Sunday, August 31, 2008

Frequency of Payment To Temp Workers Changes in California

On July 22, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law Senate Bill 940, which will change payroll practices applicable to "temporary service" workers as defined in the statute.

The new law, effective January 1, 2009, clarifies the wage payment obligations of staffing firms doing business in California. The Labor Code amendment provides that the end of a temporary assignment is not a discharge from employment requiring immediate payment of wages. Instead, such employees may be paid on a weekly basis. Certain day laborers and labor dispute replacements must be paid daily. Temporary employees who are discharged from the staffing agency, or who are not eligible for reassignment, still must be paid immediately upon such termination, or within 72 hours of a voluntary resignation. There is an exception to the requirement--staffing firms are not required to pay weekly for employees on assignment in excess of 90 consecutive calendar days. The weekly payment requirement does not apply to these employees unless their employers pay them weekly.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Texas Employers Obtain Hurricane Dolly Funds

Because Hurricane Dolly affected a large portion of Texas, the US Department of Labor has announced a $7,350,171 grant to Texas employers to create about 475 temporary jobs to assist in recovery efforts.

According to Secreteary of Labor Elaine L. Chao, “This $7.4 million grant will provide Texans with temporary jobs assisting in disaster relief and clean-up efforts to help communities recover from Hurricane Dolly damage.”

The funds will be awarded to 15 Texas counties, which include Aransas, Bexar, Brooks, Calhoun, Cameron, Hidalgo, Jim Wells, Kennedy, Kleberg, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria and Willacy.

The grant, which was awarded to the Texas Workforce Commission, will be used in the Gulf Coast counties to provide temporary employment on cleanup, repair, and reconstruction projects. The grant will also be used for projects that provide re-training services for those who have lost jobs.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Declining in work Fatalities

According to the report of Bureau of Labor Statistics(BLS), the worker fatalities decline. In response to this report, Elaine L Chao, US Secretary of Labor issued the following statement.

"This is continued evidence that the initiatives and programs to protect workers' safety and health, designed by and implemented in this administration, are indeed working. In addition to a decline in the overall number of fatalities, the rate for 2007 declined to 3.7 fatalities per 100,000 workers. This is the lowest fatality rate in recorded OSHA history."

The BLS report showed that the number of worker fatalities has declined six percent since 2006. Final data will not be released until April 2009, but the preliminary figure that has already been stated is 5,488 fatal injuries for 2007 compared with 5,840 for 2006. Through this comparision, it is obvious that the worker fatalities will continue decline.

Safety Equipment Regulations Updated

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently published a proposed rule to clarify the requirement for personal protective equipment and training for workers. Under the rule, each employee who is not protected will be considered as a separate violation. The item, which affects personal protective equipment (PPE) in general industry, maritime and construction trades, was published in the August 19 Federal Register.

OSHA regulations have long required employers to furnish PPE, such as work gloves, safety glasses or goggles, safety masks and other protective equipment to workers at no charge.

Under the previous regulations, in some cases, if 10 workers in a single location were found not to be using protective eyewear, the courts threw out 9 of the 10 OSHA citations and penalties, and only permitted one. However, the new regulations would require employers to pay all 10 fines. The proposed revisions are primarily concerned with PPE and training related to known health hazards, such as asbestos and lead.

Under the proposed changes, employers are still responsible for issuing personal protective equipment to all workers and ensuring that it is used; it will also ensure that OSHA has the necessary tools to assess higher penalties when safety inspectors deem it necessary.

The new rule does not impose any new PPE or training requirements, but simply gives OSHA the ability to enforce its existing rules more aggressively. OSHA is accepting public comments for 30 days, until September 18.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Federal Child Labor Law Changes

The federal child labor laws have been strengthened by one aspect of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) that was overlooked by many employers.

According to the amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, if employers violate federal child labor laws, the US Department of Labor can impose hefty fines. Under the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, employers may be fined up to $100,000 for a child labor violation that results in the death or serious injury of a worker under 18 years of age .

Section 302 of GINA makes the maximum penalty for repeated violations of the FLSA child labor laws double, from $50,000 to $100,000. The US Department of Labor is charged with enforcing federal child labor laws, although many states also have their own laws or regulations regarding workers under the age of 18.

“We are pleased that the Congress has enacted the administration’s proposal to strengthen the nation’s child labor laws and to provide today’s teenagers with safe employment opportunities,” Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao said.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

North Carolina Tipped Minimum Wage Decrease

In the state of North Carolina, the minimum wage for tipped employees has been reduced from $2.43 per hour to $2.13 per hour on July 24, 2008.

On July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage has increased from $5.85 per hour to $6.55 per hour. At the same time, the minimum wage for tipped workers in North Carolina has been $2.13 per hour, 30 cents less than before.

According to the North Carolina Department of Labor, employers are permitted to take a tip credit of up to $4.42 per hour. That amount is unchanged when a worker puts in overtime. So a cash wage of at least $5.41 per hour must be paid to a tipped employee, when working overtime.If the employee averages less than $4.42 per hour in tips, the employer must make up the difference in cash wages.

It is surprising for any North Carolina employers to know that tipped workers are entitled to overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours per week. When a tipped employee works overtime, he or she must be paid 1.5 times the minimum wage of $6.55 per hour. That’s $9.83 per hour.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Hampshire Minimum Wage Will Increase Again

On July 24, 2008, the federal minimum wage increased to $6.55 per hour. However, weeks after that, on September 1, 2008, the minimum wage in New Hampshire will increase again to $7.25 per hour. That’s an increase of 70 cents, and the final increase for the present.

As for employees who receive tips in occupations in restaurants, motels, inns, etc., they must be paid at least 45% of the state minimum wage by the employer. The remaining 55% of the minimum wage can be in the form of tips paid directly to them by customers. However, if the employees earn an insufficient amount in tips, their employers must pay the differences between the tipped wage and the minimum wage. This law applies to tipped employees of all ages.

On July 24, 2009, the federal minimum wage will increase again, to $7.25 per hour. The change won’t affect New Hampshire employers, however, because the state minimum wage will have been at that rate for 10 months already.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Minimum Wage Increase May Impact Small Businesses in West Texas

West Texas has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. So if local businesses want to compete in the job market, they have to be more aggressive to get the sought-after employees.

Russell Johnson, Manager for La Casa Verde Nursery explains, "Well, it really hasn't had that much impact on us, because we have been paying starting employees at more than minimum wage for quite a while now." At any time, they have between 10 and 15 employees on the job.

"We do want to attract quality employees and we do realize our employees do have to make a living and they have families to feed and their expenses, whether it's gasoline or groceries have gone up, so we have to pay more than minimum wage and have for quite a while," Johnson said.

Trish Powell from the Better Business Bureau said the bigger businesses aren't feeling the increase in the minimum wage, but it will to some extent impact the small businesses. "They're going to be impacted the most because that will significantly stretch their budgeting, but they may have already be having problems with it anyways because of the need to hire people at such higher rates," she said.

But Powell also says the minimum wage increase was announced a long time ago, so it gave businesses time to prepare for it.

Colorado Minimum Wage to Increase

In the state of Colorado, the Denver-area inflation rate for the first half of this year was 3.7 percent, which was propelled by rising energy costs. It's not just another economic statistic: Thanks to a 2006 ballot issue, Colorado uses the measure to set the state's minimum wage.

Colorado’s minimum wage is currently $7.02 per hour. It will increase to $7.28 per hour on Jan. 1, the Rocky Mountain News calculates, based on the Colorado Department of Labor's rules. For tipped employees, like restaurant workers, the minimum wage will increase from $4 to $4.26 per hour.

A spokesman for the Colorado Department of Labor, Bill Thoennes, said the agency must consult with federal economists and conduct a rules hearing before formally announcing the change, which is based on the Denver-Boulder-Greeley Consumer Price Index; the index measures price increases from the first half of 2007 through the first half of 2008.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates the local inflation rate. The bureau said energy prices, which include prices for vehicles and heating and cooling the home, rose 19 percent. In the prior year, energy costs actually declined 0.6 percent. Taking out the massive jump in energy costs, the CPI for Denver rose 2.6 percent.

The CPI increase means another round of cost increases for businesses, particularly for those small businesses, like restaurants. For instance, the wage for tipped employees will increase to $4.26 per hour, a 6.5 percent higher wage than the current $4 per hour.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mandatory Sick Leave Bill Dies in Senate

On August 7th, the California Senate Appropriations Committee killed AB 2716, the mandatory sick leave bill, which would have made California the first state to require paid sick leave for all workers. The bill died amid opposition from business lobbyists and lawmaker concerned that the benefit was too costly.

Under AB 2716, sponsored by Assembly member Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco), workers would have received one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Employees of small companies in California would take up to five days of paid sick leave each year, while workers at larger firms would take up to nine.

A study by the National Federation of Independent Business Research Foundation had predicted that if the bill became law, it would cost 370,000 jobs in California and would burden employers with $4.6 billion in new costs over in five years.

Passed through the California Assembly in May, the Bill was skipped over this time, and failed to move forward. Ma, who modeled the bill after the city of San Francisco ordinance that passed in 2006, said “Currently five to six million workers in California do not have paid sick days, and that represents about 40 percent of the work force,” She also pledged to reintroduce the bill next year.

On protecting retirement and investments of American workers

Elaine L. Chao, U.S. secretary of labor, and Christopher Cox, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) to protect the $5.8 trillion in retirement assets of American workers, retirees and their families. The two agencies are aiming to permanently establish their relationship in terms of sharing information on retirement and investment.

The MOU will make it easier for investors, benefit plan participants and plan administrators to get access to more readily understandable information, which will be helpful for them in making informed investment decisions.

There is a population of 117 million people in America who rely on private sector retirement plans. It is easy for those people to benefit from the MOU. "This further boosts the department's record-setting enforcement program that has won $11 billion in monetary results and more than 800 criminal indictments since 2001 on behalf of protecting workers' retirement savings,” said Secretery Chao.

Chairman Cox said, "With a growing number of seniors focused on managing their own 401(k) plans, it's important to improve disclosure to give them the information they need and in a form they can use. To accomplish this, the Department of Labor and the SEC are committed to coordinating closely on their behalf. This enhanced coordination of the SEC's investor protection efforts and the Department of Labor's regulatory responsibility for pensions and 401(k)s will greatly benefit the millions of hardworking Americans who are saving and investing for their retirement as well as those who have already retired."

Both agencies will designate points of contact in their regional offices for the sake of communication among staff on related matters. In addition, the agreement also encourages sharing of non-public information and other subjects of mutual interest between the two agencies.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Most Workers in California Would Get Paid Sick Days

A report released last Wednesday by supporters of bill AB2716, which would require all California employers to provide paid time off for workers to care for themselves or family members, showed that as many as 5.4 million working Californians don't get any paid sick days, and they tend to be both sicker and poorer than employees who do receive sick leave.

"The more you need paid sick days, the less likely you are to have them," said Dr. Rajiv Bhatia, one of the contributors to the report and the director of occupational and environmental health for San Francisco.

The bill by Assemblywoman Fiona Ma (D-San Francisco) was modeled on the paid sick leave law that took effect last year in San Francisco. The bill passed the state Assembly in May and is scheduled for a hearing this week in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, saying that it is a complicated and costly mandate that could force companies to cut wages or lay off workers. However, supporters held the opinion that the public health benefits will outweigh any costs to employers.

Monday, August 04, 2008

North Dakota Increased Its Minimum Wage to $6.55 Per Hour July 24, 2008

The state of North Dakota has increased its minimum wage, with reference to the federal minimum wage increase, to $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008; and will increase the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour on July 24, 2009.

Michael Ziesch, Job Service North Dakota research analyst, said the state has about 14,000 unfilled jobs and employers already are having to pay above minimum wage to find workers.

But North Dakota officials say the 70-cent increase will not significantly affect the job market or give much aid to families struggling to keep up with increasing costs of living.

Democratic-NPL gubernatorial candidate Sen. Tim Mathern said better-paying jobs would be created in North Dakota for facilitating a “family-friendly wage."“We’re not going to create a minimum wage that’s going to get to the $30,000 level, but we need to make sure the jobs we create pay at that level,” Mathern said.