National Disability Employment Awareness Month

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Declared in 1988 by the United States Congress (though its roots go back to 1945 when Congress urged employment for WWII servicemembers with disabilities) , NDEAM is a good occasion for us to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities to workplaces and the economy. We also recommend taking this time to better understand employer obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and consider how to be more inclusive and accommodating than what the law strictly requires. 

The DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy is commemorating NDEAM this year with the theme “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme “reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

We’re glad to see this.

People with disabilities (1 in 4 adults in the United States) are at greater risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, workers with disabilities lost their jobs at a higher rate than the general population. As the pandemic continued, those with intellectual disabilities were six times more likely to die from the virus than other members of the population. Helping people with disabilities stay safe and succeed as the pandemic continues will be essential to a full recovery, and employers can play a huge role in that. 

Supporting employees with disabilities may also be vital to the success of individual employers—now and after the recovery. According to a CNBC poll, nearly 80% of workers say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. With roughly half of small businesses struggling to fill roles, competition for talent is fierce. Employers who don’t appear to believe that it’s important to include and support employees with disabilities put themselves at a huge disadvantage. 

What can you do to help?

First, make doubly sure you understand your compliance obligations related to applicants and employees with disabilities. We have lots of resources for you on the HR Support Center. If you search disability in the search bar, you’ll find articles, forms, guides, law summaries, letters, policies, Q&As, videos, and more.

Second, as the pandemic continues, do what you can to accommodate employees with disabilities who may be at greater risk of severe illness or death. Accommodations to consider may include remote work for those who can do their jobs from home and extra PPE (e.g., N95 masks, face shields, gloves) for those who need or want to work onsite. Other possible accommodations are different shifts, job changes to reduce physical proximity or public interaction, extra breaks (for handwashing or mental health), permission to keep a minifridge or other personal storage device at one’s workstation, and extra cleaning supplies. All in all, when an employee requests an accommodation, do what you can to try to make it work. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.

Third, stress to everyone that respect and empathy are nonnegotiable values. Employees who need extra support so they can do their jobs well aren’t going to ask for it if they believe their concerns will be dismissed or that they’ll be ridiculed or looked down on by coworkers. If they don’t feel like they can ask for an accommodation, they’re more likely to look for a job elsewhere. And if they stay, it’s unlikely that they will be as productive or successful if they feel unsafe and stressed out. That’s a lose-lose. But it’s a win-win when employees feel safe asking for accommodations and those accommodations enable them to succeed.

What is the difference between exempt and non-exempt employees?
Exempt and non-exempt are classifications under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). That’s the federal law requiring that most employees receive at least minimum wage for each hour worked and overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Usually, employees who are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime are called non-exempt. Those who are not entitled to both are called exempt. 

Any position can be non-exempt, meaning that employees in that position are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime pay. But if you would like to classify a position as exempt, it would need to qualify for one of the exemptions listed in the FLSA. 

The most commonly used exemptions, particularly in office settings, are the executive, administrative, and learned professional exemptions. These are part of a group of exemptions often referred to as “white-collar exemptions.” Employees who are properly classified this way are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime. But, to qualify, each position must pass a three-part test: 

Duties: The employee must perform specific tasks (such as managing at least two people) and regularly use their independent judgment and discretion. Each exemption has its own duties test.Salary level: The employee must make at least $684 per week (under federal law, a few states have higher minimums)Salary basis: The employee must be paid the same each week regardless of hours worked or the quantity or quality of their work, with a few limited exceptions. If a position meets all the criteria under one or more of the white-collar exemptions, the employee may be properly classified as exempt and will not be entitled to minimum wage or overtime pay. If the position does not meet all the criteria under a specific exemption, the employee must be classified as non-exempt and paid at least minimum wage and overtime when applicable. 

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What is concerted activity?

In general, concerted activity takes place when employees act as a group (in concert) for their mutual aid or protection. This includes activities like discussing the terms and conditions of their employment, such as pay, benefits, treatment by management, dress codes, workplace policies, or scheduling.  

This activity—when engaged in by non-supervisory employees—is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. That means employers are legally prohibited from trying to stop employees from engaging in concerted activity or taking adverse when they do. While supervisors don’t have these protections under Section 7, the term supervisor has a narrower definition than you might expect. To be exempt, supervisors must have real authority and use their independent judgment when wielding it. For instance, the 19-year-old assistant manager who is technically in charge when other supervisors are on break, but who doesn’t have the power to fire, discipline, or respond to the grievances of other employees, almost certainly still has protections under Section 7. 

Employers should also be aware that it’s fairly easy for an employee to be protected under the act if they are discussing the terms and conditions of their employment either physically around co-workers or managers or in the same virtual space as co-workers or managers. While an employee may not be intending to act in concert for the mutual aid of themselves and their coworkers, if they post on Facebook about how they are overworked and underpaid, and several colleagues chime in that they agree, or even just “like” the post, that can become protected concerted activity. 

Minimum Wage Updates 7/1/2021

Effective July 1, 2021, two states and several cities/counties will be increasing their minimum wage – this means payroll processes will have to be updated if you have employees in the specific areas. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25, but many states and cities have their minimum wage set higher than that. Read below for all of the minimum wage updates that are effective July 1, 2021. 

CALIFORNIA

  • Berkeley – $16.32 (including youth work & training)
  • Emeryville – $17.13     
  • Fremont – $15.00 (≤25 employees)
  • Fremont – $15.25 (>26 employees)
  • Long Beach – $15.69 (hotels only)
  • Los Angeles City and Unincorporated Los Angeles County – $15.00 (≤25 employees)
  • Los Angeles City and Unincorporated Log Angeles County – $17.64 (hotels w/ 150+ rooms)
  • Malibu – $15.00 (≤25 employees)
  • Milpitas – $15.65 
  • Pasadena – $15.00 (≤25 employees)
  • San Francisco – $16.32 
  • San Francisco – $14.44 (government-supported employee)
  • Santa Monica – $15.00 (≤25 employees, non-hotel)
  • Santa Monica – $17.64 (hotels)

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

  • District of Columbia – $15.20
  • District of Columbia – $5.05 (tipped employee)

ILLINOIS

  • Chicago – $15.00 (>21 employees)
  • Chicago – $9.00 (>21 employees, tipped employees)
  • Chicago – $14.00 (4 to 20 employees)
  • Chicago – $8.40 (4 to 20 employees, tipped employee)
  • Chicago – $11.00 (youth wage)
  • Chicago – $6.60 (youth wage, tipped employee)
  • Cook County – $6.90 (tipped employee)

MARYLAND

  • Montgomery County – $13.50 (1 to 10 employees)
  • Montgomery County – $14.00 (11 to 50 employees)
  • Montgomery County – $15.00 (>51 employees)

MINNESOTA

  • Minneapolis – $14.25 (>100 employees) 
  • Minneapolis – $12.50 (≤100 employees) 
  • St. Paul – $12.50 (101 to 1,000 employees)
  • St. Paul – $11.00 (6 to 100 employees)
  • St. Paul (≤5 employees)

NEVADA

  • Statewide – $8.75 (employees who receive health benefits that meet certain criteria)
  • Statewide – $9.75 (employees who do not receive sufficient benefits)

NEW YORK

  • Cities outside of NYC – $15.00 (fast food employees only)

OREGON

  • Within Portland’s Urban Growth Boundary – $14.00
  • Nonurban Counties – $12.00
  • All other “Standard” Counties – $12.75
Workplace Harassment

Over the past two years, the #MeTooMovement has changed the landscape of workplace harassment and other workplace issues. Even though the #MeTooMovement changed the landscape, workplace harassment is still is a very serious and common problem.

It is important for HR departments to be educated and aware of types of harassment and how to handle them. When equipped with the right information, HR and employee relations can be critical in identifying and eliminating all different types of workplace harassment before anything escalates. 

Here are the 5 most common types of workplace harassment:

  1. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is still common, even though the #MeTooMovement empowered victims to speak up. Unwelcome and offensive comments, unwanted physical attention, and requests for sexual favors are all considered sexual harassment in the workplace. 

2. Disability Harassment 

Disability harassment is when unfavorable treatment or harassment of employees with a physical or mental disability occurs. Disability harassment is very widespread in the workplace, so it is important for managers to be aware of the signs of this type of harassment. 

3. Racial Harassment

Racism is something that unfortunately occurs everywhere, but being able to identify it in the workplace is critical. Some common displays of racial harassment include displaying discriminatory symbols, mocking someone’s accent, making unwelcome comments about ones race, telling derogatory jokes, and using racial slurs. 

4. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Harassment

These two types of harassment are when individuals make derogatory, offensive or demeaning remarks based on a persons sexual orientation or gender identity, including transgender status. These two types of harassments are different and here’s why; sexual orientation harassment refers to whether a person is homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. Gender identity harassment refers to a persons self-identification as a man or a woman. 

5. Ageism

More than 1 in 3 employees feel that their age has prevented them from getting a job after they turned 40. Age discrimination is still common, even though it should not be. 

If your organization seems to come across workplace harassment issues, and you need help – let us know! AZ HR Hub is your #HRPartner, so you can focus on business!

Benefit Requirements

As an employer, it is important to understand what benefits you are responsible for obtaining for your company. In some cases, creating a benefit package is the best way to go. Some perks, like vacation days  and tuition reimbursement, are nice to offer, but they are not required by law. It is vital to be aware of what laws mandate employee benefits so you can plan accordingly.

Social Security and Medical Taxes 

Regardless of the size of the busines, every employer in the United States is required to match their employees’ social security and Medicare tax contributions. The cost of these contributions can vary based on the age of the employee and their earned income. 

Unemployment Insurance

No matter how many employees and employer has, they must carry unemployment insurance. Both part-time and full-time employees are entitled to unemployment benefits. 

Workers Compensation

Employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance which acts as a wage replacement and medical benefit is an employee should become injured or ill while working. 

Disability Insurance

Disability insurance is only mandated for employers in the following states; New York, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island. Disability Insurance provides partial wage replacement insurance coverage to employees that suffer from a non-work related injury or illness that causes them to miss work. 

Family Medical Leave

Family medical leave benefits are required by law for any employer that has 50 full-time employees or more. This benefit allows employees to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave per year while still maintaining their job and benefits. 

Health Insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires employers that have more than 50 full-time employees to offer acceptable health insurance. 

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