Four simple tips to avoid labor law poster scams

Keeping up with required federal and state labor law poster changes is a challenge for most businesses. Finding the time to research which posters are mandatory and where to get the posters you need adds to that challenge.

Mandatory posters come from different government agencies and there is usually no notification of poster changes. To make things tougher, deceptive marketing tactics and labor law poster scams attack businesses whenever there is a change in labor laws.

Businesses that don't maintain the correct set of posters may face hefty government fines for noncompliance.

Reputable third-party poster services save businesses valuable time and give businesses the assurance that they are in complete compliance with federal and state laws.

Ashley Kaplan, G.Neil’s very own Compliance Attorney, was interviewed for a recent article in the Jacksonville Business Journal on how to help businesses sidestep deceptive poster providers.

Here are Kaplan's four simple tips to avoid labor law poster scams and choose a poster service provider that is right for your business:

  1. Check with the Better Business Bureau to verify that the seller you are considering has a superior track record.
  2. Be sure the business you choose to buy posters from completely understands federal and state laws, and employs labor law attorneys to interpret legal changes.
  3. Ask for written assurance that the posters meet exact agency requirements for font size, poster size, color and layout.
  4. Only buy from a provider that guarantees protection from fines.

To be sure you are in complete compliance of all federal and state laws visit


Genetic nondiscrimination law includes increased FLSA child labor penalties

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) included a provision to increase penalties for child labor violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), effective May 21, 2008.

Section 302 of GINA raises the maximum penalty to $50,000 for each violation with the possibility of up to $100,000 in penalties for cases where the employer’s violation is repeated or is a willful violation. The increased penalties apply to death or serious injury to children that occur after May 21, 2008.

From a statement released by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL): “We are pleased that the Congress has enacted the administration’s proposal to strengthen the nation’s child labor laws and to provide today’s teenagers with safe employment opportunities.”

The DOL is responsible for enforcing the child labor provisions of the FLSA. The FLSA establishes national minimum wage, overtime pay for certain jobs, recordkeeping and child labor standards.

The change may result in an updated FLSA poster. Please stay tuned for information regarding any mandatory poster changes that could affect your business.

Visit the DOL website for a full press release.

President signs Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act

The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) became law after President Bush signed the bill on Wednesday afternoon, May 21, 2008.

GINA prohibits health insurance companies from requiring people to take genetic tests or to use genetic information to deny insurance coverage or rates. It is illegal for employers to ask workers about their genetic information or use that information to make any decisions regarding hiring, firing, promotions or job assignments.

Supporters of the legislation hope that GINA will encourage more people to undergo medically advised genetic testing, without the fear of losing their job or insurance coverage on the basis of genetic test results.

Legal provisions affecting employers take effect in November 2009, 18 months from the date the bill was signed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will enforce the employer provisions and must develop the new regulations in the next year and a half.

The Department of Labor will issue regulations which health insurance providers must follow starting May 2009, one year from the bill’s signing.

One in four plan to work while on vacation

The summer vacation season kicks off this Memorial Day weekend, reminding us all that a little time off here and there can be good for our health. However, many find it hard to let go of work, even while on vacation.

Vacations are good. They give us a break from the daily grind, allow us to get back in touch with our families and friends, and recharge our batteries. Some studies show that employee productivity increases in employees who take vacations.

In today’s world, that may not always be the case. A new survey from CareerBuilder reveals that one in four workers (25 percent) plan to stay in touch with work while on vacation, up from 20 percent last year.

Other significant findings include:

  • 10% of workers were expected by their employers to stay in touch
  • 15% gave up vacation days last year because they didn’t have time to take them
  • 12% of workers feel guilty being away from work while on vacation
  • 6% feel that taking vacation time could lead to them losing their job

You can look at it in two different ways: either workers today care more about their jobs than ever before, so much that they want to stay in touch with work while away, or we’re all on a dangerous road leading straight to Burnout City.

Want happy employees? Promote public transportation

Help the environment and help your employees out at the pump by encouraging them not to go to the pump at all. Some U.S. employers are starting to offer employee incentives for using public transportation instead of driving to work.

In Miami, where I-95 is jam-packed with cars almost 24 hours a day, companies are telling employees to take the train. The city of North Miami is offering large discounts to employees who buy passes for the commuter rail. A month pass that would normally cost $75 is now only $15.

The initiative, part of the Miami-Dade Transit Corporate Incentive Program, hopes to reduce toxic emissions and help ease the pain at the gas pump. About 9,000 people have already signed up.

If your employees live in a city where public transportation is limited or employees are uncomfortable using public services, encourage carpooling. You can offer incentives to carpooling in the same way you would subsidize public transit costs. Christian Mullins at Credit Union Potential has devised a framework and formula to follow when calculating car pool subsidies.

According to Mullins, offering an incentive program to use public transportation or carpooling will help employees manage gas prices and establish your company as an environmental activist.

Studies have shown that employees are happier when working for environmentally-friendly companies. Even if they don’t act on your offer, they’ll appreciate it.

The Chief Happiness Officer, Alexander Kjerulf, is also a believer that promoting a “green” workplace makes for happier employees. Here are his five reasons why “going green” creates happy and more profitable companies:

  1. It’s the right thing to do.
  2. You’re making a positive difference.
  3. It boosts employee engagement and encourages personal action.
  4. It creates a stronger bond with the company.
  5. It gives everyone a sense of pride.


The positive and powerful side of office gossip

Gossip on the job is an inevitable part of corporate culture. No matter how hard supervisors and HR try to squelch it, gossip will find a way to live on. While hurtful gossip can be detrimental to company culture and may negatively alter coworkers’ perceptions of each other, new research is showing that a little bit of harmless gossip can actually be a good thing.

A recent SHRM article reviewed academic research revealing that women who engage in office gossip are seen as more powerful and as possessing more masculine traits than their other female coworkers.

The studies out of Albright College focused on women and the perceived relationship between gossip and power in an organization. Big gossipers are seen as “significantly more powerful, more masculine and less feminine than low gossipers.” They’re also seen as more controlling and less emotionally warm, even around friends, according to the Albright studies.

People who gossip in the office are perceived as more dominant and aggressive, as gatekeepers of information and "in the know." Those office gatekeepers will often use gossip to “reaffirm their own power within the organization."

Gossip may not always be a bad thing in the office. According to Pat Farrell at WebMD, it may help create group norms and strengthens bonds among those in a group.

It helps us to learn the “rules” of the office and eases the transition into a new corporate culture if one is new to a job.

Just like how a coffee break can help renew your energy level at work and de-stress, a few minutes of chatting about the latest gossip floating around the office “may be just what the doctor ordered,” Farrell says.

The incredible shrinking employee 401(k)

401(k)s are performing worse than they have in more than five years.

In a recent Workforce article, the Mercer consulting firm reported losses in every equity category posting during the first quarter.

The median large-cap growth fund tracked by Mercer fell 11.6 percent during the first quarter. Large-cap core and large-cap value funds dropped by more than 9 percent.

The good news is that the second quarter is off to a stronger start. The S&P 500 posted a 4.9 percent gain for the month of April, ending a streak of five consecutive negative months.

Not only are employee 401(k)s shrinking, but one in four employees will withdraw funds from their retirement account early, according to a May SHRM article.

The experts advise that employees only borrow against their 401(k)s when it is their absolute last resort. HR managers should educate employees on the impact borrowing against retirement funds will have on the long-term growth of their money, and also on the penalties employees may face if loans are not paid back.

A 2008 Wall Street Journal Online with Harris Interactive Personal Finance poll found that:

  • About 25% of American adults have withdrawn retirement funds early, citing the most common reason as a family member losing a job and the cost of a down payment on a home.
  • Almost 33% of those who have withdrawn funds early from retirement accounts cannot pay them back
  • People between 45 and 54 are more likely to be unable to payback retirement withdrawals.

Read the full SHRM article for more detailed information on the poll.

Laurie Ruettimann, former HR professional and outspoken blogger, shared a story yesterday about a company she once worked for who allowed employees to take loans against their retirement investments during a period of reconstruction. During the reconstruction, many employees lost their jobs and were forced to pay back their 401(k) loans in full within the 90 day period after termination date, or the loan would be treated like a cash withdrawal.

Ruettimann’s advice:
1. Don’t take a loan against your 401(k).
2. Don’t do it.
3. Just don’t.


State Supreme Court upholds ruling in workplace bullying case

In what may be the first workplace bullying case of it’s kind, the Indiana Supreme Court has upheld a $325,000 verdict in a bullying case against a heart surgeon.

A hospital operating room perfusionist (person who operates the heart/lung machine during open heart surgeries) filed suit against the doctor for assault.

While no physical harm was done, assault in Indiana can be committed when a person acts with intent to cause harm to another person and the victim feels reasonably afraid that the contact will occur.

The victim in the case alleged that the doctor aggressively charged him “with clenched fists, piercing eyes, beet-red face, popping veins, and screaming and swearing at him.” The victim backed up against a wall, protecting his face with his hands in fear that the doctor would hit him. Read the full case report.

For more information on workplace bullying, read a past blog post on the issue or search articles from our News & Info section.

Recycle your way to a ‘green’ workplace

At home you may always do your best to reduce waste by recycling, but walking through the office doors transforms you into a “triplicate-printing, paper-cup-squashing, run-our-computers-all-night-so-
the-boss-thinks-we're-working earth befouler.”

Each year, U.S. workplaces are responsible for:

10, 000 pieces of copier paper per employee
40% of carbon dioxide emissions due to heating, cooling and power
70% of the country’s total electricity usage.
1.3 billion tons of CO2 from employee commutes
$1 billion worth of electricity to keep office computers running

Other than printing less paper and working by candlelight, there’s one simple way to do your part to go ‘green’ at the office - recycle.

Here are eight easy steps to recycle your way to a ‘green’ workplace:

1. Set up a ‘green’ committee. Form a group of employees interested in environmental issues to organize recycling efforts at work.

2. Perform a waste-audit. Take inventory of the amount and types of trash your office produces including printing paper, catalogs, newspapers, soda cans, plastic water bottles and printer cartridges.

3. Contact your local recycling company or find a drop-off location. Get price estimates for dumpsters and pick-up services. If recycling can’t come to you, find a location where you can drop off recyclables.

4. Coordinate the collection effort. Place recycle bins in the proper locations around the office, including the lunchroom, printing areas and warehouses. Give employees their own small bins for scrap paper around their work areas.

5. Promote the effort. Promote the recycling program throughout the office with informational fliers and posters. Show employees where recycle bins are located around the office and what should go in each bin.

6. Plan fun events to support the effort. Set up a competition to see which department can recycle the most to encourage participation.

7. Share your goodwill efforts. Add an article to your employee or industry newsletter communicating your ‘green’ efforts. Write and distribute press releases on how your company is helping the environment.

8. Keep up the good work. Evaluate the program’s progress on a regular basis. Remind employees about their efforts and to keep recycling. Come up with more ideas on how to go ‘green’ at the office.

Governor signs New Jersey Paid Family Leave Bill

On Friday May 2, the New Jersey governor signed a bill that will give employees in the state up to six weeks of paid leave per year after the birth or adoption of a child or to care for an ailing relative.

The law will go into effect next year, allowing parents to take paid leave within the first year after the child’s birth or adoption. The New Jersey Paid Family Leave Bill also extends to allow paid time off to care for a seriously ill immediate family member.

Governor Jon Corzine’s decision to sign the bill was influenced by a traumatic car crash just more than a year ago that ended with Corzine in the hospital. The Governor said his family’s strong support was a major part of his recovery, but not everyone is as fortunate to have family able to be at the hospital everyday.

New Jersey joins California and Washington as the only states to offer similar family leave benefits.

A state fund will replace up to two-thirds of salary for a person on leave, no more than $524 per week. Family leave benefits will be funded through employee payroll deductions, with a maximum contribution of $33 per employee each year.

There will be a seven day waiting period for those who apply for paid family leave before they can collect benefits. Employers can require employees to use up to two weeks of unused vacation time before receiving paid family leave. One of those vacation weeks will is meant to cover the waiting period.

Employee contributions are set to being January 1, 2009, with benefits available starting July 1, 2009.

Read a past post on this topic and the fully story from the Ashbury Park Press.

Build employee morale during good times and bad

Everyday, more and more industries are facing layoffs and major downsizing. Paired with a looming recession, employees are more stressed than ever.

Keeping employee morale high during times like these can be tough, but those at Harvard Business Online say good leaders should be able to inspire no matter what.

“Good morale does not require people to be happy.” Instead, the definition of good morale is that individuals’ emotions contribute to the unit as a whole in order to achieve goals. A leader’s job is building team focus and dedication, according to the author.

This can be achieved if you hold on to four truths:

Employee efforts contribute to making someone else’s life better. People work their hardest when they know they are making a difference in another person’s life. Show your employees the good work they’re doing with examples. Something as small as a positive customer review can make an employee feel proud of what they do.

The company depends on their ideas. After downsizing, it is usually a company’s top performers who are left to keep the business moving. Let these employees know that their ideas are crucial to the company’s success and be open to listening to new ideas.

Bad times will end soon. Most of the time, employee layoffs happen before a company is in financial trouble, and used as a means to cut costs before profits plummet. Let your employees know that the downsizing is only temporary and when you foresee an end to the job cuts.

Good times are just around the corner. During a downsizing, employees may take on roles and responsibilities they may not have had under any other circumstances. When good times roll back around, managers will notice how these employees have stepped up and possible promotions may follow.

Gas prices take a bite out of employment relationships

In the past, employees could justify a long commute if the work was worth it. Now, more than just a long commute, employees are feeling the burden of the highest gas prices our country has ever seen.

It’s predicted that by 2012, American gas prices could reach $7 per gallon. At that rate, a 2008 Toyota Corolla with a 13.2 gallon gas tank would cost $92.40 to fill up (pre tax). Depending on how many times you fill up, how long your commute is, that number takes a big chunk out of most paychecks.

An article by WorldatWork editor Bob King examines how gas prices are affecting employment relationships. Employers can actually help “ease the pain at the pump” and use it as a chance to gain employee appreciation and loyalty.

“Organizations that can efficiently and effectively respond to the needs of employees in scheduling have an advantage over their competitors,” Tom McMullen U.S. Reward Practice Leader for Hay Group, said in the article.

Rose Stanley, WorldatWork practice leader suggests companies should look into ways they can help alleviate the burden of high gas prices, including:
  • Transit subsidies
  • Car pooling/van pooling
  • Flexible scheduling
  • Teleworking for part of the week
King advises companies to first try to mitigate employee gas prices with the examples above before boosting employees’ base pay. Increasing employee base pay would be a quick fix to a continuing problem. What if you increase pay this month and next month gas prices are up again?

For the full details read the WorldatWork article. Also, visit Compensation Force for more discussion on this topic and others affecting employee performance.

This issue will continue to grow as long as gas prices continue to rise. How have increasing gas prices affected your employment relationships?

Update: Genetic discrimination bill through Congress onto President

The House passed the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act on May 1. The Senate unanimously passed the same measure on April 24. The bill now goes to President Bush, who is expected to sign it.

The measure will prevent employers and insurance companies from discriminating against individuals on the basis of genetic information. It will prohibit employers from making personnel decisions based on an employee's predisposal to disease and insurers will be prohibited from denying coverage or increasing premium costs based on an individual's genetic information.

“We are currently monitoring the bill’s status very closely,” said Lillian Mojica, G.Neil Managing Research Attorney. “If and when the President signs the bill into law, we will be here to keep you informed about how this legislation will affect your business.”

Read a previous post on this topic.

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