Author Archives: Ann Kontner

EMPLOYER BENEFITS PLANS: HEALTH FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNTS JUST GOT MORE FLEXIBLE

Good news may be on the horizon for those employees who find they are scrambling to buy an extra pair of glasses or rush to the dentist in order to spend the remaining funds in their Health Flexible Spending Account (HFSA or FSA) before the end of the plan year.  On October 31, 2013, the IRS released Notice 2013-71 which modifies the “Use-or-Lose” rule for Health FSAs.  Beginning immediately, employers may amend their Section 125 cafeteria plans to permit employees to carryover up to $500 in unused funds into the next plan year.  Read More »

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: TWO NEW EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITIES WENT INTO EFFECT ON OCTOBER 1, 2013

As this article is being written there is much uncertainty surrounding the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA)” aka the “Affordable Care Act (ACA)” aka “Obamacare.” Whatever you call it, barring a major change, there are two steps that employers must take now to remain in compliance with the law as it is currently written.  Beginning October 1, 2013, all employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) must provide a notice to new and current employees regarding coverage options available through a health insurance “Marketplace” (previously called an “Exchange”), as a part of the ACA.  Employers should be aware that notification of the marketplace is required regardless of whether they offer health insurance to their employees or not. 

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DOES YOUR EMPLOYMENT APPLICATION NEED TO BE UPDATED?

All HR professionals know that having candidates complete an employment application  is a very important step in the hiring process. Employment applications not only collect employment history and educational information on potential candidates, but can also be used to inform applicants of the company’s equal employment opportunity and at-will employment policies.  Even if an employer requests that candidates submit a resume for a position opening, the completion of an employment application at the interview meeting should be standard hiring practice for all companies. 

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ADA’S REASONABLE ACCOMMODATION REQUIREMENT SHOULD MAKE UPDATING JOB DESCRIPTIONS AN “ESSENTIAL FUNCTION” FOR HUMAN RESOURCES PROFESSIONALS

It seems that as Human Resources professionals we have been inundated with information about the new definition of the term “disability” under the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008.  Furthermore, it has been burned into our psyche that an employer must go through an interactive process when determining if there is a “reasonable accommodation” that can be made to an employee with a disability as defined under the ADAAA.  While most companies have made changes to theirADApolicies to include these recent additions to the Act, there is one major step in theADAcompliance process that may be overlooked by many employers, and that is the addition of a designation of “essential functions” into all employees’ job descriptions.

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CAT’S PAW LIABILITY – HR PROFESSIONALS SHOULD TAKE CAUTION TO AVOID GETTING BURNED

If you are a typical busy HR professional, there is a pretty good chance that you may have missed the Supreme Court ruling from last year dubbed “The Cat’s Paw Theory” or “Cat’s Paw Liability” case.  There have been quite a few articles written on the topic, but most just cover the theory itself and its legal ramifications, not how it relates to the Human Resources profession.

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NOT YOUR FATHER’S WORKPLACE – HOW EMPLOYERS CAN PREVENT UNLAWFUL HARASSMENT TODAY

It only takes a few minutes of watching the popular TV show “Mad Men” to realize that the workplace in the U.S. has changed significantly since the early 1960’s.

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EMPLOYEE HANDBOOKS – ARE THEY REALLY NECESSARY?

Even though it is not a state or federal law requirement, many employers have an employee handbook, or at least a few written company policies.  But just exactly where do those policies come from?   That’s easy — the HR Department.  But where does HR get the policies that govern the company?  The answer to that question is not quite so simple.  Employee policies can come from a multitude of sources such as style guides or boilerplate templates purchased online, but many times a policy is no more than “that is how we do things at this company.”   While in many cases the company means no harm by not having a formal employee handbook, the lack of a formal set of documented employee policies can potentially lead to costly litigation.

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FMLA – A FEW TIPS TO AVOID POTENTIAL PITFALLS

It is hard to believe that it has been almost 20 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was originally enacted in 1993.  It would be easy to think that after 20 years, all of the kinks would be worked out and that it would be a piece of cake to administer, but unfortunately that has not turned out to be the case.  Issues surrounding administration of the FMLA continue to be one of the biggest challenges HR departments face today.

 

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FORM I-9 COMPLIANCE – THE ICE TURNS UP THE HEAT

All U.S. employers are required to comply with the federal regulations requiring verification of the employment eligibility of all workers. Verification is made by having every employee complete a Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form).  Failure to complete the process can result in fines levied against an employer, and in cases involving willful refusal to comply, criminal charges can be brought against the individual(s) within the company responsible for compliance.

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