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DOL Withdraws Prior Guidance on Joint-Employers

Earlier today, the U.S. Department of Labor withdrew a previous Administrative Interpretation regarding when two or more companies can constitute joint-employers for purposes of the Fair Labor Standards Act.  For my thoughts on what this means for employers, you can read a write-up by the Pacific Business News here:  Department of Labor withdrawal of joint employment guidance “good news” for employers.

 
Can You Force Employees to Wear a Costume on Halloween?

In the Kokua Line for the Star-Advertiser, Christine Donnelly answers the question of whether an employer can fire an employee who refuses to wear a Halloween costume to work because it is against her religion.  In a nutshell, the answer is no.  And, even if you could, why would you (unless you like having angry employees)?

dilbert_halloween

You can read the full article here:  Labor Law Protects Refusal to Don Costume Due to Faith

 
Hawaii Employers to Pay Less UI Taxes in 2016

All throughout this year, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (“DLIR”) has announced a steady decline in the unemployment rate for the State of Hawaii.  In fact, in November 2015, the unemployment rate fell as low as 3.2%, which was the fourth lowest unemployment rate in the nation at the time.

decline

Earlier today, the DLIR issued a press release stating that the unemployment tax schedule will be set at Schedule C for 2016, which is one level lower than it was in 2015.  According to the DLIR’s calculations, employers will pay an average of $100 less per employee per year.  (For employers with a sizeable workforce, this could end up being a huge cost saving – e.g. 500 employees x $100 per employee = $50,000 for the year.)

You can review a copy of the DLIR’s press release here:  State Announces 26 Percent Reduction in Unemployment Taxes

 
American Payroll Association 2015 Employment Law Update

Last Friday, I presented a 2015 Employment Law Update to the Hawaii Chapter of the American Payroll Association.  The presentation was held in the sports room at Dave and Busters and it was an interesting experience being in that room with the big TVs and projection screen, but for a work function instead of watching the football or basketball games.

APA employment law update

My discussion included three main parts:  (1) Hawaii legislative updates; (2) recent actions by the United States Department of Labor and Hawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; and (3) decisions from the Hawaii Supreme Court, United States Supreme Court, and the National Labor Relations Board.

For the Hawaii legislative update, the topics included:

  • E-Cigarettes
  • Porterage Charge Disclosures/Distribution
  • Non-Compete Agreements
  • Medical Marijuana

For the DOL/DLIR update, we discussed the following topics:

  • DOL’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Exempt Positions
  • Independent Contractors

Finally, my discussion on recent court and Board decisions covered the following topics:

  • Joint employer status
  • Arrest and court record discrimination in hiring
  • Age discrimination in hiring
  • Religious discrimination in hiring
 
PBN HR Panel 2015

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to serve on a Human Resources Panel Seminar hosted by the Pacific Business News.  It was quite an honor to be asked to sit on the panel; the four other panelists have been business and community leaders for a long time and I considered it a real privilege to be able to share my thoughts on HR issues alongside these individuals.  Kam Napier, PBN Editor-in-Chief, served as the moderator and he did a great job making sure the discussion flowed smoothly and that we addressed many of the hot topics that are facing HR professionals today.

PBN HR Panel(Pic credit: PBN)

Some of the topics we discussed included hiring practices, working out differences that arise between generations (i.e. Baby Boomers vs. Gen-X vs. Millennials), and new laws that affect the way employers must conduct their businesses.  Some of the panelists discussed the difficultly of hiring talented employees in a job market where the unemployment rate is sitting at just 3.7%, the importance of wellness programs, and the value of creating a work culture that inspires employees.  I had an opportunity to discuss the impact recent court decisions such as Adams v. CDM Media and EEOC v. Abercrombie and Fitch will have on how employers conduct their hiring practices.  In addition, I also discussed the importance of training managers (who are involved in the hiring/interview process) on how to properly conduct job interviews.  I explained that although many managers are great at doing their day-to-day tasks, they are not always kept apprised of recent changes to employment laws that might affect how they can make their hiring decisions.  I also explained some of the dangers involved with providing employment references through the “coconut wireless” because you never know what type of information (or misinformation) might end up getting spread to others.  Therefore, as a matter of practice, the “name, rank and serial number” method is still your best bet.

Finally, as always, I made sure the stress that, when it comes to managing your workforce, “the best defense of a good offense.”  In other words, I firmly believe that the best way to address workplace problems is to try to proactively prevent them from happening in the first place.  In this day and age, HR professionals have transitioned from being a clerical cost center that processes payroll and benefits to a strategic department that oftentimes partners with corporate officers in leading a business into the future.  Therefore, it is imperative for HR professionals to stay ahead of the game, be proactive, and help their companies move forward.

Overall, I would say the event was very successful and I had a lot of fun.