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DOL's Request for Information

Back to the Drawing Board: The DOL’s Overtime Overhaul Request for Information

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The U. S. Department of Labor is taking comments on how it should move forward with overtime overhaul

Since the newest regulations to the overtime law were found invalid, employers are subject to the previous version of Fair Labor Standards Act. However, the roller coaster has not ended.

On July 26, 2017, the DOL published a Request for Information in the Federal Register, indicating it intends to attempt an overtime overhaul. Comments to the Request may be submitted until September 25, 2017. The request asks the public for a response to 11 specific questions.

We can use the questions proposed to help uncover some of the possible changes the DOL is considering. Below are five of the more telling questions and what we can infer from them.

1. Should we just update the 2004 salary level based on inflation?

The Court suggested it would be permissible if the DOL adjusted the 2004 salary level for inflation during questioning at the preliminary injunction hearing. In fact, the Court stated, “[I]f [the salary level] had been just adjusted for inflation – the 2004 figure – we wouldn’t be here today … because [the salary level] would still be operating more the way it has … as more of a floor.” This question indicates the DOL may be referencing inflation because they believe it would be acceptable with the courts

2. Should the regulations contain multiple standard salary levels? If so, how should these levels be set: by size of employer, census region, census division, state, metropolitan statistical area or some other method?

The DOL attempts to make a more malleable test here, which, of course, would serve to be more sensitive to changing demographics. However, a change like this would clearly make compliance tough for employers.

3. Should the DOL set different standard salary levels for the executive, administrative and professional exemptions as it did prior to 2004 and, if so, should there be a lower salary for executive and administrative employees as was done from 1963 until the 2004 rulemaking?

Much like the question above about multiple salary levels, this question would likely provide a more effective test. However, would it come at the cost of convoluting the analysis for employers?

4. Would a test for exemption that relies solely on the duties performed by the employee without regard to the amount of salary paid by the employer be preferable to the current standard test?

This question suggests the DOL seems to be accepting the court’s analysis that duties are more important than salary.

5. The 2016 Final Rule, for the first time, permitted non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level. Is this an appropriate limit or should the regulations feature a different percentage cap? Is the amount of the standard salary level relevant in determining whether and to what extent such bonus payments should be credited?

This question indicates the DOL may propose a version of regulations that still allows for bonuses to apply to the salary level.

Given the nature of the questions found in the Request for Information it’s clear the DOL has gone back to the drawing board and may propose something completely different from both the recent failed regulations as well as the 2004 revisions.

Disclaimer: This blog includes general information about legal issues and developments in the law. Such materials are for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These informational materials are not intended, and must not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. You need to contact a lawyer licensed in your jurisdiction for advice on specific legal problems.


Zachary Gregory

by Zachary Gregory


Author Bio: As a compliance attorney for Paycom, Zach Gregory monitors legal and regulatory changes at the state and federal levels, focusing on payroll and garnishment laws, to ensure the Paycom system is updated accordingly. He previously worked at a law firm as a tax attorney. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Christian University and a J.D. from Oklahoma City University. Outside of work, Gregory enjoys playing in the backyard with his two boys, and finding new restaurants with his wife and high school sweetheart, Kellyn.

Leaders

Levels and Landscapes: Equipping Tomorrow’s Leaders

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Leaders are “the primary factor behind employee productivity, commitment and bottom-line profitability,” according to research from leadership consultant expert researchers Zenger Folkman.

The stakes are high, which doesn’t make it any easier to ensure the leaders in your organization are reaching their full potential, or that your next crop of leaders will be up to the task. In fact, research shows that one of the five largest challenges HR faces in 2018 is developing leaders. To make sure your organization’s current and future leaders are in good shape, help develop them through the five levels of leadership with an eye on your specific organization’s landscape.

John Maxwell’s levels of leadership

 In the fast-paced global economy, strong leadership is key to helping employers innovate and adapt on a dime. But before delving into the vast array of advice, employers must first assess their own leadership. According leadership guru John Maxwell, there are five different levels of leadership a leader may progress through.

Maxwell’s levels are:

  1. Position
  2. Permission
  3. Production
  4. People development
  5. Pinnacle

 

As leaders grow, they should progress through the levels of leadership, which build on top of each other. For example, when a leader reaches the third level, Production, their priority is to produce results. Maxwell writes, “[t]he Production level is where leaders can become change agents. Work gets done, morale improves, profits go up, turnover goes down, and goals are achieved. The more you produce, the more you’re able to tackle tough problems and face thorny issues.”

When a leader reaches the final level – Pinnacle –  they reproduce other leaders who are willing and able to develop still more leaders. Their organizations thrive, and they develop a personal legacy of leadership.

Leaders in all areas of an organization can identify where they can grow to move toward Pinnacle – which benefits them, their companies and everyone they work with.

Knowing your business landscape

 The way a leader carries out Maxwell’s five levels may look somewhat different depending on your business and industry. According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, different kind of enterprises thrive under different types of leadership. Businesses should take stock of their products, makeup, competition and the types of people who rise and fall in the ranks to understand which leaders are best suited for their future endeavors.

According to the study, “[l]eadership styles, or brands if you prefer the term, are always contextual. Different kinds of leaders are minted in different organizations.”

This gives your organization an opportunity. Determine how the best, most effective leaders in your company lead. How do they make decisions? What are their priorities, and how do they communicate those to their employees? What are the commonalities your top leaders share? Then, seek those common elements in your rising leaders to build a strong bench of future leaders.

In an upcoming webinar presented by John Maxwell on HR.com, gain insight on how leaders can develop themselves and others. Don’t miss this opportunity to learn how you can grow leaders and elevate the rest of your organization while you do it.

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Author Bio: Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and FoxSports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthen his business acumen.

Physical Wellness

Practical Tactics to Improve Your Workforce’s Physical Wellness

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By now, most of us are well aware physical wellness should be a priority for employees and employers. Being physically active helps employees perform at a high level and brings a host of work-related benefits, including increased mental stamina, better concentration and memory, and the ability to learn more quickly. Studies have shown working out for as little as 30 minutes can drastically reduce stress levels. Plus, on days when employees exercise, they tend to be more productive and have improved moods, which benefits the entire company.

Although many employers are aware of this correlation, it can seem difficult to encourage physical wellness in the workplace without expensive perks like exercise equipment or onsite personal trainers. But, the good news is you can encourage physical wellness in your workforce by implementing practical tactics in three key areas: culture, environment and ergonomics.

Culture

It’s difficult for any wellness initiative to succeed without support and buy-in from top-level leadership. Ideally, through words and actions, leaders should communicate employee physical health is important.

This could happen in several ways, including:

  • encouraging participation in sports
  • facilitating company teams or leagues
  • holding walking meetings
  • offering full or partial reimbursements for local race entry fees
  • partnering with local fitness centers to offer employee discounts

After encouraging employee engagement in company offerings, leadership might choose to cement their support by participating in that big community run or taking part in an office-wide volleyball game. A physical wellness program will thrive in a culture that recognizes its importance at all levels.

Environment

You also can help employees get the most out of your organization’s wellness program by creating visual cues throughout the workplace reminding employees to make healthy choices. It’s certainly difficult for employees to overlook the on-campus gym or track they walk past each day, but choosing a healthy snack from the vending machine might increase with some signage indicating 100-calorie or less options. Post signs in stairwells to remind employees how many calories they can burn by choosing to walk instead of using the elevator.  An environment with myriad positive visual cues will encourage employees to take the next step toward a healthier lifestyle.

For businesses with smaller office spaces, take stock of the number of windows present and position desks near them when possible to help improve office visuals. If it’s an option, bring some plants into an all-beige office space – they can improve employee productivity in addition to providing visual interest.

It turns out that acting on those visual cues matters, too. According to Harvard Business Review, Leeds Metropolitan University researched more than 200 employees at a variety of companies and had them report their work performance on days they exercised during work hours and days they did not. On the days they did, the employees reported markedly better productivity and time management, as well as improved interactions with others.

Ergonomics

According to the United States Department of Labor, ergonomics (the science concerned with people’s efficiency in work environments) can help increase productivity, decrease muscle fatigue and lessen the incidence of work-related injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and rotator cuff injuries.

For the many employees who work in an office, implementing a few simple ergonomic best practices can make a big difference. Businesses could enact the 20/20/20 rule for vision breaks, which suggests individuals take a 20-second break every 20 minutes to focus their eyes on an object 20 feet away. Doing so can prevent harmful eye strain that occurs more frequently in jobs with high levels of screen time. Additionally, accommodations like additional lumbar support, standing desk options and adjustable chairs for comfort can be beneficial for desk dwellers, as can suggesting a two-minute break to stretch each hour.

There are many ways to encourage physical wellness in the workplace – start with what makes sense within your organization’s current wellness initiatives. Whether your company has a spiffy new gym in mind or strives to embrace a culture where walking meetings are the norm, prioritizing physical wellness can improve productivity and morale in your workforce and directly contribute to continued success!

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like:

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Tiffany Gamblin

by Tiffany Gamblin


Author Bio: Tiffany Gamblin is an HR manager at Paycom. Since joining the company in early 2016, she has implemented innovative benefit communications, as well as developed and delivered an immersive “HR Leadership for Management” training program across the organization. A certified professional of the Society for Human Resource Management, Gamblin obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2013 from the University of Central Oklahoma and has more than eight years of HR experience in a generalist capacity, with a focus on benefits administration and HR training.

Employee Mental Health

 The Value of Promoting and Prioritizing Employee Mental Health

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Today’s businesses navigate an ever-shifting balancing act between productivity and retention of talent. In many workplaces, efficiency and output are paramount to compete in a fast-paced, globalized economy. However, retaining top talent is also crucial, and numerous employers regularly combat workforce shortages and additional expenses associated with turnover.

One way to maintain this balance is by recognizing the benefits associated with a mentally healthy workforce. An awareness of mental health benefits not only employees, but also the overall culture of the business. Conversely, if companies fail to recognize the importance of prioritizing mental health, they could potentially face increased absenteeism, performance lag and steep health care costs.

Why it matters

First and foremost, people make up a workforce. This may seem obvious, but in an increasingly competitive, “always on” business landscape, employees and leadership often both feel pressure to maintain a nearly superhuman level of output.

It’s true that employees produce innovative, useful products, invigorate the economy, and maintain goals and values that align with their workplace culture. But those same employees can also face a myriad of personal issues at home, such as substance or alcohol abuse, family stress and grief. According to a recent study from the National Institute of Mental Health, one in six U.S. adults lives with mental illness. Mental health issues don’t occur in a vacuum; employees who struggle with these issues at home can struggle with them at work, as well.

Using an EAP

An employee assistance program (EAP) is one resource business leaders can use to focus on their workforce’s mental health. An EAP is a voluntary program that typically allows employees access to confidential counseling services and referrals at no cost. Companies may provide an EAP through an independent counseling service, through life insurance as an ancillary benefit, or even with case-by-case services, such as an on-site chaplain.

Implementing an EAP is a step in the right direction; however, many employees may be wary of the stigma around receiving or even discussing treatment for mental health issues. Due to generational norms, you may find that your millennial employees are more comfortable asking about or accessing an EAP than your older employees. Workers of all generations may have a misconception that EAPs are only for seeking services to treat addiction, while others simply may not know about them at all.

Regardless, effectively communicating the benefits of an EAP and how to access them is key, and can help ensure your employees take advantage of them when needed. Posters displayed in areas like the restroom will encourage the employees to understand the purpose of the EAP, however, printed take away cards are a best practice to allow the information to be obtained discreetly.

 Making it a priority

Businesses that value the mental health of their employees need to communicate this priority to them. As with any successful initiative, this cultural emphasis should start at the top so employees feel empowered by leadership to prioritize their own mental health.

A few ways to do this include:

  • encouraging employees to take care of their mental health by providing resources like an EAP or inviting mental health professionals to wellness events
  • allowing for breaks during the day to allow employees to re-energize
  • providing communication regarding possible stress management tactics, such as getting a good night’s sleep, confiding in friends or family, and finding an engaging hobby
  • hosting a wellness fair to highlight local mental health resources

Also, it’s important to let employees know they always can contact a professional when necessary.

Prioritizing mental health not only helps businesses find the right balance between output and retention, but creates an open, authentic environment in which employees and employers feel comfortable to engage, innovate and grow. With the right tools and management support, a solid mental health initiative can be the first step toward a brighter, better future for your company.

If you enjoyed this article, you may also like Requests for standing desks: How HR can exercise its options.

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Tiffany Gamblin

by Tiffany Gamblin


Author Bio: Tiffany Gamblin is an HR manager at Paycom. Since joining the company in early 2016, she has implemented innovative benefit communications, as well as developed and delivered an immersive “HR Leadership for Management” training program across the organization. A certified professional of the Society for Human Resource Management, Gamblin obtained her bachelor’s degree in 2013 from the University of Central Oklahoma and has more than eight years of HR experience in a generalist capacity, with a focus on benefits administration and HR training.

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