What Should Employers Know About Distributing Holiday Bonuses?
With the holiday season approaching, many employers are starting to think about rewarding their employees with some type of bonus. It has been a difficult year, so many businesses may still want to reward their employees for persevering through a difficult time. There are options for employers to show their employees gratitude. Regardless of what an employer decides, there are some things they should be aware of before making any major decisions.
What is the Difference Between a Holiday and Year-End Bonus?
Many companies give out holiday bonuses and some give year-end bonuses. These two phrases are not interchangeable as both are two different types of bonuses. Holiday bonuses are more universal rewards given to all the employees of a company. They are an equal amount distributed amongst the employees and can range from monetary gifts to a company-specific gift. They could also include extra paid time off.
Year-end bonuses are more performance-based rewards to certain employees. An employer might tie the amount to a person’s performance for the year or their longevity with the company. These types of rewards are a good way to boost motivation among employees and provide more incentives for the upcoming year.
Some employees may come to expect holiday bonuses from their employers and may even feel discriminated against if there is not one. For those companies that offer both bonuses, they should ensure enough time between when the two are dispensed. For instance, many might choose to give out holiday bonuses around Thanksgiving or early December and the year-end bonuses in January.
How Should I Plan for a Bonus?
There are several steps that employers should consider when determining which bonuses to disburse this year. Some things to consider include:
If it fits the budget: It has been a difficult year for a lot of businesses, with many forced to shut down for extended periods. Some were able to press on by having employees work-from-home, but it has been difficult. As a result, finances have slowed down this year, so employers need to ensure they can afford some type of bonus.
Chose an amount that is fair and consistent: If an employer plans to give out a holiday bonus, it should be a similar amount to previous years. If it needs to change dramatically for whatever reason, the company should announce that ahead of time and explain that it is a one-time thing to employees.
Include everyone: Employers that elect to give out holiday bonuses must include everyone in the office, and they must all receive the same amount regardless of their time or employment status.
Give time: For those companies that find that they can not afford a monetary bonus this year, they might want to consider giving the gift of time. It could mean a few extra days from work outside of the usual vacation and holiday schedule.
What are the Tax Consequences of Giving a Bonus?
Employers who give out monetary bonuses must report it as taxable income on an employee’s W-2 form. In addition, if an hourly employee receives paid time off, it has the same tax consequences as if the person were working. Some employees elect to offer the bonus and pay off the tax consequences as well so the employee can fully enjoy the bonus.
What are Some Non-Monetary Bonus Options?
Given this year’s difficulty, monetary bonuses might not be in the budget for some firms. That is an unfortunate side effect of the past year. Despite difficulties, many employers may still want to show gratitude to employees for remaining with them throughout the past year. There are several non-monetary options for employers. Some possibilities are:
- Time off
- Gift certificates
- Company-themed gifts
By explaining to employees that due to the circumstances, the company cannot provide monetary bonuses, should help lessen the sting of the change. However, it should be something that only happens once, otherwise it will start to have a negative impact on employee morale.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding employment matters, call the legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser. For an initial consultation, call 484-318-7106 or contact us online to speak to someone about your case. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and New Jersey.
OSHA Updates How Employers Record COVID-19 Cases
The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued interim guidance on the duties that employers have when recording cases of COVID-19. These guidelines were issued on April 10, 2020 and will last for the duration of the pandemic. OSHA states that employers must report any confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis.
Work-related cases involving OSHA general criteria need to be reported immediately. A work-related condition includes exposure to COVID-19 in the work environment causing or contributing to the resulting condition or aggravating a pre-existing illness. OSHA general recording guidelines include injury or illness resulting in death, days missed from work, restricted work, or a severe diagnosis by a physician. OSHA treats COVID-19 as a recordable illness that can cause missed workdays and, in some cases, death. Unlike the flu or common cold, COVID-19 is recordable due to its dangerous nature and how highly contagious the virus is.
If there is a COVID-19 diagnosis in the workplace, it can be hard to determine if the worker contracted the illness from the work environment or from another source. OSHA determined that they will enforce the reporting of all cases except for those where a cluster of cases emerge among those working in close proximity and employers who knew about current cases in the workplace. OSHA continues to enforce employers to focus on implementing good hygiene practices to reduce the effects of COVID-19.
During this difficult time in our country, employers still need to record any work-related injury or illness, including COVID-19. For concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, contact the attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser at 484-318-7106 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia, Chester County, and New Jersey.
IS YOUR SMALL BUSINESS EXEMPT FROM THE EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE OR EMERGENCY FAMILY MEDICAL LEAVE REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE FAMILIES FIRST CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE ACT?
On March 17, 2020 President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) into law. The FFCRA became effective on April 1st and requires, among other things, that all employers with less than 500 employees to provide emergency sick leave of up to 2 weeks paid time off for certain Covid-19 related concerns, including mandated quarantine as a result of a positive test or for suspicion of infection and for certain school and or day care closings impacting employees. On Saturday April 3 the Department of Labor issued additional guidance and FAQs related to the employer’s responsibilities under the FFCRA. Included in the FAQs is clarification for when certain employers, with less than 50 employees may qualify for an exemption from the emergency paid leave and / or emergency family medical leave provisions of the FFCRA. Below is a link to the DOl’s guidance and FAQs and an excerpt from the FAQs to help you determine if you may be eligible foe an exemption.
- When does the small business exemption apply to exclude a small business from the provisions of the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act?
An employer, including a religious or nonprofit organization, with fewer than 50 employees (small business) is exempt from providing (a) paid sick leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons and (b) expanded family and medical leave due to school or place of care closures or child care provider unavailability for COVID-19 related reasons when doing so would jeopardize the viability of the small business as a going concern. A small business may claim this exemption if an authorized officer of the business has determined that:
- The provision of paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would result in the small business’s expenses and financial obligations exceeding available business revenues and cause the small business to cease operating at a minimal capacity;
- The absence of the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave would entail a substantial risk to the financial health or operational capabilities of the small business because of their specialized skills, knowledge of the business, or responsibilities; or
- There are not sufficient workers who are able, willing, and qualified, and who will be available at the time and place needed, to perform the labor or services provided by the employee or employees requesting paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave, and these labor or services are needed for the small business to operate at a minimal capacity.
- If I am a small business with fewer than 50 employees, am I exempt from the requirements to provide paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave?
A small business is exempt from certain paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave requirements if providing an employee such leave would jeopardize the viability of the business as a going concern. This means a small business is exempt from mandated paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave requirements only if the:
- employer employs fewer than 50 employees;
- leave is requested because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or child care provider is unavailable, due to COVID-19 related reasons; and
- an authorized officer of the business has determined that at least one of the three conditions described in Question 58 is satisfied.
The Department encourages employers and employees to collaborate to reach the best solution for maintaining the business and ensuring employee safety.
To learn more about our services and how we can help, call our legal team at 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. The offices of MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser are located in West Chester, and we represent business owners throughout Philadelphia and Chester County, as well as in New Jersey.
Update on Families First Coronavirus Response Act?
As previously mentioned President Trump signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on March 18th, which will become law on April 1, 2020. Among other relief, this Act creates paid emergency leave/sick leave for employees who must self-quarantine or self-isolate due to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. The following provides additional helpful information regarding how your business should respond as well as a link to the Notice that was promulgated by the Department of Labor and must be posted on or before April 2, 2020.
Paid Emergency Family Medical Leave
The Act expands the coverage of FMLA leave for qualifying conditions to all employers with less than 500 employees. Employees are allowed Paid Emergency Leave under the new § 102(a)(1)(F) of the FMLA. Your business must provide leave to your employees according to the following guidelines:
- Employees are entitled to receive 10 days unpaid leave. Your employees, however, have the option to exhaust their paid time off (PTO) first.
- Employees may receive up to 10 additional weeks of leave paid at two-thirds their regular rate of pay.
The additional 10 weeks of paid leave cannot exceed $200.00 per day and $12,000.00 in the aggregate. Also, your business may be exempt if you have less than 50 employees and if paying for said leave would jeopardize the viability of your business.
HOW DO YOUR EMPLOYEES QUALIFY FOR ADDITIONAL MEDICAL LEAVE?
Your employees qualify for the additional 10 weeks of emergency paid medical leave compensation if they:
- are unable to work (or telework) due to care for a child whose school or daycare has been closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
WHAT ABOUT EMERGENCY PAID SICK LEAVE?
The law creates guidelines that require you to offer two weeks of paid sick leave to all employees (full time and part time) who cannot come to work for the reasons set forth above. You are required to pay the employee’s regular rate for the first two weeks if:
- They are subject to a Federal, State, or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID019.
- They have been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19.
- They are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical diagnosis.
- To care for an individual who is subject to an order to quarantine or isolate or has been advised to self-quarantine due to COVID-19 concerns.
- They are caring for a son or daughter if the school or place of care of the son or daughter has been closed, or the child-care provider of such son or daughter is unavailable, due to COVID0-19 precautions.
- They are experiencing any other substantially similar conditions specified by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor.
POSTING OF NOTICE
The Act requires all employers to Post Notice of the requirements of this Act in conspicuous places on the employer’s premises – and to the extent employees are working remotely, the poster should be sent via email. The Notice that must be posted as soon as possible. The Notice for non-Federal workers can be found here:
WHAT THE EMPLOYER CANNOT DO
Under this legislation, an employer cannot:
- Change paid leave policies to circumvent this new law or defray the costs involved
- Require employees to use paid leave before using their emergency paid sick leave allotment
- Require employees to find someone to cover their shift.
If we work together to protect ourselves and our employees, we can stop the spread of COVID-19. Our legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser, LLC can help your company understand the laws evolving around the COVID-19 outbreak. Contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106 for more information. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County, as well as in New Jersey.
What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act?
President Trump recently signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act on March 18th, which will become law on April 2, 2020. The law creates paid emergency leave/sick leave for employees who must self-quarantine or self-isolate due to the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak. The following provides helpful information regarding how your business should respond.
Paid Emergency FMLA
Employees are allowed Paid Emergency FMLA § 102(a)(1)(F) under this law. Your business must provide leave to your employees according to the following guidelines:
- Employees receive their first 14 days off at their regular pay rate. Your employees, however, have the option to exhaust their paid time off (PTO) first. Once their PTO is exhausted, they will receive 14 more days of leave at their regular rate.
- Employees may receive up to 10 additional weeks of leave paid at two-thirds their regular rate.
Your business may be exempt if you have less than 25 employees and if paying for said leave would strain your business financially.
How Do Your Employees Qualify?
Your employees qualify for emergency paid leave compensation when they:
- Must stay home to comply with a local or statewide mandate or the recommendation of a public health official because the employee cannot do their job if they were exposed or would jeopardize the health of others by coming to work.
- Must stay home to care for a family member because that family member cannot perform their job duties without jeopardizing the health of the community.
- Must stay home to care for a child whose school or daycare was closed in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
What About Emergency Paid Sick Leave?
Your employees may be entitled to emergency paid sick leave if they miss work for any of the following reasons:
- They must self-quarantine or seek a diagnosis/preventative treatment due to symptoms of COVID-19.
- They must self-quarantine or seek treatment due to an order by a public health official or the state/local government.
- They must care for an at-risk family member who has been quarantined because of a diagnosis or symptoms of COVID-19.
- To care for a child if that child’s daycare or school has been closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The law creates guidelines that require you to offer two weeks of paid sick leave to all employees who cannot come to work. You are required to pay the employee’s regular rate for the first two weeks if the employee:
- Must self-quarantine because they were diagnosed with COVID-19 or have symptoms of COVID-19.
- Must comply with a federal or local mandate to self-quarantine.
You will pay two-thirds the employee’s regular rate if they:
- Must stay home to care for an at-risk family member.
- Must care for their child because the school or daycare is closed.
Paid sick leave will be administered by the Social Security Administration.
What the Employer Cannot Do
Under this legislation, an employer cannot:
- Change paid leave policies to circumvent this new law or defray the costs involved
- Require employees to use paid leave before using their emergency paid sick leave allotment
- Require employees to find someone to cover their shift.
If we work together to protect ourselves and our employees, we can stop the spread of COVID-19. Our legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser can help your company understand the laws evolving around the COVID-19 outbreak. Contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106 for more information. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County, as well as in New Jersey.
Important Coronavirus Update for Employers
The national public health crisis of coronavirus COVID-19 is impacting many of us in one way or another. Employers are facing many unprecedented questions surrounding their workers while adhering to all recommendations from legislature and the CDC for the safety and well-being of all.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued new guidance for employers regarding the coronavirus. Specifically, employers may be allowed to require employees to submit to testing and stay at home. The specific guidelines include the following:
- Employers may ask employees who report symptoms consistent with the COVID-19 infection to submit to non-invasive temperature testing
- Employers can do this without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that employees who become ill with symptoms of COVID-19 must leave the workplace
These guidelines additionally indicate that, as is consistent with the ADA, employers may require sick employees to stay home. Moreover, employers may require employees who have been away from work due to illness to provide a doctor’s note certifying they are fit for duty. However, employers need to take note that guidance from public health authorities is likely to change as the situation continues to evolve daily or even hourly.
During this time, employers may have many concerns as new issues arrive in the wake of the pandemic. Our experienced legal team at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser remains available to answer your questions and serve your legal needs. We are open for business and can conduct virtual meetings via phone or videoconference. Call us today at 484-318-7106 or contact us online if you have any questions. We serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Philadelphia County and Chester County from our office in West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Importance of Employee Appreciation for Every Business
The first Friday in March is Employee Appreciation Day. Employee appreciation is an often-overlooked component of a positive and healthy workplace. It fosters positive morale, motivation, and job satisfaction among workers, which is true for every employee. Whether you are overseeing a global company or a small start-up, every employee wants to be recognized for their contributions. The following are ways to show your team you appreciate their hard work on Employee Appreciation Day and throughout the year:
Employees often feel disconnected or invisible to upper management. Ongoing personal communications make a big difference in helping staff at every level feel seen and heard by their superiors. Even something as simple as saying “Good morning” or “How was your weekend?” fosters personal and meaningful connections that show employees they matter.
Provide Balanced Feedback
Researchers who studied the importance of appreciation in the workplace found that productive feedback from a manager was a primary way an employee felt valued. However, it is important to note that feedback that does not address areas for development is not always helpful, just as all negative feedback would be discouraging. Balance is key.
Today’s workers are looking for more flexibility than ever. Whether that means working from home or giving employees the chance to put in 40 hours according to their own schedule, if your business permits, consider giving workers some freedom to design their workweek. Flexibility to create a schedule that is more ideal for their own personal needs shows workers they are trusted and appreciated.
Talk About Growth
Every employee wants to know they are important and their efforts matter. Make it a habit to review your workers’ career goals and interests and explore their potential for growth in the company. Knowing they are more than just a placeholder shows them their employer is just as invested in their personal success as they are in the future of their business.
These are just a few tips to remember when creating a culture of gratitude in your workplace. While Employee Appreciation Day is a great time to start, make it a habit to tell your employees what you appreciate about their work on a regular basis. Build it into your regular routine with dedicated time at meetings to acknowledge team members or personal notes of appreciation for specific accomplishments. After all, satisfied employees are your best investment.
If you are faced with a lawsuit, the dedicated West Chester small business lawyers at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser work tirelessly on your behalf to protect your interests and business. To learn more about our services and how we can help, call 484-318-7106 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation today. Located in West Chester, we represent business owners throughout the state, including Philadelphia and Chester County.
Why are Human Resource Audits Important?
Proper management of human resources can be pivotal to a business’ success or failure. Employees are the backbone of a business. Therefore, effective human resource management will ensure that the business is handling its employee relations appropriately. Policies relating to benefits, wages, salaries, job descriptions, employee absence, and performance all fall into the umbrella of human resource management. How does a business monitor how well it is doing when it comes to human resource management? A human resource (HR) audit will help a business assess its human resource practices and procedures.
Human Resource Audits
HR audits are an objective review of the human resource policies of an organization to help identify gaps in their practices. The review enables the organization to ensure that these practices and policies comply with the law, are adequate for the company, and effective in meeting its goals. When gaps are identified, the organization can then take measures to correct them and minimize risks to achieve greater success. There are many ways to conduct an HR audit. Depending on the size of the organization and its goals, an audit can be comprehensive or narrowly focused. However, typical audits can be divided into the following types:
Risk Mitigation Audits
Risk mitigation audits focus on whether the organization is complying with the laws and identify gaps in compliance to limit exposure to litigation. The goal is to prevent employment-related lawsuits and federal fines for failing to meet federal employment standards. Most employment-related lawsuits involve hiring practices, termination, and discipline of employees.
Wage and hour laws are complex, and misclassification of employees is common. An audit can reveal whether employees are being misclassified as exempt or nonexempt from overtime pay. An audit can help an organization catch these misclassifications so that corrections can be made. Additionally, time keeping practices must be accurate to prevent claims regarding inadequate overtime pay. Furthermore, compliance audits can reveal issues related to fair treatment and sexual harassment.
Value Creation Audits
Value creation audits focus on practices to maximize employee performance. This type of audit can reveal if the performance evaluations are achieving the goal of providing adequate feedback to employees and exposes any issues in the evaluation process so that these can be improved.
Value creation audits also involve a review of compensation packages, such as salaries, wages, and leave of absence that the HR department offers to attract talent. A review may identify benefits not offered that can be implemented to retain and attract talent. For example, an audit may reveal that employees wish for more flexible hours and telecommuting options, which may be an additional benefit that can be offered to employees based on the audit.
An organization can perform an audit in-house or hire outside consultants. Before conducting an audit, it is important to define the type of audit that needs to be performed. After an audit has been conducted, it is vital to evaluate the findings and create action plans to implement the changes suggested by the audit.
The employment and labor law practice at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser offer a full range of services related to human resource management. For assistance with an HR audit at your organization, contact us online or call us at 484-318-7106. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we provide legal services to clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.
Campuses Fight Sexual Violence
An estimated one in every 10 undergraduate or graduate students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. That is a sobering statistic and one the state of Pennsylvania is working to reduce. In January 2020, the Pennsylvania Education Department began distributing $1 million in grants among 36 different colleges and universities across the state to staff and to provide services for victims of campus rape and sexual assault.
While one in 10 students overall will potentially be raped or sexually assaulted at college, the number increases significantly when you look primarily at undergraduates. Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of women and 5.4 percent of men are sexually victimized on campus. What is even more concerning about these crimes is that victims are not always willing to report them. Only 20 percent of female student victims between the ages of 18 to 24 report sexual crimes to law enforcement, leaving perpetrators free to victimize others. Only one out of every six college-aged sexual assault survivors accepts help from a victim services agency.
Higher Education Programs to Help Assault Survivors
In June 2019, Pennsylvania Governor Wolf signed Act 16 into law, which requires colleges and universities to beef up their services for students who are sexually assaulted. Institutions of higher learning must meet two categories of requirements. First, every school must have an online system for students and employees to report complaints of sexual harassment and assault. An effective notification system discloses who is receiving assault complaints, how this information will be used, and where victims can go for help on campus.
Next, colleges and universities must have a clear sexual harassment and assault policy that addresses:
- The definition of consent and the concept of incapacitation
- Who the institution considers responsible employees that have the authority and the power to report sexual harassment
- A distinction between a complaint of sexual misconduct and a report, and the procedures for handling each
- The rights of both parties, including the respondent who should be notified of the alleged misconduct
- A standard of proof by which it is determined if misconduct occurred
These new guidelines for Pennsylvania colleges and universities combined with the upwards of $1 million in grants will hopefully make significant progress in reducing the number of assaults among college-aged students, while also eliminating the stigma of reporting them.
In Pennsylvania, colleges and universities have the tools to help prevent sexual assault, raise awareness of the problem among students and staff, and encourage victims to report sexual violence. However, some victims may still feel more could have been done to prevent an assault. At MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser, our attorneys represent Pennsylvania’s institutions of higher learning battling serious claims that may damage their reputation and status in the community. To learn more about our services, call 484-318-7106 or use the online form for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.
Are Your Workers Misclassified?
Today’s businesses rely on temporary staffing, independent contractors, and outside consulting firms opposed to hiring employees to meet their needs. However, employers may be liable when they incorrectly classify these workers as independent contractors. It is important to classify workers appropriately or risk facing stiff penalties from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Department of Labor.
Businesses may be tempted to classify workers as independent contractors due to cost savings from not having to pay social security and employment taxes. Independent contractors are not covered under unemployment or Workers’ Compensation insurance, and they are not eligible for health care and leave of absence benefits. Their taxes are also not withheld by the company. However, employers are simply not aware of the nuances of employee classification and mistakenly believe that they correctly classified them as an independent contractor.
How Does Misclassification Occur?
A misclassification occurs when an employer classifies a worker as an independent contractor when they should be classified as an employee. Both intentional and unintentional misclassifications carry penalties for employers from the IRS and Department of Labor. When the misclassification is intentional, the employer may be liable for 100 percent of the worker’s taxes. Employers may be liable for almost 40 percent of the workers taxes when their misclassification is unintentional.
Governments lose considerable amounts of tax revenue due to employer misclassification of workers prompting a recent crackdown and increased scrutiny of employer classifications of their workers. Employment taxes withheld cause revenue losses for the Social Security Administration, Medicare, state unemployment, and workers compensation funds. Because of the losses incurred, government agencies, such as the IRS and Department of Labor, have an incentive to monitor and audit employers for misclassification. Furthermore, the Department of Labor wants to protect workers so that they receive all that they are entitled to as employees and prevent employer abuse.
Classification of workers as independent contractors may trigger audits by the IRS. When determining whether a worker is an independent contractor, the IRS looks at several factors to determine the degree of independence and control the independent contractor exerts in their work. The following considerations are used to determine the appropriate worker classification:
Behavior Factors: Behavioral factors include the degree of control the company has over the worker. Does the employer provide training, guidelines, equipment, and tools? Are the functions provided executive and managerial in nature?
Financial Factors: Financial factors look at how the worker is compensated. A true independent contractor would provide invoices that account for profits and losses. An employee is paid a steady amount on a periodic basis.
Our team of attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser provide human resource counseling, as well as employment-related services. It is not worth triggering an audit and risking penalties from the IRS or Department of Labor. Call us today at 484-318-7106 or contact us online for an initial consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout Philadelphia and Chester County.