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Workplace Investigations: Part 2 of 3: General Searches

October 1st, 2013

Workplace SearchesLast week we discussed workplace investigations regarding computer files and communication, and as you learned, the right to search most often lies with the employer. After all, it is your equipment and your office the employee is utilizing. However, general searches are a bit more complex.

The need to search someone’s personal belongings may arise for a number of reasons – perhaps there’s a suspicion of employee substance abuse…or there’s been some type of vandalism committed during today’s lunch break. Or, in a much more serious situation, perhaps there’s been a threat made against others and there’s reason to believe someone is planning to harm someone else or themselves.

Under OSHA, employers must investigate problems and prevent future similar problems from occurring, to the best of their ability. In regards to the prevention of workplace violence, employers have a duty to investigate threats and prevent acts of violence from occurring within the workplace. However, we’d like to stress that in violent situations or threatening situations, local law enforcement should be contacted before attempting to handle on your own as the employer.

So, what about a less serious search – for example – looking in an employee’s briefcase or purse for something? In short, this is not recommended. In general, employees have a reasonable expectation of privacy surrounding their own personal items…. unless of course the employee was told otherwise before accepting a job at your Company.

The key in protecting yourself as the employer in general searchers is to have a good search policy in place BEFOREHAND. If you have made it well known (this includes outlining everything in writing within your employee handbook or company policy) that the entire workplace is subject to search at any time, you have the right to search personal areas when there’s reasonable cause. This includes locked desk drawers or lockers.

A very good search policy will also include personal items that are brought on to the worksite including purses, briefcases, containers, and even cars parked on company property!

Did you know that most PEOs can help you establish your own search policies in addition to employee handbooks and company policies?  Call 877-636-9525 to find the best Professional Employer Organization for you. But, if you are in immediate need of a workplace investigation at this time, it is recommended you contact an employment law professional before proceeding.

Join us next week as we dive further into workplace investigations with employee drug testing.

Workplace Investigations: Part 1 of 3 : Computer Files

September 26th, 2013

Video Monitoring EmployeesAt some point in time nearly every business owner will find themselves in need of conducting a workplace investigation. Whether you believe an employee is stealing confidential company files, or is bringing illegal substances into the workplace, it’s certainly “your business” – but is searching them actually legal or is it an invasion of privacy?

There are many types of workplace investigations that can occur in the workplace. We invite you to join PEO Advantage in the upcoming weeks for our 3-part series reviewing 3 of the most popular types of investigations: computer files, general searches, and drug testing (yes, testing – not just searching- is considered a type of investigation).

So, let’s start with computer files and forms of communication.

You’ve heard from other employees and suspect yourself that Mike in Marketing is in cahoots with a major competitor. Could he be stealing confidential data from your company and passing it along to the “enemy” right in front of your own eyes?!  Before searching his computer or opening up an investigation it’s important to know what is and is not legal.

The very first step is to review your company policy. In the event that this issue is brought to a court of law, it’s important to note that the majority of courtrooms will side with the employer on a search, if  the company policy was known to the employee. Most employees do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy at their desk and employers have the right to search.

Email: Many courts have found that employers are generally free to read and monitor company email communications. A survey conducted by the American Management Association (AMA) back in 2008 revealed that more than half of the responding companies monitor employee email, and one quarter of them have fired an employee for misusing email. While it’s highly recommended to have a company email policy, you as the employer still probably have the legal rights to read employee email messages sent using your equipment and your network. Always consult with an employment law professional beforehand if you do not have an email policy in place and are unsure.

Video Monitoring: Here’s another way to try and figure out if Mike is putting confidential files on a zip drive and leaving the workplace with them – but is it allowed? There is little limitation on the use of non-audio video recording. Some states have limitations regarding privacy laws, but in most instances video monitoring in the workplace is permitted.

Keylogging: Because the computer belongs to the company, employers have the right to install keylogging programs. These programs record every single keystroke an employee uses on their computer – including passwords.

There’s no denying that employee management and compliance takes valuable time away from focusing on strategic growth and exposes you to huge financial risk if not handled to the letter of the law. With more than 60 employment-related governmental regulations, compliance alone is a full-time job.

This is why thousands of business owners choose to hire a Professional Employer Organization, or PEO, to save time and money. Not to mention that a PEO provides expertise in an otherwise confusing arena: employment law. If you need to conduct an employee investigation, it is highly recommended that you consult your PEO in advance or contact an attorney that practices employment law.

For more information on workplace investigations or a specific scenario, contact PEO Advantage. And don’t forget to join us next week as we take a look at “general searches” and their limitations.

Preparing for Older Employees in the Workplace

September 12th, 2013

portrait of mature aged attractive senior womanIf you haven’t noticed, people are living much longer these days! According to the Social Security Administration, a woman turning age 65 today can expect to live, on average, until age 86 (for men, the average age is 84). We stress the word “average” because about 1 in every 4 65-year olds today will live past the age of 90!

We’ve seen a trend in the past decade or so… professional men and women are continuing to work well into their 60’s and beyond. And it’s not necessarily because they have financial obligations. Some do, but for most it’s because they’ve worked hard to get where they are today, they’re healthy, and they want to keep their jobs.

Yet, some employers seem concerned. How will they perform up against the young and determined workforce? Am I making the right decision by keeping them on, or are they costing my business money? Here are a few tips for catering to older employees in the workplace.

  • Provide training for those that wish to acquire new skills.
  • Provide retraining, as needed, for those who may need to polish up their skills.
  • If someone isn’t performing up to par due to health or personal issues, first consider part-time options, or transitions into retirement, which will promote a much more positive working environment.  The employee may actually contribute much more and perform much better if transitioned into a part-time position that isn’t quite as demanding.
  • Offer mentorship opportunities or programs within the workplace. New employees will certainly have something to learn from these veterans of the workplace!
  • Make sure you have a safe workplace that is accommodating to older employees. What you may not consider a hazard or discomfort, may certainly be one to an older individual. This includes anything and everything from comfortable office furniture to safely secured wires that are tucked away from foot traffic!
  • And last but not least, don’t forget to talk to your PEO about questions or concerns regarding older employees. PEOs not only assist with compliance, but also with training, benefits, best practices and more.

By following the aforementioned tips, you can celebrate diversity at your workforce and take advantage of older employee’s contributions and experience. For questions regarding your PEO relationship (or if you’re looking to establish a new PEO relationship) contact our team today!

Confused About Obamacare?

September 3rd, 2013

Friendly Male and Female Doctors Isolated on a White Background.Did you know that together with the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, Obamacare represents the most significant regulatory overhaul of the country’s healthcare system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965?

With the number of complexities and concerns on the rise for small to medium sized businesses, many are opting in for a co-employment relationship with a PEO.

Here’s why:

  • With health insurance rates on the rise and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, businesses are looking for ways to continue offering robust benefits to their employees, but also keep their expenses under control. PEOs bring purchasing power to the table alongside access to Fortune 500 quality health insurance packages and previously unavailable benefits such as 401(k), Section 125 plan and Flexible Spending.
  • Without even factoring in the rules and regulations associated with Obamacare, there are more than 60 employment-related governmental regulations; compliance alone is a full-time job. PEOs assume much of the liability associated with healthcare regulations and employee management.  Expert help with risk management and compliance protects business owners from costly fines and lawsuits.
  • A number of PEOs are now providing valuable online resources such as calculators to help evaluate the effects the Affordable Care Act will have on businesses. These calculators can help determine whether a business should pay the penalty or provide medical benefits. They outline the costs by company size and determine which variable hour employees must be offered benefits.
  • A PEO can help make sense of complex language. In addition to calculators, some PEOs also offer cliff note-like summaries of various healthcare acts in order to help business owners quickly navigate to the answers they need without getting overwhelmed.
  • With healthcare and compliance under control businesses can finally concentrate on their core competencies and put their growth plans in motion.

Is your business looking to cut healthcare costs and ensure a compliant workplace in the upcoming year? Call 877-636-9525 or Get a Free Quote Online to find the best Professional Employer Organization for you.

3 Ways to Maximize Your Relationship with a PEO

August 22nd, 2013

3 Ways to Maximize Your Relationship with a PEOIf you already work with a PEO, you‘ve likely observed the general advantages: saving money, improving productivity and profitability, reducing risk, attracting and retaining top employees, more time to focus on growth and more!

But, there are a few smaller advantages to working with a PEO that aren’t as well-known. Here are 3 more ways you can really maximize the co-employment relationship, if you haven’t already!

1.  Added Perks for Your Employees: Many PEOs have added perks in addition to traditional benefits. These may include access to credit union membership, exclusive employee discounts and reduced rates on travel, entertainment and services. Be sure to ask your PEO about the perks of their purchasing power.

2.  Employee Handbooks: For HR managers and business owners alike, compiling an employee handbook is one of the most dreadful and tedious tasks. We bet your employee handbook hasn’t been updated in year…. has it? A PEO will tailor a customized handbook for your business to discuss benefits eligibility, paid time off, maternity leave, workplace attire, and more! Handbooks provide prevention and protection from legal liabilities, provide tangible guidelines for your employees, minimize employer/employee misunderstandings and provide comprehensive answers to frequently asked questions.

3.  Training: Because PEOs place a strong emphasis on workplace safety, OSHA, and compliance, you may have already had them on site to conduct some safety training. However, PEOs offer various types of training including but not limited to performance management training, team building training and interview and termination training—all educational opportunities that can improve the workplace. Why not take advantage?

To learn more about the many benefits associated with PEOs, contact PEO Advantage today.

Can International Employees Be Co-Employed Under My Current PEO Contract?

August 5th, 2013

conceptBusiness is booming and you’re expanding overseas… But wait a minute, how will you manage new international employees? If partnered with a PEO through the co-employment relationship, to date you’ve enjoyed offloading the time consuming HR tasks (not to mention some of the liability) associated with employee management, payroll, health insurance, workers compensation, and more.

But, now you face a bigger challenge: expanding into an international workforce. Does your PEO operate overseas? Who will help ensure that your business continues to minimize costs and maximize efficiencies?

Not all PEOs provide dedicated and knowledgeable global HR specialists. If your current PEO does not provide international employee management services, you may feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. How will you expand?

Relax. International PEO options exist and you don’t have to put your business on hold to find them!  With PEO Advantage, you will get customized side by side PEO comparisons, backed by the facts and expert advice you need.

Through our trusted network of vendors, we currently have international HR management administration solutions to include employment verification, record keeping, employee contract management, relations management, pre-employment background and drug screening, international benefits, compliance, and assistance with operational policy.

And, contrary to common misapprehensions, you CAN easily begin a new PEO contract at any time throughout the year versus waiting until January of next year.

Expanding overseas? Call and speak to a PEO expert today at 877-636-9525.

Hiring Employees in Central America

July 31st, 2013

Hiring Employees In Central AmericaHere in the United States, HR Administration and Employee Management both come with their own laundry list of policies, liabilities and costs—things like insurance benefits, unemployment, and worker’s compensation—all things that are outside of your core expertise. Expand your business into a new country or region such as Central America and this administrative workload could double if not triple.

For starters, here’s what you’ll need to investigate before hiring in Central America:

  • Although geographically tied to one another, each of the countries in Central America has its own unique labor law framework. You’ll need to comply with each country’s local laws, policies, employment practices and employee-protection laws.
  • Know how to find out more about your candidates. The majority of background checks conducted here in the US only have access to US records, information that will be irrelevant for hiring someone overseas.
  • Know how payroll works. You’ll likely need to implement a procedure to ensure that each bank account used to process payments is in accordance with internal policies but also with the particular country’s banking laws.
  • Wage and Hour Laws: What is the minimum wage in the country you wish to do business in? How many hours per week can workers work? Is there such thing as overtime?
  • Will new employees need to travel or work certain months of the year in a different country? If so, knowing how to process travel and working visas is important.
  • Benefits: The benefits you offer to your employees here in the US will likely be of no benefit to an employee in Central America. What types of health insurance benefits or comparable options are there in Central America?

Intimidated? Here’s a thought to make your life easier…

The process associated with hiring overseas shouldn’t discourage you from expanding. Many of the Central American countries have tremendous business opportunities.

For years, PEOs have provided thousands of US businesses with HR Administration and Employee Management Solutions. HR normally takes valuable time away from focusing on strategic growth and exposes you to huge financial risk if not handled to the letter of the law, but businesses that operate through the co-employment relationship hand these time consuming tasks and worries over to their PEO. The end result? Peace of mind and more time to focus on growing your business. You may have never considered utilizing a PEO until just now, when things are about to get sticky.

PEO Advantage is proud to announce that international PEO opportunities await you. Through our preferred network of vendors, we have options available to assist with hiring in Central America. More importantly, these international PEOs provide a level of expertise surrounding international benefits, payroll, employment law and more!

We know that selecting the right PEO in itself is a big task. So, simply contact us with your workforce expansion plans, and we’ll be happy to help you find the perfect PEO partner.

 

What Exactly Do OSHA Auditors Look For?

June 24th, 2013

Osha AuditorsOSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is an organization that conducts comprehensive site safety and health audits in order to ensure that businesses and operational facilities are being run in a safe and healthy manner.

During an audit, a team of OSHA professionals will visit your site and spend 3 to 4 days examining the operations according to their well-outlined (and extensive) standards. The information that they collect during these audits is then used both to improve the safety and health of your workers and also to educate the team of auditors as to what specific conditions and needs arise within your area or industry.

The following is a general list of elements that OSHA auditors will examine and review:

1.     Documentation

The first thing that the auditing team will do is review the documentation of your safety and health program to date to see if the program meets OSHA requirements. Documentation includes but is certainly not limited to: injury and illness logs, workers compensation documents, performance evaluations, employee reports or suggestions of safety and health hazards, preventative maintenance records, emergency procedures, employee training records, and more.

Is your company up to date with OSHA compliance? Who is in charge of managing your workplace safety? Designating responsibility to a qualified individual or team can better ensure that your workplace is “dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s.”  Don’t forget the OSHA has fines for noncompliance!

2.     Site Tour

After the documentation is reviewed, the auditing team will tour the work site to see hands-on whether or not your safety and health program is meeting their standards in practice. The site tour will include things like: reviewing hazardous categories such as fire safety and hazardous material storage, noting needed improvements, and discussing the hazards they have found.

OSHA auditors will share their insight on how to immediately address these issues. The industrial hygienist on the team will also check the site for known hazard areas, ensure that these are properly controlled and also make sure that no other hazards exist.

3.     Interviews

During the site tour, the auditing team will conduct interviews with random employees to help determine if safety measures are in place and being properly executed. These questions will address work procedures, emergency procedures and personal protective equipment. The audit team will also conduct more formal interviews with employees and management to better gauge the efficiency and awareness of the safety and health system.

While the goal of the OSHA audit is to promote a safer workplace and make sure your site is in compliance with OSHA guidelines, nobody likes getting surprised with a fine for noncompliance!

Did you know that if you work with a PEO, your workplace is probably more protected than most– financially protected too! PEOs share employee liability through the co-employment relationship but also work with the employer to provide adequate training, audits, precautionary steps and more.

With the help of a dedicated and experienced team, you can come up with the most effective solutions to keep your workplace as healthy and safe as possible while adhering to compliance standards.

For a complete schedule of events concerning an OSHA audit, visit http://www.osha.gov/Publications/visit/what-to-expect.html.

For more information on enhancing workplace safety and shared liability through the co-employment relationship, contact PEO Advantage.

Minimum Wage Increases for 2013

June 4th, 2013

We’re well into 2013, but if you’re just now hiring someone in the middle of the year, you may not know that a few states had minimum wage increases in 2013. 10 of them – to be exact!Minimum Wage Increases for 2013

Let’s review:

  • Arizona – $7.80
  • Colorado – $7.78
  • Florida – $7.79
  • Missouri – $7.35
  • Montana – $7.80
  • Ohio – $7.85
  • Oregon – $8.95
  • Rhode Island – $7.75
  • Vermont – $8.60
  • Washington – $9.19

Federal minimum wage remains at $7.25/hour, although that may change in the near future.  President Obama has proposed indexing the minimum wage to inflation so that it increases each time the cost of living increases. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013 has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives and if passed would raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 per hour by the year 2015. The minimum wage would then be adjusted each year after that to keep up with the rising cost of living.

Currently, the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hour supersedes state minimum wage laws where the federal minimum wage is greater than the state minimum wage. In states where the state minimum wage is greater than the federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage takes precedence.

Need help sorting through minimum wage laws? Ask your PEO! If you are not currently working with a PEO or payroll service provider, contact PEO Advantage today to learn more. Wage and hour laws can be complex – but you don’t have to face them alone!

How Do I Determine What To Pay a New Employee?

May 23rd, 2013

How Much Do I Pay A  New EmployeeHiring? You may be stumped when it comes to selecting or offering the appropriate salary for the vacant position- especially if it’s a new position your company has never had before. You’ll obviously want to be in compliance with minimum wage laws, but as you advance further up the pay scale and away from entry level positions, salaries get a little bit more complex.

Salary is often representative of experience, skill set, industry and responsibility, and you want to attract the perfect candidate, don’t you?

How do you determine what to pay a new employee? Let’s review a few key factors:

  • Do your research. There are a few good resources available which will provide salary data within your industry: www.bls.gov, www.payscale.com and www.salary.com.
  • Education & experience: What degree, training, certificates does the employee have and how many years of experience does he or she have? Will you offer a higher salary for a candidate that brings more to the table?
  • Job uniqueness: How rare is this job? Are there a lot of candidates capable of filling the position, or does it really require a rare and exceptional candidate?
  • What benefits will you provide the employee with? Don’t underestimate the power of benefits, or the cost. Many employees will happily take a lower-paying position if it means full health insurance coverage for their family or special perks such as company gym membership, retirement account, commissions, expense reimbursements, transportation, and more. What can you provide? Analyze how much each benefit is really worth.

Once reviewing the abovementioned areas, it is recommended that you compile a salary range, versus a number set in stone. A range will allow you some flexibility for negotiations, and other factors such as a candidate’s unique experience or the need for relocation.

Still stumped? A PEO Can Help…

If you already work with a PEO, be sure to rely on them for attracting and retaining top employees. Comprehensive benefits packages and recruiting assistance brought forth by the PEO relationship will make sure your Company hires the right talent – at the right price too!

If you’re not yet working with a PEO, contact us to learn more.  There are countless benefits to the co-employment relationship in addition to salary and recruiting assistance. We can help!