April 2021
Prepared and Distributed by The Midwest Hardware Association, Inc.
Payroll Clients: Payroll Upgrades Are Coming Soon!
It is with great excitement that we take this time to personally inform you of a business enhancement Retail Financial Services (RFS), in partnership with Midwest Hardware Association, has been undergoing over the past year.

This involves the implementation of our enhanced payroll system to enrich your business operations, which allows us to achieve operational excellence, improve productivity while exceeding your expectations.

Below are some questions and answers that will help lead you through the process:

How is RFS onboarding clients to the new system?
  • You will receive an email from your Payroll Specialist approximately 4-6 weeks prior to moving your group to the new software.
  • We will be collecting additional employee data and updating the system with the information provided
  • To ensure accuracy we will be running dual payrolls before your store fully moves to the new software (this is not additional work for you厀e got you on this).

What will I need to do?
  • You will need to timely return requested data...here are a few things we will ask for!
  • Sample of your current time clock import file (if applicable)
  • Employee Data
  • Employee’s email address
  • Employment Status (full or part time)
  • Date of Hire
  • Date of Birth
  • Termination Date
  • Termination Reason
  • Date of last raise
  • Amount of last raise

This sounds great...what increased value will I see as a client? I am glad you asked!
  • Ability to record/keep track employee’s:
  • Date of Birth
  • Date of Hire
  • Date of Termination
  • Termination Reason
  • Pay statement notification via email that employees can view (providing you gave us their email from the information requested)
  • Add a message to all employees on their pay statements
  • Employees can access their own pay statements online and print out
  • Retirement plan information/company match on pay statement
  • Tracking and viewing time off accruals (sick and/or PTO)
  • View and print W-2’s
  • View and print Quarterly return statements

Will there be other features that will become available?
  • Yes! There will be additional values that you will receive as we progress. Our main focus is to onboard all clients with minimal issues. More to come!

What happens next?
  • When we are ready to onboard your store, you will receive an email from your Payroll Specialist asking for some information to assist with the onboarding process.
  • Your Payroll Specialist will let you know how to access your information in the new system and what the next steps are!

Watch for additional emails from your Payroll Specialist and updates in eHELPS.
Wisconsin Lawmakers Introduce New Bill to Repeal Personal Property Tax
By Misha Lee, MHA Wisconsin Lobbyist

State Representative Dan Knodl (R-Germantown) and State Senator Duey Stroebel (R-Saukville) have introduced legislation again this session to repeal Wisconsin’s outdated personal property tax (PPT) on businesses. Assembly Bill 191 (AB-191) and Senate Bill 189 (SB-189) would eliminate the tax assessment of the remaining categories (equipment, furniture, fixtures, watercraft, and a few random items left out of previous exemptions) of the personal property tax beginning on January 1, 2021.

Under current law, Wisconsin businesses including many MHA members, have to pay taxes to local governments on the value of equipment, office furniture and other materials. These taxes are on top of the sales tax paid when purchasing this equipment and the traditional property taxes that businesses pay to local municipalities for their land and buildings. The proposed legislation would compensate local governments for the lost revenue from repealing the tax.

For MHA members, the personal property tax can be particularly burdensome both financially and especially in the amount of time and effort it takes to comply. Not only must businesses pay duplicative taxes on property which has already been taxed at the point of sale, but there is the process of having to catalog and calculate value for that property which is time consuming. The reporting process is complicated, confusing and grossly inefficient. The requirements to comply hit small businesses particularly hard. Assessing and collecting the tax is also an inefficient use of time and resources for municipalities across the state when compared to the amount of revenue the tax generates once all the exemptions are factored in. In fact, there are now more items exempt from the personal property tax than there are taxable which creates an artificial unlevel playing field from one business to the next when it comes to taxation.

Around the country and here in the Midwest, many states have eliminated or are phasing out the personal property tax. This issue has been a thorn in the side for MHA and the business community now for almost two decades and it’s time that Wisconsin lawmakers take the final step in repealing the tax this session. Doing so will take another burden off the backs of small businesses at a time when many of them have been hit hard from the economic impact of the recent global pandemic.

The state of Wisconsin is projected to begin the next two-year budget cycle with a $1.7 billion surplus. Moreover, the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) projects the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) will provide an additional $3.2 billion in federal aid to the state of Wisconsin and an additional $2.1 billion in federal aid to Wisconsin local municipalities. Many lawmakers now agree that now is the time to repeal this antiquated tax while there is an ample funding opportunity to do it. And from a public policymaking point of view, eliminating the PPT creates a more equitable tax code treating everyone equally under the property tax law.

The proposal to eliminate the personal property tax enjoys wide support across the state and legislative support is growing. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu and Joint Finance Committee Co-Chair Howard Marklein have all publicly expressed their support for inclusion of a big tax break in the budget, and all specifically mentioned support for repeal of the personal property tax.

MHA has been part of a broad coalition consisting of more than 50 statewide organizations that have been working to support eliminating the tax.
Illinois: Business Community's Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) Concerns Ignored by General Assembly
By Alec Laird, MHA Illinois Lobbyist and Vice President, Government Relations for the Illinois Retail Merchants Association

If you are an Illinois business in Illinois that has used any technology that involves the use of employee biometrics, regardless of the reason, chances are you will most likely be sued. BIPA was designed to guard against the unlawful collection and storing of biometric information. When Illinois passed the law in 2008, it became the first U.S. state to regulate the collection of biometric information. Washington and Texas have since passed similar laws. However, Illinois’ BIPA remains the only law in the U.S. that allows private individuals to file a lawsuit for damages stemming from a violation. The Act prescribes $1,000 per violation, and $5,000 per violation if the violation is intentional or reckless. Up to 2019, barely any lawsuits were filed under BIPA. In 2019, the Illinois Supreme Court’s decision in Rosenbach v. Six Flags court held that a violation of the notice, consent, disclosure, or other requirements of BIPA alone, without proof of actual harm, is sufficient for a person to be considered “aggrieved” by a violation of the law.

In the two years since the Illinois Supreme Court ruling, over 900 class actions have been filed against Illinois employers. With the question of liability unsettled and the case law stacked in favor of employees, employers that have implemented biometric timekeeping systems, access controls, and temperature scanners are being punished for providing the latest technology in the workforce designed to protect both the premise and the employees. This has resulted in millions of dollars being paid to employees who have not—and in most cases cannot—demonstrate that they suffered any type of harm. This has also resulted in businesses deciding not invest in safety measures designed to keep employee’s safe such as temperature scanners for COVID.

Employers are seeking common sense changes to the law which would allow a curing period similar to the language included in the California Data Privacy law. Employers are also seeking common sense changes to premises related uses such as locks on prescription safes and cash registers, temperature scanners, and egress and ingress to the premises. These changes are not an attempt to protect businesses such as Facebook or Google, but to provide relief for small employers.

So far the Illinois General Assembly has ignored the concerns of businesses and has stalled any legislation that seeks to protect businesses from frivolous lawsuits.
Sales Trends February 2021
Here are the most recent Illinois, Minnesota-Dakotas, and Wisconsin hardware store sales trends, gathered from association members using the MHA's monthly accounting services. The figures derived for each region include sales data from the following number of stores:

Illinois - 22 stores
Minn.-Dakotas - 11 stores
Wisconsin - 70 stores
"Double Damages" Back on Table for FLSA Violations
The potential cost of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) just went up.

The US Department of Labor (DOL) has announced it will once again seek “double damages” when it negotiates settlements with employers it believes have violated the law.

When DOL investigators determine that an employer has violated the FLSA, they usually first try to reach a voluntary settlement with the employer. This generally involves paying back wages for two years and agreeing to pay wages in accordance with the FLSA in the future. Under the Obama administration, the DOL also began seeking liquidated damages—an amount equal to the amount of unpaid compensation due under the statute, which in effect doubles the amount of back wages to which employees are entitled—most of the time.

Last year, under the Trump administration, the DOL announced it would no longer assess pre-litigation liquidated damages in many cases.

Now, under the Biden administration, the DOL is making another 180-degree turn. In an enforcement bulletin published April 9, the DOL said it will return to pursuing liquidated damages in its pre-litigation investigations as long as the Regional Solicitor (RSOL) or their designee agrees with the request.

The DOL will not assess liquidated damages if the employer presents credible evidence of a good-faith defense or if the RSOL decides the matter is not appropriate for litigation.
8 Steps on How to Handle a Discrimination Complaint
Federal, state and local laws prohibit discrimination based on a wide range of characteristics, including (for example) age, pregnancy, religion, gender, disability, race, ethnicity, color, creed, sexual orientation and national origin. These laws likewise impose a number of serious penalties on employers who fail to follow these prohibitions. Thus, prudent employers should take claims of discrimination in the workplace seriously.
This article outlines what every covered employer should do when handling any type of complaint of discrimination. In short, employers should promptly, fairly and thoroughly investigate all claims of discrimination—and document their efforts in doing so.

Step 1:  Determine Whether a Complaint Has Been Made
Employers should keep in mind that the term complaint is broadly defined. A complaint may be oral or written and may be made to a supervisor, HR, or even an outside hotline designated by the employer to receive complaints. Regardless of how the complaint is received, an employer is obligated to respond to all complaints of discrimination. An employer should make every effort to investigate every complaint or report of discrimination regardless of how the employer becomes aware of the issue.

5 Steps to Engaging Employees

Employee engagement can be a force behind an individual’s decision to act, or not to act. The elements that make up motivate and engage employees are generally complex and unique to each person. Ultimately, they may change over time.

Companies with highly engaged employees generally demonstrate a higher revenue growth when compared to their industry peers. Additionally, shifting an individual employee from low engagement to high engagement can improve employee performance by up to 20 percent and significantly reduce recruitment costs.

While understanding what inspires employees to remain interested in their work, invested in their employer, and performing at a high level within an organization often varies depending on whom is asked, these steps should assist employers in fostering employee motivation in their organization.

Step 1:  Develop a Human-Centered Work Environment
Organizations are often defined as social systems that consist of groups of individuals that work together to meet a set of agreed-upon objectives. Therefore, it is not surprising that a primary area of employee motivation has to do with the relationships that employees develop within the organization.

Human-centered work environments focus on building a culture that offers:

  • Shared values;
  • Individual opportunity;
  • Employee involvement; and
  • Open communication.

Create a work culture that encourages collaboration. When working in teams, motivated employees need to work with equally motivated co-workers. A successful team requires that each member feels like a valuable part of the team. Encouraging a culture of teamwork means recognizing and rewarding team effort in addition to individual effort.

Train managers to manage. In order to manage a team, those in supervisory roles must first understand the basic principles behind guiding others. Train employees to be supervisors and managers before placing them into management roles. Employers can do this by teaching them to COACH:

  • Communicate. The best supervisors communicate the ground rules for the entire team as well as the individual, and communicate what each member can expect to receive in return.
  • Oversee. Good supervisors encourage team members to work together, to resolve issues and to develop solutions by guiding their growth and offering them support.
  • Advise. A good leader provides direction and guidance when individuals are faced with choices, and points out alternative ideas and different points of view so employees can make intelligent decisions.
  • Celebrate. The best managers not only act as a coach, but they also act as a cheerleader and celebrate individual and team successes.
  • Help. Good supervisors help the members of their team to learn, to grow and to be successful.

Service Spotlight

Forklift Workshop DVD Training
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to have formal and practical training and evaluation for all forklift operators. Once initial training is conducted, employers must then evaluate each operator at least once every three years. The Forklift Workshop DVD Training can help you meet OSHA forklift training requirements.
The Forklift Workshop DVD is an innovative approach on education new and veteran operators on proper forklift safety procedures as required by OSHA. The workshop contains everything necessary, such as a 35 minute DVD, trainer’s tools on CD- ROM, operator’s handbook, quizzes, forklift poster, and more!
Contact Jordan Firkus at 800-888-1817 ext. 301, [email protected] or Andrea Ramage at 800-888-1817 ext. 365, [email protected].


“The Forklift Workshop DVD is a handy tool. It includes basic information to help train new forklift operators and provides a heads up on possible safety issues. The video and material provided make training quick and easy.”

Mike, Manager
United True Value
Oconto Falls, WI

“We purchased the forklift training DVD system after a surprise OSHA visit as a necessity. Among the things we were fined and cited for was failure to have a formal and well-documented forklift training program. We purchased the forklift DVD training program from the Midwest Hardware Association to become compliant and avoid additional penalties.”

Matt Johnson
Johnson's Hardware & Rental
Mora, MN