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Monthly Archives

June 2015

The Heat (App) Is On!

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments
Heat illness sickens thousands of workers every year, and severe cases can be fatal. To help keep outdoor workers cool, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration developed a free app to calculate worksite heat index and risk levels, and educate users about how to respond to a heat emergency. More than 187,000 people have downloaded the app since its 2011 launch. In the app’s first big update on May 5, iPhone users discovered new features. With an attractive, easy-to-use interface, the new version is optimized for the latest iPhones. The app automatically provides the current conditions and maximum heat at your location and can accept manual input if users don’t have cell service.
California and perhaps your state may also have info on preventing heat illness http://www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/heatillnessinfo.html 
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com


Nursing Homes and Residential Care Facilities Hit With Overtime Claims

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments
This month the United States Department of Labor reported that from 2011 to 2014 it recovered more than $6.8 million in overtime and unpaid minimum wages for more than 1300 employees in Bay Area nursing homes and residential care facilities.
Working conditions in some residential care facilities can be difficult for many caregivers. Many of the facilities require employees to stay overnight on the premises to ensure round-the-clock care for patients. Despite the fact that they are on call assisting residents overnight, investigators found that some workers were not paid for such time, and some were denied adequate sleeping facilities and were forced to sleep on the floor. Such conditions can erode the quality of care patients receive.
Additionally, investigators found that employees who are paid hourly often worked 10 to 14 hours per day, six days per week, but were only paid for eight hours per day. Some workers were paid a flat weekly salary regardless of the hours they worked and were therefore denied time and one-half pay for hours worked beyond 40 per workweek. Employees were also threatened and harassed if they questioned their working conditions. Some employees were intimidated or retaliated against by their employers and were instructed not to cooperate with Wage and Hour investigators.
Investigations completed in the past year reflect the disturbing trend in violations. These include:
• The owners of Retirement Plus of San Carlos and four other Bay-Area facilities paid its caregivers as little as $5 per hour and misclassified one employee as an independent contractor. The employer paid more than $630,000 in minimum wage, overtime and damages to resolve the case.
Lake Alhambra Assisted Living Center violated a protective order prohibiting retaliation against caregivers for cooperating with the investigation. Ultimately, the business paid $304,000 in back wages and damages to 32 caregivers, plus $25,000 in civil money penalties, as ordered in a consent judgment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The order also included the appointment of an independent monitor to ensure the business pays its workers properly in the future.
Anne’s Guest Home, which operates six facilities in Pleasanton and Livermore, was found in violation of the minimum wage, overtime, and record-keeping provisions of the FLSA. The company paid some workers below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and failed to pay overtime at time and one-half for hours worked beyond 40 in a workweek. The firm was ordered to pay more than $447,000 in back wages and damages in a consent judgment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Farol’s Residential Care Home paid caregivers salaries below the minimum wage in many cases and did not pay overtime when employees worked over 40 hours per week. The business was ordered to pay a total of $405,284 in back wages, damages, interest and penalties in a consent judgment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Twenty-seven workers will receive back wages in this settlement.
• Vicky Rebecca Quedado, doing business as We Care ICF/DD-H and Becker Home Inc. of Northern California, operates three intermediate residential-care facilities and will pay $261,356 in back wages and liquidated damages to 21 low-wage workers for violations of the FLSA. The division found that the business paid the workers flat salaries for all hours worked instead of paying them overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a workweek, as the law requires.
The FLSA, which the Wage and Hour Division enforces, requires that covered, nonexempt workers be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for all hours worked, plus one and one-half times their regular wages for hours worked beyond 40 per week. Employers also must maintain accurate time and payroll records.
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com.


Even When You Win, You Lose

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Following Ellen Pao’s highly-publicized loss at trial of her gender discrimination claims against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the defendant filed a costs bill for $972,814, including more than $864,000 in expert witness fees. The defense offered to waive costs if Pao agrees not to appeal. While it is possible that many of these costs were covered under an EPLI policy, it is equal likely they had no such coverage. Think of that, at least $1,000,000 in costs, not including legal fees (probably in a similar or even greater amount), or wasted executive time, simply to prove you were right.
Point is: nobody “wins” a lawsuit. Imagine the brand damage and angst felt by the firm going through the litigation process. Imagine the position Ms. Pao now finds herself in. Going backwards trying to prove she was “right” and perhaps cash in on a big payday to boot. How’s that helped her career or psyche?
Question: Would you hire her?
Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com


Editors Column – NLRB Punishes Employer for Past Unlawful Handbook Policies Despite Employer’s Attempt to Repudiate

By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

In Boch Imports, Inc.the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that the employer, a car dealership, violated the National Labor Relations Act because the dealership’s social media and dress code policies were overbroad and interfered with employee rights to engage in protected, concerted activity. In particular, the employer’s social media policy required employees to identify themselves when posting comments about the employer and also prohibited employees from using the dealership’s logos in any manner. The employer’s dress code policy prohibited employees who had contact with the public from wearing pins, insignias, or other message clothing.
The NLRB’s findings regarding the employer’s policies aren’t especially noteworthy; the Board has repeatedly found similar policies unlawful. What is significant, however, is that during the Board’s processing of the underlying unfair labor practice charge, the employer worked with the NLRB regional office to bring the dealership’s handbook policies into compliance. Based on its discussions with the NLRB regional office, the employer removed unlawful policies, except the dress code, from its old handbook, and replaced them with new ones. The employer then issued a new handbook to all employees in 2013.

Despite the fact that the employer had rescinded several allegedly unlawful policies and replaced them with policies blessed by the NLRB regional office before the hearing in this case, the Board found that the rescinded policies could still provide the basis for labor law violations against the dealership. While established NLRB precedent allows an employer to “repudiate” its unlawful conduct, the Board found that the employer’s issuance of the 2013 handbook without notice to employees that it was revising the handbook because of the unlawful policies and that it would not interfere with employees’ Section 7 rights in the future, did not constitute effective repudiation.

To dissenting Member Johnson, this was a case of no good deed goes unpunished. Where, as here, the employer worked with the NLRB regional office to fully comply with the Act, he would not have applied the NLRB’s repudiation criteria with “hyper-technical precision” and believed that the employer had effectively repudiated its alleged misconduct. Member Johnson added: “the best, quickest way to achieve universal handbook legal compliance with Section 7 standards is to encourage employers to involve the Agency in redrafting problematic provisions rather than to effectively punish them.”

Article by Erin Fowler courtesy of the Franczek law firm www.franczek.com

Don Phin, Esq. is VP of Strategic Business Solutions at ThinkHR, which helps companies resolve urgent workforce issues, mitigate risk and ensure HR compliance. Phin has more than three decades of experience as an HR expert, published author and speaker, and spent 17 years in employment practices litigation. For more information, visit www.ThinkHR.com


Top Resume Trends and Tips for 2015

By Employment Resources | No Comments

When did you last update your resume? Now’s a great time to add new work experience, verify references and insert several resume
trends that are popular this year.

Add Breakaway Text

Magazines often use breakaway text to draw your eye to main themes. While your resume won’t include enlarged text or boxed quotes, you can figure out what points you really want a potential employer to remember about you. Place those in a short sentence or two on the top half of your resume as you highlight the key reason why you’re right for the job you really want.

Include Value Propositions

You could use your resume to rattle off facts, but show potential employers why they should interview you when you include value propositions. They showcase the skills and experience that sets you apart from other candidates, and they persuade hiring managers to contact you for an interview.

Utilize Charts or Graphs

Boring paragraphs won’t get your resume recognized, no matter how many achievements you have. However, a colorful chart or graph shows potential employers your skills, including revenue generation, client satisfaction or office savings.

Add a Video

Give potential employers a chance to get to know your personality and poise when you record a video resume. The 30-to-60-second video gives you a chance for you to verbalize your top skills and is easy to include on your paper resume or LinkedIn profile.

Write to the Audience

It’s time to toss your general resume. Instead, write to your audience, which means you have to know the job and the recruiter, HR director or decision maker who decides whether or not to interview you. Then you know the tone, vocabulary and other target keywords you need to use in your resume for each specific position.

While these 2015 resume trends and tips won’t guarantee you’ll land your dream job, they do help you stand out in the crowd. They also help you succeed in moving up the ladder at your current job. Ask your coworkers and human resources manager for additional tips as you maximize your resume today. 

How Much Money Do You Need To Save For Retirement?

By Employment Resources | No Comments

One hundred thousand, one million or one billion – how much should you save for retirement? Instead of drawing a random number from a hat, use tips from financial planners to prepare for your future.

Write Down Retirement Goals

Do you want to travel the world or move closer to your children after you retire? Maybe you anticipate needing long-term medical care or providing for a disabled child. These goals determine how much retirement money you need to save.

Calculate Expenses

With your goals in mind, calculate your retirement expenses. Figure in cost of living differences if you plan to relocate, and remember that while you won’t have commuting costs, you may experience higher medical costs.

Calculate Income

Social Security, pension funds and IRA withdraws are three possible income sources you’ll receive during retirement. Use the annual letter you receive from Social Security and your pension and retirement fund reports to calculate your income from these sources.

Set a Target Amount to Save

Now that you’ve outlined expenses and income, you’re ready to decide how much money you need to invest. In general, you need to save $20 now for each dollar your retirement expenses exceed your income. So if your expected retirement expenses exceed your projected income by $20,000 a year, you need to save $400,000 in your nest egg.

Your financial planner, human resources manager this online calculator can assist you in tabulating how much money you’ll need to retire comfortably. Recalculate this figure annually to make sure you’re on track to save your target amount.

Instead of guessing at how much money you need for retirement, use these tips to create a realistic plan. You can also save 10 to 15 percent of each paycheck, or more if you’re older than 30, to give your money time to grow into a healthy nest egg. Consider adding any raises or bonuses to your employer sponsored retirement accounts, too, as you prepare for your future. 

How to Build a Better Relationship With Your PCP

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How’s your relationship with your primary care physician or PCP? Because your doctor diagnoses illness, performs preventative checkups and looks out for your physical wellbeing, you want to build a better relationship as you take care of your health now and into the future.

1. Have an Agenda

What do you expect from a doctor visit? Clarify your agenda before you schedule an appointment, and use your list of talking points or questions to keep you on track and ensure your concerns are addressed.

2. Ask Questions

Maybe you were taught to follow doctor’s orders without question, but times have changed. Doctors are taught now to listen to patients, and you have Dr. Google at your disposal. So don’t be afraid to speak up and ask why tests are being prescribed or what information the doctor used to diagnose you.

3. Know Your Medical History

While your doctor has access to your chart, he or she may not know all the details of your medical history. Record those details in your medical journal, and bring it to each appointment. Use your family’s history of depression, diabetes or cancer to help your doctor treat you.

4. Be Honest

Sometimes, you’re embarrassed to tell your doctor about your lifestyle or symptoms. However, your doctor uses those details along with test results and a physical exam to determine the correct diagnosis. Honesty goes a long way toward building a trusting and helpful long-term relationship with your PCP.

5.Share Your Preferences

Are you committed to a vegan lifestyle, see depression as a weakness or prefer not to be placed on life support? Share these preferences with your PCP so that he or she can help you make health decisions that honor your wishes.

Regular doctor visits improve your overall health. Take advantage of your health insurance coverage to see your doctor regularly, and use this list to build a better relationship with your PCP. 

Does Worker’s Comp Cover Long-Term Illnesses Or Disabilities

By Employment Resources | No Comments

Worker’s comp insurance covers your medical treatment after you suffer an injury or are involved in an accident at work. However, you also need to know if workers comp can cover long-term illnesses or disabilities.

What Long-Term Illnesses and Disabilities are Covered?

Your employer’s worker’s comp insurance policy will include specific details about the exact illnesses and disabilities your policy covers. While you want to check it, consider this short list of possible health issues that worker’s comp can cover.

*Back pain

*Carpal tunnel

*Heart conditions

*Lung disease

*Stress-related digestive problems
Understand the Cause and Document the Symptoms

Repetitive actions, ongoing chemical exposure and even job-related stress could be the cause of your illness or disability. Since you can’t point to a specific accident that caused your long-term illness, be sure to document the symptoms thoroughly.

When documenting the symptoms, describe the pain, where it’s located and what actions you perform regularly. Include the dates and results of any medical treatment you receive, too, or ask your doctor for verification that your illness or disability could have been caused by your work duties or environment. These details build your case for worker’s comp when you file because of your long-term illness or disability.

Track Laws and Recalls

In the midst of your illness or disability, do your homework. Track changes in employee laws or safety guidelines, and look for chemical, equipment or safety gear recalls. All of these details could help to support your case that your work environment or duties created your illness or disability.

Ask Coworkers to Vouch for You

Chances are high that you’re not the only one at work who’s suffering. Ask your current and previous coworkers if they’re experiencing the same symptoms as you. If so, ask them to document the specific. Together, you stand a better chance of getting your worker’s comp claim approved.

When your work causes a long-term illness or disability, you could be eligible for worker’s comp. Check your policy, talk to your human resources manager and start assembling supportive paperwork as you prepare to state your case.

Vision Insurance Options for Your Entire Family

By Life and Health | No Comments
Annual eye exams diagnose your eye health and ensure you have the right corrective lens prescription. Most standard health insurance policies don’t include vision coverage, though. Instead of paying high out-of-pocket expenses for optometrist visits and eyeglasses for you and your family members, investigate a few options that improve and protect your eyesight without breaking the bank.
1. Add supplemental group coverage offered by your employer’s health insurance plan. You’ll pay a monthly or annual premium for coverage, and visit copays are your responsibility. In return, your benefits include a pre-determined number of eye exams or a dollar amount for eye exams and corrective lenses. If your treatment exceeds the covered limits, you pay the difference.
2. Purchase private vision insurance. It provides either a set number of eye care visits and eyeglasses or contact lenses annually or a pre-determined dollar amount. Despite paying monthly premiums, this option is usually a money saver if you have a large family.
3. Join a discount program. Your eye doctor, travel club or civic organization might offer a discount program that pays a portion of your eye care needs. To join, you pay an annual fee and then receive a certain dollar amount in free exams or corrective eye wear. You pay for any costs that exceed the limit. Also, your choices of eye care professionals is limited to those that participate in the discount program you join.
4. Apply for Medicaid or Medicare. Income-based, these two options can include vision coverage for you or your children.
Maximize Your Vision Coverage
Vision insurance provides numerous benefits to your family, especially if one of you wears glasses or contacts. Often, insurance covers each family member’s annual eye exam, bi-annual eyeglasses, ongoing contact lens needs and cataract removal. You may also be eligible for discounts on eyewear, LASIK surgery or other eye surgeries. As with all insurance policies, read the fine print on your policy to determine exactly what’s covered. For additional assistance choosing vision insurance or to compare available plans and coverage options, talk to your insurance agent today.


Health Insurance Shoppers Look to Narrow Networks to Save Money

By Life and Health | No Comments
Would you rather buy health insurance that reduces your annual costs or gives you access to a wider network of doctors? Since you do have a choice, learn about the trend of choosing low-cost narrow networks.
What is a Narrow Network and How Does it Work?
Almost 40 percent of available public health care exchanges choose to be part of a narrow network. They contract with a limited pool of doctors, hospitals and specialists who agree to discount their services in exchange for the potential to treat a large number of patients.
Consumers who choose narrow networks also receive lower premium rates, making this health insurance option affordable to many families and employers. Health insurance companies also argue that narrow networks allow them to choose better providers for their members.
How to Save Money With a Narrow Network
By seeing the medical providers your insurance covers, you save money since your insurance will likely cover a large portion of the bill. Narrow networks also only raised rates by an average of four percent from 2014 to 2015, which helps to keep your annual costs low.
However, you’ll need to see in-network providers. You’ll pay high out-of-pocket expenses if you choose to see a doctor who does not participate in your health insurance plan. Read your policy carefully to find out exactly what’s covered. Call the customer service hotline before you schedule any appointments or tests, too, and make sure the provider is listed on your coverage.
Should You Switch to a Narrow Network?
A McKinsey survey found that customer satisfaction with narrow networks is high. Less than 20 percent of patients who used a narrow network in 2014 switched plans in 2015. You, too, might consider switching to a narrow network, so talk to your insurance agent or shop online. Find out which plans cover your favorite doctors, specialists and hospitals. Then take a look at the costs, including deductibles and copays, as you decide if a narrow network makes financial sense for you. If so, you join many consumers who enjoy the financial advantages of narrow networks.