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Bet on Preparedness, Not Luck: 3 Legal Liabilities of Altering Time Sheets

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If you are a manager, HR professional or anyone with a hand in the payroll process, you probably already know that altering employee payroll sheets can land an organization in a heap of litigation. According to a new ruling, even your personal assets can be targeted if you are found guilty.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), employees now may sue their bosses or HR professionals for personal liability for making or authorizing adjustments to a worker’s time sheet. To prepare accordingly, organizations need to enforce strict rules regarding payroll adjustments and revisit their policies surrounding scheduled breaks or off-the-clock work. Companies taking charge of these areas greatly can reduce the risk of legal issues stemming from disgruntled employees.

Off-the-Clock Violations

Although it sounds obvious, off-the-clock violations commonly are misunderstood within the workforce. Under FLSA regulations, “hours worked” only applies when an employee is on duty and on the premises of their work. Managers only can assign duties to employees falling under those restrictions. Whether the task is taking out the trash, filing documents or dropping off company mail, managers can be held liable if the employee is not clocked in.

To avoid this situation, create a list of duties for an employee to complete before he/she clocks out for the day. A comprehensive list will communicate your expectations to employees and ensure the work is completed by employees who are still clocked-in.

Brake During Breaks

Over the past year, the U.S. Department of Labor has responded to an increase of complaints from employees who claim they were asked to work through breaks for a host of different reasons. Even if some of these complaints prove false, the problem easily can be avoided by HR taking proactive measures.

If your company offers an optional break, be sure to know the guidelines and communicate them to employees. To remain in compliance, an employee must be relieved completely of his or her duties for a break to go unpaid. For this reason, many organizations issue policies prohibiting their employees from eating lunch while at their desks. Although simple-sounding, the attitude behind it is necessary if organizations hope to avoid possible legal complications from overworked employees.

Slashing Time-Sheet Changes

Even more common than off-the-clock violations is the practice of altering employee time sheets. Although many immediately may think of “time-shaving,” the manager’s intentions behind these adjustments are usually the opposite. A large number of these approved payroll adjustments are completely benign and carried out for the benefit of the employee.

For example, adjustments occur when an employee forgets to clock in before a shift or a computer malfunction prohibits him or her from doing so. These situations frequently lead to incorrect time sheets. In order for payroll to be processed smoothly, managers are expected to correct these mistakes through payroll adjustments.

However, under this new ruling, management no longer can afford to adjust typical payroll errors. To minimize liability, require employees to be responsible for correct time records. While that may not be popular, it could help the organization avoid big fines and costly litigation.

Moral of the story: Bet on preparedness, not luck. With these three policy changes, you may be playing it safe, but you’re also reducing your risk, which is always the best bet.


Lauren Toppins

by Lauren Toppins


Author Bio: Lauren Toppins is Paycom’s Corporate Attorney and has served as the head of the legal department since 2010. Prior to joining Paycom, she served in a general counsel role for three years. In addition to her Juris Doctor, Toppins also holds her Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) certificate. During her position as corporate attorney, Toppins managed Paycom’s human resources department. Toppins’ practice focuses on employment law, corporate law, intellectual property and information security law. In her role as corporate attorney, Toppins also oversees Paycom's compliance department and leads a taskforce that conducts periodic reviews of existing employment laws as well as newly implemented laws and pending litigation. In addition, Toppins spearheads a quality management program through which she obtained ISO 27001 and 9001 certifications for Paycom. In her spare time, Toppins also serves her local community by serving on the Board of Leadership Oklahoma City.

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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