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You have a business and it is growing – Congratulations!

As your company grows and you hire more employees, there are milestones that you will hit.  Some of these milestones come with additional responsibilities that you need to attend to, such as Cobra, HCSO, FMLA, Sexual Harassment Prevention Training and the Affordability Care Act’s Large Employer Mandate.

For example, if you are a company based in California and offer an employee benefits plan that includes medical insurance, you are obligated to allow former or terminated employees and their enrolled dependents to enroll in Cal-COBRA if they are no longer eligible to be enrolled in your plan.  Once you reach 20 employees or more for an average of 50% or more of the previous calendar year, then you are obligated to start offering enrollment in Federal COBRA for those plan participants and enrolled dependents if they are no longer eligible to be enrolled in your plan.

Additionally, if you have any employees working in the City of San Francisco, you would also need to comply with the Health Care Security Ordinance (HCSO).  However, these two things would not happen at the same time because while they both require you have 20 or more employees before you have to comply, they count those employees differently, and over a different length of time.

Federal COBRA counts employees by their classification.  A full-time employee is counted as 1, and part-time employees are counted in fractions.  So you may have 15 full-time employees, and 5 part time employees and you would NOT be subject to Federal COBRA because your part time employees work an average of 20 hours per week, meaning all together they only count as 2.5 full-time equivalents which when combined with your full-time employees puts your count at 17.5.

The HCSO counts employees by head count, and they do it per quarter.  So if you have 19 employees during one quarter of the year, you don’t need to comply.  But if you have 20 employees for at least 13 weeks of the following quarter, you would need to comply.

Is your head spinning yet?

As you move further along and you reach 50 employees, there are more regulations that may now be applied to your company.  They are the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Sexual Harassment Prevention Training for California businesses, and the Pay or Play provision of the Affordable Care Act.  As one might expect, each regulation counts employees in a different way.

When you have had 50 or more employees over 20 weeks during the current or previous calendar year, you are subject to FMLA.  The weeks do not have to be consecutive weeks.  Additionally, FMLA counts the employees on your payroll register even if they are not being paid.  If they are on your payroll register, they are counted.  Each person is counted as 1, regardless of the number of hours worked.

For sexual harassment prevention training in California, once you have 50 or more employees (regardless of full-time or part time status) for 20 or more consecutive weeks, you have to begin offering training for your management staff every 2 years, and within 6 months of promoting an employee to a managerial position.

The Applicable Large Employer or ALE classification under the Affordable Care Act counts employees in yet a different way.  With regards to determining ALE status, you generally count each full-time employee as 1, and for part-time, seasonal, and variable-hour employees you count the number of hours they all worked collectively during a month (do not include more than 120 hours for any employee), then divide the total hours by 120 hours to get how many Full-Time Equivalent Employees (FTEs) you have.  You then add the number of full-time employees, to your FTE’s to get your total employee count.  If you average 50 or more employees during the calendar year, you are considered an ALE the following tax year.  For example, if you average 50 or more employees during the 2018 calendar year, you would be subject to the Pay or Play Mandate and the reporting requirements associated with it for the year 2019.

If your employee count stays at 50 or above in 2019, you would continue to be an ALE with all associated requirements in 2020.  If your employee count dips below 50 in 2019, then you would not be considered an ALE in the year 2020.

The Pay or Play Mandate (Employer shared responsibility) means that as an ALE you are required to offer minimum value, affordable coverage to your full-time employees and their dependent children, or potentially face a penalty from the IRS.

No one is an expert in all things, which is likely why your business is doing well and thriving: because you fulfill a need or expertise in the area that you specialize in.  As a successful business owner you know it is advantageous to have strong partners in your corner to help lend their strengths to your areas of weakness.

Having a strong benefits advisor to assist you in navigating these hurdles, speed bumps, and curves in the road is essential.  Whether you have the resources to handle these regulations in-house, or if you need someone to recommend a trustworthy third party vendor to handle it for you, we are pleased to be able to fulfill that need for you.

 

by Elizabeth Kay

Understandably, some employers (and employees) have mixed feelings about the gig economy. While many enjoy the freedom gained and overhead saved, others miss office camaraderie and routine. No matter your position, research shows that the trend isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. By 2021, 9.2 million Americans will work on-demand jobs, and so employers need to start asking themselves how they plan to keep employees of all stripes engaged in office work and culture.

As HR Technologist cautions, employee engagement goes both ways.While employers should be concerned about the reliability and loyalty of their freelance pool, they must also maintain strong relationships with their current full-time employees. Best practices for addressing this include providing similar perks to all workers, using in-depth onboarding services and training, and maintaining meticulously open lines of communication.

It is also important to remember that integration like this can’t happen overnight. Building a strong and diverse team, whether fully remote or mixed, takes time. Many companies are engaging “future ready” practices, so that hybrid workforces can be available whenever a particular company is ready to consider open options. Such practices are rooted primarily in savvy digital platforms, allowing for collaboration and innovation, as well as clear conversations about benefits and salaries. Not only do such techniques strengthen the current team, but they also position organizations as solid competitors for rising digital talent. Finally, remember that talent management isn’t merely an agenda item. It’s also a driving tool for strategic decisions about innovation, growth, and performance ability.

While there is no one established way forward, it’s clear that employers who are cognizant of the growing gig economy trend are able to both deepen and strengthen their current talent pool while looking toward the future.

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on UBAbenefits.com

On August 1, 2018, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Labor (collectively, the Departments) released a final rule that amends the definition of short-term, limited-duration insurance. HHS also released a fact sheet on the final rule.

According to the Departments, the final rule will provide consumers with more affordable options for health coverage because they may buy short-term, limited-duration insurance policies that are less than 12 months in length and may be renewed for up to 36 months.

The final rule will apply to insurance policies sold on or after October 2, 2018.

 

By Karen Hsu
Originally Published By United Benefits Advisors

 

We are currently living in a low-trust society as a whole — we keep hearing that news is fake, science is fake, and so on. That makes it hard for us to trust anyone and is why we need to work on building trust in the workplace more than ever. Human resources professionals and business leaders have an imperative to instill a culture of trust — not just because it is key to employee engagement, satisfaction, and performance, but also because it’s just the most human thing to do.

When you look at the foundations of trust, they are simple: People want to trust that they are going to be treated with respect, that their leaders are credible, and what they do matters. They want to know that they are secure.

There are three building blocks of trust: protection, presence, and progress. I call them my “Three Ps.”

Protection

Feeling protected is a foundational need. To earn the trust of someone else, you need to provide this protection. Your employees want to feel that the organization and their bosses are looking out for them, and that they genuinely care. Underlying the protection we all need and desire are “BLT” (just like the comforting feeling of the classic BLT sandwich): balance, love, and truth. When people feel protected, they are going to demonstrate kindness, loyalty, courage, and generosity.

When you don’t instill a sense of protection, it will stifle innovation and slow down the organization.

Presence

Presence is simple. It’s literally being present in all your interactions — meetings, one-on-one discussions, and interviews. We talk a lot about mindfulness these days, but it extends beyond the personal to the relational. Today, it feels like no one is ever present — we are all tuned in to our devices all the time. So turn off your computer, phone, tablet, watch, etc. when someone comes into your office, stay focused in conversations, and don’t bring your devices to meetings. Put your attention into what you value. Enjoy the present moment and truly experience it.

Lack of presence sends a message of lack of trust.

Progress

As humans, we constantly make progress, minute by minute. We want to know that we are moving in the right direction. How are we helping our employees make progress? Are we focused on helping them move ahead? Supporting your employees’ efforts and making progress is vital to helping them feel that you care about them fundamentally.

I have a personal philosophy of growth and recommend setting weekly growth plans. I pick one personal topic, like last week was protein, and I investigate to understand it. I also pick one work topic, like running better meetings and investigate that for the week. It’s not complicated — just pick a topic and spend the week growing at it.

Ask the Right Questions

Communicating needs is important, but it takes trust to do that. One way to develop the three Ps of trust is by asking the right questions, then really listening to the answers and acting on them. It shows you care and that you want to help people not feel like they are stranded or drowning. It tells your staff it’s safe to say that they are overwhelmed or hung up somewhere, or they don’t have the answers.

Questions for one-on-ones can include:

Protection

  • How is life?
  • Do you have any decisions you are hung up on?
  • Am I giving you the resources or information you need to do your job?
  • Do you have too much on your plate?

Presence

  • What are you worried about right now?
  • What rumors are you hearing?
  • Would you like more or less direction from me?

Progress

  • If you could pick one accomplishment to be proud of between right now and next year, what would it be?
  • What are the biggest time-wasters you encounter?
  • What type and amount of feedback works best for you?

by Dan Riordan
Originally posted on thinkhr.com

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard several cases with employment implications during their 2018 session, including the following four cases we covered in detail. (Click the case names to read the full articles.)

  • Encino Motorcars, LLC v. Navarro: Encino shifted the burden of proof in Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime exemption cases to the plaintiff, meaning that if employees cannot prove they were misclassified, they will not be entitled to overtime pay.
  • Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis: Epic held that employers may enforce class action waivers in arbitration agreements rather than being obligated to allow employees to unite in a class action suit.
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. V. Colorado Civil Rights Commission: Masterpiece argued the key civil rights issues of discrimination versus freedom of religion. Although both sides declared a win, the court simply decided that the law is the law and employers cannot deny equal access to goods and services but also religion remains a highly-protected civil right.
  • Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees: Janus ruled that public sector employees are not required to pay fees to a union they choose not to join, even if they receive the benefits of the union’s negotiations.

Notable cases that SCOTUS declined to hear in 2018 touched on tip pooling, Americans with Disabilities (ADA) leave, age discrimination, sexual discrimination, and compensation during rest breaks.

The overall trend in the 2018 rulings was a tendency to favor employers. This conservative lean of the court was also reflected in its ruling in Trump v. Hawaii, where the court held the president lawfully exercised the broad discretion granted to him under federal law to suspend the entry of people from certain countries into the United States.

What’s Coming Up?

With Brett Kavanaugh’s potential confirmation as the new SCOTUS justice due to Justice Kennedy’s retirement, SCOTUS will likely continue on the conservative trend. The EEOC is speculating that cases potentially on the docket for the Supreme Court next season may be related to age discrimination, equal pay, sexual orientation, and gender identity, including possible appeals of these circuit court decisions:

  • Rizo v. Yovino: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that under the federal Equal Pay Act an employer cannot justify a wage differential between male and female employees by relying on prior salary.
  • EEOC v. R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes: The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that employers may not discriminate against employees because of failure to conform to sex stereotypes, transgender, or transitioning status.
  • Kleber v. CareFusion Corporation: The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that an outside job applicant can assert a disparate impact claim under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. (Disparate impact refers to employment practices that appear to be nondiscriminatory but adversely affect one group of protected class individuals more than others.)
  • Zarda v. Altitude Express, Inc.: The Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII protects employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Other cases being considered include the applicability of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) to small public employers, whether the Federal Arbitration Act applies to independent contractors, and whether payment to an employee for time lost from work is compensation subject to employment taxes.

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

Question: Is medical marijuana use protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? If so, what accommodations would be considered reasonable?

Answer:
You are not required to accommodate medical marijuana use under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Even though medical marijuana is legal in many states, under the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA), marijuana is still illegal. The ADA expressly excludes people who use illegal drugs from its definition of “qualified individual with a disability.”

However, as a best practice, you should still engage in the ADA interactive process if a request for a reasonable accommodation for medical marijuana use is made. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship on the employer. Any request for a reasonable accommodation triggers an interactive process with the employee to determine:

  1. Whether the employee or applicant is a qualified individual with a disability, meaning they can perform the essential functions of the job with a reasonable accommodation; and
  2. What the employee’s needs are, and which appropriate accommodations could be made.

If the employee’s physician has determined that medical marijuana is the most effective treatment, a possible reasonable accommodation would be a waiver of your anti-drug policy. However, if the employee is in a safety-sensitive position, it may pose an undue hardship to make that accommodation and you should consider any other possible accommodations before denying the request.

There are no reasonable accommodations that would work in every circumstance. You will need to review the essential functions and safety requirements of the job with the employee to determine what types of reasonable accommodations may be acceptable while not imposing an undue hardship.

The Courts May Not Concur

While medical marijuana use is not protected by the ADA, this is being challenged at the state level. For example, in July 2017, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court held in Barbuto v. Advantage Sales and Marketing that an employee who was fired after testing positive for marijuana could proceed with a “handicap discrimination” claim under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act.

In allowing the employee’s discrimination claim to go forward, the Court expressly rejected the employer’s argument that, because marijuana is illegal under federal law, requiring an employer to accommodate medical marijuana use is per se unreasonable.

Instead, the Court held that, at a minimum, the employer was obligated to engage in an interactive dialogue concerning the employee’s ongoing medicinal marijuana use before terminating her employment. The Court did not rule out the possibility that accommodating medicinal marijuana use could pose an undue hardship, leaving that issue open for the employer to address at a later date.

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

FMLA Forms Expiration Date Extended

The Department of Labor’s model Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) notices and certification forms were originally due to expire on May 31, 2018, but were extended twice, and now expire on August 31, 2018. Once approved by the Federal Office of Management and Budget, the new FMLA forms will be valid through 2021.

The forms with the extended expiration date of August 31, 2018 are as follows:

See the WHD forms page

OSHA Proposal to Eliminate Electronic Submission of Forms 300 and 301 for Certain Large Employers

On July 27, 2018, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to better protect personally identifiable information or data that could be re-identified with a particular individual by removing provisions of the “Improve Tracking of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses” rule. OSHA believes this proposal maintains safety and health protections for workers, protects privacy, and reduces the burdens of complying with the current rule.

The proposed rule eliminates the requirement to electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) for establishments with 250 or more employees that are currently required to maintain injury and illness records. These establishments would be required to electronically submit information only from OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses).

Under the current recordkeeping rule, the deadline for electronic submission of calendar year (CY) 2017 information from OSHA Forms 300 and 301 was July 1, 2018. In subsequent years, the deadline is March 2. OSHA is not currently accepting the Form 300 or 301 data and will not enforce the deadlines for these two forms without further notice while this rulemaking is underway. The electronic portal collecting Form 300A data is accepting CY 2017 data, although submissions after July 1, 2018, will be considered late.

 

Originally published by Thinkhr.com

“Design thinking” is a fairly common term. Even if the phrase is new to you, it’s reasonably easy to intuit how it works: design thinking is a process for creative problem solving, utilizing creative tools like empathy and experimentation, often with a strong visual component. The term dates from 1968 and was first used in The Sciences of The Artificial, a text written by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon.

For Simon, design thinking involved seven components, but today it’s usually distilled to five: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test. In this way, creative tools are employed to serve individuals in a group, with a solution-driven focus. It’s important to note that these components are not necessarily sequential. Rather, they are specific modes, each with specific tools that contribute equally to solving an issue.

Most significantly, as Steve Boese of HR Executive noted in a recent column, design thinking is a rising trend in HR leadership. “Those using this strategy,” he says, “challenge existing assumptions and approaches to solving a problem, and ask questions to identify alternative solutions that might not be readily apparent.”Design thinking helps teams make decisions that include employees in meaningful ways, personalize target metrics, work outside the box, and produce concrete solutions. Even teams with established, productive structures use design thinking in the review process, or to test out expanded options.

Boese says that the key shift design thinking offers any team is the opportunity to troubleshoot solutions before they’re put into real-time practice. The main goal of design thinking is not process completion, low error rates, or output reports, as with other forms of HR technology, but employee satisfaction and engagement. More often than not, this leads to increased morale and even more opportunities for success.

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

 

Lately, there’s been a big focus on America’s opioid addiction in the news. Whether it’s news on the abuse of the drug or it’s information sharing on how the drug works, Americans are talking about this subject regularly. We want to help educate you on this hot topic. Check out this short video for more!

We are halfway through our summer break and by now you have heard 1,000 times, “I’m bored!” from your kids! How do you survive the summer and keep your sanity? Follow these tips to make this summer break memorable and tackle the challenge of keeping your kids engaged.

  1. Keep A Routine

Kids thrive with schedules. The idea of just lazing around all summer sounds great at the beginning, but it feeds the “I’m bored” monster. Having no routine or daily schedule leaves kids with no expectations of what needs to be accomplished for the day. I cannot count the number of times I’ve texted my children from work at 1pm, “Have you gotten dressed and brushed your teeth?” Set up a daily routine and post it in a well-traveled location in your home. Set up expectations for the day—make your bed, get dressed, feed the dogs, brush your teeth, put away laundry. Simple tasks give familiarity to the day and help guide them to productivity.

  1. Water & Sun Safety

Teach your kids to always ask before heading out to the pool—whether it’s in your backyard, a friend’s house, or the neighborhood splash park. When they are in the water, make sure someone is watching. Among preventable injuries, drowning is the leading cause of death for children 1 – 4 years old. Drowning happens quickly and quietly—not like it’s portrayed in movies and on TV with lots of splashing and yelling. Keep kids in your sight at all times. Likewise, pay attention to applying sunscreen consistently. The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Apply sunscreen every hour and if possible, have your children wear UV protected clothing and hats.

  1. Summer Bucket List

Make your “Top 5 Summer Activities” list as a family and schedule them! Maybe it’s to try the new snow cone shop around the corner or go to a special concert series in the park. Your community is bustling with things to do during the summer. Research what special speakers are coming to your local library, break out your list of favorite movies from when you were a kid and introduce them to your children (Space Camp, Neverending Story, Flight of the Navigator!), make slime! Making a list of these fun activities gives your children something to look forward to and work towards achieving.

  1. Learn a New Skill

This summer’s skill in my house is learning how to type! I found a website that has free lessons and skills tests and my kiddos are completing modules of learning online during the day. Our hope is by the end of the summer, our teenagers can type using all 10 fingers! Figure out a skill that your children could benefit from learning and find a way to teach them this skill. It doesn’t mean you are now instructing them on how to play a violin, but if they want to learn, can you find a local music store that has some summer lessons? Or what about your friend’s artistic teenager who could teach your child how to draw anime or how to sing?

  1. READ!

You knew that one was coming. We’ve all heard of the “summer slide” where kids slide backwards in learning during their summer break. Reading not only prevents this slide but can propel your child into success for the coming school year. Get to your local library and talk with your librarians about the latest book series that are on fire for your school-aged children. Read along with your kid so you can discuss the twists and turns in the books. Have your student draw pictures of their favorite scenes in their book. Get your noses in some books! Readers are leaders!!

With these survival tips you will be blazing the trails to a successful summer. Parents—you got this!

Switching over to AEIS Advisors was the best decision we’ve made this year. Ronald and his team were able to identify discrepancies on our billing statements which got missed by our last broker, and they saved us over $8,000 in credits! AEIS has proven to be an attentive and caring company, looking out for the best needs of their clients."

- Director of Operations

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