What Small Businesses Need to Know about this new round of PPP

On December 27, 2020, President Trump approved a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill.

In it, Congress appropriates funds to help small businesses, nonprofits, and venues that continue to be hit hard by the impact of COVID-19 through The Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act (the “Act”).  The Act provides assistance to small businesses mainly by revamping the familiar Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).  The changes to PPP are many and this article does not address every update.  Rather, here are some highlights that you should know.

To continue reading, click here.

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EEOC Doesn’t Need Individual Charge to Launch Probe

EEOC Doesn’t Need Individual Charge to Launch Probe

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently published a new webpage reminding us of its authority under certain circumstances to launch a discrimination investigation even without receiving a charge from an employee or other private party.


Indeed, Congress expressly authorizes the commission (meaning its five-member governing authority) to issue a “commissioner charge” when it believes an employer is engaging in discriminatory employment practices in violation of three of the laws it enforces: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the employment provisions of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA).

To keep reading, click here. 

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Here’s the maximum you can save in your 401(k) plan in 2021

If you’re signing up for next year’s workplace 401(k) plan benefits, now is the best time to develop a strategy for increasing your savings.

Benefits season also happens to coincide with the annual IRS release of the 2021 maximum contribution limits for certain tax-advantaged accounts, including your 401(k) plan, individual retirement account and healthcare flexible spending accounts.

Uncle Sam updates these figures around this time each year to reflect inflation.

To continue reading, click here.

popdevteamHere’s the maximum you can save in your 401(k) plan in 2021
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The SBA and Treasury Department Announce Total Forgiveness For All PPP Loans Of $50,000 Or Less

If you have a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan of $50,000 or less, the SBA/Treasury Department announced the following:

  • There is now an easy loan forgiveness application for all Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans of $50,000 or less.
  • This decision streamlines the PPP forgiveness process to provide financial and administrative relief to America’s smallest businesses.
  • This decision will also allow lenders to process forgiveness applications far more swiftly.

SBA began approving PPP loan forgiveness applications and remitting forgiveness payments to PPP lenders for PPP borrowers on October 2, 2020. SBA will continue to process all PPP loan forgiveness applications in an expeditious manner.

PPP Loan Forgiveness Application.

If you have a PPP loan of $50,000 or less, we have listed several links below to use:

Get Your Loan Forgiveness Application In Soon.

Experts agree that all loan forgiveness applications should be completed as soon as possible as Form 3508S has a printed expiration date of October 31, 2020; however, a final loan forgiveness due date is not yet made public as of October 14, 2020.

popdevteamThe SBA and Treasury Department Announce Total Forgiveness For All PPP Loans Of $50,000 Or Less
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Follow DOL Guidance When Reducing Salaries During the Pandemic

The Basic Rules

Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer can generally reduce exempt employees’ regular salary for COVID-19-related reasons. However, the reduction cannot be made after the fact or based on the employer’s day-to-day or week-to-week needs, according to the DOL.

“In other words, exempt employees must be paid their predetermined salary for any workweek in which the employee provided any services,” said Lisa Reimbold, an attorney with Clark Hill in Los Angeles “As such, any pay reduction for an exempt employee can only apply to future workweeks.”

The FLSA requires most businesses to pay employees 1 1/2 times their regular hourly rate for hours worked in excess of 40 in a workweek, unless employees fall under an exemption. The most common exemptions are administrative, executive and professional, which are collectively called white-collar exemptions.

To read more, click here.

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Open Enrollment Guide & Resources

Companies are preparing to kick off open enrollment for their employees to choose their workplace benefits. Health, vision, dental, life insurance … even pet insurance may be up for grabs.

How can HR professionals best communicate with employees about their choices, when many workers are unfamiliar with the language and concepts of benefits offerings? What’s the best way to help employees through open enrollment season?

To continue reading, click here.

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Employee Social Security Tax Deferral

President Trump’s payroll tax deferral plan allows employers to suspend collection of the employee’s Social Security payroll taxes is in effect through Dec. 31. Below is a summary of the IRS issued guidance on the repayment of deferred employee Social Security taxes under President Trump’s Executive Order signed on August 8, 2020.

Employers should consider the following if you decide to partake in the tax deferral:

• Participation is optional for employers and there are no penalties for noncompliance. The tax deferral applies to employees whose wages are less than $4,000 for a biweekly pay period, including salaried workers earning less than $104,000 per year.

o Note this is figured on a pay period by pay period basis, which means an employee could qualify one pay period and not the next due to fluctuations in pay, like overtime.

• The deferral applies to wages paid starting on September 1, 2020, not wages earned. In other words, any paycheck dated September 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020, is covered.

• The deferred amounts must be collected between January 1, 2021, and April 30, 2021. If the entire amount is not recouped by May 1, 2021, interest and penalties will ensue.

• Employers can fulfill this obligation by collecting additional taxes from the workers’ paychecks early next year. Employers should explain to employees that this collection will result in smaller paychecks during the first four months of the year.

• Employers can make “arrangements” to collect the total tax due from employees. No detail is provided on what “arrangements” may be.

• If an employer chooses to suspend withholdings and an employee leaves the company before repaying the deferred taxes, the employer is still liable, but the due date is just extended to the next year.

Until further clarity on the guidance is available, employers who receive requests from employees to withhold Social Security taxes or who wish to suspend withholdings under the deferral program should first speak with their tax expert or tax attorney.

Additional information can be found here:

For further information regarding the guidance under this notice, please call the Notice 2020-65 Hotline at (202) 317-5436 (not a toll-free number).

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Phase 4 Stimulus Package: 7 Topics Still Being Debated

Politicians in Washington have begun negotiations on the next round of COVID-19 stimulus. For business owners across the country, this will be a welcome relief and more. And with the prior stimulus measures expired, Congress will meet shortly to negotiate a new package.

#1. The PPP Will Likely Continue: The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the $669 billion forgivable loan program, might continue. Secondly, all PPP loans under $150,000 or $250,000 could be automatically forgiven.

#2. Local Communities Will Get A Boost: Low-income areas, as well as minority-owned businesses, might receive $50 billion to support small business local relief funds. The Cares Act initially provided $150 billion in federal aid to state and local governments across the country, some of which went toward grant funding for local businesses.

#3. More Tax Relief: Currently, PPP monies aren’t counted as taxable income. Because of that, the IRS ruled that a business wasn’t able to deduct traditional business expenses paid by PPP funds (if the loan was forgiven). A new bill, the Small Business Expense Protection Act, was introduced that would allow a business to take these deductions.

Additionally, another bill was introduced in May, JOBS Credit Act. The proposed JOBS Credit Act would make the following changes to the CARES Act employee retention credits:

The credits currently equal 50% of up to $10,000 in qualified wages that an eligible employer pays in a calendar quarter. The JOBS Credit Act would increase the amount of the credits to 80% of up to $15,000 in qualified wages per calendar quarter with a new annual cap of $45,000 in qualified wages. The maximum credit for wages paid to any employee would, therefore, increase from $5,000 under the CARES Act to $36,000 under the increased limits of the JOBS Credit Act.

Click Here To Read About The JOBS Credit Act.

#4. Stimulus Checks Sent To Individuals: The Heroes Act passed by the House supports another round of stimulus checks that the Cares Act authorized in March for millions of taxpayers:

Individuals earning under $75,000 would get $1,200.
Married couples with less than $150,000 in adjusted gross income would get $2,400.
An additional $1,200 for up to three dependents, regardless of age.

#5. Unemployment Benefits: The Cares Act’s enhanced unemployment insurance, which offered an additional $600 per week, expired in July. To avoid the issue of employees not wanting to come back to work, many lawmakers are considering a varied dollar value to better coordinate with a state’s unemployment insurance level (replace 80% to 90% of a worker’s former wages, up to a maximum federal benefit of an additional $400 per week).

#6. $1,500 Return To Work Bonus: The Paycheck Recovery Act, proposed in mid-May, offers someone who makes less than $40,100 annually, a $1,500 rehiring bonus upon return to work.

#7. Greater Liability Protection: Certain lawmakers want to see greater liability protection for employers. Although the details are unclear, the Phase 4 bill will allow for some form of safe harbor for companies that make a good-faith effort to follow public-health guidelines.

popdevteamPhase 4 Stimulus Package: 7 Topics Still Being Debated
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The Paycheck Protection Program Application Window Has Been Extended

President Trump signed a bill Saturday, July 4, 2020, to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) application window until Saturday, August 8, 2020.

Key Highlights:

Reduced Payroll Costs Requirement: The payroll expenditure requirement of the PPP dropped to 60% (was 75%).

Longer Covered Period: PPP borrowers can use the 24-week period to restore their workforce levels and wages to the pre-COVID-19 levels required for full forgiveness. This must be done by December 31, 2020 (was previously June 30, 2020).

What Happens If Some Employees Reject Your Offer To Come Back To Work?

Short answer: It is OK as it won’t affect your forgiveness levels, but you have to meet the following qualifications:

  • You must have made a written offer to rehire in good faith (either through e-mail or a physical offer on paper).
  • You must have offered to rehire for the same salary/wage and number of hours as before they were laid off.
  • You must have documentation of the employee’s rejection of the offer (written documentation with the employee’s signature showing they rejected your offer).

You can also qualify for an exemption if any of these conditions apply to one of your employees:

  • They were were fired for cause.
  • They voluntarily resigned.
  • They voluntarily requested and received a reduction in their hours.

Do You, Or Someone You Know, Want To Apply For A PPP Loan?

If you, or someone you know, have NOT applied for your SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), you need to hurry as the new application deadline is August 8, 2020. The highlights are:

There is approximately $100 billion still remaining in PPP loan money from 5,461 lenders.

As of July 6, 2020, 4.8+ million loans have been made in both rounds of the PPP program; the total loan value exceeds $510 billion.

The average PPP loan amount is $114,000.

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COVID-19 Employer Resources and Compliance Toolkit

During these uncertain times, Miami Payroll Center is keeping up to date on all legislative and tax related responses to the COVID-19 crisis as they relate to small businesses and their employees. As additional information becomes available from related government agencies such as the Department of Labor and the IRS, this page will be updated accordingly.

On Wednesday, March 18th, the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to take effect on April 1, 2020 and will sunset on December 31, 2020. The Act provides for mandated paid emergency sick leave and paid family and medical leave for many workers. To offset wages paid under the program, employers will receive a tax credit. There are still several uncertainties, such as the timing of the credits to offset the payments required by employers. Many of the details for implementation are still unknown until individual government agencies, e.g. DOL, IRS, release their own guidance between now and April 1, 2020. As additional details are released for implementation, we will update the information on this page.

If you have specific questions as to how these changes may affect your business, please contact us at 305-273-4066.

Useful Links

COVID-19 Miami Payroll Center Published Resources

IRS Updates

The IRS has established a special section focused on steps to help taxpayers, businesses and others affected by the coronavirus. This page will be updated as new information is available.

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What your Managers need to hear about COVID-19

1. Do not ask your employees if they have COVID-19.

While you can visually see an employee coughing, sneezing, and generally feeling sick at the office and you are right to ask an employee to go home under these circumstances- remind your management team that they cannot ask an employee if they have a specific illness. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) restricts the level of questions that an employer can make into an employee’s medical conditions, and you do not want to run afoul of the ADA. You can however ask the following general health questions of an employee- (1) Are you feeling alright?, (2) Are you okay to continue to work?, or (3) Would you like to go home and get some rest?

2. Can I ask an employee to get tested for COVID-19?

No, the ADA prevents an employer from requiring an employee get a medical exam unless (1) the employer can demonstrate the medical exam is job-related, or (2) the employer has a reasonable belief the employee poses a direct threat to the health & safety of the employee or others THAT CANNOT BE ELIMINATED OR REDUCED BY REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION (reasonable accommodation in this case being sending the employee home and preventing their coming in contact with other employees).

3. You cannot take an employee’s temperature to determine if they may be infected with COVID-19.

Again the ADA comes into play, as taking an employee’s temperature or performing any other diagnostic falls under the category of a “medical examination” under the act. Its best to leave the medical exams to the doctors and other healthcare practitioners.

4. Do I have to allow an employee to wear a face mask to work?

No. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises against wearing a face mask unless an individual is sick with symptoms of the virus or is taking care of someone with the virus at home or in a health care setting.

5. One of your employees tested positive for the COVID-19, now what?

In the case you have an employee inform you that they have tested positive for the virus, it is important to send the employee AND ANY OTHER EMPLOYEES WHO THEY WORKED CLOSELY WITH home for a 14-day self-quarantine period to try and prevent further spread of the virus. Remember again that the employee’s medical diagnosis is protected health information, and that you as an employer cannot disclose their positive test results to the rest of your staff. You cannot disclose the name of the employee to anyone else at your company or you risk running afoul of confidentiality laws. Employers should inform their employees that possible exposure has occurred in the workplace without disclosing any identifying information about the individual who tested positive.

It is very important if the employee who tested positive for the virus was physically at your work site, that you take deep cleaning measures to eliminate the potential threat from all surfaces that the employee was in close contact to. If you work in a shared office space arrangement, contact management of the space and ask them if they can deep clean any shared spaces that the individual might have been in contact with.

After taking the measures above, it is imperative that you report the positive test to your local OSHA office which is attempting to track all of the COVID-19 cases. For example, positive test cases in South Florida should be reported to the Region 4 Offices of OSHA in Atlanta, GA-

Region 4
Atlanta Regional Office
(AL, FL, GA, KY*, MS, NC*, SC*, TN*)
Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth Street, SW, Room 6T50
Atlanta, GA 30303
(678) 237-0400 (678) 237-0447 Fax

If you are in another region of the country, you can find your OSHA region and contact information in the OSHA “Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19” job aid.

popdevteamWhat your Managers need to hear about COVID-19
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A note about the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is here, count on us!

Dear Valued Client:

Miami Payroll Center is committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for our employees and ensuring business continuity in service of our clients. We have implemented additional measures to ensure COVID-19 does not impact our ability to provide services and support your payroll/HR needs.

We’ve created this Miami Payroll Center_COVID-19 Information Resource Sheet for you to share with employees who may have questions about best practices for prevention and well being.

If you don’t already use our secure online portal to process payroll, contact us today to get set-up. Employees also have free access to a Self Service portal to view their information and access pay stubs. Please reach out if you need assistance getting them enrolled.

At this time we are awaiting any state updates related to unemployment or sick leave assistance that may be provided for businesses or employees due to COVID-19. We will do our best to relay any helpful information that may apply to our clients and their employees.

We will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves and will make adjustments to our plan accordingly to help keep everyone safe and healthy while continuing to provide support for your business.

Thank you again for partnering with Miami Payroll Center!

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U.S. Department of Labor issues final overtime rule

Today the U.S. Department of Labor announced a final rule to make 1.3 million American workers eligible for overtime pay under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

“For the first time in over 15 years, America’s workers will have an update to overtime regulations that will put overtime pay into the pockets of more than a million working Americans,” Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Patrick Pizzella said. “This rule brings a commonsense approach that offers consistency and certainty for employers as well as clarity and prosperity for American workers.”

“Today’s rule is a thoughtful product informed by public comment, listening sessions, and long-standing calculations,” Wage and Hour Division Administrator Cheryl Stanton remarked. “The Wage and Hour Division now turns to help employers comply and ensure that workers will be receiving their overtime pay.”

Continue Reading Here.

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How much ‘Paid Time Off’ should your company offer employees?

As summer draws to a close, have your employees taken advantage of all the paid vacation time available to them? Workers who don’t take sufficient time off can suffer from stress and burnout, making them less effective at their jobs. Yet a survey by employee scheduling and time tracking software provider TSheets reports that many U.S. employees don’t take advantage of employee paid time off (PTO). Here’s a closer look at what the survey found.

Continue reading here.

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Can you force independent contractors to attend training?

Your business depends on the work of contractors, but you have to train said contractors to service your clients the way you want them served. Can you force contractors to attend training? That’s the question before many companies today as the size of the contract and on-demand workforce continues to explode.

The degree to which an employer “controls” aspects of the job and how it is performed is one of the main factors the IRS uses to gauge the classification of an employee or independent contractor. Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories:

1. Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?
2. Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)
3. Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

trainingSince independent contractors bring their existing talents and skills to a job, providing additional training to a contractor might fall into the area of behavioral control and endanger their contractor classification. So, what do you do if you can’t require independent contractors to attend training but need them properly trained to service your business?

For one, you can provide incentives for your contractors to take the training you offer. These incentives can be monetary or otherwise. An example of a monetary incentive would be for example you pay a higher hourly rate to contractors who have completed X training program. Another monetary reward could be to offer select (think premium) project opportunities to contractors who have completed X training program.

Non-monetary rewards for completing training are even easier to devise. For example, you can maintain a list or database of contractors who you will turn to for desirable contract work that is only open to contractors who have completed X training program(s) that you offer. Mention this requirement to contractors currently operating within your business and watch them make time to learn skills more valuable to you.

There are many other ways to design training requirements for your independent contractors that will have them voluntarily coming to you to attend without violating the IRS’s independent contractor requirements- if you would like help designing your training courses to meet this business need, please reach out to us here at the office (305) 273-4066. One of our Human Resources generalists or consultants will be happy to help you out.

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Handling Sexual Harassment Allegations in the workplace, pt. 1

One of your employees walks into your office and complains of being sexually harassed by another of your employees, or worse- one of your customers. What do you as a small business owner do?

First things first.

Additionally, you do not under any circumstances want to retaliate against your employee for making the game. I don’t care if the claim is against your best sales person, a regular customer, or anyone else that you trust and value at your company.

What constitutes retaliation?

The Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) laws prohibit punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment.  Asserting these EEO rights is called “protected activity,” and it can take many forms. One of those forms is making a harassment claim, or as the law puts it- participating in a complaint.

Participating in a complaint process is protected from retaliation under all circumstances. Other acts to oppose discrimination are protected as long as the employee was acting on a reasonable belief that something in the workplace may violate EEO laws, even if he or she did not use legal terminology to describe it.

For example, depending on the facts, it could be retaliation if an employer acts because of the employee’s claiming harassment to:

  • reprimand the employee or give a performance evaluation that is lower than it should be;
  • transfer the employee to a less desirable position;
  • engage in verbal or physical abuse;
  • threaten to make, or make reports to authorities (such as reporting immigration status or contacting the police);
  • increase scrutiny;
  • spread false rumors, treat a family member negatively (for example, cancel a contract with the person’s spouse); or
  • make the person’s work more difficult (for example, punishing an employee for an EEO complaint by purposefully changing his work schedule to conflict with family responsibilities).

Put simply, do not punish the employee in any way, shape, or form for coming forward- its their right.

Now, to investigate the claim

In almost all claims, you want to interview the victim making the claim. The interview should be conducted without bias, showing faith in the victims claim and courage in coming forward. You also want to protect the confidentiality of the victim to avoid any retaliation from their harasser if they are in a position of authority over the victim. You should listen intently to the victim, and show empathy throughout the entire claim reporting process.

We will have more on properly conducting sexual harassment investigations in a sequel to this post.



EEOC site

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2018 Florida Minimum Wage Changes

Effective January 1, 2018, the minimum wage increased from $8.10 to $8.25 per hour for most employees in Florida, with exceptions for tipped employees, some student workers, and other exempt occupations. The federal minimum wage is $7.25.

The annual calculation is based on the percentage increase in the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers in the South Region for the 12-month period prior to September 1, 2017. The Florida minimum wage was $8.05 per hour in 2015, $7.93 per hour in 2014, $7.79 per hour in 2013, and $7.67 per hour in 2012. Due to the inflation and cost of living formula used, a minimum wage increase did not occur in January 2016.

FLSA_webThe Federal Fair Labor Standards act defines special minimum wage rates applicable to certain types of workers. Employees may be paid under the Florida minimum wage if they fit into one of the following categories:

  • Florida Tipped Minimum Wage – $5.23 – Employees who earn a certain amount of tips every month may be paid a special cash minimum wage, but must earn at least $8.25 including tips every hour.

Download the updated Florida Minimum Wage Poster here.

An employer found liable for intentionally violating minimum wage requirements is subject to a fine of $1,000 per violation, payable to the state.

Need help ensuring your Human Resources and Pay practices are up to date? Contact our HR team today!

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Costly HR payroll mistakes restaurants make

Restaurants in general continue to make costly HR payroll mistakes that leave them exposed to claims by plaintiffs’ lawyers, and increasingly U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (otherwise knows as ICE). These mistakes are easily avoidable by making some easy to implement policies and procedures.

hr payroll classificationFirst of these costly mistakes is the misclassification of employees as exempt, mainly to avoid paying overtime. Cooks, wait staff, and even assistant managers rarely meet the legal requirement required by the IRS to exempt them from overtime laws. Yet, due to the long hours required of these jobs and the temptation to skirt overtime pay an owner will simply misclassify one of these positions as exempt.

We’ve even come across restaurant owners who tell us- My Executive Chef is an artist, and therefore qualifies under the “creative professional exemption”. To this we point out that the Executive Chef must (1) possess a four-year specialized academic degree in a culinary arts program; (2) regularly design unique dishes and menu items (using invention, imagination, originality or talent); (3) be paid on a salary basis of at least $455 per week; and (4) they cannot primarily perform routine mental, manual, or physical work (e.g., routine cooking and food preparation) to qualify. When analyzed closely with this criteria, many Executive Chefs simply fail to meet one or more of the requirements for the exemption.

You cannot simply rely on job titles like “Executive Chef” to determine a classification. To see the full list of exemptions, and the requirements for each- you should visit here and get your information straight from the Department of Labor.

Overtime Pay

Secondly, let’s talk about overtime- always the elephant in the room. Whenever hourly (non-exempt) employees work over 40 hours in a given week, you must pay them time and a half. Sounds simple enough right? What if you are a restaurant in Florida where your tipped employees $5.23 an hour in cash wages, do you pay overtime at $7.85 ($5.23 X 1.5)? This is where many restaurant owners get tripped up.

To properly calculate the overtime for a tipped employee in Florida, you must do the following:

  1. Break out Florida’s combined minimum wage. So, you have $5.23 in cash wages, and $3.02 which is Florida’s maximum tip credit for 2018. Combined, these two add up to Florida’s minim wage of $8.25.
  2. Multiply the time and a half by Florida’s combined minimum wage, so 1.5 X $8.25 = $12.38
  3. Now subtract the tip credit of $3.02 from this overtime calculated rate of $12.38 to get the tipped credit overtime rate of $9.36- and there you have it.

Every hour your tipped Florida employees work in a given week over 40 should be paid at $9.36. Of course, paying your tipped employees more than the $5.23 minimum would impact your tip credit and thus the entire calculation. You’d end up paying your employee more than the $9.36 calculated above.

Lastly, incomplete or incorrect hiring paperwork can come back to bite you in the rear as a restaurant owner. You should have job descriptions, employment applications, a completed and signed W-4 form from the IRS, and a completed and signed I-9 form and verified identification for all of your employees. We also recommend using the government’s E-verify system to verify that your employees can legally work in the U.S.- you can sign your business up to use the system by clicking here.

As always, should you have any questions or need any help in changing your HR payroll policies or procedures to avoid any of these costly mistakes- don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call our HR team at (305) 273-4066. Thanks!

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The Tax Cuts are Coming

On December 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 bringing with it a slew of changes to the corporate and personal tax code.

One of the impacts of the new law is the reduction in payroll tax withholding rates for 2018. The IRS is currently working to develop withholding guidance to implement the tax reform bill. The IRS emphasizes this information will be designed to work with the existing Forms W-4 that employees have already filed, and no further action by taxpayers is needed at this time.

When will your employees see a reduction in their payroll withholding?

February, or sometime shortly thereafter. The IRS is currently developing initial withholding guidance which will come out in the form of Notice 1036 slated to be published sometime in January ’18.

w-4-changes-comingKeep in mind that depending on the final IRS guidelines, your employees may need to complete and return to you a new W-4 form. Current W-4 form asks employees if they were married and about the number of children in their family. The new tax bill eliminates those exemptions, so the old W-4 will likely be invalid.

The law changes the tax rates and the brackets of taxable income to which the rates apply (see below). It also increased the standard deduction for individuals who do not itemize deductions, suspended the deduction for personal exemptions and increased the child/family tax credit. The new tax rates and tax payer brackets are as follows:

2018 Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly
10% $0 to $9,525 $0 to $19,050
12% $9,525 to $38,700 $19,050 to $77,400
22% $38,700 to $82,500 $77,400 to $165,000
24% $82,500 to $157,500 $165,000 to $315,000
32% $157,500 to $200,000 $315,000 to $400,000
35% $200,000 to $500,000 $400,000 to $600,000
37% Over $500,000 Over $600,000


2017 Tax Rate Single Married Filing Jointly
10% $0 to $9,325 $0 to $18,650
15% $9,325 to $37,950 $18,650 to $75,900
25% $37,950 to $91,900 $75,900 to $153,100
28% $91,900 to $191,650 $153,100 to $233,350
33% $191,650 to $416,700 $233,350 to $416,700
35% $416,700 to $418,400 $416,700 to $470,700
39.6% Over $418,400 Over $470,700

Stay tuned to our blog here, or register for our newsletter- and we will keep you informed once final IRS guidelines have been issued.

Have a Happy and Prosperous 2018 everyone!

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Hurricane Irma & Our Operations

As we all work to recover from the damage caused by Hurricane Irma, know that Miami Payroll Center is here for you. It’s what family does.

We are open and operating out of our satellite offices which do have electricity. Your employees will get paid, and its one less thing you should have to worry about during these trying times.

If you have any questions, please contact Susana Muniz at susym@miamipayrollcenter.com, or Willy Muniz at willym@miamipayrollcenter.com.

Thank you, and be safe!

Hurricane Irma


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Handling An Employee Complaint

When an employee approaches a manager or business owner with a complaint, there is a right way and a wrong way to address their concern. After receiving an employee complaint, it’s always best to respond quickly and appropriately, even if you don’t have an actual solution to the problem right away.

Follow these basic steps to investigate an employee complaint and find a solution that works for all parties involved.

Investigate the complaint promptly. Determine who should conduct the investigation. The person should be objective and without bias in the outcome. Sometimes, a third party is the best option. (The Miami Payroll Center’s HR team is always available to help conduct investigations.) 

Get the details. Listen and take detailed notes. Ask the complainant specific, objective questions such as:

  • When and where did the incident occur?
  • Are there any witnesses?
  • Is there any evidence of the situation?

If the complainant’s issue is with a manager or employee, interview that person as well and ask for the same details. Determine each person’s credibility and supporting evidence for conflicting statements.

Keep it confidential. When dealing with an employee issue, it’s best to limit discussion of the matter, until all relevant information is gathered and a solution can be put in place. Ask anyone involved to keep any discussions confidential as well. This can also help prevent office gossip and miscommunication.

Resolve the complaint. Determine if any laws were broken, company policies violated and if any disciplinary action is needed. Make the necessary corrections or adjustments. Communicate steps taken to the parties involved. Maintain records of the investigation and steps taken to remedy the situation. Address the matter with other employees and managers only when it’s absolutely necessary to prevent the matter from recurring.

Finally and most importantly, follow up. Check in with the complainant and other parties involved every so often until you are certain the matter has been resolved and no longer poses a disruption to your workplace.

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6 Illegal Interview Questions to Avoid

Hiring and specifically interviewing candidates is a task most managers and business owners often dread. As you prepare to interview, you probably create a list of questions you want to ask that person. It’s equally important to know what questions you shouldn’t be asking a potential employee, to avoid legal trouble.

What makes an interview question illegal?

What makes an interview question illegal is its potential for discrimination based on the candidate’s answer. Federal laws under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination against a job applicant or employee based on a variety of characteristics, including race, color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, political views and family status. Employers with at least 15 employees are subject to these laws, which are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

There is no specific law that states which questions are illegal to ask. It is in asking certain questions with discriminatory intentions that makes questions illegal and best to avoid to prevent any claims of discrimination. Here are 6 interview questions to avoid and why:

Here are 6 common illegal interview questions to avoid and why:

  1. How old are you? Though it is legal to request a candidate’s date of birth to run a pre-employment background check for example, directly asking candidates their age or when they graduated high school can be troublesome if a candidate feels that is the reason they were not hired for the position.
  2. Where are you from? or Is English your first language? You can ask a candidate if they are eligible to work in the United States, but asking a candidate specifically where they’re from could be grounds for national origin discrimination.
  3. Are you married? It may seem like a simple topic to initiate small talk, but asking a candidate if they’re married or planning to have children, may open the door for pregnancy or sexual orientation discrimination claims.
  4. Do you have any health conditions? Rather than asking about a candidate’s health, ask questions that are directly related to the demands of the position, such as “Are you able to lift 50lbs several times throughout the day?”
  5. Have you ever been arrested? It’s not illegal to ask about a candidate’s criminal history, but you cannot ask if a candidate has been arrested because the fact that an individual was arrested is not proof that he or she engaged in criminal conduct. An individual’s arrest record standing alone may not be used by an employer to make a negative employment decision.
  6. Are you in debt? You may choose to run pre-employment credit history checks as part of your hiring process, however, you cannot base your employment decision on that information without giving the candidate a pre-adverse action disclosure that includes a copy of the report and a copy of the candidate’s rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).

Remember, this list is only a sampling of the most common interview questions to avoid.

If you have questions about interview questions, contact our HR team who can help you determine if your interviewing process is on the right track.

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Trouble recruiting good employees? Pay up!

One of the biggest challenges employers face is recruiting good employees to round out their teams. In South Florida where we operate, the marketplace for talent is beyond cut throat competitive. There are reasons for this of course, we have a large immigrant population where there is always someone willing to “work for less”. We also have a large percentage of jobs in the low-paying tourist and service industries. Couple these factors with a Republican dominated Legislature which works mostly for the state’s business community and you get a market with an overabundance of low-paying jobs and a healthy supply of labor to sustain it.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Employment data, for the year 2015 show the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford metropolitan area had the lowest median pay among the country’s 50 largest employment centers, according to an analysis by FloridaPolitics.com. Miami’s pay rates take the second-lowest spot.

According to the BLS, the average median pay, annualized [meaning workers are assumed to be working full time, all year, at the rates of pay reported to the feds] for all occupations was $31,990 in Miami. Sometimes, in order for you to acquire the best talent available and take your company to the next level- you simply have to pay up for it. And yes, if you pay more than your competitors or above market average for some key positions in your company you will get better results.

Read more here:


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4 Tips to Giving Effective Employee Feedback

Ongoing performance feedback is crucial to fostering open employer-employee relationships. Here are 4 tips to make sure your feedback is effective in bringing positive changes to your company:

  1. Make it timely. Give feedback as soon as a situation has occurred. Not only is the situation fresh in your mind, but it also makes it easier to address and find solutions to move forward.
  2. Stick to the facts. Focus on what occurred, and don’t make any assumptions beyond that. For example, if your employee is continuously late to work, don’t assume they are lazy or don’t value being punctual. Instead, discuss the impact of tardiness and how that affects others and the company. Give the employee a chance to explain what causes them to be late.
  3. Address one improvement at a time. Sometimes discussing several performance issues during one conversation can dilute the message. By focusing on one improvement at a time, you have better chances of your message being clear and having the employee fully grasp the problem at hand and what’s expected of them to resolve it.
  4. Ask for their feedback. After sharing your feedback, ask your employee for their opinion on what was discussed. This will prove to you they have understood the information and what course of action is required. If the employee is on the same page as you are, acknowledge their insight and work on a performance plan together. The more buy-in, the more likely the person will be motivated to change.
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USCIS Releases New Form I-9

On July 17, 2017, the USCIS announced the release of a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States.

What you need to know:

  • The revised version may be used immediately, but it must be used no later than September 18, 2017.
  • Employers can continue using Form I-9 with a revision date of 11/14/16 N through September 17, 2017.
  • Employers must continue following existing storage and retention rules for any previously completed Form I-9.

The revisions to the Form I-9 instructions are:

  • The name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) has been changed. Its new name is Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER).
  • The instructions on Section 2 have been slightly changed to read: “Employers or their authorized representative must complete and sign Section 2 within 3 business days of the employee’s first day of employment.”

The revisions related to the List of Acceptable Documents on Form I-9 are:

  • The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) was added as a List C document and all the certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350, and Form FS-240) have been combined.
  • The List C documents have been renumbered, except for the Social Security card, which remains #1 on the list.

The changes above can also be found in the newly revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274).

If you have any questions about the new form, please contact our Human Resources Team for assistance.

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6 Tips to Get Employees Off Their Phones

No matter where you go, it seems like people are constantly staring at their phone screens these days.

At the office. At dinner. During meetings. While walking down the street. On dates. In bed. (You’re probably only half-paying attention to this article right now as you attempt to multi-task between priorities and the alluring draw of your phone.)

Maybe it’s the new normal but the need to obsessively check your phone for social media updates, emails and text messages seems a bit out of control. Think about yourself for a second – what’s your first response when you hear your smartphone “ring”, “ding” or “vibrate”? Be honest. If you are like most people, your first reaction is to check your phone as quickly as you possibly can – no matter where you are or what you are doing.

Okay, so maybe I am overstating this issue a bit.  But think about this for a second. Recent research suggests that close to 40% of the US population is fearful and anxious to be without their phones for any amount of time. And consider that even the average user touches their smartphone approximately 2,600 times a day. Ask yourself – how much time do you spend a day on your phone? Where is your phone right now? Where is your phone when you go to sleep at night? (Probably right next to you if you are like most people.)

Time spent on your phone can have an impact on your focus and engagement, in both your personal and professional life. So how do you know if you are you are too connected to your phone? Consider whether you ever experienced the following symptoms:

  • Do you feel anxious when you do not have your phone in your possession or your phone’s battery is about to die?
  • Do you constantly check your phone for new texts, emails, social media updates and newsfeeds, no matter where you are at or what you are doing?
  • Do you ever experience phantom phone notification syndrome – thinking your phone is “ringing” or “beeping” when it really isn’t?
  • Do you not hear what people are saying to you or even realize that people are talking to you sometimes because you are looking at your phone?

If any of these symptoms describe you, don’t feel bad. But you should consider doing something about it. Here are some simple things to think about that can help:

  • Put the phone away. Really. Try it. Try 10 minutes. Then 30 minutes. Next time you go out for dinner, leave it in the car. Build your capacity slowly but surely. You might be surprised how this enhances your enjoyment of other things.
  • Stop checking your phone before you go to bed or first thing when you wake up in the morning. Break up your connection and dependency with your phone. It may be weird at first but you quality of sleep will improve. (If you’re thinking “wait, my phone is my alarm clock”, then buy an alarm clock and leave the phone in the other room)
  • Get an App. There are lots of Apps on the market now to help people keep track of their phone time and remind them when they are spending too much time on their phone. Look them up on your App Store
  • Smartphone use during work time. If you are a manager and concerned that your staff is always on their phone during team meetings, consider a phone ban for meetings or encourage team members to minimize their phone time in order to be more focused.
  • Proactively use your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for assistance with issues like this that can have a negative impact on your life. Encourage your employees to do the same if you think their smartphone obsession is impacting their productivity. EAPs are set up to address and resolve these type of employee issues so you, as the employer, don’t have to. EAPs provide 24/7 hotline support and short-term counseling options.
  • Don’t have an EAP? Consider setting one up. The investment may be as low as a few hundred dollars a month and you’ll be providing your employees with the support they need while protecting your bottom line.

Like I always tell my teenage son, there’s a big world out there. So get off your phone and enjoy it.

Miami Payroll Center partners with CCA, Inc, a national EAP provider that has administered these programs for over 30 years. If you have questions about this article or want more information about how to set up an EAP at your company, call us to et up an informational call or meeting.

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4 Steps to Prepare Your Business for Hurricane Season

It is essential to take proactive steps in preparing for unpredictable storms and other disasters, especially in South Florida.

By planning early, you’ll have the peace of mind that you’re fully prepared in the event of a disaster. 40% of small businesses that close due to hurricane damage do not reopen. Prevent your business from being another statistic, and take time to prepare.

Here’s a quick Business Prep Plan to serve as a guide to safeguarding your business. Keep this plan handy by printing it out and making sure you have covered all the relevant steps before Hurricane Season begins.

You should also consider a backup location where your business could run if damages occur. If your business is damaged remember to assess, document, and report damages to your insurance company as soon as possible.

 Step 1: Protect property

  • Invest in and install shutters or plywood in order to protect windows and doors from wind-borne debris.
  • Remove any branches or trees adjacent to your building that could potentially fall and damage it. Sandbag any area that is subject to flooding.
  • Anchor and brace any large furniture (bookcases, shelves, filing cabinets) to wall studs.
  • Secure electronics such as computers and other office equipment with straps or Velcro. Cover with plastic tarps if possible to avoid water damage.
  • Turn off all the utilities prior to a hurricane making landfall if possible.

Step 2: Protect important documents and information

  • Designate important contacts that are crucial to business operations, such as banks, lawyers, accountants, suppliers, etc. Save all your designated contacts and documents in an alternate, accessible off-site location or in a portable external hard drive or USB drive.
  • Create and distribute an Employee Emergency Contact List, including phone numbers, addresses and alternate contact information for employees in case of an emergency
  • Backup documents that are not easily produced such as insurance documents, legal contracts, tax returns, and accounting statements to avoid water damage. Seal these documents in waterproof containers onsite.

Step 3: Keep A Preparedness Checklist

Emergency items such as first-aid kits, plastic tarps and cleaning supplies should be gathered in one location at your place of business should a storm hit while you are on premises. This will help protect the safety of your employees should disaster strike during regular working hours.

Keep emergency contact information such as the nearest hospital and police, along with:

    • Life safety issues: 9-1-1
    • Small Business Administration (SBA): 1-800-359-2227
    • FEMA Tele-registration hotline: 1-800-462-9029
    • Insurance company and agent’s contact information

Step 4: Implement an Inclement Weather Policy

  • Determine ahead of time under what circumstances your business will remain open and when it will close.
  • How will employees be notified of any closures and re-openings?
  • Will employees be paid during business closures? If unpaid, can employees use their sick or vacation time, or make up the missed work hours?
  • How should an employee report into or out of work during an emergency?

If you have questions about how to develop or maintain your inclement weather policy, we can help.

Give us a call with no obligation at 305-273-4066 or send an email to info@miamipayrollcenter.com. We’re always here to help!

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Employees have issues…And it’s impacting your business!

Do your employees ever bring their personal drama into the office? Do their personal issues ever impact their focus and productivity? Do you sometimes have to be their “therapist” in the office? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then this article is for you.

Mental Health in the workplace. Yes, I know. Not the most comfortable topic to discuss, but maybe it should be. When you look at some of the recent numbers related to Mental Health in this country, it’s pretty staggering and a bit scary. Consider the magnitude of some of the trends:

  • Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting almost 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of the population).
  • An estimated 44% of all Americans feel more stressed out today than they did five years ago.
  • An estimated 20.2 million adults (8.4% of the population) have a substance use disorder.
  • An estimated 15.7 million adults aged 18 or older in the United States have had at least one major depressive episode in the past year (6.7% of all U.S. adults).
  • Psychiatric disorders have now surpassed other disorders such as cardiovascular diseases and cancer as the number one cause of disability.
  • Suicide in the United States has surged to the highest levels in nearly 30 years with increases in every age group except older adults.

Obviously, these are pretty alarming numbers, but what does all this mean for your workplace? It actually means a lot. Whether you know it or not, your employees’ issues are having a significant impact on your bottom line. Consider the following:

  • An estimated one million workers miss work each day because of stress, costing companies an estimated $602 per employee per year.
  • Over 10% of employees state that mental health issues like depression and anxiety limit their work productivity.
  • Depression leads to 200 million lost workdays each year, resulting in an estimated cost of more than $23 billion in lost productivity annually.
  • Lost work productivity (including absenteeism and poor job performance) associated with substance abuse costs employers an estimated $197 billion a year.

So what does all this mean for your specific company or office? Not to treat the issue lightly, but in today’s workplace, your employees do have “issues”. Your employees have them more than ever in the past. And smart employers are beginning to understand that they should invest in programs and services that promote a psychologically healthy workplace as healthy employees produce healthy businesses. What are some easy things that you can do to start addressing these issues in your office? Consider the following tips:

  1. Look for and recognize warning signs. When one of your employees is dealing with an issue, there are always early indicators such as missed work time or diminished performance.
  2. Don’t play therapist. Set a professional boundary with your employees. You can show concern and empathy for their issues but don’t turn work time into a therapy session. If you get too involved, it will make it harder to performance manage them later.
  3. Proactively encourage professional help and use resources like your Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Let your employees know you recognize there is an issue and, because you are concerned for their well-being, that they should utilize resources available to them to help address stress and mental health related problems. Small issues can turn into big office challenges so get involved early. Encourage employees to take care of themselves and refer to your EAP, if you have one. EAPs are set up to address and resolve these type of employee issues so you, as the employer, don’t have to. EAPs provide 24/7 hotline support and short-term counseling options.
  4. Don’t have an EAP? Consider setting one up. The investment may be as low as a few hundred dollars a month and you’ll be providing your employees with the support they need while protecting your bottom line.

Miami Payroll Center partners with CCA, Inc, a national EAP provider that has administered these programs for over 30 years. If you have questions about this article or want more information about how to set up an EAP at your company, contact our team at (305) 273-4066 or via email at info@miamipayrollcenter.com.

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Hiring an Intern: What you need to know

The role of the intern is not what it used to be. Internships these days require more than making a Starbucks run or picking up the boss’ dry cleaning.

Establishing an internship program is a great way for your company to build a pipeline of talent. However, things are not what they used to be. There are several considerations when creating your internship program.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most interns are considered employees subject to the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements. However, if an intern is not an employee within the meaning of the FLSA, then the FLSA’s minimum wage and overtime requirements do not apply. The Department of Labor uses a Six-Factor Test for Unpaid Interns.

The DOL’s Six-Factor Test for Unpaid Interns

Under the DOL’s test, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA if all the following factors are met:

  1. The internship must be like training that would be given in an educational environment;
  2. The internship must be for the benefit of the intern;
  3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
  4. The employer derives no immediate advantage from the intern, and on occasion, its operations may be impeded;
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the end of the internship; and
  6. The employer and intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If you’re considering an internship program, consult with legal counsel to ensure compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.

When in doubt, it’s best to classify interns as employees and pay them as required under applicable federal, state, and local law. These days, it pays to be cautious.

If you’re a Miami Payroll Center client, we can provide guidance and best practices with respect to internships. Contact our HR Team at (305) 273-4066.

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Are Your Employees Eligible for Loan Forgiveness?

Last month LendEDU reported that almost half of all college students surveyed believe they will be entitled to student loan forgiveness.  Most of them will be disappointed to find out that this isn’t true. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) was designed only for those employed in certain professions. Generally, employment with the following types of organizations qualifies for PSLF:

  • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • Government organizations at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal)
  • Other types of not-for-profit organizations that provide certain types of qualifying public services

Forgive-student-loan-debtContrary to popular belief, this program doesn’t simply wipe out college loan debt. The PSLF was designed to forgive the remaining balance on Direct Loans after 120 qualifying monthly payments have been made while working full-time for a qualifying employer.

If you’re a non-profit and a qualifying employer, you need to be prepared to assist your employees and understand the information being requested. If you’re not a qualifying employer, you also need to be prepared to share this information with your employees as the misconception about who is eligible seems, at least according to this recent survey, to be overwhelming!

The process for borrowers begins with employer certification. If you’re like many employers, you have not yet prepared to handle employee requests for loan forgiveness. October of 2017 is the date when the first borrowers will become eligible for PSLF, but many employees are submitting requests ahead of time to find out how close they are to qualifying.

At minimum, we suggest a few simple steps to prepare for employee requests related to the PSLF:

  1. Develop a written process that outlines how you will handle employee requests.
  2. Make sure your payroll and HR staff are familiar with the employment certification form which can be found here.
  3. Designate a person responsible for the completion of the forms and determine who is permitted to sign as the employer’s “authorized official.”

PSFL Program is not new, but this is the first year that employees can begin receiving loan forgiveness. Don’t wait until October, when the Program is sure to receive increased media attention, to consider how you will respond to employee requests!

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Companies hiring H-1B workers under additional scrutiny

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) today announced multiple measures to further deter and detect H-1B visa fraud and abuse.

Beginning today, USCIS will take a more targeted approach when making site visits across the country to H-1B petitioners and the worksites of H-1B employees. USCIS will focus on:

Cases where USCIS cannot validate the employer’s basic business information through commercially available data;

  • H-1B-dependent employers (those who have a high ratio of H-1B workers as compared to U.S. workers, as defined by statute); and
  • Employers petitioning for H-1B workers who work off-site at another company or organization’s location.

Targeted site visits will allow USCIS to focus resources where fraud and abuse of the H-1B program may be more likely to occur, and determine whether H-1B dependent employers are evading their obligation to make a good faith effort to recruit U.S. workers. USCIS will continue random and unannounced visits nationwide. These site visits are not meant to target nonimmigrant employees for any kind of criminal or administrative action but rather to identify employers who are abusing the system.

Employers who abuse the H-1B visa program negatively affect U.S. workers, decreasing wages and job opportunities as they import more foreign workers. To further deter and detect abuse, USCIS has established an email address which will allow individuals (including both American workers and H-1B workers who suspect they or others may be the victim of H-1B fraud or abuse) to submit tips, alleged violations and other relevant information about potential H-1B fraud or abuse. Information submitted to the email address will be used for investigations and referrals to law enforcement agencies for potential prosecution.

Existing H-1B Fraud Measures

Since 2009, USCIS has conducted random administrative site visits to ensure that employers and foreign workers are complying with requirements of the H-1B nonimmigrant classification. USCIS refers many cases of suspected fraud or abuse to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for further investigation.

Additionally, individuals can report allegations of employer fraud or abuse by submitting Form WH-4 to the Department of Labor’s (DOL) Wage and Hour Division or by completing ICE’s HSI Tip Form.

Further information

For more information about the new H-1B visa fraud and abuse detection initiative, visit the Combating Fraud and Abuse in the H-1B Visa Program web page.

For information about H-1B petition requirements, visit the USCIS H-1B webpage.

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New I-9 Handbook for Employers

New I-9 Handbook for Employers Released Tuesday, February 14, 2017

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) quietly and without much notice released the new M-274 “Handbook for Employers with Guidance for Completing Form I-9” on Tuesday. In addition to detailed I-9 completion instructions, the Handbook contains guidance on Photocopying and Retention, Unlawful Discrimination and Penalties, E-Verify. It also contains FAQs as well as images of sample documents.

Link to the handbook here.

The new I-9 Form went into effect on January 22, 2017.  Electronic copies of the English and Spanish versions of Form I-9 are available on the USCIS website or may be ordered by phone at 800-870-3676.

The USCIS provides customer support and resources at its anonymous Employer Hotline (888-464-4218) or at I-9Central@dhs.gov  and E-Verify@dhs.gov.

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Are Your Employees Eligible for Loan Forgiveness?

Last month LendEDU reported that almost half of all college students surveyed believe they will be entitled to student loan forgiveness.  Most of them will be disappointed to find out that this isn’t true. Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) was designed only for those employed in certain professions. Generally, employment with the following types of organizations qualifies for PSLF:

  • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code
  • Government organizations at any level (federal, state, local, or tribal)
  • Other types of not-for-profit organizations that provide certain types of qualifying public services

Contrary to popular belief, this program doesn’t simply wipe out college loan debt. The PSLF was designed to forgive the remaining balance on Direct Loans after 120 qualifying monthly payments have been made while working full-time for a qualifying employer.

If you’re a non-profit and a qualifying employer, you need to be prepared to assist your employees and understand the information being requested. If you’re not a qualifying employer, you also need to be prepared to share this information with your employees as the misconception about who is eligible seems, at least according to this recent survey, to be overwhelming!

The process for borrowers begins with employer certification. If you’re like many employers, you have not yet prepared to handle employee requests for loan forgiveness. October of 2017 is the date when the first borrowers will become eligible for PSLF, but many employees are submitting requests ahead of time to find out how close they are to qualifying.

At minimum, we suggest a few simple steps to prepare for employee requests related to the PSLF:

  1. Develop a written process that outlines how you will handle employee requests.
  2. Make sure your payroll and HR staff are familiar with the employment certification form which can be found here.
  3. Designate a person responsible for the completion of the forms and determine who is permitted to sign as the employer’s “authorized official.”

PSFL Program is not new, but this is the first year that employees can begin receiving loan forgiveness. Don’t wait until October, when the Program is sure to receive increased media attention, to consider how you will respond to employee requests!

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Job Applicant or Malware in Disguise?

I don’t know about you, but I miss the good old days…back when an HR Recruiter’s biggest IT concern was making sure a new hire signed and abided by the Acceptable Use Policy! With so much cybercrime happening elsewhere, it was only a matter of time before the work of HR Professionals became a target. Last month Check Point Software Technologies shared its discovery of a ransomware campaign designed to separate HR professionals from their cash!

Before we continue, let’s go over the basics. Malware is generally defined as a software program that is intended to damage or disable a computer or system. Ransomware, a type of malware, is designed to block access to a system until a sum of money is paid. That’s right… it can hold your files hostage!

Check Point reports that the ransomware attack usually begins with a brief email from someone posing as a job applicant. The email contains two attachments. The first is a PDF containing a cover letter, which has no malicious content and is designed to “lull the victim into a false sense of security.” The second is an Excel file with malicious content that, when opened, asks the victim to enable content which allows macros to run.

When the unsuspecting recruiter clicks “enable content,” the code inside the macro executes and begins “the process of encrypting the files, denying the victim access to his or her files.” After all files are encrypted the victim gets a ransom note before the computer reboots and starts encrypting the hard disk.

In the end, the victim will be unable to access any files unless a ransom of approximately $1,000 is paid to an untraceable online account.

The research done by Check Point so far has all been overseas, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t on its way.

The old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth of pound of cure” certainly applies here. While we can’t offer any fool proof remedies, here are a few basics that will help:  

  1. Make sure your computer security/anti-virus/anti-malware software is up to date.
  2. Don’t open anything suspicious from unknown senders.
  3. Don’t enable macros on MS Office documents.
  4. Consider uploading attachments from unknown sources to a cloud-based server instead of opening them directly from your computer.
  5. Revisit your backup process to ensure files are backed up frequently.
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Office Romances & 4 Ways to Manage Them

With so much of our time spent at the office, office romances and relationships between coworkers have become a common occurrence. According to the most recent American Time Use Survey, Americans between the ages of 25 and 54 with children in their household spent an average of 8.8 hours on working and related activities each weekday.

Specifically, the hospitality and tourism industry ranked highest among industries where office romances are most common, with 61% of employees saying they’ve had some kind of workplace relationship.

Singles aren’t the only employees taking part in workplace relationships. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), one in six office romances takes part with one or both of the parties having a spouse or significant other.

Here are some helpful tips to manage office romances at your company:

1. Address the issue: Rather than letting situations work themselves out. Take a stance on the subject. Some companies choose to ban office relationships, while others set boundaries for them. Whatever’s best for your company, be proactive and address the matter.

2. Establish a company policy on office relationships: The policy should address employee dating and consensual relationships occurring between co-workers and among co-workers and managers, supervisors and others in positions of corporate authority over terms and conditions of employment. It should also include examples of conduct that would be considered in violation of the policy and its consequences.

3. Implement Consensual Relationship Contracts: These contracts are rather common and help companies add an extra layer of protection to their operations. They also help managers discuss office romances in a positive, open manner. When drafting your consensual relationship contract, make sure to include these points:

  • the relationship is mutual and consensual
  • the relationship was never a condition of the terms of employment
  • it is the responsibility of each party to ensure the relationship does not impact job performance
  • company policies specific to office relationships (e.g., a prohibition on working in the same unit and next steps if required)
  • company expectations should the relationship end

4. Draft, publish and distribute a zero-tolerance policy for sexual or any other kind of harassment in the workplace, including threats or intimidation. Remember, in some instances, the liability for charges of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment could land on the employer…so it’s your responsibility to avoid these situations at your workplace.

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Fiduciary Rule Delayed

Unless you’re a benefits or retirement manager, you probably have not paid much attention to the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule announced last April. One of the rule’s goals was to put an end to the billions of dollars a year that investors are estimated to waste paying exorbitant fees. According to InvestmentNews.com, “The idea is that the regulation will stop advisers from putting their own interests in earning high commissions and fees over clients’ interests in obtaining the best investments at the lowest prices.”

DOLIn short, the DOL’s definition of a fiduciary requires that financial advisors, salespersons, planners, agents and brokers act in the best interests of their clients, put their clients’ interests above their own and clearly disclose all fees and commissions in dollar form. The rule creates a much greater level of accountability than salespersons and others have seen in the past and would have had a significant impact on those who rely on commission based sales. Retirement planning for defined contribution plans (401(k), 403(b), employee stock ownership), defined benefits plans (pension plans) and IRA’s could have seen significant changes.

On February 3, 2017, President Trump signed an Executive Order delaying the rule’s implementation by 180 days (6 months). This order includes instructions for the DOL to carry out an “economic and legal analysis” on the rule’s potential impact. The memo also stated that if the DOL concludes that the regulation hurts investors or firms, it can propose a rule “rescinding or revising” the regulation. Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Ed Hugler issued a statement following the release of President Trump’s memorandum on the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule that said only “The Department of Labor will now consider its legal options to delay the applicability date as we comply with the President’s memorandum.”

For now, this means that retirement investments and planning will continue as is. Although the battle to implement the rule took six years, it will come as no surprise if it is rescinded in less than six months’ time. A potential win for the financial services industry, a potential loss for retirement investors.

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How to Leave Work on Time

Every so often, leaving work on time is one of the most difficult to-do’s on the list. The Miami Herald’s Cindy Krischer Goodman shares her advice on what to do to leave work on time:

Ramp up communication. “I often have scrambled out the door way past the time I was supposed to stop working. One year, I resolved to leave by 6 p.m., which required starting my day promptly. I talked to my manager about my plan. By doing so, rather than just trying to bolt when no one was looking, I got his buy in. He understood my goals and changed his habits of making late afternoon requests. Managers, customers and co-workers become less likely to drop to-dos on your lap toward the end of the day when you establish a pattern of leaving on time and communicate your schedule.”

Give yourself a 20-minute window for departure. “If you wait until 6 p.m. to start packing up, you likely will get delayed by distractions. Once you’ve set your departure time, block out the 20 minutes prior to that time on your calendar to clean up any last daily details.”

Read Goodman’s full article here.

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What you need to know about Florida’s Minimum Wage

Effective January 1, 2017, the minimum wage increased from $8.05 to $8.10 per hour for most employees in Florida, with exceptions for tipped employees, some student workers, and other exempt occupations.

The annual calculation is based on the percentage increase in the federal Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers in the South Region for the 12-month period prior to September 1, 2016. The Florida minimum wage was $7.93 per hour in 2014, $7.79 per hour in 2013, and $7.67 per hour in 2012. Due to the inflation and cost of living formula used, a minimum wage increase did not occur in January 2016.

The Federal Fair Labor Standards act defines special minimum wage rates applicable to certain types of workers. Employees may be paid under the Florida minimum wage if they fit into one of the following categories:

  • Florida Under 20 Minimum Wage$4.25 – Federal law allows any employer in Florida to pay a new employee who is under 20 years of age a training wage of $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of employment.
  • Florida Student Minimum Wage$6.89 – Full-time high school or college students who work part-time may be paid 85% of the Florida minimum wage (as little as $6.89 per hour) for up to 20 hours of work at certain employers.
  • Florida Tipped Minimum Wage$5.08 – Employees who earn a certain amount of tips every month may be paid a special cash minimum wage, but must earn at least $8.10 including tips every hour. For more details, read about the Florida tipped wage.

Download the updated Florida Minimum Wage Poster here.

Need help ensuring your Human Resources and Pay practices are up to date? Contact our HR team today!

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New OSHA Requirements for 2017

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers with 10+ employees to record and report serious work-related fatalities, injuries and illnesses. Summaries must be posted annually from February – April, and records must be kept for five years.

Employers must also report any worker fatality within 8 hours and any amputation, loss of an eye, or hospitalization of a worker within 24 hours.

Effective January 1, 2017 OSHA’s new reporting rule went into effect. The rule’s aim is to help improve safety for workers across the country. It’s especially important for certain South Florida employers.

The rule makes injury information available publicly in an effort to “nudge” employers to focus on safety. More attention to safety will save the lives and limbs of many workers, and will ultimately help the employer’s bottom line as well. Finally, this regulation will improve the accuracy of this data by ensuring that workers will not fear retaliation for reporting injuries or illnesses.

The new rule requires certain employers to electronically submit injury and illness data that they are already required to record on their onsite OSHA Injury and Illness forms. Analysis of this data will enable OSHA to use its enforcement and compliance assistance resources more efficiently. Some of the data will also be posted to the OSHA website. OSHA believes that public disclosure will encourage employers to improve workplace safety and provide valuable information to workers, job seekers, customers, researchers and the general public. The amount of data submitted will vary depending on the size of company and type of industry.

New Anti-retaliation Protections

The rule also prohibits employers from discouraging workers from reporting an injury or illness. The final rule requires employers to inform employees of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses free from retaliation, which can be satisfied by posting the already-required OSHA workplace poster. It also clarifies the existing implicit requirement that an employer’s procedure for reporting work-related injuries and illnesses must be reasonable and not deter or discourage employees from reporting; and incorporates the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against employees for reporting work-related injuries or illnesses. These provisions become effective August 10, 2016, but OSHA has delayed their enforcement until Dec. 1, 2016.

New 2017 Online Reporting Requirement

OSHA will provide a secure website that offers three options for data submission. First, users will be able to manually enter data into a web form. Second, users will be able to upload a CSV file to process single or multiple establishments at the same time. Last, users of automated recordkeeping systems will have the ability to transmit data electronically. The site is scheduled to go live in February 2017.

Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain high-risk industries must submit information from their 2016 Form 300A by July 1, 2017, and their 2017 Form 300A by July 1, 2018. Beginning in 2019 and every year thereafter, the information must be submitted by March 2.

Need help with OSHA compliance?

Contact our HR team today by phone at 305-273-4066 or by email at info@miamipayrollcenter.com.
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Employee Recruitment Scams (Yes, This is a Thing!)

If there are any trust issues in the employee recruitment process, they’re usually from the perspective of the recruiter. Is this candidate embellishing their resume? Providing false information? Leaving out an arrest record? As representatives of our employers to those who want a job, our trustworthiness is rarely called into question, especially with those just entering the workforce straight out of college. Until now. Thanks to some industrious scammers who have figured out a way to make money from folks looking for a job, the almost blind-faith exhibited by most job seekers may be a thing of the past.

Scam The FBI issued an alert late last week announcing that employment scams targeting college students who are seeking employment are prevalent. According to the FBI notice the scammers advertise phony job opportunities on employment websites aimed at students and recent college grads or send emails to this population recruiting them for fictitious positions. These particular employment “opportunities,” however, lead to a financial loss for the job seekers.

Here’s how the scam works: Scammers post online job advertisements soliciting candidates for administrative positions. Once a position is accepted, the new “employee” will be told that they have to purchase work related materials (software, hardware, etc) in order to begin the onboarding/training process. They are told that they employer will pay for these materials but that they must be ordered from the approved vendor. The new “employee” receives a check that they deposit into their personal bank account. They are often told to take a few hundred dollars as their first pay but to use the rest to purchase the materials from the employer approved vendor. Most often these purchases are done electronically. So the new “employee” deposits the check and uses the money before the bank confirms that the check is fraudulent.

Consequently, the new “employee’s” bank account may be closed due to fraudulent activity (not to mention the report to law enforcement and/or the credit bureau). They are also responsible for reimbursing the bank the amount of the counterfeit check. The true icing on the cake, however, is that they have most likely given the fake employer all of their private, personal information, making them very susceptible to identity theft.

If you’re thinking there’s no connection between this and your organization, think again. Sometimes the recruitment postings and emails actually appear to be from companies who are both reputable and familiar. Unless the candidate looks closely at the domain name and double checks to be sure it is the same domain used by the company, any organization can be used as a disguise.

Remember our earlier post about employer branding? This type of scam makes it even more important to establish an employer brand – even if you’re a small business! In addition to safeguarding your reputation as an employer and serving as a value proposition to employees, it may also be what you need to establish trust with new recruits!

popdevteamEmployee Recruitment Scams (Yes, This is a Thing!)
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Employer Branding in 2017: The Battle for Talent has Changed

As the US Economy continues to strengthen and unemployment rates fall, the days of easily hiring a highly qualified person and getting them to stick around are all but gone. 2017 will be a challenging year for attracting and retaining the best and the brightest. It may be time to accept that Employer Branding is no longer expected of only large businesses, but of us all. .

Employer branding is a new concept to some, but it’s actually an old term (circa 1990’s) with a renewed popularity. It describes a company’s reputation as an employer and serves as a value proposition to employees (both current and prospective). While the term might not be new, the rules have certainly changed over the past 25 years! The transparency we now have with social media, coupled with websites like glassdoor.com which not only allows for anonymous reviews of companies and management but also provides salary information and job boards, has completely transformed employer branding. What was once a controlled and calculated message from a company is now an endless stream of current and former employee perceptions. For many, this could mean that marketing efforts typically associated with brand management are now a requirement for HR management as well.

TimesJobs.com recently released a list of things that will change recruitment in 2017. Among the items discussed was the continued shift from employer to candidate when it comes to Employment branding. “The candidates will feel empowered to seek new opportunities and hence employers need to work on building their brand.”

First time you’re considering your employer brand? You’re not alone. LinkHumans.com recommends starting with a basic understanding of how you’re currently perceived. “You’ve got to understand what your ratings are in terms of things that you want to be associated with. So if you want to be innovative for example, or you want to be seen as a good development company, then you’ve got to measure those things.”

While you may not be ready for a complete employer branding campaign, at the very least you need to be aware of this power shift and begin to discuss what it could mean for your organization! Perhaps it’s time to do a little research and see what perceptions are currently being shared about your organization?

popdevteamEmployer Branding in 2017: The Battle for Talent has Changed
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It’s Bonus Time!

Are you one of the lucky ones getting a year-end bonus? Many companies appear to be in a generous mood this holiday season, at least when it comes to providing bonuses to their employees. A recent survey conducted by Accounting Principals found that 75%of the companies surveyed planned to give out a year-end bonus or gift. This is up from 67% last year. About half of those awarding bonuses plan to give a traditional monetary bonuses based on company, department, or employee performance.

Survey results also show that companies are feeling somewhat more generous this year than last, with the average expected bonus to be $1,081, up from $858 in 2015. That’s a 25% increase! While a third of survey respondents planned to give workers bonuses of $1,000 or more, most planned to give between $100 and $500.

bonusWhile a tradition in many places, some employers often question whether, when and how to offer holiday or year-end bonuses to employees. The decision to give a bonus – and the size of that bonus – may be tied to the company’s overall performance. Tradition or not, bonuses are gifts, not entitlements. If bonuses are a tradition in your workplace and you decide not to offer a bonus for financial or other reasons, you should communicate that fact to your employees as soon as possible since some may be making plans for that money (Think Clark Griswold & the Jelly of the Month Club!).

Whether large or small, cash or a gift of another kind, these bonuses are not commissions as a form of payout for sales or performance. A bonus is a discretionary gift to employees, usually to say thanks for a job well done. Even though a bonus is designed to say thanks, it is still a form of compensation and, with that, comes certain rules.

As with other forms of compensation, bonuses must be nondiscriminatory. In other words, eligibility criteria for bonuses must be applied in a nondiscriminatory way, and employees who are bonus eligible must receive nondiscriminatory amounts. HR360 recommends using a “standard grading system to measure employee performance fairly and consistently, and to document your reasons for offering a particular reward, including specific examples of performance.”

Of course, end of year bonuses also come complete with tax implications for both the giver and the recipient, making that monetary gesture of gratitude slightly less appealing from certain perspectives!

If you need help with payroll administration of bonuses or determining the tax impact, give us a call. We hope you are among the many who will receive a year-end bonus this year!

popdevteamIt’s Bonus Time!
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Forget the Holiday Party, We’ve Got Human Resources Issues to Discuss!

It’s late November and the expectations placed on a human resources blogger this time of year usually aren’t very high. Social norms dictate that we come up with a list of the “Top Ten Things” we’re thankful for in the office or some sage advice on how to throw a fun holiday party that doesn’t end in litigation or termination. But this year is different. This year the news is a little too big to focus on best practices to prevent HR headaches after the office festivities.

We just elected a new president. Chances are you’re either still celebrating or still in shock. President-Elect Trump made many campaign promises and, while we don’t know yet which ones he will deliver on, several key promises will directly affect employers. Among the safe predictions are a focus on immigration worksite enforcement and sweeping changes and/or a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Another prediction is lifting the new payroll threshold for overtime.[1] It’s this last item that has caused many to breath of sigh of relief. But don’t breathe too deeply!

According to SHRM, President-elect Trump can’t do much about the “December 1st effective date of the new overtime rule, which doubles the exempt salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to $47,476.[2]” Even if it was a top priority of the new administration, changes would take a very long time thanks to the notice-and-comment period required by law.

So for the time being, we all need to be prepared to follow the overtime rule as written. It does appear that Trump is open to the idea of calling for a small-business exemption to the rule after he takes office in January, but by then businesses will have already made a lot of changes to comply with the rule.

It’s also possible that Trump will decide to leave the rule stand as-is. While Trump did say in a brief interview on the campaign trail that he favored a small-business exemption, any changes to the current rule could negatively impact some of his supporters, many of whom could earn more once the rule is in place.[3]

There are many HR regulations that could see sweeping changes under a Trump administration: Minimum Wage, FLSA, Pay Equity, Family Medical Leave and Health Insurance just to name a few. All were things discussed on the campaign trail at one point or another…but will they all be changed? Much like this election, it’s nearly impossible to predict!

Our job will require something much harder than predictions. As HR Professionals, we will need to determine what the changes mean to our own organizations and which will mandate action. If we’ve already reclassified employees based on the overtime rule, will be reclassify them again if the rule is changed? Sure, it would be allowed by law, but would it be the best thing for our organization? What is legal and what is right are not always one in the same.

Don’t think about it too much… or that fourth drink at the office party will seem completely reasonable!

What potential HR changes are you looking forward to under the new administration? We’d love to hear from you. Post your comments below.



[1] http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=534361418

[2] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/trump-overtime-rule.aspx

[3] http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=534361495

popdevteamForget the Holiday Party, We’ve Got Human Resources Issues to Discuss!
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We just elected a new President. Now What?

We just elected a new President. Chances are you’re either still celebrating or still in shock. President-Elect Trump made many campaign promises and, while we don’t know yet which ones he will deliver on, several key promises will directly affect employers. Among the safe predictions are a focus on immigration worksite enforcement and sweeping changes and/or a total repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Another prediction is lifting the new payroll threshold for overtime.[1] It’s this last item that has caused many to breath of sigh of relief. But don’t breathe too deeply!

According to SHRM, President-elect Trump can’t do much about the “December 1st effective date of the new overtime rule, which doubles the exempt salary threshold under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to $47,476.[2]” Even if it was a top priority of the new administration, changes would take a very long time thanks to the notice-and-comment period required by law.

So for the time being, we all need to be prepared to follow the overtime rule as written. It does appear that Trump is open to the idea of calling for a small-business exemption to the rule after he takes office in January, but by then businesses will have already made a lot of changes to comply with the rule.

It’s also possible that Trump will decide to leave the rule stand as-is. While Trump did say in a brief interview on the campaign trail that he favored a small-business exemption, any changes to the current rule could negatively impact some of his supporters, many of whom could earn more once the rule is in place.[3]

There are many HR regulations that could see sweeping changes under a Trump administration: Minimum Wage, FLSA, Pay Equity, Family Medical Leave and Health Insurance just to name a few. All were things discussed on the campaign trail at one point or another…but will they all be changed? Much like this election, it’s nearly impossible to predict!

Our job will require something much harder than predictions. As HR Professionals, we will need to determine what the changes mean to our own organizations and which will mandate action. If we’ve already reclassified employees based on the overtime rule, will be reclassify them again if the rule is changed? Sure, it would be allowed by law, but would it be the best thing for our organization? What is legal and what is right are not always one in the same.


What potential HR changes are you looking forward to under the new administration? We’d love to hear from you. Post your comments below.

[1] http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=534361418

[2] https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/trump-overtime-rule.aspx

[3] http://www.hreonline.com/HRE/view/story.jhtml?id=534361495

popdevteamWe just elected a new President. Now What?
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Thank Goodness its Election Day

Election Day is finally here. And, boy, we can’t wait until it’s over!

The ugliness of this year’s presidential campaign has wreaked havoc on many American workplaces, creating tension among co-workers and, in some cases, forcing managers into the role of office referee. Two weeks ago the Wall Street Journal reported the case of a Pro-Trump executive who was insisting that an HR manager fire an employee who was planning to vote for Clinton.

i-votedIt’s safe to say that this campaign season has created a divide in many facets of life and from the work site to social media, political tensions are running high. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that more than half of the HR Professionals surveyed last month said they had observed more hostility among co-workers than in previous election years. The only surprise here is that the results weren’t closer to 100%!

While many of us are holding our breath until it’s over, it is unlikely that the tension surrounding the election will fade quickly. After the results are in, we can expect weeks (or even months!) of heightened tensions and heated debates – regardless of who wins!

How do we deal with it all? Is it possible to plan? Well, one of the many lessons from this election is that there is no fool proof plan to cover all bases. But from an HR perspective, at minimum, we should remind our management teams to avoid political discourse with subordinates and ensure that our harassment policy and harassment complaint procedure are visibly posted. That’s a good start, but it’s not a total solution.

What are your plans? How will you combat the election fallout? We’d love to hear from you. Post your thoughts below.

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USDOL: Coming Soon to a Restaurant Near You

In the month since we’ve written about Florida’s Tipped Minimum Wage, the US Department of Labor (USDOL) reported that three separate Restaurant owners were required to pay a combined $1.3 Million in back wages and damages due to workplace practices that were in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The scary part of these stories is not in the amounts awarded, but the idea that these practices are so commonplace that we don’t even realize we’re breaking the law.

labor-lawOne of the larger awards, more than a half a million dollars, was the result of owners who required servers to contribute a portion of their total tips back to the employer, who then distributed the money to cooks and dishwashers who were not tipped employees. Consequently, the employer paid servers less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 as required. Additionally, the restaurant failed to pay required overtime wages to employees when they worked more than 40 hours in a week, and did not keep accurate records of all hours worked.[1]

Another large penalty, also over the half million mark, was to a restaurant owner who also fell victim to the practices mentioned above but, among other things, required servers and bartenders to pay for breakages, customer walkouts and ordering errors out of their tips, which reduced their pay to below the federal minimum wage. Employees were also required to work without pay at charity events.[2]  The charity events idea is always a great discussion, because we can argue that the employees volunteered. That argument would not likely stand a chance, however, as the FLSA hardly ever permits employees to volunteer unpaid time to the employer!

The USDOL’s Wage and Hour Division reports that these issues are found across the nation. In addition to the violations mentioned above, the Division adds that it is common for them to find employers who are requiring employees to work exclusively for tips with no regard to minimum wage standards, taking illegal deductions from wages for credit card transaction fees and paying straight time for hours over 40.[3]

For the past month, Florida Restaurant Owners have been mostly lucky – none of the cases above were in our home state! However, earlier this month the Division announced that it will expand outreach, education and enforcement in the industry to more cities and states. While you never know when and if they might visit you, don’t wait to get things in order. Review your pay practices now to ensure you’re in compliance with FLSA. If you’re still unsure, contact your payroll professional today.


[1] https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20161011

[2] https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20160926-0

[3] https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20161004

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HR’s Role in the Wells Fargo Debacle

wells_fargoBy now we’ve all heard numerous tales of the fake accounts created by Wells Fargo employees in order to meet unrealistic sales quotas and the subsequent firing of more than 5,000 as a result. Millions of phony deposit accounts. Hundreds of thousands of phony credit card accounts. Phony pin numbers and email addresses too.

If you’ve ever worked in an environment where meeting goals, especially sales quotas, was given high priority, then you know what that type of culture can breed. Even the best of employees can engage in dishonest practices when their paycheck is on the line.

The workplace psychology experts at the Faas Foundation say that the bank is a perfect example of systemic bullying, defined in this case as “setting unreasonable expectations to get rid of employees who do not deliver and causing others to resort to questionable practices to meet the expectations.”

As more details become available, it turns out that the fraudulent accounts weren’t the only issue. If we’re talking about things that fit the definition of phony, perhaps we need to look at the company’s Code of Conduct and its Ethics Hotline as well.

As the dust settles around this case and the investigation and hearings play out, we find a CEO who assumes little to no responsibility, customers who are due recompense, hundreds of millions of dollars in fines assessed and past employees whose voices are finally being heard. From these past employees we now know that multiple attempts were made to blow the whistle on these fraudulent accounts through calls to the company’s ethics hotline and emails to their human resources staff. In return for following the company’s ethics policies (let’s not mention the law!), those employees were reportedly rewarded with termination[1].

Reporting under the condition of anonymity, a former Well Fargo Human Resources employee told reporters at CNNMoney that the bank had a plan in place to retaliate against those who used the tip line for reporting sales related issues. To make a long story short, the HR staff helped managers find ways to fire those tipsters.

All of this only proves what we already know: The existence of a code of conduct isn’t enough to create ethical behavior. The code must be also enforced and supported by company culture. And if a company’s upper management isn’t enforcing the code, then it is HR’s job to do so.[2]

Enforcement is one thing, but creating a supportive company culture is another. The experts at the Faas Foundation suggest that not only was the culture at Wells Fargo not supportive, but that it actually had all the necessary components of a hostile work environment (unreasonable expectations put on employees, an acceptance of questionable practices, and reluctance to complain out of fear of retaliation). According to Andrew Faas of the Foundation, “Wells Fargo has a much bigger issue than the fraudulent accounts—they have a culture of fear. If this is validated, it puts to question the credibility of their leadership’s response[3].”

Pointing the finger directly at the CEO is easy and justified, but it doesn’t change this simple fact: A very different story would be playing out in the news right now if the HR staff had been responsive to the complaints and willing to take a stand the very first time they heard of a violation.

This extends beyond HR’s role in building corporate culture, helping managers with realistic goal setting and providing code of conduct training. If the accounts of former employees are true, then complaints from internal whistle-blowers were communicated to Wells Fargo’s HR staff many times over the past several years.

While standing up to corporate executives requires tremendous courage, it is a professional responsibility of HR professionals to do so. We, too, are safeguarded by laws that provide strong protections for those who face retaliation for reporting these issues up the chain of command.




[1] https://my.capital.org/community/advice-resolution/newsletter/blog/2016/09/26/retaliation-lessons-from-the-wells-fargo-debacle

[2] https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/Pages/Wells-Fargo-code-of-conduct.aspx?utm_source=SHRM%20Wednesday%20-%20PublishThis_HRDaily_7.18.16%20(15)&utm_medium=email&utm_content=September%2014,%202016&SPMID=&SPJD=&SPED=&SPSEG=&spMailingID=26504954&spUserID=ODY2OTYwOTQ1NDkS1&spJobID=882202904&spReportId=ODgyMjAyOTA0S0

[3] https://www.fastcompany.com/3064175/how-wells-fargos-cross-selling-scandal-grew-out-of-workplace-culture

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Florida’s Tipped Minimum Wage

Each year by October 15th the State of Florida determines what the following year’s minimum wage rate will be. Take a minute to check your calendar – we can expect this announcement soon! While many would like to think these decisions are completely left to politics and protesters, the minimum wage determination in Florida is actually made using a formula that ties the minimum wage to the consumer price index (CPI).[1]

Last October it was announced that there would be no minimum wage increase in Florida for 2016. The decision was a surprise to some, especially those in the hospitality industry which contains a large number of the state’s minimum wage workforce.  However, since Florida has already established a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum, news of a flat year was welcomed by employers.

tipsEmployers in the hospitality industry have come to terms with Florida’s higher-than-federal minimum wage, but many struggle with the tipped minimum wage and how to ensure compliance when paying tipped employees.  The current minimum wage in Florida is $8.05 per hour, with a minimum directly paid wage of at least $5.03 per hour for tipped employees (with tips making up the difference).

Thus, in Florida, the employer can claim $3.02 toward the $8.05 minimum wage as long as the employee actually receives $3.02 in tips per hour. If the employee does not receive $3.02 per hour in tips the employer must pay the difference so that the full minimum wage is met.

While we wait to see if the state minimum wage (as well as the tipped minimum wage and tip credit amounts) will change for next year, now is a good time to review related Department of Labor Rules.

To begin with, employers must provide tipped employees specific information from the start of employment[2]:

  1. Notice of the amount of direct hourly wages it is paying a tipped employee, which must be at least $5.03 in Florida
  2. The additional amount it claims as a tip credit, which cannot exceed $3.02
  3. An explanation that the tip credit it claims cannot exceed the amount of tips actually received by the tipped employee;
  4. A statement that all tips received by the tipped employee are to be retained by the employee unless there is a valid tip-pooling arrangement in place; and
  5. An explanation that the tip credit will not apply to any tipped employee unless the employee has been informed of the tip credit provisions.

Two aspects seem to be at the root of many tipped minimum wage and hour disputes: Dual jobs and tip pools.

Many employers don’t consider their tipped staff to have dual jobs. However, if tipped workers are expected to spend some of their shift completing work that does not provide tips, they may have a dual job. Take a server for example. The server may spend four hours waiting tables, but then two additional hours cleaning, taking inventory, stocking table condiments, etc. The employer must pay the server the full minimum wage, without taking a tip credit, for those two hours.[3]

Another issue is tip pooling. Although tip pooling has potential benefits for employees, it can also be misused by employers. While many believe that back-of-house staff (line cooks, dishwashers, bussers, etc.) deserve a cut of the tip for their role in the dining experience, this practice cuts wait staff tip wages by more than 50%, which is definitely not in accordance with the law. According to the Federal Department of Labor, only employees who regularly receive tips can be part of the pool and employees must receive notice that they will be pooling. The law says that employees cannot be required to share their tips with employees who do not receive their own tips, like dishwashers or cooks.[4]

Whether or not the minimum wage (and tipped minimum wage!) will change next year as a result of the CPI formula or the presidential election, employers should review their payroll practices to ensure compliance and minimize the chance of wage and hour issues!




[1] http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-florida-minimum-wage-20151019-post.html

[2] http://hr.blr.com/HR-news/Compensation/FLSA-Fair-Labor-Standards-Act/Florida-court-FLSA-rules-valid-tip-credits-pools/#

[3] http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/florida-laws-tipped-employees.html

[4] http://www.danzlaw.net/blog/2016/06/understand-the-tipped-minimum-wage-laws-and-common-florida-violations.shtml

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Equal Pay Debate Will Fall to Next President

With the passing of longtime anti-feminist Phyllis Schlafly, famous for her long and prominent history opposing women’s rights and equal pay, perhaps now is the perfect time to consider the impact the election could have on equal pay, especially since this election could potentially result in the first female president of the US.

According to 2014 Census data, the most recent available, women earn an average of 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. This disparity is even greater for African American women (60 cents per dollar) and Latinas (54 cents per dollar). While the Obama administration has attempted to push forward legislation to address pay inequality, this issue will most likely fall to our next president.

Traditional political party roles on the idea of equal pay for equal work were *almost* shattered this election season when Ivanka Trump announced that her father Donald Trump, current Republican nominee, “will fight for equal pay for equal work.” While Trump has said that “women who work as hard as men [should] make the same if [they] do as good a job,” this statement does not mean that Trump plans to fight for gender based equal pay. In fact, Trump stands firmly with Republican party leaders, many of whom are dedicated to defeating potential gender equity pay laws.

Working to ensure that employers provide equal pay for equal work has traditionally been a priority for the Democratic Party. Republicans have historically opposed any laws that would infringe on an employer’s ability to reward its workers on the basis of merit with minimal government interference. Those positions have held true so far in the 2016 presidential election season.[1]

Senate to take up and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation which will help close the wage gap between women and men working equivalent jobs, costing women and their families $434,000 over their careers

Senate to take up and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation which will help close the wage gap between women and men working equivalent jobs, costing women and their families $434,000 over their careers

Hillary Clinton, who sponsored the Paycheck Fairness Act during her time as a Senator, is still pushing to pass the act, which goes beyond equal pay to cover paid family leave and minimum wage increases among other things. While the Paycheck Fairness Act sounds like a simple and fair fix, opponents say that it could create excessive legislation that would create a burden for small businesses.

Earlier this year the Obama administration proposed executive action through the EEOC to require employers with 100+ workers to provide detailed information about employee earnings. Under the proposed law, employers would need to break down pay information by gender, race and ethnicity so that pay gaps are easily identified. [2] For more than 50 years, employers have reported workforce data by race, ethnicity, sex and job category. This proposal would add summary data reported by pay ranges and hours worked. Under the most recent proposal, the report on 2017 employment information would be due by March 31, 2018.[3]

While no one knows what this requirement might look like after the election, or if it will even exist, legal experts recommend reviewing current pay structures to identify and then address or justify areas of pay disparity.



[1] https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/pages/clinton-vs-trump-equal-pay-for-equal-work.aspx

[2] https://www.fisherphillips.com/resources-alerts-updated-equal-pay-data-rule-fails-to-address-employer-concerns

[3] https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/7-13-16.cfm

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Political Debate in the Workplace: More at Stake than Lost Productivity

It’s election season and, unless you’ve mastered the art of conversation avoidance, it’s likely that you’ve been invited (or forced!) into a political discussion in the course of an average day. This election is a little “louder” than those of the past. With the constant media attention given to our current Republican and Democratic Presidential candidates, the campaign trail seems to have barged right into our homes and workplaces, mostly uninvited.

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, 3 in 10 employers (30%) and nearly 1 in 5 employees (17%) have argued with a co-worker over a particular candidate this election season, most often about Donald Trump.[1] This same survey reports that male employees (20%) reported a higher incidence of arguing about politics at work than female employees (15%). Comparing age groups, at 24% younger workers (those between the ages 18 and 24) are the most likely to report engaging in heated political debates at work.

loss_productivityBeyond potential morale and productivity issues, political debate in the workplace may create a potential liability for employers. Conversations around our current Presidential candidates can easily focus on race, sex or religion. This can provide grounds for harassment, discrimination or other types of workplace complaints.[2]

Before we pull out our pens to write a new policy on political debate, let’s remember one thing: Employees don’t have a Constitutional right to free speech or freedom of expression at work.[3] The first amendment applies to government censorship, not workplace censorship. The Constitution allows private businesses to regulate speech in the workplace, and even to bar political discussion entirely. Public employees are more protected by free-speech rules, but even government offices can impose limits.

Still, the potential liability should not be dismissed. It would be nearly impossible to ban all political discussion in the workplace. Chances are that your current policies already have you covered, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Ensure your harassment policy and harassment complaint procedure are visibly posted and that employees have been trained on both. Take this opportunity to remind employees of any guidelines that prohibit bringing campaign materials into the workplace.
  2. While employers can implement dress code policies that prohibit the display of political items at work, the National Labor Relations Act says that employees have the right to display Union insignia while at work. So, for example, if what Donald Trump said is true, and “the men and women of the Teamsters are with Trump,” that “Teamsters for Trump” lapel button is allowable in the workplace regardless of dress code.
  3. Remind managers and supervisors to avoid political discussions with their subordinates and to limit discussions that harm productivity or otherwise disrupt work.
  4. Review your electronic communications and computer use policies to ensure that they mention that company computers and systems are for business related use only and that the use of systems for political campaigning is prohibited.
  5. Review your non-solicitation policy to ensure that it prohibits all forms of solicitation, including political campaigning, during work hours.

November will be here before we know it, and the results of the election may bring about even more heated, political debate. Perhaps the most important thing we can all do is create a culture of open dialogue and respect for differing opinions. If that fails, perhaps we teach our employees the art of knowing when to walk away!



[1] http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/political-talk-heats-up-the-workplace-according-to-new-careerbuilder-survey-300298209.html

[2] http://www.acc.com/legalresources/publications/topten/TopTenQuestionsRegardingPoliticalDialogueintheWorkplace.cfm

[3] http://www.hrexaminer.com/is-there-free-speech-at-work/

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The Future of Minimum Wage May be Decided in November

If you asked around the office for opinions on the current Presidential Election (Don’t! Nothing good will come of that!), the only thing everyone might agree on is that we can’t trust politicians. As the old saying goes, “Campaign promises are like marriage vows. They are made at the beginning…but are quickly forgotten” (Dick Gregory).

minimum_wagePolitical scientists have been studying campaign promises for almost 50 years, and the results are remarkably consistent. Most of the literature suggests that presidents make at least a “good faith” effort to keep an average of about two-thirds of their campaign promises.[1] If this research is correct, then the HR landscape may be in for some big changes regardless of who wins in November, starting with the issue of minimum wage. The federal minimum wage has been $7.25 an hour since 2009, and bills in Congress to change it have not been supported. This election, however, may be the deciding factor.

The Democrats have agreed to a party platform calling for a nationwide wage floor of $15 an hour.[2] Hillary Clinton’s website shows that the candidate doesn’t exactly agree with the party, but she does believe a hefty increase is in order. According to the site “At $7.25 per hour, the federal minimum wage isn’t nearly enough to make ends meet. Americans who work 40 hours per week at the minimum wage earn just $15,080 a year—below the poverty threshold for a family of two. That’s why Hillary wants to raise the federal minimum wage to $12 an hour—and why she supports city and state efforts to raise their own minimum wage even higher.[3]

The GOP’s stance on the subject is pretty clear. According to the 2016 Republican Party Platform, “Minimum wage is an issue that should be handled at the state and local level.” The rationale behind this is that cities and municipalities have varying economies and, therefore, should be able to make their own laws concerning wages. Donald Trump has said that he would like to see “an increase of some magnitude,” but that the states should decide based on what businesses need to be competitive.[4] Then again, don’t put too much stock in what Donald Trump says, the candidate has been known to change positions on a whim and stretch the truth depending on his political needs on any given day [5].

Of course, minimum wage is not the only workforce issue that the two parties do not agree on. The Republican Platform has an entire section describing plans for the 21st century workplace. However, until the Democratic Party Platform is finalized and published, we will not have a clear view of the differences between the two or what impact an election win by either side will have. If the research about campaign promises is correct, however, then a change in minimum wage is a very real possibility.


[1] http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trust-us-politicians-keep-most-of-their-promises/

[2] http://graphics.wsj.com/elections/2016/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-on-the-economy/

[3] https://www.hillaryclinton.com/feed/middle-class-needs-raise-heres-how-hillary-clinton-plans-do-it/

[4] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/trump-let-states-decide-minimum-wage-sarah-palin-will-work-to-defeat-paul-ryan-revised-puerto-rico-bill-eyed-2016-05-09

[5] http://www.politifact.com/personalities/donald-trump/


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Classifying Restaurant Staff

FLSA_logoRestaurant operators already have a dizzying amount to manage without getting bogged down by payroll or wage and hour issues. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provides state-specific guidelines for things like minimum wage and employee classification that can make even a seasoned HR professional’s head spin. However, considering that failure to comply can result in substantial fines and penalties (and let’s not forget legal fees!), this is one area you can’t afford to neglect.

According to the Restaurant HR Group, one of the most common wage and hour mistakes in the restaurant industry is misclassification of employees. When you hire or contract with a new worker the FLSA requires that the worker be classified as an employee or independent contractor. The mistake most often made is to classify an employee as a contractor when they are not.

The classification process can be confusing and requires employers to determine whether or not an “employer – employee” relationship exists. But how do you know? Thankfully the IRS provides factors to consider when making this determination based on the ideas of control and independence in the relationship.

According to the IRS, factors that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories:

  1. Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job?
  2. Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (These may include things like how the worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies).
  3. Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?[1]

While there may be some indicators that lean toward an employee determination, and others that lean toward a contractor determination, the entire relationship must be considered. One final and often overlooked step in this process is making sure that you document how you arrived at the conclusion.

Another common wage and hour mistake in the restaurant industry happens when classifying employees as either exempt or non-exempt. With new overtime laws effective December 2016, it is important to review current employee classifications to prepare.

According to Eater.com, the average U.S. wage for chefs, head cooks, and pastry chefs is $45,920. For bakers, that number is $26,270. Based on the new Overtime Law, these workers, often salaried and working 50 or more hours per week, will qualify for time-and-a-half pay for their extra hours if employers do not consider options such as adjusting wages or cutting hours.[2]

Based on the new law and the national increase in employee lawsuits related to exempt status, now is the perfect time to review employee classifications. Need some help? Don’t hesitate to reach out- we’re here for you.



[1] https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-self-employed-or-employee

[2] http://www.eater.com/2016/5/18/11696664/obama-overtime-labor-laws

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Do your managers qualify for their exempt status?

Small business owners without any HR expertise and without seeking outside counsel tend to classify their employees on a whim, believing that granting someone “exempt” status will save the business on overtime expenses. Little thought is given to whether their “exempt” employees actually qualify for their exempt status. This is a problem that unfortunately, many of them don’t realize the severity of until there’s a claim of overtime that allows for them to learn about the qualifications for the exemption. By then, its usually too late and they are well on their way to losing a case.

Salary Test

Generally, an employee is paid on a salary basis if s/he has a “guaranteed minimum” amount of money s/he can count on receiving for any work week in which s/he performs “any” work. To qualify as exempt, employees must generally be paid a predetermined amount over $455 per week each pay period not-dependent on the quality or quantity of the work performed. Starting December 1st, 2016, the salary threshold of $455 a week will rise to $913 ($47,476 per year) making an additional 4.2 million workers eligible for overtime pay.

The Duties Tests

An employee who meets the salary level tests and also the salary basis tests is exempt only if s/he also performs exempt job duties.

There are three typical categories of exempt job duties, called “executive,” “professional,” and “administrative.”

Exempt executive job duties.

Job duties are exempt executive job duties if the employee

  1. regularly supervises two or more other employees, and also,
  2. has management as the primary duty of the position, and also,
  3. has some genuine input into the job status of other employees (such as hiring, firing, promotions, or assignments).

“Mere supervision” is not sufficient. In addition, the supervisory employee must have “management” as the “primary duty” of the job.

Business owners should remember to look at the job duties of the position, not the job title of an employee to determine whether an exempt status applies. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) also provides certain exemptions for outside sales personnel, certain specialized computer personnel, certain highly compensated employees, certain retail sales employees, and employees covered by the Motor Carrier Act (MCA); Qualifying for these and documenting your rationale can get a little technical, and business owners should consult with an HR or Labor Attorney to ensure the exemption will hold up if ever challenged.

With the new salary threshold becoming effective in a few months, the time is perfect for employers to reevaluate their exempt/nonexempt classifications. If you are concerned that some of your exempt workers may be misclassified, the new regulations will give you another reason to revise their classification without necessarily creating liability for past wages.

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Overhauling the “Zero Tolerance for Violence” Policy

Most HR Professionals would prefer to stay out of the gun control debate. In light of recent gun related violence in the US, however, we once again find ourselves “caught in a legal crossfire between the need to maintain safe workplaces and the right of employees to possess firearms.[1]”

Until recently, many employers attempted to prevent violence in the workplace with Zero-Tolerance policies, but policy alone will not prevent violence, nor will it help in a time of crisis.

Although the gun control debate has taken center stage, gun violence is only one type of violence we may encounter. Here are a few recommendations for preventing and preparing to respond to violence in the workplace.

1.      Train your managers and staff to identify the behaviors that may be predictors of potential violence and encourage employees to report conduct that makes them feel uncomfortable. Investigate all complaints and act if needed. Include the reporting structure in policy, and be sure to make employees aware that there will not be retaliation for following the policy.

2.      Provide training for employees that goes beyond a zero-tolerance policy. In today’s climate, this means providing training and conducting drills on what to do in an active shooter situation. This may require consulting with your local law enforcement agency, especially if no one on your team is an expert in active shooter preparation. Many agencies will provide active shooter training free of charge.

3.      Form a management response team to conduct a threat assessment as well as respond to threats or reports of potential violence.[2] The members of this team may need specialized response training as well. Hire an external party to conduct a threat assessment if your organization is not comfortable conducting it internally.

4.      Ensure that your management team understands your state’s laws regarding guns in the workplace. Legal experts say employers have a right to prohibit guns and other dangerous weapons on private property.[3] However, many states have laws allowing employees to have weapons locked in a personal vehicle in the company parking lot. If you are going to implement a no-guns-at-work policy, be sure to post a conspicuous sign prohibiting weapons at work.

5.      Consider adopting background check requirements for all new hires. A thorough check may weed out someone with a history of violence or behaviors often associated with a heightened potential for violence.[4]

No employer is immune from workplace violence and no employer can totally prevent it.[5] Taking measures to prevent violence is not enough. We must also prepare to respond and act when faced with a violent situation.



[1] https://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/safetysecurity/articles/pages/hr-conflict-guns-workplace.aspx#sthash.ZakEiJFJ.dpuf
[2] https://www.shrm.org/legalissues/federalresources/pages/3-ways-to-reduce-risk-of-workplace-violence.aspx
[3] https://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/safetysecurity/articles/pages/hr-conflict-guns-workplace.aspx#sthash.f2sh1QW0.dpuf
[4] http://topics.hrhero.com/workplace-violence/
[5] https://www.dol.gov/oasam/hrc/policies/dol-workplace-violence-program.htm

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HR Trumps political speech at work

You overhear them in the dining rooms, kitchens, and break rooms around this time every four years or so- sometimes more often in off-cycle election years. Political chit chatter between your employees. Sometimes, they even get heated and you begin to hear voices being raised. You might even notice employees avoiding others at the office who have expressed different political views as their own to “avoid trouble”.
From a Human Resources Management perspective, it’s important that you understand how to react. Political discussions at work can impact morale, teamwork, communications, and may even open up your company to liability if arguments get out of hand. My advice to you-

Don’t allow employees to play the “free speech” card at the office when you have a trump card in the law.

candidatesThat’s right, I said it. Your employees’ free speech protections when it comes to these conversations ends at your company’s door step. The First Amendment of the constitution only guards against censorship by the Government. There is no Federal law protecting the expression of political views at private employers.

I stress private employers because while private employers can fire an employee whose speech they dislike- the First Amendment governs the circumstances under which public employers may discipline employees for their speech. The Supreme Court has also ruled that public employee speech involving matters of “public concern” constitutes protected speech under the First Amendment. Needless to say, there are many an argument that can be made for what vaguely constitutes public concern.

What Must You Know

From a political standpoint, here’s what you should know if you are a private employer conducting business in South Florida. In Florida, it’s a felony to “discharge or threaten to discharge any employee in his or her service for voting or not voting in any election, state, county, or municipal, for any candidate or measure submitted to a vote of the people.” Don’t ever fire or threaten to fire an employee for exercising their right to vote or to abstain from doing so.

Additionally, Political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and age under 40 are prohibited under the Broward County Human Rights Ordinance. Yes, it is illegal to discriminate against someone when making a hiring decision in Broward county because of their political affiliation- don’t do it.

While you can limit political speech at the office as a private employer, do remember that the National Labor Relations Act states that “private employers cannot prohibit discussions about workplace conditions.” Translation, there are limits to your powers of silencing political speech at the office. Say for example, two or more of your employees are debating in the lunch room which political candidate or party would benefit them most as workers- they have a right to that conversation. In the event of a claim in this instance, they would argue it was concerted activity about workplace conditions- and more likely than not you would lose that case.

Got a question about the political chatter at your office during this election season? Don’t tackle it alone, reach out and let us help.

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Miami Beach Approves Raise In Minimum Wage To $13.31 « CBS Miami

The way it would work is, the city’s minimum wage would be changed to $10.31 per hour starting in 2018. From then on, there would be an increase of $1 dollar per hour for each year – eventually reaching $13.31 by 2021. Once that happens, the city commission can reconsider each year if they need to increase the minimum wage.

We will keep you informed as to any potential changes in city’s implementation plans as compliance with this new ordinance gets closer.

Source: Miami Beach Approves Raise In Minimum Wage To $13.31 « CBS Miami

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The HR Side of Hurricane Season

hurricane-seasonIn case you’ve missed the onslaught of radio, TV, print and social media messages, hurricane season is here again! Most of those messages, however, are geared towards making sure your home and family are prepared for potential storms. Planning for the workplace, however, is another story. Not only are there physical assets to consider, but your human capital as well.

The physical safety of your workers, securing the building and protecting equipment is almost always the first step. Keep in mind, however, that you may need to provide employee training for specific preparation tasks so that those designated know exactly what to do. Who are the essential personnel that you want back as soon as possible after a hurricane? Decide now what system will be in place to authorize re-entry to your facility after a storm.

Your employees will want to know the status of company operations. Ensure that contact information is current and that all employees know how you will communicate with them after a storm passes.  Having a written policy in place is highly suggested.

Your Payroll

Preparing for payroll continuity is often a challenge and plans should be made far in advance of an actual weather event. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay non-exempt staff only for hours actually worked. Therefore, an employer is not required to pay these non-exempt employees if the employer is unable to provide work due to a natural disaster. An exception to this rule is made for those employees who receive fixed salaries for fluctuating workweeks. An employer must pay these employees their full weekly salary for any week in which any work was performed.[1]

Employers are required to pay exempt personnel a full salary if the worksite is closed due to weather or a natural disaster for less than a full work week. However, employers are permitted to require exempt employees to use allowed leave for this time.

Of course, nothing is as simple as exempt vs non-exempt when it comes to payroll during a disaster. Those essential personnel we talked about earlier? Well, if they are “on call” and remain on site so that they can deal with emergency repairs, they have to be compensation even if they do not perform any work.[2]

After a storm employees are often eager to get back to work and may volunteer to help with the clean-up effort just to get the organization back to regular operation. Sounds ideal, but the FLSA does not permit employees to volunteer unpaid time to the employer under any but the narrowest of circumstances.[3]

Storm preparation at your organization should not start at the threat of a storm, but rather in written policies and procedures that are well planned in advance and shared with all. Providing training to employees to ensure that everyone is prepared to act will pay off in the long term.

Do you have any written policies and procedures related to natural disasters? Share your best practices in the comments below.


[1] https://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/compensation/articles/pages/disasters.aspx#sthash.wNPbwayP.dpuf

[2] https://www.shrm.org/hrdisciplines/compensation/articles/pages/disasters.aspx#sthash.wNPbwayP.dpuf

[3] https://www.shrm.org/legalissues/federalresources/pages/hurricanesandyraiseswageandhourissues.aspx#sthash.yrJuqxUz.dpuf

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5 Ws That Are Key to Employee Investigations

While working at your office one day an employee quietly enters and closes the door behind him. He asks for a few minutes of your time, and detecting the urgency in his voice you grant him the time- he proceeds to tell you a harrowing tale of harassment and bullying allegedly going on right beneath your nose. Right now, he just wants you to do something about it. Time for you as a Manager to jump into action and immediately contact your HR Business Partner.

I cannot stress the importance of conducting a quick, thorough, and documented investigation into any and all claims of harassment by an employee. While HR professionals are trained to perform these investigations, Managers should at the very least be knowledgeable on the 5 Ws that will determine the success of said effort.


The 5 Ws refer to the questions that must be asked during any investigation-

  1. Who – was there, who made the offending comment, who witnessed the comment being made, etc.
  2. What – preceded the comment, what was said exactly, what do you think the offending party was trying to convey with the comment, what was hurtful about the comment, what did you do about being hurt at the time, what in your opinion would be the ideal resolution to this situation, etc.
  3. When – was the comment made, when did you decide to complain, when did you tell the offending party that their comment was hurtful, etc.
  4. Where – did the incident happen, where did you go afterwards, where did they go afterwards, etc.
  5. Why – didn’t you tell them you were hurt by their behavior, why did you not say something sooner, why did you …, etc.

Your employee investigations should be executed quickly, your interviews well-planned and remember the 5 Ws. Your employees must perceive you as unbiased and objective in the performance of reviewing these claims- or you will not get the information or cooperation you need from them in order to get to the bottom of the situation. It almost goes without saying, but document every step along the way of your investigations and it helps if you always assume that the matter will end up in court.

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The new overtime rules are here!

Key Provisions of the Final Rule

The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
  2. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and
  3. Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.

The effective date of the final rule is December 1, 2016.

The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020. 

Complying with the new Overtime Rules

Overtime RulesWondering how these new rules impact your labor force, and what you can do to ensure you remain in compliance? We can help! Complete the form to your right or call and ask for help- one of our HR Consultants will be glad to sit with you and analyze the impact to your impact and recommend solutions for your particular situation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to complying with this rule, as what is best for every business can vary depending on many factors.


Final Rule: Overtime

Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act


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7 Signs Your Key Employee Is Leaving You

Key employees don’t just leave without warning. Here’s how to know if you should be worried.

The other day, a fast-growth CEO contacted me to chat about an employee problem that was becoming a big issue (employee engagement is what I do for a living, after all).

Without warning, key employees were leaving the company.

So the CEO was not only questioning how to stop these regrettable departures, but also wondering if other key employees were at risk of leaving.

Everyone is replaceable, except at certain points in a company’s history.

There are certain times when departures of key employees are costly and downright detrimental.

If my view is accurate–and I’d love to hear if you think I’m wrong–a savvy CEO should always be on the lookout for signs that key employees are fidgety.


Source: 7 Signs Your Key Employee Is Leaving You

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Millennials Believe In Life After Work

According to Deloitte, many millennials around the world are planning near-term exits from their employers. Many have expressed their belief that businesses have few motivations beyond profit and they would prefer to place their own values ahead of organizational goals. For millennials searching for new employment opportunities, a good work/life balance is their top priority in any future career. The reputation of a company and its leaders is not considered important by young workers today.
Infographic: Millennials Believe In Life After Work | Statista
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Rule to make more workers eligible for overtime

5 million additional Americans are expected to qualify for overtime pay under the new rule.

Millions of additional Americans are expected to become eligible for overtime pay under a new rule expected to be released by the Labor Department as early as this week.

The Obama administration, and worker advocates, have portrayed the change as a linchpin of its efforts to raise U.S. wages that have stagnated for years. Businesses, however, say the measure will saddle them with red tape and force many to effectively demote managers or find ways around the regulation.


Currently, management, administrative and professional employees earning more than $26,660 a year are exempt from receiving overtime pay when they put in more than 40 hours a week. The rule proposed by Labor last summer would raise that threshold to $50,440. However, law firms and worker advocacy groups say the final version lowers the proposed threshold slightly to $47,000.

Source: Rule to make more workers eligible for overtime

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Job Prospects Looking Up for New Grads

It’s graduation Season. Across the country Colleges and Universities are graduating a new crop of prospective employees who are about to begin their search for the perfect job. The good news for these grads is that 67% of employers surveyed by CareerBuilder said they plan to hire recent college grads this year. The numbers haven’t looked this good in almost a decade. Although employers report that they plan to pay these new hires more than they have in the past, even with this increase more than half of those entry level positions will start at $40,000 or less.

Job Prospects New GradsMuch like in years past, employers are still concerned about the skills their new prospects are graduating with. More than 42% of employers surveyed felt that graduates did not have enough leadership skills, while 37% found that communication skills, both oral and written, were lacking.  While creative thinking, project management, research, math and technical skills were all on the list of items employers felt were lacking in new grads, the overall consensus was that there are not enough real world skills taught in the classroom.

If new grads aren’t up to par, why are so many looking to hire them? According to Rosemary Haefner, CareerBuilder’s Chief HR Officer, “In addition to an improving economy, we are beginning to see a rising number of retirements, which is creating more room for advancement and creating more opportunities for entry level candidates.” As reported in SHRM’s Aging Workforce study earlier this year, now that the Baby Boomer generation has reached retirement age, businesses are faced with the reality of losing many workers with key talents, experience and skills. The challenge of dealing with skills shortages as many older workers retire and developing the skills of a younger workforce are on the minds of business leaders across the nation. Many hope that new hires can learn from the Boomers before they go.

The national CareerBuilder survey was conducted online by Harris Poll between February 10 and March 17, 2016, and included a representative sample of 2,186 hiring managers and human resource professionals in the private sector across industries and company sizes. The CareerBuilder press release with survey information can be found here.

popdevteamJob Prospects Looking Up for New Grads
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The Highest-Paying Companies In America

Research conducted by online employment website Glassdoor has found that consulting and technology companies offer their employees some of the highest salaries in America. Chicago-based consulting firm A.T. Kearney was ranked first overall for pay with median total compensation amounting to $167,534. Strategy& came second with $160,000 while Juniper Networks rounded off the top three with $157,000.

Infographic: The Highest-Paying Companies In America | Statista

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popdevteamThe Highest-Paying Companies In America
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Beware the rule-following co-worker, Harvard study warns – The Washington Post

Harvard study on toxic employees lays out three characteristics that should make you suspicious.

Every workplace has them. The colleague who bad-mouths you behind your back at the water cooler. The boss who takes credit for everyone else’s ideas. The sexist jerk people actively avoid by taking circuitous routes to the printer and lying about their happy hour plans.

These employees are the bane of American enterprise and they’re everywhere. Not only are they detrimental to a company’s morale, they are extremely costly to its bottom line and can do far more harm to an organization than outliers at the other extreme — the superstar employees — do good. But who are these people exactly? And how are they different from the rest of us?

Source: Beware the rule-following co-worker, Harvard study warns – The Washington Post

popdevteamBeware the rule-following co-worker, Harvard study warns – The Washington Post
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Uber will pay up to $100 million to settle labor suits

Uber has agreed to pay millions of dollars to settle two class-action lawsuits that would have defined the relationship between the company and its drivers.

Uber has survived a major threat to its business model, settling two legal suits brought by drivers who sought to be classified as employees instead of independent contractors.
The ride-hailing firm will pay up to $100 million to the 385,000 drivers, but their employment status will not change.

The class actions were brought in California and Massachusetts. Uber, which is valued at up to $70 billion, is on the hook for a $84 million initial payment, and another $16 million if it goes public.

Source: Uber will pay up to $100 million to settle labor suits

popdevteamUber will pay up to $100 million to settle labor suits
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How Boards Botch CEO Succession

The strategic importance of CEO succession is indisputable, and the elements of effective succession planning have long been known. So why do many boards plan poorly for CEO succession when the cost of failure is so high?

When David Goldberg, CEO of Surveymonkey Com LLC, an online-survey company based in Palo Alto, California, died unexpectedly in May 2015, the company did not announce a new CEO until July. It considered 75 candidates, both internal and external, before appointing former Hewlett-Packard Co. and Microsoft Corp. executive Bill Veghte to the position. However, Veghte remained in the CEO role less than six months; in January 2016, he was replaced by Zander Lurie, who had been SurveyMonkey’s chairman.

Research finds three key reasons boards fail at CEO succession planning.

Source: How Boards Botch CEO Succession

popdevteamHow Boards Botch CEO Succession
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The Rise of People Analytics

After several years of industry buzz about the HR possibilities that lie within data analytics, little progress was made in implementation. Business Leaders seemed to like the concept, but weren’t ready to buy in. This year, however, is shaping up to be the year that we get beyond the discussion and into People Analytics.

People analyticsPeople Analytics is a growing area of Business Intelligence that uses a data-driven approach to solving problems and making decisions using people-related data. The concept isn’t new, but its popularity is.

According to Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends report for 2016, the percentage of companies that believe they are ready or somewhat ready for analytics increased from less than 25% to almost a third. A full 77% of the companies surveyed acknowledged the importance of people analytics for decision making and strategic planning. Deloitte reports that, due to competitive pressures and the greater availability of systems, organizations are aggressively building analytics teams and developing solutions.

Most businesses have the need to determine where to find the best employees, why employees are attracted to their organization, why they stay or leave; who will likely find success or be promoted, or who will be the best leaders. People Analytics can help. As explained in an article last week in Computer Weekly, in terms of recruitment, analytics can help to improve process efficiencies and optimize costs by determining the best candidates and the best recruitment channels for specific roles.

People Analytics is not just confined to HR decisions, however, as companies are using people-related data to provide guidance for many types of business decisions. Banks are using people analytics as a tool to analyze behaviors that can lead to fraud, noncompliance or unethical behavior. Healthcare organizations are using it to drive clinical and operational improvements.

People-related data should not be thought of as HR data. In fact, people related data can come from across the organization as well as outside of the organization. Deloitte’s 2016 report mentions a pharmaceutical company that is collecting data from social media sources to predict who the “high-flight-risk” candidates are among their current employees.

The growing popularity of People Analytics is not all related to its capabilities. Some of it has to do with Cloud Computing. As more and more analytics providers are offering cloud based services, which minimize administrative, infrastructure and equipment costs, it is easier and more cost effective for businesses to adopt.

If your organization isn’t quite ready to hire an analytics staff or invest in data analytics software, you are not alone. That doesn’t mean you can’t start with some basics, however. The 2016 version of Excel comes with a built-in capability to collect data from a variety of sources, such as corporate databases and public websites, and transform this data into something valuable. Download the Power BI Desktop to go with it for more robust capabilities, and you will have more than enough analytics power to get started.

popdevteamThe Rise of People Analytics
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Big Data is Coming to Human Resources

There’s no doubt about it. In 2016, if you want to ensure that your organization remains competitive and that top talent is not only acquired but also retained, your human resources department must begin thinking of how to leverage big data.

Big DataData analytics, sometimes referred to as Big Data, is the process of examining large data sets containing numerous data types in an attempt to uncover hidden patterns. The goal is to make human resources and talent management decisions based on data, not intuition or “gut instincts”, and is being driven by all of the new sources of data available coupled with the technological ability to crunch all of it..

The business function most commonly using data analytics is, not surprisingly, Sales and Customer Management. However, according to Deloitte’s 2014 research, 18.6% of the US companies engaged in big data practices use the data for human resources decisions.

According to Forbes, one of the critical needs areas businesses can use data to focus on is healthcare. With healthcare costs growing year after year, and our current data sources providing us with only descriptive information regarding how the benefits are being used, it is time to allow data analytics to move us from descriptive statistics on health care dollars already spent and to predictive analytics that can help us to manage costs.

Keep in mind that data analytics is not focused on analyzing the data you have in house, although it can certainly do that. Big data pulls available data from a variety of sources to look for hidden patterns or connections.

According to Entrepreneur.com, big data provides HR professionals the opportunity to become more analytical and strategic in acquiring candidates. Adding big data solutions to the recruitment strategy can reduce the costs associated with bad hires. Instead of a repetitious review of resumes, big data offers a quick way to learn more about candidates through their numerous social media profiles, online resume databases, online employment records, and the like.

The bottom line? Big data can help HR professionals make more strategic decisions that can impact competitive advantage and the bottom line. Your next hire may just be a HR data analyst.

popdevteamBig Data is Coming to Human Resources
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What do applicants take away from your interview process?

Unemployment is down, and the labor market is tightening. What does that mean for you? What should you be doing as a result?

Well, as the supply of available labor shrinks if you are going to land the cream of the crop- now is the time to review your recruiting and hiring processes to ensure you build the best employer brand that you can. And let me be clear- nothing will damage your employer brand more than a broken recruitment and communication process with potential candidates.

Data compiled for The New York Times by Glassdoor found that an average interview process in 2013 lasted 23 days versus an average of 12 days in 2009. And in today’s 2016 world, the pressure is on everyone- not just hiring managers, to make quality hiring decisions and quickly.

Here are five things you should be doing today to ensure your employer brand is working in you favor to attract the best and brightest talent:

  1. Never allow a candidate to leave an interview without knowing the timetable for you making a decision on the position.
  2. If your interviewing process goes beyond the timetable you gave to candidates, proactively update candidates.
  3. If you are going to have candidates deliver work sample to gauge their ability to perform- limit the scope of the work; Candidates don’t work for you yet and tasking them with completing one of your deliverables on a project is unethical.
  4. Be reasonable with your timeline for delivery of any work samples— 3 to 5 business days, never tomorrow.
  5. Lastly, show some respect to candidates. Every candidate who took the time to interview with your company should get a definitive response within the timetable you gave them. Preferably via a telephone call, but at the very least an email thanking them for their time and informing them of your decision on the role.

One last question you want to consider- the first experience candidates have with your company’s culture is during your hiring process. What are you communicating about your company and its culture to prospective candidates?

Take a look at this video by Heineken®. What did they just communicate to their new hire? How did they make their new hire feel- at the end of the process?

popdevteamWhat do applicants take away from your interview process?
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The Latest Corporate Benefit: the 529 Plan

The 529 plan is coming to the workplace.

529 college savings planTo make it easier for employees to save money for college, more companies are adding 529-plan perks to workplace-benefits packages. Some employers allow workers to fund these college-savings vehicles automatically via payroll. Others kick in matching contributions. The goal is to make saving for college akin to saving for retirement by providing some of the same incentives that encourage workers to contribute to 401(k) accounts.

“We have absolutely seen an uptick in both interest and numbers of employers offering college-savings plans in the workplace, says Kris Spazafumo, a vice president at American Funds, whose CollegeAmerica 529 plan is the country’s largest by assets under management, according to Morningstar.

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popdevteamThe Latest Corporate Benefit: the 529 Plan
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Hire Top Talent Without Breaking the Budget? Think Remote!

Few small businesses have the budget necessary to compete with the biggest companies when it comes to hiring top talent. But money isn’t everything! Offering a flexible work environment that increases work-life balance could be worth its weight in gold.

Let’s face it – the days when 100% of the workforce actually went in to the office every day to work are long gone. Thanks to advances in technology, and a shift in employee priorities as the Millennials joined the workforce, our culture is rapidly changing to one that favors working remotely.

w-l-balanceBy offering a flexible work environment where employees can work one or more days outside the office, you can send a message that not only are you aware of your employees’ need for a better work-life balance, but that you trust them and believe in their professionalism. South Florida is rife with traffic jams, long commutes and terrible drivers. Imagine what reducing an employee’s commute would do for their morale, their wallet and their level of happiness! One less day of gas and tolls, one less day of a frustrating commute that can save an hour or two of time, one less day of professional attire to be dry cleaned.

The results of a 2015 US Department of Labor survey showed that 23% of employed Americans did some or all of their work from home in 2014.  While we don’t have a new report yet this year, it’s a safe assumption that this number has risen to more than 25% of employed Americans. Data from the 2015 report also shows that, on the days they worked, 39% of employed people age 25+ with a bachelor’s degree or higher did some or all of their work at home.

Few companies have a business model that could support a completely remote workforce. However, providing the option to work from home even one day a week might be enough to retain or recruit top talent to your organization.

Have you been successful in offering remote work options for your employees? We’d love to hear what’s been working for you. Post your comments below.

popdevteamHire Top Talent Without Breaking the Budget? Think Remote!
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The Never Ending Discussion of Wages

It’s almost impossible to watch the news or follow social media without hearing at least one side of the debate for raising wages. Last year The Wall Street Journal and Vistage International conducted a survey of 728 small business owners across the U.S., from a range of industries, and found that small business owners were evenly split in their opinion of raising the minimum wage, with about 49% of respondents saying the federal minimum wage should be raised, while 49% disagreed.

While reasonable arguments can be found on both sides of the fence, one thing that is certain is that businesses must revisit the issue of wages in their overall workforce strategy. In our last post, we mentioned that our employees can’t help comparing what they’re making to what their peers are making, both inside the organization and out. Last week, Costco announced that it will be raising wages for both new and current entry-level workers in the U.S. This means that Costco will be paying workers at least $13 an hour. Even those who don’t work in retail will be comparing their pay to that of Costco. Analysts suggest that, as the economy adds jobs, retailers will have to start paying their front-line employees more if they want to retain them.

Couple the Costco wage increase news with the increase Walmart announced a few months back, and it is easy to predict that the U.S. labor market might be tightening. February’s Department of Labor monthly report showed strong hiring in the U.S. economy as evidenced by the addition of 242,000 jobs and a steady unemployment rate of 4.9%. The U.S. economy has been adding jobs 72 months in a row. As the economy improves and job openings become more plentiful, it is safe to assume that workers will have more opportunities to jump from job to job in search of the best wages.

According to The Atlantic, many businesses are reporting that the competition for low-wage workers is growing and it’s harder to find employees to fill vacant positions. The Wall Street Journal reports that one third of small firms stated that they had lost workers due to higher wage offers by competitors or other businesses.

Of course, it’s not always feasible to adjust wage scales. If this is the case, then it’s time to revisit other ways to keep your employees motivated, productive and loyal. In terms of keeping your employees happy, money isn’t everything. But it helps.

Do you think wage increases outside of your industry will have any impact on your workforce? Weigh in by commenting below.

popdevteamThe Never Ending Discussion of Wages
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Are you Paying Too Much – Or Too Little?

Choosing how much to pay your employees can be difficult. Are you paying too much? Too little? How much is enough to keep your best and brightest employed within your organization? Being fair to all employees while also showing that they’re valued takes more than a standard pay scale. While the ability to hire a great candidate is often reliant on salary, retaining a great employee may require a little more than just dollars and cents.

Fairness in compensation within your organization, otherwise known as internal equity, is somewhat of a preoccupation in today’s workplace. Our employees can’t help comparing what they’re making to what their peers are making, both inside the organization and out. While we try to keep salary information confidential, the information is easily obtained, sometimes by word of mouth and by information found online. Creating internal equity can help create and maintain the loyalty of your employees.

Looking at the balance between internal and external salary equity is a great place to start. However, no matter how complex and complete your compensation formulas are in reality (assuming all related laws are considered), it is how they are perceived that can truly impact employee loyalty and happiness. If employees perceive that they are not being paid fairly in comparison to their coworkers, they may not feel valued and may leave. If the employee perceives that they do more work than their peers but are paid the same, this may create a similar outcome.

Wages should not be based on job title alone. The tasks completed are more important than the titles. Similar tasks should earn similar wages. Of course, beyond job tasks it is certainly acceptable to consider an employee’s education and prior experience.

More and more employers are creating compensation plans built on the idea of transparency, which helps them to explain why compensation decisions were made. Explaining the factors that led to a compensation decision will allow employees to understand your exact reasoning, which can result in the perception of being paid fairly. The employee’s perception of being paid a fair wage is just as important as the wage itself.

If you haven’t reviewed your pay or internal equity structure recently, now is the time. Your best employees are probably already aware of how much their peers are making and how much they could be making elsewhere.

popdevteamAre you Paying Too Much – Or Too Little?
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When the New Hire Isn’t Really “New”

Ask any graduate of HR 101 and they will tell you that the employee life cycle is supposed to begin with recruitment and end with departure. Or at least that’s the way it used to be. Introducing the “boomerang employee.”   Or as we like to call it, the not-so New Hire. This new buzz word, in short, refers to all of those folks who left your organization and then return to work for you in some capacity at a later point.

Boomerang-employeesIt wasn’t too long ago that many organizations had a policy against hiring back former employees. According to Workplace Trends, a recent study of Human Resources professionals found that 85% of respondents had received applications from former employees and 40% had rehired almost half of the former employees who applied. Of course, those that were hired had left the organization in good standing.

The same study reported that 33% of HR professionals and 38% of managers agree that the biggest advantage of hiring back former employees is that they are already familiar with the organization’s culture. More than 30% of respondents reported that that boomerangs do not require as much training as a brand new employee, therefore reducing the traditional costs associated with new hires.

With so much experience at stake, employers are creating new incentive programs to ensure that boomerangs stay with their organization, often by offering them back their prior years of service after they maintain re-employment for one or two years. These years of service almost always tie to vacation and sick time, service awards and other incentives.

Boomerangs will mean more than increased competition in the job market. This trend does increase the span of the traditional employee life cycle as we know it. Not only do we see boomerangs being hired in the traditional sense, but we also see employers developing alumni networks of employees and using these networks to hire contract and contingent workers. So even if traditional employment has ended, the relationship may continue for a long time to come.

popdevteamWhen the New Hire Isn’t Really “New”
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Is love in the air at your office?

It’s Valentine’s Day, let’s recognize that love is not just in the air this time of year – it may also be in your office. Workplace romances are more common than you might think. Last year’s Vault Survey of Office Romances found that 51% of respondents had been involved in an office romance. The scary part is that 32% of those folks had a relationship with a superior or subordinate.

Before you change the annual Sexual Harassment Prevention training to the week of Valentine’s Day each year, let’s consider a more realistic option: A policy on workplace romance. This type of policy is an addition to your policy on harassment, not a replacement.

Office RomanceAccording to SHRM, when developing a policy on office romance, employers should consider both the legal implications associated with sexual harassment and retaliation claims under Title VII of the Civil Acts of 1964 and similar state and local laws, as well as the day to day events associated with consensual relationships in the workplace. A good policy starts with prohibiting romantic or sexual relationships between supervisors and direct subordinates. Preventing all office relationships seems improbable, but you can clearly identify workplace expectations.

Already have an office romance policy? If it hasn’t been revised in a while, now might be a good time to align it with your technology policy. If there is an office romance, it is likely to play out through an internal messaging system, e-mail, texting or social media. While your technology policy may already address the use of these in the workplace, your office romance policy can serve as a reminder of the policy and should serve to further minimize any expectations of employee privacy.

If you have an older “love contract” and not a formal policy, it’s time to rethink your approach. Love contracts were designed to allow employees to disclose their relationship and provide protection to the employer in the event that the relationship ended. While they may still have a place in your organization, a love contract alone will not shield you from liability.

As you rethink your current policy, or think about developing a new one, always remember to keep the culture of your organization in mind. While you have to abide by related laws, you should carefully consider what will fit your organization best.

A policy, a love contract and employee training might not sound romantic, but it’s a great Valentine’s Day gift for your business!

popdevteamIs love in the air at your office?
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ACA Reporting Deadlines Extended

Just in time to celebrate the New Year, the IRS released Notice 2016-4 which announced the extension of due dates for Affordable Care Act (ACA) reporting. If you’re not familiar with the ACA reporting requirements, we refer you back to our October blog post which can be found here. By delaying the deadlines, the IRS is allowing employers and insurers more time to gather required information and adapt their business practices to allow for use of the forms.

In short, if your business is required to comply with the ACA mandate of offering health coverage to 100% of your full time employees and their dependents (until age 26), you must report this information on IRS forms 1094-C and 1095-C in 2016. The due dates for these forms have been extended as follows:

  • The due date for furnishing the 2015 Form 1095-C to the insured and employees is extended from February 1, 2016, to March 31, 2016.
  • The due date for health coverage providers and employers furnishing the 2015 Form 1094-C to the IRS is extended from February 29, 2016, to May 31, 2016 if not filing electronically.
  • The due date for health coverage providers and employers electronically filing the 2015 Form 1094-C with the IRS is extended from March 31, 2016, to June 30, 2016.

It is important to note that due to the extension, some employees will not receive their forms until after the April 15 tax filing deadline. The IRS indicates that these employees do not have to file an amended tax return. They should, however, keep their forms readily available in case they need them later.

No official extension request is required and there is nothing you need to do to take advantage of the extended due dates.  Despite the extension, the IRS is encouraging employers and other coverage providers to provide statements and file the forms as soon as they are ready. The IRS is prepared to accept information reporting returns beginning this month.

Happy New Year!

popdevteamACA Reporting Deadlines Extended
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2016: It’s (Past) Time for a Social Media Policy

Say what you want about social media, but you can’t manage a business without addressing it in one way or another. Many, if not most, businesses have accepted social media as an important marketing tool. Others may still be in denial about its virtues. Whether you’ve embraced it as part of your business strategy or are still hoping it’s a passing fad, there is no doubt that you should adopt a social media policy.

social-mediaThere are numerous factors that can’t be ignored related to social media – productivity, privacy, legal issues, the reputation of your organization – just to name a few. HR Professionals should know that workplace culture is largely driven by conversations taking place on social networking sites, not at the water cooler. Encouraging employees to interact on networking sites can improve workplace culture and the image of the entire company. The plan should be to use social media to your advantage.

Regardless of the size of your organization, developing a social media policy is likely in order. If nothing else, a formal policy will serve as a reminder that social media activities can have both expectations and consequences and at the very least a policy will alert folks to use a little common sense when it comes to using social media.

So what should your social media policy include? Well, first and foremost is must be readable by your employees. Beyond that, you should consider including:

  • Who can speak as a representative of your organization. This is especially important for those wanting to respond to negative comments, media requests, etc.
  • The responsibilities of the employee. Specifically mention personal responsibility regarding what they post and the consequences of improper posts. While you don’t want to get into the argument over free speech, you can easily point out that posts that can be considered as harassment or bullying of other employees will not be tolerated.
  • Privacy. Be clear about information that cannot be disclosed for privacy or confidentiality reasons. Keep in mind that sharing information about compensation, working conditions and manager performance may be considered protected speech that cannot be restricted.
  • Productivity expectations. Don’t be fooled into thinking that restricting social media use would improve productivity. That plan would likely backfire. Trying to prohibit social media is not a reasonable way to address productivity issues, but your policy should state that social media should not interfere with meeting productivity or performance requirements.
  • Policy Enforcement. Explained how you plan to enforce the policy and the consequences for not following the policy.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work. According to The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), this protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media. A few years ago the NLRB issued a report on social media policies with the two main points being:

  1. Employer policies should not be so sweeping that they prohibit the kinds of activity protected by federal labor law, such as the discussion of wages or working conditions among employees.
  2. An employee’s comments on social media are generally not protected if they are mere gripes not made in relation to group activity among employees.

You can visit the NLRB fact sheet on the subject by clicking here.

Social media is not going away anytime soon. If you haven’t already established a policy, include this as part of your plan for the coming year.

Happy New Year!

popdevteam2016: It’s (Past) Time for a Social Media Policy
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Don’t Waste Money on Marketing in 2016

We all know that it’s important to promote your business.  However, with all the ways and things you can do for branding and marketing, it’s extremely easy to spend enormous amounts of effort and money on things that don’t ultimately result in a sale – in effect, waste it.  This is especially true if your branding, marketing, and sales processes aren’t properly aligned in a step by step sequence that ultimately leads to closed business.  That sequence is the key to your overall business development strategy.

Here are some things to think about in developing your strategy for 2016.

  1. What products and/or services am I offering in 2016?
  2. Who makes up the ideal target market for each product/service?
  3. What is our company’s brand message?  What are our values and beliefs?  How do we communicate them in a way that will resonate with our target market?
  4. How will the target market see/hear/experience our brand?  What do they already believe about it?  How can we build trust and credibility with them?
  5. What is the value proposition of each product/service for each target market?  Will certain segments receive more value than others?
  6. Does our target market already understand the value, or will they have to be educated on it?
  7. How will our target market find out about the value proposition? What marketing channels will give be the most effective?
  8. When they do find out about it, what action do we want them to take (schedule a meeting, buy immediately, request a quote, etc.)?
  9. What is our process for qualifying opportunities and/or scoring leads?
  10. What is our follow up process for leads with good opportunities, but the timing isn’t right?  How will we stay top of mind?
  11. What’s our process for closing the sale?  Are there opportunities for up-sells and cross-sells?
  12. How can we generate more repeat sales and/or referrals from our customers?

Mapping out a strategy for your business development can be overwhelming, which is why a lot of business owners tend to just hire marketing companies and delegate the task to them.  The problem is that a marketing service will tell you the best way to use their service, but often won’t tell you if using their services is really the most effective and efficient thing to do to promote your business.  They may also may generate leads for your company, but can’t help you put the process in place to convert those leads into closed sales.

sales-partners-logoFortunately, our friend Will Dukes at SalesPartners Miami has offered to do something special for our friends and clients.  Will is a strategist- he doesn’t sell any branding or marketing services.  He will help you, however, make sure that your brand message and value propositions are clear and on point, and that you have a clear sales process set up that will take a potential prospect to an active opportunity to a paying customer.   He’ll make sure you aren’t wasting time and money on branding and marketing tactics that don’t make sense for your company.

To get his help you also don’t have to sign up for some year-long coaching program.  Everyone he works with starts with a single strategy session.  For many people, that session is all they need to take decisive action, close more sales, and stop throwing money out the window on ineffective strategies.  Most importantly to us, this session isn’t, as Will calls it, “some BS sales pitch.” He guarantees that you will receive real value and actionable items for your business, or he’ll give you your money back, no questions asked.

If you go to www.SalesPartnersMiami.com/schedule right now, you can see that to sign up for an initial SalesPartners Strategy Session will cost you $350 and 90 minutes of your time.  Compared to all of the money you could be wasting on ineffective marketing – in a single campaign, or even a single ad(!) –  that’s pretty inexpensive.  However, because of our relationship with Will, he’s taking 30% off.

When you book your session by January 8th, just mention Miami Payroll Center in the note, and your strategy session will only be $245 and you’ll still have the entire 90 minute session.  Just go to www.SalesPartnersMiami.com/schedule, and click on Strategy Session.  Book a time that works for you, mention us in the note, and they’ll send you a special payment link with the save $105 price for friends of Miami Payroll Center.

Obviously, it is in the best interest of all of us  – you, your employees, and us – for your company to grow, and grow quickly.  That’s why we hope you’ll take Will up on his offer.  With the increased sales you generate, and money you save on marketing, who knows?  Maybe you could hire a new employee!

Don’t just hope for a prosperous New Year, MAKE IT HAPEN! Schedule your strategy session today!

popdevteamDon’t Waste Money on Marketing in 2016
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Store or Delete? How Long Should We Keep HR Records?

As the beginning of a new year approaches, many of us will try to organize our offices, de-clutter both our physical desktop and our virtual one, and simply get rid of the unnecessary. One thing that Human Resources is known for is lots and lots of paperwork. While a large part of it is stored electronically these days, it’s still there, taking up space. Hey, record keeping is part of our job – we need to keep those records! That’s true. But are we keeping them longer than necessary?Personnel File

Before we talk about how long to hold onto certain items, a quick reminder of the types of information that should be in an employee’s personnel file: Only information that can be legally used as a basis for an employment-related decision should be in an employee’s file. That means that information related to EEO, disability records and wage garnishments – all things that we cannot base employment decisions on – should be in separate files. A good practice is to keep I-9s in a separate file as well.

The list below outlines a few of the federal guidelines, although it is important to note that if state guidelines are different, you should pick the one with the longer time frame. Better to keep it longer than necessary than not long enough. Of course, some industries or circumstances come with their very own sets of requirements (such as Federal Contractors) and those do not follow the guidelines offered below.

  • Hiring Records – 1 Year. Yes, you will need to save all of the cover letters, resumes, interview notes, etc. from the hiring process for one year after the hiring decision is made. Among other things, this serves as a means to protect businesses from claims of discrimination.
  • Basic Employee Documentation such as I-9s or work permits for minors – 3 years after hire or 1 year after termination, whichever is longer.
  • Drug Testing – 1 Year (longer for transportation related jobs). If you require drug testing as part of the pre-employment process, then it is considered part of the hiring process (See first bullet). If you do additional drug testing after employment has commenced, you will need to maintain these records for one year as well.
  • Payroll Records – 3 Years Minimum. Payroll records include daily schedules, regular rate of pay (and basis for determining it), overtime pay, weekly compensation, amounts and dates of payments, daily and weekly hours, overtime hours and pay, annuity and pension payments, benefits, deductions and additions and more. Please note that 3 years is the minimum time to hold on to these records. In our highly litigious workplace, the best practice is hold on to them for at least five years after termination!

There are many more types of records that we hold on to, and each has guidelines regarding how long you need to retain them.

popdevteamStore or Delete? How Long Should We Keep HR Records?
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Attendance at the Holiday Party is Optional…. But We EXPECT you to be there!

Are you ready for the annual holiday party? In today’s multicultural, highly litigious workplace, some employers have chosen not to celebrate the holidays at the office at all. Trying to figure out how to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan, and Bodhi Day in one event is reason enough to consider pulling the plug on holiday celebrations altogether. Still, it’s hard to break a habit and many businesses still revere the party as a time honored tradition to be upheld. Not all employees, however, may be eager to attend.

Holiday_PartyWhile employers don’t normally require their employees to attend a holiday party, many strongly encourage it, creating an expectation of attendance. If you’re one of those organizations, we suggest you reconsider the message on your holiday party invitation for two reasons. The first is related to liability and the second is related to wage and hour laws.

As an employer, your liability for something that happens at a holiday party is going to depend primarily on whether the party can be considered within the course and scope of employment. If employees are required or expected to attend, then it’s a safe bet that the party is within the course and scope of employment. If an employee is injured at your party it could be compensable under your workers’ compensation policy. If an employee hurts someone who is not an employee, you could be legally responsible for their negligence.

If there is no expectation of party attendance, then the party may not be in the course and scope of employment, which may relieve you of some of these liabilities as an employer (Of course, an employer can always be held liable for harm resulting from negligence).

No one expects to pay employees an hourly rate for attending a party, but if non-exempt employees are required or expected to attend then, by law, you should pay them for the hours they attended the party. If those party hours, on top of their normal work hours, put their weekly hours over 40, you could find yourself paying overtime for party attendance.

If there is no expectation of party attendance then you shouldn’t have to pay for the party time unless the employee performed actual work. Two months ago we posted about meal breaks, and the same concepts apply here.  If you have your staff working at the party to register party-goers, hand out name tags or table numbers, decorate or perform any other duties that you assign to them then, legally, they should be paid for their time.

So make your holiday party optional…the fun people will attend regardless and you will have two fewer headaches to worry about!

Merry Christmas everyone.

popdevteamAttendance at the Holiday Party is Optional…. But We EXPECT you to be there!
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Is it time to retire the year end review?

For a large number of employees the annual performance review meeting is the most anxiety-ridden conversation of the year. Many meetings will start out with a few positives that are said early on to take away the sting from the negatives, which we’ve become accustomed to calling “areas for improvement” or some other euphemism for underperformance. Managers will then try to ensure that the meeting ends on a positive note of some sort, but this emotional swing from positive to negative to positive often leads to employees receiving a mixed message and ultimately ends in disappointment.

Annual performance reviewIt’s time to reconsider the idea of an annual review that happens only at the end of the year. Performance management is a process. Chances are you’re already providing feedback of some sort throughout the year. Perhaps it’s time to replace your end of the year annual review process with one that has a beginning, middle and an end.

One model of performance management suggests holding Performance Planning sessions with each employee at the start of the year. Use that time to discuss the team member’s goals as well as your expectations. Not only will the employee have a clear understanding of your expectations, but they will also understand exactly what you plan to hold them accountable for at the end of the year.

After performance goals are set, provide constructive coaching on projects and performance throughout the year, keeping notes and asking the employee for a goal’s status report. Ask for their opinion on how they think things are going. These items will make writing the end of the year review much easier.

A few weeks prior to writing your end of the year review, ask the employee to judge their own performance against the goals set at the beginning of the year. Once your review is written, provide it to them just prior to your meeting so that their initial emotional reaction to the review can be experienced privately. If the employee participated in the performance planning process at the beginning of the year, the contents of their review should not be a surprise. For high and low performers alike, provide feedback in terms of what they are doing now that is not working, what they are doing that is working well and what they need to do to be more effective.

There are lots of performance review models that provide ideas on how to handle the end of the year meeting, from getting 360 degree feedback to using a rating scale to measure specific behaviors. The reality is that your performance management system should be unique to your organization and, most importantly, should fit the culture of your workplace.

popdevteamIs it time to retire the year end review?
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Understanding the Reporting Requirements of the Affordable Care Act

2016 is just a few short months away, and with it will come new responsibilities related to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Do you have a plan for collecting the data required to complete IRS forms 1094-C and 1095-C?

aca-healthcare-reformThese Forms are to be filed by employers who are required to offer health insurance coverage to their employees under the ACA and who are recognized as an Applicable Large Employer (ALE). An ALE is an employer who has 50 or more full-time employees or 50 or more full time equivalent employees. Filing in early 2016 for the 2015 calendar year is actually based on the size of your company in 2014. Confused yet? Maybe this will help:

If your business had 100 or more full time employees in 2014: In 2015 you must comply with the ACA mandate of offering health coverage to 100% of your full time employees and their dependents (until age 26) and report this information on IRS forms 1094-C and 1095-C in 2016.

  • If your business had between 50 and 99 full time employees in 2014: In 2015 you must comply with the ACA mandate unless you qualified for transition relief. If you did qualify for transition relief, please note that the ACA mandate will apply to you for the 2016 plan year (reported in 2017).
  • If your business had less than 50 full time employees in 2014: You are not an ALE and are not required to comply with the ACA mandate.

Merely counting your full time employees will not help, however. The IRS qualifies employers as ALE’s based on full time employees and full time equivalent employees. So how many full timers do you really have? Based on the definition related to the reporting requirement, a FT employee works an average of 30+ hours per week or 130 hours per calendar month and at least 120 days per year. That’s the easy part. The next piece is a little more tricky.

The hours of part time employees are added together to equal those of a full time employee and are then used to calculate whether the mandate applies to your business. So two part time staff each working 15 hours per week can be the equivalent of one full time staff member who works 30 hours per week. The folks at Healthcare.gov know this is confusing, so they have a Full-time Equivalent (FTE) Employee Calculator available on their site to help.

So why are there two forms and what will the information be used for? The 1095-C provides information about health insurance and is sent to the IRS and to your employees. The 1094-C acts as a cover page for the 1095-C and is only sent to the IRS. The IRS will then use the data to identify employees who are eligible for subsidies to purchase coverage through the Exchange, employees who are without Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) and who may be subject to an Individual Shared Responsibility Penalty, employers who are failing to offer Minimum Essential Coverage (MEC) to full-time employees and employers who fail to offer Minimum Value Affordable Coverage to full-time employees. Employers who are failing to offer coverage may be subject to penalties.

If you’re still unsure about what these requirements mean to your organization, we encourage you to contact our offices today.

popdevteamUnderstanding the Reporting Requirements of the Affordable Care Act
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Avoiding a Halloween Scare

It’s that time of the year again- Halloween, also known as “All Hallows’ Evening”. Many a CEO or business owner is tempted to let employees “dress up” for the day, humanize the workplace a little bit. Allow their teams to display some personality, and bring some pizazz to the office. Overall, this is not a bad time of the year to allow a little fun.

Don’t let the fun turn into a nightmare scenario for you. When adults come out and play, Halloween costumes can get overly sexy (I know, I know- you’ve never seen this happen), or mock racial, religious, or political beliefs that may offend another employee. Before you know it, you’re getting served with a workplace discrimination lawsuit. How can you avoid this spooky situation, and still allow for a little fun at the office?

As with most things Human Resources related, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While you cannot completely eliminate the risk that an employee will get offended, you can certainly mitigate that risk by following a few easy steps.

First things first. If you’re going to allow for a little fun in the workplace this Halloween, communication with your Managers is key. Meet with your Management staff and Elviradiscuss the holiday, and how some in the workplace might find the holiday objectionable due to their religious beliefs. For this reason, Managers should communicate to their teams that it is perfectly okay NOT to participate in dressing up to work on that day, and if an employee requests to work from home and it won’t impact their work- this reasonable accommodation should be made. Any costume contests, office décor contests, parties, or activities related to the holiday should be communicated to staff as “voluntary” and no employee should be forced to partake.

Next, you should communicate that Halloween is not a day (or an excuse) to toss the company dress code out the window. While it is okay for them to dress up, it should be communicated to all staff that the main parts of your company’s dress code will still be enforced. You want to get the message across to your staff that costumes that may offend a colleague, or worse- a client, will not be tolerated. Period. If possible, give examples of costumes that comply with your dress code, and those that don’t. I suspect this being a Presidential election cycle and with the new Star Wars movie set to be released in December, you’re going to be seeing a lot of Donald Trump and Hans Solo costumes.

Lastly, I can guarantee you that even though you take the two necessary precautions above- someone will still end up coming to work in an inappropriate costume. Consider when communicating the Halloween holiday’s work rules for the day asking those employees who will be coming in costume to bring a change of clothing in the event their chosen attire is deemed inappropriate. Also inform them that not doing so may result in their being sent home for the day should their costume not meet the company’s communicated guidelines.

I know what you’re thinking, all this for a day of fun? Yes, and believe me- you’ll thank me if you still end of with the nightmarish scenario of having an employee file a claim.

popdevteamAvoiding a Halloween Scare
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Narcissistic? Perhaps. Valuable? Absolutely. The Millennial Workforce.

Quick Insights into the Millennial Workforce

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, have a reputation for being lazy, entitled job hoppers who are more attached to their technology than they are to reality. While in some instances this may be true, it does not negate the fact that Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce in 2015 (US Bureau of Labor Statistics) and, in less than a decade, will make up more than 75% of the workforce.

Millenial_employeesMore often than not, Millennials don’t quite deserve the widely accepted negative reputation that has become the hallmark of their generation. In fact, Millennials can, and should, be next in line for leadership positions within your organization. They are naturals with technology and social connectivity and are full of ambition and creativity. As more Millennials enter the workplace each year, who better to lead them than one of their own?

According to the 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce study, more than half of all hiring managers report difficulty in finding and retaining Millennial workers. This comes as no surprise since the same study reports that more than half of Millennial workers expect to stay with an organization for no more than three years.

As the face of the workforce changes, it is important to take note of what engages and motivates this group. Here are a few insights into the Millennial Workforce:

  1. It takes more than money to motivate Millennials. A survey conducted by UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School reported that there were other job factors Millennials found to be just as important as salary. These included meaningful work and a sense of accomplishment. The survey also reported that one third of Millennials said social media freedom and mobile work opportunities were more important than salary in deciding to accept a job offer.
  2. Forget about the annual performance review. According to the UNC study, 80% of Millennials said they prefer feedback almost immediately. This means a constant review of efforts and frequent updates on progress towards goals. This real time feedback, paired with structured assignments, will provide opportunities for them to learn and grow within you organization. This brings us to the next point:
  3. Almost two thirds of Millennials said that professional and personal development was the most influential factor in their current job (UNC Study). Training and development are important to them, and they expect success to be rewarded with opportunities for promotion. If they are not promoted within your organization, they will go looking elsewhere for the opportunity.

If you take away nothing else, remember this: Ignore the Millennial stereotype! Findings from the 2015 Millennial Majority Workforce study reveal that Millennials have more of the skills businesses require to remain agile and innovative. Advantages they have over prior generations include adaptability, idea creation and the ability to learn and adopt new technology rapidly.

popdevteamNarcissistic? Perhaps. Valuable? Absolutely. The Millennial Workforce.
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Employee Motivation: It’s Not (Always) About Money

For far too long many employers have subscribed to the popular notion that if we pay our employees enough, they’ll produce the outcomes we’re asking for. While this might have rung true at certain points during the last century, this thought process is long outdated. Recent research suggests that the happier the employees, the more likely they are to produce.

Last year economists at the University of Warwick found that “human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity.” Specifically, study data showed that employee happiness led to a 12% spike in productivity, while unhappy workers proved to be 10% less productive. This research was supported earlier this year by the Blackhawk Engagement Solutions’ Survey of Employed Americans which also concluded that happy employees are more productive than unhappy employees.

According to the Warwick study, companies that invest in employee support and satisfaction tend to succeed in generating happier workers. This suggests that compensation and financial awards are not enough. The Blackhawk study reported that employee rewards and recognition programs may not be aligned with what actually makes employees happy and more productive.

Emp_BenefitsEnough about the research. What it boils down to is this: A great compensation and benefits package is only the beginning. So, if it’s not money that makes employees happy, then what will it take?

According to experts, a great place to start is to ensure that employees clearly understand your organization’s vision and goals. Experts suggest that aligning rewards and recognition with company strategy can lead to happier employees.

Next, be sure that employees have what they want and need to get the job done. Don’t assume that they are already equipped with all of the tools needed to succeed. Ask them about their jobs, the training they received, the support they receive from superiors and what tools they would like to use. Ask for input, and do it personally if possible.

As in most workplace issues, communication is key. Communicate regularly and be sure to tie your vision and goals into workplace happenings so that employees can see the larger picture. If they know how their positions tie into the larger goal, they are more likely to feel a sense of purpose and belonging.

Every business should have a way of recognizing employees and rewarding them for their hard work. In terms of keeping your employees happy, money isn’t everything. But it helps. While every job well done can’t be rewarded with a promotion or bonus, small financial incentives, such as gift cards, are effective motivators.

Lastly, it is important to note that employee happiness does depend a lot on intangibles: a feeling of belonging to the work team and feeling valued and appreciated consistently outrank money when employees are polled about job satisfaction.

Are you doing something creative or innovative to get the most out of your employees? If so, we’d love to hear from you- leave a comment below.

popdevteamEmployee Motivation: It’s Not (Always) About Money
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Are You a Joint Employer? Well…It’s Complicated!

nlrbIn late August the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) made a decision (Browning-Ferris Industries of California, Inc., et al. v. Sanitary Truck Drivers and Helpers Local 350, International Brotherhood of Teamsters) that might make you think twice about outsourcing your next project. Through this decision the NLRB pronounced a new legal standard to determine if a business is a joint employer of another’s employees. They’ve also created a fair amount of confusion and uncertainty in the process. Under this new standard, employers may now have obligations and liabilities under federal labor law in relation to the employees of a variety of other companies with which they do business – their contractors, suppliers and franchisees just to name a few.

The decision says that two or more companies are joint employers if they share the ability to govern terms and conditions of employment. If you set some of the terms or conditions of employment for temporary staff, your contractor’s staff or an employee of an outside agency, the NLRB might consider you to be a joint employer.  That not only means that you could be held liable for labor violations but, since this decision makes it easier for labor unions to organize employees of staffing agencies and franchises, it also means that you could be forced into collective bargaining negotiations. Employers using staffing agencies are particularly at risk. If you have sufficient authority to control things like wages and working conditions, you may be considered a worker’s employer, even if another company also qualifies as an employer of that same worker.

Not convinced that this applies to you? Consider this: If you have the ability to reject temporary workers, establish qualifications or assign work shifts for temporary employees or the employees of a contractor, then it is very possible you could be considered a joint employer. If you require these workers to follow your company’s safety procedures and go through your company’s training, you could be considered a joint employer. If your supervisors provide oversight for these workers, you could be considered a joint employer.

For more than 30 years the NLRB considered a company a joint employer only if it had direct control over working conditions and chose to exercise that control. Now a company may be deemed a joint employer if it has indirect control or simply reserves the right to have such control.  So even if a company has the right to control working conditions but chooses not to use it, they can still be liable for the negative impact of other joint employers of that worker.

Now is the time to consider your current employment practices in order to avoid unintentional joint employer status. While the NLRB’s decision provides little detail that will enable you to guarantee you are not a joint employer, you should review franchise agreements, staffing agency contracts, etc. in an effort to mitigate this risk.

It is important to note that the recent decision has no impact on laws over which the NLRB has no jurisdiction. For example, this does not change the definition of who is an employee for tax or benefits purposes.

popdevteamAre You a Joint Employer? Well…It’s Complicated!
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Is it Time for Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)?

The threat of being sued by an employee is an everyday reality for business owners, and small/mid-sized businesses are no exception. It only takes one event to turn a once happy employee into a disgruntled worker. Thinking you might be safe since you have a small, loyal staff? Think again. While your current staff may be happy and loyal, the threat of a lawsuit can come from past, present and even prospective employees.

ScalesThe idea that you could be sued by someone you’ve simply interviewed as a prospective employee may seem absurd, but employer liabilities begin before the employment relationship begins. Prospective employees can claim that you failed to hire them for an illegal reason such as their age or gender. Even though this claim may be hard to prove, it can still result in costly legal fees for your business.

Law suits from prospective employees are not extremely common, but law suits from current and former employees seem to be a mainstay in our current business climate. Employees who are terminated, passed over for promotion, or who feel harassed or slighted in some way may all take legal action.

One way to help mitigate the risks of an employee lawsuit is by purchasing Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI). EPLI protects businesses against claims that the company is violating employee rights. While policies differ, EPLI in general will reimburse for court fees, judgment amounts and legal defense costs whether the company wins or loses. If you believe your current insurance already provides this coverage, be aware that many general liability policies exclude employee lawsuits and discrimination charges.

Every employer, regardless of size, can be the target of legal action. While cases against large, nationwide employers seem to be the only ones to make the headlines, insurance industry data suggests that mid-size business, those with at least 15 but no more than 250 employees, are sued frequently by current and past employees. These employees can often file a lawsuit without bearing any of the cost or risk involved.

According to the Conflict Solution Center, a nonprofit organization specializing in workplace mediation, the average cost to litigate an employment practices claim is $160,000. That doesn’t include settlement or judgment costs. When you start to think about the impact of those costs on your business, it makes sense to consider adding EPLI to your risk management strategy.

Speak to your insurance professional to see what your current coverage will cover and determine if EPLI is right for your business. Alternatively, give us a call at (305) 273-4066, and we would be more than happy to refer you to an insurance professional who will work with you to review your options for this type of coverage.

popdevteamIs it Time for Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)?
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A Working Lunch?

Taking breaks can be good for productivity, focus and even morale, but most employees are surprised to know that Federal law doesn’t give adult employees (18 and older) the right to take a break. Although many Florida employers do provide meal and rest breaks, they are not required to offer breaks at all.

working_lunchOf course, most employers recognize that an employee who is tired and hungry is neither productive nor a joy to be around, so breaks are offered through company policy. Even though the breaks themselves are not mandated, employers are required to pay for an employee’s time during short breaks. Breaks of 20 minutes or less require that an employee be paid.

Many employers do not pay employees for meal breaks, which are most often greater than 20 minutes and therefore do not require payment. However, Federal law requires that if an employee works through their meal they must be paid. For example, if your front desk staff are covering the phones while eating lunch at their desk, they must be paid. If your service representative is eating in the car while driving from one customer to another, this too must be paid. Even though this time may be referred to as a “lunch break,” if the employee is still working then they are entitled to be paid. Meal breaks are only unpaid when an employee is relieved of all job duties.

To avoid misunderstandings or abuse of paid breaks it is important to clearly communicate your break policy guidelines. For example, you will need to specifically talk about the frequency and length of allowed breaks. You may also want to define break limits so that those who smoke are not taking frequent (paid) breaks while non-smoking employees are not.

More information about Federal requirements for breaks and meal periods can be found here.

popdevteamA Working Lunch?
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Scott signs bill banning pregnancy discrimination into law

On May 21, 2015, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a new law-SB 982: Florida Civil Rights Act, effectively banning discrimination against pregnant women at work and in public places. The law, which becomes effective July 1, 2015, amends Florida’s Civil Rights Act (FCRA) to expand the existing protected classes of race, sex, and physical disability to include pregnancy. Although Federal law, including the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, is intended to protect pregnant women- they still experience widespread discrimination.

For more information, or to read the full text of the bill please click here.

You may be asking yourself, “But Alex, isn’t this already illegal?”

Pregnant_womanAnd the answer is yes, since 1978 federal law has recognized pregnancy as a protected class; problem was- the Florida Civil Rights Act did not specifically contain this protection. Back in April 2014, the Florida Supreme Court held in Delva v. Continental Group, Inc. (No. SC12-2315) that “discrimination based on pregnancy is in fact discrimination based on sex because it is discrimination as to a natural condition unique to only one sex.” By passing this legislation, our state lawmakers are just now codifying existing judge-made case law, by amending the express language of the Florida statute itself.

Why now, and what does this mean for you as a business owner in Florida? Simply stated- individuals now have a cause of action for pregnancy discrimination under Florida law, which extends the time period in which an individual has to bring a claim. Also, successful plaintiffs may be able to recover additional damages under state law- where damages are capped differently than they are under Title VII.

What you should do, and ensure you and your hiring managers are always doing- is focusing your attention like a laser on whether the candidate in front of you has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform and excel at the position you have available. That, and how well of a cultural fit the candidate would be in your organization. Anything other than that, and you’re taking your proverbial eyes off the ball.


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President Obama to raise the overtime salary threshold

The President proposed changes today that would extend overtime protections to nearly 5 million white-collar workers.

Workers who earn as much as $970 a week—$50,440 a year—would have to be paid overtime even if they’re classified as a manager or professional, according to an announcement on the DOL website.

What do you need to know about this proposed rule change?

First and foremost, if it is approved this increase would only be the second one since 1975. Secondly, because this is a “rule change”— think of it as an executive order— it doesn’t require Congress’s approval. In other words, the president can enact this change on his own.

Failure to update the overtime regulations has left an exception to overtime eligibility originally meant for highly-compensated executive, administrative, and professional employees now applying to workers earning as little as $23,660 a year.

Watch more on the President’s announcement of the rule change here:

popdevteamPresident Obama to raise the overtime salary threshold
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Summer is here, and that means Hurricane Season is upon us…

Sure it’s hotter than usual, and South Florida hasn’t been hit in ten years by a major storm- but that doesn’t mean it’s 367px-Hurricane_Isabel_14_sept_2003_1445Ztime to rest on our laurels and not prepare for when our lucky streak comes to a churning halt.
It’s time to review your insurance coverage to ensure you are adequately covered in case of an emergency, it’s also recommended to go over your Business Recovery Plan (BRP) & Employee Handbook to rehearse what you will do when our lucky streak eventually comes to an end.
One of the first things we we recommend you do is download the 2015 Guide to Hurricane Readiness. This guide published by Miami Dade County has a lot of valuable information on what you can do pre, during, and after a storm to prepare yourself and your family in the eventuality of a storm. Business owners can link to the guide from their websites and/ or employee facing portals and communicate its availability to all staff members. In case you need a reminder of what this all means, watch this.

Your Human Resources employees play a key role in ensuring the continuity of your business. Take a moment to review this short list of what you should be doing now as a business owner to prepare:

1. Meet with your HR provider and review a plan of action in the event of a storm.

2. Set-up (or test) your emergency information line (a/k/a severe weather line) is working and that all HR staff know how to use it. Ensure that an employee is assigned to update it frequently in the event of inclement weather conditions.

3. Ensure your employee facing web site is working and that all staff know how to access it. An IT employee should be assigned to update the site frequently before, during and after a storm as a means of communicating with all employees.

4. Meet with you HR provider to review plans for payroll/ cash distributions following a storm event; benefits-related issues (i.e. health care provider plan for prescription drugs and waiving copay, 401(k) hardship/storm-related withdrawals, out-of-area medical networks availability and waiving of co-pays, etc.).

5. Update all employee addresses, phone and emergency contact lists and distribute a copy to all members of your HR team.

You may have noticed a common theme from our recommendations, the key to maintaining your business during and after a hurricane is communication- and lots of it. With your HR leaders, with your Sr. Leadership team, and most of all with your employees and customers. Have a plan for what to do in the eventuality of a storm, rehearse it, and if the time comes- execute it.

popdevteamSummer is here, and that means Hurricane Season is upon us…
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Misclassifying employees: An expensive proposition

Many small businesses believe they are getting a bargain on expenses and payroll taxes by classifying their employees as independent contractors. Some employers classify independent contractors as such in order to avoid paying overtime. They arbitrarily bring them on-board and figure they can simply provide them a 1099 at the end of the year and be done with it, completely oblivious to the perils to their business down the line.

Classifying employees and determining who is and is not an independent contractor isn’t a choice you are free to make in order to suit your business goals independent of the rules involved. If a hire is misclassified, a company can face hefty financial penalties and even lawsuits.

A number of factors must be taken into consideration in determining whether an individual should be hired as an independent contractor or an employee. It is also important to remember that no single factor is conclusive on its own- it’s sometimes very difficult for the hiring organization to make the correct determination on their own.

FEMA_EmployeesTo determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor under common law, the relationship of the worker and the business must be examined carefully. Generally speaking, an employee is subject to an employer’s control over what work gets done, how it is performed, with what tools and resources, and when the work gets performed. If on the other hand an individual is an independent contractor, the employer has the right to control or direct only the result of the work- and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result.

At Miami Payroll Center, we want to help you ensure you have properly classified your employees and/ or independent contractors. To this end, we’ve created a simple two-page job aid which can help you make the determination. To get this free tool, simply click here and fill out the short form. You will receive an email with a link to download the free job aid.

For more information on the proper classification of your employees, contact us or visit the IRS’s web site here.

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Payroll Taxes Can Bring IRS To Your Door, Even Land You In Jail

You may think the IRS pursues all taxes equally but they don’t. The IRS is especially vigorous in going after payroll taxes withheld from wages that are not promptly paid to the government. This is trust fund money that belongs to the government and was withheld from wages.

That makes any failure to pay—or even late payment—much worse. In fact, that’s so regardless of how or why the employer or its principals use the money. Using the money to pay suppliers and keep the business open isn’t a good reason in the IRS view.

When a tax shortfall occurs in this setting, the IRS will usually make personal assessments against all responsible persons who have ownership in or signature authority over the company and its payables. The IRS can assess a Trust Fund Recovery Assessment, also known as a 100-percent penalty, against every “responsible person” under Section 6672(a). You can be liable even if have no knowledge the IRS is not being paid.

Being being an officer or director can land you in the hot seat. If you’re a responsible person the IRS can pursue you personally for payroll taxes if the company fails to pay. The 100% penalty equals the taxes not collected. The penalty can be assessed against multiple responsible person, allowing IRS to pursue them all to see who coughs up the money first. Responsible means officers, directors, and anyone who makes decisions about who to pay or has check signing authority.

When multiple owners and signatories all face tax bills they generally squabble and do their best to sic the IRS on someone else. Factual nuances matter in this kind of mud-wrestling, but so do legal maneuvering and just plain savvy. One responsible person may get stuck while another who is even more guilty may get off scot-free.

Meanwhile, the government will still try to collect from the company that withheld on the wages. The IRS also wants to make sure this kind of bad tax situation doesn’t occur again. The government can move to shut down the business so the situation doesn’t get worse. In extreme cases the government may seek criminal penalties.

More commonly, the government may seek to enjoin this behavior. If the government thinks the situation is getting worse, it can seek an injunction. The idea is to stop the bleeding so the government gets its tax money. Where a business gets deeper and deeper into tax debts, the practice is sometimes referred to as pyramiding.

If a company is making minimal payments of tax debts, the IRS may try to induce voluntary compliance. In some cases, the Justice Department will seek an injunction to require timely deposits and payments of all withheld employment taxes and to timely file all employment tax returns. Whatever your situation, try to steer clear of these issues. Get help early.

For that matter, if you can, stay ahead of payroll taxes. Consider using a payroll service that doesn’t allow you the choice whether to use the payroll tax money for something else.

Originally on: http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2014/09/15/payroll-taxes-can-bring-irs-to-your-door-even-land-you-in-jail/

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