Tuesday, December 20, 2016

End of 2016, Beginning of 2017 - Astronology® Looks Back on an Exciting Year in HR


We find ourselves again at the end of another year! Can you believe the 4th quarter of 2016 is coming to a close? Continuing with previous year ending Astronology® releases, we will review some hot button issues & events in Human Resources in 2016, and how they may reappear in the HR realm during 2017.

Work Stoppage…to reappear again?
In September, many were surprised to learn that a college campus, Long Island University’s Brooklyn Campus (LIK-Brooklyn), was undergoing a faculty lockout. In a September Astronology®, we discussed work stoppages and learned that they are not held often. Lockouts and other forms of work stoppage occur with even large organizations, such as the NFL and Kellogg’s. Is it possible that other organizations can possibly find themselves in a similar bind in 2017? We certainly hope not. However, there have been murmurs of another sports franchise narrowly avoiding a lockout in the upcoming year. As a result, we do need to be mindful of the issue.

Minimum Wage Challenges?
In recent years, we have been peppered with discussions over living wages, the “Fight for $15” campaign, and their impacts on Human Resources and compensation. In April of this year, we saw New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reveal plans to raise the minimum wage to $15 by 2021. Other cities have also followed suit…or have already begun rolling schedules to reach higher wages. With the presidential elections over, and President-Elect Donald Trump making cabinet selections, many wonder what will become of the federal minimum wage. We all eagerly wait to see what happens with the minimum wage in 2017.

FLSA Final Rule. Is it on? Or off?
A number of organizations worked closely with their Human Resources partners and departments to prepare for the enactment of the FLSA Final Rule announced in May 2016. In some cases, job descriptions had to be clarified in order to help distinguish levels of positions. In other cases, adjustments in pay had to be made to ensure compliance. Then suddenly in November, a few days shy of the December 1 active date, an injunction was called and everything was put on pause. With a new presidential administration coming in, organizations are left with questions. Will the FLSA Final Rule push through? Will it be completely thrown out? Is it possible the mandate will be reformed? Only time will tell. We all anxiously await. In the meantime, it’s been suggested that organizations that have already made adjustments keep them, as the federal hold on the FLSA rule does not change any city or state laws.

Technology Marches Onward!
It’s predicted that by the year 2020, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. This advancing change in workforce makeup also has accompanied an advance in technology. This technology can take many forms, including automation, gamification in performance reviews, and data analysis. Astron is especially hopeful to seeing more advancements in the area of HR technology and data analysis as a part of organizations’ strategic decision making processes.

As 2016 comes to a close, we eagerly look forward to 2017 for some answers to questions and some surprises in Human Resources. Were there other topics from 2016 that you think may make a resurgence in 2017? Why not share your thoughts with Astronology®! We’d love to hear your opinions!

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

FLSA Overtime Rules Delayed



Prior to November 22, 2016, many in the Human Resources field had been abuzz about the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Final Rule. For some organizations, months of preparation for the December 1st change included reviewing job descriptions, in order to determine the position’s exemption status, and making changes to employee salaries vis-├á-vis the new exempt threshold. However, on November 22, 2016, Judge Amos Mazzant III enacted an injunction, successfully halting activation of the new FLSA rules. The preliminary injunction is based off the challenge by several states, business groups, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The plaintiffs claim the DOL has overstepped its authority by raising the salary threshold for exempt status excessively high. Of course, this injunction raises new questions. What is the Department of Labor’s (DOL) response? What do organizations do in the meantime?

The DOL’s official response to injunction was as follows: “The Department strongly disagrees with the decision by the court, which has the effect of delaying a fair day's pay for a long day's work for millions of hardworking Americans. The Department’s Overtime Final Rule is the result of a comprehensive, inclusive rule-making process, and we remain confident in the legality of all aspects of the rule. We are currently considering all of our legal options.”

So what do organizations do in the meantime? While some may speculate that with a Trump administration taking office soon, this mandate may disappear. However, it may not be safe to assume so. The attempt to rollback this rule may not happen right away. There is also the possibility that the Trump administration could issue a smaller increase to the salary threshold than the one initially included in the Final Rule.

Notwithstanding these developments, Michael Maciekowich of Astron Solutions reminds us that the FLSA tests for determining position exemptions have not changed. It is better to be safe than sorry, as a previous court case in Kinkead v. Humana, Inc. demonstrates.

The court case involved a final rule to extend minimum wage and overtime protections to workers who work in live-in domestic services or companion services beginning January 2015. In very similar fashion to the current FLSA overtime adjustments, the companionship exemption enactment was postponed in January 2015, as a federal judge from D.C. struck the rule down, charging that the DOL was overstepping its authority. However, in October of 2015 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reversed this district court order. Humana argued that they shouldn’t be liable during the period the companionship exemption had been vacated. The courts decided Humanawas liable.

Another aspect to consider is your city and /or state regulations. If adjustments for your organization’s city or state are equal to or higher than the Final Rule’s regulations, organizations would still need to be in compliance with the law that’s most generous to the employee. As always, it is best for organizations to seek legal counsel in order to assuage any concerns from both employers and employees.

What was your organization’s reaction to the late initiated injunction? We look forward to hearing our readers share their input and thoughts on this late-breaking news!