What Workplace Notices To Employees Are Required?

Kathryn Lease Simpson, AttorneySome of the statutes and regulations enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) mandate notices be provided to employees and/or posted in the workplace. Posting requirements vary by statute; that is, not all employers are covered by each of the statutes and thus may not be required to post a specific notice. For example, some small businesses may not be covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act and thus would not be subject to the Act’s posting requirements.

How do you know what notices/posters are required?  DOL provides an online questionnaire that will guide you in finding these answers (https://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm).   Follow the simple directions and you will discover what you need to provide or post. And, you do not need to spend money for commercial posters as they are available to download free of charge and you can print them directly from the Advisor. Posters are available in English and many other languages.

Postings required under Pennsylvania law are listed at the following website:  https://www.dli.pa.gov/Pages/Mandatory-Postings.aspx.

Super Lawyers

Four Mette, Evans & Woodside Attorneys Named “Super Lawyers”

Super Lawyers

Attorneys pictured (left to right): Kathryn Simpson, James Goldsmith, Michael Farrell & Victoria Edwards

Mette, Evans & Woodside attorneys Kathryn L. Simpson, James L. Goldsmith and Michael A. Farrell were named as top attorneys in Pennsylvania by Super Lawyers. Attorney Victoria P. Edwards was also recognized by Super Lawyer as a Rising Star. The Super Lawyers honor is reserved for attorneys who exhibit excellence in their legal practice with just five percent achieving the recognition in the state.

Ms. Simpson’s practice is in commercial litigation, professional liability defense, labor and employment, and health law. Since 2004, Ms. Simpson has been recognized as a Super Lawyer for her litigation work. She is a frequent speaker and author of continuing legal education course materials for the Pennsylvania Bar Institute.

Mr. Goldsmith focuses his practice on professional liability defense, professional licensure defense and real estate litigation. Since 2006, he has been recognized in the professional liability defense category. Mr. Goldsmith also provides legal expertise to professional trade associations such as the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, and several Associations of REALTORS® across Pennsylvania.

Mr. Farrell, who has been recognized for seven years, has been practicing in the field of insurance defense litigation for 32 years. He is a certified specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Section on Workers’ Compensation Law as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. He has published articles and has taught seminars relating to Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Law.

Ms. Edwards dedicates her practice to workers’ compensation and social security disability. Since 2016, she has been recognized as a Rising Star by Super Lawyers. Ms. Edwards also is a certified specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Section on Workers’ Compensation Law as authorized by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

“Having so many of our attorneys recognized as “Super Lawyers” over the last decade is a testament to Mette, Evans & Woodside’s dedication to providing top-notch legal counsel,” said the firm’s President Tim Hoy. “We’re proud to have these outstanding attorneys as a part of our legal team.”

Mette, Evans & Woodside has a long-standing tradition of providing comprehensive legal representation in Litigation, Estates and Trusts, Business and Real Estate. Founded in 1969, the firm provides clients throughout Pennsylvania with sound legal counsel for all facets of their professional and personal life.

Background Investigation of Prospective Executive Hires: a Necessary Evil

By: Kathryn L. Simpson

The headlines are everywhere. Every day another occupant of the “C-Suite” in a large company is accused of sexual harassment or physical assault. Many of the instances of harassment may have occurred while the person worked for another employer but the sins come home to roost on the current employer. The public is left to doubt the employer’s credibility and its attention to detail when it hires a person with a history of sexual harassment.

What can you do to prevent hiring a harasser?

– Ask the candidate why their prior employment ended.
– Get a signed waiver from the candidate to allow former employers to speak openly about prior conduct.
– Check all references.
– Do a criminal record search to find felony or misdemeanor convictions.

There is no way to repair the damage resulting from hiring an executive with a history of sexual harassment. The only effective way to avoid disaster is due diligence in the hiring process.

There’s a New I-9 in Town

By Kathryn Lease Simpson

New I-9 In Town

Starting on September 18, 2017, all employers will be required to have completed a new I-9 Form for every NEW employee. However, you can start using the new form immediately. Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States.

Form I-9 is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of individuals hired for employment in the United States. All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. Both employees and employers (or authorized representatives of the employer) must complete the form. On the form, an employee must attest to his or her employment authorization. The employee must also present his or her employer with acceptable documents evidencing identity and employment authorization. The employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the employee and record the document information on the Form I-9. The list of acceptable documents can be found on the last page of the form. Employers must retain Form I-9 for a designated period and make it available for inspection by authorized government officers. NOTE: Some agricultural recruiters and referrers for a fee may be required to use Form I-9.

What are the changes? The instructions have changed in this way:
1.) The name of the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices is changed to its new name, Immigrant and Employee Rights Section.

2.) The words “the end of” have been removed from the phrase “the first day of employment.” This means the Form I-9 MUST be completed BEFORE the new employee starts work.

The list of acceptable documents has changed:
1.) The Consular Report of Birth Abroad (Form FS-240) has been added to List C. Employers completing Form I-9 on a computer will be able to select Form FS-240 from the drop-down menus available in List C of Section 2 and Section 3. E-Verify users will also be able to select Form FS-240 when creating a case for an employee who has presented this document for Form I-9.

2.) The certifications of report of birth issued by the Department of State (Form FS-545, Form DS-1350 and Form FS-240) have been combined into selection C#2 in List C.

3.) All List C documents have been renumbered except the Social Security card. For example, the employment authorization document issued by the Department of Homeland Security on List C will change from List C #8 to List C #7.

These changes are included in a revised Handbook for Employers: Guidance for Completing Form I-9 (M-274), which is also easier for users to navigate.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act: Do Your Employment Documents and Policies Comply?

By Kathryn Lease Simpson

The Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act

The Federal Defend Trade Secrets Act (DTSA) was amended on May 11, 2016, effective immediately. The newly amended law contains a whistleblower clause that provides immunity for the disclosure of trade secrets to government officials for the sole purpose of reporting violations of the law.

Why is that important to you? The new law requires employers to give notice of that immunity “in any contract or agreement with an employee that governs the use of a trade secret or other confidential information.”

If you have an employment agreement that contains a section addressing trade secrets that does not include the notice of immunity, should you sue the employee for unauthorized disclosure, you will not be able to recover punitive damages or attorneys’ fees that may otherwise be available under the DTSA or under state trade law. The DTSA applies to all such contracts entered into after May 11, 2016.

In addition to making sure that your employment agreements comply, you should also should consider looking at your employee handbook or manual and see what trade secret policies you have in place and amending them to bring them into compliance. Other agreements that need to be examined include non-disclosures, proprietary information, and invention assignments.

Protecting Your Electronic Communication Privacy

by Kathryn Simpson

Protecting Your Electronic Communication Privacy

Anyone who has had an appointment with a health care provider in the past nine years is familiar with the privacy policies that protect their health information. Federal law requires the protection of this information and provides a sense of security in knowing that your health privacy is protected. But how well are your other “secrets” protected?

If you are employed, emails sent and received on your employer’s computer and any written or verbal communications, including text and voice-mail messages, on employer-provided cell phones are not protected from your employer’s eyes and ears. Employers can and do monitor emails, voicemails, and text messages as well as employee’s social media sites. They do so for many reasons including to ensure that employees are not disclosing confidential and proprietary information.

Communications that you wish to keep confidential, including correspondence with your attorney, should be made in a manner to ensure privacy. You can communicate via email from your home computer using an email account other than that used for work or from your personal smart phone.

In addition, you should password protect your smart phone. The theft or loss of a phone may result in much more than just inconvenience. If there are confidential communications on your device, it could result in the loss of any privilege of confidentiality. If you have other private information on your device, identity theft is a real risk if it can be accessed.

Protect your privacy by being vigilant and smart.

Employee Handbook Mistakes

by Kathryn Simpson

Employee Handbook Mistakes

As a business owner, you probably have an employee handbook (or manual). You may have had it drafted by an attorney or perhaps an employee downloaded a template from the internet and adapted it to your situation. Wherever that handbook came from or whenever it was done, it is always a good idea to try it on and see if it still fits.

• Should you decide it needs improvement, here are some of the mistakes to avoid in drafting either an entirely new handbook or in updating the old:

• failing to consider the effects of both state and federal laws on your employees (for example, wage issues including overtime)

• failing to include certain information required or highly recommended by federal and state law (sexual harassment policy, and FMLA, USERRA, COBRA notices – and if you don’t know what those initials stand for, then you need an attorney right now)

• failing to update the handbook to keep pace with changes in the law (new FMLA regulations have been in effect since March 8, 2013.)

• failing to include a disclaimer that the handbook is not a contract of employment

• failing to look at the big picture and not drafting sections that deal with generalities (and not specific situations)

• failing to provide flexibility for the employer to deal with employee situations that arise

• failing to make the handbook user-friendly (table of contents, easy to read, etc.)
including specifics about employee benefits (health insurance, pension or retirement benefits) where there is a plan and a summary plan document that governs

• failing to have the draft of your handbook reviewed by counsel experienced in employment law.

The experienced attorneys at Mette, Evans & Woodside are able to assist you in the revision of an existing handbook or in the creation of a new one.

The Patient Protection And Affordable Health Care Act:

by Kathryn Simpson

The Patient Protection And Affordable Health Care Act:

Implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act (PPAHCA) continues. Effective January 1, 2013, there are several financial and revenue raising provisions that become effective that may affect you, personally and as an employer. These include:

1. Itemized Deductions for Medical Expenses Threshold
The PPAHCA increases the threshold for itemized deductions for unreimbursed medical expenses from 7.5% of adjusted gross income to 10% of adjusted gross income. This provision waives the increase for individuals age 65 and older for tax years 2013 through 2016.

2. Flexible Spending Accounts
Limits are imposed on the amount of contributions a person may make to a flexible spending account for medical expenses. The 2013 amount is $2,500 per year. The amount will be increased annually by the cost of living adjustment.

3. Medicare Tax Increase
The tax rate on wages for FICA Medicare is increased from 1.45% to 2.35% on earnings over $200,000 for individual taxpayers and $250,000 for married couples filing jointly. There is no increase in the employer contribution but the employer is responsible for collecting the employee’s share. Also, a 3.8% assessment on unearned income for higher-income taxpayers is imposed.

4. Tax on Medical Devices
The PPAHCA imposes an excise tax of 2.3% on the sale of any taxable medical device. The term “taxable medical device” does not include eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids or any other medical device that is purchased by the general public at retail for individual use, according to the IRS proposed rules.

5. Closing the Medicare Drug Coverage Gap
The Act begins phasing-in federal subsidies for brand-name prescriptions filled in the Medicare Part D coverage gap (reducing coinsurance from 100% in 2010 to 25% in 2020, in addition to the 50% manufacturer brand-name discount).

For more information, call Mette, Evans & Woodside at 717-232-5000.