impactnews: Overtime Rule Still to Go into Effect, Dec. 1

With the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) final rule on overtime pay set to take effect on Thursday, December 1, 2016, employers should take all necessary steps to ensure they’re in compliance on that date.

impactAction: To prepare for these changes, impactHR recommends employers add new policies and practices for the overtime pay rule into their employee handbooks (or consider distributing them separately as handbook amendments). Once updated handbooks are distributed, employees should sign-off to acknowledge their acceptance and understanding of these new policies. If your handbook is already up-to-date with overtime language, reemphasize the overtime policies with newly reclassified employees.

In addition, while attempts have been made to challenge or delay the new rule, impactHR has not seen evidence that changes are likely before the effective date. Therefore, employers should plan to be in compliance when the new rules go into effect on December 1.

For quick background, the overtime policy doubles the salary threshold — from $23,660 to $47,476 per year — under which most salaried workers are eligible for overtime (hourly workers are generally guaranteed overtime pay regardless of their earnings level with the exception of computer professionals paid hourly). Also as of December 1, employees who are exempt under the Highly Compensated Employee (HCE) exemption will need to be paid at least $134,004 per year.

If you have any questions about the DOL’s overtime rule or about how to comply, please contact an impactHR team member via email at or phone 410-312-7882.

USCIS Unveils Revised Form I-9 for All New U.S. Hires by Jan. 22, 2017

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) this week published a revised version of Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.

By Jan. 22, 2017, employers must use only this new version (dated 11/14/2016). Until then, employers can continue to use the version dated 03/08/2013 or the new, just-released version. In addition, after January 21, 2017, employers must use the revised Form I-9 for both new hires and to reverify the employment authorization of current employees, according to an analysis by Seyfarth Shaw LLP.

Among the changes in the new version, Section 1 asks for “other last names used” rather than “other names used,” and streamlines certification for certain foreign nationals.

Other changes include:

  • The addition of prompts to ensure information is entered correctly
  • The ability to enter multiple preparers and translators
  • A dedicated area for including additional information rather than having to add it in the margins
  • A supplemental page for the preparer/translator

In addition, the USCIS says the revised Form I-9 is easier to complete on a computer. Other related enhancements include drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates, on-screen instructions for each field, easy access to the full instructions and an option to clear the form and start over. When an employer prints a completed form, a quick response (QR) code is automatically generated.

impactInterview: Nikole McWright On the Growing Importance of the Employee Handbook

With employment laws becoming more complex and often in flux, the employee handbook is being seen as a more valuable tool for companies and organizations to consider putting in place. Nikole McWright, HR Specialist, PHR, at impactHR, talked with impactnews this month to provide perspective on what constitutes an effective employee handbook and how it can help drive employee performance and business growth.

impactnews: What does a typical employee handbook look like and why can it be important to companies and organizations?

Nicole McWright

Nikole McWright, HR Specialist, PHR, at impactHR

NM: Handbooks are important because they provide a framework for effectively managing people. Employee handbooks deal with everything from compliance law to performance management to what kind of behavior is expected in the workplace. Basically, the employee handbook is a tool provided to employees upon the start of employment to guide them with the procedures and policies of the company. It serves as a communication guide to share information, at a minimum, about expectations, benefits eligibility and procedures related to employment.

One key reason to maintain a comprehensive, updated employee handbook is to help business owners and organization leadership avoid compliance trouble. As state and federal laws change and policies progress, companies are required to comply with these changes and ensure their employees know their rights and obligations.

For example, the Maryland Parental Leave Act, which covers employers that have between 15-49 employees, mandates that employees be given unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child. At 50 employees, these employers are subject to the federal Family and Medical Leave act (FMLA). If you don’t know about these regulations nor how you need to be in compliance – and appropriate language is not included in your handbook – you could be liable.

So, it’s important to stay abreast of changes in labor laws and, then, those changes can be addressed in or added to your handbook. This is one reason why we advise our clients that it’s a good idea to review your handbook annually to see if there are new laws, policies or regulations that have been enacted or implemented and that then can be added to your handbook.

One other point to keep in mind is that for companies that have employees in multiple states, you have to comply with employment laws and policies in each state where you have employees. In this case, and we see this frequently with many of our clients, we advise employers to either address each state’s mandates in their comprehensive handbook or put an addendum into one unified handbook with specific state information.

impactnews: What kinds of problems or issues do effective handbooks address or maybe even prevent?

NM: Back to what we talked about earlier, the key question tends to be: what’s missing in our handbook? And typically we see it’s information on the various leave laws that is left out of handbooks. It’s easy to understand why or how this happens – these laws tend to change each year, making them a moving target. So, again, if you’re a multi-state employer, you likely have several different leave laws, covering paid or unpaid leave, that you should include in your handbook.

One example of complexity here is with Washington, DC, which mandates that employers give their employees a certain number of hours paid sick leave. Yet we tend to see this kind of information omitted in handbooks. For another example, let’s say you operate your organization in Maryland with fewer than 14 employees, you have no leave laws that apply. Once you have 15 employees, however, you have to comply with Maryland’s Parental Leave Act, which would mean a prompt handbook and procedural update.

impactnews: What is a “big picture” aspect of employee handbooks? In other words, how can the handbook assist companies in helping their employees thrive?

NM: Employee handbooks ultimately are about providing for employer and employee a clear and concise direction on how to proceed within the organization. It is a guide. Well-designed and updated handbooks make the employer-employee relationship and its related processes clear to management and employees.

The handbook provides an easy way to ensure expectations for both employer and employee are clearly laid out. The handbook should be developed to provide consistency and maintain objectivity.

Reminder: Employers Face New Jan. 31 W-2 Filing Deadline 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued a reminder to employers and small businesses of a new January 31 filing deadline for Forms W-2. A new federal law, aimed at making it easier for the IRS to detect and prevent refund fraud, is behind the accelerated W-2 filing deadline for employers.

The new filing deadline also applies to certain Forms 1099-MISC reporting non-employee compensation such as payments to independent contractors.

In the past, employers typically had until the end of February, if filing on paper, or the end of March, if filing electronically, to submit their copies of these forms. In addition, there are changes in requesting an extension to file the Form W-2. Only one 30-day extension to file Form W-2 is available and this extension is not automatic.

If an extension is necessary, a Form 8809 Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns must be completed as soon as you know an extension is necessary, but done so by January 31. The new deadline is aimed at helping the IRS improve its efforts to spot errors on returns filed by taxpayers. With this earlier submission of W-2s and 1099s, the IRS says it will be able to more easily verify the legitimacy of tax returns and properly issue refunds (and possibly faster) to taxpayers eligible to receive them. Learn more.

OSHA Delays Enforcement of Anti-Retaliation Provisions of Injury, Illness Tracking Rule Until Dec. 1 

In other new policy news, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has agreed to further delay enforcement of the anti-retaliation provisions in its injury and illness tracking rule until Dec. 1, 2016.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas requested the delay to allow additional time to consider a motion challenging the new provisions. The anti-retaliation provisions were originally scheduled to begin Aug. 10, 2016, but were previously delayed until Nov. 1 to allow time for outreach to the regulated community.

Under the rule, employers are required to inform workers of their right to report work-related injuries and illnesses without fear of retaliation; implement procedures for reporting injuries and illnesses that are reasonable and do not deter workers from reporting; and incorporate the existing statutory prohibition on retaliating against workers for reporting injuries and illnesses. Learn more.