Hiring teens for summer jobs? Make sure you follow the rules

Last week, Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, presented the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign in downtown New York City.

The job safety campaign is part of OSHA’s Young Worker Initiative to reduce work-related injuries among teen employees by teaching them proper on-the-job safety techniques. OSHA’s goal is to reach more than three million teens in hopes that lessons learned now will be carried throughout young workers' careers.

The Young Worker Initiative site is full of information and helpful resources for teens, parents, employers and educators for all to help young summer employees have a safe and rewarding work experience.

The Teen Summer Job Safety Campaign kicks off just in time as teens begin their search for summer work. Be sure you know the laws regarding child labor and safety before hiring any underage employees.

Two major areas to be concerned with are the Fair Labor Standards Act and OSHA.

OSHA. Depending on where you do business and in what industry, you must comply with certain hazard-specific job safety and health standards. OSHA is the federal department in charge of setting and enforcing safety and health standards in the workplace. All employees, including teen workers should be trained on how to stay safe while on-the-job.

Visit the OSHA Teen Workers site and your local Employment Standards Office for help with questions.

FLSA. The FLSA was set in place to protect minors’ educational opportunities and prohibit work that is harmful to their health and safety. For employees under the age of 18 there are rules regarding compensation, occupations and industries they may work in, as well as the hours they may work. Each state also has a set of child labor standards to abide by.

Visit the Department of Labor for more information on the FLSA and also be sure to check with your local state offices on specific standards in your state.

G.Neil carries an entire line of labor law compliance solutions to help you understand both the FLSA and OSHA, before hiring teens for the summer. Take a look and be sure you know the right way to hire and manage teen employees this summer and all year round.

Senate passes genetic nondiscrimination bill

Anti-discrimination legislation is on the move that would protect employees’ jobs and health insurance coverage against decisions made on the basis of genetic information.

On April 24, 2008, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, or GINA.

GINA will:
  • prohibit the use of genetic information to deny employment or insurance coverage,
  • ensure genetic test results are kept private,
  • and prevent insurance companies from making eligibility or premium decisions based on genetic information.
The act will now go back to the House of Representatives for final approval. It is then on to President Bush’s desk, who is expected to sign the bill as early as next week. The bill's effective date will be 18 months after the President signs.

Check back often for updates on the status of GINA and whether there will be posting changes once the bill is signed into law.

Read the full Associated Press article.

Workplace bullying: More than just a tough boss

Workplace bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment in the form of verbal abuse and offensive conduct or behaviors, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. The wounds from bullying can run deep, even deeper than sexual harassment in the workplace.

Results from a 2007 Workplace Bullying Institute survey of American workers found that:
  • 37% have been a victim of bullying
  • 49% have experienced or witnessed bullying at work
  • 32% occurs behind closed doors
  • 50% and more involves targets being publicly humiliated

Another survey by Zogby International discovered that women account for 40 percent of workplace bullies. Over 70 percent of the time, women bullies will target other women.

Researchers also found that workplace bullies tend to be supervisors, but just because a boss is tough, doesn’t always make them a bully.

A tough boss will motivate an employee through constructive criticism and will challenge their teams to work harder in order to achieve goals. A bully would belittle a worker by constantly reminding them of mistakes and insult their work.

Currently there are no anti-bullying state laws protecting workers, it is left up to the businesses to combat workplace bullying before it ever begins.

One public relations firm in Chicago has strict rules prohibiting office gossip. The boss has fired three employees who failed to follow the rules of not talking behind the backs of clients or coworkers, inside or outside of the workplace.

The first step to prevent workplace bullying is to develop a policy that outlines unacceptable behavior and the consequences of bullying behavior. Every company is different and should adopt bullying policies and procedures that fit their unique culture.

Workplace smoking policies: When employees lie

Whirlpool suspended 39 workers for lying on insurance paperwork about their smoking habits, as reported by the Chicago Tribune.

The suspended employees all claimed they do not use tobacco products, but were caught in the act on the Evansville, Indiana, factory property smoking or chewing tobacco. Some accused workers may even lose their jobs because of the lies.

Whirlpool uses a financial incentive program to encourage workers and their families to not smoke. Workers at the Evansville factory who smoke are charged an extra $500 in annual health insurance premiums.

Whirlpool’s actions show one difficulty companies encounter when enforcing wellness programs based on the honor system.

"Employers have been using the honor system ever since wellness programs started, and you have to be a little naive to think that people are going to admit they smoke when they know they're going to be penalized."

Enforcing smoke-free workplace policies can be tough, especially if employees are untruthful about their smoking habits.

With rising healthcare costs and the dangers of second-hand smoke, some companies are completely snuffing out smoking on company property.

No Smokers in the Workplace: The New Controversy,” from G.Neil’s News & Info section, examines how some workers are fighting back against smoke-free policies with legal action. Some workers’ rights groups claim the policies violate one’s right of free expression.

State no-smoking laws can stir up confusion when determining if your company should enact a smoke-free policy. For help on how to sort through related legal issues, read the full article at

MySpace and hiring: Convenient, but risky

Tempted to use MySpace or Facebook to do a little research on a potential job candidate? You may want to think twice.

Some experts advise using extreme caution when using social networking sites to learn background information on a candidate. Others recommend staying away from the sites completely.

On anyone’s MySpace profile you can usually find out that person’s gender, relationship status, sexual preference, home town, age, religion and how many children they have. The problem is that all of these topics should be off-limits during the interview process.

Making a hiring decision based on any of the topics just mentioned would be considered discriminatory and could potentially land your company in some legal hot water.

The California Labor & Employment Defense Blog has a full run down of legal issues to be aware of when using the Internet to research job candidates and current employees. Here’s a summary of just a few:

Invasion of privacy. Some social networking state in their terms of service agreements that it is unlawful to use profile information for employment decisions.

State protected privacy. California and New York currently have statutes prohibiting employers from interfering with employees’ private lives outside of work.

Discrimination. Even if an employer came across the information unintentionally, it is unlawful to deny employment based on protected topics such as age and gender.

Take a look at the full post for a complete overview.

Suspected FMLA leave abuse top HR concern

Employee abuse of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is the top concern for human resource professionals regarding the law, according to a WorldatWork survey earlier this year.

WorldatWork administered the survey in response to the Department of Labor’s proposed changes to the FMLA regulations. The proposed changes are aimed at resolving tough issues employers face when administering the law.

Under FMLA, employers must provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job protected leave during a 12 month period. Reasons for FMLA leave include the birth or adoption of a child, caring for a seriously ill immediate family member or for the employee’s own serious illness.

Of 450 human resource professionals surveyed:
  • 42% said the potential for or suspicion of abuse by employees causes “extreme difficulty” in administering intermittent FMLA leave.
  • 38% reported inadequate notification prior to an absence.
  • 28% reported difficulties tracking intermittent leave.

When asked what changes to the FMLA they support:
  • 72% strongly agree with requiring workers to notify employers in advance of taking non-emergency, foreseeable leave.
  • 61% strongly agree with requiring annual medical certification from employers when conditions last more than one year.
  • 60% strongly agree with requiring a fitness-for-duty certificate after return from intermittent leave to jobs that could endanger the employee or others, or that the worker may be unable to perform.

A full copy of the survey is available at

New Jersey set to offer paid family leave

A New Jersey bill that would provide paid family leave benefits for workers caring for sick family members and newborn children received final legislative approval from the New Jersey Senate this month. It is now up to the state governor to sign the bill, which he previously announced would happen.

The bill would authorize up to six weeks of employee-paid family leave during any 12 month period. Under the bill, employees may take up to six weeks of paid family leave during any 12 month period in order to care for a sick family member, or a newborn or recently adopted child. Employees would receive two-thirds of their weekly salary, no more than $524 each week.

Once the governor signs the bill, New Jersey will be the third state after California and Washington to require paid family and medical leave.

Read the full article in the Asbury Park Press.

'Bring your guns to work' bill passes Florida senate

To follow up on a topic we reported on last month, the Florida senate approved a bill on April 9, that would allow employees and customers with concealed weapons permits to bring a firearm onto company property. The bill, familiarly known as the “bring your guns to work” bill allows firearms to be kept in locked vehicles in company parking lots.

The bill now goes on to the governor, who will likely sign it into law, according to a recent SHRM article.

The bill prohibits employers from asking if an employee or customer is carrying a gun and from searching that person’s vehicle for a firearm. In addition, the bill will make it illegal to deny employment because the applicant has a concealed weapons permit. Also, employers may not fire an individual for keeping a licensed weapon in their vehicle.

Against the bill - The Florida Chamber of Commerce

The Florida Chamber of Commerce is against the bill, claiming that it would “undermine the property rights of Florida businesses and could endanger workers.” Whether an employee is able to bring their gun to work was previously determined by the property owner. Passage of the bill will deny employers of that right.

They also claim the bill could lead to increased workplace violence. Additionally, the chamber is against the bill because it would give gun owners the same discrimination rights as victims of sexual harassment and racism.

For the bill - The National Rifle Association

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is pushing for the governor’s signature on the bill, under the belief that it will help protect employees as they travel to and from work.

They also claim that businesses violate constitutional rights of individuals by having the power to search private vehicles and by banning an individual’s right to legally carry a gun.

We would like to hear your opinion. How do you feel about a coworker or customer being legally able to possess a firearm on company property? What’s your stance on the bill?

Internships: To pay or not to pay?

As you interview and start to fill summer internship positions with energetic, young college students, think about how you plan on compensating their work.

To pay or not to pay? - The big internship question.

Many businesses pay interns well for their work, but unpaid internships do still exist across non-profit and for-profit organizations alike.

A new study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that college students can make a decent hourly salary if they land the right internship. The 311 employers who participated in the survey reported offering their undergraduate interns $16.33 an hour on average and almost $25 for interns with Masters’ degrees.

Many factors can impact intern salaries, including the student’s degree level, year in school, field of study and organization’s industry and location, according to NACE.

Ann Bares at the Compensation Force blog notes that students in the NACE survey report less satisfactory experiences with unpaid internships, often citing lack of pay as a major reason for dissatisfaction.

She offers some “food for thought” while you fill internship spots for this summer:

“My guess is that, while the lack of pay may indeed be a dissatisfier, there is probably an interplay of factors at work here: organizations that are not paying their interns may be less motivated to invest in creating the support and structure necessary for a worthwhile experience - for both parties.”


Veterans return to tough job market

Finding a job in the U.S. amidst talks of recession and the weakening dollar is tough for many Americans, even harder for returning veterans.

Compared to civilians of similar age and education, veterans have less of a chance of being hired.

Eighteen percent of the veterans recently back from overseas tours of duty are unemployed. Of employed veterans, 25 percent earn less than $21,840 a year, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The data was compiled from a survey of 1,941 veterans who left the military between December 2004 and January 2006. The survey matches up with Census Bureau and other data showing employment rates and wages are lower for troops returning from the Iraq and Afghanistan war zones than their civilian peers. Read the full article in the Washington Post.

With soldiers returning to work, there are federal laws businesses must abide by. Particularly, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, most commonly known as USERRA.

Recently, the Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Wal-Mart to defend the employment rights of an Air Force veteran.

The Air Force veteran claims that Wal-Mart denied him of his civilian employment position as a cashier in Orange City, FL. Subject to certain limitations, USERRA requires that individuals who leave their jobs to serve in the military be reemployed by their civilian employers in the same position that they would have held had they not left to serve.

Read the full Department of Justice press release.

Workplace weight discrimination rivals racial bias

Discrimination against overweight and obese people is as common as racial discrimination, according to a study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University.

Overweight women, in particular, report weight discrimination twice as often than overweight men in the workplace.

“These results show the need to treat weight discrimination as a legitimate form of prejudice, comparable to other characteristics like race or gender that already receive legal protection,” said Rebecca Puhl, research scientist and lead author of the study, which appears in the March 4, 2008 issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

The study compared self-reported weight discrimination to experiences of discrimination based on race and gender among a nationally representative sample of adults between 25 and 74-years-old.

Findings also reveal that women are twice as likely as men to report weight discrimination. Women also reported that weight discrimination in the workplace and interpersonal mistreatment due to obesity is common.

Currently, Michigan is the only state that includes weight and height in its anti-discrimination law.

Without any specific protections in state law, people claiming discrimination must show in court that their obesity is a type of disability, protected under state anti-discrimination law, according to Lillian Mojica, G.Neil Research Attorney.


Family issues top reason for “Mental Health” days

Some wise words from Michael Scott, the boss at Dunder Mifflin (from NBC’s The Office):

“Society teaches us that, having feelings and crying is bad and wrong. Well, that's baloney, because grief isn't wrong. There's such a thing as good grief. Just ask Charlie Brown.”

Well, there may not be such a thing as “good grief,” but grief and family issues do have an impact on employees in the workplace.

Just like calling in sick with the flu, many employees use unplanned absences for mental health days, according to a recent survey by ComPsych.

What exactly is a mental health day? When “you have no physical ailment but you know you can’t focus on the job” and need a day to re-energize, according to David Campbell, senior VP of quality and customers at ComPsych.

Generally, mental health days are unplanned and in response to a crisis at home or to prevent burnout at work.

Campbell advises employers to create a culture where it’s acceptable and encouraged to take vacations and unplug from work. Employees with too many vacation days saved up should raise a red flag and that the employee may not be taking needed time off.

“If you take regularly scheduled time off … it’s going to keep you sharp all the time,” Campbell said. “Take more than a day [at a time]; take those vacations on a routine, regular basis.”

Remember that having a healthy workplace environment includes mental health. Not all workplaces are the same, and you should implement policies and practices regarding mental health days that fit your situation.

What is your opinion on mental health days? Do you think it’s a legitimate excuse to take time off work, or just baloney?


Employee 401(k) loans on the rise

Increasingly more employees are damaging their financial futures by borrowing against their 401(k) plans. Retirement plan participants are taking out loans on their investments at an accelerated rate, as reported in Workforce Management.

Researchers from Boston College expect that the trend will continue and companies should expect to see more employee 401(k) loans this year.

With our country’s credit crisis and poor housing market, if they need the money, why shouldn’t employees take out a loan on their 401(k)?

The author of the Retirement Plan Blog explains why it’s a bad idea:
  • They’re losing the earnings on their accounts since there’s less money to invest.
  • The tax shelter advantage is lost since the loan is paid back with after-tax dollars.
  • The interest paid on the loan is not deductible since it’s considered regular consumer debt.
  • If the participant terminates employment prior to paying off the loan, the loan has to be repaid or it’s considered a taxable distribution with a 10% penalty tax if the participant is under age 59 1/2.
Some employees don’t even have the benefit of taking out a loan against their 401(k). Less than 50 percent of the workforce, ages 25 to 64, has any kind of defined benefit or defined contribution plan, according to the director of the Boston College Center for Retirement Research.

According to the research, of those eligible to participate in defined contribution plans:

  • 89% do not contribute the maximum
  • 20% to 25% do not contribute at all
  • 45% do not rollover their investment when changing jobs

In companies that have automatic 401(k) enrollment, 86 percent of employees participate.

Automatic enrollment may not always be enough. Participants generally fail to increase the amount of their default contributions over time. According to the research, 61 percent do not increase their contributions above the default.

Educate your employees on why they should contribute to the company's 401(k) plan and coach them on how to effectively manage their money.


Free product and service listings at, a new vertical search and shopping website, is offering free advertising opportunities for employee training and development solutions providers through September 1, 2008. provides a one-stop resource for businesses to find, compare and select different types of employee training and employee motivational products within an intuitive, easy shopping experience. It also gives providers of training products and human resource seminars a highly targeted, engaged audience of professionals ready to buy.
“ lets you shop for training products, classes for training consultants and employees, and the best business seminars the same way you’d shop for the latest electronics on familiar sites like PriceGrabber and Shopzilla.”
In addition to training providers, welcomes training consultants, professional speakers and meeting planners to promote their services — allowing them to explore new, faster ways to reach a more targeted audience.

Read the full press release here.


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