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Legal Wellness Checkup – Form I-9

by Kathryn Simpson

/legal-wellness-checkup

Are you an employer? Have you hired any new employees lately? Do you have a completed a Form I-9 for every new hire?

Finding and hiring qualified employees for your business can be a long and involved process. Once you do hire a new employee, be sure to complete all the legal requirements for the hiring process by filling out Form I-9. Failing to properly complete a Form I-9 and securing the appropriate identity documents is a violation of federal law. Employers who violate the law may be subject to civil fines, criminal penalties or debarment from government contracts.

All U.S. employers must ensure proper completion of Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States, whether those individuals are citizens or noncitizens. Both employees and employers (or authorized representatives of the employer) must complete Form I-9. On the form, an employee must attest to his or her employment authorization.

The employee must present the 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.

Form I-9 must be retained and stored by the employer either for three years after the date of hire or for one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later. The form must also be available for inspection by authorized U.S. Government officials.

More information about properly completing Form I-9 is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service website, which includes a link to a downloadable guide. Learn more at: http://www.uscis.gov/i-9.

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.