Quick Hits - December 22, 2021 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - December 22, 2021

Michigan withholding rate now available:  Michigan has issued the 2022 withholding rate and wage-bracket tables for wages paid on and after January 1, 2022. The Michigan personal income tax withholding rate remains at 4.25% for 2022. The personal exemption amount will be $5,000. The interest rate is 4.25% for the first half of 2022.

Standard mileage rates for 2022 set:  The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2022 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes.  Beginning on Jan. 1, 2022, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 58.5 cents per mile driven for business use, up 2.5 cents from the rate for 2021
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical, or moving purposes for qualified active-duty members of the Armed Forces, up 2 cents from the rate for 2021
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations; the rate is set by statute and remains unchanged from 2021

The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.  Source:  IRS 12/17/21

Health care costs rising faster than expected:  A survey by benefits company Mercer of firms that employ about 118 million people showed the average cost of employer-sponsored health insurance per employee jumped 6.3% this year to $14,542 - the largest rise since 2010.  The increase was just 3.4% in 2020 when the pandemic had strained hospital capacity and forced people to put off elective procedures. “I think that’s (catch-up care) certainly part of the cost driver,” Kate Brown, Mercer’s Center for Health Innovation Leader, told Reuters. The survey, which included 1,745 public and private employers, showed firms expect a “fairly typical” cost increase of 4.4% next year.  But most of them were unwilling to try to reduce the cost increase as they double down on making physical and mental healthcare more affordable for employees dealing with the stress of the nearly two-year-long pandemic.  Tracy Watts, national leader for U.S. health policy at Mercer, said generous health benefits could help companies in attracting and retaining staff in the tight labor market.  Source: Reuters 12/13/21

New AI group to assist with possible discrimination using AI: Some of the largest corporations in America are joining an effort to prevent that technology from delivering biased results that could perpetuate or even worsen past discrimination.  The Data & Trust Alliance, announced on Wednesday, has signed up major employers across a variety of industries.  The corporate group is not a lobbying organization or a think tank. Instead, it has developed an evaluation and scoring system for artificial intelligence software. The Data & Trust Alliance, tapping corporate and outside experts, has devised a 55-question evaluation, which covers 13 topics, and a scoring system. To develop a solution, the corporate group brought in its own people in human resources, data analysis, legal and procurement, but also the software vendors and outside experts. The result is a bias detection, measurement, and mitigation system for examining the data practices and design of human resources software. The goal is to detect and combat algorithmic bias. Governments around the world are moving to adopt rules and regulations about AI and are warning employers. For example, in an advisory note to companies on the use of the technology, the Federal Trade Commission warned, “Hold yourself accountable — or be ready for the F.T.C. to do it for you.”  Source:  NYTimes 12/8/21

Major training disconnect between employers and employees:  Employers and employees diverge over the availability of skill and career development opportunities at organizations, according to the Nov. 29 results of a quarterly survey of HR professionals and workers conducted in September by Randstad RiseSmart. While 73.5% of HR respondents said they believed their organizations were offering skilling and development opportunities to employees, Randstad found the statement was valid for 52.3% of employees. Certain industries saw an even greater divide, per the firm; 90.5% of financial services employers said they were offering such opportunities, but this was true for only 30% of employee respondents. Results from the survey also indicated that, despite relatively similar sentiments in some areas, the two sides had differing viewpoints about which skills were most in-demand. For example, 64.1% of employees viewed social skills as a top skill needed to succeed in their current and future careers, but fewer than half of employers agreed. This disconnect an IBM's Institute for Business Value Survey published findings in September that 74% of employers believed their organizations were helping employees to learn skills needed to work in a new way, yet only 38% of employees agreed. ASE’s strength is soft skill training can help your organization meet this gap.  View our course catalog here. Register before 12/31/21 to lock in 2021 rates. Source:  HR Dive 12/7/21

If going to discriminate on the basis of age, be more discreet: In Sloat v. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise Co., a high performing, older employee was transferred to a new manager. The manager was not welcoming, made derogatory age-based comments, gave him a low rating and minimal salary increase, reassigned his responsibilities, only communicated with him a few times over a period of months, and attempted to have him terminated in a one-person layoff, before the employee was finally let go as part of a larger reduction in force. In addition to all of this, the manager also asked – at least 10 times – when the employee was going to retire. The employee filed suit for age discrimination and retaliation.  Who do you think won?  In finding the repeated questions about retirement to be evidence of animus towards age (along with certain other problematic comments and conduct), the Sixth Circuit observed that, “Retirement is obviously a concept closely associated with being older; the term ‘retirement age’ is not used to describe persons in the bloom of youth.”  Source:  Shawe Rosenthal LLP 11/30/21

Is suspending an employee with pay an adverse action under Title VII? One court thinks not:  If you suspend an employee with pay, is that an adverse employment action?  The Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion  on this very subject. In this case, a former congressman sued his former employer, Legal Services Alabama, claiming that his suspension with pay during a pending investigation was race-based and a partial cause of his eventual resignation. The Eleventh Circuit stated that both Title VII and Section 1981 race claims require that an employee suffer an adverse employment action as one of the elements of those claims. The court pointed to a definition of that term that such actions should “affect continued employment or pay–things like terminations, demotions, suspensions without pay, and pay raises or cuts.” The Eleventh Circuit went on to note that no other circuit has held that a simple paid suspension, in and of itself, constitutes an adverse employment action.  The Eleventh Circuit upheld a lower court ruling stating no adverse employment action occurred in this case.  Source: Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP 12/3/21

We have the top names for babies, now we have the same for dogs and cats:  According to Rover.com's ninth annual report on the year's most popular pet names, many of the old standards still hold the top spots, but more unusual options are gaining traction.  Broken down into sex, the top 10 dog names for female and male canines looked like this:

  • Top Female Names for Dog: Bella, Luna, Lucy, Daisy, Zoe, Lily, Lola, Bailey, Stella, and Molly
  • Top Male Names for Dogs: Max, Charlie, Milo, Buddy, Rocky, Bear, Leo, Duke, Teddy, and Tucker

For felines, the most popular names include:

  • Top Female Names for Cats: Luna, Bella, Lily, Lucy, Nala, Kitty, Chloe, Stella, Zoe, and Lola
  • Top Male Names for Cats: Oliver, Leo, Milo, Charlie, Max, Simba, Jack, Loki, Ollie, and Jasper

It appears that there are overlap with popular names for babies.  Many of the names that appear at the top of Rover's lists are also some of the leading human baby names of 2021, with Bella, Luna, Lucy, Zoe, Max, and Leo all popular names for infants this year.  Source:  People 11/30/21 


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