Archive for April, 2010

Interns a source of free labor? Not likely!

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Businesses looking to save some money and complete a project often turn to interns.   In today’s economy recruiters and hiring managers may also get  a call from a job seeker asking to “intern for free” to “learn about your business”. 

Intern however is not a synonym for free labor.  In fact the Department of Labor notes that internships will most often be viewed as employment (and therefore subject to the minimum wage and overtime provisions of the FLSA), unless a test is met.  The department will look at the following 6 criteria when applying the test:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment.

2. The internship experience is 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 that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern; and on occasion its operations may actually be impeded.

 5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship.

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.

If all of the factors listed above are met, an employment relationship does not exist under the FLSA, and the act’s minimum wage and overtime provisions do not apply to the intern.  This exclusion from the definition of employment is necessarily quite narrow because the FLSA’s definition of “employ” is very broad, the department says. 

So think about internships as great PR and community relations;  offering new graduates, young people and those exploring a  career change the opportunity to  learn about your business and business in general, but unless you can truly meet all six factors don’t consider them free labor.

Join the conversation: Do you use interns in your company and do you normally pay them?

Contractor or Employee? Misclassification of employees key enforcement issue in 2010

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

The Department of Labor (DOL) announced that $12 million of its 2011 budget will go towards increasing enforcement of wage and overtime laws involving misclassification of employees.

The U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis addressed the need to “secure minimum and overtime wages and to help middle class families remain in the middle class. Working on the issue of misclassification is key to attaining those goals because misclassification of employees as independent contractors deprives employees of critical workplace protections and employment benefits to which they are legally entitled.”

As state and federal governements look for additional revenue cracking down on employers who misclassify employees can generate needed funds stated an article recently reported  in the New York Times.

Currently misclassification is not against the law, but its practices often violate labor and tax laws, such as failing to pay employees overtime or minimum wage.  Congress is also considering additional regulations on this issue.

For additional information and resources visit the IRS website to download the Independent Contractor vs Employee Guide or view KPA’s webinar, Contractor or Employee: How to Tell the Difference.

New Underground Storage Tank Operator Training Requirements

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

The US Energy Policy Act requires all States that receive federal grant money for their UST programs to ensure that all operators of UST systems demonstrate competency on how to comply with UST rules so environmental releases can be prevented. These new rules have created a training and registration program requirement for underground storage tank operators.

Operator training will require owners and their designated employees to undergo training to become certified UST operators. Once the deadline has passed, refuelers will not be allowed to deliver to facilities that have not met the new requirements. The type of training an operator receives depends on the job functions they perform at their facilities.

The deadlines and specific requirements are going to vary from one state to another, but most states seem to be looking at a 2012 deadline. Some states, like California and Louisiana, already require UST Operators to meet similar training and certification requirements. Other states, like Florida, are choosing not to take the Federal money and may look at developing their own training requirements. For more information on the upcoming requirements you can review the Energy Policy Act, check with your state’s Environmental Protection Agency or contact your local KPA Representative.

A national UST operator training firm, PASS, has also prepared a summary of the latest regulations that can be used as a reference for your state.

OSHA in the news

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

I just posted this blog yesterday about OSHA and then –coincidentally– ABC World News with  Diane Sawyer and Nightline broadcasted an interview last night with OSHA director Dr. David Michaels, saying “I think there are a lot of irresponsible employers who don’t ensure that workers are given safe work places in which to work. Fourteen deaths a day on the job is far too many.” They also aired a dramatic video of a fatal accident on the job. Very shocking and disturbing.

My takeaway for you: many department managers forget to realize they have an obligation to provide a safe workplace, and as such, they can be held personally liable for criminal penalties should an injury occur particularly those associated with the supervisor’s willful intent to not address a known safety issue.

OSHA fine amounts increasing?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Just read an article in Tire Review that OSHA fined a Toledo dealer $177,800 as the result of an October 2009 accident in which four employees were injured. OSHA cited the dealer for three violations of worker safety regulations after investigating the accident. The employees suffered injuries when an agricultural tire being worked on exploded. No question that the accident was very serious as an OSHA spokesman said that the dealer did not provide a safety cage or barrier to protect employees working on large commercial tires, failed to ensure employees worked outside the trajectory path, and that the tire’s maximum inflation pressure was exceeded when the employees attempted to seat the tire’s beads. In addition, citations were issued because employees failed to wear safety glasses and not having a required valve pressure gauge.

My point here is only that I’m under the impression that the fines imposed by OSHA are increasing? Do you have similar experiences? What do you think? Please respond below with your comments.

Want to build a strong safety culture? Why not start with safety glasses?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I often talk with folks who are in charge of a safety program at a facility and really don’t know where to start.  I just read an interesting article in OH&S about building safety culture by starting with your safety eye wear policy.  Even though the study this article is based on was funded by an eye wear manufacturer, and may be  a little biased,  it still provides valid points.  I find that whenever we provide training on eye protection, the topic clearly makes an impact on the audience.  Eye injuries, more so than any others, make people squeamish, and they generally don’t need much convincing that it’s important to protect the eyes.

Building a safety culture relies on forming consitant habits, much like putting on a seatbelt whenever you get into  a car.  You don’t have to think about it, it just happens automatically.  Putting on safety glasses should work the same way.  By taking the first step with an eye protection policy you’re on your way to building a safety culture among your employees.   Hopefully, if you’re able to convince them to perform one safety task, other tasks will fall in place more easily.  You just have to start somewhere to get everyone thinking about safety on a regular basis.

HIRE Act Forms Now Available (Claim $1000 per new hire)

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Ready to start hiring?  Don’t forget to claim your tax credits for each new hire who has been unemployed for at least 60 days.  The IRS has released the new W-11 form used by employees to certify eligibility.  To claim the HIRE Act tax credit employers will also have to submit  Form 941 .  Form 941 is currently available in a draft form with the final version available next month.

  Additional information on the HIRE Act and available tax credits can be found in the April KPA Newsletter or by attending the free KPA webinar Easy Money: Tax Credits for Dealerships.

Green-Washing

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

I was just reviewing an article on how the Federal government audited the Energy Star program and found that it suffered from a common trend these days referred to as “green-washing”.  “Green-washing” is where a corporation represents its products as being environmentally friendly even when they may not be.  This can be done by applying a little “Green-Spin”, or heavily weighting the benefits of a single feature without looking at the entire picture.  In the case of the Energy Star label the congressional audit submitted a Gasoline powered alarm clock that was the most energy efficient version on the market, not to mention the only version – what’s most alarming is that the government bought it!  The article from the New York Times is can be found here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/26/science/earth/26star.html

KPA has long had a practice of representing a metrics driven approach to rating the compliance of your facility and we believe that any submission for a “green” or “safe” program should be verified by a 3rd party to ensure the validity of the claim.  If you are approached by someone selling you a “Green” certification for your facility, ask the following questions:  Under who’s authority is the organization issuing this certificate?  Who verifies that my facility has met the qualification criteria?  What percentage of applicants are certified as Green?  If you don’t like the answers to these questions ask yourself how the public will respond if the certificate issuer makes news like the Energy Star program.  I do believe there is a great benefit in Green certification, but not until standards are developed that can be independently verified.

The Platinum Rule for Workforce Management and Human Resources

Friday, April 9th, 2010

As I look the list of recent EEOC settlements for both small businesses and large international companies, law firms (they really should have known better) to manufacturing companies, I am struck by one simple fact.  ALL of these lawsuits and settlements could have been avoided if managers, supervisors and executives followed one simple rule, aka the platinum rule, first coined by Tony Alessandra and Scott Zimmerman

Every major religion has a tradition of the golden rule, “treat others as you would be treated”, and it’s a great starting point for moral and ethical decisions. But in the workplace (and frequently in life) not everyone wants to be treated just like you do.  Instead think about treating people how they want to be treated (the platinum rule), not how you want to be treated (the golden rule).   The platinum rule should also be applied when designing reward programs and development and training plans.   Dan  McCarthy uses the platinum rule as the T in his RESPECT overview and how leadership needs to show it.   Check out Dan’s thoughtful and practical advice on leadership at http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/

 Join the conversation-golden or platinum rule best for workforce management?

Halogenated Solvent Cleaning Rule – How Does it impact me?

Friday, April 9th, 2010

The Federal Halogenated Solvent Cleaning Rule compliance deadline is coming up on May 3, 2010.    I’ve heard of some mis-information among clients using parts washers, and an incorrect interpretation that all parts washers now have to be aqueous. In fact, I hear there is a waste hauler trying to use this rule as a way to sell very expensive aqueous parts washers.  Please read below for a quick analysis or review the final rule

What does the rule say?

The rule is designed to limit the emissions of Halogenated Solvents from parts cleaning operations.  The rule sets the following limits for Halogenated Solvents:

Solvents emitted Emission limits in kg
PCE (Perchloroethlene aka Tetrachloroethylene) 4,800
TCE (Trichloroethylene) 14,100
MC (Methylene Chloride) 60,000

 

What does this mean to me?

In most cases… Nothing.  Unless you are actually using halogenated solvents in your parts washers, you will not be affected by this rule.  Most solvents in parts washers are mineral spirits/stoddard solvent and do not contain halogenated solvents.

For instance here are Safety Kleen’s listings

You may notice that their recycled 105 solvent does contain PCE, however it is .2% by volume, meaning in order to get to 10,500 lbs of emissions for the year would take A LOT of solvent (think cleaning off a cruise ship).

If you are in fact using halogenated solvents in your parts washers… Yikes! Complying with this particular rule is the least of your problems… It’s really time  to change your parts washer solvents as using these solvents is very harmful to your employees.