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Employee Appreciation During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a hectic time of the year for all. On the home front, employees must get holiday shopping, travel plans, and child-care sorted out. On the work front, there are deadlines to be met while more staff is taking paid time off and fewer business working days. Also, there may be a lack of motivation to work due to the distractions and demands of the holidays. As employers, it is important to keep employees motivated and focused during the holidays. Employers must work harder to balance creating a festive workplace while also getting work done.

Plan Early

It is important to plan before the holidays hit to make sure deadlines are met. To fulfill business obligations, it is important to recognize that the holidays will create shortages in staff as they take more vacation time, there are fewer business working days and more social demands on employees. It is important to include employees’ needs and considerations during the holidays when creating project plans and deadlines. Project planning should consider the special issues presented during the holidays so that crucial work is completed before the holidays arrive.

Communicate

It is important to create open communication with employees. Encourage employees to communicate early about their personal obligations so that everyone is aware of the workload remaining and progress of the project.  By staying in constant communication, employers can avoid surprises during the holidays when they will be short staffed. By frequently checking in with project leaders and staff regarding the status of the projects, employers can stay on top of the deadlines and avoid any mishaps.

Vacation Planning

Encourage employees to turn in their vacation requests early to be approved in a timely fashion. Urge them to talk with their peers and team members regarding the vacation time they wish to take so that everyone is not on vacation at the same time. Create incentives for them to work together to cover one another while one is on vacation. Recognize those employees who pitched in extra hours during the holiday crunch time to compensate for those who were on vacation. Allow them to take time off when deadlines have been met or projects have been completed.

Reward Employees with a Bonus

Sometimes promising a bonus if a project is completed before the holidays is a great way to motivate employees. Employees may appreciate the extra cash during the holidays and may be motivated to finish the project to take the vacation they have planned. Make sure the project expectations are reasonable so that it can be completed in time. Otherwise, unreasonable expectations may create more stress for everyone.

The holidays are a time for everyone to focus on family and social activities.  Recognizing that your employees benefit from having healthy social lives, allowing them to relax during the holidays, and supporting them with time off from work will increase employee productivity.  It is important for employers to create a work-life balance so that employees do not experience burnout and stay productive.

For legal advice on workplace issues, contact the employment and labor lawyers at MacMain Connell & Leinhauser. From our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County. Call our office at 484-318-7106 or contact us online today for an initial consultation.

What Do I Need to Know When Distributing Holiday Bonuses?

The holidays are a great time to show gratitude toward employees. They will value gifts from employers at this time as this can boost morale at the office and create a positive work environment. A way to show appreciation that is not monetary in nature may be to grant days off during the holidays so employees can spend more time with their families. However, if the office budget allows, a holiday gift in the form of a cash bonus may be the most valued, as it may ease employees’ financial stress from holiday shopping and travel.

When choosing to give a monetary bonus, employers should be cognizant of tax implications and federal labor laws to avoid tax liability, labor law violations, and anti-discrimination lawsuits.

IRS Regulations

Most employer gifts have tax implications and need to be reported.  However, in limited circumstances, a gift may qualify as a de minimis fringe benefit. To qualify as such, it must be one for which, considering its value and frequency with which it is provided, is so small as to make accounting for it unreasonable or impractical.

The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) definition does not provide any dollar limits for the de minimis gifts exception. A qualifying gift does not require reporting. Even when the gift is of limited dollar value, it should be given infrequently, if it is given on a regular basis, then it will not qualify as a de minimis benefit and will have to be reported. It is prudent to consult with a qualified lawyer to determine whether the bonus qualifies as a de minimis gift.

Fair Labor Standards Act

According to the Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA), nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime pay when they work over 40 hours in a workweek. The overtime rate is based on the regular rate of pay. The regular rate of pay is determined by dividing the total pay in the workweek by the total number of hours an employee has worked. When calculating the overtime rate, it is important to consider whether the bonus is also included in determining the rate as certain bonuses should be used to calculate the rate of pay. Failure to do so will expose employers to labor law disputes and violations.

Bonuses that are discretionary and classified as gifts are not used to calculate the rate of pay to determine an employee’s overtime rate. Sums paid as gifts and payments in the nature of gifts made at Christmas time or other special occasions are excluded from determining the rate of pay. Therefore, to qualify as a gift, it must not be related to the hours worked.   These payments must be discretionary, not part of any employment contract or agreement, and the employee must not expect such payments regularly. A one-time holiday payment that is based on an employee’s two-week salary is considered a discretionary bonus if it was not already part of the employee’s contract, according to the Department of Labor’s regulations.

For legal advice on distributing holiday bonuses to your employees, consult the lawyers at MacMain Connell & Leinhauser. For an initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Ruling Allows More Time to Sue

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court recently ruled that the time bar that was part of the Medical Care Availability and Reduction Error Act (MCARE) is unconstitutional. The time bar, also known as the statute of repose, is unlike a statute of limitations, which allows for a time limitation on a cause of action to be waived or tolled. However, a statute of repose is an absolute bar to claims brought after a certain period, even if the injury is discovered or if the claim accrued after the limitation. A cause of action is barred after seven years under MCARE. However, the recent Pennsylvania ruling will allow those who have claims under MCARE a chance to assert their rights in court after the seven years have passed.

The Case

The case in question involved a plaintiff who donated his liver lobe when his mother needed a liver transplant due to Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD). Eleven years later, a routine blood test conducted on the mother revealed that she still had AATD. The liver transplant surgery should have eliminated AATD. Even though the plaintiff was tested to determine if he also had AATD before the transplant, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) never informed him of the results. The plaintiff assumed that UPMC would not have transplanted his liver if he had the syndrome. When the plaintiff’s mother discovered she still had AATD, a subsequent test on her son revealed he too had AATD.

The two proceeded to file a medical malpractice claim against UPMC and others in 2015. The trial court dismissed the medical malpractice brought against UPMC and other defendants based on the statute of repose bar of seven years under MCARE. The appellate court upheld the trial court ruling.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court, however, overturned the ruling and argued that UPMC did not meet the burden of review. The appellants failed to show how the statute passed intermediate scrutiny. The court did not find a sufficient governmental interest to support the time bar because of the lack of supporting statistical findings on whether the seven-year limit affected insurance costs, or the number of malpractice suits started after seven years.

Erosion of Time Limits in Medical Malpractice Cases

The case is part of a trend of rulings in Pennsylvania courts that are doing away with time limitations on medial malpractice cases in the state. These recent cases will impact management of claims by health care institutions.  Ruling that the time bar is unconstitutional also calls into question the timetables used by these institutions in evaluating potential claims.   Additionally, medical malpractice insurance rates may begin to rise.

Medical professionals and institutions may have to reevaluate their claims procedures and policies considering the recent ruling.

For a professional consultation related to medical malpractice claims, contact MacMain Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106 or contact us online for an initial consultation. We serve medical professionals and institutions throughout Philadelphia and Chester County from our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania.