CARES Act Signed Into Law

On March 28, 2020, President Trump signed into law the ‘‘Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’’’ or the ‘‘CARES Act.’’ The Act is part of a continuing effort to help businesses and American workers confronting the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Key provisions of the Act are included here.

Dealing with Flu & Illness in the Workplace

This winter, everyone seems to know someone at home or at the office who has been taken down by some variation of the flu or a virus. What can employers do to reduce the spread of illness and manage employee time off, leaves of absence, and requests to work from home? We have some suggestions!

Prevent the Spread of Illness in the Workplace

  • Review your relevant policies to ensure that they encourage sick workers to stay at home without fear of any reprisals. Remember that you provide paid time off so that employees can care for themselves, take breaks from work to refresh, and much more.
  • Encourage employees to stay home when sick and until they are no longer contagious.
  • Throughout the day, clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently (e.g. doorknobs, desks, phones).
  • Create a work environment that promotes preventive actions to reduce the spread of illness. For example, provide tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, and/or hand sanitizer.
  • Remind employees and loved ones to
    • engage in good self-care, including getting rest and the seasonal flu shot.
    • cough or sneeze into a tissue, sleeve, or arm – not their hands.
    • avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
    • wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
    • avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

Minimize the Impact on the Business

  • If an employee has reported in sick and asked to be able to work from home, if the employee’s health and job duties do permit working from home, you can allow employees to work from home and make use of affordable telecommuting and teleconferencing technology.
  • If the employee’s health and duties do not permit, then employees should not be expected to or required to work from home. Work with other employees to reassign the duties of ill co-workers to ensure smooth workflow during absences and to lessen the load upon return.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready and willing to assist and advise if you have questions related to flexible work environments, employee perks, and leaves of absence. Contact us at info@LE-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

Coming Soon…Clarity on Tip Pools, Tip Credit, and Wages Paid to Tipped Employees

It feels right to share tips with those who support the servers, but is it legal? Currently, you cannot mandate that your tipped staff share their tips with other staff, such as hosts, dishwashers and bussers. But that may change soon for some hospitality employers. Last week, the federal Department of Labor (DOL) proposed a new regulation that, if enacted, will allow employers that pay their tipped employees the full minimum wage to include all staff in mandatory tip pools.

Under federal law, employers may pay tipped employees a reduced minimum wage of $2.13/hour, instead of $7.25/hour, by counting up to $5.12/hour of the employee’s tips toward the minimum wage requirement. This is a “tip credit.” If the DOL’s new rule on tip pooling is enacted, employers who do not claim a tip credit may include non-tipped workers, such as cooks and dishwashers, in mandatory tip pools. Tips must be re-distributed at least as often as wages are normally paid. The proposed new rule will continue to prohibit employers, including managers and supervisors, from keeping any portion of an employee’s tips, including from a tip pool.

The proposed rule will also effectively end the 80/20 rule, often called the 20% rule, and provide much needed clarity to employers about when they are required to pay the standard federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour to tipped employees. In 2011, the DOL enacted the 80/20 rule, under which employers are prohibited from taking the tip credit if the employee spends 20% or more time on non-tipped tasks, e.g. clearing tables, completing side work, making coffee, cleaning floors. The 80/20 rule has been difficult to administer and enforce, as is evidenced by the numerous lawsuits filed across the country challenging the rule.

In 2018, the DOL attempted to abandon the rigid 80/20 rule, however, courts have disagreed on whether it was effectively rescinded. The DOL’s regulations proposed last week will address the ambiguity. Under the proposed new rule, an employer may take the tip credit for any amount of time a tipped employee spends on non-tipped duties so long as those non-tipped duties are (1) related to the tipped duties and (2) are done at the same time as the tipped duties or within a reasonable amount of time before or after the tipped duties. The intent is to create a much more flexible system for calculating wages for tipped employees than the 80/20 rule.

The proposed rules are not yet final. They are open to public comment until December 9, 2019, at which time the DOL will analyze comments and proceed with the final rule-making process. The DOL does seem to be fast-tracking major initiatives in advance of the November 2020 election. We will continue to monitor the proposed regulations and keep you informed.

The attorneys and HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law are ready to assist and advise if you have questions related to federal or state labor regulations or your employee pay policies. Contact us at info@LE-hrlaw.com or 1-844-333-5253.

How Do I Appreciate Thee? Let Me Count the Ways. . .

It is the first Friday in March, and that means it is National Employee Appreciation Day. Today presents a good opportunity for employers to stop and review the steps they are taking to make their employees feel valued in the workplace. Employees who feel valued are more likely to be positive, engaged and productive at work.

A 2015 survey conducted by Glassdoor Economic Research revealed that for almost 57% of people, benefits and perks were among their top considerations in accepting a job. In fact, 4 out of 5 people reported that they would prefer new perks over a pay raise at work. The survey confirmed that the three core benefits that matter most to today’s workers are health insurance, vacation/paid time off, and 401(k) retirement plans. 

In this time of low unemployment when many employers are struggling to attract and retain high-performing employees, surveys like this one provide valuable food for thought. Employers who want to attract the best and the brightest should offer more than a competitive salary. Based on the Glassdoor Survey Results, they would be wise to offer quality health insurance and 401(k) plans, as well as generous vacation and paid time off policies. Employers should also consider non-traditional employee benefits such as educational assistance/tuition reimbursement, gym memberships/employee wellness programs, paid sabbaticals, flexible work arrangements, workspace choices/improvements, regular employee outings, and formal programs for employee coaching and mentoring. Think, too, about furthering your unique organizational mission, vison and values with your benefits: Provide time off to clean the lakefront, tutor local kids, or work at a food pantry? Pay for audible accounts to encourage learning about the latest management trend? organize teams for local walks, runs, swims and paddles? Offer a weekly in-house massage therapist or yoga instructor? Have an office share for tickets to local arts, sports, and community events? Finally, Employers should ask themselves whether and how often they stop to recognize their employees’ hard work. Providing consistent feedback, routinely celebrating employee successes, and embracing rewards and peer recognition programs can go a long way towards making employees feel like valued members of a team.

So, by all means, take time out on this National Employee Appreciation Day to thank your employees. But, more importantly, consider the unique benefits that you can offer every day to reward employees for their contributions to your organization.

Contact the attorneys or HR professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law to if you have questions about how to make your employees feel appreciated.

When Cupid Strikes in the Workplace

Whether HR knows about it or not, romantic relationships happen in the workplace. According to a Vault.com annual office romance survey, more than half of American professionals say they have participated in an office romance. Of those who have dated a coworker, 16% married.

In my days in the hospitality industry, I saw couples live happily ever after and others … well, let’s say, not so happily ever after. Let’s face it, if 62% of the workers in the hospitality and tourism industry say they’ve had a romantic relationship with a coworker, 46% didn’t live happily ever after according to my math.

If two employees tell you that they are dating, first express your appreciation they came forward to let you know of their workplace romance and of course, be happy for them! Follow your handbook policies. If you allow dating in the workplace, review your organizations’ workplace harassment policy and remind them that as long as the relationship is consensual, it aligns with your policy. Remind them there is no need for public displays of their affection while at work. Most importantly, remind them that if one party decides they no longer want to be in the relationship, the courting must stop, otherwise it may by perceived as workplace sexual harassment. You may also want to have individual conversations with each person to make sure it is consensual and there is not a more serious situation occurring.

When the couple doesn’t notify HR, but HR hears of the romance through-the-grapevine, does HR have the same responsibility as if the couple came forward? Yes, talk to the individuals using the same framework as above.

If there happens to be an internal conflict of interest – supervisor and direct report – you may need to ask one of the individuals to transfer to another department or position, that is, if you are a big enough organization. Otherwise, one of the individuals may need to leave the organization to eliminate the conflict. It is best to have a written policy addressing this.

Executives and others in sales or key relationship building roles may also want to consider how professional partnerships may create a conflict of interest, actual or perceived. Most recently, the CEO of REI was asked to step down because he did not disclose his romantic relationship with a leader of another organization in the outdoor industry.

Bottom line…if you are going to date in the workplace, tell HR or your supervisor, avoid PDA in the workplace, and, if one person wants to end the relationship, you must end it. If the relationship ends well, it’s easy to continue the relationship as coworkers. If it doesn’t, the tension will spill into the workplace and coworkers will feel the tension, and so may your former sweetheart.

Remember, we are handling matters of the heart. Be kind. Be respectful. It takes courage to show love. If you need help navigating a workplace romance or drafting a policy, reach out to the Lake Effect HR & Law team.

The Benefits of DiSC in the Workplace

We have all been in a meeting or working on a project when someone was too assertive in expressing their opinions, not contributing enough, too chatty, or too hesitant to make a decision. These individuals were most likely not intending to be difficult in the meeting or in the workplace; they were simply working from their preferred DiSC style. Although we can all adapt our styles, during stressful times it does not come naturally. Having a common language to address these types of situations and work through the barriers provides your team an opportunity to leverage each person’s strengths, resolve interpersonal conflict or simply gain awareness of their own innate reaction to workplace situations.

By understanding the different DiSC styles and each styles’ priorities, motivators, fears and limitations, your team gains a better understanding of how their coworkers are communicating in the workplace. The Everything DiSC model is the simplest, most robust tool for creating a common language at all levels of an organization.
At times, every organization has a need to improve communication, strengthen a team, resolve interpersonal conflict or simply develop team members’ interpersonal skills. Lake Effect HR & Law is uniquely qualified to manage your HR needs. We are an Authorized Partner of Everything DiSC with over a decade of experience working with the DiSC model. With several personalized reports to choose from, we can find a solution to address your needs that reflects your culture or what you want your culture to be.

To learn more about how DiSC can help your team, contact any of the attorneys and HR Professionals at Lake Effect HR & Law, www.LE-hrlaw.com.

Lake Effect HR & Law, LLC
(844) 333-5253 (LAKE)
info@le-hrlaw.com

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