New Required Federal Poster Updates – Effective Immediately!

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It was recently announced that required updates have been made to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA) posters (effective this month). We are now shipping our new poster sets that include these updates! Here are the changes reflected on our new sets:

  • FLSA: Effective August 1, 2016, a new FLSA poster is required. The update includes new information about the overtime rule, independent contractors and nursing mothers. Outdated fine information was also removed.
  • EPPA: Also effective August 1, the EPPA poster will be updated. Outdated fine information was also removed from this poster and contact information was updated.
  • FMLA: The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) posting was updated in April 2016 to be more reader-friendly. This update is included in our latest sets.

You can purchase new sets online.

Or, are you tired of trying to keep up with poster changes? We’re happy to take the pressure off at no added cost. Just subscribe to the Indiana Chamber’s convenient, free subscription service online or by calling (800) 824-6885. You’ll get new posters whenever there’s a required update without even having to order! You’ll join hundreds of other Indiana businesses already benefiting from this service.

You Can’t Require Positivity

Question

Apparently it’s unlawful to ask employees to maintain a positive workplace. At least, that’s the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB) view of it.

The NLRB board threw out a provision in T-Mobile’s employee handbook that required workers “to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships.”

According to the ruling, forcing workers to be positive all the time infringes on their rights to organize, protected by Section 7 of the NLRA. And employers cannot prevent workers from organizing.

Just a week later, the NLRB shot down another company’s employee handbook that prohibits employees from engaging in conduct that’s offensive to other employees. According to the NLRB, the rule “is not accompanied by any other descriptive language that would help employees interpret what types of ‘offensive’ conduct the rule is targeting.”

So what can be learned? “Avoid the temptation to draft broad statements and instead draft provisions under the purview of whether an employee would reasonably construe the provision … limits their Section 7 rights,” attorneys Thomas Chibnail and John Hasman write in National Law Review.

Talent War is Underway

16342368As the economy has improved, unemployment rates have fallen, and employees have become more demanding. Manta polled small business owners about employee benefits and found that they are feeling the pinch — mostly from prospective employees — about benefits plans. According to the poll, about 47% of potential employees put the pressure on about benefits. Employers are also feeling the pinch from their competitors’ plans.

The most common benefit offered, according to the survey, is paid vacation (72%), followed by flex-time benefits (58%), paid sick leave (57%) and remote work options (46%).

A separate study by Aflac confirms this trend. Almost two-thirds of employees polled were likely to take a job with lower pay but better benefits. And 42% of employees said improving their benefits package was one thing their employers could do to keep them in their jobs — ranking higher than a promotion. What’s more, 16% admitted they have left a job or turned down a job in the last 12 months due to the benefits offered.

Finally, employees who are satisfied with their benefits are much more likely to be satisfied with their jobs (96% vs. 68%) and less likely to be looking for a job in the next 12 months (46% vs. 57%).

Training: Turn Up the Heat in August

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Summer will be in full swing with a multitude of training opportunities to enhance employees’ expertise and protect your bottom line this August.

First up is the 2016 Indiana Tax Conference, one of the state’s largest, on August 11. Learn the latest in tax case law and legislation as highly-experienced speakers identify ways to help you stay in compliance and reduce tax liability.

Francina Dlouhy, partner at Faegre Baker Daniels, will share her perspective on a crucial issue during her keynote luncheon presentation – It Was a Bad Idea Then and It Still Is Now! What Combined Filing Would Mean for Indiana. Among other themes are multistate tax hot topics for 2016, Affordable Care Act reporting compliance and an Indiana Department of Revenue update.

BKD, LLP is the presenting sponsor. Gold sponsors are MCM CPAs & Advisors and McGuire Sponsel. The silver sponsor is DMA – DuCharme, McMillen & Associates, Inc.

Fuel business savings the following week by attending the 14th Annual Indiana Conference on Energy Management on August 17-18. Learn how to cut costs and maximize resources as energy experts from throughout the state share practical – and effective – compliance strategies.

Don’t miss engaging keynote presentations:

  • Congresswoman Susan Brooks (invited) – opening general session: August 17
  • Canadian Consul General Doug George – Energy Security and Supplies: the Canada-U.S. Relationship – general session: August 18
  • Kyle Rogers, The American Gas Association, and The Edison Electric Institute representative (invited) – Outlook on Natural Gas and Electric – closing luncheon: August 18

Additional highlights include panel discussions, customized training (choose from a variety of options) and an expo showcasing the products and services offered by businesses in your field. Explore topics such as distributed generation; reducing utility bills; using the government and tax code for energy efficiency; and energy bankruptcies.

The 14th Annual Conference on Energy Management will take place at the Crowne Plaza Indianapolis-Downtown Union Station. Register online or call (800) 824-6885.

Gold sponsors: EDF Energy Services; Ice Miller LLP; MacAllister Power Systems; and Vectren. Silver sponsors: Cummins, Geronimo Energy, Indiana Electric Cooperatives, NIPSCO and Telamon Corporation.

Rounding out August offerings are:

Sponsorships are available by contacting Jim Wagner at (317) 264-6876.

Talent is Everything

cSignificant numbers of talented people, not to mention entrepreneurs, in the STEM fields come from international backgrounds. Home countries are trying to entice these men and women to return, while U.S. policy makes it difficult for them to stay here, apply the lessons they have learned and be meaningful economic contributors.

The Kauffman Foundation has more:

The United States stands to lose valuable economic contributors unless it removes immigration barriers to international STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students who earn advanced degrees here, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

International Ph.D. students in the United States on temporary visas accounted for nearly two-fifths (39 percent) of all Ph.D.s in STEM fields in 2013 – a proportion that has doubled over the past three decades. If the trend continues, the majority of STEM Ph.D.s from U.S. universities will go to international students by 2020.

The report, “Will They Stay or Will They Go? International STEM Students Are Up for Grabs,” conducted by Richard Appelbaum and Xueying Han at the University of California, Santa Barbara, shows that nearly two out of five international STEM students are undecided about whether to stay in America or return to their home countries after graduation. More than a third of them are aware of programs designed to lure them back to their countries of origin, at the same time U.S. immigration policy makes it difficult for them to remain here.

The ability to retain international STEM graduates has implications for U.S. entrepreneurship, innovation and economic growth. In 2014, 29 percent of all new U.S. startups were founded by immigrant entrepreneurs, reflecting a startup rate nearly twice as high as that of U.S.-born adults.

“Innovation is one of America’s strongest assets, but other nations are gaining on us,” said Yasuyuki Motoyama, director in Research and Policy at the Kauffman Foundation. “These students represent talented scientists and engineers. If we want to maintain our edge amid intensifying global competition, then our immigration policies must be modified to make it easier for international STEM students to make America their permanent home.”

The Kauffman report draws from 2,322 responses to an email survey of domestic and international graduate students enrolled in STEM programs at the 10 U.S. universities with the largest number of international students. Thirty-four percent of the respondents were international students holding temporary visas.

The report recommends that Congress take action to open the immigration door wider to international STEM students, including:

  • Adopt the Immigration Innovation Act (or the I-Squared Act), which would increase the H-1B visa annual cap from 65,000 to between 115,000 and 195,000, depending on demand and market conditions.
  • Adopt the Stopping Trained in America Ph.D.s from Leaving the Economy Act of 2015 (or the STAPLE Act), which would allow international students who earn STEM Ph.D.s from U.S universities and receive job offers from U.S. employers to be admitted for permanent resident status and exempted from H-1B visa limitations.
  • Amend the H-1B visa system to allow all individuals to switch employers/jobs.

The Kauffman researchers recommended that Congress avoid lumping illegal immigration with legal immigration in one bill, cautioning that “politics should play no role in an issue so critical to the future of U.S. competitiveness.”

And learn more about the Indiana Chamber’s new Technology & Innovation Council. Want to participate? Contact Mark Lawrance at mlawrance(at)indianachamber.com.

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Don’t Burn Those Bridges

9990321It’s not uncommon for employees to return to a previous employer at some point in their career. It’s sometimes referred to as a boomerang effect. We’ve seen and benefited from more than a few of those occurrences at the Indiana Chamber.

But even more typical is former employers being asked for references about your job performance. Allison & Taylor, which refers to itself as the nation’s oldest professional reference checking firm, offers the following 5 Golden Rules of Job Reference Etiquette:

  1. Call your former bosses and ask them if they are willing to be good job references for you. Be sure to thank them for supporting you in your job search if they agree.
  2. Let them know each and every time you give out their name and email address.
  3. Keep your former positive references informed of your experiences in climbing the corporate ladder and your educational progress. Provide them with career updates. He/she will be more inclined to see you in a stronger light as you progress.
  4. Remember that spending time with a potential employer takes valuable time out of your former bosses’ day, so try to give something back. For instance, after receiving a good job reference, write a personal thank-you letter or (at a minimum) send an email. Better still, send a thank-you note with a gift card, or offer to take your former boss to lunch/dinner.
  5. If you win the new position, call or email your former boss and thank them again for the positive references. At the same time, you can provide your new professional contact information.

U.S. Department of Labor Overtime Rule Will Hurt Businesses

7768406In 2014, President Obama directed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to update and modernize rules regulating exemption of certain employees from minimum wage and overtime protection provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Just a few weeks ago, the U.S. DOL released regulations regarding new rules for overtime. This action drastically increases the salary threshold under which most employees would be eligible for overtime pay, from $23,660 for a full-time employee to $47,476 per year. This will affect millions of middle-wage employers across the country.

In addition to this increase in salary threshold, an automatic adjustment will occur every three years. Also, the “duties test” that determines whether or not certain employees are eligible for overtime even if they make more than the new threshold amount will continue. To be eligible for this exemption, an employee’s job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative or professional duties as outlined by DOL regulations. The change is set to go into effect on December 1 of this year. (See DOL fact sheet.)

Obviously, this has drastic implications for the employer community. According to the Washington Post, about 35% of full-time salaried employees will be eligible for time and a half when they work extra hours under the new rule. Under an already existing rule, that number was 7%. As such, employers will have less flexibility in documenting time for their workers – including flex time – or may have to cut back hours for certain employees. This can hamper employers being able to reinvest in their companies, as well as provide better benefits and growth opportunities. Small businesses will be even more impacted by this onerous rule.

The Indiana Chamber, in conjunction with the U.S. Chamber, is reaching out to the Indiana delegation in Washington, D.C. to let them know how this will impact the business community. We encourage you to participate in this call to action.

The 2016 Indiana Wage and Hour Seminar on July 28 will include a detailed discussion on the impacts on employers.

Immigration Committee Hears from Business

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????The Indiana Senate Select Committee on Immigration Issues conducted its third meeting recently; this time it was the business community which brought its case before Senate legislators. The Indiana Chamber made a very effective plea for Congress and the federal government to bring about comprehensive immigration reform.

At the Chamber’s request, subject experts Jon Baselice, Chris Schrader and Jenifer Brown testified – along with Chamber staff – on the impacts of immigration on companies.

Baselici is the director of immigration policy for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, served on the staff of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and assisted in drafting S.744, the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate. He testified that our immigration system is working abysmally. The U.S. Chamber sees four areas for reform on immigration:

  1. Controlling our borders and preventing individuals from overstaying their visas
  2. Modernization of our legal immigration system, placing more value on a potential immigrant’s skills and talents, along with temporary worker programs
  3. An enhanced employment verification system as long as there is a preemption of state and local E-verify laws, adequate safe harbors for employers who use the system and the creation of an agricultural guest worker program that provides agribusinesses meaningful access to lawful workers in times of need
  4. What to do with the current undocumented population of 11.3 million.

Chris Schrader, president of the Society for Human Resource Management, presented a perspective on E-verify. He discussed its limitations, that there was no safe harbor for employers and that it is unable to authenticate identity. Jenifer Brown of Ice Miller testified on the actions available to Indiana under federal law (including the Immigration Reform and Control Act); the pros and cons of the federal E-verify system – explaining the complexities of the mandatory versus the non-mandatory system; the effect of unauthorized aliens upon the economic well-being of Indiana and the effect of their removal and changes in federal law or policy regarding legal immigration that could improve the Indiana economy. The Chamber also provided a presentation on the difficulties and the process of the I-9 employment eligibility verification form.

Among others testifying before the committee: the Indy Chamber of Commerce, Indiana Farm Bureau, Indiana State Building & Construction Trades Council, Indiana Builders Association and Indiana Restaurant & Lodging Association. Three more meetings are expected before a report is prepared for the Indiana Senate.

Employer Survey: Downward Workforce Trend Continues

More than half of respondents to a recent survey expect their workforces to grow in the next two years, but more of those employers continue to leave jobs unfilled and rank meeting talent needs as among their biggest challenges.

There were 671 respondents to the ninth annual employer survey, conducted by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and its foundation. WGU Indiana sponsored the survey, sent to Indiana Chamber members and customers. Participating companies included 58% with fewer than 100 employees and 27% with between 100 and 500 employees. Leading industries represented were manufacturing (21%) and health care/social assistance (11%).

While there were not dramatic changes from workforce results in recent years, several downward trends continued. Companies that left Indiana jobs unfilled in 2015 due to under-qualified applicants increased to 45% – compared to 43% and 39%, respectively, for the prior two years. In addition, 27% of respondents identified filling their workforce and meeting talent needs as ­­their biggest challenge. Another 49% categorized the talent needs as “challenging but not their biggest challenge.” The 76% total exceeds the numbers for 2015 (74%; 24% biggest challenge) and 2014 (72%; 20% biggest challenge).

This comes despite the percentage of respondents requiring an industry certification or occupational license for unfilled jobs declining from 27% in the 2015 survey to 16% in 2016. At the same time, the minimum requirement of a high school diploma increased from 34% to 39%.

On the other end of the education spectrum, more employers are also raising the bar. Employers requiring a bachelor degree as the minimum level for the unfilled jobs increased from 23% a year ago to more than 28% in 2016. This reaffirms the importance of moving the current workforce toward degree completion.

More than half (52%) of survey respondents indicated they do not offer tuition reimbursement. Of those providing the tuition assistance, only 11% of companies see at least 10% of their employees taking advantage of the benefit. This serves as a potential additional detriment to reaching the Outstanding Talent goals, particularly in elevating the skills of incumbent workers. Recent Cigna Corporation research shows a $1.29 return generated for each $1 investment in tuition reimbursement.

Additional results include:

  • Personal qualities (work ethic, responsibility, initiative) and critical thinking skills were cited as most challenging to find among job applicants and new hires at 63% and 54%, respectively
  • More than half (54%) of companies expect to grow their workforce in the next 12 to 24 months. Forty-one percent anticipate no change, with 4% seeing a decrease
  • Pending retirements continue to be a factor as 57% say up to 5% of their employees will be eligible to retire within the next five years (27% place the percentage of eligible retirees as high as 10%)

View the survey results at www.indianachamber.com/education.

The Indiana Chamber and its foundation, focused on providing research and solutions to enhance Indiana’s economic future, have resources to assist employers, job seekers and students.

IndianaSkills.com provides job supply and demand information both statewide and regionally. It utilizes current labor market data to help companies, prospective workers and students understand Indiana’s workforce landscape. Salary data, required skills and certifications, and creation of effective job descriptions are among the featured tools.

Indiana INTERNnet has been connecting students and employers for internship opportunities for 15 years. The easy-to-use web site, informative Intern Today, Employee Tomorrow guide and regional partnerships are supplemented by additional outreach programs.

The Indiana Vision 2025 plan measures Indiana’s progress compared to other states on 36 goals in the four driver areas of Outstanding Talent, Attractive Business Climate, Superior Infrastructure, and Dynamic and Creative Culture.