Current U.S. Labor Laws and Trends in 2017

Here, we provide an evaluation and practiced look into the overarching umbrella which is United States federal labor law, some notable variance of state labor law, and the best of predictive trend forecasting for the rest of 2017. It goes without saying that the remaining and following year may see some difficult-to-predict upheaval and change, much of which centers around recent elections. Yet with that aside, we will first examine — with a brief recap — some essential basics.

Labor Laws - Group of employees at table

Definably, the purpose of U.S. labor law is attuned to the protection and well-being of the American workforce. While many of these rules and regulations may unsettle business owners as a superfluity of obnoxious red tape and bureaucracy, we can soften our regard a bit by recalling the conditions which brought about their original predecessors.

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) has been amended and undergone rule changes 21 times (given your preference to counting sub-classifications), but at the outset it set the gold standard that we know today, establishing:

  • A federal minimum wage
  • Outlawing child labor
  • 40 hour work week and assured overtime pay

The FLSA has since grown to incorporate a wealth of worker protections and collective bargaining rights. The last federal minimum wage hike was set to ink in 2007, to $7.25 an hour.

The following should neatly sidestep any position-taking or opinion-gathering on these particular issues and focus rather on two spheres of interest: What is, and what may be. We leave it to the clever executive to determine his or her own footing on this shifting ground.

What’s New

As mentioned, federal law sets the standard of the land. However, many states legislatures have grown weary of waiting for federal action pertaining to the minimum wage. The following are a few examples of the most recent proposals for raising hourly wages:

  • Arizona: Raising from $8.05 to $12
  • Maine: Raising from $7.50 to $12
  • Seattle and LA: Raising to $15
  • Colorado: Raising from $8.31 to $12

Additionally, there has been a commensurate legislative response – again at the local level – in attempts to address the trend of businesses and companies phasing out “sick days” in favor of “Paid Time Off” (PTO), a move which has been strongly linked to both increased sickness and lower morale in the workplace. Therefore several states and cities have introduced Sick Leave laws, allowing for a gradual accrual of dedicated hours meant to cover times of illness without depriving the employee of much-needed vacation hours – thus attempting to circumnavigate the impact on productivity and profit margins.  However, the data is still out on the effectiveness of this move.

stack of ring binder book or notebook isolated on white

What’s Next

According to an interview with GovDocs, two things are abundantly clear: (1) The most visible trends are progressive ones, such as those dealing with minimum wage hikes and protecting and/or accommodating leave (as well as expanding the types of leave covered), and (2) despite state and city jurisdiction making their own rules, the current administration is such an unknown that many viable speculations as to what may or may not occur at a federal level may be logically discounted for the foreseeable future.

Two further changes of which all employers of every level should be aware are increased restrictions on background checks and criminal history inquiries, and the move pushed by U.S Citizenship and Immigration to a new I-9 form.

To close, remember that first and foremost, labor laws are meant to protect your workers in both health and safety. As these laws, and their direction, have a direct impact on business owners and corporations alike, it is always the right choice to stay on the ball with the latest discussions surrounding these topics; as developments are sure to shift over time.

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200

Finding the Balance in Mandatory Overtime

If you are a non-exempt employee who has worked beyond your decided weekly hours, those added hours are considered overtime; and are to be compensated at a higher rate than your regular hours.

At some point in your career, you will likely find yourself working overtime for one reason or another. Some companies offer more overtime than do others, whether on a consistent or variable basis.  Yet, other companies prefer to include overtime in the hiring agreement, informing employees that mandatory overtime hours are part of the job description. Still, there are certain companies that frown upon overtime, and only offer it in extreme cases.

Weekly time sheet

Reasons for Overtime

Depending upon the type of organization, industry, and its individual business practices, the reasons for overtime can greatly vary.

The most common reason for working past sign-out time is to increase production. Perhaps, there is an unusually large order that must be shipped to an important customer within a short period of time, but production and processing has not yet been completed. In order to meet important deadlines, companies will require that employees put in extra time with an incentive of increased pay until the project is completed when original schedule hours can resume.

According to the FSLA (Fair Labor Standards Act), all U.S. employers are generally required to pay their waged non-exempt employees one and a half or two times their base salary for any hours exceeding a 40 hour work week.

The Federal government does not recognize overtime on weekends or holidays unless the employee has worked more than 40 hours within that week. Certain overtime specifics may vary slightly based upon the labor regulations of the state in which you work.

Employer’s Perspective: Pros and Cons

One obvious business advantage is an increased level of production. Overtime assists in bridging work gaps due to absences or leaves, helping companies avoid hiring temporary staff. Overtime hours can also be utilized to conduct routine maintenance and repairs to avoid inconvenient delays during regular work hours or peak production times. Another benefit is that employees can complete their regular responsibilities during business hours, while using overtime hours for special projects and assignments that don’t necessarily need to be completed during the 9 to 5.

However, extended or long-term overtime can also sometimes create a significant dent in a company’s budget, especially when an already amply compensated employee accumulates numerous overtime hours. When monetary issues arise in general, organizations often find themselves tightening the overtime reigns or even discontinuing it altogether.

In addition to financial issues, another concern to organizations is that too much overtime can cause employees to become overworked and depleted, possibly resulting in extra sick days or unsafe work practices.

Employee’s Perspective: Pros and Cons

While some may express dismay at the thought of working longer hours, many employees look forward to overtime for two very distinct reasons: Increased pay and the opportunity for company advancement. Agreeing to work overtime hours is one way for employees to showcase their abilities and willingness to contribute to the overall success of the organization. However, employees do need to use caution by retaining permission, making sure that their particular overtime is accepted by management.

While the extra income earned through overtime is certainly a positive aspect, employees must be sure not to burn the candle at both ends. Even with the best of intentions, there is always the risk of exhaustion from working too many consecutive hours, not to mention that more time at the office means less time at home with family and loved ones. Health and overall quality of life are two important considerations when contemplating taking on large quantities of overtime.

Time Money Signpost Shows Hours Are More Important Than Wealth

Conclusion

Mandatory overtime hours are a blessing and a curse to both companies and employees. In a fast-paced workforce like today, companies struggle to keep up with their competitors, and employees struggle to find time to spend with their families. Balancing the amount of overtime worked with production overload would be beneficial to all. Nevertheless, employees should always refer to their own state regulations to confirm which overtime laws apply to them.

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

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Comprehending FMLA: A Basic Guide to the Family and Medical Leave Act

What is the Family and Medical Leave Act?

fmla-work_life-puzzle-piecesEven the most dedicated employees find themselves in situations where they must balance work and personal responsibilities, requiring them to take a reasonable period of unpaid leave.  This approved absence is referred to as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and is designed to accommodate the rightful interests of employers and employees alike.

Public agencies, schools, and companies with 50 or more employees within a 75 mile radius, must offer eligible workers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave without a break in employment.

FMLA was officially put into practice in 1993 to initially help workers find stability between the pressures of their job and the necessities of their families, and to encourage and protect the overall economic security and integrity of families in the U.S.  Additionally, FMLA shelters employees by disallowing employers from denying, preventing or obstructing any of the rights that the law provides, as violations are dealt with directly by the Department of Labor.

What qualifies an FMLA leave of absence?

  1. Medical leave for serious health condition where employee is unable to work
  2. Birth and care of an employee’s newborn child (time taken off for pre-birth complications can be applied to the 12 weeks of FMLA)
  3. Adoption or foster care placement of a child with an employee
  4. Caring for an immediate family member (child, spouse, or parent) with serious illness or medical condition

Which employees are eligible for FMLA?

If your reason for requesting an extended absence falls within the four approved categories and you work for an organization who is FMLA qualified, you are eligible to apply for leave as long as you have worked for your employer for a minimum of 12 months.  Furthermore, you must have worked for at least 1,250 hours during that 12 month period.

Further Entitlements

FMLA requires that an employee’s group health benefits are continued and paid for by the employer through the 12 week duration; however the employee is also still required to pay his or her insurance premium contributions during this time as well.  Upon cessation of the twelfth week of leave, FMLA entitles employees to immediate reinstatement of their job in either the same or corresponding role.

Moreover, qualified workers also have the right to choose blocks of time for FMLA leave, alternating between traditional employment and approved leave, or in certain situations, as part of a reduced schedule of daily hours.

soldiers-marchingMilitary Specifications

As of January 16, 2009, a new and final ruling updated FMLA directives to apply new entitlement for military family leave, under the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2008.  Furthermore, an employee who is caring for a covered service member with a serious illness or injury is entitled to 26 total weeks of leave.

Employer Obligations

  • Organizations covered under FMLA are required to post a notice describing the rights of employees under the FMLA program, as well as provide all new employees with written information on FMLA.
  • When an employer is made aware that a worker will be taking a qualifying leave of absence, they are to make the employee aware of their rights under FMLA law, and supply them with an official eligibility notice, explaining the employee’s responsibilities and rights under FMLA.
  • Employers must also make workers aware of their total allotment of time, and the exact allocation that will deducted from the employee’s total FMLA reserve. This can apply to employees taking shorter leaves, rather than the entire 12 week period.

Summaryfmla-professional-woman-drinking-coffee-on-couch

Understanding the basic elements of FMLA, its reasons, allowances, as well as limitations, will help both employers and employees ensure that the needs of working organizations are in balance with the lives of their actual workers.  While employers must have a zero-tolerance level for abuse of FMLA services, employees must advocate for fair and consistent treatment through the protection of FMLA laws.

 

 

Fred Coon, CEO

 

Stewart, Cooper & Coon, has helped thousands of decision makers and senior executives move up in their careers and achieve significantly improved financial packages within short time frames. Contact Fred Coon – 866-883-4200, Ext. 200