Your Sexual Harassment Policy May Not Be Effective!

Do you believe your company’s sexual harassment policies sufficiently insulate the company from liability for harassment? Do you assume that, at the very least, this would be true in the event that an employee is sexually harassed but does not report it? Many HR professionals and employment lawyers would likely agree with you. But a recent Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision indicates that employers may not be as secure as they think they are when it comes to unreported sexual harassment.

The plaintiff in the case was Kandace Pullen, who was a temporary clerical employee for a school district in Louisiana. During her employment, Pullen alleges, she was sexually harassed by her supervisor, Timothy Graham. Pullen did not report the harassment while it was happening. In fact, she made no mention of it until about two years later, when she was questioned during the school district’s investigation of a complaint made by another employee, Aimee Harris, that Graham had harassed her (Harris). The investigation of Harris’ complaint was conducted months after Pullen’s employment with the district had ended. It was at this time that Pullen filed an EEOC charge alleging, for the first time, that she had been harassed by Graham during her employment with the district.

Whether an employer will be found liable for sexual harassment depends on several factors. If the harassment is perpetrated by a supervisor and results in action being taken against the employee (such as termination or demotion), the employer will be held strictly liable. But if there is no tangible employment action, the employer can offer a defense to liability. The employer must show that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and correct sexual harassment, and that the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of preventive or remedial measures offered by the employer. In other words, if the employer has an anti-sexual harassment policy with clear complaint procedures for employees who are harassed, and an employee fails to utilize that procedure before suing the employer, the employer will generally not be held liable.

In the Pullen case, the lower court applied that very analysis. The court granted summary judgment to the school district, effectively throwing plaintiff’s case out, because Pullen had not reported the harassment despite the fact that the district’s harassment policy was posted on bulletin boards in the office and available online. The district even provided regular sexual harassment training to the majority of its employees.
The Court of Appeals, however, viewed things differently. The appellate court noted that Pullen, as a temporary employee, had never been given sexual harassment training, and that she alleged she had not even known that the district had a sexual harassment policy at all. Pullen claimed she had never noticed the copies of the policy posted on bulletin boards, and she offered evidence that other employees working in the same office were equally unaware of the policy. Finding that this evidence “generates a reasonable inference that the policy was not posted in a conspicuous location,” the appellate court reversed the district court’s decision. In support, the court cited similar decisions from the First Circuit and Tenth Circuit Courts of Appeals.

What does this mean for employers? It means they should not allow themselves to become complacent about their sexual harassment policies, including the manner in which those policies are distributed. It is not enough simply to have a policy in place; employees must be made aware of the policy. Moreover, employers should be prepared to offer evidence of that awareness. This means that having each employee sign an acknowledgement of his/her receipt of the employee handbook is more important than ever. Equally important is making sure the sexual harassment policy contained in the handbook is clearly communicated and can be easily understood. Relying on bulletin boards to get the word out, or even posting the policy online, is not enough, as the school district in the Pullen case found out. Moreover, temporary or seasonal employees should not be excluded from the process; it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all employees become familiar with the policies.

Ultimately, an employer’s focus should not solely be, “How can we avoid liability?” but, rather, “How can we keep harassment from happening and how we put a stop to it and help the victim if it does happen?” Asking these questions and doing the work they require will help keep companies on track toward having meaningful, accessible anti-harassment policies.

This article is intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.



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Exit Interviews: Are You Using Them To Their Full Advantage?

Is your company getting all it can out of exit interviews? Exit interviews can yield gold mines of information for employers. But if not conducted properly, they can be a useless, formulaic exercise that benefits neither the company nor the outgoing employee.

The stories of two different employees will help illustrate this. Amy left her job at XYZ Company for a new position because her boss, Mike, was a verbally abusive bully. Amy had never complained about Mike because she feared retaliation. As her last day approached, she considered telling HR everything in her exit interview – all the abusive comments, unreasonable demands, and temper tantrums she had endured while working for Mike. But she knew Mike would be involved if a future employer asked for a reference. She had been at XYZ for five years and could not afford to jeopardize the positive reference she had earned from her good work. Besides, she figured management already knew what Mike was like anyway. Wasn’t it general knowledge at XYZ? So Amy decided, rather than burn bridges, to remain silent about Mike. In her exit interview, she said she was leaving only because she got an offer for a position with a higher salary. The interviewer accepted this response and asked no further questions.

Tim also reported to Mike at XYZ and was a victim of his bullying. When Tim left for a new job, he saw his exit interview as an opportunity to vent about the years of abuse he had suffered at the hands of Mike. When asked his reason for leaving the company, Mike launched into a detailed, 30-minute account of Mike’s behavior toward him and others. He even brought along copies of emails that substantiated his report. After Tim’s exit interview, HR immediately began an investigation of Mike. It revealed that numerous employees had had similar experiences with him, and it ended in Mike’s termination.

As these stories show, exit interviews can be a source of important information, or they can be a lost opportunity.

The benefits of a well-conducted exit interview are many. You can learn about systemic problems within the company, reasons for low morale, problems with supervisors, and much more. The information gleaned from an exit interview can help a company increase employee retention and may even reduce the risk of lawsuits (particularly if the interview reveals issues with a supervisor that were previously unknown to management and the supervisor can be removed before causing more harm).

So how can you get the most out of exit interviews?  First, if your company has an HR department, put HR in charge of conducting the interviews. Employees should not be interviewed by their boss but by someone who is, at least ostensibly, neutral. Second, if feasible, promise anonymity and confidentiality of responses. However, if your company is small this may not be realistic. When a small company chooses to act upon information obtained from the interview, such as by investigating allegations made, the source of the information may be obvious to everyone there — including the target of the investigation. Third, consider having a company-wide policy of limiting references to confirmation of job title and dates of employment. This will allow you to assure outgoing employees that the information they provide in their exit interviews will not affect their references, since the company does not provide substantive references.  Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, convey to employees that you are truly interested in what they have to say. Do not conduct the interview in a manner that suggests you are just going down a list of questions and checking off boxes. Engage the employee; draw him or her out. Remember, a disgruntled employee, even one who is reluctant to go into detail at first, has probably fantasized many times about venting his frustrations. Give him the gentle nudge he needs to do so.

If employees can feel confident that the information they provide will be treated with sensitivity, and will not negatively affect future job references, they will be more forthcoming in their exit interviews. As a result, management will be able to access information that otherwise would never have been brought to its attention about what is really happening inside the company. For tips on how to conduct effective exit interviews, contact an HR professional at PMP.

This article is intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.

 



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Employee Handbooks and Employment Agreements: Understanding the Difference

Is your handbook an employment contract? Should it be?

Many employee handbooks contain provisions intended to bind employees to certain obligations. For example, handbooks may state that employees are required to maintain the confidentiality of proprietary confidential information. They may also provide that, upon termination of employment, employees are prohibited from soliciting the company’s employees or clients for a given period of time. Some handbooks even dictate that disputes arising out of the employer-employee relationship must be submitted to arbitration. Employers often assume that these handbook provisions carry the weight of a binding contract.

But many handbooks also contain a provision explicitly stating that the handbook is not an employment agreement.  Employers include such provisions for their own protection; they do not want to be held to statements in the handbook regarding compensation, benefits, hours, etc., as if they were contractual obligations on the part of the employer.

Many employers fail to consider the impact of the handbook’s “not-a-contract“ provision on the validity of provisions they wish to be able to enforce. In other words, employers assume that they can choose to treat the handbook as a contract when it suits them, such as when they wish to keep a former employee from disclosing confidential company information, while treating it as “just a handbook” the rest of the time—including when an employee asserts a contractual right to the benefits or compensation terms detailed in the handbook.

What is the answer to this conundrum? The answer is certainly not to omit the “not-a-contract” language from the handbook. This provision is highly important. An employer whose handbook does not state that it is not a contract, and who requires the employees to sign the handbook upon receipt, may be faced with the unwelcome surprise of an employee lawsuit seeking to enforce outdated policies appearing in the handbook. This is particularly true since, unfortunately, many employers fail to update their handbooks regularly. As a result, handbooks often refer to outdated policies regarding insurance benefits, vacation time, office hours, company policies, etc. (PMP recommends updating handbooks at least every two years to help ensure that changes in internal policies and in employment law are being addressed.)

The best solution, then, is to keep the not-a-contract provision in the handbook, but move any provisions that the employer wishes to be contractually enforceable out of the handbook into a separate document. That document should be structured as an enforceable contract.  If this sounds like too much trouble, consider the fact that, for an employer who is already taking the time to provide all new hires with a copy of the handbook, there is little additional burden in also providing them with a confidentiality, nondisclosure, nonsolicitation, and/or arbitration agreement to sign at the same time. Employers who do this can have their cake and eat it, too – the protection of an enforceable contract where needed, and a handbook that serves the purpose that a handbook should:  as an informative summary of general employee policies.

For assistance with drafting enforceable confidentiality, nonsolicitation, arbitration agreements and more, do not hesitate to contact PMP. We can also help you revise and update your employee handbook. Remember, when it comes to protecting company assets and avoiding employee lawsuits, a handbook is only one tool in an employer’s toolbox.

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This article is intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.



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Reminder for NYC Employers: New Commuter Benefits Law Now in Effect

As of July 1, 2016, employers with 20 or more full-time non-union employees in New York City are in danger of incurring penalties if they do not offer commuter benefits. Pursuant to a law that went into effect January 1, 2016, employers covered under the law must allow their employees to use pre-tax earnings for the purpose of paying eligible commuter expenses. A six-month enforcement grace period was in effect until July 1, 2016, but now that that period has expired, the Department of Consumer Affairs is free to seek penalties from non-compliant employers.

An employer need not be located in New York City to be covered under the law. The location of the employees, not the employer, is the determining factor. Even if a company’s employees work in New York City only occasionally, they may still be entitled to commuter benefits. Any employee who has worked an average of 30 hours or more in the most recent four weeks, any portion of which was in NYC, is covered.

If an employer’s entire workforce is unionized, the employer is not covered under the law. But if only a portion of its employees are union, and 20 or more are non-union and working full-time (30 or more hours a week), then the employer is covered.

Participation in a commuter benefit program can reduce a company’s payroll taxes. However, if an employer believes that participation in the program would cause it significant financial harm, it can apply for a “financial hardship exemption” from the commuter benefits law.

A number of third-party vendors administer commuter benefits programs for employers. A list of these providers can be found at http://www1.nyc.gov/site/dca/about/commuter-benefits-FAQs.page.



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Parents in the Workplace: Discrimination on the Basis of “Familial Status”

In the classic film “Kramer vs. Kramer,” Dustin Hoffman’s character, Ted Kramer, loses his high-powered job as an advertising executive. Once the prized protégé of his boss Jim, Ted has fallen out of favor since becoming sole caregiver to his five-year-old son, Billy. His parenting duties have meant no more late evenings at the office, either working or just drinking with Jim. Now Ted has to rush home every evening to tend to Billy.  Jim, who has taken to sneeringly calling Ted “Mother Kramer,” begins systematically cutting Ted out of important meetings and decisions, and ultimately fires him.

Ted’s story would be all too familiar to many working parents today, particularly mothers. And since a new law was enacted in New York earlier this year, it would also be illegal.

Effective January 19, 2016, the New York Human Rights Law was amended to outlaw discrimination in employment based on “familial status.” The statute generally applies to employers with four or more employees. The protected category of “familial status” includes (a) anyone who is pregnant, has a child, or is in the process of securing legal custody of a child; and (b) one or more individuals under the age of 18 being domiciled with a parent or other person with legal custody, or such parent’s designee.

By banning discrimination on the basis of “familial status,” the law prohibits employers from treating parents differently based on a bias against working mothers or parents in general. The law does not require employers to make special accommodations for parents, such as allowing them to miss work, arrive late, or leave early for child-related reasons. All that is required is equal treatment – i.e., if an employer has a policy of granting employees time off to attend to personal matters, this benefit should be extended to parents on the same basis it is extended to non-parents.

While a primary intent of the new law is to protect working mothers from discrimination, its protection is not limited to mothers; fathers are covered as well. Let’s take another look at Ted Kramer. Before Ted’s wife left him, Jim had trusted Ted enough to hand him the reins on a major account. After his wife left, although Ted could no longer stick around the office in the evenings as he had before, he made up for it by taking work home with him. He was still doing his job – until he was effectively prevented from doing so by having his responsibilities chipped away. Under the new law, Ted’s diminished responsibilities and ultimate termination would give rise to a valid claim of “familial status” discrimination.

What this boils down to is a need for employers to eradicate any bias, whether conscious or unconscious, they may have against working parents. If you find yourself thinking, “Jennifer is a good worker, but she’s got two little kids at home and another on the way; there’s no way she could handle the responsibilities of this promotion, so I’m giving it to [childless] Dave,” then you need to make some changes.

While this particular law applies to employers in New York State, similar laws have been passed in other states, including Oregon and Minnesota.  If you have any questions about “familial status” discrimination, you should contact an exprienced human resources professional at Portnoy, Messinger & Pearl, & Associates, Inc. at (516) 921-3400 or info@pmpHR.com.



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Recourse Under Federal Law for Trade Secret Theft

On May 11, 2016, President Obama signed into law the Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA). This legislation will allow employers to sue in federal court to combat misappropriation of trade secrets. Previously, employers had recourse under differing state laws, which varied in their definitions of “trade secrets” as well as in the remedies available. The DTSA will create a uniform standard for addressing trade secret theft, which may prove particularly useful for companies which operate out of multiple states. Notably, however, the new law carves out an exception for certain disclosures made by whistleblowers and requires employers to notify employees of this exception.

The DTSA defines “trade secrets” broadly, as “all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information, including patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes, whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing if (A) the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and (B) the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by another person who can obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information.”

An employer who sues for wrongful disclosure under the DTSA will be able to request an “ex parte seizure,” which allows the court, under certain limited circumstances, to seize property when necessary to prevent the propagation or dissemination of a trade secret. Employers will also be entitled to seek damages, including exemplary damages for willful or malicious misappropriation (up to double the amount of actual damages), as well as injunctive relief and attorneys’ fees.

It is important to note that the DTSA requires employers to include in any new agreement entered into with service providers governing the use of trade secrets, such as confidentiality or nondisclosure agreements, a notice of immunity under the DTSA for certain whistle-blowing activities. The notice may be included in the agreement itself, or the agreement may contain a reference to the employer’s whistleblower policy. The purpose of the notice is to inform workers that if they reveal trade secrets in the context of certain whistle-blowing activities, they will be immune from liability under the DTSA. To be immunized, the employee’s disclosure must either be made in confidence to a government official or an attorney “solely for the purpose of reporting or investigating a suspected violation of law,” or must be made in a court filing under seal.

This means that employers should immediately update the forms or templates they use for confidentiality agreements to include the requisite notice. Many confidentiality agreements already contain provisions providing for exceptions for disclosures made in response to a subpoena or similar government request. Such provisions should be modified and expanded in accordance with the DTSA’s requirements.

Going forward, employers who are victims of trade secret theft will have a powerful new weapon in their arsenal. Watching how this plays out in the context of the first suits to be brought under the new law will be instructive. In the meantime, employers should take steps to comply with the notification provisions of the statute without delay.

 



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The Transgender Restroom Dilemma: Legal Requirements and Best Practices

This election year has seen the emergence of a controversy that might seem an unlikely subject for a presidential campaign: restrooms, and who uses them. But the question of who should use which restroom is an issue that should be considered not only by politicians, but by employers as well. It is estimated that about 700,000 adults in the United States are transgender, meaning that their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. At some point in their lives, many transgender persons transition to living their daily lives as the gender with which they identify, rather than conforming to their birth sex.

All employers are required to provide sanitary restrooms for their employees’ use, and many employers choose to provide separate facilities for men and women. When it comes to transgender workers, there can be confusion as to whether it is more appropriate for such workers to use the restroom corresponding to their gender identity or the one corresponding to their birth sex.While there is not yet any federal law addressing this issue, OSHA has issued guidance providing that employers should permit their employees to use the restroom that matches the gender with which they identify. In other words, the choice of which restroom is appropriate should be up to the individual employee, not dictated by the employer. The EEOC is in agreement with this policy.

In New York State, it is illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of gender identity or transgender status. New York City also prohibits such discrimination, and has issued enforcement guidelines specifying that transgender employees must be permitted to use the restroom corresponding to their gender. New York is not alone in protecting transgender employees from discrimination. A number of other jurisdictions, including California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, and the District of Columbia, prohibit discrimination against transgender people in employment.

Employers in these jurisdictions, or employers who wish to adhere to OSHA’s guidelines, should respect the choices of their employees regarding which single-sex restroom to use. As for employers outside these jurisdictions, although such employers are not currently subject to laws specifically prohibiting discrimination based on transgender status, they may nevertheless want to be mindful of the interplay between these issues and employee safety. For example, if a transgender woman is forced to use a restroom that is otherwise used only by men, she may feel unsafe or threatened.

The issue of restroom use by transgender employees is one many employers had never thought much about before this year. But since this issue has now become part of the national conversation, employers would be wise to take this opportunity to consider whether their restroom policies are compliant with all applicable laws in their jurisdiction.



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HR Professionals Beware: You May Be Personally Liable for the Unlawful Termination of an Employee!

In a recent decision that may come as a shock to human resources professionals, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals found that an HR director can be held liable for the unlawful termination of an employee under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Yes, you read that correctly:  an individual HR director can be found liable, not just the company itself.

In the case in question, Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, an HR director had allegedly been instrumental in the decision to fire the plaintiff-employee, Cathleen Graziadio, for job abandonment while she was on FMLA leave. Graziadio had initially gone on FMLA leave for about ten days to care for her son, who was in the hospital. Nine days after her return to work, Graziadio’s other son broke his leg and underwent surgery. Graziadio notified her supervisor that she needed to go back on FMLA leave to care for him and that she expected to be able to return, at least on a part-time basis, in about two weeks.

Approximately two weeks later, Graziadio requested to return to work part-time; her supervisor forwarded the request to HR. An extended exchange of emails followed between Graziadio and HR director Shaynan Garrioch. Garrioch told Graziadio that she had not provided sufficient paperwork to justify her FMLA leave. Graziadio repeatedly asked Garrioch what paperwork was needed exactly, but Garrioch only reiterated the deficiencies in Graziadio’s existing paperwork and sent her a brochure on FMLA requirements. When Graziadio repeated her request to return to work on a reduced schedule, Garrioch said she would not approve the request until they had an in-person meeting. This prompted a series of back-and-forth emails attempting to schedule a meeting, wherein Graziadio repeatedly conveyed her availability to meet at Garrioch’s convenience, yet no meeting was ever actually scheduled. At this point, Graziadio asked if she could simply come back to work full-time, but Garrioch refused, still insisting that Graziadio come in for a meeting first. Ultimately, Graziadio retained a lawyer, who attempted to engage with the company on her behalf. The company’s counsel told Grazaidio’s attorney, via email, that Graziadio should contact her supervisor if she wished to return to work and that she still must provide certain documentation. Eleven days later, before her attorney had responded to the company’s email, Graziadio received a letter from Garrioch stating that she was being terminated for job abandonment.

The Second Circuit found that Garrioch was an “employer” within the FMLA’s definition of that term, which includes “any person who acts, directly or indirectly, in the interest of an employer to any of the employees of such employer,” Graziadio v. Culinary Institute of America, 2016 WL 1055742 (2d Cir., March 17, 2016), citing 29 U.S.C. §19 2611(4)(A)(ii)(I). As an employer, Garrioch can be held liable for Graziadio’s termination if it is ultimately found to have been unlawful (a factual issue not reached by the court).

The court explained that determining whether an individual like Garrioch is an employer within this definition involves an “economic reality” test, assessing the individual’s power to control the employee. Factors to be considered include whether the individual had the power to hire and fire the employee, to supervise and control the employee’s schedule or conditions of employment, to make compensation decisions, or to maintain employment records. Most importantly, in the FMLA context, the court considers whether the person “controlled in whole or in part plaintiff’s rights under the FMLA.”

The court found these factors to weigh in favor of Garrioch being Graziadio’s employer. For example, Garrioch played a key role in the decision to terminate Graziadio, even though management was the ultimate decision-maker. And, as evidenced by her lengthy email exchange with Graziadio, Garrioch certainly seemed to exercise some control over Graziadio’s FMLA rights.

The takeaway here for individual HR professionals and managers is that being held individually liable for FMLA violations is a real possibility, no matter how outrageous that may seem. Accordingly, anyone who is in a position to impact an employee’s use of FMLA leave should take every possible step to ensure that the company is fully complying with the requirements of FMLA — including not doing anything that could be reasonably interpreted as punishing an employee for exercising rights under FMLA or preventing such rights from being exercised. Also, HR professionals who are concerned about potential liability may want to speak to their employers about any protections that may be available, such as indemnification.

When it comes to handling FMLA leaves, the Graziadio case can be viewed as a “what not to do” guide for employers. For example, the HR director in this case could have simply answered the employee’s questions about what paperwork was needed. Sending her a brochure in lieu of answering her questions directly was not helpful to the company or to the employee. And her rigid insistence on a face-to-face meeting before the employee could return to work, while failing to actually schedule that meeting, essentially set the employee up for accusations of job abandonment.

Accordingly, HR professionals should take note:  Being a stickler for legal and procedural requirements is certainly not a bad thing; indeed, in today’s complicated HR world it is quite necessary. However, viewing such requirements in a vacuum, and failing to engage with an employee who is seeking practical guidance on how to comply with those requirements, is a mistake – a mistake for which not only employers, but individual HR professionals, may pay dearly.

 



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Looking for Dedicated, Loyal Employees? Hire Veterans!

National Military Appreciation Month, May 2016, includes Loyalty Day (1st), Military Spouse Appreciation Day (6th), VE Day (8th), Armed Forces Day (21th), and Memorial Day (30th).  This month we honor, remember, and recognize all military personnel — those men and women who have served throughout our history, including those who have given their lives in defense of the freedoms we all enjoy today.

Both during their training and in their active service, members of the armed forces develop highly valuable job skills. For example, they become adept at critical thinking, and they are able to work under tremendous stress and pressure — frequently working under horrific conditions while still managing to get the job done. Then these brave heroes come home.  We don’t give them parades.  We don’t even guarantee them jobs. In fact, very often the road for them to transition to the private sector has more landmines than they encountered when they were overseas.  Employers too often perceive their skills as “too military” or are afraid that they may have PTSD.  And while so many people express outrage about the inadequate resources available to our returning veterans, too few people take personal responsibility to lend a hand.

Returning veterans want to get on with their lives and need to find work to support their families.  The unemployment statistics for veterans are unacceptable. Each year the military separates more than a quarter of a million service members. Those numbers are expected to rise in the coming years as the military looks to cut troop levels across the services.

What about you as an employer?  What can you do?

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), in 2014, issued an important regulation that went a long way towards putting greater focus on hiring veterans.  This regulation is forcing federal contractors and subcontractors to look more closely at this issue.  With its March 24, 2014 regulations, OFCCP mandated accountability for outreach to protected veterans, including disabled veterans, from all federal contractors and subcontractors.  Patricia Shiu, Director of OFCCP, has long been of the mindset that “good faith efforts” should not just be lip service.  The federal contracting community must now establish a more solid relationship with veteran organizations and proactively seek qualified protected veterans for all open positions.  The OFCCP has set a hiring benchmark of 7 percent, which will be adjusted each May depending on the unemployment rate for protected veterans.  Additionally, contractors must assess, on an ongoing basis, whether their efforts are sufficient.   If contractors are finding that they are not getting enough veteran applicants, they are obliged to seek other veteran sources in order to have a large enough pool of veteran candidates when looking to hire.   Federal contractors and subcontractors’ ability to secure and maintain federal contracts will depend upon their ability to satisfy a much more aggressive analysis of the steps they take to seek and employ veterans.

Having worked with federal contractors and subcontractors on their affirmative action compliance matters, I know first-hand that with the increased number of Executive Orders and OFCCP regulations, HR departments are overwhelmed.  However, this initiative has put the spotlight on the importance of hiring veterans and is slowly chipping away at the large number of unemployed veterans.  It’s not that my clients did not want to hire veterans prior to the regulations of March 24th, but since their efforts were not analyzed there was no way of knowing if any progress was being made.  Previously, it was a “hit or miss” situation without any pro-active force toward increasing the number of veterans hired.  Now companies have a mechanism for assessing whether their veteran outreach efforts are succeeding, including calculating the number of veterans actually being hired.

Besides the government mandates, hiring veterans is just good business. Tax incentives for hiring veterans are available under federal tax laws and in many states as well.  A company can reap substantial tax savings for each veteran they hire through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.   Additionally, many companies have found that veterans make exceptional employees because of their life experience, leadership skills and training.  Veterans have the proven ability to quickly learn new skills and concepts and have superior problem-solving skills.   While companies struggle with turnover, veterans tend to make long-term commitments to their employer.

The internet has become a great resource for hiring veterans.  There are sites that assist in translating military skills to business skills, and employers can utilize searchable job databases that specifically target veterans. There is no excuse for not making veterans an important part of the focused recruiting process and of our workforce. As we prepare for this month of recognition, take the time to be proactive in encouraging your company to hire more veterans.  We can all do our part to lower the number of unemployed veterans.  If we keep this issue at the forefront, we will be honoring veterans in the best way possible.

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Written by Grace M. Conti, Executive Vice President (and Director of the Affirmative Action Compliance Department) at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates, Inc.  PMP has been providing employers with full-service HR consulting for over 52 years. You can contact Grace Conti at 1-800-921-2195 or email gconti@pmpHR.com.

This article is intended for general information only and should not be construed as legal advice.

 



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New Minimum Wage New York

In April, Governor Cuomo signed into law a major increase in the minimum wage paid by New York employers. The wage hike will be implemented incrementally starting at the end of 2016, with different rates of increase applicable depending on the size and location of the business, as follows:

For New York City employees working for companies with 11 or more employees:

  • $11 as of 12/31/16
  • $13 as of 12/31/17
  • $15 as of 12/31/18

For New York City employees employed by companies with 10 or fewer employees:

  • $10.50 as of 12/31/16
  • $12 as of 12/31/17
  • $13.50 as of 12/31/18
  • $15 as of 12/31/19

For employees in Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester Counties:

  • $10 as of 12/31/16
  • $11 as of 12/31/17
  • $12 as of 12/31/18
  • $13 as of 12/31/19
  • $14 as of 12/31/20
  • $15 as of 12/31/21

For workers elsewhere in New York State:

  • $9.70 as of 12/31/16
  • $10.40 as of 12/31/17
  • $11.10 as of 12/31/18
  • $11.80 as of 12/31/19
  • $12.50 as of 12/31/20
  • Indexed increases thereafter until reaching $15.

 



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