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In a tight labor market, a candidate’s potential commute can make a job more or less attractive. HumanResources reports that a quarter of employees surveyed had left a job because of the commute. When looking at just Millennials, the number jumps to one third. Employees can be choosy, selecting a job that offers more of what they want, and that means less of a commute. Companies can work around this by offering transportation amenities, flexible scheduling or more remote working opportunities.

 Forbes has a recent interview with Tamara Littleton, founder of The Social Element, who’s successfully built a remote team at the social media management agency. She argues culture starts at the top. By treating people well, which includes offering remote opportunities, it sets a tone for the whole company. Creating opportunities for in-person meetings and gatherings balance any isolation that may happen. Then, more regular face-to-face communication, essential to build trust and teamwork, comes via video calls when email might otherwise be the default. Newsletters and webinars keep the team connected and ensure important messages aren’t missed. She can point to the success of her ideas with the hire of many senior team members, willing to sacrifice some pay for more flexibility. 

When implementing remote-friendly strategies, there are plenty of success stories to draw inspiration. Entrepreneur has some tips from Zapier, a company that has been on the forefront of offering alternative working arrangements. In fact, they offer a “de-location” package to encourage employees to move from the cost-prohibitive Bay Area. Tools like Slack facilitate real-time communication, with tools to find ideal meeting times across time zones and channels themed for non-work related conversations. Bots regularly and randomly pair up employees to get a chance to know one another during a brief call. A semi-regular retreat brings people together in person and impromptu video dance parties make slow days more fun.

The takeaway? Being proactive and creative to build remote work policies can get you the employees you want, wherever they may be.

HumanResources
Travelling to and fro office may drive your employees to quit
https://www.humanresourcesonline.net/travelling-to-and-fro-office-may-drive-your-employees-to-quit/

Forbes
How To Build A Culture Of Trust In A Large Remote Team
https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettonputter/2018/10/04/how-to-build-a-culture-of-trust-in-a-large-remote-team/#5d4e5d23188c

Entrepreneur
This Company Hosts Virtual Dance Parties to Help Its 170 Remote Employees Feel Connected
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/320411

by Bill Olson

Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

Aristotle was right when he said, “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Companies and politicians like to say that they’re transparent, when in fact, they’re often the opposite. And, as in nature, in the absence of facts, people will often fill their minds with what is perceived.

If you’re working at a company, rather than being one of its customers, and you’ve been told by senior management that they’re transparent about what goes on, then make sure you take a close look at what they’re willing to share.

In the article titled “The Price of Secrecy” in Human Resource Executive Online, employers are quick to cite company policy, yet are reticent to share if and how those policies are being enforced. This has a huge impact on employee trust and can quickly have the opposite effect on employees following said policy.

Basically, employees want to know that if they follow the rules, others will also follow them, or there will be consequences for not doing so. Companies can hide behind the mantra of “it’s being handled,” or “it’s an employee issue,” but what the employer may forget is that gossip will sometimes fill in the unknown. Compounding matters is that employees want to know that if a colleague violates company policy, the appropriate disciplinary action will be taken.

Employers seldom reveal any disciplinary process or policy enforcement simply because it may violate privacy, or it might embarrass either the employee or employer. For example, an employee has been stealing company property for months. Eventually, the employee is caught, but it may reflect poorly on the employer that it took a long time to realize this was happening, or that safeguards were not in place to prevent the theft in the first place. So, while the employer wants to inform its employees about this violation and how it was handled, they also don’t want to expose vulnerabilities that could undermine the employee’s trust in the company.

Another benefit of policy transparency is that it keeps the enforcers honest. That is, if a company employee is responsible for doling out punishment, then that person is more likely to do it fairly and impartially if they know everyone is watching.

 

by Bill Olson
Originally posted on ubabenefits.com

 

Question: We have a new employee in our call center who has a service dog. She came to her interview and trained without the dog, but is now asking if she can bring her dog to work. Do we have to accommodate her request?

Answer: The first step will be to determine whether the dog is a trained “service animal” as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or is an “emotional support animal.” A “service animal” is one that has been individually trained to work or perform specific tasks for an individual with a disability. The animal must be trained to take a specific action when needed to assist the person with the disability. Allowing an employee’s trained service animal is a form of reasonable accommodation.

However, pets used for emotional support are not considered service animals under the ADA as they are not trained to perform a specific task. Although some states and some local governments allow individuals to have emotional support animals in public places, the same may not hold true for allowing such animals in places of employment. You will need to contact your local government agency to see if such laws exist. If not, you may set a policy that prohibits pets in the workplace except for ADA-defined service animals.

Employers are limited on what they can ask an employee when it is not obvious that the dog is a service animal. Employers may only ask:

  1. Is the dog a service animal required because of a disability?
  2. What work or task has the dog been trained to perform?

In addition, employers are not permitted to ask for documentation for the dog, require that the dog demonstrate the task, or inquire as to the nature of the disability. The ADA does not require that trained service animals wear certain vests or collars indicating that they are service animals. Further, the ADA does not require the service animals to have a certificate of training.

Opening a dialogue with your employee about her need for the dog will provide you with guidance as to whether you need to allow her dog to remain with her at work. If another employee notifies you that he or she is allergic to dogs or dog dander, you may notify the employee with the service animal that due to the allergies of another employee, you cannot accommodate her request. However, you must engage in the interactive process with the employee with the service animal to consider other accommodations that would allow the dog to be with the employee.

Check with the Job Accommodation Network for resources to guide you in accommodating employees with service animals. If you do allow this employee to have her dog with her at work, remind her that she is responsible to ensure that her dog is always under her control and does not create a disruption to the work environment.

 

Originally posted on thinkhr.com

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

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

Dear Ron, Thank you so much for generously supporting [us] and our AIDS walk team this year. It was a lovely foggy Sunday morning in Golden Gate Park, with thousands of folks walking to fight AIDS. It has been a pleasure working with you over the years. You have saved us LOTS of money! I want you to know how much we appreciate all that you do!

- San Francisco, Non-profit organization

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