Welcome to the June edition of the HR Advisor. As you can see, our monthly newsletter has a new easier-to-read format! This month we cover the important topics of effective meetings, unpaid interns, and state protected classes.
Five Tips for Effective Meetings
If you want to get a snapshot of your organization’s efficiency and the health of its culture, look at your meetings. Are they efficient and productive? Do their results justify the time and expense? Are meetings an occasion for collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and team-building? Or are they a waste of time and a cause of needless frustration?
The answers to these questions matter. Meetings aren’t cheap, so you want to make each minute count. The less efficient and productive meetings are, the more they cost. One employee’s lost hour is bad enough. When meetings are a waste, the costs are multiplied. Too many bad meetings and you risk creating a culture marked by disorganization and dissatisfaction.
How do you make every minute in a meeting count?
- Write and distribute an agenda for each meeting. The agenda should indicate what topics will be discussed, who will lead the discussion of each topic, and how much time will be allotted for each topic. Email the agenda to participants so they can prepare. At the meeting, stick to the agenda. Whoever leads the meeting should bring everyone back to the agenda when the discussion veers too far off-topic.
- Invite only the people who have a need to attend the meeting. If someone doesn’t have something to say or hear at the meeting, they probably don’t need to be there. Remember, you are paying for these meetings, and the more people attend, the more the meetings cost.
- Assign someone to write minutes of the meeting. Ideally, this person would not be heavily involved with leading the discussion and could focus on quickly and accurately recording what was said and what was decided. Online apps can be helpful here as participants can see notes in real time and make corrections and suggestions. These apps are also great for easy reference and tracking progress on action items.
- Stay focused on the agenda. If a particular topic needs more discussion than is allotted to it, you may want to table it for a future meeting. However, an agenda shouldn’t always be the last word on what happens. If the agenda must be changed mid-meeting, do it, but take care to record what changes were made and what needs to be discussed later.
- End the meeting on time and with clear action items for the next meeting or follow-up discussion. Every participant should have gained something from the meeting: information important for their work, a better understanding of something, a direction to take, or a task to do. If the meeting hasn’t “produced” something, it probably didn’t need to happen.
These tips are easy enough to put into practice, but they’re also easy to forget or neglect. Forgetting to create an agenda here and there might not seem like a big deal, but it adds up to hours of work without organization or focus.
Effective meetings require good organizational skills, but also good habits and discipline. If you put these tips into practice and commit to them, you’ll be well on your way.
The Department of Labor has six specific and hard-to-meet criteria for when an employee can be classified as an unpaid intern. If the position doesn’t satisfy all six, the worker must be classified as a paid intern (or simply an employee). Before advertising for or hiring an unpaid intern, ensure the following:
- The internship is similar to training which would be given in an educational environment;
- The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;
- The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under close supervision of existing staff;
- The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern (on occasion its operations may actually be impeded);
- The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job after the internship; and
- The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship.
Most employers are familiar with the core list of federally protected classes: race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. These come from Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and have become part of our collective employment consciousness. Other federally protected classes include military or veteran status, pregnancy, and citizenship and immigration status.
What employers may not realize is that most states have added their own groups to this list. For instance, many states protect marital status, and a growing number protect credit information and arrest records. Lawful off-duty conduct, political activity, and wage garnishments are also protected in a number of states. Managers who aren’t aware of the laws may unwittingly violate them, but as the adage goes, ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Check your state law in the HR Support Center (use the search bar and type in your state + “equal employment”) to make sure you’re familiar with the non-discrimination laws that apply to your organization.
OSHA Delays Electronic Record-Keeping Rule Compliance Date
Last August, we reported on the new OSHA rule, which would require certain employers to submit injury and illness data electronically. The new reporting requirement was scheduled to go into effect on July 1st of this year. However, OSHA just announced that the requirement has been delayed indefinitely. OSHA has not given the reason for the delay or provided any information about a future effective date. We will provide updates if and when they are available.
Legislative Update: Comp Time and Health Care
House Passes Comp Time Bill
On May 2, the House passed the Working Families Flexibility Act. The Act would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to allow employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek to choose between overtime pay in the applicable pay period, as the law requires now, or time off in the future. That time off in the future (comp time) would be banked at the rate of 1.5 hours for each overtime hour worked. For example, an employee who works 44 hours in a workweek could choose between 4 hours of pay at 1.5x their regular rate, or 6 hours of paid time off in their comp time bank.
If it becomes law, it will only apply to states that do not currently have their own overtime laws requiring premium pay for hours over 40 in a workweek.
In states where comp time becomes legal – if it becomes legal at all – it may be used only if the employee chooses comp time instead of overtime pay. Employers will not be able to make comp time a standard practice or in any way coerce employees to choose comp time instead of overtime wages. Additionally, employees will have the option of asking for payout of their unused comp time at any time with 30 days’ notice, and unused comp time will have to be paid out at the end of each year. Other limits and worker protections are included as well. Employers will not be required to offer a comp time option.
This bill still needs to pass in the Senate – where it faces an uphill battle – and be signed by the President before it becomes a law.
House Passes New Healthcare Bill
On May 4, the House narrowly passed a revised version the American Health Care Act (AHCA) – the GOP’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Senate has the next move. Rather than vote on the House bill, the Senate Republicans plan to write their own version and incorporate elements of the House bill into it.
At present, there are no action items for employers. In its current form, the AHCA keeps the employer mandate requiring employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to offer minimum essential coverage. However, it reduces the employer penalties to zero. So, employer reporting requirements would remain in effect, but there would be no financial penalties for failure to offer minimal essential coverage.
If the AHCA becomes law, dropping coverage could still be financially risky according to some experts. Employers who simply drop coverage once the law goes into effect could, under some limited circumstances, potentially face lawsuits for impermissible reduction in benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). There is some debate about this, however.
Much remains unknown at this time. The Senate version of the bill could turn out to be very different, in which case the differences would need to be resolved in a conference committee.
We will be watching closely as this process continues and will keep you apprised of important updates. If a final version the AHCA passes both the House and Senate and is signed by President Trump, we will notify you and explain your options going forward.
Working With Summer Scheduling Challenges
With summer underway, employees have more scheduling challenges than usual. Vacations, summertime child care concerns, and the desire to take advantage of nice weather with an afternoon (or day) off all contribute to employees missing more work in the summer months. Check out our article “Working With Summer Scheduling Challenges” on the Support Center.
PO Box 39
Chester, NJ 07930
Fax: 888 600 0191