Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Severe weather policies: not just for winter any more

We've had a run of bad weather in our area over the last few days. I listened to a friend recount the multiple ways he tried to get to work one morning this week, only to be thwarted each time by a tree across the road he was trying to take. He eventually made it to his office after 1 1/2 hours of driving around (normal drive time is 5 minutes) and taking quite the circuitous route.

Most of our clients have severe/inclement weather policies. It is rare for them to be invoked in seasons other than winter. That could mean that the wording in the policy might lead one to believe that it is only meant for winter conditions (i.e., if schools are on a snow schedule, if the temperature drops below ___ degrees, if you are not comfortable driving in snowy conditions, etc.).

As is often the case, we learn how to improve a policy when confronted with a situation that wasn't necessarily anticipated when the policy was written. Same here. Check your severe weather policy, and be sure it's doing the job for you.

(Yes, these boots do the job for me, except mine are orange with cream polka dots--shocking, I know.)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Does no more free checking mean no more direct deposit?

A recent article from the Associated Press details how free checking may be going by the wayside as financial institutions look for ways to cope with governmental limitations on fees. I will be watching this development to see how it impacts me personally. Businesses should be watching to see how it impacts payroll practices.

In some states, employers are allowed to require employees to participate in direct deposit. The applicable statutes may include caveats that the requirement can only be used where free checking is available to employees. Employers who avail themselves of direct deposit should check with their counsel to see if an alternative payroll method must be offered if free checking is no longer available.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Maintaining perspective: we can learn from our clients, too

As an attorney, I do my best to educate clients: best practices, the impact of recent cases on their businesses, managing borderline employees, you get the idea. It can be easy to lose sight that I have a relationship with my clients--that is, I'm on a two-way street, and I can learn from them, too.

One client recently lost its President and General Manager. He was the type of leader who was larger than life yet so very approachable. He preached a mantra to his employees that they wholeheartedly embraced . . . because he practiced it, too. Exceed expectations.

Two simple, everyday words that managed to perfectly describe his management and business style. He wanted his employees to provide the best customer service by going beyond what the customer anticipated receiving. He also wanted his employees to be the best co-workers by going beyond what a job description might capture. When it came time to cater to the customer, no one had a job title. It was everyone's responsibility to do whatever was necessary to ensure the customer had an unforgettable, in a positive way, experience. In working to serve the customers, you would find him right beside those who would have fit into a rectangle under him on an organizational chart--not that he would have ever dreamed of illustrating anyone's "position" at the company in such a manner.

Managerial styles are as unique as those who carry them out. Here, though, we have advice that can be tailored to whatever style fits us as individuals.

My client's leader may not be present to guide those employees any longer, but they will never be lost. They know what they are supposed to do--exceed expectations.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Optional and IRS--not a pairing you hear everyday

You may recall that under the health care reform legislation, health care benefits provided by employers are subject to reporting on an employee's W-2 beginning in 2011.

On Tuesday, the IRS announced that it was delaying implementation of that reporting requirement, making it optional in 2011. You can read the notice and the IRS' reasoning behind this move here.

Additionally, the IRS has issued a DRAFT of its proposed modified Form W-2; Box 12 on the form is where the IRS has provided for valuation of health care benefits. Employers and interest groups are invited to comment on the form before the final version is issued.

This suspension of a component of health care reform is not entirely surprising. Many employers continue to maintain a "wait-and-see" posture while mid-term elections are held--the impact on the current health care reform legislation could be substantial if a new wave of politicians make Washington home in the coming months.

Stay tuned. . . .

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Come and knock on our door. . .

As I read this latest article from SHRM this morning, the theme from "Three's Company" popped into my head. Yes, indeed, we've been waiting for you.

Seems as though federal governmental agencies may be sharing information to determine who will receive or has received ICE audit notices. According to the article, companies which found themselves the subject of an investigation or audit from another agency--mostly related to the employment of immigrants--also received a heads-up that ICE would be coming to inspect their Form I-9s.

As we recommended (okay, whined) earlier here, the time to look at your Form I-9s for compliance issues is long before you even think you might be getting an audit letter. And if you do find yourself on the mailing list of any government agency, please engage counsel as soon as you receive the letter and before you provide anything in response to the notice.

Monday, October 4, 2010

No hiding behind the veil

I just read an article by Kara Shea in the Tennessee Employment Law Letter concerning individual liability that exists for Family and Medical Leave Act and Fair Labor Standards Act claims. The definition of "employer" for determining liability under those acts is broader than what most CEOs, CFOs, HR managers and the like are used to seeing. It's worth a read and then an examination of your leave and pay policies.