Monthly Archives

June 2016

REMINDER: City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Increases to $13 Per Hour on July 1, 2016

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Effective this Friday, July 1, 2016, employees working at least two hours in a workweek in the City of San Francisco must be paid at least $13.00 for each hour worked. The new $13 hourly rate is an increase from $12.25 per hour.

Additionally, employers are required to post a new official notice in a conspicuous area informing employees of the increase.

If you should have any questions, please contact your HRI Representative at 925-556-4404

REMINDER: City of San Francisco Minimum Wage Increases to $13 Per Hour on July 1, 2016

By | HR, Private, Public Blogs | No Comments
Effective this Friday, July 1, 2016, employees working at least two hours in a workweek in the City of San Francisco must be paid at least $13.00 for each hour worked. The new $13 hourly rate is an increase from $12.25 per hour.

Additionally, employers are required to post a new official notice in a conspicuous area informing employees of the increase.

If you should have any questions, please contact your HRI Representative at 925-556-4404

ACA Electronic Information Return Filing Deadline Is June 30

By | HR, Insurance, Private, Public Blogs | No Comments

The IRS is urgently reminding self-insured employers, applicable large employers and providers of health coverage that the due date to electronically file information returns in compliance with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is this Thursday, June 30. This includes electronic filing of the 1094 and 1095 series of forms.

While the deadline to provide information returns to employees or responsible individuals was March 31, and the deadline to file paper information returns was May 31, electronic filers were given more time.

The IRS has issued the following chart showing the due dates for each return and explaining which entities must file them. The IRS notes that this chart applies only to reporting in 2016 for coverage in 2015 and that the due dates will be different in future years. Information about these future dates is provided in IRS Notice 2016-04.

Should you have any questions, please contact your HRI Representative at 925-556-4404

Blanket Post-Incident Drug Testing Policies

By | Public Blogs, Safety | No Comments
Most Handbooks that HR Ideas assists clients in producing have a “Post Accident Drug Testing” Section.

OSHA takes the position that blanket post-incident drug testing policies deter employees from reporting workplace injuries. While the new rule does not ban drug testing of employees, it prohibits employers from using drug testing (or the threat of drug testing) as a form of adverse action against employees who report injuries or illnesses.

OSHA states that drug testing policies should limit post-incident testing to situations in which employee drug use is likely to have contributed to the incident, and for which the drug test can accurately identify impairment caused by drug use.

While OSHA does not require employers to specifically suspect drug use before testing, the agency states that there should be a reasonable possibility that drug use by the reporting employee was a contributing factor to the reported injury or illness in order for an employer to require drug testing.

OSHA further stated that if an employer conducts drug testing to comply with the requirements of a state or federal law or regulation (such as a workers’ compensation law), the employer’s motive would not be retaliatory, and the final rule would not prohibit such testing.

Just how much water do you need in extreme heat?

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If you’re planning to spend any time out in the extreme heat, even just resting, you’re going to want to drink one 16-ounce bottle of water per hour to keep your body hydrated. You should start hydrating well before you spend time in the sun.

That means if you’re out during the hottest parts of the day, between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m., you want to put down nine 16 oz. bottles total!

And if that time is spent outside working, double that number. Be ready to drink two 16-ounce bottles per hour. That’s the amount the Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends to outdoor workers in extreme heat.

Certain medical conditions, physical conditioning, and age may increase those totals. Some drugs you may be taking may negatively affect your tolerance to heat and your body’s natural cooling system.

Stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic drinks!

7 Cities in California Have Adopted Sick Leave Laws

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Sick leave laws continue to complicate employer’s administration, especially for those with multiple businesses in different cities or states. Last July, California passed a new sick leave law. Today, there are seven (7) states that have their own sick leave law. If that’s not enough, seven (7) ciities in California have passed their own laws including San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville, Pittsburg, Los Angeles, Santa Monica and San Diego. The laws continues to change and challenge employers. It is expected that California will continue to change this law. Remember, you must comply with both the City and State laws. This means you need to review both laws carefully and create a combined policy built on what is most favorable to the employee. Once the policy is updated, it must be distributed to all your employees, post the new law, and train your management team. We see our employers getting in trouble because their managers are often harassing their employees when they need to take time off under sick leave.

HRI can help you with the policy and training! Just contact us at 925.556.4404 or [email protected]

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Accommodating Ramadan in the Workplace: Top 10 Tips

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Muslims around the world are celebrating the month-long religious holiday of Ramadan from June 5 to July 5. As part of their observance, many Muslims are required to fast and refrain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. Many will also partake in daily prayers (up to five times a day, including before dawn and at sunset) and special evening prayers.

Since federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on sincerely held religious beliefs, it is critical for an employer to accommodate Muslim employees observing Ramadan. Here are 10 tips for an employer to accommodate Ramadan in the workplace.

1. Enforce Strong EEO Policies

It is critical for an employer to develop, implement and enforce strong policies prohibiting discrimination, harassment and retaliation based on religion and make sure that such conduct against Muslim employees is not tolerated. Such conduct may include:

• Subjecting Muslim employees to derogatory comments or offensive slurs based on religion;
• Failing to provide Muslim workers with reasonable accommodations such as the opportunity to pray at work; or
• Forcing a Muslim woman to remove her headscarf.

It is also important to have a reasonable accommodation policy stating that all reasonable accommodation requests will be considered, and the employer will have a meaningful dialogue in good faith about the requested accommodation. Employers are required to provide reasonable religious accommodations unless doing so would cause an undue hardship. Your company should make sure that such policies are well-publicized and distributed to all employees and managers, and made part of the employee handbook.

2. Encourage Flexible Hours

It may be a good idea to offer employees observing Ramadan the chance to work flexible hours and come in later in the day and leave later as well. This will allow these employees the chance to sleep later as Ramadan requires that employees pray very late at night or early in the morning.

An employer also should consider allowing employees the chance to work thorough their lunch break since they will not be eating or drinking during the day and either will start their work day later or end earlier. Offering flexible break times also may assist employees during this spiritual time and allow them to pray. If an employee works in shifts, the employer should consider permitting shift swapping to accommodate observant employees.

3. Allow Religious Observance

As part of Ramadan observance, Muslim employees may be required to pray multiple times a day, particularly during working hours. Therefore, an employer should consider setting aside a special room to give employees the privacy and quiet needed to pray. Also, an employer may want to consider granting employees time off to attend prayers at a local mosque.

4. Consider Permitting Telecommuting

Since many Muslim employees may suffer from low energy due to fasting all day, it may be a good idea to offer such employees the opportunity to telecommute so they can work within the comfort of their homes, be more productive and avoid wasting time and energy on commuting to work.

5. Avoid Scheduling Meetings over Meals

An employer should be sensitive during Ramadan and avoid scheduling meetings over meals or compelling employees to attend events involving eating and drinking. If an employer must do so, it should provide Muslim employees with the opportunity to opt out without being penalized.
Likewise, you should avoid scheduling team lunches or dinners during Ramadan as this may be particularly offensive to Muslim employees. Supervisors and co-workers may want to be respectful and minimize eating and drinking in front of fasting employees.

6. Consider Modifying Dress Codes

An employer should attempt to be flexible and provide reasonable religious accommodations to Muslim employees. An employer should be aware that customer preference is never a valid basis to deny a religious accommodation request. However, if modification of a workplace dress code is not acceptable for health, safety or security reasons, the accommodation request may be denied. This all should be well documented and communicated to the employee.

7. Develop a Holiday Policy

At the end of Ramadan, Muslim employees may request time off to prepare for and celebrate Eid-al-Fitr, a three-day holiday concluding Ramadan and a particularly holy time involving prayer, family and gift-giving. This is another reminder that while it may be commonplace for employers to offer time off from work for holidays such as Christmas, it may be a good idea to offer a floating holiday policy to allow all employees to take time off to observe religious holidays, regardless of their faith.

8. Show Understanding

Employers and supervisors may want to consider being more tolerant than usual towards Muslim employees during Ramadan when enforcing workplace policies and conducting daily business. It is best practice to avoid scheduling performance appraisals during this time or critical meetings late in the day when an employee’s energy may be at a lower point. An employer should also try to avoid having employees work overtime and extra hours during Ramadan.

9. Be Careful About Discipline

An employer should be especially careful when taking adverse action against Muslim employees during Ramadan, particularly when such issues arise with productivity or absenteeism. This means making sure to have a legitimate and nondiscriminatory reason for taking any such action. What’s more, if an employee exhibits productivity or absentee issues, it is best practice for an employer to try to work through the issue before taking disciplinary action which may lead to a discrimination claim.

10. Train Supervisors and Co-Workers

Finally, it is important to educate and train both supervisors and employees about Ramadan, its customs and the employer’s policies against discrimination and harassment based on religion. Thus, all supervisors and managers should be trained on how to respond to religious accommodation requests and engage in the interactive process.

Mitigating Heat Related Illnesses

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Next week it is projected to be well above 105 degrees in the valley. With all of the fun that come along with summer there is also a major increased risk factor of heat-related medical conditions due to heat stress. Every year thousands of heat-related worker sickness and fatality cases are reported and the numbers increase each year.

What is heat stress? Heat stress can occur when someone is exposed to a usually hot environment while at work, inside or outside, causing the body to heat up. The normal body response to this increase in body temperature is to try to release this excess heat from the body to maintain a healthy internal temperature.

When the body cannot release this excess heat, it causes heat stress within the body that can cause an increased body temperature or increased heart rate. There are several varying stages and symptoms of heat stress everyone needs to be aware of to be able to quickly identify and to address heat stress. The various stages of heat stress include heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

The main key to prevent heat stress is by proper hydration. Prior to being exposed to a potentially hot activity or area, remember to drink plenty of fluids hours before your activity occurs. Remember, it is very difficult and almost impossible to try to “catch up” on replacing bodily fluids if pre-hydration does not occur. Other ways to help prevent or mitigate heat stress is by the use of engineering controls such as fans or air conditioning when possible, completing strenuous activities earlier in the day when it is cooler, taking frequent breaks during the day, drinking plenty of fluids such as water and avoiding caffeinated or alcohol containing drinks, using cooling bands around the neck or head regions, avoiding outdoor activities during high heat index hours, and wearing light colored and loose fitting clothing.

Remember that heat-stress illnesses can affect anyone of any age, body type, or gender, and symptoms of these illnesses can change very quickly which could take someone that is having heat cramp symptoms to heat exhaustion or heat stroke symptoms if left unidentified. With the proper hydration, identification, and planning everyone can prevent heat-stress illnesses while at work or at home.

Is your company ready for the summertime heat and has done the Cal OSHA-required employee training? Do you have a written policy that has been updated to comply with recent Cal OSHA requirements?

Please call your HR Ideas safety professional for more information or assistance before it is too late.

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Are your restaurants in compliance? Major changes take effect in May for business first aid kits

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On June 17, minimum requirements for business first aid kit contents change substantially for the first time in seven years. One industry supplier of such kits said that the new rule will knock thousands of businesses, including restaurants, out of compliance with the American National Standards Institute rules for the medical supplies each company must have on site under U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations.

Though OSHA names American National Standard Institute kits as compliant, this will no longer be the case for ANSI kits that were purchased to comply with 2009 standards, according to a news release. Adding to the confusion, many states have their own standards that either echo the federal minimums or set OSHA regulations as the low bar for required medical supplies on site.

Some businesses will need 145 new items

Depending on the type of business and number of employees, restaurateurs and managers will need to augment their current first aid kits with anywhere from a few dozen to 145 new items. Businesses that qualify to use class A ANSI first aid kits will need 22 more items, while Class B kits and cabinets will require 145 additional items.

If you should have any questions, please contact your HRI safety representative.

DFEH Settles Sexual Harassment Case against Sandhu Brothers Growers in Stanislaus County

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The California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) has
obtained a $75,000 settlement in a sexual harassment case filed on behalf of a female
farmworker who worked for Sandhu Brothers, a sweet potato farming operation in Stanislaus
County.

The case stemmed from a complaint by a female farmworker that she was harassed by a
supervisor while working for Sandhu Brothers. The complaint alleged that the supervisor
exposed his genitals to members of the crew, masturbated in front of the workers while driving a
tractor, and made unwanted sexual advances to several female crew members. The complainant
also alleged that she was groped by the supervisor and was fired after complaining to the
company. A separate sexual harassment complaint by another worker involving the same
company and the same supervisor was filed and resolved with the federal Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission in 2013. After the allegations were investigated and substantiated by
the DFEH, a complaint was filed in Stanislaus Superior Court in Modesto, California. The case
was settled January 19, 2016. It would have gone to trial on February 2, 2016.

As part of the settlement, the company has agreed to undergo sexual harassment training and
implement sexual harassment prevention policies.

“Sexual harassment is a serious problem, especially in agriculture where many workers are often
afraid to speak out and are unaware of their rights,” said DFEH Director Kevin Kish. “We hope
that this settlement will send a message to victims that the law will not tolerate this kind of
behavior in the workplace and encourage employers to adopt effective training and prevention
programs.”

The lawsuit was filed against defendants Sandhu Brothers Growers dba Yam Gro, Gurinder
Sandhu, and Bhupinder Sandhu. The case is titled DFEH v. Sandhu Brothers Poultry and
Farming et al, Stanislaus County Superior Court Case Number 2006626.