Employer Insights November/December 2007
Highlights of this issue Member Case Study, 3 Conducting Effective Open Enrollment Meetings, 4 HR – End of the Year Reminders, 7 MEA Online Learning Center, 10 Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, 11 From Beyond the Region, 13 Legal Brief, 14
Upcoming Events Peer Group Roundtables Human Resources – VF Training & Development - VF Senior Human Resources - NJ New Public Seminars Business Writing: Special Focus on Emails - VF Creating an Environment that Motivates - PH Basic Employee IMPNREW & OVED ! Benefits - VF Systematic Selling - VF Brieﬁngs Unemployment Compensation - VF Background Checks: Legal Implications - VF
11/13 11/30 12/6
11/08 11/20 12/4 12/5
MEA’s In-House Employment Attorney Enhances Member Support: Mitigate your risk as an employer – leave gambling and luck to casino games
Jim Devine, President & CEO jdevine@MEAinfo.org
“The best throw of the dice is to throw them away.” – English proverb
Although gambling is legal under federal law, federal law obviously does not protect those who choose to I rarely engage in gambling, cardgamble with the law. Many employers playing, the lottery or other games are under the mistaken belief that of chance that involve me giving my they can “ﬂy under the radar.” Or that money to someone else hoping that perhaps they can avoid scrutiny under luck will be on my side and I’ll get applicable law because they are of a more money back. When I do gamble certain smaller size, and that most laws I try to deploy strategy to increase my probably don’t apply to them. chances of winning, moving from one slot machine to another or pulling the In our 2007 PA and Federal Employers’ Guide we list 24 different state and one-arm bandit lever with different federal laws that apply to employers levels of force. Although these are with one or more employees. That admittedly pointless exercises, they are fun and lessen the pain, I guess, of number climbs to over 30 different the inevitable loss of cash that seems laws for employers with 20 or more to plague my casino adventures. I am employees. Without knowledge of the particulars of these laws what may be referred to as a “friend or the potential implications of of the house.” That is, casinos make noncompliance, employers are money on me. essentially betting on an uncertain Perhaps my aversion to gambling future and taking a gamble as is characteristic of why I became a opposed to a risk; A potentially costly lawyer. Or, why as a lawyer I tend to gamble at that. engage more in the areas of logic and risk-avoidance than I do with games of According to statistics published by the EEOC (available at www.eeoc. chance and luck-based exercises. gov/stats) the total average settlement There’s a clear difference between a awards paid to employee plaintiffs gamble and a risk. The word “gamble” over the past ten years for all charges is defined by Miriam Webster’s online have been over $93 million per year. dictionary as “to bet on an uncertain According to research published by outcome, to stake something on a a major national insurance carrier the contingency: take a chance.” The word overall median settlement for a charge “risk” on the other hand is defined by of discrimination is approximately Webster’s as the “possibility of loss $70,000. The median trial award for a or injury.” discrimination claim is $187,583, and the mean is $580,642. please turn to page 6
Welcome New MEA Members! Norco Auto Group - Pottstown, PA Car Sales, Service & Parts
Direct Group - Pennington, NJ Direct mail, fulfillment & data management
Octagon Research Solutions Inc. - Wayne, PA Consulting services to the Pharma & Biotech industries
Bostock Company, Inc. - Warrington, PA Manufacturer of patented elevator interiors
Child and Family Focus, Inc. - Valley Forge, PA - Social services Community Council for Mental Health & Mental Retardation - Philadelphia, PA Mental health counseling NorDiag Inc. - Downingtown, PA Gene based diagnostics
Penn Chesapeake Advisors Inc. - Wayne, PA 401k Plan Advisors
YMCA of Philadelphia & Vicinity - Philadelphia, PA Human Services
Cavan Construction Co., Inc. - Aston, PA Commercial concrete construction Lower Providence Township - Eagleville, PA Local municipal government
Susan Zoll, Manager, Training Operations and Marketing attended the 2007 Employer Association Group (EAG) Professional Staff Conference, Grand Vision – The Future of EAGs, in Grand Rapids, MI from July 23 – 25, 2007. The EAG is comprised on 65 independent member associations across the United States representing 55,000 employers. The conference focused on the future of the EAG and how we can best serve our members.
Environmental Tectonics Corp. - Southampton, PA - Design, manufacture, installation, training and long-term maintenance of aircrew training systems
Julian Krinsky Camps & Programs King of Prussia, PA - Summer camps & recreation
Berba Imports LLC - Downingtown, PA Wine importer
MEA On The Move
Penflex Corp. - Gilbertsville, PA Manufacturer of flexible metal hose & braid
Keystone Helicopter, Inc. - Coatesville, PA Helicopter customization, assembly, overhaul and repair
over the past two-plus years. As a sponsor of the show MEA will contribute promotional messages highlighting our expertise in providing workplace advice to our members. Messages will generally air during the Executive Leaders Radio
Show between 10 am and 11 am on Fridays on WWDB 860 am. MEA Board members Ron Allen and Taylor Fernley were also interviewed recently on the show”
Surveys, Surveys, Surveys! Newly updated Federal & PA Employment 7-in-1 Posters contain the seven posters required for employers. Order now at www.meainfo.org or contact email@example.com. The 2007-2008 MEA regional Policies, Practices & Benefits Survey Report will be available in December. Pre-order at www.meainfo.org or contact research@ meainfo.org.
Jim Devine was interviewed by WWDB am radio’s Herb Cohen as a guest on Herb’s Executive Leaders Radio Show. The interview focused on Jim’s career and experience as president of MEA
Membership Facts & Figures MEA’s 2007 Wage & Salary Survey Report published this past summer indicated that science and technology hiring and salaries are up, with companies willing to pay more for top talent. Last year was a banner year for IT but pay raises this year are considerably less generous. Supervisors and administrators did not earn the same big raises they did a year ago. Wages for frontline plant supervisors declined more than 7 percent and hiring in manufacturing continued its downward trend, but the survivors got a bump in wages. 2
Dynamic Bracing /Dynamic Orthoses
Member Case Study
Ultraﬂex Systems, Inc. Ultraﬂex Systems, Inc. is a small, but growing, employee-owned manufacturer of technologicallyadvanced medical devices whose mission is to humbly serve the therapeutic and definitive orthotic and prosthetic (O&P) needs of patients with severe neuro-muscular and/or orthopedic dysfunction. Ultraﬂex is committed to becoming a great R&D company to solve real, unmet patient needs within the rehab and disability community. The company, located in Pottstown, PA, was established in 1991 by Mark DeHarde who saw a need and took the initiative to provide custom braces for the physically disabled. Mark is quick to say he didn’t do this alone. He and his high-performance Teams created and maintain high standards for themselves that have resulted in the manufacture of quality bracing for both children and adults. Ultraﬂex’s Dynamic Bracing /Dynamic Orthoses address the special bracing needs of patients with Cerebral Palsy, CVA (Stroke), Traumatic Brain Injury, total knee replacement, limb loss, extremity burns, Arthritis, ligament reconstruction, post fracture reduction, spastic or hypertonic limbs and other diagnoses. Each brace is custom fabricated for a specific patient. A patient model of the particular body part, e.g., knee, ankle, foot, arm, is made from plaster or fiberglass. The model is modified for relief of bony prominences as well as a variety of other considerations including the proper application of force. Plastic and/or metal are then formed to the patient model using exacting orthometry measurements to complete the brace. The braces come in a variety of colors, including “bubble gum.” The Ultraﬂex II product line represents the next generation in componentry and is built upon NASA principles to be lighter, stronger, more functional, and user friendly. Ultraﬂex is the only manufacturer of custom joint mobilization systems for spasticity that addresses the dynamic and static treatment components of spasticity. Its FirstFlex ™ product line combines custom bracing and neuromuscular electrical stimulation for the treatment of Cerebral Palsy induced spasticity in children. It is a conservative treatment program combing custom bracing and neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES). MEA is proud to be associated with such a dynamic and compassionate company by helping it find the qualified and committed team members using the MEA Recruitment Desk. As Mark puts it, “I want to hire THE BEST!”
Conducting Eﬀective Open Enrollment Meetings Janie Oehlert, MEA Manager of Employee Beneﬁts Services
If you have a January 1 health insurance renewal, chances are you have made your decision on what changes, if any, to make for the next year. Now you have to decide how to communicate the news to your employees most effectively. Where do you start? What are pitfalls that should be avoided? To Avoid Employee Dissatisfaction: 1) Give employees relevant data about the health insurance industry. Talk to them about the different aspects of the healthcare crisis (malpractice insurance rates, higher concentration of teaching hospitals in our area, higher 6) Have a resource available for oneutilization of prescription drugs, use on-one meetings with employees of new technologies and the higher who need it to complete their costs involved). enrollment. Employees sometimes need help determining the best 2) Be honest about the company’s decision for their situation, even if situation. Show them the numbers! it’s just for validation of their One MEA member put together a decision. This is one area where simple pie chart showing the annual premium being charged by the carrier your broker should play an integral part in the process. and revealed the employer dollars vs. employee dollars spent annually. 7) Management should show Keep it simple, but meaningful, and understanding/empathy to the your employees will appreciate it. employees’ views even if suggested changes are not followed. We all 3) If possible, balance takeaways with know about perception and reality! a “give back”. For example, if you offer a Flexible Spending Account, consider To Overcome Lack of Education: partially funding it; even if it’s only $50-$100, the employee will be able 1) Take the time to educate to determine how to spend it within employees on the aspects of their the IRS guidelines. plan, especially any hidden perks. 4) Make a “buy-up” option available 2) Advise employees that they should for the current plan if a new, lower question bills that don’t look right. coverage plan is being introduced. A good broker will offer assistance This method gives the employees in this area and help employees to a measure of empowerment over navigate the system. their healthcare decisions without 3) Educate employees on the additional costs to the employer. appeals process; just because a 5) If your company is small enough claim is denied the first time around and your culture allows it, receive doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t input from employees on whether eventually approve it. Each carrier has they would rather have lower benefits written procedures for the process. or pay more in premium. Don’t be afraid to ask your broker for assistance in this area as well. 4
To Minimize Lack of Participation: 1) Make your meetings mandatory. Even if you aren’t making plan changes, it’s a good idea to give everyone a refresher course on their plan design. Further, if you aren’t changing plans, it’s a cause for celebration! Make the most of it. 2) Provide employee give-aways/ incentives such as ﬂu shots, free breakfasts or lunches, company logo items, gift cards for correctly answered questions…. whatever fits your group. 3) Address supervisors’ concerns regarding missed work time for hourly workers and productionlevel employees. Whatever level of importance upper management places on open enrollment will filter through the ranks. If you would like to speak with someone about ideas for your open enrollment meetings or how to effectively communicate plan changes, please give the MEA Employee Benefits Team a call at 800-662-6238, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you!
EAP Corner We safely sent an employee home who had been drinking on the job. I would say he barely looked intoxicated when I saw him in my office. He reappeared two days later to face disciplinary action, but as uncanny as this sounds, he had no memory of the event! Is this possible?
Basics of Employee Beneﬁts* December 4, 2007 • 9am-1pm Valley Forge Training Center
Your employee appears to have experienced an alcohol-related blackout. A complete blackout is an amnesiac state characterized by the inability to recall an experience or event in any detail as a result of being intoxicated, even though the drinker did not pass out or fall asleep. The occurrence of blackouts – along with other signs and symptoms – is considered during the diagnosis of alcoholism. Blackouts are directly related to high tolerance to alcohol, or the ability to consume large quantities of alcohol without typical and expected eﬀects. The individual might not appear intoxicated, but memory and recall function are impaired. Some recovering alcoholics have reported blackout periods lasting hours, days, and even weeks, while on drinking binges. For many, what happened during these periods of time is never recalled.
This is a basic introductory overview that will explain what state and federal regulations impact employee benefits programs and give you a general understanding of each area. This course will broaden your knowledge of typical employee benefits and give you the tools you need to eﬀectively administer your employee benefit program.
Topics: • COBRA • ERISA • TEFRA/DEFRA/Medicare • Workers’ Compensation • FMLA • HIPAA • Health, Dental, Life, Disability and other coverages • Retirement Plans • Paid Time Oﬀ (vacation, holidays, personal days, etc.) • Section 125 Cafeteria Plans Who Should Attend: Anyone new to the field of employee benefits administration or who wants to gain a better understanding of employee benefits programs. To Register: Call 1-800-662-6238, email email@example.com or visit our website at www.meainfo.org.
MEA’s EAP, through Care Plus Solutions, can help you navigate diﬃcult situations and provide you with valuable insight into addictive behaviors. To learn more about implementing an EAP at your company, please contact the MEA Employee Beneﬁts Department at 800-662-6238 or send an email to beneﬁts@meainfo.org.
*This program has been approved for recertification credit hours toward PHR and SPHR recertification through the Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI). For more information about certification or recertification, please visit the HRCI homepage at www.hrci.org.
For Your Beneﬁt: November 15th compliance deadline! Don’t forget to send out your Notices of Creditable Coverage to all Medicare-eligible plan participants (we suggest sending to all participants for ease of compliance). This is the annual notice that informs participants whether or not your group prescription drug coverage is as good as, or better than, Medicare Part D. You’ll also need to complete a disclosure to The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) through the web at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/creditablecoverage/. www.MEAinfo.org
President’s Message MEA’s In-House Employment Attorney continued from page 1
Employers who by contrast are educated on applicable law and who after thoughtful analysis choose some course of action or even inaction are taking a risk, albeit a calculated one. The possibility of a future loss, while present, could be better known and understood and therefore may be quantified as part of the potential consequences of their business decisions. MEA understands employer risk assessment very well as both an employer and as a service provider to our members. We listen to you,
our members, when you contact our hotline and we know what your issues are. We also know that taking your issues to the next level and providing actual legal advice is something you have asked for and responded very favorably to the idea of in our recent Legal Pulse survey. Our new employment attorney Nancy DuBoise’s first article appears on page 14 of this issue and her bio is included below. Nancy’s role is to provide legal advice to our members on employment-related issues and supplement the guidance our senior human resources consultants will continue to provide via our Employer’s Hotline. Think of Nancy as your own legal advisor for workplace-related
issues and feel free to call Nancy with your questions. Much of the advice you may receive is included under your membership dues. Other more involved advisory services and legal project work is being offered at MEA’s customary reasonable hourly rates. You don’t have to go it alone with your employment issues, and you don’t need to gamble on issues now that may become very costly down the road. Nancy can help you assess risk and formulate a plan of action to address and mitigate potential liability. Contact Nancy at nduboise@meainfo. org or toll-free at 800-662-6238 x119. — Jim Devine
Getting to Know the Staff at MEA Nancy DuBoise, Employment Attorney, joined MEA in August of 2007 and brings a wealth of experience in the field of Labor and Employment Law. She has practiced law for 20 years in a number of venues, including corporations (such as GE, Honda, and GMAC Mortgage), government agencies (such as the U.S. Department of Labor, OFCCP), and large and small law firms. Nancy’s expertise includes working with large and small companies to provide: training and counseling to managers and HR professionals on various labor
and employment law issues; defense to charges of discrimination and sexual harassment; and advice on FMLA, ADA, Title VII, and Wage & Hour compliance. During the years that she was in-house counsel for Honda, Nancy was involved in defending the Company against lawsuits alleging violations of FMLA (one of which was ultimately heard by a federal appellate court), as well as litigation, including class actions, alleging race and sex discrimination.
Carol Kelly, MEA’s Receptionist and Assistant to the President, is excited to be the first point of contact with our members and is always happy to offer her help in any way she can. Carol celebrated her one-year anniversary with MEA this past June.
members. Carol also assists our President, Jim Devine with his calendar and numerous other projects and administrative duties. Needless to say, she’s a very busy lady!
You will hear her friendly voice when you call into MEA as she answers all incoming calls, as well as greeting visitors to our building. She feels being the voice of MEA is a very important part of her job and enjoys talking to and getting to know our 6
Carol has many years of experience as an administrative assistant. Her husband, Kevin, and she, live in West Norriton and are very active in raising their three children ages 15, 12 and 9 who participate in various activities and sporting events. please turn to page 16
Human Resources End of Year Reminders
Judith Baehrle, MEA Senior Human Resources Consultant Things get pretty hectic at this time of the year for all of us. The checklist below is intended to assist you in getting your department organized for the upcoming year. Although the list below is not all-inclusive, it will give you a “kick start” on getting things in order in your organization. • Review your Employee Handbook to ensure that the content is up to date. • Review Job Descriptions for accuracy. • Post 2008 Holiday Schedule. • Send 2008 Vacation Schedule planner forms to Supervisors to start tracking vacations in the New Year. • Prepare new attendance forms for 2008. • Update Confidentiality agreements per your company policy. • Review the Harassment Policy with employees. • Update and publish inclement weather emergency procedures. • Prepare OSHA 300 log for posting. • Verify employee insurance selections and/or waivers. • Have employees sign 2008 benefit waiver forms with information about alternate insurance programs and file with HR.
• Complete Section 125 election forms for the new plan year • Send Cobra rate increase notifications to COBRA participants and those in their 60-day election period. • Verify employee emergency contract information. If an employee has an accident during the day, do you have another phone number, in addition to the employee home phone number, to contact for emergency purposes? • Verify employee beneficiary information. Separations and divorces may dictate a change in who the employee would like to receive the proceeds of his life insurance or 401k plan. • Government contractors should prepare employee census information for your Affirmative Action Plan. • Update and post Federal and State Posters. Our MEA Staff of HR professionals is available to assist you with any of the information listed above. Please contact us by calling the MEA Employer’s Hotline at 610-666-7330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
HR Policy Pointer: Employee Rights Under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) a.k.a. Wagner Act We tend to think that the NLRA/Wagner Act applies only to union members. That is a mistake. The provisions of the NLRA/Wagner Act apply to all workers and to all employers. The National Labor Relations Board is an independent agency that was created by the NLRA/Wagner Act of 1935 to oversee the laws, investigate and hold hearings on unfair labor practice complaints, take action against employers found guilty of unfair labor practices, determine the make-up of individual employee bargaining units, and to oversee union certifications. One of the little known provisions of the NLRA/Wagner Act is that employees have the right to discuss the terms and conditions of their employment. Consequently, an employer’s requirement that employees keep their salaries confidential is unlawful.
Hotline Q&A Q
Do non-union employees have the right to have a representative of his/her choosing present at meetings with the employer?
In June 2004 in IBM Corp., the NLRB chose to rule that Weingarten rights do not pertain to non-union employees. Because of this decision, employers may find it easier to conduct comprehensive and confidential investigations with non-union employees without having to compromise the confidentiality of the interviews by allowing a representative to be present. On June 9, 2004, the NLRB reversed its position for the fourth time in the past 22 years, announcing “that the Weingarten right does not extend to a workplace where . . . the employees are not represented by a union.” According to the Board’s 3-2 decision, “the right of an employee to a co-worker’s presence in the absence of a union is outweighed by an employer’s right to conduct prompt, efficient, thorough and confidential workplace investigations.” There is nothing that requires an employer to allow an employee to bring a representative into a disciplinary meeting.
MEA Hotline: (800) 662-6238
Breakfast Brieﬁng Background Checks: The Legal Implications
Prese Nancy nted by: MEA’s Duboise Emp Attornloyment ey
Date, Time, Location: Tuesday, December 12, 2007, 8:30am–10am, – MEA Training Center, Valley Forge, PA Many employers perform pre-employment background checks, but many do not have a clear policy or consistent practice regarding how they use the results obtained. Does your policy answer the following questions? • Will any felony conviction be an automatic bar to employment? • Does it matter how old the felony conviction is? • Is a felony conviction only relevant with respect to certain jobs? • Are drug screens and credit checks also performed on applicants? If you have wrestled with any of the above questions, come and learn what the Pennsylvania and federal laws have to say on the subject, and what employers can do to minimize their risk of lawsuits connected to background checks Speaker: Nancy DuBoise, Esq. MidAtlantic Employers’ Association Brieﬁng Fee: Members: $35.00/person Non-Members $50.00/person (fee includes continental breakfast and all program materials) Who should attend: CEO’s, Executives, HR Professionals, Supervisors, Managers To Register: Call 1-800-662-6238, email email@example.com or visit our website at www.meainfo.org.
Human Resources Training & Development
Creating Employee Fit Provides Beneﬁts: English as a Second Language Training at Work Judy West, President, English That Works, Inc., MEA Preferred Provider
For individuals who speak English as their second language, the ability to fit (in) is often crucial to their job success. For their employers, this ability is often the difference between employees performing a job and employees whose communication skills get the job done. Depending upon which dictionary you consult, “fit” could mean : to be the right size and shape for someone/something; to be accepted by other people in the group; to be appropriate or good enough for something; to be suitable; to conform correctly; to be in harmony or accord; to put into a condition of readiness. I define “fit” as a way to more fully participate in the workplace and to understand and be understood by management, colleagues, and clients. At all levels of an organization, from entry to executive, and in all types of organizations, the ability to communicate clearly and effectively is a must have skill. It affects how we present our ideas, demonstrate understanding, report problems, gain cooperation, negotiate an outcome, work safely, participate in meetings, get promoted, and function as a member of a team. Communicating well is difficult. Imagine how hard it is in a second language where one may not have the words he/ she needs, may have an unfamiliar accent, may not know the accepted ways to communicate in a given situation, or may come from a culture with different rules about who communicates with whom, how, and when. From basic English survival skills and job-focused communication skills to higher level speaking, listening, writing, and cultural awareness skills, group training and individualized coaching, supported and encouraged by management, can address
workplace communication issues, create a better fit for multinational employees, and provide benefits for their employers.
• More accurate pronunciation • Clearer, more focused written documents • Less complaints/increased customer satisfaction • Heightened self confidence and awareness • Enhanced company image through demonstrated commitment to employee development
Although it is often difficult to measure if training alone has a significant impact on employee performance, and very little has been written on the return on investment of language skills training, examining participant initiative and considering comparative data provides some information on training To gain the benefits listed above, investment benefits. here are some recommendations for organizations considering workplace After clearly defined and designed training: language training is delivered, • Provide short language employers are likely to see the improvement and cultural and following results/changes: interpersonal awareness courses • Greater participation on work teams with clearly stated, achievable goals and in meetings • Demonstrate commitment • Demonstrated willingness to take to language improvement by communicative risks (e.g. start supporting employees and conversations, make presentations, providing opportunities to use assume leadership) newly acquired skills • Heightened client/coworker • Learn more about employees’ satisfaction with interactions cultures to promote greater and relationships understanding and insight into employee behaviors • Increased incidences of asking for clarification when something • Address potential barriers to is unclear training including scheduling, • Less time required to do a supervisor support, childcare, communicative task like providing transportation, and stigma information (hours saved x salary) • Offer one-on-one coaching for • Decreased time spent by employees whose positions require supervisors providing assistance highly developed communication (hours saved x salary) and cultural awareness skills • Lower incidence of • Mentor employees to help them misunderstanding due to oral or understand workplace culture and written skills and cultural differences expectations and what is needed for advancement • Greater ability to perform the increasingly demanding Individuals who strengthen their communicative tasks required for communication skills achieve competent job performance a better fit in their company or and promotion please turn to page 10
Training & Development Creating Employee Fit continued from page 9
organization. They are more able to meet their performance objectives, participate more effectively, interact more assertively, and become more professionally visible and credible. This helps them do their jobs better and increases the competitiveness of the organizations that employ them. Look for the following training programs in our January – June 2008 Training & Services Catalog: • American English Pronunciation • Speaking Solutions: Effective Business Communication for Multinational Professionals • Successful Business Writing – Process & Product: An English as a Second Language (ESL) Workshop • Basic English as a Second Language (ESL)* • Job Focused ESL Communication Skills for Manufacturing and Service Personnel* *These programs can be brought onsite for your employees.
MEA Online Learning Center
Announcing a new service for MEA Members Only: MEA Online Learning Center – e-learning courses and lending library
MEA has always been a trusted resource for its members’ training needs. MEA has partnered with Business Training Library (BTL) to offer online training courses and a Video and DVD lending library to MEA members. If you are considering making online courses available to your employees and don’t know which vendor to choose, MEA has done the work for you! Other Employer Associations across the USA have been using BTL for many years. MEA’s members can now offer their employees access to many courses at affordable rates.
This service offers 2000+ world-class online courses using a state-of-theart learning management system, as well as many videos and DVDs. As the organization’s contact, you can customize your organization’s learning site, select courses, and track all learning activities from web-based courses to your classroom courses. Visit MEA’s home page on the website at www.meainfo.org and look for the link to MEA’s Online Learning Center, or call the MEA Training and Organizational Solutions Department at 800-662-6238.
Tips of the Trade: Many times organizations ask MEA for help in designing their training plans. One place to start is to review your organization’s Strategic Plan. All training implemented at the organization should support the objectives of the Strategic Plan. If written correctly, the Plan should be a road map to the objectives needed to follow in order to meet the vision and the mission of the organization. If the training suggested by others does not support the Strategic Plan, why is your organization spending valuable training dollars on matters that don’t support the goals of the organization? 10
Training & Development
Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week: Preparing Students for Futures in Business Laura Richardson, MEA Manager of Training Projects
Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW) is a program dedicated to educating high school students about the American free enterprise system and to giving them practical hands-on experiences about how businesses work. During this yearly week-long summer program, motivated students work with business people from throughout the State to gain valuable hands-on knowledge of the business environment. This past summer, over 1500 high school students volunteered to give up a week of summer vacation for this intense experience. About three hundred and fifty students had to be placed on a waiting list. John J. Trombetta, President & CEO and his talented staff reproduce a week of pure excitement, learning and growth for those students who venture to invest in their futures. People like me, and at least 96 others, play the important role of Company
Advisors to groups of approximately 14-16 teenagers during the busy week. The students spend a week that is so chock full of activities that it goes by faster than the speed of light. The students receive a rapid introduction to a group of individuals who find a way to bond in friendships that will last a lifetime. The students are full of hope and anticipation, and the constant competition keeps them energized and invested in the process.
are scholarships available as well as paid internships that the students may apply for, earning experience and tuition funds. MEA supports PFEW with scholarships and provides opportunities for our employees to provide expertise as Company Advisors.
I have been a Company Advisor four special years in a row, and have learned a great deal from the experts who speak on topics The students receive a broad stroke of germane to business. The array the possibilities that await them if they of speakers is impressive, and the decide to pursue and invest in the students learn from the best in their American system of free enterprise. fields. The children of Pennsylvania It is interesting to see the initial fear are the beneficiaries. Your children of the unknown turn into success will be rewarded and when you as they go where they have never volunteer, you will find reward in been before. The students take on providing an invaluable resource to leadership roles and excel beyond workforce development in the state their expectations. If the students of Pennsylvania. For more information that I have encountered to date are about the Pennsylvania Free Enterprise any indication of the future, believe Week (PFEW), visit the website at me, the future is safe. Attending www.pfew.org. PFEW has additional rewards. There
Leader to Leader
Five Temptations of a CEO – a quick and insightful read Patrick Lencioni’s book The Five Temptations of a CEO: A Leadership Fable is one of a series of his organization-related and insightful publications for business leaders. Although Five Temptations was actually published in 1998, it is just now beginning to surface on end-unit displays in Barnes & Noble along with Lencioni’s latest effort, The Three Signs of a Miserable Job: A Fable for Managers (and Their Employees). Lencioni’s message in Five Temptations is wrapped around a set of fictitious characters and circumstances, hence the subtitle A Leadership Fable. According to Lencioni, the five temptations are as follows: • Desire to jealously guard career status • Consistently remain popular with subordinates • Unfailingly make correct decisions • Constantly strive for an atmosphere of total harmony • Always appear invulnerable
Designed to draw the reader in with its clever fictional story-line approach, Lencioni’s book uses a chance meeting between a troubled CEO and a mysterious old man to explore a series of common pitfalls that can trap any ambitious leader. I enjoyed my quick reading of this book and recommend it to anyone in a leadership role. I identified with some aspect of each one of Lencioni’s temptations and thought it was uncanny how closely some of the scenarios in the book followed my own real-life experience. In my observation, the common thread among Lencioni’s temptations is arguably risk, or perhaps the irony of perceiving less risk in pursuing the path of Lencioni’s temptations when in fact avoiding them would likely involve far less risk. As an example, an atmosphere of total harmony may provide an abundance of comfort in day-to-day dealings with your employees. After all, who wants disharmony anyway and why would an environment laden with friction
offer less risk to a CEO? However, a harmonious environment where everyone “gets along” with each other may not introduce healthy differences of opinion and the level of challenges that are sometimes needed among co-workers and managers to foster an environment of improvement and achievement. This may result in mediocre results, which may ultimately lead to greater risk for the organization’s leader. If your experience follows suit with Lencioni’s assessment of leadership temptations, then like me, you too will recognize them as all too familiar and gain from this insightful book. – Jim Devine To find out more about Patrick Lencioni and his books, visit www.tablegroup.com
From Beyond the Region
Eﬀectively Communicating Beneﬁt Plans to Spanish-Speaking Employees [ August 16, 2007 ] by Kathryn O’Connor, HR/Compensation Analyst
A MEMBER CALLS IN: Why is it that many of our Spanish-speaking employees choose not to participate in our benefit plans? It seems like they may not understand the value, despite the fact we translate benefit information into Spanish. Hotline staff response: Quite often employers translate enrollment material and conduct enrollment meetings in Spanish, yet still get disappointing results. Realistically, the language barrier is only the tip of the iceberg. Few realize that Spanish-speaking employees may hold negative beliefs about benefit plans, and certain misperceptions must be addressed. Latin American countries do not have a health insurance system like the one found in the U.S., so immigrants often find themselves overwhelmed by the different types of insurance offered, and are concerned that insurance may be a scam. Furthermore, many wonder why it’s necessary to buy health insurance when medical care is available through the emergency room or a free clinic, and medicine can be purchased over-the-counter or at the pharmacy. Spanish speakers often do not realize that having health insurance is a basic part of financial stability and planning in the U.S.
computer program. • Next, allow sufficient time for enrollment meetings. Learning about insurance takes time and effort. Employees will be less likely to enroll in benefit plans if they feel rushed or confused. • Use paper enrollment forms, rather than online or phone enrollment. Paper forms give Spanish-speakers the opportunity to talk to other family members who will be covered by the plan and address their concerns. • Finally, hire a professional presenter – one who understands the typical benefit misperceptions among Spanish-speaking employees, is ﬂuent in both English and Spanish and has thorough knowledge of the topic at hand. This may be your best tool for changing negative perceptions.
Benefits education takes time and effort. Consistent instruction, along with these tips, will certainly increase your benefit participation numbers.
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These concerns must be addressed with basic education before benefit enrollment meetings can even begin. Once underway, there are additional ways to reach your Spanish-speaking employee population. The following are ideas published by Employee Benefit News, an employer benefits resource: • First, hire a professional translator for written material rather than using a bilingual employee or a www.MEAinfo.org
Legal Brief Challenges for Employers under FMLA Nancy DuBoise, MEA Employment Attorney During the years since its enactment in 1993, employers have frequently turned to employment attorneys and HR professionals for guidance in resolving complicated situations arising under the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”). Consistent with that trend, FMLA-related calls from members to our MEA Hotline occur on a regular, if not daily, basis. In a recent case, a member sought my legal advice regarding a particularly challenging FMLA situation. The member had an employee in a managerial position who suffered from a chronic condition which necessitated the need for extended leave. The employee was absent for a period of four continuous weeks in order to get the disease and related medication under control. After his initial four-week absence, the employee returned to work. Upon his return, the employee informed his supervisor that he would thereafter need to take additional intermittent leave for the same chronic condition. The employee’s need for leave was not foreseeable, and could not be planned or scheduled. Such intermittent leave was expected to range from a half-day to 2 or more days in duration. During his initial four-week absence, the employee tapped into his bank of accrued paid time off, receiving full pay for the entire period. The employee never requested FMLA leave, nor did the employer take steps to designate this period of prolonged absence as FMLA leave. As time went by, however, it became more and more difficult for the employer to conduct its business with one less manager. The employer considered several options and eventually concluded that its preferred course of action was to hire a new employee to permanently fill what had been the manager’s job, and to transfer the employee with the chronic condition 14
to another manager-level position (albeit a lower paying one) which could better accommodate the employee’s irregular attendance. The employer sought guidance on the following questions: 1. Whether FMLA permitted an employer to retroactively designate FMLA leave, and 2. Whether FMLA allowed an employer to permanently transfer an employee, who had not yet exhausted his 12 weeks of FMLA leave, to a job which was similar in level and responsibility but which was a lower-paying position. My advice to this employer could be characterized as a “good news, bad news” response. First, retroactive designation of FMLA leave is permissible under the law. Following the Supreme Court’s 2000 decision in the Ragsdale case, the courts have held that an employer may retroactively designate leave as FMLA, unless the employee can show that he/she has been prejudiced or harmed by such retroactive designation. If the employee can, for example, demonstrate that he/she would have returned to work sooner had he/she known that the leave was being applied against his/her 12-week annual maximum, then the employee may be entitled to additional leave beyond the 12 weeks allowed, due to the employer’s failure to timely designate the leave as FMLA. In contrast, the contemplated reassignment of the FMLA-eligible employee is a rather risky move. It is true that the FMLA regulations do allow an employer to temporarily transfer an employee to a position with equivalent pay and benefits that better accommodates recurring need for leave. That regulation www.MEAinfo.org
applies, however, only when the need for leave is foreseeable, based on planned medical treatment. If the need for leave is not foreseeable (as is the case here), then the employer who reassigns (even temporarily) the employee who takes unplanned intermittent FMLA leave will risk being charged with violation of FMLA on a retaliation theory; i.e. that the employer retaliated against the employee for exercising his/her rights under FMLA. A more cautious approach would be for the employer to consider bringing in a part-time or temporary person to pick up the slack created by the absent employee. Alternatively, the employer could wait until the employee exhausted his 12 weeks of FMLA leave, and then reassign the employee. The caveat there is that when FMLA leave is taken intermittently, it could take quite a long time (much longer than 12 weeks) for the employee to exhaust his 12 weeks of allowable leave, and any action taken prematurely by the employer against this employee could lead to a complaint or a lawsuit alleging violation of FMLA.
Industry Focus: Eye on Manufacturing Both Large and Small Manufacturers Edge Up in the Second Quarter of 2007 WASHINGTON, D.C., August 7, 2007 – The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)/Industry Week business outlook survey for the second quarter of 2007 points to confidence edging up from both large and small companies, after declining during the prior four quarters. “Industry’s great untold story is that confidence among large and small manufacturers is on the rise,” said David Huether, the NAM’s chief economist. “While it hasn’t returned to the heights of two years ago, there’s a notable improvement from the first quarter of this year. This is the first time in a year and a half that the business outlook improved for both large and small manufacturers.” The survey of 293 NAM member companies showed 80 percent of large and 79 percent of small manufacturers eyeing a positive business outlook for the second quarter of 2007. This is a jump from the 78 and 77 percent of large and small respondents reporting a positive business outlook for the first quarter of this year. Large manufacturers, those employing over 1,000 workers, and small companies, less than 1,000 workers recorded their business outlook as well as their 12-month expectation on sales, prices, capital investment, inventories, employment and wages. The NAM/Industry Week Manufacturing Index is at www.nam.org/manufacturingindex Survey highlights include: Sales Expectations. Looking ahead 12 months, both large and small manufacturers expect their sales to continue growing. Small firms expect their sales to increase by 3.9 percent. This is a slower pace than the 4.3 percent expectation in the first quarter as well as slower than the average expectations from 2004 through 2006. Large firms expect their sales to increase by a more-robust 4.5 percent over the next 12 months. This is an improvement from the first quarter. Pricing Expectations. Both large and small manufacturers expect their pricing power to increase. Large firms expect their prices to rise by 2 percent while small firms expect the prices of their products will increase by a similar 1.9 percent. This is an increase for both small and large firms compared to the first quarter of 2007, signaling that demand is picking up.
Investment Expectations. Looking ahead 12 months, large manufacturers expect their capital expenditures to rise by 2.3 percent, while small companies expect their investment spending to grow by a similar 2.2 percent. For both large and small firms, this is a mirror image of their expectations in the first quarter. Inventory Expectations. Both large and small survey respondents expect to reduce inventory levels over the next 12 months. Large firms expect to reduce inventories by 1.7 percent while small companies expect to reduce inventories by 0.6 percent over the coming year. For large companies, this marks the 13th consecutive quarter that firms expect to reduce inventories. For small companies, this is the second consecutive decline following very modest increases in inventory investment expectations in 2006. Employment Expectations. Both large and small respondents to the first quarter survey expect to increase employment over the next 12 months. Large firms expect employment to increase by a modest 0.3 percent while smaller firms expect their employment levels to increase by a stronger 1.7 percent. This is a continuation of a modestly positive long term trend. Since the second quarter of 2005, both large and small survey respondents have had positive employment expectations. Wage Expectations. Large survey respondents expect wages to increase by 1.9 percent over the coming 12 months. This is similar to the 2 percent expectation reported in the first quarter survey and slightly lightly slower than the 2.5 pace expected in 2004 through 2006. Small companies anticipate wages will increase by a stronger 2.3 percent over the coming year. This is stronger than the 2 percent increase anticipated last quarter and slightly stronger that the 2.2 percent increase expected from 2004 through 2006.
The National Association of Manufacturers is the nation’s largest industrial trade association, representing small and large manufacturers in every industrial sector and in all 50 states. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the NAM has 11 additional offices across the country. Visit the NAM’s award-winning web site at www.nam. org for more information about manufacturing and the economy. 800.662.6238
Getting to Know the Staff at MEA (continued from page 6) Carrie provides consulting, project management, and training services to organizations in the areas of Compensation, Benefits, and general Human Resources services.
Carrie S. Theisen, SPHR Human Resources Consultant Carrie Theisen recently joined our staff in the HR Services Department as a Human Resources Consultant.
Carrie’s professional experience includes over 15 years of human resources experience in generalist, specialist, and management roles. In addition to the areas above, she has managed service delivery in the areas of public and private sector compensation plan design, market pricing, job analysis, total rewards, paid time off plan design, HR policy and employment law compliance, employee relations, and staffing.
Prior to joining MEA, Carrie worked as a consultant at the Employers Association in Minnesota. Additional work experience includes HR management in the banking, telecommunications, retail, education, and professional services industries. Carrie graduated from the University of Nebraska with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Resources and has obtained PHR and SPHR certification from the Human Resource Certification Institute.
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November - December 2007 *November 15, 2007 – NESHAP 40 CFR 63, Subpart ZZZZ Reciprocating Internal Combustion Engines: For an existing affected source, at least 60 days before the performance test is scheduled to begin, but no later than November 15, 2007, you must submit notification of intent to conduct a performance test. 40 CFR 63.7(b) and 63.6645 (e)
*December 19, 2007 – NESHAP 40 CFR 63, Subpart EEEEE – Iron & Steel Foundries: For an existing affected source, at least 60 days after the compliance date, but no later than December 19, 2007, you must furnish results of the performance test. 40 CFR 63.7750
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Attention CPAs – MEA Now Provides CPE Credits The MidAtlantic Employers’ Association has been approved as a registered sponsor on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors. The National Registry of CPE Sponsors is a program offered by the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) to recognize CPE program sponsors who provide continuing professional education (CPE) programs in accordance with nationally recognized standards. Check out MEA’s January-June 2008 Training and Services Catalog for courses that have been approved for CPE credits, or visit our website at www.meainfo.org. If you have any questions, please call MEA’s Training and Organizational Solutions department at 610-666-7333.
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