Archive for December, 2009

What workshops do you want to see at NADA in Orlando?

Sunday, December 27th, 2009

NADA-2010What workshops would you be interested in, in addition to the NADA workshop schedule?

I can arrange a conference room and speakers on the following topics:

  1. HR: including wage and hour law, Department of Labor regulations and trends
  2. Environmental, Health, and Safety: including anything related to OSHA, EPA, DOT
  3. Internet marketing: including SEO, and social media.

COBRA Premium Subsidy Extended

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

The COBRA Premium Subsidy has been extended with President Obama signing into law on December 21st.

The bill would extend the nine-month, 65 percent premium federal subsidy by six months. The change would apply to those who are involuntarily terminated through February 28, 2010, and would also would provide another six months of subsidized coverage for beneficiaries whose nine-month COBRA premium subsidy has run out.

In addition, the legislation would give beneficiaries whose subsidy expired and who didn’t pay the full premium the opportunity to receive retroactive coverage. For example, a beneficiary whose nine months of subsidized coverage ran out November 30 and who didn’t pay the unsubsidized premium for December could pay his or her 35 percent share in January and receive COBRA coverage for December.

The legislation requires employers to notify current and future COBRA beneficiaries of the new 15-month premium subsidy. Employers can offset future COBRA premiums or issue refund checks for beneficiaries who overpaid their COBRA premium.  This could happen if a beneficiary whose subsidy ran out in November paid the full premium rather than the 35 percent share in December.

To learn more about how the extension of the COBRA subsidy will impact your company register for a free webinar on How to Solve the  Riddle of Employee Leave Law on January on January 7th presented by John Boggs, nationally recongized labor and employment attorney.

90 New Regulations…coming soon from the Department of Labor

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

dolWage and hour law continues to be a hot topic for our clients. Just when we  have learned how to deal with that last batch of new regulations on paying employees, record-keeping and employee classification the  Department of Labor will be proposing 90 new regulations in the coming months. A complete list of the regulatory agenda can be found at http//www.dol.gov/asp/regs/unifiedagenda/fall_2009_agenda.pdf. The  DOL has named 12 “specific strategic outcomes” it is seeking with the package.

The outcomes include “increasing workers’ incomes and narrowing wage and income inequality”; “securing safe and healthy workplaces, wages and overtime, particularly in high-risk industries”; “assuring skills and knowledge that prepare workers to succeed in a knowledge-based economy”; “helping workers who are in low-wage jobs or out of the labor market find a path into middle-class jobs”; and ensuring workers have a voice in the workplace.” Facilitating unionization is the point of another rule that will be proposed. The Office of Labor-Management Standards will draft a regulation requiring greater disclosure by employers of consultants that they hire to advise them on union organizing campaigns.

If you are looking for updates and guidance on wage and hour law, attend one of KPA’s free webinars- Essentials of Wage and Hour Law for Dealerships, Advance Wage and Hour Law or California Wage and Hour Law presented by leading employment and labor attorneys, John Boggs of Fine, Boggs and Perkins and Jim Hendricks of Ford & Harrison, LLP.

Additional informationon the OSHA regulations that are part of the agenda can be found on Patric’s post from December 11th.

IRS Reducing Mileage Reimbursement Rate for 2010

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

The standard-mile rate for business miles driven will be 50 cents per mile in 2010, down from 55 cents per mile in 2009 and from 58.5 cents in the second half of 2008. According to the IRS notice, the reduction reflects a reduction in travel related expenses.

Beginning on January 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The optional business standard mileage rate is used to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business use in lieu of tracking actual costs. This rate is also used as a benchmark most  businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage.

Employers that use the IRS standard mileage rate to reimburse employees may deduct the reimbursement as a business expense. If employers use the approved rate (or a lower rate), the IRS considers that requirements to substantiate and adequately account for the expense are satisfied without extensive documentation of actual expenses.

Lampshades and lawsuits- how to limit your libility for holiday events

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009

You’ve decided to hold the annual holiday party. It’s a great way to boost employee moral but be careful, the last thing you want to happen at the party is the quiet employee, never a problem before- dancing on the table with a lampshade on their head. Despite the cheery intent of the holiday party serious consequences can result, for which you, the employer, may be held responsible. For example, if one of your employees drinks too much at such an event, then gets in a car and injures himself or another person, are you liable for the injury? Probably, under most states host liability laws, and you would certainly be looking at a workers’ compensation claim. What about the employee who ties one on and then decides to declare their affections to another employee- that sounds like a sexual harassment lawsuit in the making. So how can employers limit liability and still provide a festive event?

Limit or don’t serve alcohol at all. If no behavior altering substances are available to your employees, or if you limit their access to it, chances are employees will be calmer and more in control of their actions. In addition to averting injuries, limiting alcohol consumption could prevent other types of actionable activities, such as property damage and sexual harassment incidents.

If you are going to serve alcohol, check your insurance policy. A key step in your party planning should be reviewing your business insurance policy. If you’re going to be serving alcohol, the Independent Insurance Agents of America, Inc. (IIAA), based in Alexandria, Virginia, suggests checking your comprehensive general liability policy to be certain that it covers third-party liquor liability.

Don’t think a cash bar solves your liability problem. While having a cash bar instead of an open bar may limit drink consumption, be careful. Having your employees and guests pay for the alcohol they consume on your property does not automatically limit your liability if an alcohol related accident should occur. According to the IIAA, if you’re charging for alcohol, you’ll need a liquor license and other liability protections.

Plan an off-premises party so if you decide to serve alcohol at your party, don’t hold the party in your office. Have the party off premises and make sure the servers have a liquor license. That way you transfer the obligation to the provider of the liquor. Plan a non-traditional get-together such as a group outing to a basketball or football game, and the focus will not be on drinking, but on the g event. Other alternative party ideas from the U.S. Department of Labor include an amusement park outing, or a volunteer activity, such as a 10K run or bake sale, with proceeds going to a local charity. Hold a family-friendly party and take the focus off the typical “sit and drink” party by inviting your employees’ spouses and children to the gathering. Plan activities for the children; perhaps hire a musician or storyteller. A family friendly party also re-inforces the company committment to work/life balance.

Be clear with your employees before the festivities begin.
Make sure that your employees know your policy on substance abuse and that this policy covers any work situation, including an office party, suggests the U.S. Department of Labor. Post the policy in your employee handbook and on office bulletin boards, and send it out by email as a reminder before the party. HotlinkHR makes it easy to post policies and handbooks online and collect employee signatures.

Provide transportation and keep your employees from getting behind the wheel of a car if they’ve been drinking by providing alternative transportation, both to and from the party.

So will your holiday event be alcohol free or at a non traditional venue this year? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

OSHA’s Fall 2009 Agenda

Friday, December 11th, 2009

OSHA logoOn December 7th, the Department of Labor’s semiannual agenda was made available. The regulatory agenda is a listing of all the regulations the Department of Labor expects to have under active consideration for promulgation, proposal, or review during the coming one-year period.

Three areas that dealers should be aware of:

Occupational Injury and Illness Recording and Reporting Requirements (Musculoskeletal Disorders)
OSHA is proposing to revise its regulation on Recordkeeping to restore a column on the OSHA 300 Injury and Illness Log that employers will check when recording work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). The Agency will issue a proposed rule in January 2010.

Hazard Communication Standard – Global Harmonization System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals
OSHA is revising its Hazard Communication Standard to make it consistent with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS). The new standard will include more specific requirements for hazard classification, as well as standardized label components which will provide consistent information and definitions for hazardous chemicals and a standard approach to conveying information on material safety data sheets. On September 30, OSHA published the proposal and is preparing for hearings in March 2010.

Walking / Working Surfaces – Subparts D & I
This proposed rule affects almost every non-construction worker in the United States. It addresses hazards that result in numerous deaths and thousands of injuries every year. The proposal is expected to prevent 20 workplace fatalities per year and over 3,500 injuries serious enough to result in days away from work. The Agency plans to issue a proposal in March 2010.

Are employers acting like the Grinch this season?

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

Are holiday perks such as parties, bonuses and gifts  a thing of the grinch_santapast with employers imitating the Grinch? No- according to several recent surveys of employers. Even in these tough times employers are rewarding employees during the holidays, but with layoffs, furloughs and wage freezes common most companies have scaled back, way back. This is according to a recent CareerBuilder survey conducted among more than 3,000 hiring managers and HR professionals. In fact, nearly 3 out of 10 employers will be giving out bonuses, 60% will provide a holiday party and 29% will hand out gifts as reported by Challenger, Gray and Christmas. Among small businesses 30% aren’t planning any holiday activity for employees, and more than half won’t give gifts to customers this year, according to an American Express Open survey of more than 500 business owners.

A few ideas to make the holiday merry, with or without that bonus or big holiday event:

Volunteer as a group: While the companys may not have the budgets to throw a holiday party this year or even if your company does- have your co-workers volunteer together at a local charity. Volunteering with your team or company still allows you to be out of the office in a social setting while giving back to your local community and maintaining your holiday spirit.

Don’t be a Grinch: So what if the company holiday party is a thing of the past? Organize an office potluck or ask the boss for an extra hour at lunch for everyone to eat together.  Without the pressure of a big event you may find this becomes the favorite holiday office tradition.

Offer extra time off: Many employees would appreciate a few extra hours off just as much or maybe even more than holiday party. Offering employees a few extra hours of time off can go a long way to improve morale.

Share in comments -what is your company doing this year, and how does it compare to last year?

Tomorrow I’ll talk about HR best practices for those companies still planning on having the traditional holiday party and discuss the pros and cons of serving alcohol at a company sponsored event.

Tip of the month: every facility conducting spray coating must file notification with EPA before January 10

Monday, December 7th, 2009

compliance tip of the month

An initial notification letter or a petition for exemption has to be filed with EPA regarding compliance with 40 CFR Part 63, Subpart HHHHHH (also referred to as the 6H rule). Every facility conducting vehicle spray coating operations must file an initial notification of compliance or a petition for exemption with the EPA by January 10, 2010. The initial notification is ordinarily submitted to both the EPA region where the facility resides, and the delegated regulatory authority, if any. Consult the list of delegated regulatory authorities (PDF) (2pp, 21k).

A free recorded webinar about the 6H rule is available to find out:

  • If you qualify for an exemption, and why you are probably better off not trying to claim the exemption.
  • Requirements for new facilities, and why your definition of a new facility is probably not the same as the EPA’s definition. For example, if you install new paint equipment the EPA may reclassify your shop as a “New Facility”

HR software and compliance surfacing as a top priority?

Friday, December 4th, 2009
minimum-wage-ordinance

minimum-wage-ordinance

Wage and hour law has certainly been top interest the last few weeks. In my last blog I wrote about the Department of Labor hiring 250 new wage and hour investigators. At the same more than 700 people registered for our educational Wage and Hour webinars. And our very happy sales director Todd Hotham informed me this morning that last month 24 dealerships signed up for our online HotlinkHR software which is specifically designed to help avoid the most common HR and Wage and Hour Law mistakes.

Fact is that employers today are highly vulnerable with the increased awareness by workers of their rights, the complexity of wage and hour law (Fair Labor Standards Act) and the stated goal by the Department of Labor of increased enforcement. In fact, both webinar speakers, leading labor lawyers John Boggs of Fine, Boggs & Perkins, and Jim Hendricks of Ford & Harrison, empasized that Wage and hour litigation — specifically FLSA overtime collective action — far outpaces employment discrimination class action filings. In fact, there are more wage and hour lawsuits pending in the federal courts than all other employment claims combined.

I’d like to hear your feedback on this topic: are wage and hour law and methods to migitate associated risks surfacing to be a top priority?

Please leave me your comments below.