March 2015

Spring is quickly approaching and that can be a great time of year to do your own "spring cleaning" with a Human Resource audit.  Let us work with you to ensure your HR practices are current and compliant.  This is one of our most demanded services.  Please let us know if you would like more information on conducting an HR Audit for your organization.

HR Advantage continues to provide ongoing, timely updates on all Human Resource related topics with social media.  Make sure you are following us on LinkedIn and Twitter

You can also   contact us  directly with any HR needs that you may have.   We are always available to help!
Employee Appreciation Day on March 6


I n honor of Employee Appreciation Day on March 6, here are a few quick tips for celebrating employees on the annual day of recognition.


According to Gallup, the number 1 reason workers quit their jobs is due to a bad boss or immediate supervisor. Building positive relationships with employees is a critical management skill, on Employee Appreciation Day and beyond. They include:


1. Spread the Word: Clearly communicate the details of the Employee Appreciation Day celebration well ahead, so employees can prepare for and attend the festivities.


2. Recognize a Recent Accomplishment: Tie the celebration to the company's recent accomplishments, and use the opportunity to motivate and inspire.


3. Leave Handwritten Notes: Put a personal touch on the celebration-employees will appreciate the thought and effort.


4. Give a Token Gift: Offer Starbucks gift cards, party favors, themed prizes through a recognition system-give workers something fun and thoughtful to commemorate the day.


5. Include Virtual Workers: Send remote workers an email, give them a thank-you card, or order them lunch for the day, just don't leave them out.


Employee Appreciation Day is a great opportunity to show your employees how much you care and it's also perfect for highlighting ongoing recognition efforts within your organization.


Obama Proposes Paid Family Leave



The lack of paid family leave across the nation remains a priority for President Barack Obama, who called on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would allow working Americans to earn up to seven days per year of paid sick time.


Katharine Parker, an attorney with Proskauer in New York City, says that the Healthy Families Act, a bill championed by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that stalled in the last Congress, would:


  • Cover employers with 15 or more employees.
  • Provide accrual of one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked up to 56 hours.
  • Provide employees with the ability to use leave after 60 days of employment.
  • Carry over leave from year to year.
  • Allow the use of sick leave for an employee's illness, as well as a sick family member or to deal with domestic violence (e.g., medical treatment or going to court).
  • Require reinstatement of unused sick leave if the employee is rehired within a year.

The law would be particularly difficult to administer as it expressly states that it would not pre-empt state or local laws, Parker noted. "It's a one-size-fits-all law that does not take into account things it should, such as part-time employees," she added. 


This was reflected in the President's remarks. "Today, I'm going to be announcing our support and advocacy on behalf of a national seven-sick-day policy all across the country. And we're going to go beat the drum across cities and states to encourage not only that these laws are adopted nationally, but also that employers start adopting these policies as well." 

FLSA "White Collar" Regulations:

Changes Expected Soon



While employers wait for the imminent issuance of proposed Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) white-collar regulations, they can take some steps to prepare.  The proposed changes would impact which employees are classified as exempt vs. non-exempt and therefore, eligibility for overtime.


Five Key Steps

Paul DeCamp, an attorney with Jackson Lewis in Reston, Va., recommends five key steps employers should take now in anticipation of the revised overtime regulations:

  • Determine whether you have current job descriptions that accurately reflect job duties and convey the core functions and responsibilities of each role, particularly for exempt positions. 
  • Identify currently exempt positions that may be in the gray zone between clearly exempt and clearly nonexempt. These roles may present the most immediate concern if, as anticipated, the new regulations significantly narrow the exemptions.
  • Make sure business leaders have an understanding that these proposed regulations are coming and that they will have a potentially disruptive effect on the business. Also, business leaders should understand the rules may end up in limbo for several months or more in the event of congressional pushback or litigation. 
  • Begin developing contingency plans for how the business will respond if the minimum salary threshold increases substantially to $40,000, $50,000 or even $60,000. "If the salary threshold for exempt status lurches sharply upward, businesses may face a tough choice regarding whether to award employees an outsized raise in order to maintain exempt status or, instead, to convert roles to nonexempt status," he added.
  • Figure out what the company's approach will be in establishing work schedules and pay rates for employees converted from exempt to nonexempt. "Will the approach be to pay people hourly or to use a salary plus overtime? Will the new pay rates attempt to replicate the employee's pre-conversion earnings and schedule, such that employees who worked, say, 45 or 50 hours a week pre-conversion will continue to work those hours and now receive premium overtime pay? Or will there be a desire to avoid the heavy marginal cost of the overtime hours, leading the business to adjust employee schedules down to 40 hours, to reduce their overall earnings accordingly and to hire additional head count to cover the workload?" DeCamp asked.

"The more lead time that a business has to grapple with these issues, the more satisfactory the process and the outcome will be for everyone," DeCamp said.  Make sure you are prepared for the upcoming changes and let HRA know if we can help with this process.


FMLA Rights Extended to Employees in Legal Same-Sex Marriage


The Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division recently announced that it is revising the Family and Medical Leave Act's ("FMLA") definition of "spouse" to include employees in legal same-sex marriages, regardless of where they live. Among other things, this change in the definition of "spouse" enables eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages to take FMLA leave to care for a spouse with a serious medical condition. The final rule is effective March 27, 2015.


Currently, the FMLA regulations define "spouse" as "a husband or wife as defined or recognized under State law for purposes of marriage in the State where the employee resides, including common law marriage in States where it is recognized." The final rule shifts the focus from where an employee resides to where the marriage was celebrated and expressly defines "spouse" to include an "individual in a same-sex or common law marriage that either: (1) was entered into in a State that recognizes such marriages; or (2) if entered into outside of any State, is valid in the place where entered into and could have been entered into in at least one State." As a result, spouses in same-sex marriages will have the same ability as all spouses to fully exercise their FMLA rights, regardless of whether the state in which they reside recognizes same-sex marriage. Employers must only consider whether the same-sex marriage was legal in the state where it was celebrated in determining whether an individual qualifies as a "spouse" under the FMLA.


The Department of Labor's revision to the FMLA's definition of "spouse" was not unexpected and this change makes clear to employers what their obligations are with respect to providing FMLA to employees in same-sex marriages. Employers should also take note that the Department of Labor expressly declined to modify the current regulation governing what information an employer may require from employees who request leave to care for a family member. It therefore remains the case that an employer may only request reasonable documentation of a family relationship such as a simple statement from the employee or documentation such as a birth certificate or court document.


HR Advantage will continue to monitor the changes to FMLA and keep you updated.


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Lynette Weatherford, MA, SPHR 




Sunny Fuller, MA

Professional Advisor




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