Newly issued Employment Authorization Card now acceptable with Form I-9

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is now issuing employment and travel authorization on a single card for certain applicants filing an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, Form I-485.

While it looks similar to the current Employment Authorization Document (EAD), the credit card-sized Employment Authorization Card includes new text that serves as both an employment authorization and Advance Parole document. The combination card is also more secure and durable than the paper Advance Parole document.

Employers may accept the new card as a “List A" document to prove the identity and work eligibility of a newly hired employee when completing the Form I-9.

Proposed bill takes aim at 20-year minimum wage for tipped workers

For the past 20 years, the minimum wage for tipped employees has remained at $2.13 per hour.

Congresswoman Donna Edwards of Maryland hopes to change that. She recently introduced a bill (H.R. 631) that would increase the minimum wage for employees who live off tips to $3.75 an hour, eventually reaching $5.50 an hour. The bill is currently under review by the House Committee on Education.

A recent report, “Behind the Kitchen Door: Inequality & Opportunity in Washington, D.C.’s Thriving Restaurant Industry,” revealed that restaurant workers made, on average, $22,218 in 2009. In addition, nearly 90 percent of the workers reported that their employers did not offer health insurance.

Is your cube-mate super laid back ... or dead?

What a dead-end job.
There was stiff competition for the position.
She must have been dying for a promotion.

The puns are running amok over the story of a Los Angeles County employee who lay dead and slumped over in her office cubicle for an entire day before anyone noticed. Last seen alive at 9 a.m. the previous Friday morning, the 51-year-old auditor was found by a security guard doing his rounds on a Saturday afternoon. The woman most likely died from a stroke or heart attack.

Your first inclination may be to snicker, but the honest truth? This is absolutely horrible PR for the business, the woman's manager and the woman's coworkers. Instead of chuckling, HR managers and corporate leaders should be looking at this incident as a wake-up call.

What type of manager is so disconnected with his or her staff that an employee could pass away undetected? Even mediocre managers touch base with their employees daily, if just to say "Hi" or "Have a great weekend" on a Friday afternoon. And happy coworkers - team players - would certainly notice a neighbor in distress.

Focus is a great thing in the workplace, but not to the point of being clueless. We don't have to be best friends with everyone we share office space with, but social niceties go a long way. Take enough interest in the people around you that you'd recognize if they were in trouble ... certainly if they were unconscious! There is an opportunity for every HR professional in America to use this unfortunate event as a point of discussion regarding the level of interaction between managers and employees.

It's too easy to make light of this story, but the reality is this: Someone died while on the job and it took nearly 24 hours for anyone to notice. Could this ever happen in your workplace?

People say - and do - the craziest things in job interviews

HR professionals and hiring managers know that interviews can be stressful for even the most competent and composed applicants. After all, they’ve been on the other side of the desk before. Yet, there are certain scenarios that defy reasonable explanation and leave them scratching their heads in disbelief.

To prove our point, we’ve compiled a “Top 10” list of job interviews that went sour … and why:

1) “I had a candidate open his briefcase, pull out a package of cheese crackers and a juice box, and munch away on his midday snack while I was asking him questions. He said he’d had no time to eat because he was interviewing all day!”

2) “How about the guy who forgot dark socks to wear with his suit so he colored in his ankles with a black, felt-tip marker?”

3) “I’ve had numerous interviews where the person’s cell phone goes off and rather than apologize and quickly turn off the phone, the person checks the number. So rude.”

4) “When I asked this particular candidate (a 20-something with about five years of work experience) why she was looking to change jobs, she answered, ‘Well, I’ve been sitting around twiddling my thumbs for the last few months.’”

5) “My most unique experience was the candidate who told me he was abducted by an alien who told him to apply for the job – and to report what he learned back to his alien leaders.”

6) “I wished I had never offered this particular woman a cup of coffee because when she set the cup down on my desk, she immediately knocked it over and spilled the piping hot liquid all over my papers and files.”

7) “I’ve seen some interesting clothing choices through the years, but the best ever was the man who showed up in a powder-blue leisure suit, straw hat and flip-flops. And no, he wasn’t applying for a creative position or auditioning for a part in a play!”

8) “Granted, this particular candidate told me he wasn’t feeling well before the interview, but, about 15 minutes into it, he got this strange look on his face, jumped up out of his chair, and promptly threw up all over my office floor.”

9) “After the initial interview with an applicant, I explained the final step in the hiring process would be drug testing. She then responded, ‘Oh, what type of drugs do you want me to test?’”

10) “Before the interview even started, I had a candidate ask me to see where he’d be seated when he got the job. He said he needed to check out the space to make sure he’d have enough privacy!”

Uphold your role in the interview process

On the flip side, you don’t want to be the reason the job interview was a flop. When you’re responsible for interviewing applicants, take the time to define the job and its requirements, schedule interviews only after you’ve reviewed the resume and/or application (and can give the candidate your full attention), and steer clear of illegal interview questions concerning an applicant’s age, race, sex, disability, religion, national origin, pregnancy and any other protected classification.

And if a candidate tells you he’s fighting a bad case of the stomach flu, you may want to reschedule the interview!

With a detailed workplace policy, checking personal email usage is fair game

In an ideal world, your employees would use the Internet, e-mail, company-supplied cell phones and other electronic equipment for legitimate business only. No online shopping while on the job; no browsing nonwork-related websites for hours at a time; no e-mailing coworkers the latest joke or company gossip; and no texting friends and family on a company cell phone or pager. But we know better. For all the conveniences electronic equipment provides in the modern workplace, it also opens the door to abuse, which is why most employers monitor electronic equipment for inappropriate or excessive personal use.

But how deep can you dig? In most situations, that depends on your electronic communications policy – and the specifics of said policy. As a recent court decision revealed, precise wording matters. In Holmes v. Petrovich Development Co., LLC, an employee sued her employee for discrimination and retaliation. While developing its defense, the employer identified emails the employee sent to her attorney from her work computer using her personal, password-protected email account. Although the employee argued that the emails were off-limits due to attorney-client privilege, details in the employee handbook proved otherwise.

There, in black and white, were the following guidelines: (1) company computers are to be used only for company business; (2) employees are prohibited from accessing personal email on company computers; (3) the company will monitor its computers for compliance with the policy and thus might "inspect all files and messages . . . at any time"; and (4) employees using company computers to create or maintain personal information or messages "have no right of privacy with respect to that information or message."

Due to the explicit and prohibitive workplace policy (which the employee received and reviewed), the court ruled that the emails were not privileged and that the employer was entitled to use them in the case.

Lesson learned: Your employee handbook should include a well-drafted electronic communications policy that informs employees that there will be no expectation of privacy for personal business conducted on company equipment – and that your company may review e-mails, voicemails, web search history and other activity for any legitimate business purpose. The policy should also advise employees that use or misuse of company equipment violates company policy and is subject to disciplinary action. That way, your company is shielded from liability for reasonably reviewing employee communications.

New bill would require employers to grant time off to veterans on Veterans Day

The U.S. House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that would give veterans November 11 off for the Veterans Day holiday. If signed into the law, the bill would apply to employers with 50 or more employees, and employers could choose whether to offer the day off paid or unpaid. Also, employees seeking the time off would have to provide at least 30 days’ notice.

The proposed legislation is modeled after a law that already exists in Iowa. Supporters of the bill say veterans have earned the right to a day off that recognizes their service. Opponents, however, fear that the legislation would create a division between employees and put undue financial restraint on employers.

Check back here for updates on the status of the bill – and if it will require a mandatory posting in the workplace.

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