Big Brother is watching you

George Orwell was about 25 years off when he suggested Big Brother would be watching us in his classic fiction novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. Now it’s 2010 and thanks to GPS systems built into cell phones and company cars, you can track your employees to find out where they are. Yes, Big Brother is watching.

But, truth be told, most employers are not interested in being Big Brother. They simply want to ensure company property is being used properly. In addition, many companies find great value in their ability to locate team members in the field. So how do you find a balance between respecting your employees rights to privacy and your legitimate business interests?

Like many elements of good leadership, it helps to begin by putting your cards on the table. And the best way to do that? Lay out your expectations with an employee policy. To obtain a free copy of our Employee Location Monitoring Policy written by Connie Cornell, of our partner firm Cornell Smith LLP, click here!            

You can find out more information on privacy laws by clicking here.


Healthcare reform: what you need to know

Last week, President Obama signed into law the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and many employers flew into a panic. But before you bang your head against the desk, let’s break down the facts of the new law so you have the information you need to move forward.

The purpose of the law is to provide coverage for as many as 32 million Americans who have been unable to access care, perhaps because they have been denied coverage because they were too sick or because they could not afford coverage. Starting in 2014, employers with 50 or more employees* will be required to provide “minimum essential coverage” for their employees (* there are other ways for employers to qualify so be sure to check the link below for details!) . If you fail to provide coverage, you will be served a per-employee penalty.

We have been following this law closely and the best resource I have found to explain this act has been “President Obama Signs Stage I of Federal Health Care Reform Law” by our partners at Ogletree Deakins. There’s no fluff and it doesn’t “pick a side” – it’s a plain-English breakdown of what you need to know about this law. It addresses the following questions:

  • Why are there two bills?
  • What provisions of the PPACA will have a direct effect on employers?
  • What effects will the second bill have on the employment-related provisions of the PPACA?

Click here to read the article.

This bill will most likely not be the final say. Already in the works is a follow up bill (“Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010”) that will amend some of the PPACA’s provisions. In addition, attorney generals from numerous states have joined to bring suit, saying the law is unconstitutional. And who knows what will come after that? We’ll have to wait and see.

Share your experience: fixing a chronically late employee

Each week, we will post a question that the law doesn’t answer. But we know you can. What’s your best practice when it comes to dealing with this issue? To weigh in on the conversation, simply post a comment below. It’s easy – no sign-up is required!

If you’re not sure how you would answer the question, check out the recommendations from others!

This week’s question:

Q: I have a great employee who can never get to work on time. What can I do to motivate him to show up when he is supposed to?

You can make suggestions for future questions by emailing

The art of delegation

If you’re like most companies, you have one C.E.O. But what if your office was full of them?

That’s the approach taken by Mark Pincus, the founder and chief executive of Zynga, a provider of online social games. One day, he wrote all the employees names on white sticky sheets and stuck them to the wall and gave them this assignment: tell him what they were a C.E.O. of. When everyone knew who was the person to approach about a certain problem, they turned to each other for help, meaning Mr. Pincus got more time being a manager and less time putting out a million little fires.

You can read more about this management tactic (and get more leadership insights) by reading “Are You a C.E.O. of Something?” an interview with Mark Pincus, compiled by New York Times columnist, Adam Bryant, by clicking here.

Gulp! The dreaded HR file!

Alan Sklover has worked as an attorney for a number of years and in his recent blog post “Want to see your HR file? Here’s how,” he outlines some scary stuff he’s seen in the courtroom when employers are required to show an employee’s personnel file. In the post, he discusses the types of things employees should be aware of that should not be included in the file. And he encourages employees to ask to see their HR files to make sure everything is in compliance with the law.

This article was not written for employers, but there is something we can learn from it. We know employees may start asking for this sort of thing and what they’re looking for. Reading an article like this reminds us to take the proper precautions so we don’t fall into a trap. Click here to read the post.

Are you sure your personnel files are in compliance? Don’t delay – find out today! Click here to find out!

DOL issues updated COBRA notices

Just a few weeks ago, we alerted you about the extension of the COBRA subsidy (if you missed it, click here) and this week, we have the updated model notices you need to ensure you’re in compliance. Click here to access the updated notices.

Our partners at Shawe Rosenthal LLP  have put together an article that explains how these notices should be used. Click here to read their commentary.

The Department of Labor has also updated the Premium Reduction fact sheet which discusses the following topics:

  • What is COBRA
  • Changes regarding COBRA Continuation Coverage Under ARRA, as amended by the Temporary Extension Act of 2010
  • Eligibility for the Premium Reduction
  • Period of Coverage
  • Notice Requirements

And more! Click here to see the complete fact sheet.

Can you require tip-sharing?

All too often a court’s decision does not jive with history and confuses the issue more, but thankfully, not today. If you’re running a company with tipped employees, your job just got easier.

In a recent court decision it was declared that employers of tipped employees have the right to establish tip-sharing policies. In the case, the waitstaff at Vita Cafe was required to share customer tips with the other restaurant employees (including dishwashers who were not earning tips themselves). A waitress at the restaurant claimed this action violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

However, because the employer was not using tips as credit toward the minimum wage (the restaurant actually paid full minimum wage making the tips a bonus on top of that wage), their policy was declared legal. If you want to establish a policy to enforce tip sharing, here are some tips from our partners at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt that will help you stay in compliance:

  • Put your policy in writing
  • Pay at least the higher of the federal or state mandated minimum wage
  • Do not include managers or owners in the tip pool
  • Check out what your state laws say about tip pooling.

Click here for state specific tip-pooling information from the Department of Labor.

You can learn more about this topic by reading “Ninth Circuit Approves Certain Tip Pooling Arrangements” by Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt. Click here to read the article.