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The Elephant and Donkey in the Office

The Elephant and Donkey in the Office

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Policies on Political Activities at Work

The 2016 race for the White House has been intense, with candidates engaging in heated debates. As might be expected, the charged electoral atmosphere has permeated the workplace, causing record level divisiveness. According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), “over one-quarter of employees reported greater political volatility at their workplace in 2016 compared to previous election years.”

Political discussions easily can turn into arguments because people often view their political beliefs as part of their identity. To prevent political conflicts – which can negatively impact productivity and morale – many employers discourage political activities in the workplace.

First Amendment and the Public Sector vs. Private Sector

Public employees are governed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which gives them rights to free speech in the workplace, though with some restrictions. But, contrary to popular belief, the First Amendment does not apply to the private sector and does not bar private employers from restricting employees’ political speech. With few exceptions, private employers can prohibit employees from engaging in political discussions at work.

Employers should examine state law, which may provide employee protections. For example, some states have off-duty conduct, free speech and political activity laws that give employees rights not offered under federal law. In addition, Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) allows unionized and non-unionized employees to engage in protected political advocacy, as long as it relates to labor and working conditions.

Employers who permit political discussions at work should be careful that such conversations do not violate legally protected characteristics, such as race, age, gender, disability and religion – which could prompt complaints of harassment and discrimination from offended employees.

Can employers tell employees not to display political signs in their work space?

Private employers can tell employees not to post campaign signs in their cubicles and require they remove political signs from their work space – as long as they don’t breach applicable state laws or protected Section 7 NLRA rights.

How can employers address political activities at work?

If your organization does not have a policy on political activities, consider speaking with your attorney to determine whether it needs one. If you do have a policy in place, consider reviewing for compliance with applicable laws. Does the policy cover relevant areas, such as displaying political buttons on work clothing, making campaign calls on lunch breaks and using office equipment for political activities? Organizations that allow employees to talk about politics at work should aim for a policy that minimizes distractions and encourages respectful political discussions.


Chad Raymond

by Chad Raymond


Author Bio: With over 19 years of experience in employee engagement, benefits administration and government compliance, Chad has unparalleled knowledge in the fields of leadership and human resources. Chad has worked in several different capacities with Paycom including leading our product development team and HCM initiatives as well as the former director of Paycom’s service department. Chad’s vision and execution helped empower executives and their teams to reach their full potential, ultimately leading to his role as Paycom’s vice president of HR.

Office Relationships

How HR Could Have Helped 3 Complicated On-screen Office Relationships

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With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, love is in the air and sometimes that romantic air makes its way into the office. Workplace romances may seem like something only seen in film or on TV, but according to Career Builder, 38% of American workers said they have dated a co-worker at least once in their career. That’s over a third of employees, which makes workplace romance an item every organization should have on its radar.

To better understand how HR can prepare and handle potentially tricky conversations, let’s take a look at three complicated workplace romances from film or television – and how HR could have helped.

Subscribe to HR Break Room to hear more about managing office romance.

Mulder and Scully – The X-files

For almost 25 years, special agents Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) from The X-Files have been solving supernatural and extraterrestrial cases on television. This pair of government agents work for one of the most well-known organizations in the country, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Throughout the series, they slowly become more than just friends or coworkers and have even become romantically involved in the most recent seasons. Each episode features a case that often involves aliens, weird occurrences … and yet another development in Mulder and Scully’s evolving relationship.

How HR can help: The on-again, off-again relationship between Mulder and Scully has left audiences wondering about their status for years. That ambiguity is what makes their relationship unhealthy for the workplace. It’s important for an organization’s policy to hold employees accountable for reporting a romantic relationship with a co-worker. This transparency allows HR to hold a consistent policy that can protect both employees if they break up.

Tom and Summer – 500 Days of Summer

The greeting card industry can be tough, but a brutal breakup in the office can make it even harder! Just ask Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and Summer Finn (Zooey Deschanel) from the 2009 hit romance film, 500 Days of Summer. The romance that sparked between this on-screen couple turned out to be a bad fit that eventually led to Tom’s depression and complete disengagement from his work. It’s a classic example of how even the most beautiful romances can sometimes go sour.

 How HR can help: It’s important for HR to treat their employees like adults who are allowed to make their own mistakes. It is equally important for managers and supervisors to know about office romances so they can be prepared to handle potential drama.

In this film, Summer is the personal secretary of Tom’s manager, Vance. As the long and painful breakup unfolds, Vance is not clued in on the reason behind Tom’s disengagement, which leads to awkward workplace encounters and poor productivity. By incorporating some form of documentation confirming a workplace relationship into your organization’s policy for managers and team leads, you can foster a culture that equips leaders to better address the impact of those painful breakups.

Lois and Clark – Superman

The iconic comic book couple Lois and Clark have appeared on the screen together many times over the last several decades, but let’s take a look at the 1975 film Superman starring Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lois Lane works closely with Clark Kent, who (unbeknownst to her) lives a life of fighting criminals. In the workplace, they are coworkers with great chemistry, but Lois’ professional-turned-romantic relationship with Clark’s alter ego, Superman, eventually makes her and the entire Daily Planet a target of his rivals. Clark’s dual identities complicate the root of the problem within the workplace, so that his interest in Lois puts the entire organization at risk.

How HR can help: Krypton’s last son may be great at hiding his identity, but ultimately living a life of two identities endangers people in both. That includes his coworkers Jimmy Olson, Perry White and most importantly, his romantic interest, Lois Lane.

It’s up to The Daily Planet’s HR department to screen their candidates through an applicant tracking system with thorough background checks before making a hiring decision. This can help identify potential red flags or conflicts of interest before a new employee joins the team.

 This Valentine’s Day, take the opportunity to look closer at your existing workplace romantic relationship policies. These stories make for great entertainment – but an effective policy on workplace romance can help you make sure the drama stays on the screen and out of your office.

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Posted in Blog, Featured, Talent Management

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

Understanding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

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With the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) being signed into law by President Donald Trump on Dec. 22, 2017, several changes to individual and business taxation were made. How those changes affect each taxpayer depends on that individual’s specific situation.

Below is a “big-picture” overview of various provisions affecting businesses and individuals, with more focused guidance on how the new law will affect employer withholding of employee income taxes.

 

Changes for individuals

The TCJA affects individual income taxes in a number of ways. While the law maintains the seven income brackets used in tax calculation, it reduces the tax rate for five of the brackets:

Previous Rates 10% 15% 25% 28% 33% 35% 39.6%
New Rates 10% 12% 22% 24% 32% 35% 37%

 

The new law has also changed the withholding rates for supplemental wages. For wages up to $1 million, the current rate is 22%, and for wages over $1 million, the current rate is 37% (previously 25% and 39.6%, respectively).

TCJA has eliminated the personal exemptions for individuals, spouse and dependents. Previously, a married taxpayer filing jointly could claim two exemptions: one for his or her spouse and another for themselves. In that instance, two exemptions of $4,050 each would reduce taxable income by $8,100 total.

While that exemption is gone, the TCJA nearly has doubled the standard deduction. Last year, the standard deduction was $6,350 for single filers and $12,700 for joint filers. For 2018, these levels increased to $12,000 for single and $24,000 for joint filers.

The TCJA makes several other specific changes to individual income taxes, including:

  • The individual shared responsibility mandate within the Affordable Care Act (ACA) essentially has been removed, as the penalty for noncompliance will become $0, effective Jan. 1, 2019.
  • Individuals no longer will be able to claim unreimbursed business expenses as itemized deductions.
  • A $10,000 limit has been placed on the deductibility of other taxes (state income tax, property taxes, etc.).
  • Donations to universities for athletic seating privileges are no longer deductible.
  • The child tax credit will double from the previous $1,000 value, up to $2,000 per child.

 

Changes for businesses

Businesses will need to take note of several changes within the TCJA as well. One key change: The corporate tax rate has been reduced from 35% to 21%.

Additionally, a new short term incentive is in place for businesses who offer FMLA paid leave to their employees. Such businesses will receive a credit of 12.5% for every dollar paid for FMLA leave, up to 50% of an employee’s pay, with an additional 0.25% credit for every 1% paid above 50% of an employee’s pay.

Among various reductions or removal of deductible expenses that businesses should note include:

  • transportation fringe benefits
  • limitations for employer-operated eating facilities
  • deduction limitations for pay to highly paid employees and C-level employees
  • limitations to the write-offs for sexual harassment settlements
  • limitations for the deductibility of entertainment expenses

 

All of the above items will need to be discussed with your CPA or tax counsel to determine how they apply to your situation.

 

Frequently asked questions from employers

Some of the most frequent questions we have received since the president’s signing of the law pertain to the withholding tables and Form W-4 questions.

Withholding tables

The IRS released the new 2018 withholding tables on Jan. 11 in Notice 1036, with more detailed guidance released on Jan. 29 in Notice 2018-14 and Publication 15. (These changes already have been implemented in the Paycom system, ahead of the Feb. 15 implementation deadline from the IRS.)

The IRS designed the 2018 withholding tables so that employees’ existing Form W-4 data could continue to be used. Therefore, the IRS does not require employees to complete a new W-4 for 2018.

Extensions to the 2017 Form W-4

The IRS currently is working on a new 2018 Form W-4 that will allow employees to modify their withholding to take full advantage of the changes in the TCJA. The new form’s expected release is after Feb. 15.

As a result, Notice 2018-14 highlights these items relating to the 2017 Form W-4:

  1. Existing 2017 Forms W-4 furnished to claim exemption from withholding for 2017 would be extended to Feb. 28, 2018.
  2. The 2017 Form W-4 may continue to be used temporarily to claim exemption from withholding in 2018.
  3. The agency temporarily has suspended the requirement that employees must furnish new Forms W-4 to employers within 10 days of changes in states that would reduce withholding allowances they may claim.

 

Allowances and exemptions

When discussing the effects of the TCJA, it is important to understand the distinction between “allowances,” as claimed on the W-4 that are used for withholding, and “exemptions” that an individual claims on a year-end tax return.

Historically, these numbers are usually the same. For instance, last year they were $4,050 per allowance in withholding and exemptions in year-end tax returns. The number of allowances claimed on the 2017 Form W-4 were multiplied by $4,050, and an employee’s annual wages were reduced by that product to arrive at taxable wages used in withholding calculations. If the employee claimed exemptions on his or her annual return, the number of exemptions claimed likewise was multiplied by the same $4,050 to reduce taxable income on the Form 1040 year-end return.

While the TCJA has eliminated exemptions for 2018, the allowances (as used in calculation of withholding) have not been eliminated; in fact, they were increased to a value of $4,150 per allowance claimed on the W-4. Thus, for every W-4 allowance claimed, an employee’s gross income will be reduced by $4,150 to arrive at taxable wages for use in the withholding calculation. However, no exemptions will be allowed on the employee’s Form 1040 at year-end; moving forward, it is anticipated the worksheet on the 2018 Form W-4 will not include exemptions in the calculation of withholding allowances.

Voluntary submission of 2018 Form W-4

While submitting a 2018 Form W-4 is not required by the IRS at this time, an employee may elect to do so. Employees should look at the 2018 W-4 once it is released, because of the removal of exemptions from the income tax provisions. Employees should calculate the allowances on the new form to determine if they would benefit by submitting a new Form W-4 to their employer to adjust their withholding.

Until the 2018 Form W-4 is released, an employee may voluntarily choose to submit a copy of the 2017 Form W-4 if he or she wants to adjust their withholding for the period prior to the 2018 form’s release.

The recent tax reform is complex, leaving many items to consider for your employees as they head into 2018. Businesses and employees alike would benefit from consulting tax counsel to help determine the most appropriate next steps for their specific situations.

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Posted in Blog, Compliance, Featured


Author Bio: Robert Barclay has been the Tax Research Team Lead at Paycom since 2012, and has been instrumental in such company projects as the development of its Affordable Care Act compliance product, implementation of geolocation services and redesign of Form W-2. He joined Paycom in 2011, bringing more than 20 years of experience with the capital markets consulting practices of Ernst & Young in Memphis, Tenn., and Birmingham, Ala.; and Causey Demgen & Moore in Denver, Colo. A native Oklahoman, Barclay is a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis, where he played football as linebacker.

2 Ways Your Employees’ Opinion Sways Consumer Behavior, for Good or Bad

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Your company’s brand and external reputation may not seem like an HR concern at first, but in this age of technology and social media, the voices of your people actually may be your most important asset.

The way your employees and even job candidates view your company influences the opinions of their online and offline connections, who could be prospects for your business. Social media only amplifies that effect. How can you make sure the effect on your business is a positive one?

In a recent episode of our HR Break Room podcast, we talked with Elon University communications professor John Doorley about how employer brands and reputation sway consumer behavior and what business leaders can do about it. Here are two key takeaways from that conversation.

1. Communicate your organization’s brand and culture to employees.

A company’s reputation and influence are critical to its success, and the employee experience is a big part of that success. A key element to a great employee experience – especially with millennials – is a workforce that understands the organization’s purpose. An organization’s reason for being must be communicated to workers from the top down, so the employee base can invest in the goals and mission.

A great employee experience empowers and encourages them to share your organization’s mission with their friends and family, including on social media. Your employees have the potential to be your most powerful brand advocates and can sway the way consumers view and interact with your product.

Giving your happiest employees the microphone (so to speak) can improve your organization’s reputation and, ultimately, your profits.

2. An unclear employee and candidate brand threatens your reputation and bottom line.

In the same way a great employee experience can turn your people into your most powerful advocates, a poor experience with your brand from employees or candidates can damage your reputation.

When you have a messy careers website or do not respond to an application a prospective employee may have spent hours putting together, you risk sending a negative message that not only could damage your reputation in one person’s eyes, but even may lead to the loss of clients. Even losing one client could result in negative feedback that influences the decision of potential clients.

Doorley recommends talking to candidates and employees with the same respect as one might exhibit when speaking with the media. That level of care can help you ensure that your organization is viewed in the best light by the people who are able to influence your external reputation.

Employers also should ensure consistent employee communication – in person whenever possible, as it’s one of the most important steps to empowering your people to help your organization. That can help you trust that your company’s brand and reputation is the best it can be with employees, candidates and consumers.

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Posted in Blog, Employee Experience, Featured, Talent Acquisition

caleb.masters

by Caleb Masters


Author Bio: Caleb is the host of The HR Break Room and a Webinar and Podcast Producer at Paycom. With more than 5 years of experience as a published online writer and content producer, Caleb has produced dozens of podcasts and videos for multiple industries both local and online. Caleb continues to assist organizations creatively communicate their ideas and messages through researched talks, blog posts and new media. Outside of work, Caleb enjoys running, discussing movies and trying new local restaurants.

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