2018 National Business Trends Survey Shows Continued Business Optimism Tempered by Talent and Pay Challenges

Employer Associations of America (EAA) has released the results of its 2018 National Business Trends Survey. According to the survey results, many businesses continue to have an optimistic outlook for 2018 and are preparing for a positive year ahead. When looking at their own business results, 62% expect their 2017 sales/revenue to be slightly or significantly better compared to 2016. Continued optimism prevails as 73% of executives project slight to significant increases in sales/revenue for 2018. However, that optimism is tempered by several serious challenges to business growth. The top challenges include: a shortage of both skilled labor and professional/technical staff, and the ability to pay competitive wages and benefits. Regional Recruitment and Retention Challenges Members of MidAtlantic Employers’ Association (MEA) in PA, NJ, DE and MD reported strong hiring in 2017 and projected for 2018. 38% hired more than they planned in 2017 and 70% of executives indicated that hiring in 2018 would be to increase staff levels. Overall, 96% reported they will increase or maintain their staff levels. With 69% reporting that difficulty in recruitment is escalating, regional employers cite a lack of available candidates (64%) and market competition (39%) as their primary challenges. Employers have addressed these difficulties in several ways: What strategies have you implemented to overcome “recruitment” challenges? Increasing starting salaries: 62% Using temporary/staffing agencies, or external recruiters: 68% Starting/increasing use of social media for recruiting: 58% What strategies have you implemented to overcome “retention” challenges? Adjusting pay ranges upward: 56% Focus on staff receiving additional training/development: 58% Focus on staff retention in jobs where recruitment is difficult: 49% “We are seeing many employers...

NLRB Signals Potentially Significant, Far-Reaching Changes to How Employers Manage the Workplace

The title is no understatement. President Trump’s newly appointed members of National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB” or “Board”) just announced their arrival with a loud bang – on December 1, 2017, the Board’s General Counsel (“GC”) issued a memorandum signaling a drastic reversal of many Obama-era NLRB’s rulings on a wide-range of topics, most of which apply to private (i.e., non-union) employers. While we will summarize all key aspects of the new GC’s memorandum, we will primarily focus on the area of law which affected the most employers, and often in the broadest way: the NLRB’s prior rules governing handbook policies and workplace rules. Probably more than any other area of law, the prior NLRB’s rules governing workplace rules and policies was the most difficult for employers (and attorneys) to comprehend, and in many cases, to even believe. For example, under the previous NLRB it was unlawful for companies to have policies which prohibited: “Disrespectful” conduct towards the company or managers (or policies which required “respectful” conduct) Using “obscene and vulgar” language towards managers Employees’ use of company trademarks or logos (such as on social media) Employees’ use of company email for personal, non-business use (during non-working hours) Disparaging the company or managers, whether at work, or on social media “Defamatory, libelous, or slanderous” statements about the company or managers Workplace gossip Any conduct which “damaged” the company or its “reputation” …and the list goes on like this, for miles As a result of these rules, companies who revised their workplace policies over the past few years found they were required to make significant changes to some of their...

OSHA Delays E-Submission of Work-Related Injuries/Illnesses Until December 15, 2017

On May 12, 2016, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) published a final Rule requiring certain employers to electronically report yearly data of work-related illness and injuries. Initially, the deadline for submitting this information for 2016 was July 1, 2017. However, because the electronic reporting system was not made available in time, the deadline was extended. Just last week, OSHA again extended the filing deadline. The new deadline is December 15, 2017. This is good news for both employers who need more time familiarizing themselves with the electronic system, and for those who may not yet be aware of OSHA’s new electronic reporting Rule. No matter which camp you fall into, here is what you need to know: Who must comply with the OSHA Rule? Companies covered by the OSHA electronic reporting rule include: (a) companies with 250 or more employees that are currently required to keep OSHA injury and illness records; and (b) companies with 20-249 employees that are classified in certain industries with historically high rates of occupational injuries and illnesses. The complete list of these industries can be found here: https://www.osha.gov/recordkeeping/NAICScodesforelectronicsubmission.html Note also that the following OSHA-approved State Plans have not yet adopted the requirement to submit injury and illness reports electronically: CA, MD, MN, SC, UT, WA and WY. What does the OSHA Rule require? Covered employers with 250 or more employees must electronically submit information from OSHA Forms 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), and 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report). Covered employers with 20-249 employees must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A. What...

New Sexual Harassment Guidance from the EEOC is on its Way

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently announced that it has updated its sexual harassment guidelines for the first time in over 20 years. The EEOC indicated that the timing of this update (it appears to coincide with the recent deluge of publicity surrounding sexual harassment) is entirely coincidental and that the EEOC has been working to update the guidance since 2015. One EEOC Commissioner indicated that the guidance will be helpful in this current state of affairs. MEA will keep members updated on the EEOC’s timing for release of this guidance and, once the guidance is available, will update members on any changes they need to make. In the meantime, members should make sure that they are already in a state of compliance with EEOC guidelines by: (1) making sure your company has in place a thorough, compliant anti-harassment policy that includes a complaint procedure and a no-retaliation policy; (2) providing annual or semi-annual, professional anti-harassment training to all employees; (3) immediately investigating all instances of and reported complaints regarding workplace harassment; and (4) taking appropriate corrective action if needed. Keep in mind that workplace harassment issues are time-sensitive and must be handled immediately and in accordance with sound procedures. Failing to act immediately or using unsound practices, for example improper investigation techniques, can place an employer at greater risk. As always, MEA can assist you with any of these compliance needs. If you have any questions, please contact MEA’s hotline for additional information. Ciana Williams, Esq., SPHR Employment Counsel MidAtlantic Employers’ Association 800-662-6238 *This Alert is provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal...

Pennsylvania Medical Marijuana Update

Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Department of Health (“Department of Health”) announced that it has launched its medical marijuana patient and caregiver registry. While this is a significant step toward implementing Pennsylvania’s Medical Marijuana Act (“Act”), employers should be aware that medical marijuana still is not available to certified users in Pennsylvania. The Department of Health expects that certified users will be able to obtain medical marijuana in Pennsylvania beginning May 1, 2018. When the law is fully implemented, individuals seeking to become a “certified user” under the Act will need to take the following steps: Create a profile via the Department of Health’s Patients and Caregivers Registry; Obtain a physician’s certification that the individual suffers from one of the 17 serious medical conditions identified in the Act; Return to the Patient and Caregivers Registry and pay for a medical marijuana ID card; and Obtain medical marijuana from an approved dispensary in Pennsylvania. Currently, individuals are able to register in the Patients and Caregivers registry (step (1) above). Additionally, Pennsylvania has authorized 100 physicians to certify medical marijuana users, and is expected to authorize 200 additional physicians (paving the way for steps (2) and (3) above). Further, Pennsylvania has approved a grower-processor in Brookville, PA, and is expected to approve additional sites in the near future. However, at this time, there are no authorized medical marijuana dispensaries (individuals cannot complete step (4) at this time). This means that Pennsylvania employers do not need to change course with respect to their drug and drug testing policies based on the availability of medical marijuana at this time. However, this is the right time...

New EEO-1 Reporting Requirements Put on Hold Until Further Notice

Last year the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a new EEO-1 form which, for the first time, would have required employers to submit extensive compensation data as part of its annual EEO-1 Report (in addition to workforce demographic already required). For those (understandably) struggling with these new requirements, you can now breathe a sigh of relief: the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently stayed implementation of the new EEO-1 form, meaning that – until we hear otherwise – these new requirements will not go into effect. Moreover, given the OMB’s authority over these matters and given its pro-business leanings, these new reporting requirements will probably never take effect, at least not under this administration. Importantly – also until further notice — the revised filing deadline for all 2017 EEO-1 Reports remains March 31, 2018. Despite the OMB’s intervention to stop these new requirements, employers should still understand what the EEO-1 form would have required in the event the OMB surprises everyone and allows the new requirements to take effect. Accordingly, here is the relevant background. Every year, employers with 100 or more employees (and federal contractors with 50 or more employees) are required to submit an EEO-1 Report which includes various details about its workforce demographics, such as race, gender, and ethnicity. In addition to this demographics data, the new EEO-1 would have required employers to provide detailed compensation information about its employees. This new pay information – according to the EEOC – would have helped identify and eradicate issues of pay inequity and pay discrimination. But various business and trade groups vehemently disagreed, claiming...

New Form I-9, DACA, and I-9 Liability

We bring you a few succinct updates today, which are a reminder to all employers of the importance of I-9 and worker authorization compliance, as well as compliance with anti-discrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination on the basis of citizenship and national origin. Now is the time to focus on these issues and revisit your own policies and processes to ensure they are compliant. New Form I-9 U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has, yet again, released a revised Form I-9 for employment eligibility verification. The updated Form I-9 (with a revision date of “07/17/17 N”) is effective September 18, 2017 — so, make sure you start using it by that date. DACA You have probably heard that President Donald Trump has announced that the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will be phased out over the next 6 months. So you know that DACA is being rescinded, but what does that mean for you right now? Right now, employers should continue to monitor developments surrounding DACA, but must continue consistently applying their workplace policies and complying with existing Form I-9 and worker authorization requirements. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) remains focused on enforcing laws that prohibit national origin discrimination (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964), and midway through 2017, EEOC actions were up by as much as 50%. Employers must keep this in mind when grappling with the practical impacts of immigration policy changes, such as the elimination of DACA. In light of the recent announcement, employers should monitor any further developments surrounding DACA, but must continue to treat all qualified workers consistently....

Delaware Law Will Soon Prohibit Asking Applicants About Compensation History

Effective December 14, 2017, Delaware law will make it unlawful for employers to ask applicants about compensation history. Following in the steps of recently enacted laws in, for example, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York City, and Philadelphia – though the Philadelphia law remains on hold mired in legal challenges – the law seeks to narrow the gender wage gap by stopping perpetuation of pay differences based on pay history. Pretty straightforward rationale. While most laws have tracked the language of previously-enacted laws very closely (why reinvent the wheel), Delaware’s wage history law has several subtle, yet key differences. From top to bottom, here is what employers need to know, including how Delaware’s law is a slight departure from laws you may have previously learned about. The law prohibits employers from asking applicants about their compensation history, which broadly includes asking about salary, benefits, and various other forms of compensation. The law also applies to an employer’s agents, including recruiters, staffing firms, etc. Under the law, an employer will only be permitted to inquire about past compensation after it extends an offer of employment which includes the compensation terms. At that time, an employer will be permitted to request compensation history, but only for the purpose of verifying prior pay; i.e., — employers will not be permitted to thereafter modify the offered compensation solely based on the newly-learned information. Nothing in the law prohibits employers from discussing (or negotiating) compensation terms, including asking about the applicant’s expectations and pay requirements. So far, the Delaware law is not unlike the others that came before it. But here are three notable differences. First,...

Work Requirements v. Employee Religious Beliefs

Michael G. Trachtman Powell Trachtman Logan Carrle & Lombardo, P.C. MEA General Counsel mtrachtman@powelltrachtman.com Still Another Example of How Common Sense Can Get You in Legal Trouble For lawyers who try to practice “preventive law” – that is, preventing claims, and not just litigating claims – employment law presents a daunting challenge.  I can tell a client what to do, but, too often, my employment law advice seems counterintuitive, even nonsensical, and the client defaults to a common sense approach … right up to the time they get served with the lawsuit.  Consider, for example, the problematic intersection between workplace requirements and religious beliefs. The “Sincerely Held Belief” Rule In 1975, Beverly Butcher began working as a coal miner for Consol Energy.  In 2012, Consol implemented a high-tech system to better monitor employee work hours and attendance: at the beginning and end of each shift, each employee was required to place his hand on a scanner which would identify the employee by the shape of his hand, and clock the employee in or out. Butcher was a devout, evangelical Christian and ordained minister.  Based on his own interpretation of the Book of Revelations, he believed that using the hand scanner would result in his being marked with the “Mark of the Beast,” which brands followers of the Antichrist.  Butcher offered to report into his shift supervisor or punch in on a time clock instead of using the scanner. Consol provided Butcher with a letter from the scanner’s manufacturer, unequivocally stating that the scanner cannot detect or place a mark, including the Mark of the Beast.  In addition, since the...

New AnswersNow is coming!

AnswersNow has been updated with added functionality and a smoother user experience! You still have terrific content written and organized by the expert Wolters Kluwer team of employment law editors – along with a variety of business tools to help comply with all of your federal and state requirements. AnswersNow is needed by all size businesses – whether you are a small business owner or a global HR VP – AnswersNow is the single resource that provides expert analysis that’s also easy to use. AnswersNow covers all HR compliance issues – onboarding, compensation, employee development & employee relations, safety and HR strategy. AnswersNow includes HR best practices – many times taken from interviews with the top HR business professionals – your peers – along with sample policies, forms. It’s all here and easy to access whether you are searching or browsing. AnswersNow has a superb State Employment Law Summaries database! This truly unique resource is indispensable for making informed HR decisions. Importantly, the detailed summaries include a “What the Employer Must Do” section in every state summary! This is the most complete and detailed resource for state employment laws. AnswersNow also has a lookup/comparison charting tool called State Employment Law Compare! This innovative tool allows the user to quickly lookup most employment topics for either a single state or multiple states to perform a comparison. The charting tool is easy to use, allows you to save, email and print results! It’s dynamic so always up-to-date on each use. Finally, AnswersNow includes daily news and user-friendly email alerts; users can also customize news alerts with just the topics they want...

Six Sigma Still Misunderstood By Many

Popularized by Motorola and GE in the 1990s, Six Sigma is perhaps the most effective problem solving methodology for improving business performance; yet it is still misunderstood by many. Six Sigma’s rigorous methodology Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) and many of the Six Sigma “tools” have been broadly adopted. But at the most fundamental level, Six Sigma uses data and statistical analysis to understand variation in processes. This is the area where I see the biggest gap in understanding. Consider how often someone in business is asked “how long” it (process) will take? The most accurate answer should be how long “on average”. The actual time could be shorter or longer. However many of our business cultures demand a response that will ensure you seldom exceed the estimate. A Six Sigma company would say that to be safe 95% of the time, your answer would need to be inflated by 2 standard deviations (a measure of variation) greater than the average. If the process in question has a lot of variability, this inflated time could be significant. Consider the consequences if every process in a value chain inflated their time or cost estimates similarly. This issue applies to all businesses, manufacturing or service, and also to non-profits and government agencies. Do you have any processes that achieve their monthly goal, only to be followed by a month when they don’t, and you can’t explain why? Perhaps you need Six Sigma to help you better understand and control variation. MEA’s Lean & Six Sigma Partner Supply Velocity will be facilitating a new, 3-day Six Sigma Green Belt Training beginning May 19, 2017. About...

Lean Philosophy – Can Your Company Benefit?

Lean in business, is a philosophy for operations and processes that focuses on reducing nonvalue added activities to gain speed. It includes a collection of “best practice” derived tools and techniques that expose, diagnose and optimize human resources, assets, and productivity, while improving the quality level of products and services to customers. Today’s Lean has evolved from the Toyota Production System, originally called “just in time” where main objectives were to design out overburden (muri) and inconsistency (mura), and to eliminate waste (muda). While businesses, markets, products and services vary greatly, Lean recognizes eight types of waste that are common to most: Extra motion Overproduction Unnecessary Work Content Waiting Inventory Rework Product Travel Underutilized people These eight wastes are not glaring. They can be small and hide as minor annoyances, but day in and day out, their negative impact accumulates. What is great about Lean tools and techniques is that the tools that help you to expose and diagnose problems also help facilitate the solutions and then serve as highly visual aids for communicating the issues and their resolution to others. While Lean’s origins were in manufacturing, Lean today is embraced by Healthcare, Banking, Insurance and numerous other service based companies. Anywhere there are processes, Lean philosophies, tools and techniques can help them to run faster and more efficient. Don’t confuse faster with reduced quality. Lean processes focus on reducing wasted effort in non-value added activities so more effort can be put into “value added” activities that drive better quality for customers. Toyota has been working at Lean since the early 1900’s and they are still making improvements. How...

Aon Says Boosting Workers’ Retirement Savings Rates to Be Primary Focus for U.S. Employers in 2017

Despite strong participation in employer-sponsored 401(k) plans, few employers (15 percent) are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rates, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt, the talent, retirement and health solutions business of Aon plc (NYSE: AON). In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will continue to expand financial wellbeing programs this year. In the 13th installment of its annual report, Aon Hewitt surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers will focus on a few key areas with an eye toward improving 401(k) savings rates in 2017: 1. Emphasizing retirement readiness. Nearly all employers (90 percent) are concerned with their workers’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. In response, nearly all of the employers (87 percent) that are not satisfied are likely to take action this year to help workers make plans to reach their retirement goals. “Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” said Rob Austin, director of Retirement Research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just 2 percentage points can impact their long-term savings outlook.”...

2017 Standard Mileage Rates Released

The IRS has released the 2017 optional standard mileage rates that employees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers can use to compute deductible costs of operating automobiles (including vans, pickups and panel trucks) for business, medical, moving and charitable purposes. The 2017 standard mileage rate has decreased to 53.5 cents per mile for business uses and 17 cents per mile for medical and moving uses. It remains at 14 cents per mile for charitable uses. For purposes of computing the allowance under an FAVR plan, the standard automobile cost may not exceed $27,900 ($31,300 for trucks and vans). The updated rates are effective for deductible transportation expenses paid or incurred on or after January 1, 2017, and for mileage allowances or reimbursements paid to, or transportation expenses paid or incurred by, an employee or a charitable volunteer on or after January 1, 2017. SOURCE: IRS News release IR-2016-169, December 13, 2016. Reposted with permission from Wolters Kluwer. Access CCHAnswersNow for more articles. (MEA Members...

Workers Reveal Plans to Land New Jobs in 2017, According to Careerbuilder Survey

According to a new CareerBuilder survey, more than one in five workers (22 percent) are planning to change jobs in 2017, similar to last year (21 percent). Among younger workers, the numbers are even higher. More than a third of workers ages 18 to 34 (35 percent) expect to change jobs in 2017, compared to 30 percent last year. This compares to 15 percent of workers ages 35 and older. The national survey — conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 16 to December 6, 2016, and included a representative sample of 3,411 workers across industries — found 35 percent of workers are regularly searching for new job opportunities, even though they’re currently employed — a one-point increase since last year (34 percent). “Whether it’s unemployed people trying to find their way back to the workforce or those who are currently employed attempting an upgrade to greener pastures, a new year makes many people set their sights on job hunting,” said Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer for CareerBuilder. “To keep your top workers, you need to keep a pulse on what they’re seeking. For example, poll your employees from time to time to learn more about their goals and motivations and how they want to be treated.” When asked what extra perks would make them more willing to join or stay with a company, the most popular choices workers pointed to include: Half-day Fridays: 40 percent; On-site fitness center: 27 percent; Being able to wear jeans: 23 percent; Daily catered lunches: 22 percent; and My own office: 22 percent. Source: CareerBuilder. Reposted with permission...