Quick Hits - November 24, 2021 - American Society of Employers - ASE Staff

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Quick Hits - November 24, 2021

When explaining benefits, keep it simple:  No acronyms.  Like most industries, benefits lean on its own kind of language and lingo — one that’s packed with acronyms that can leave the average employer or employee scratching their heads.   “A broker will stand up in front of an audience, hold up a brochure, and start talking about HSAs, FSAs, LTC, and LTD,” Eric Silverman, founder of Voluntary Disruption, a benefits advisory says. “It’s alphabet soup! Employees don’t want to feel dumb, so they don’t ask questions. The broker thinks they did a kickass job, and a week later the HR exec is baffled because no one signed up for the HSA plan.”  Instead, focus on clarity. Call the HSA a Health Savings Account, Silverman says, and explain its value plainly: It’s a place to save pre-tax dollars to be used on medical expenses.  Also, don’t call benefits voluntary.  Referring to them as voluntary (or worse, ancillary) diminishes the value, Silverman says. Instead, he and his team have taken to calling them “enhanced” benefits, and in turn have seen employer groups immediately grasp the intention.  “All it’s doing is supporting the major medical,” he says. “Enhanced benefits exist to make it even stronger.” Source: EBN 11/17/21

Are women and new hires experiencing Zoom fatigue? Many people are familiar with what is known as Zoom fatigue, described as the feeling of being drained and lacking energy following a day of virtual meetings. Now, new research suggests that women and newer employees may be most susceptible to the phenomenon and that allowing people to turn off their cameras during meetings could make a big difference. According to the study, published in the Journal of Applied Psychology in August, the degree of fatigue isn’t affected by the amount of time spent in virtual meetings or the number of meetings attended. However, having one’s camera on during meetings all day—versus having it off—does make people feel tired.  Researchers also found that camera-related fatigue affects employees in terms of voicing their ideas and being engaged in their work. There is even spillover to the next day, researchers found. Women, who tend to be judged more harshly both in terms of their behavior and their appearance than men, are likely to spend more time thinking about how they look and focusing on whether they appear attentive enough on screen.  Office newcomers, meanwhile, don’t have the same built-up rapport with co-workers, so they may be more worried about how they come across to others, researchers say. Source:  WSJ 10/29/21

With boomerang employees becoming more common, what do the 401(K) documents say?  As a result of the current labor shortage that many employers are currently faced with, more and more companies are finding themselves rehiring former employees. If those former employees previously participated in an employer’s 401(k) plan prior to their severance from employment, such employers should review their 401(k) plan documents to see how such rehired employees are treated under those plans.  Areas of review include eligibility, credit for previous work, distributions from plans, and restoration of forfeitures.  Generally, if an employee is rehired within five years of his or her previous severance of employment and that employee was participating in (or eligible to participate in) the employer’s 401(k) plan prior to his or her severance of employment, the employee will be eligible to participate in the 401(k) plan immediately upon rehire. If an employee is rehired within five years of his or her severance of employment, the employee must receive credit under the plan for the years of service they earned during their previous employment with the company. Assuming that an employee took a bona fide distribution from the plan and that distribution resulted in the forfeiture of a portion of his or her account, the employee may be able to have the forfeited amounts restored.  Source: Holland & Hart LLP 11/9/21

New federal contractor minimum wage final rules published:  On November 22, 2021, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division announced a final rule that increases the hourly minimum wage for certain federal contractors to $15 effective January 30, 2022.   Executive Order 14026 implements new requirements, including:  Increasing the hourly minimum wage for certain federal contractors to $15 beginning January 30, 2022; indexing the minimum wage to an inflation measure in future years; eliminating the tipped minimum wage for federal contractors by 2024;    ensuring a $15 minimum wage for workers with disabilities performing work on or in connection with covered contracts; and restoring minimum wage protections to outfitters and guides operating on federal lands. The final rule becomes effective January 30, 2022.  Source:  USDOL 11/22/21

New York implements new electronic communications law: The new law requires private employers to provide written notice upon hiring to all employees if they monitor or intercept employee electronic communications, effective May 6, 2022. This includes any monitoring or interception of telephone calls, e-mail communications, and internet usage. The notice must be in writing or in an electronic form and must be acknowledged by the employee. Employers are also required to post the notice in the workplace.  This law does not prevent the employer from engaging in the monitoring of employees — employers retain the right to monitor computer usage, so long as employees are informed of the surveillance. The stated aim of the law is to increase transparency within an organization and help to avoid invasion of privacy lawsuits.  The law does not apply to computer system maintenance/protection processes that employers go through to manage the type or volume of incoming or outgoing e-mail, telephone voice mail, or internet usage. If you have NY locations and monitor employees’ telephone calls or computer activities, you must disseminate notice to your existing employees and to all new hires once this law takes effect. Additionally, you must post a notice in the workplace.  Source:  Fisher Phillips 11/11/21

EEOC announces its financial results for FY 2021: The EEOC announced on 11/16/21 that it had a successful year, with recoveries in line with historical levels despite the pandemic. For the $404.5 million appropriated for EEOC operations, the agency recovered more than $484 million.  Of this the EEOC secured more than $350 million and other relief for victims of employment discrimination in private sector and state and local government workplaces through mediation, conciliation, and settlements benefiting thousands of individuals. It resolved 138 lawsuits and obtaining $34 million in monetary relief as a direct result of litigation resolutions, including 21 lawsuits alleging race or national origin discrimination for approximately $15 million and 10 compensation discrimination cases for approximately $1 million.  And it resolved more than 26 systemic lawsuits and over 340 systemic investigations on the merits and obtaining over $46 million in benefits for individuals.  It also obtained more than $100 million for federal employees and applicants.  Source:  EEOC 11/16/21

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