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Category: Employment Law
Posted: 11/21/20130 Entries
Top Five HR-Related Concerns for Atlanta Small Business Owners
By Gregory C Bennett Sr.

Based on the feedback we hear from our small business clients on a daily basis, we have compiled a list of the top five fears that Atlanta Small Business Owners face going into 2014. Below are a few tips of the trade to assist Atlanta employers in these areas.

1.            Finding the Right People. Many Atlanta employers are currently expressing the opinion that while unemployment rates are still somewhat high compared with historical levels, all of the desirable employees are taken. However, the data shows that there is a promising market out there for talented job candidates, both employed and unemployed. Remember, your best (and most cost-effective) recruiting source is always your current employees, so start by asking if they know anyone who would make a good job candidate. You may even want to financially incentivize current employees who bring you successful new employees. If starting internally does not work, consider using your professional organization’s job listing service, rather than a general one. Also, be prepared to invest substantial time reviewing and sorting job application and resume submissions when seeking prospective candidates. In your interviewing process, remember that the best predictor of future job performance is past performance. To that end, consider using a behavioral-based interviewing technique and don’t forget to run a background check as well as verify the candidate’s references.

2.            Staying on Top of Health Care Reform Legislation. We hear you. This legislation is complex and far-reaching. However, your Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center is a great resource for you during these changing times in the health care landscape. We recommend starting with the Health Care Reform Acts: Summary Sheet and the Health Care Reform Timeline: Employer Guide. These two documents will provide you with a thorough overview of the Affordable Care Act provisions. Additionally, make sure you are signed up for our E-Alerts. These will help you to stay abreast of new requirements and provisions that may affect your employees. Your most recent compliance requirement was to distribute the Notice of Exchanges and Subsidies to all employees by October 1, 2013. If you missed this deadline, you dodged a proverbial bullet as no penalties have been enacted at this time for late notification to employees. However, you will want to ensure these documents are disseminated to your employees as soon as possible in order to avoid any civil liability. The Model Notice Templates are located in the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center. If you have questions about these Notices, see our Notice of Exchanges and Subsidies FAQ which is also housed in the Support Center.

3.            Losing Top Performers. Now that the job market is picking up some momentum, many employers have expressed concern about losing their most valued and productive employees. While different surveys report varying results, generally the top five factors impacting employee workplace satisfaction are 1) the employee’s relationship with his/her direct manager, 2) the employee’s salary, 3) the employee’s benefit plans, 4) the employee’s opportunity to use his/her skills and abilities, and 5) the employee’s opportunity for advancement. We recommend completing an audit of your workplace and give yourself a grade on each of these factors as they relate to your top performers. You may need to consider making some adjustments to your organization’s pay structure, benefit offerings, management style, job duties and/or career planning based on the outcome of your workplace audit.

4.            Being Sued by a Disgruntled Employee. This fear is always in the back of a small business owner’s mind. It is imperative to ensure that your workplace is free from discrimination and harassment. Your best chance at successfully defending an employee lawsuit is to secure documentation that would prove to a reasonable person that the employee was treated fairly and consistently with company policy. Remember, juries are made up of primarily employees, not employers. Having the ability and documentation to demonstrate that the company treats its employees impartially and consistently goes a long way in terms of reducing an employer’s exposure to liability. The Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center has several helpful documents to assist you with documenting poor performance and it also contains numerous guides and checklists to help you coach, counsel and terminate underperforming employees. Additionally, you may consider purchasing an Employment Practices Liability Insurance policy to assist you in covering your expenses should you have to defend a claim.

5.            Department of Labor Audits. It is crucial to stay abreast of federal and state labor laws that impact your business. Incorporating a practice of performing internal HR audits is beneficial in preparing an organization for any claims or workplace incidents that may put an organization to the test.   It is also essential to have a Human Resources Professional readily accessible to whom you may field your labor law compliance concerns. Complying with immigration laws, wage and hour laws as well as benefit laws is complex, but a knowledgeable Atlanta HR Professional or Attorney will provide you guidance and ensure that your organization remains in compliance with the labor laws that apply to your business. This will, additionally, help ensure that your company passes a DOL audit with flying colors.

Nothing can completely eradicate employee-related concerns from an Atlanta small business owner’s mind. Hopefully, though, these tips will allow you to sleep more soundly at night, even if only a little more peacefully.

Call Atlanta Payroll Services today at 404 920-8668.

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Posted: 3/7/20130 Entries
Helping Employees find the Greener Pasture: Your Side of the Fence
By Staff at Atlanta Payroll Services

Helping Employees find the Greener Pasture: Your Side of the Fence

In the past few years, many companies have had to tighten their budgets in lieu of further downsizing their employee headcount as a result of the economic recession that fell onto the US during the last quarter of 2007. Consequently, organizational strategy focused on lean workforces with employees often juggling multiple roles without seeing an increase in pay or promotion in job title. Due to the fact that most companies were not hiring during those troubled years, workers simply put up with the burgeoning workloads in their current jobs. Morale often suffered, but it went by the wayside as employers struggled to keep afloat and employees realized all too well that there were few alternatives in the job market. 
 
As the economy has seen a rebirth of job creation in many sectors, employers have been hiring again but also focusing on the damage of the past few years. Many employees who were exemplary performers often did not receive financial incentives during the recession years. These workers may now be seeking opportunities outside of the organization, especially if they continue to feel unappreciated, overburdened and if they have not yet seen a significant upturn in their compensation.
 
Employee engagement is a challenge that many companies are currently facing as a result of the recession’s aftermath. Organizations seeking to retain top talent and to recruit employees who will remain loyal to the organization must incorporate employee recognition programs that will motivate workers to highly perform as well as encourage loyalty to the organization. For this reason, employers must enact a strategic program to increase workplace morale.
 
When managers openly and effectively acknowledge the efforts made by their staff and communicate their appreciation of employees’ hard work, it showcases to personnel that their productivity has been noticed and valued by the employer.  Organizations that have integrated employee recognition programs into practice are more likely to utilize the programs in recognizing workers for their accomplishments. 
 
By partnering with Human Resources professionals, the management team will be able to execute an employee recognition program that will promote accolades to staff members for their dedication, as well as motivate others to strive toward excellence in their roles. 
 
Employers, historically, have been challenged with employee retention. Today’s hurdles are magnified by the low employee morale facing many organizations as well as the resurfacing business market.  The combination of these two factors leaves many organizations vulnerable to losing top talent and appropriate, thoughtful processes must be put into place in order to infuse the company’s culture with a positive, motivating program that will encourage employee loyalty.
 
Replacing top performers is difficult, expensive and time consuming.  As many companies are still feeling the effects of the recent recession, focusing on budgets is still a priority within the operating costs of a majority of organizations, large and small.  With careful planning and implementation, an employee recognition program will build and increase worker morale as well as help alleviate an exodus of valuable personnel as hiring begins to increase again.  Organizations that remain ahead of the curve and prepare for future hiring trends by incorporating employee recognition programs to enhance employee morale and make employees feel valued by the employer will help reduce the number of employees that may have otherwise left the company in search of greener pastures.
 
 
For more information contact Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 3/6/20130 Entries
HR Questions & Answer - Atlanta Payroll Company
By Staff at Atlanta Payroll Services

Question & Answer

Workplace Flair and Required Uniforms:  Who Pays for Damages?
 
Q: How should employers handle uniforms? Can employees be required to pay for them at the time of hire and can the costs for lost or damaged uniforms be deducted from an employee’s wages?
 
A:  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), an employer may prorate deductions for the cost of the uniform over a period of paydays provided the prorated deductions do not reduce the employee's wages below the required minimum wage or overtime compensation in any workweek. Uniforms or other items which are considered to be for the benefit or convenience of the employer may not be included as wages.  Additionally, the FLSA does not require that employees wear uniforms. If this is a business requirement, the cost and maintenance of the uniform is considered to be an expense of the employer.  If an employee damages or fails to return a uniform to an employer, the employee may not be required to pay for any of its costs if such a reduction would result in the employee’s wages being reduced to below the required minimum wage plus overtime, if applicable. This provision is effective even if the economic loss to the employer is due to th! e employee’s negligence. The information here is simply a summary of the federal law regarding wage deductions for employee uniforms. Many states have more restrictive, state-specific laws in place.
Posted: 3/5/20130 Entries
The Employer Mandate - Atlanta Payroll Services - HR Support
By Staff at Atlanta Payroll Services

The Employer Mandate

From an employer’s perspective, this is most likely the most feared aspect of Health Care Reform. In fact, the overwhelming majority of our Health Care Reform-related questions to date in 2013 have covered this topic.  So the purpose of this article is to answer some of our most commonly asked questions surrounding the Employer Mandate in very clear terms. 
   
The “Employer Mandate” is the provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) that requires “large” employers to provide health insurance to their full-time employees (those working 30 or more hours per week) or face a penalty.  A “large” employer is defined as one that has an average of 50 or more “full time equivalent” employees on business days during the preceding calendar year. To calculate whether your organization is covered by the employer mandate, you must look at the twelve months of the preceding calendar year to determine the average number of full-time equivalents you employed over those months.  Part time employees are considered fractions of full time employees for the purpose of the employer mandate calculation. Lastly, seasonal workers are excluded unless they work for the employer for more than 120 days. 
 
The formula for determining full time equivalent employees is:
 
Part-time Employee Equivalents (Total Monthly Part-Time Hours/120) + Full-time Employees (30 hours/week or more) – Owners (Sole proprietors, Partners in a Partnership, Members of LLCs Taxed as a Partnership,  and Shareholders who own two percent or more in an S Corporation) = Full Time Equivalent Employees. 
 
Should you determine that your organization will average less than 50 full-time equivalent employees in 2013 (using the above calculation), you are not required to offer health insurance to employees in 2014, and, if you do offer health insurance, the federal law does not require that you offer any minimum employer contribution amount. It is important to note, however, that your state law or your insurance carrier may have minimum employer contribution requirements in order to participate in group health plans, but these are unrelated to the federal Health Care Reform laws.
 
Should you determine that your organization will average at least 50 full-time equivalent employees in 2013 (using the above calculation), you will be required to offer “minimum essential health insurance coverage” at an “affordable rate” to all full time employees (those working at least 30 hours per week) in 2014.  While part time employees are included fractionally in the calculation, the federal law does not require the employer to offer health coverage to part-time employees.  So what is “minimum essential coverage?” And what is an “affordable rate?”
 
“Minimum essential coverage” refers exclusively to the health insurance plan design, not how much the employer contributes to the plan.  In order to offer minimum essential coverage under the federal law, the health insurance carrier must pay for at least 60% of treatment costs, commonly referred to as a health plan with a 60% actuarial minimum value.  In the coming months, you will probably hear this level of plan referred to as a “bronze level” plan. 
 
On the other hand, “affordable” coverage has everything to do with how much the employer contributes to the plan.  It is a common misconception that a large employer is required to contribute a specific percentage to each employee’s health insurance plan (such as 50%, 60% or 75%).  Rather, the federal law requires that the company contribute enough so that the employee’s portion of the premium for employee-only coverage of the bronze level or richer plan is no more 9.5% of the employee's total household income.  Since employers generally do not know an employee’s total household income, there is a safe harbor in place for 2014 stating that employees have access to “affordable coverage” as long as the employee’s portion of the premium for single coverage for the bronze level plan is equal to or less than 9.5% of the employee’s W-2 wages.
 
It is certainly time to calculate your organization’s projected full time equivalent employees in 2013 to determine if your business will be subject to the employer mandate in 2014.  Remember, your Human Resources Professional, your Health Insurance Broker and your Accounting Professional are all great resources for your questions in this regard.
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Service HR Support Center for help with your Georgia small business at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 9/7/20120 Entries
EEO-1 Report Filing Deadline.
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services
EEO-1 Report Filing Deadline.

By September 30, 2012, private employers with more than 100 employees and federal contractors (with 50 or more employees and a contract of at least $50,000) are required to file an EEO-1 Report with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEO-1 Report is a compliance survey report that is mandated by federal statute and regulations and requires company employment data to be categorized by race/ethnicity, gender and job category.
 
For HR Services help contact Atlanta Payroll Services today at 404-920-8668.
Posted: 9/2/20120 Entries
Senate Vote to Extend Immigration Programs.
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services
Senate Vote to Extend Immigration Programs.

The US Senate approved a bill (S. 3245) that would extend four key immigration programs that are set to expire on September 30, 2012 with a new expiration date of September 30, 2015. This bill authorizes a three-year extension for the E-Verify program, the EB-5 Regional Center program, the Special Immigrant Religious Worker program, and the Conrad State 30 J-1 Visa Waiver Program.
 
To find out how this may effect your Georgia Small Business, call Atlanta Payroll Services today for a FREE consultation at 404-920-8668
Posted: 9/2/20120 Entries
Tighten Contractor Oversight of Subcontractor Compliance
By The HR pros at Atlanta Payroll Services

Tighten Contractor Oversight of Subcontractor Compliance

On July 26, 2012 the U.S. Department of Labor announced that Lettire Construction will pay workers who were employed by its subcontractors approximately $960,000 in back wages and fringe benefits, as part of a case settlement. So, if you are a federal contractor utilizing subcontractors, be sure to take the time and conduct due diligence that includes confirmation of the subcontractor’s ability and commitment to pay prevailing wages on time.
 
Contact Atlanta Payroll Services today at 404-920-8668
Posted: 8/16/20120 Entries
Tracking Hours Worked
By

Tracking Hours Worked

It is the employer's responsibility to track all non-exempt employees' hours and pay accordingly. Employees may be required to use a time clock system or submit timesheets, but pay may not be withheld as penalty for missed punches or failure to submit a timesheet in a timely manner. However, the company may use its regular progressive disciplinary system when an employee fails to follow the company's timekeeping procedures.
 
Call Atlanta Payroll Services at 404-920-8668 for your employee timekeeping needs.
Posted: 7/10/20120 Entries
Workplace Violence Sources and Solutions
By By HR Pros of the Atlanta Payroll Services HR Support Center

Workplace Violence Sources and Solutions

 
Workplace violence is an area that cannot be overlooked or dismissed. In October 2011, a Bay Area city in California experienced a tragic workplace violence incident. A disgruntled employee brought multiple firearms on the job-site and opened fire, killing 3 employees and injuring several others. According to OSHA, nearly 2 million American workers reported being victims of workplace violence each year, and it is believed that many cases go unreported. Workplace violence can occur anywhere at any time and employers must constantly combat the potential of violence in the workplace. Individuals who may be at risk for workplace violence include employers, employees, clients, vendors, customers and the general public. Often industries with heavy cash flow reliance, environments with mentally unstable people (due to illness or a diagnosis), services centering around alcohol and physical locations with isolated employees may trigger opportunities for potential violence or theft.

Although some organizations have stronger security measures in place than others, including employee identification badges, locked entrances, metal detectors, etc., sometimes these may not be enough to provide a safe workplace. Employers can help to minimize workplace violence by:

  • Establishing a zero-tolerance workplace violence policy that encompasses all individuals who come in contact with the business, including customers, visitors, employees, etc. This policy should encompass provisions for threats, harassment, intimidation, weapon authorization (if applicable), and relevant disciplinary action.
  • Creating a written and enforced Workplace Violence Prevention Program covering the administrative costs, analysis, evaluation, complaints, investigations, and proactive workplace violence prevention strategies.
  • Reducing stress by using Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), managing performance with ongoing evaluations, providing fair and consistent policies pertaining to terminations, and acknowledging employees’ contributions to the organization.
  • Reviewing hiring practices to ensure background checks are conducted when needed and avoiding negligent hiring practices.
  • Monitoring workplace safety protocols to ensure compliance with the organization’s termination procedures (i.e. return of company property, witnesses for termination meetings, etc.), and evaluating threats concerning policies or regulations about concealed weapons.
  • Creating and communicating a safety plan to be utilized if the organization has a workplace violence incident.
Employers have an obligation to provide a workplace that is safe and secure. Employees have an obligation to comply with their organization’s standards regarding behavior and safety. Hopefully, the above information will help your organization properly reduce the likelihood of a violent workplace incident.
  
To find out how Atlanta Payroll Services can help navigate your small business through these and more complicated government regulatory compliance issues, call us at 404 920-8668.
 
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