EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | What Businesses Need to Know About the Speak Out Act

EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | What Businesses Need to Know About the Speak Out Act

As part of Employer Advantage’s comprehensive suite of HR management and outsourcing services (HR, Payroll, Health & Benefits, Safety, and more), we take on the burden of our clients’ employee administration and compliance responsibilities. Please contact us if you would like assistance: 417-782-3909

Congress has passed the Speak Out Act (SOA), which prevents employers from forcing victims of sexual harassment and assault to remain quiet in response to alleged abuse. The preamble of the bill states, “In order to combat sexual harassment and assault, it is essential that victims and survivors have the freedom to report and publicly disclose their abuse.”

 

Not surprisingly, attention will now point toward workplace situations that might fall into the parameters of this new bill. SOA also refers to the applicability of the provisions to not only current, former, and prospective employees, but also to “independent contractors.”

Every business will need to understand how to comply with this new law, which will require many companies to alter their practices. It may also serve as an incentive to curb unprofessional and illegal workplace behavior.

Here are some major features of the Speak Out Act:

 

  • The SOA covers an employer’s non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in sexual assault or harassment cases

Most businesses require employees to sign an NDA to protect the company image and assets. Many include processes and procedures used by a company, such as trade secrets. Many agreements prohibit disclosure of any ongoing legal activity inside the company as a means of protecting the company image.

 

  • The SOA will prevent courts from enforcing certain NDAs in “disputes” where a party is alleging sexual assault or sexual harassment

 It defines such NDAs broadly – any contractual provision that requires a party to not disclose or discuss conduct, the existence of a settlement involving conduct, or information covered by the terms and conditions of the contract or agreement. This is an extremely high hurdle since it could be as simple as an informal internal complaint or formal litigation.

 

  • The SOA covers certain non-disparagement clauses as well as in sexual assault or harassment disputes

 The act states that, any contractual provision that requires any party not to make a negative statement about another party that relates to the contract, agreement, claim, or case.

 

  • The SOA only restricts pre-dispute gag orders

 The law only prevents the enforcement of those nondisclosure and non-disparagement clauses entered before a dispute arises. Under the new law, there won’t be an agreement for “gag orders.” It states that gag orders shall be enforceable by any court in any case alleging a violation of state, federal, or tribal law.

 

  • The SOA still allows employers to enter into post-dispute confidentiality agreements

It is quite common for employers to resolve demands and claims through settlement agreements that include a confidentiality provision, preventing one or both parties from revealing information about the claim or the settlement. Such agreements are not impacted by this new law except where state law restricts that. To date, California, New Jersey, and Washington allow more restrictive laws.

 

  • The SOC does not restrict trade secret protection.

The law specifically permits employers to protect trade secrets and proprietary information through NDAs. Any such agreements should be carefully crafted to ensure secrets protection will be stand-alone and not too broad.

 

  • The SOA follows the #MeToo arbitration ban.

This is the second #MeToo-inspired bill to be passed by Congress this year. In February, federal lawmakers passed the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act,” which prevents employers from enforcing pre-dispute arbitration agreements without the employee’s consent in cases involving sexual harassment and sexual assault.

 

The best way to avoid confidentiality issues is to prevent workplace harassment or assault from happening. Review all pre-hire and employment agreements to make sure they are free of “gags” that prevent disclosure. Finally, while protecting trade secrets, revise any non-disclosure agreements that violate even the spirit of the new law. All employees deserve no less.

 

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About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune 500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

 

 

IMPACT ON EMPLOYERS | Legalized Personal Use of Marijuana

IMPACT ON EMPLOYERS | Legalized Personal Use of Marijuana

As part of Employer Advantage’s comprehensive suite of HR management and outsourcing services (HR, Payroll, Health & Benefits, Safety, and more), we take on the burden of our clients’ employee administration and compliance responsibilities. Please contact us if you would like assistance: 417-782-3909

 

The 2022 midterm elections included more than candidates on the ballot. Maryland and Missouri were the latest states added to the current 21-state total, plus the District of Columbia, having legalized the adult use of marijuana for recreational purposes.

 

The legalization of medical marijuana has provided much-needed relief to many who suffer from debilitating neurological and mental health conditions. But unlike many prescriptions or even over-the-counter medications, a doctor’s authorization for a medical card for the legal use of cannabis is not accompanied with the standard warning…“May cause drowsiness and dizziness; do not operate heavy machinery while taking this medication.”

 

Despite its medical benefits, marijuana can have an impact on workplace safety and productivity. And with the recent legalization of recreational marijuana in many states, the dangers are often underappreciated by employers and employees alike.

Complicating matters further, a person using marijuana where it is legal won’t face criminal charges if the drug is used in compliance with state statutes. In the absence of important guidance about medical marijuana in the workplace, employers are left to navigate the balance between employee healthcare needs and workplace safety.

 

Each State Is Somewhat Unique

Each state’s laws will bring a variable combination of actions employers can and cannot take.

Employers should determine if their business or positions could qualify for an exemption to any qualified protections. You should also evaluate the legality of your current drug testing policies and practices.

Businesses in all states will face new challenges with the legalized personal use of marijuana. Here is an action plan for employers as suggested by Employer Advantage, now operating as a partner of the nationwide G & A partners:   

 

Carefully Weigh All Safety Issues

Safety issues are often a top concern regarding medical marijuana use in the workplace and are a valid basis for banning cannabis for certain vocations.

Marijuana use has been linked to an increase in job accidents and injuries, which employees may not be aware of. The National Institute on Drug Abuse notes that the short-term effects of marijuana include impaired body movement, difficulty with thinking and problem-solving, memory problems, and an altered sense of time.

The use of marijuana by employees in the transportation sector can be especially damaging. The drug impairs attentiveness, motor coordination, and reaction time and impacts the perception of time and speed. Studies from the National Institute on Drug Abuse have found that marijuana negatively impacts driving performance. Other research indicates acute use of the drug increases the risk of crashes and fatal collisions.

  1. Determine if an employee operates any machinery or motor vehicles or any equipment that could be dangerous to the operator or those around them.
  2. State laws legalizing marijuana use do not require an employer to compromise workplace safety. Employers are allowed to ban the drug at work, and even terminate employees violating established policy.

 

Establish a Clear and Strong Medical Marijuana Policy

Any policy created should not be generic; it should indicate your company’s purpose for the policy and any federal requirements that impact the way it is structured. In addition, state drug testing and medical marijuana laws need to be considered.

Coordinate the policy with other substance abuse considerations. A policy might indicate that workers are not to use, possess, or be under the influence of controlled substances, including medical marijuana, while at work. To date, courts have ruled employers may act under their substance abuse policy if an employee tests positive for marijuana, even if the drug is being used for medical purposes away from the workplace under state law.

Because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, employers do not need to consider its use as an accommodation under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act. However, some newer medical marijuana laws offer additional employee protections, and these laws have not yet been tested in court.

Above all else, ensure your business complies with employee protection laws: Be familiar with all protections including discrimination, drug testing, and accommodation provisions. Employers should make sure their policy reflects additional steps that may need to be taken to meet their obligation to consider employee rights, while also guarding workplace safety.

 

Educate All Workers

Once the policy has been created, make it clear to employees that they are prohibited from being impaired by marijuana or other substances. Ensure that employees and supervisors understand that “legal” under state law does not protect them from termination if breaking policy.

Be sure to educate your workforce regarding the dangers of being under the influence of substances while working. A better understanding of the many dangers will enable employees to better understand that the policy is not created to be an infringement on their healthcare needs; rather, it is there to provide a safe working environment for all.

 

Not currently an Employer Advantage client?

WE’D BE HONORED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A NEW PATH TO HR BLISS.

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-Free strategic assessment of your business needs

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-Urgent requests | Please Call: 417-782-3909

 Click here to see our other helpful “Blog for All Employers”

 

About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune 500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

 

EMPLOYER INSIGHTS | Simple Steps to Addressing Health and Safety Costs in the Workplace

EMPLOYER INSIGHTS | Simple Steps to Addressing Health and Safety Costs in the Workplace

As part of Employer Advantage’s comprehensive suite of HR management and outsourcing services (HR, Payroll, Health & Benefits, Safety, and more), we take on the burden of our clients’ employee administration and compliance responsibilities. Please contact us if you would like assistance: 417-782-3909

 

Some of the largest expenses that businesses face are due to employee health and safety impacts. There is a direct correlation between on-the-job or off-the-job injury rates when it comes to the health, wellness, and lifestyles of employees. Employees who are in poor health have higher rates of injury and longer durations of recover from injury and illness.

Workers’ Compensation insurance rates, major medical premiums, and employee absenteeism are the first business yardsticks that can be measured.

 

WHAT EMPLOYERS CAN DO TO ADDRESS HEALTH AND SAFETY IMPACTS ON THE JOB

Medical privacy laws make an employer’s job very difficult when it comes to addressing all medical conditions and health concerns that impact the workplace.

One new tool, which is called “gaps to zero” is used to evaluate the safety of equipment and identify the gaps that currently impede bringing the issues down to zero. This same principle can be applied to an employer’s workforce.

Start by identifying the more obvious “gaps to zero” when it comes to employee health issues that also impact employers.

Obesity: Excess weight and weight gain, hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, arthritis, and sleep apnea. In the workplace, overweight and obese employees face a 1.4 times higher risk of a back injury and are more than 1.5 times more like to suffer a musculoskeletal injury.

Diabetes: Higher risk of musculoskeletal pain and higher number of doctor visits.

Smokers: Smokers are at risk for cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. They are also at a higher risk of musculoskeletal pain and a higher average number of visits to the doctor because of pain. Rotator cuff tears are more common among smokers, and they are 1.5 times more likely to suffer overuse injuries, such as bursitis or tendonitis, than nonsmokers.

Three simple, but important, steps that can be taken to address health and safety in the workplace.
  • Provide a comprehensive major medical plan for all employee with robust wellness benefits. This gives the employee resources and incentives to take responsibility for their own health. From free flu shots to gym packages, there are many sponsored incentives employers can and should offer.
  • Ensure all jobs requiring Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) certifications have the proper safety training and measures in place. Beyond the mandatory training, have your workplace assessed for all job functions and safety to ensure your workplace is safe for all staff.
  • For physically demanding jobs, consider retaining an athletic trainer. Athletic trainers can assess and teach employees how to improve overall workplace health in a variety of ways – whether through exercise programs, classes on proper warmup and stretching routines before work, or injury prevention programs. Athletic trainers can also help ensure that employees can perform their essential job functions in a safe manner. For prospective employees, an athletic trainer can structure human performance evaluations. These are designed to test the ability to perform essential actions that will be a part of an employee’s new job responsibilities. During an HPE, the athletic trainer will screen vital signs and guide the candidate through a validated test of essential job functions. If an employee is unable to complete the HPE, the athletic trainer will communicate with the employer and provide feedback and recommendations for any potential accommodations based on the employee’s performance.

 

Where have we been and where are we going in the health of employees in the workplace?

Although costs have risen for employers dealing with health and safety in the workplace, but employee injuries and illnesses have fallen significantly over the past 50 years. Since the Occupational Safety and Health Act created OSHA in 1970, injuries have fallen from a high of 11 cases per 100 fulltime workers to the new low of 2.2 cases in 2020, for the following reasons:

  • Government oversight and regulations (OSHA)
  • Less dangerous work conditions and increased awareness of injury risks
  • Automation
  • Employer safety programs

Rates may be stagnated, but without employer interventions, the costs for health and safety will continue to increase for businesses.

 

Not currently an Employer Advantage client?

WE’D BE HONORED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A NEW PATH TO HR BLISS.

We don’t just give quotes—We provide strategic business proposals.

-Free strategic assessment of your business needs

-Quick and easy account setup and seamless transitions

-Urgent requests | Please Call: 417-782-3909

 Click here to see our other helpful “Blog for All Employers”

 

About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune 500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

 

EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | Determining Work-From-Home Compensation

EMPLOYER GUIDANCE | Determining Work-From-Home Compensation

As part of Employer Advantage’s comprehensive suite of HR management and outsourcing services (HR, Payroll, Health & Benefits, Safety, and more), we take on the burden of our clients’ employee administration and compliance responsibilities. Please contact us if you would like assistance: 417-782-3909

 

Long after the height of the pandemic, the news of the tight labor market has companies continuing to hire remote and hybrid positions. What is not so widely discussed is the status of many employees who were asked to work from home and still have not returned to the workplace. Many stay-at-home workers say they do not see a future back in the office.

 

According to a September Nasdaq article regarding workers who will and won’t return to the office, “The hesitation to return to work is not likely to dissipate, regardless of industry.” Many employees are leveraging staying at home as the only way they will remain in their positions with their current employer.

 

This remote and work-from-home movement has deep and complicated implications for employers, not the least of which is employee pay. It will be critical for employers to drive the dialogue and set the policies to ensure a strong workforce is retained while remaining legally compliant.

 

Here is a list of considerations to help companies navigate the creation of a policy that will balance compensation for remote, work-from-home, and onsite employees:

 

Determine employee roles.

Review your company’s roles and decide which jobs can be performed remotely. Does a job require face-to-face interactions with customers? Do you have roles, such as security officers, which require onsite monitoring of facilities and merchandise? Exempt or non-exempt are different since it is more difficult to track and manage non-exempt employee time from afar. Many employers are not allowing non-exempt employees to work remotely; this privilege is only granted to exempt employees in many cases.

 

Recognize location-based or value-based compensation mode, or a combination.

Salary ranges traditionally vary based on geographic location, but employers are beginning to change their compensation models due to the rise in remote work. When you develop a pay strategy, weigh the benefits of a location-based strategy (one where you tie compensation levels to the location of your workers) and a value-based strategy (where you pay employees purely based on the value they bring your organization).

 

Comply with pay equity standards.

Here are some important reasons you may want to pay onsite workers more for coming to the office:

  • Cover commute-related expenses.
  • Encourage in-person collaboration.
  • Reduce challenges associated with managing and tracking remote work.

 

Consider the impact of the pay policy on employee morale.

Consider pitfalls like gender discrimination when paying remote workers less than those who come to the office. Women often have had more childcare responsibilities than men and may disproportionately need the flexibility of remote work to help balance professional and family needs. This could potentially create pay discrepancies between male and female workers if more female employees are remote.

Also, some employees enjoy onsite work. Others place a high value on working from home. While one employee may accept lower pay for remote work, another might not be willing to trade compensation for flexibility. Before finalizing any new policy, you should consider how these adjustments will affect your recruitment and retention efforts, as well as employee morale.

 

Understand the wage and hour rules.

Minimum wage and overtime rules for non-exempt employees – as well as salary thresholds and job duty tests for exempt employees – differ throughout the country. Some locations have requirements for paid leave, business expense reimbursement, meals, and rest breaks. Make sure your remote workers comply with the applicable federal and state wage and hour laws.

 

Know the impact of union employees’ rules.

Unionized employers have their own unique labor relations challenges when it comes to compensation. As your collective bargaining agreements are being negotiated, make sure you address flexible work arrangements and compensation for remote workers.

 

Comply with local tax and insurance requirements.

Some states have family leave and disability insurance programs that require employers to deduct from employee wages or contribute to a state-run fund. Make sure state unemployment insurance workers’ compensation insurance is compliant. You should also investigate whether a business registration is required when you have one or more remote employees working in a state. Work with your accountants to set up your taxes correctly.

 

Communicate company policies.

It is critical to create a written policy that can be communicated to all employees. Once this compensation policy is in place and known by employees, it will help an employer maintain consistent pay practices that employees view as fair and equitable.

 

Not currently an Employer Advantage client?

WE’D BE HONORED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A NEW PATH TO HR BLISS.

We don’t just give quotes—We provide strategic business proposals.

-Free strategic assessment of your business needs

-Quick and easy account setup and seamless transitions

-Urgent requests | Please Call: 417-782-3909

 Click here to see our other helpful “Blog for All Employers”

 

About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune 500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

Employer Advantage has joined the G&A Partners family. Combining forces with this team of trusted and seasoned advisors will help business owners on a much larger scale and with more resources.

EMPLOYER INSIGHTS | Employee Training Gives Employers Hiring Power

EMPLOYER INSIGHTS | Employee Training Gives Employers Hiring Power

As part of Employer Advantage’s comprehensive suite of HR management and outsourcing services (HR, Payroll, Health & Benefits, Safety, and more), we take on the burden of our clients’ employee administration and compliance responsibilities. Please contact us if you would like assistance: 417-782-3909

 

In today’s labor market, highly skilled men and women are in high demand and short supply. Employers that are willing to invest in training their workforce will not only increase their hiring power but also prepare their business for a stronger and more stable future.

 

Companies that are determined to grow often drive their business by competing fiercely for skilled workers. Oftentimes, to make room for these highly desirable and higher paid employees, the undertrained are subject to job cuts.

Recent polling of senior executives found that 50% are planning to have layoffs soon. This trend has significant implications for both employers and the staff they wish to grow and keep. Great employees who lack the capabilities to compete for high-skilled jobs may be excellent candidates for training in the needed skills.

A wise decision can be to “hire” within by promoting and investing in trusted and talented employees. This can help avoid constant employee turnover and the many expenses associated with an unknown hire.

Providing training brings a fresh take on the old-fashioned “work your way up.” Businesses with employees that already have a deep internal knowledge of their company can provide important processes and procedures that are often undervalued. Your own workforce candidate pool can ease labor deficiencies, while also building morale.

Investing in training your workers can also provide leverage when you need to make an important outside hire. Any new candidate will see that your company values its workforce and doesn’t just “churn and burn” its employees.

Here Are Our Recommendations to Explore Your Company’s Training Opportunities:

 

  • Focus on providing an environment for learning and open communication. Discuss skills needs with managers and workers. Make both part of the solution.

 

  • Set realistic expectations. Every job is different. Each skill will take different amounts of time and expertise to teach properly.

 

  • Establish (and collectively invest in) a formal training program. If the training skills necessary are not possessed internally, investigate an outside program that can bring new perspectives and skills to the company.

 

  • Ensure training is created to be a key to job satisfaction. Employees who learn and progress in their assignment, both as a trainer or trainee, are happier.

 

  • Set milestones and recognition rewards for both. If both receive recognition, the satisfaction level will increase dramatically. Morale will increase greatly.

 

Do not fear creating mobility in your employees by training them. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, jobs and workplace dynamics have dramatically changed. Innovative technologies, new equipment, new regulations, and training programs can be an integral part of creating a successful business plan that will be supported by a strong and stable labor force.

 

Not currently an Employer Advantage client?

WE’D BE HONORED TO PROVIDE YOU WITH A NEW PATH TO HR BLISS.

We don’t just give quotes—We provide strategic business proposals.

-Free strategic assessment of your business needs

-Quick and easy account setup and seamless transitions

-Urgent requests | Please Call: 417-782-3909

 Click here to see our other helpful “Blog for All Employers”

 

About Employer Advantage

A New Path to HR Bliss – Trusted for more than 30 years, Employer Advantage frees you from the administrative and compliance burdens of having employees so you can focus on your business success. Versatile enough for companies of all sizes, our unique service combines comprehensive management of your employee administration and compliance with the latest software solutions, tailored to meet your individual needs and company culture. Our full-service management of Human Resourcespayrollhealth and benefits, workplace safety, and more enhances your profitability while reducing the costs and risks associated with employment law compliance. We provide your employees with top-notch assistance and benefits that help you increase productivity, save time and money, and attract and retain a talented workforce. And for small and mid-sized businesses, we bring you economy of scale with access to Fortune 500-level benefits, specialty assistance, and savings that would not be possible to attain on your own. Headquartered in the Midwest and serving more than 500 companies and 10,000 worksite employees throughout the country, Employer Advantage is an IRS-Certified Professional Employer Organization (PEO) (CPEO). Experienced, certified, and trusted. www.EmployerAdvantage.com

Employer Advantage has joined the G&A Partners family. Combining forces with this team of trusted and seasoned advisors will help business owners on a much larger scale and with more resources.