognitive function. The anatomic hallmark of Alzheimer’s can be found in the plaques and tangles that form in the brain, particularly in areas associated with memory. According to CDC, initial symptoms may include memory loss, getting lost, repeating questions, taking longer to complete daily tasks, displaying poor judgment, losing or misplacing things and mood or personality changes. While Alzheimer’s is not the only form of dementia, it is the most common type, representing up to 80 percent of all cases.

    As researchers continue to learn about Alzheimer’s, many questions surrounding the disease’s causes, risk factors and treatments persist. Lawrence Raymond, MD, Medical Director, HEALTHWORKS Division, Carolinas HealthCare System, cites a host of potential risk factors, some of which are still in the early stages of research. Risk factors might include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of education, alcohol consumption or traumatic brain injury. Some studies suggest that hearing loss, proton pump inhibitors (heartburn medication) or exposure to air pollution might be connected to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, as well.

    But by far, the most significant risk factor is age.

    “If you’re over 65, you’re at risk,” Dr. Raymond says. “And if you have a family history of someone who developed dementia younger, say in their fifties, then it’s all the more important to get on the preventive bandwagon as soon as possible.”

    Postponing Alzheimer’s
    The stark reality is that doctors are unable to prevent, cure or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. As Dr. Raymond points out, it may be more realistic to focus on postponing the disease’s development.

    “There is no drug on the market that prevents Alzheimer’s,” he says. “Currently, medications are being prescribed with the hope of postponing development of more severe dementia over the course of the next five years [in a patient’s life]. We’re not likely to come up with a medication to prevent Alzheimer’s entirely anytime soon, so the goal is to delay the manifestations of severe dementia.”

    Preventive methods include maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and remaining mentally engaged. The possible link between hearing loss and increased dementia risk suggests that in the workplace, employers must ensure employees wear hearing protection in noisy environments.

    While there’s no question that Alzheimer’s disease is devastating on the personal level, it also has the potential to make a big impact on the U.S. workforce.

    The Alzheimer’s-Employment Conundrum
    Longer life expectancies, combined with a projected rise of Alzheimer’s diagnoses, and the fact that many workers are either retiring later or not at all, suggest that the future occupational landscape may be altered by this public health issue.

    “Workers are increasingly staying on the job after age 65, and that’s when dementia tends to rear its head,” Dr. Raymond explains. “Perhaps they transition to a new career later in life, or maybe they simply stay in their current job. Either way, to be an employer of choice, you need to make this issue your concern.”

    That doesn’t mean employers have free rein to pry into their workers’ personal health. If employers issue cognitive screenings or medical exams, for example, they must apply them consistently to all employees, not just those above a certain age. And as with any potential health problem, Dr. Raymond stresses the concern should always be the worker’s performance, not the specifics surrounding a possible illness.

    “If it’s a performance issue—if the worker’s language fluency or memory seems affected—take action on the performance,” he explains. “It’s not your right to know their diagnosis.”

    If a worker begins to exhibit cognitive impairment consistent with dementia symptoms, employers may refer workers to the employee assistance program (EAP) or a physician. Employers should also make reasonable accommodations, such as narrowing the scope of responsibility, in an effort to keep the worker on the job and professionally engaged. And because those suffering from the early stages of dementia may be more likely to get injured on the job, it’s vital that employers pay attention and make appropriate accommodations.

    Dementia also impacts the workplace indirectly. While an employee might not suffer from Alzheimer’s herself, she may be a caretaker to a parent, spouse or other loved one suffering from the disease. Caring for Alzheimer’s patients is physically and emotionally taxing, and proactive employers will recognize that these workers may require support. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one option, but employers can go beyond that by creating a support group for these employees or otherwise recognizing the demands of caretaking.

    The implications of Alzheimer’s disease are complex and far-reaching. While individuals can take preventive steps to safeguard their own health, employers should pledge to remain aware and prepared to handle the issue.

    “A good employer should have a vested interest in a workforce’s brain health,” Dr. Raymond says. “Anything you do to make these workers feel supported can help.”

  • Human Resources Comments Off on If an Employee Attends a Beyonce Concert While on FMLA Leave, Can She Be Terminated?

    By Jeff Nowak on September 14, 2017
    Posted in Abuse of FMLA leave
    All the single ladies . . . all the single ladies . . .

    Now put your hands up, oh, oh, oh . . .

    Imagine marketing director, Michelle, jamming to this Beyonce song in the middle of AT&T Stadium in Dallas. On that very day, however, she’s supposed to be recuperating at home after suffering a panic attack at work.

    Days earlier, Michelle had been given a performance improvement plan (PIP) to address her poor performance. By all accounts, she deserved it, since she struggled with the volume of the work required for her position. Although Michelle agreed that she could not keep up and her performance was deficient, she didn’t think she deserved a PIP.

    Upon receiving the PIP, Michelle immediately left work. The next day, she called off, reporting that she was “not well to return back to work” and would be filing for short-term disability benefits. Less than one week later, however, Michelle was spotted at a Beyonce concert – in her employer’s corporate sky box.

    I’m not kidding.

    When word spread that Michelle was at the concert, Michelle’s boss left her a voicemail, asking to discuss why Michelle thought was appropriate to attend the concert when she was not working. Michelle responded by email that she had not been released by her doctor to meet and that as soon as she was released, she would be willing to meet.

    Her boss responded by email, giving her a deadline to respond by later that day. When Michelle failed to respond, she was terminated for three reasons: poor work performance, her attendance at the concert while on leave, and her failure to respond to her boss’ inquiries. As the story goes, Michelle sued her employer, claiming it interfered with her FMLA leave and retaliated against her for taking leave.

    ‘Cause if you liked work, then you shouldn’t have taken leave
    If you liked work, then you shouldn’t have taken leave
    Don’t be mad once you get yourself canned
    If you liked work, then you shouldn’t have taken leave
    Oh, oh, oh
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

    Insights for Employers

    With Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” playing in the background, I’m sure, the court quickly dismissed Michelle’s FMLA claims, finding that her employer had an honest suspicion that she was abusing leave, and her failure to respond to her boss’ inquiries could only lead the employer to conclude that she was indeed taking leave for reasons having nothing to do with the FMLA. Jackson v. BNSF (pdf)

    Michelle’s missteps actually provide some helpful practical pointers for employers:

    1. You can require your employees to respond to your reasonable inquiries while they are on leave. Employers often are gun shy about conducting workplace investigations or taking disciplinary action against an employee while the employee is on FMLA leave. This approach is understandable, as employers are worried about the appearance of retaliation because the employee may claim (as she did here) that the employer took action on the heels of an employee’s request for FMLA leave.

    Yet, this court decision is an endorsement to carry on with your internal investigations and disciplinary measures so long as you can show that you would have done the same absent any request for FMLA leave.

    2. You CAN Terminate Employee Who Fail to Communicate with you while on leave. Similarly, employers feel paralyzed to take any action against an employee while they remain on leave.

    Stop feeling powerless!

    What I love about this court decision is that it reaffirms the principle that the employer was well within its right to terminate Michelle’s employment after she failed to communicate with the employer. The court got it right — when an employee fails to communicate with their employer, they suffer the consequences.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on School Activities Leave: Are You Required to Provide It?

    With the school year starting, employees may ask for time off so they can attend their child’s school play, parent-teacher conference, or other school-related activities. While no federal law requires employers to provide time off for these reasons, currently, eight states and the District of Columbia do. Here is a brief summary of these laws:

    California | District of Columbia | Illinois | Massachusetts | Minnesota | Nevada | North Carolina | Rhode Island | Vermont | Other States


    Covered employers: Employers with 25 or more employees at the same location must provide leave for employees to attend school activities. In addition, all employers must grant unpaid time off for employees to attend disciplinary meetings at their child’s school or child care facility.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 40 hours per calendar year to visit a child’s school or licensed child care provider to:
    Find, enroll, or re-enroll a child (not to exceed eight hours in any given month);
    Participate in their child’s activities (not to exceed eight hours in any given month);
    Address an emergency.
    There is no limit on the amount of time an employee can take for a conference to discuss their child’s suspension.

    Rules: Employees must generally use accrued vacation or personal leave during the absence and provide reasonable advance notice. Employers may require documentation.

    District of Columbia:

    Covered employers: All D.C. employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 24 hours of leave during a 12-month period to attend or participate in a school-related event for a child, including performances, meetings with a teacher or counselor, or similar activities.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid, unless the employee elects to use accrued vacation or other paid time off.
    Rules: Employees must provide at least 10 days’ advance notice when the need for leave is foreseeable.


    Covered employers: Employers with 50 or more employees.
    Employee eligibility: The employee must have worked for the company for at least six consecutive months.
    Leave entitlement: Up to eight hours per school year (not to exceed four hours in any given day) to attend school conferences or classroom activities if the conference or classroom activities cannot be scheduled during non-work hours.
    Pay: The employee must use accrued vacation or other paid time off, if available. Otherwise, the leave is unpaid. Employers must generally make a good-faith effort to allow employees to make up time missed during the same workweek.
    Rules: Generally, employees must provide at least seven days’ written notice of the need for leave.


    Covered employers: All Massachusetts employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 24 hours of leave during a 12-month period to participate in a child’s school activities. Under the same law, employers must also provide time off for a child’s doctor or dentist appointment, or an elder relative’s doctor, dentist, or other appointment related to their care.
    Rules: An employee may elect, or the employer may require, the employee to use paid vacation, personal leave, medical or sick leave during the absence. If the need for leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide seven days’ notice. Employers may require documentation.


    Covered employers: All Minnesota employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 16 hours during any 12 month period to attend school conferences or school activities or to observe or monitor pre-kindergarten or special education programs.
    Employee eligibility: The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months immediately preceding the request.
    Rules: An employee may use accrued vacation or other paid time off for the absence.


    Covered employers: Employers with 50 or more employees. However, all employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against individuals who appear at a conference requested by a school administrator or who are notified during work of an emergency regarding their child.
    Leave entitlement: Up to four hours per school year per child at a public school to:
    Attend school-related activities and parent-teacher conferences;
    Volunteer or otherwise be involved at the school during regular school hours; and
    Attend school-sponsored events.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid.
    Rules: The employer may require the employee to provide up to five days’ written notice and the leave must be at a time mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee. Employers may also require documentation.

    North Carolina:

    Covered employers: All North Carolina employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to four hours of unpaid leave per year for school activities.
    Rules: The leave must be at a time mutually agreed upon by the employer and employee. Additionally, the employer may require at least 48 hours’ written notice, along with verification from the school.

    Rhode Island:

    Covered employers: Employers with 50 or more employees.
    Employee eligibility: Employees must work an average of 30 or more hours per week and be employed by the employer for 12 consecutive months.
    Leave entitlement: Up to ten hours of leave during any 12 month period to attend school conferences and activities.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid; however, an employee may substitute accrued vacation or other paid time off.
    Rules: The employee must provide 24 hours’ advance notice and make a reasonable effort to schedule leave so it does not unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.


    Covered employers: Employers with 15 or more employees working an average of 30 or more hours per week.
    Employee eligibility: Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least one year, averaging at least 30 hours per week.
    Leave entitlement: Up to four hours in any 30-day period (not to exceed 24 hours in 12 months) for employees to attend school activities and attend to certain other family matters, such as accompanying family members to medical, dental, and other appointments related to their care and well-being.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid; however an employee may elect to use accrued vacation or other paid time off.
    Rules: The employee must provide at least seven days’ notice, except in the case of an emergency, and the employee must make a reasonable attempt to schedule appointments outside of regular work hours.

    Other States:

    Louisiana, Oregon, and Tennessee encourage, but do not require employers to provide school activities leave. For instance, Louisiana’s law states that employers may offer employees up to 16 hours of leave for school-related purposes. Note that Louisiana has specific requirements related to substitution of paid leave for those that offer school-activities leave voluntarily.


    If you have employees in one of the above states, review your state law in full to determine whether the provisions apply to your employees and to confirm that your policies comply. In states without these requirements, employers may want to consider providing such leave voluntarily in order to help employees balance their work and personal responsibilities.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on Why Employees Decline to Move

    Employees appear to have been a little more willing to relocate in 2009 than they were the previous year. More than half (56 percent) of responding firms saw employees decline relocations compared to 65 percent in 2008. For the second year in a row, housing/mortgage concerns surpassed family issues/ties as the No. 1 reason for refusing relocation. Seventy-seven percent of respondents cited housing concerns, including worries about selling a home, as the reason for declining relocation.

    However, 66 percent of firms responding offered employees incentives to encourage relocations, with relocation bonuses, loss-on-sale protection, cost-of-living adjustments and extended duplicate/temporary housing benefits rounding out the top four methods used. In 2009, extending duplicate/temporary housing benefits jumped to the most popular perk, with 69 percent of firms offering this incentive. So successful were these incentives that 90 percent of companies said they “almost always” or “frequently” convinced an employee to relocate. Forty-five percent of companies also help an employee’s spouse find work in a new location.

    Reference: HR.com, Why Employees Decline to move.

  • Federal Guidance, Human Resources Comments Off on SHRM Proposing new regulation on sick and paid leave

    SHRM is working with representative, Mimi Walters, CA, to propose a devised regulation that would meet all of the state and local mandated sick and paid leave that states are now drawing up. This regulation would allow:
    Employers that choose to participate by offering a minimum threshold of paid leave and a flexible work option to all employees will automatically satisfy all state and local requirements.

    Amends ERISA, providing participating employers flexibility and predictability in designing workplace flexibility offerings, rather than a patchwork of conflicting government mandates.

    The bill would amend ERISA by adding to the definition of an ERISA plan a “Qualified Flexible Work Arrangement Plan” (QFWA)
    1.Employer voluntarily chooses to offer a QFWA Plan to their employees
    To qualify as a QFWA Plan, employer would have to offer two major components to ALL employees:
    A. Paid Leave – the number of days would be scaled to the size of the employer and an eligible employee’s tenure with the employer
    B. Flexible Work Arrangement – the employer would offer at least one flexible work arrangement to each eligible employee

    Find below the Federally proposed regulations:
    1.Working Families Flexibility Act (S. 801/H.R.1180) – compensatory time accrues at a rate of 1½ times the employee’s regular rate of each hour worked over 40 hours.
    Allowing employees to accrue up to 160 hours of comp time

    Bills to mandate paid leave introduced in new Congress, but action unlikely

    2. Healthy Families Act (S.636/H.R. 1516) – Requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave

    3. FAMILY Act (S. 397/H.R. 947) – Creates a paid family leave insurance fund through a payroll tax to provide partial wage replacement for FMLA qualifying events.

    This is an important topic in Congress right now and by voting for the SHRM proposal, you are electing the ERISA safe harbor plan, which means you meet all state and local regulations. Please be on the lookout for the SHRM proposal and support it by voting for it. By having to adhere to each state’s and local’s laws, would be cumbersome and an administrative nightmare. But by voting for SHRM’s proposal, we would all be lending a hand to making one law to be followed.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on 10 Myths about the Hiring Process

    The steps you take during the hiring process can mean the difference between a productive quality hire and a costly bad hire. To help ensure an effective process, avoid these 10 hiring myths:

    Myth #1: To save time and resources, it’s a good idea to automatically exclude candidates with a felony conviction.
    Fact: Blanket policies barring candidates with criminal convictions may violate federal, state, and local laws and can disproportionately affect minorities and other protected groups. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that an employer cannot simply disregard any applicant who has been convicted of a crime. Instead, employers should evaluate how the specific criminal conduct relates to the duties of a particular position. When making this assessment, consider a variety of factors, such as the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense, the timing of the offense, the number of offenses for which the individual was convicted, rehabilitation efforts, and employment or character references.

    Myth #2: Relying on one recruiting method, as long as it’s worked in the past, is a great strategy.
    Fact: Relying on one recruiting method, even if it’s worked for you in the past, could limit the quality and diversity of your applicant pool and increase the time it takes to fill the open role. Consider a mix of recruiting methods that fit your budget, including online job boards and referrals. For highly specialized roles, consider industry organizations or use a professional recruiting firm.

    Myths #3: Bans on asking about salary history are a trend I don’t need to worry about.
    Fact: Some jurisdictions, including Massachusetts (effective July 1, 2018) and New York City (effective October 31, 2017), have enacted laws that restrict employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history during the hiring process. Other jurisdictions are considering similar laws, since pay history may reflect discriminatory pay practices of a previous employer, which could lead to lower wages in the new job. If you are subject to these restrictions, remove salary history questions from your application form and train your managers not to ask about an applicant’s pay history during the pre-employment process.

    Myth #4: If we have a candidate’s resume, we don’t need their application, since they’re basically the same thing.
    Fact: Even if a candidate has provided a resume, he or she should also be required to submit an employment application. An application can reveal job-related information that the candidate may have excluded from their resume, such as the reason for leaving their former jobs. Additionally, applications allow you to collect relevant information in a standardized way, making it easier to compare candidates to one another and identify any potential discrepancies between the information provided in the resume and the application.

    Myth #5: We can’t compete for candidates with other employers that pay more.
    Fact: Candidates look at a wide variety of factors when determining whether to accept job offers. Even if your company is unable to offer the highest wages, consider a total compensation package that includes a mix of both direct compensation (wages, salaries, commissions, and bonuses) and indirect compensation (health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, etc.). Some job seekers may also place a greater emphasis on flexibility or professional development, so if you can offer flexible work schedules, telecommuting, or other perks, this could help you recruit more employees.

    Myth #6: Interviews are a waste of time.
    Fact: Even though interviews aren’t always easy, they can uncover important job-related information beyond what’s provided in the candidate’s resume or application. When used effectively, interviews can help you identify how candidates have handled situations in the past that are similar to what they would experience on the job. They also provide an opportunity for the candidate to clarify and expand upon the information on their resume or application. Preparing for and conducting interviews can take time, so be sure the candidate meets the minimum qualifications for the job by carefully reviewing their resume and employment application. Also, consider conducting a phone interview before bringing candidates in for a formal interview.

    Myth #7: We aren’t required to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. We only have to worry about that after they’re hired.
    Fact: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and similar state laws, applicants with a disability may require a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process in order to have an equal opportunity to be considered for a job. For example, an otherwise qualified individual with a sight-related disability may need to take a written test in an alternative format, such as in large print, or may need a reader, in order to have the same opportunity to apply for the position. The ADA requires reasonable accommodations during the hiring process even if providing an accommodation on the job would create a hardship for your business.

    Myth #8: We need to wait for the perfect candidate.
    Fact: Ideally, you will have several strong candidates with many of the skills, knowledge, and attributes you seek. While there is no such thing as the perfect applicant, your job is to determine the best fit for the open position. If you have difficulty filling a position, you may need to reevaluate your criteria. Perhaps there isn’t an exact match for the skills you need but maybe there are candidates with related skills and on-the-job training could fill in any gaps.

    Myth #9: Rejection letters are passé.
    Fact: Sending rejection letters is still considered a best practice to help maintain goodwill with applicants. This can be important if your needs change and you want to tap into former applicants for future openings or if someone ever asks the candidate about their experience applying for a job at your company. Once you have disqualified a candidate, inform him or her of your decision in writing.

    Myth #10: If you make a verbal offer to a candidate, there is no need for a written offer letter.
    Fact: While some employers choose to gauge the candidate’s interest by first extending a verbal offer, it’s a best practice to follow up with a formal written offer. A written offer should include the job title, supervisor, location, work hours, starting pay, an abbreviated summary of benefits, and a statement that the offer letter is not an employment contract. Additionally, if applicable, clearly list any contingencies that could lead to withdrawal of the offer, such as results of a background check, drug testing, references, and/or the individual’s inability to demonstrate work eligibility.
    Following misguided hiring advice can make the process more time consuming and costly. Make sure you have an effective hiring process that complies with federal, state, and local laws.

  • Healthcare Reform Comments Off on The Future Of The Affordable Care Act Week 8: An Employer’s Guide To The Collapse Of The American Health Care Act (Spoiler Alert—The News Is Not All Bad)

    By Alden Bianchi & Edward Lenz on March 28, 2017
    The stunning failure of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) (which we previously reported on here) has political and policy implications that we cannot forecast. Nor is it clear to us whether or when the Trump administration and Congress will make another effort to repeal and replace, or whether Republicans will seek Democratic support in an effort to “repair,” the Affordable Care Act (ACA). And we are similarly unable to predict whether and to what extent the AHCA’s provisions can be achieved through executive rulemaking or policy guidance. The purpose of this post is not to assess why the AHCA failed, or to speculate on the outcome of any future legislative efforts to repeal and replace the ACA, but rather to offer some thoughts about how the AHCA’s failure will impact employers in the near term. As our title suggests, the news may not be all that bad.

    Immediate Impact on Employers

    Employers were not a major focus of the architects of the ACA, nor were they a major focus of those who crafted the AHCA. This is not surprising. These laws address health care systems and structures, especially health care financing. Rightly or wrongly, employers have not been viewed by policymakers as major stakeholders on those issues. In a blog post published at the end of 2014, we made the following observations:

    The ACA sits atop a major tectonic plate of the U.S. economy, nearly 18% of which is health care-related. Health care providers, commercial insurance carriers, and the vast Medicare/Medicaid complex are the law’s primary stakeholders. They, and their local communities, have much to lose or gain depending on how health care financing is regulated. The ACA is the way it is largely because of them. Far more than any other circumstance, including which political party controls which branch of government, it is the interests of the ACA’s major stakeholders that determine the law’s future. And there is no indication whatsoever that, from the perspective of these entities, the calculus that drove the ACA’s enactment has changed. U.S. employers, even the largest employers among them, are bit players in this drama. They have little leverage, so they are relegated to complying and grumbling (not necessarily in that order).

    With the AHCA’s collapse, the ACA remains the law of the land for the foreseeable future. The AHCA would have zeroed out the penalties on “applicable large” employers that fail to make qualified offers of health coverage, but the bill’s failure leaves the ACA’s “play or pay” rules in full force and effect. The ACA’s reporting rules, which the AHCA would not have changed, also remain in effect. This means, among other things, that many employers, especially those with large numbers of part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers that face unique compliance challenges, will continue to be in the position of “complying and grumbling.”

    This does not mean that nothing has changed. The leadership of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and Treasury has changed, and these agencies are now likely to be more employer-friendly. Thus, even though the ACA is still the law, the regulatory tone and tenor may well be different. For example, although the current complex employer reporting rules will remain in effect, the Treasury and IRS might find administrative ways to simplify them. Similarly, any regulations issued under the ACA’s non-discrimination provisions applicable to insured health plans (assuming they are issued at all) likely will be more favorable to employers than those issued under the previous administration.

    There are also unanticipated consequences of the AHCA’s failure that employers might applaud. We can think of at least two.

    Stemming the anticipated tide of new state “play or pay” laws
    The continuation of the ACA’s employer mandate likely will put on hold consideration by state and local governments of their own “play or pay” laws.

    In anticipation of the repeal of the ACA’s employer mandate, the Governor of Massachusetts recently introduced a budget proposal that would reinstate mandated employer contributions to help cover the costs of increased enrollment in the Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as MassHealth. Under the proposal, employers with 11 or more full-time equivalent employees would have to offer full-time employees a minimum of $4,950 toward the cost of an employer group health plan, or make an annual contribution in lieu of coverage of $2,000 per full-time equivalent employee. While the Governor’s proposal is not explicitly conditioned on repeal of the ACA’s employer mandate, the ACA’s survival may prompt a reconsideration of that approach.

    California lawmakers were also considering ACA replacement proposals, including a single-payer bill introduced last month by Democratic state senators Ricardo Lara and Toni Atkins. Had the ACA’s employer mandate been repealed, those proposals were likely just the tip of an iceberg. When the ACA was enacted in 2010, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and San Francisco were the only jurisdictions with their own health care mandates on the books. But in the prior two-year period, before President Obama was elected and made health care reform his top domestic priority, more than two dozen states had introduced various “fair share” health care reform bills aimed at employers.

    Most of the state and local “play or pay” proposals would have required employers to pay a specified percentage of their payroll, or a specified dollar amount, for health care coverage. Some required employers to pay employees a supplemental hourly “health care” wage in addition to their regular wages or provide health benefits of at least equal value. California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin considered single-payer proposals.

    To be sure, any state or local “play or pay” mandates would be subject to challenge based on Federal preemption under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). While some previous “play or pay” laws were invalidated under ERISA (e.g., Maryland), others (i.e., San Francisco) were not. In sum, given the failure of the AHCA, there would appear to be no rationale, at least for now, for any new state or local “play or pay” laws to go forward.

    Avoiding upward pressure on employer premiums as a result of Medicaid reforms
    The AHCA proposed to reform Medicaid by giving greater power to the states to administer the Medicaid program. Under an approach that caps Medicaid spending, the law would have provided for “per capita allotments” and “block grants.” Under either approach, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), in its scoring of the AHCA, predicted that far fewer individuals would be eligible for Medicaid. According to the CBO:

    CBO and JCT estimate that enacting the legislation would reduce federal deficits by $337 billion over the 2017-2026 period. That total consists of $323 billion in on-budget savings and $13 billion in off-budget savings. Outlays would be reduced by $1.2 trillion over the period, and revenues would be reduced by $0.9 trillion. The largest savings would come from reductions in outlays for Medicaid and from the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) subsidies for nongroup health insurance.

    (Emphasis added).

    While employers rarely pay attention to Medicaid, the AHCA gave them a reason to do so. Fewer Medicaid-eligible individuals would mean more uncompensated care—a significant portion of the costs of which would likely be passed on to employers in the form of higher premiums. As long as the ACA’s expanded Medicaid coverage provisions remain in place, premium pressure on employers will to that extent be avoided.

    Long-Term Impact on Employers

    As we conceded at the beginning of this post, it’s not clear how the Republican Congress and the Administration will react to the AHCA’s failure. If the elected representatives of both political parties are inclined to try to make the current system work, however, we can think of no better place that the prescriptions contained in a report by the American Academy of Actuaries, entitled An Evaluation of the Individual Health Insurance Market and Implications of Potential Changes. (We reported on this paper in an earlier post.)

    The actuaries’ report does not of course address, much less resolve, the major policy differences between the ACA and the AHCA over the role of government—in particular, the extent to which taxpayers should be called on to fund the health care costs of low-and moderate-income individuals, and whether U.S. citizens should be required to maintain health coverage or pay a penalty. And even if lawmakers can reach consensus on those contentious issues, they still would have to agree on the proper implementing mechanisms. But whatever the outcome, employers are unlikely to play a major role.

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