Rose Colored Glasses

Rose Colored Glasses

Everyone views the world through rose colored glasses. We all come from varied backgrounds and are equally unique. These differences should be celebrated and used to create a better understanding of the world we live in. Beyond the worthy goal of inclusion, these differences help all of us see things in a new way. Behold the power of perception!

When most of us see a cat we typically think, cute cuddly, funny, or simply not dangerous (well… maybe not all of us). However, from the mouse’s perspective, when he sees a cat, he sees and smells danger. Trust me, if you were the mouse’s size you would too.

In our last post, we discussed the concept of Active Listening and its importance in our daily lives. A large part of being an active listener is translating the message into a language that you understand. That translation process inevitably includes our personal perceptions.

Whenever we encounter new information, we try and make sense of the information using our experiences. Because of this application of our experiences in interpreting our world, we can run into the dangerous trap of our perceptions leading us down the path of misunderstanding and confusion.

A common example of perceptions is driving. Most drivers tend to get slightly upset (okay, angry) at other drivers. They won’t get out of the middle lane, they cut us off, they don’t use their blinker, they drive too fast, they drive too slow, etc. This anger often causes us to feel that the other drivers are out to get us, that their behaviors and actions are a personal attack of some kind. The reality is that more often than not, the other driver simply made a mistake and was in no way out to get you.

These concepts are not new to us, but those of us who aspire to be better communicators have to start cleaning our own house (i.e., yourself). Take inventory about how you are perceiving the world. Do you feel that you’re not getting enough information? Is the world out to get you? Does everything you touch turn to gold?

In order to better understand those we interact with, we must first understand how we translate the world. Once you understand, then you can push past those dangerous perceptions and try and see the world from others viewpoints and other perspectives.

How Actively Are You Listening?

How Actively Are You Listening?

Most of us have heard that we must be “active listeners” and refrain from being passive listeners. Passive listening in and of itself is not bad, in that passive listening is simply the physical act of hearing. There are many occasions in which we passively listen, such as listening to music, television, podcasts, conferences or webinars, etc. The danger of passive listening is that we can slip into a trance or get distracted to the point where we are not really listening to what is going on and being said.

An active listener on the other hand is seeking to actively engage in the message. The active listener doesn’t necessarily have to engage with the speaker, but they must at least engage their mind and dichotomize the message, reword the message in their own words, formulate questions, and build on the information to create their own understanding.

Imagine a mouse creeping across the field and then all of a sudden, it stops, sticks its head in the air, its nose is twitching and ears are wiggling. You can feel it straining to hear or smell something. On the other side of the field you see a cat trying everything it can to stalk the mouse. At this point, the mouse is actively listening for a predator. What do you call a passively listening mouse? Dinner.

Think back to those individuals that you connected well at networking events and other professional get-togethers. Did you connect with them because they talked a lot, or was it because they seemed genuinely interested in hearing what you had to say? Chances are it was the latter.

In today’s modern information age, the large amounts of data we are inundated with every day affects our ability to truly actively listen. Whether our cell phones distract us, emails or the latest cat and mouse video, we must not let this information overload our minds or bleed into our personal interactions. Challenge yourselves to take a break from electronics for at least 30 minutes (an hour would be better) every day. Take that time to read a book, mediate, or have a real conversation with a colleague.

EEO-1 Pay Data Reporting

EEO-1 Pay Data Reporting

In 2010, the EEOC ordered a study in an attempt to determine various ways to improve the prohibition of pay discrimination and determined that there would be great value in analyzing pay data should that information be submitted with standard EEO-1 reports. This study needed approval, and in 2016 the Office of Management and Budget approved this collection of data which would require employers subject to EEO-1 reporting requirements to submit pay data in addition to the standard information on race/ethnicity, gender, and job category. This collection of pay data (known as “Component 2” of the EEO-1 report) was delayed in August of 2017 and in March of 2019, this postponement was lifted.

After years of going back and forth on whether or not there would be a mandatory requirement to report pay data, on April 3, 2019, the EEOC informed the federal government that its current data collection processes were not capable of collecting the required pay information for the Component 2 of the EEO-1 report. Rather, they would have to rely on outside contractors and analytics to gather and review salary information. With the deadline to submit this information of May 31 looming, concerns were raised as to the quality of the gathered data with the short amount of time to collect salary information.

As a result of so many unanswered questions, it is still undetermined if eligible employers will be required to submit Component 2 of the EEO-1 report by May 31, 2019. In the meantime, employers are still expected to submit Component 1 of the EEO-report by this deadline.

While the requirement for salary reporting is still pending, employers are encouraged to start preparations for this change to the reporting process. HRCentral suggests that you create a simple spreadsheet of your current employee’s salaries, including any new hires or terminated employees, similar to what you use for reporting Component 1 of the EEO-1 report.

Don’t wait until the last minute to get this data compiled; HRCentral is here to help you and your HR Department gather and submit data for your organization’s EEO-1 report. Contact us today for assistance in filing or for establishing a streamlined reporting process.

The Independent Contractor – A New Proposed Rule

The Independent Contractor – A New Proposed Rule

Classifying your workers as employees or independent contractors can be quite the task for management and human resources. Making certain that individuals are appropriately classified is vitally important to ensure compliance with state and federal law, ensuring that administration is correctly managed (payroll, insurance, etc.) and fines for incorrect classification don’t hit your company.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has created a “20 Factor Test” which consists of 20 criteria used to determine if an individual qualifies as an independent contractor. The factors are used primarily to evaluate the right to control (e.g., who has control over the scope of work performed) as well as other aspects of the job such as scheduling and location.

While a worker does not necessarily have to meet every criteria to qualify for an independent contractor status, the IRS’s definition and general rule of thumb states that: “independent contractors control the manner and means by which contracted services, products, or results are achieved; the more control a company exercises over how, when, where, and by whom work is performed, the more likely the workers are employees, not independent contractors.”

In the State of Oregon, a proposal has recently been made that would slightly modify how the state classifies an independent contractor versus an employee. Currently, a worker has to meet three out of the five requirements that the state has laid out in order to achieve an independent contractor status.

The proposed bill would add to the current list of criteria language that would require that the individual does not perform the same type of work that employees of that organization already do. For example, a law firm specializing in family law and divorce would not be able to hire an attorney as an independent contractor to work on cases involving divorce.

While this may seem like a very minor addition, this change could have a huge impact on how organizations classify their workers, including the reclassification of many individuals. Labor groups are largely in support of this bill, claiming that it will aid in the misclassification of individuals (those who are treated as independent contractors when they should be receiving the same benefits as employees, such as insurance benefits). However, many independent contractors believe that this could be hugely detrimental to their professional lives and careers.

HRCentral will stay abreast of progress made regarding this bill and will keep our clients and colleagues updated with any developments that would significantly alter the classification of their workers.

Proposed Overtime Rule – Are You Affected?

Proposed Overtime Rule – Are You Affected?

Since last fall, we have been monitoring the issuance of a proposed rule from the Department of Labor (DOL) which had been slated for March, 2019. This change would implement significant changes to exempt classifications, particularly to the minimum salary threshold for white collar exemptions.

The most recent final rule, proposed under the Obama administration, would have increased the minimum salary for exempt employees from $455 per week ($23,660 annually) to $913 a week ($47,476 annually). This ruling was blocked as the jump was deemed to be too excessive and supplanted the exempt duties test.

The new ruling increases the minimum annual salary from $23,660 to $35,308 and as of now, there are no proposed changes to the duties test (criteria a position must exhibit/perform in order to meet the exempt classification).

While there may be some additional changes to the proposed rule and there may be some time before this rule takes effect, now is the time to start preparing for the changes. Below is a quick checklist that all employers should implement sooner than later:

  • Review and update all exempt positions to ensure that the duties accurately match those in the Job Description.
  • Compare exempt positions duties to the Department of Labors and your State’s tests for exempt status (i.e. executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and computer employees).
  • Create a spreadsheet of your current exempt employee’s salaries, identifying those that would be affected by the proposed minimum salary threshold.
  • Discuss and decide how those positions should be modified to comply with proposed rule.  Generally, the decision would be to either raise the compensation to match the proposed rule or move those positions to hourly.  The latter would then require those employees and the employer to track employee’s time and pay overtime in accordance with federal and state law.

You and your HR department don’t have to take on this daunting task alone.  HRCentral is here to help by evaluating your job descriptions, identifying which positions are affected by the proposed change, and provide advice on the best course of action.  Don’t wait until it’s too late, start planning for new rules today!

The Most (Inconvenient) Time of the Year!

The Most (Inconvenient) Time of the Year!

With cold and flu season being in full effect, many of us have had to take a few days off to rest up and beat the miserable symptoms that this time of year promises. Whether you fall ill yourself, have to take time off to take care of a sick child, or have to manage business operations while multiple employees are out with a stomach bug, the realities of this season can prove to be incredibly inconvenient in many aspects of our lives.

Despite the expectations for quality attendance, employees get sick and need to take time off to accelerate their recovery and avoid the potential spread of illness. However, many organizations suffer from the abuse of sick leave which can translate to a decrease in productivity and potential loss to the bottom line.

“Abuse” of sick leave typically refers to employees who, over a specific period of time, have violated the organization’s attendance policy on a number of occasions. Many sick leave policies include a reference to excessive absences, which can be defined as “more than three (3) absences in a 60-day period.” Let’s say you have an offender in your midst who seems to be catching that “bug that is going around” a few too many times. How do you ensure that your employees use their sick time appropriately, while at the same time avoid the abuse of the system?

Clearly define your policies. Make certain that your employees are aware of what these expectations are and are familiar with what the consequences are for not abiding by these rules. Keep the policy as flexible as possible; people do legitimately get sick and it is nearly impossible to track and list every potential offense. When working on your attendance policy, include specific examples of what would constitute a violation:

  • Excessive numbers of absences (i.e., reporting late for work, leaving work early, calling in sick for a full day, etc.);
  • Not using the standard reporting procedures;
  • Failing to give advance notice for an absence, when possible; and
  • Failing to provide medical certification for absences lasting more than three consecutive days.

If you have a clear policy in place, regularly communicate expectations and consequences with your employees. If you still have issues with employees abusing the system, document everything (particularly in cases when there are multiple unreasonable requests for absences), learn when to say no and require adherence to your attendance policy, and try to determine the root cause for the sick leave abuse.

Recognizing the problem before it escalates is vitally important. Preventing the problem is even more important. Through clearly defined policies and regular communication, you can do your part in ensuring that your employees do not abuse your sick leave system, and that this cold and flu season is properly managed and does not negatively affect your business.