September 28, 2014

EAP and Performance Issues

Q: How does an employer go about using the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to address an employee’s performance problems that may be related to issues outside of work?

A: The employer should contact the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) directly and request a review of the process for making referrals. In general, during the implementation process, the EAP provides the contracting employer with that information so that employees and employers have a clear understanding of the services the EAP can offer employees and the process by which the employer can make referrals to the service. This service typically includes employer assistance so that employers may communicate directly with the EAP counselor to provide a “heads up” to the counselor regarding the performance issue and obtain guidance for handling the discussion with the employee. Then the employer can have the performance discussion and refer the employee to the EAP as part of the action plan for performance improvement. Discussions between the employee and the EAP are confidential, and the employer should not expect feedback from the EAP regarding those discussions.

While the employer can make the referral, it is ultimately an employee’s choice whether or not to contact and work with the EAP. If the employee chooses not to seek help or address the issue that led to the referral in the first place and performance does not improve, then the employer should follow its progressive disciplinary process, including corrective action up to and including termination of employment.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
September 24, 2014

Emergency Succession Planning: Is your nonprofit ready to stop, drop and roll?

If your Executive Director/CEO, CFO or COO suddenly couldn’t show up to work, would your organization be prepared?

Sometimes it’s sudden, like an accident or health crisis, and other times it’s simply a short term window to prepare for a leader leaving—but it is always important to have a backup plan when it comes to a leader’s absence.

It’s called emergency succession planning, and it’s critical to your organization’s survival.

Like any good emergency plan (think of those fire drills as a kid in school) – there should be clearly laid out steps to your emergency succession plan.  Ready to stop, drop, and roll?  Here are some basic elements to any good leader succession plan:
 
  1. Identify the key responsibilities and functions of the position that would need to be taken over in an emergency loss of a leader.
  2. Who are the people/titles internally who would take over these functions in the interim? Is it one person or multiple?
  3. Create a training and orientation plan for these backups.
  4. Who will the Acting CEO be? Consider whether an Interim CEO would be best for the coming 6-18 months and how you would recruit that role. Best practice states that the Interim CEO should not be an internal employee, so they can be a voice of neutrality for other employees and provide an outside perspective to identify opportunities for improvement.
  5. Determine what the Board’s role in the process will be. How will they be involved in selecting a new CEO, and how will they support the new CEO and the onboarding process?
  6. Have the emergency succession plan reviewed and adopted by your Board.


Learn more about emergency succession planning in this report.
September 24, 2014

The ABCs of Ethics in the Workplace

While a substantial paycheck may entice a job candidate to seek employment at a particular nonprofit, an organization’s reputation for ethical procedures and workplace culture can be just as persuasive. An ethical workplace provides a fair and harmonious environment for every worker, promoting equal opportunity, honesty and open communication. Specifically for leaders, developing and adhering to ethical values in the office is key to helping employees determine what type of behaviors are expected of them.

Here are a few ways you can maintain an ethical culture at work:
 
  • Communicate ethical priorities through training, meetings and ongoing encouragement—From the get-go, it’s imperative to train your employees on the fundamental values of your organization. Explain why ethical behavior is a priority, and how to effectively carry out ethical action. Give them realistic examples of potentially tough decisions, and equip them with the knowledge and tools they need to make the ethical choice.
  • Lead by example and be consistent with your follow-through—Your employees can readily identify inconsistency or unfair treatment. Rather than merely telling them how to act, show them that you not only support ethical behavior, but practice it on a day to day basis. This includes addressing bad decisions, and brainstorming ways to improve ethical practice.
  • Hire employees with a similar ethical compass—Being upfront with your nonprofit’s ethical culture during the recruitment process can help you determine best-fit candidates. More often than not, employees will have a difficult time upholding ethical priorities if they do not agree with them. Hiring individuals with the same morals can lead to an easier transition and will further strengthen your nonprofit’s ethical foundation.


Because nonprofits are often small organizations working in a small sector, their reputations are precious. Creating and implementing a strong ethical culture where employees maintain integrity will improve internal morale and help the overall business grow.

Learn more about how to encourage strong ethics within a work environment here.
September 23, 2014

10 Ways to Avoid Costly Employee Turnover

In order to minimize costly hourly employee turnover, there are 10 things you can do, writes Mel Kleiman on his Humetrics blog:
 
  1. Hire tough (so you can manage easy).
  2. Let every new employee know why their job is important.
  3. Avoid the mindset that it is “only an entry-level job” (in both the new employee’s mind and in your own mind).
  4. Pay the highest wages you can afford. (When you can pay more, then you can expect and get more.)
  5. Give a pay raise as soon as the new employee deserves one (not on a time schedule, but on a productivity/ learning schedule).
  6. Give recognition when recognition is deserved.
  7. Train for process, not for speed.
  8. Help the new employee make friends at work.
  9. Learn to fail fast. (When you realize you made a hiring mistake, release and replace that person immediately.)
  10. Make work FUN!!


Here at UST, we believe hiring the right employees is one of the top ways to reduce your organization's overall unemployment costs. That's why we're committed to this blog, and giving nonprofits the tools they need to reduce turnover, reduce costs, and reduce time spent managing them!  We also want to make sure nonprofits aren't overpaying for unemployment taxes. You can find out by filling out a (free) savings evaluation here.
September 19, 2014

The Harsh Yet Necessary Step Toward Nonprofit Growth

Bad habits can be contagious

Even your strongest staff members can be negatively influenced when working with bad employees. Pairing others with someone who is unmotivated and performing inadequately can cause a domino effect of poor performance—making the overall business suffer.

Poor employees could chase away top performers

Top tier employees want to work with others who are just as driven and focused as they are. When talented workers see poor behavior or lack of contribution go unnoticed, they will begin looking for alternative job opportunities—ones where they can work with other high performers and feel more appreciated.

Low performers take up valuable space

By keeping low performing employees, you could be missing out on a new crop of talent. But how can you hire these rockstar candidates if there are no available roles at your organization? Making room for strong individuals who are willing to take initiative and contribute to the team is imperative when building a strong organizational foundation.

Because nonprofits often work with limited budgets and resources, developing and retaining a top-notch staff is key to successfully attaining mission objectives. And while it’s never an easy task to fire a bad employee, you’re doing what’s necessary as a leader to keep your organization moving forward.

Learn more about talent development strategies here.
September 17, 2014

HR Question: Can we transfer a sub-par employee?

It can be okay to replace a sub-par employeee[/caption]Q: Would it be permissible to transfer a long-term part-time employee who is an average to poor performer to another role and replace that position with a full-time employee?

A: Unless there is an employment contract or collective-bargaining agreement that suggests otherwise, employers do have the ability to set an employee’s work hours and job duties based on business needs. In the situation you described, you have a poor performer whom you want to transfer to another position, enhance the job, and bring in another employee to do the work. We assume that you have been addressing the current incumbent’s poor performance issues and the job that you are moving the employee into will be more in line with his or her skills and hopefully provide an opportunity for the employee to be more successful on the job. If you have not addressed your performance concerns, now is the time to do so. Explain why the change is necessary and use the opportunity to discuss the employee’s career goals and development needs. It is critical that the employee receive feedback regarding performance and behavior, as this may continue into either role and should be addressed to correct the concerns or take progressive discipline as appropriate. Have these conversations before you announce the new employee transferring into the expanded position.

The employee may have questions regarding why you are taking a part-time position and turning it into a full-time one and may suggest that he or she could be successful in the job if allowed the additional time each day to complete the duties. Be prepared to address that and provide the employee with a copy of the expanded job duties and explain why he or she is not the right fit for that job. Having a direct and respectful conversation, with specific feedback and action plans to move forward, can go a long way to making the change successful.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
September 16, 2014

How to Create a Smooth Transition for You and Your New Hire

New employees provide fresh ideas, new skill sets, and positive thinking—all of which impacts any nonprofit’s potential growth. However, a new hire’s success rate is greatly influenced by their initial onboarding experience.

Follow these 6 simple methods to ensure a successful employee transition:

  1. Educate everyone prior to the new hire’s start date—Encourage your new employee to learn more about the nonprofit’s history and mission objectives, either through research or conversation. In addition, notify current staff of the new employee’s background and role responsibilities so everyone is prepared for the transition.
  2. Create and communicate realistic goals—Develop both short and long-term goals for your new hire. Be as clear as possible when outlining job priorities, and check in consistently to give constructive feedback on their work.
  3. Assign a senior mentor—Having a senior employee, who is well versed in your nonprofit’s procedures and history, will provide your new hire with a valued resource that can further build their sense of belonging. This additional outlet will also free up some of the time you would be spending on your new employee’s training.
  4. Encourage innovative thinking and listen to new ideas—Explaining correlated challenges and strategic goals to your new hire could help inspire new solutions. A new employee’s fresh perspective can help break the cycle of seemingly unavoidable problems.
  5. Help them feel like they’re part of the team—Construct interactive opportunities in team meetings and planning sessions. It’s also important to have team building opportunities, enabling your staff to develop strong professional and personal relationships with one another.
  6. Celebrate early wins—No matter how small the accomplishment, celebrate early wins as a form of encouragement for the new employee’s hard work. But don’t forget to celebrate the team’s work as a whole to continue the positive momentum.


Taking the time to efficiently train your new employees on your nonprofit’s culture, strategic goals, and personal role expectations will not only help new hires adjust, but also strengthen your organization as a whole.

Learn more tips about how to manage new employees here.
September 10, 2014

HR Question: Can the board request payroll info?

Q: Can executives or board members review our company payroll register upon request?

A: Yes. You may wish to inquire as to what types of compensation information they need so that you are providing the detail and data that is relevant for their review and discussion. You will want to ensure the privacy of your employees’ personal information, such as concealing Social Security numbers, garnishments, etc.

Executives typically need relevant summary compensation information for decision-making with revenue and cost considerations. Reviewing the actual intent of how the data will be used may enable you to provide a summary report without revealing data that could potentially be perceived as inappropriate to reveal.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
September 07, 2014

Employers’ Time to Fill Open Positions is Taking Longer than Ever

The time it takes to fill an open position is taking longer and longer for employers—now at a national average of almost 25 days.

This is the longest it’s taken in more than a decade, 13 years to be exact, says the Vacancy Duration Measure. Compared to the height of the Great Recession, that’s actually almost 10 days longer than it took to fill a job then, when it was at 15.3 working days, reports TLNT.

Why the lag in recruiting and hiring for organizations across the U.S.?

Recruiters say that candidates are driving the employment market as opposed to the organizations– being more picky about the positions they will accept and the compensation and benefits they are willing to take. When turning down an offer, top candidates say the reason is another offer. And employers that are slow to make an offer are losing out and having to start all over with their search.

Increasing turnover a factor

Turnover, as we’ve all seen in the nonprofit world, is also an ever-growing trend. While unemployment subsides, many qualified employees are more comfortable jumping from job to job (or from the nonprofit sector to the private sector). Voluntary separations are on the rise according to the DOL, which reported 2.7 million people quit their jobs in June.

And a larger number of vacant positions is putting a strain on organizations, which are in a more pressured state of recruitment than in years past. Now, when hiring, filling the position isn’t enough. To avoid more future turnover, organizations are having to look at employee engagement and job satisfaction with a closer eye. Succession planning is also critical to ensuring the organization can stay afloat when key employees leave or retire.

Employee training may be key

While candidates may feel more confident in their hireability and be more choosey, it’s also true that employers are being more selective as well—sometimes too much. The gap between an unqualified and a qualified candidate can sometimes be filled through on-the-job training. Looking for the right personal traits and attributes in a potential employee is more important than specific job knowledge for many positions. And finding the right person for the job, not just the right resume, can mean long-lasting job satisfaction and less turnover.
September 01, 2014

HR Question: Can FMLA be used for frequent bathroom breaks?

Question: If an employee states that he or she needs to use existing Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) designation during the day for restroom breaks, is that something the employee can do?

Answer: More than likely the frequent use of a restroom may be a serious health condition; however, one would look to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prior to counting this time against the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitlement.

In general, when counting bathroom time against an employee’s FMLA entitlement, only do so if the frequency and duration extends beyond the employee’s normal lunch and break periods.
 

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.

August 28, 2014

HR Question: Terminating Employees for Past Mistakes

Q: Can an employer terminate an employee for making a costly error years ago that has just been discovered?

A: This answer is based upon the fact that there is no specific employment contract in place that outlines specific reasons for termination of employment and that the employer has an employment-at-will policy in place that provides for termination at will based upon the employer's discretion.

From the detailed description of the situation, this employer does have an internal disciplinary procedure in place that specifies termination of employment for performance. This error was made years ago and could have been detected if the employee had been conducting annual audits of the file, which was not done, compounding the error.

Although employers can terminate employment "at will", there should always be a legitimate business reason for the termination that is well documented, nondiscriminatory and carefully considered in order to reduce the employer risk of liability from wrongful termination suits.

The employer should consider the following prior to making the final decision:
 
  • Is this employee in a protected class (race, gender, age, disability) where s/he might believe that s/he is being targeted because of that class?
  • Was the process for auditing and correcting the errors documented and was this employee trained to conduct the audit?
  • Is this a one-off issue with the employee or have there been other instances of performance concerns? If so, have those concerns been brought to the employee's attention and was s/he given the opportunity to correct the performance deficiencies?
  • Is there anything that the employee's manager or senior management missed that could have prevented this situation?
  • Has this situation ever happened before with another employee? If so, how was it handled?
  • If an audit of other customer files took place today, could there be this same type of error made by other employees (pointing to an overall training or supervision issue)?


If the employer believes that the situation warrants termination of employment because it is well-documented, the employee has been properly trained, the supervision was adequate, and that this is a unique situation, then a termination is allowed, but we recommend confirming the decision with legal counsel prior to the termination.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
August 26, 2014

Think You’re Ready to Hire More Employees? Read This First.

Your organization has been doing really well lately, and you’re looking to create new positions and hire new employees to help fulfill your mission. You’ve written the job descriptions, gotten approval from all of the relevant stakeholders and are ready to begin recruitment.

But slow down just a minute. Are you sure your organization is ready to hire more employees?

Although only your organization can determine if you’re actually ready to hire new employees, Inc. recommends answering the following questions about your organization, where you want it to go, and what is happening now.

What kind of organizational structure do you want?

Do you want your organization to grow extensively? Are you pretty happy with the size it is now, but unable to meet the demands of your mission with your current staff, or are you hoping to grow organically whenever the need arises?

Will you be able to slow down growth if you need to?

Not all organizations have significant control over how much growth they will experience in any given time. For instance, if your organization helps provide disaster relief to a specific area and the area suddenly experiences a large-scale disaster, your response must be immediate and decisive. Or, if your organization helps animals and takes part in a multi-county animal seizure, you must be able to provide shelter and care for all of the animals involved for the foreseeable future.

But if your organization works to help a select group of impoverished students succeed, it’s reasonable to expect that there will not be an unmanageable influx of students to your program in any given year.

Do you really need help?

Do any of your employees have extra time throughout their week or month that can be used to address some of the needs that you’d like to hire new employees for? If so, can these employees be trained to perform some of the needed tasks?

While it might not fully address your needs, it would cut down on organizational waste and potentially allow for a part-time position to be created in lieu of the more expensive full-time position.

Are you fully prepared to recruit, hire, and train more employees?

Our ThinkHR resources and your UST Customer Service Representative can help you ensure your organization is best positioned to do all three without exposing you to excess liability in the future.

Not yet a member? Learn more about the UST program here.
August 22, 2014

UST Infographic: How Nonprofits Are Saving Millions With UST

Founded by nonprofits for nonprofits, the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) aims to help 501(c)(3) organizations manage their unemployment claims and lower their HR costs—providing more funds to devote to their missions.

By offering access to an expert HR hotline, over 200 employee training courses, and a dedicated claims representative, UST helped its members uphold HR best practices, while remaining compliant with state laws. Last year, UST members saved more than $32 million in mitigated claims costs and won over 80% of their claims protests.

With a 96% recommendation rate, UST’s membership base and overall impact within the nonprofit sector continues to grow. Check out the full infographic for the full list of last year’s noteworthy accomplishments:
 

August 20, 2014

Is Your Nonprofit Falling Prey to These 5 Common Myths?

The Unemployment Services Trust recently released its newest whitepaper, “The 5 Myths That Are Increasing Your Nonprofit’s HR Costs” – which explains how to identify and debunk these costly myths at your organization.

For a limited time, you can download the whitepaper for free and find out:
 
  1. Which myths might be hurting your organization
  2. How you can proactively reduce HR costs
  3. Whether you are overpaying for unemployment claims


Learn the secrets of other nonprofit executives and HR staff who have reduced their human resource and unemployment claims costs. Download your complimentary copy of 5 Myths That Are Increasing Your Nonprofit’s HR Costs today.

By providing exclusive access to such cost saving resources, UST aims to educate 501(c)(3) organizations on the latest HR best practices and compliance laws—living up to its mission of “Saving money for nonprofits in order to advance their missions.”

Fill out a complimentary Savings Evaluation to find out if you can save with UST.
August 19, 2014

HR Question: Putting the Supervisor’s Name in an Offer Letter

Q: Is there a reason to have a supervisor’s name in an offer letter? In other words, is an offer letter that only lists a new hire’s supervisor as a title acceptable?

 

A: There is no definite reason to have a supervisor's name on an offer letter or any requirement to have the title on the document either.

 

The intent of the offer letter is to welcome the new hire and to ensure that the new hire has all of the information s/he will need regarding the terms and conditions of employment. If, in your environment, putting the supervisor's name on the document does not make sense, then feel free to leave it off the document.

 

We do recommend, however, that you do include a contact person that the new employee can go to for questions about the position or for any assistance the new employee may need.

 

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.

August 14, 2014

How an Effective Hiring Team can Recruit Top-Notch Employees

The hiring process can be daunting, time-consuming, and burdensome. For nonprofits especially, hiring the best-fit employee the first time around is vital. Often working with a limited budget and smaller staff size, nonprofit organizations must find a candidate that can quickly adapt and effectively work towards mission advancement objectives.

But how do you find the right employee? Simple. Recruit a hiring team internally before recruiting any potential staff.

The hiring team you assemble should be your recruitment backbone—helping you create the hiring timeline, outline specific role responsibilities, and conduct interviews.

Here are 6 tips to keep in mind when creating and working with your recruitment team:
  1. Select relevant team members—Pick people who have past experience with the incoming employee’s job role, as well as those who will be working with them directly. In general, the larger the organization, the more hiring team members you’ll need.
  2. Assign individual responsibilities—Decide which members are in charge of drafting the job description, advertising the job opening, organizing resumes, interviewing, making the final decision, etc.
  3. Identify current strengths and weaknesses—As a team, identify what your organization’s strategic goals are. What are your employees doing right? Where is there room for improvement?
  4. Decide what skills will address knowledge gaps—Once your hiring team decides what skill gaps exist within your nonprofit, list the specific tasks the new hire will be responsible for. Being honest about your nonprofit’s needs will make it easier when it’s time to write the job description/requirements.
  5. Create a timeline—Create a detailed schedule that maps out your entire hiring process. This should give deadlines for the job description, job promotional efforts, candidate interviews, and the final decision.
  6. Encourage open communication—Maintaining an open dialogue with your recruiting staff will not only build trust, but also lower the risk of making the wrong hiring decision. Listening to both positive and negative feedback can only strengthen future hiring endeavors.


Having the support of a dedicated hiring team can help speed up the hiring process, while increasing efficiency. Knowing when and how to engage your hiring staff can help you identify the best possible candidate for any potential position—giving your nonprofit the edge it needs accomplish mission objectives.

Learn more about how to select and utilize your recruitment team here.
August 11, 2014

HR Question: Implementing a Mandatory Retirement Age

Q: Can we implement a mandatory retirement age? If so, can we make a case-by-case exception to that?

A: Unless your business handles public safety concerns, we would encourage you to very carefully consider implementing mandatory retirement age policies, and certainly NOT to do it on a case-by-case basis.

The reason is that on a federal level, company wide mandatory retirement age policies violate the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), except in limited circumstances. The ADEA, which applies to organizations with 20 or more employees, protects employees age 40 and older from discrimination based on their age. Prior to 1986 the age discrimination law did not protect employees over the age of 70 in the workplace, but due to the 1986 amendment to the Act, this age cap was removed. As a result, all employees over 40 years old generally are covered by the ADEA. Since this change, companies are no longer able to enforce a mandatory retirement age for all employees.

There is one exception under the ADEA (outside of bona fide reasons for retirement, such as public safety officers, etc). That exception is company executives in a bona fide executive or higher policy-making position. For example, federal law does allow mandatory retirement for a company CEO at age 65 or older under two conditions:
 
  • If the employee has worked in this bona fide executive position for at least two years prior to the retirement date.
  • If the individual is immediately awarded annual retirement benefits valued at $44,000 or more.


If the reason you are asking the question is because you are concerned with how you deal with the growing number of older workers and the potential for declining performance in old age, the government expects us not to assume that all employees of a certain age are unable to perform their jobs or will be less productive for the organization.

But if an older worker is not performing at the level of expectation, this is a performance issue that should be addressed in accordance with your company's policies and practices as a performance issue, not an age issue. (And this should be done on a case-by-case basis).

Allow the employee the opportunity to improve through training and coaching; do not assume the older employee will not or cannot learn and adapt to change.

The way many employers are helping their older workers while making room for their younger employees is through the use of voluntary retirement programs. These programs offer all employees of a certain age within the organization a retirement package above and beyond other guaranteed retirement benefits. Voluntary retirement packages do not violate the ADEA because they provide an option (not a mandate) for the older worker to receive more (not fewer) benefits upon retirement than someone retiring or leaving the company at a younger age.

We would encourage you to work with your legal counsel to discuss other relevant regulations and requirements of voluntary retirement programs.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
August 08, 2014

Congratulations to the Nonprofits Honored as a Part of The Nonprofit Times Power & Influence Top 50

The 17th annual catalog of The Nonprofit Times Power & Influence Top 50 shows an increased emphasis on the effective implementation of a more civil society. Those elected for the honor “illustrates the power of people pushing society for equal access and opportunity…[as] recently it seems that the insistence for inclusion has need ratcheting up and sector leaders have responded.”

Everyone at UST wou

 

ld like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to those included. We’d also like to thank all of the organizations that we work with for continuing to fight the good fight and make a difference for those around them.

See the full list of innovators being recognized by this years’ Power & Influence Top 50 here.

 

August 07, 2014

Spotlight on New Jersey: Reducing Improper Payments and Unemployment Benefit Collection Fraud

For the better part of the past decade, improper and fraudulent unemployment insurance collections have accounted for about 10 percent of all unemployment benefits paid to jobless workers across the U.S. During the most recent Recession, it became abundantly clear why states must cut down on SUI (state unemployment insurance) fraud.

Unfortunately, for many states, the realization came a little too late.

During the height of the Recession, almost 40 states borrowed a combined $50 billion from the Federal Unemployment Trust Administration (FUTA) to continue providing jobless benefits. This much debt required many states to make long-term changes to their unemployment systems by either charging penalties or fees to businesses or by cutting jobless benefits. Many made historic cuts to the number of weeks of aid available, but some—like New Jersey which racked up more than $1.5 billion in debt—took a long, hard look at the administration of their trust.

In New Jersey that long, hard look at the administration of their unemployment trust fund resulted in some spectacular results. Over the past four years New Jersey has identified more than 300,000 people who tried to wrongly collect benefits through identity theft, failure to report a new job, schemes, and honest mistakes. Also:
 
  • The state has stopped borrowing from the federal government to cover its unemployment benefit costs
  • Their trust fund is once again considered solvent
  • They were able to extend a tax cut to New Jersey businesses because of the trust fund’s solvency
  • Just $376 million in debt remains from the height of their borrowing


But what did New Jersey do that set them on the path to successfully rebuild their unemployment trust fund?

They updated their system.

Namely, they began using a strategy referred to as ‘identity proofing.’ With the help of LexisNexis, the state of New Jersey requires applicants to verify a wide range of personal information through a quiz on the state labor department’s website. The questions are specifically developed to be ones that the individual who owns an identity could accurately answer.

Then, using the billions of public records that LexisNexis collects, the answers—which range from what kind of car an applicant has, to who lives at their address—help weed out potential frauds.

Less than a year-and-a-half into the effort, more than $4.4 million in improper payments have already been stopped, and almost 650 instances of identity theft have been avoided.

Want to know how well your state is catching improper payments? The U.S. Department of Labor provides this state-by-state breakdown for 2013.

Read more about how New Jersey is fighting improper payments and unemployment fraud here.
August 06, 2014

HR Question: HR Professional and Personal Liability

Q: Can you provide me with some information about how I might be held personally liable for employment law violations, as a company HR professional?

A: In order to reduce the risk of being held personally liable under either a federal or state statute, it is important for HR processionals to:
 
  • Acknowledge that risk exists
  • Determine the scope of the potential risk
  • Identify ways to mitigate risk and implement them


In order to understand and identify potential risks, HR professionals should have a good grasp of applicable employment law, along with an understanding of their business and the ability to maintain an ethical approach. Additionally, it is critical that HR professionals feel comfortable pushing back on the company when appropriate and vocalizing when something is not right, either legally or from a company values or culture perspective.

Federal Liability

Some of the areas where an HR professional may have exposure to personal liability are:
 
  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) – an individual can be held liable if they exercised sufficient degree of authority over an employee’s terms and conditions of employment. Typically this would more likely be a supervisor but it is possible for an HR professional to be held accountable as well if there is documented proof of awareness and no action was taken.
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) – Interference with an employee’s ability to exercise their rights under the FMLA may result in individual liability.
  • Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) – HR professionals may be held liable for a breach of fiduciary duty if the plan is not correctly administered and an employee is improperly denied an ERISA benefit.
  • Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) – HR professionals can be held liable as plan administrators for not correctly notifying employees or qualified beneficiaries of their COBRA rights.
  • Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) – An HR professional may be liable for completing an I-9 form incorrectly or for knowingly hiring an unauthorized worker.
  • Additional acts protecting individuals from discrimination based on age, ethnicity, race, etc.


State Liability

HR professionals may have exposure to liability under a number of state or common law statutes ranging from assault, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, ignored harassment or discrimination, and more.

It is not unusual for a disgruntled employee suing an employer to seek individual liability in order to increase their chances of a settlement. Most liability insurance policies don’t cover employment law violations so it is not unusual for companies to add additional employment practice liability insurance (EPLI) to address these situations. You should determine whether your employer has such a policy and if your position and self are protected under stated company plans.

The best way for HR professionals to avoid personal liability is to:
 
  • Follow the law consistently.
  • Follow the company practices and policies equitably and consistently.
  • Avoid legal or ethically questionable shortcuts.
  • Adhere to a professional code of ethics.
  • Speak up when something doesn’t appear right.


Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
August 05, 2014

How to Get Your Employees on Board with Organizational Change

Discomfort; insecurity; apprehension; fear. These are just a handful of emotions people experience when plans for organizational change surface in the workplace. The idea of change tends to scare people because they will be forced to step outside of their comfort zones and embrace the unknown.

Altering such negative perceptions surrounding change requires a heavy emphasis on internal solidarity. And since the only way to effectively maintain change is through widespread support from your staff, learning how to acknowledge and address employee feedback is key. Specifically for nonprofits, internal collaboration is vital when it comes finding new ways to advance one’s mission.

Follow these 5 easy steps to create sustainable changes within your nonprofit:
 
  1. Provide the facts and research—Explain what changes you are looking to achieve, and why. Providing the reasons behind your decisions will help your employees view each change as a necessity. In addition, offering the chance to provide feedback will also give your employees a greater sense of control.
  2. Spend extra time educating the leadership team—Because your staff leaders are in charge of teaching and supporting their employees, it’s important to make sure they understand the logic behind every change that is being implemented.
  3. Move from generalizations to specifics—The ease that comes with everyday tasks can make it difficult to alter employees’ common behaviors. Identifying your employees’ shared behaviors and habits will help you focus on what needs to change within the company culture as a whole.
  4. Embrace the “slow but steady” mentality—In order to create lasting change, recognize that your employees are experiencing a great deal of uncertainty. Allowing your employees to slowly modify their behaviors can help them more readily adjust to ongoing changes.
  5. Share the positive results with everyone—Positive reinforcement is always a great way to preserve change. When they see immediate wins and profit as a direct result of their changes, your employees are likely to stay committed to their changed behaviors.


Change is what keeps nonprofits moving forward. Taking the time to foster cooperation amongst your employees is the easiest way to create lasting change—which provides ongoing opportunity for organizational growth within the nonprofit sector.

Learn more about how to gain employee support for organizational change here.
August 04, 2014

4 Things Your Nonprofit Must Know About Unemployment Insurance

As an unemployment tax alternative for nonprofit organizations, UST fields a wide variety of questions about unemployment claims and unemployment tax options from members and non-members alike. Stemming from this, we have compiled a list of the top 4 things that every nonprofit must know about their unemployment insurance taxes to ensure that the organization is not wasting money.
What is the Unemployment Tax? And how does the unemployment insurance program work?

The Department of Labor (DOL) provides a short overview of the program on their website, and summarizes it by saying: "Unemployment Insurance is a federal-state program jointly financed through Federal and state employer payroll taxes. Generally, employers must pay both state and Federal unemployment taxes...However, some state laws differ from the Federal law and employers should contact their state workforce organizations to learn the exact requirements."

The program itself works to provide jobless workers who have lost their job through no fault of their own with temporary, partial wages while they search for a new position. For more information on how unemployment insurance works, read our more complete overview on the state program.

Is Your Nonprofit Liable?

501(c)(3) nonprofits are exempt from federal unemployment taxes, but may be liable for state contributions if they meet something called the “4 for 20″ provision. This provision is triggered when four or more individuals are employed on the same day for 20 weeks in a calendar year, though not necessarily for consecutive weeks. It is important to note that who is considered “employed” for these purposes is not always straightforward – see Independent Contractors below.

Why Independent Contractors May Still Be Considered Employees

There are different rules and tests used by government organizations to determine independent contractor status, because different organizations are responsible for separate aspects of law. For the purposes of unemployment insurance, the Department of Labor uses something called the “ABC test”, which makes it sound simple, but is more complicated when applied to real situations.

The ABC Test establishes criteria that an work relationship must meet in order to for the services of that individual to not be considered employment. The three parts of the ABC Test relate to employer control/direction of the worker, place(s) of business or courses of business, and proof that the worker is independently established in the trade. A nonprofit may have to pay unemployment taxes even if the IRS or their state revenue services determine that, for income tax purposes, individuals may be independent contractors.

Cost-Saving Alternatives

The Unemployment Services Trust (UST) provides an alternative to paying into the state unemployment tax system, and can be a cost-saving option for nonprofits with more than 10 employees. Through UST, organizations directly reimburse the state only for the claims of their former employees, rather than paying the state unemployment insurance tax which covers all employers throughout the states.

And, because keeping unemployment costs low is vital to so many organizations across the U.S., we've added state-by-state information for taxable wage bases from the Department of Labor so you can see where your organization falls on the tax scale.

We encourage nonprofits to be proactive in learning what their options are, and what types of unemployment tax alternatives best suit their needs. Complete a complimentary Savings Evaluation to see if your organization could save money on its unemployment costs.
 
This post does not constitute official or legal advice. A version of this article originally appeared on blog.nonprofitmaine.org by Molly O'Connell.
July 25, 2014

HR Question: Monitoring Conflict Between Employees

 

Q: When an employee has reported another employee to the police for a non-work-related activity, what is the employer’s liability?



A: If the employee in question has not done anything illegal or against company policy in the workplace, the employer is not required to take any action. However, the concern may be that the workplace may become a charged environment between these two employees.

The employer should monitor the environment at work, focusing on job performance and productivity, while remaining aware of the possibility of existing conflict between the two employees that may create a hostile environment or a distraction for those working nearby.

If either individual creates a conflict in the workplace, the employer should address it immediately and counsel the offender. Written documentation of any event should occur.

An employee whose behavior is questionable outside of the workplace may not be disciplined or singled out by the employer. However, the employer has the responsibility to ensure that no employee is subjected to a hostile work environment and will want to be aware of any conflict amongst the individuals. Additionally, no action should occur until such time as an employee is convicted of any alleged complaint, nor should any perceived act of retaliation exist.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
July 24, 2014

Budget Today, Succeed Tomorrow

Nonprofits are constantly looking for new ways to develop and achieve their mission-driven objectives. Unfortunately for smaller organizations, big aspirations aren’t generally matched by a big budget. So how can nonprofits manage financial restraints while also maximizing organizational sustainability?

Taking the time to plan out one’s budget, on a more consistent basis, can help an organization better identify, prioritize, and build towards their goals. To create an effective budget, follow these 6 simple steps:
 
  1. Build a Budget Committee—Committee members should be familiar with budget and goal history, as well as future objectives. The committee often includes the Board Treasurer, CFO, Executive Director, and other finance-oriented positions.
  2. Create Deadlines—Pinpoint the deadline for final approval, as well as mini-deadlines leading up to it. Delegate tasks to each committee member to ensure that everything is accomplished in an efficient manner
  3. Analyze Last Year’s Budget Do’s and Don’ts—Look for patterns in past budget fluctuations and identify potentially unrealistic goals. Which budget items were allocated too much/too little money? How have goal priorities shifted this year?
  4. Draft a Budget Structure and Timeline— Map out target goal dates for each objective, as well as their individually estimated costs. Don’t forget to include a reserve for miscellaneous expenses and potential emergencies.
  5. Present Budget to the Board—Because the Board often must approve the final budget, allow additional time for feedback and questions.
  6. Review Throughout the Year—After everything is finalized, continue to track your budget’s progress throughout the year. Comparing the estimated costs with your actual expenses will help determine the overall soundness of your budget.


In order to grow within the nonprofit sector, organizations must learn how to construct and abide by their determined budgets. Serving as a roadmap to achieving annual objectives, a well thought out budget can help nonprofits succeed without sacrificing excess funds.

Learn more about the importance of nonprofit budget planning here.
July 22, 2014

HR Question: Definition of Hostile Work Environment

Q: What is the definition of a hostile work environment?



A: A “hostile work environment” is one of the two types of sexual harassment prohibited by law. The scope of this type of harassment is broad, but is generally defined by the following examples provided by the Department of Labor:

A hostile environment can result from the unwelcome conduct of supervisors, co-workers, customers, contractors, or anyone else with whom the individual interacts on the job, and the unwelcome conduct renders the workplace atmosphere intimidating, hostile, or offensive.

Examples of behaviors that may contribute to an unlawful hostile environment include:
 
  • Discussing sexual activities
  • Telling off-color jokes concerning race, sex, disability, or other protected basis
  • Unnecessary touching
  • Commenting on physical attributes
  • Displaying sexually suggestive or racially insensitive pictures
  • Using demeaning or inappropriate terms or epithets
  • Using indecent gestures
  • Using crude language
  • Sabotaging the victim’s work
  • Engaging in hostile physical conduct


The Department of Labor provides more information on when a hostile work environment violates the law and suggested information for creating a policy here.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
 
July 17, 2014

Do Teams Trump Individuals?

A few years ago a social researcher invited a group of 50 or so participants to enter a room full of balloons, find the balloon with their name written on it, and sit down before 5 minutes passed. The scene was chaotic. Not surprisingly, none of the participants were sitting down at the 5 minute mark.

The speaker then asked the participants to perform the search again as a collaborative group. He suggested they each pick up one balloon and find the owner of that balloon.

If you haven’t already heard about the study findings, which recently began to go viral, all of the participants were sitting down, with their unique balloon, well before the 5 minute mark.

For the past couple of decades, researchers have been performing live social experiments like this one to illustrate the power of teamwork and collaborative effort. Out of this body of work has come some pretty powerful information that can improve your organization—and it’s collaborative results—if used well.

Not least among the information sets that have been discovered, is the fact that companies that have the best collaborative teams are 10 times more likely to reach high financial goals as those who don’t. So what is it that makes the best teams?

According to MIT researchers, the best teams:
 
  • Are socially responsive to one another and pick up on one another’s cues and body language,
  • Collaborate and contribute more or less equally,
  • Operate in a climate of safety that encourages creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, and
  • Provide candid feedback to one another.


If you’re team is not performing as well as you would like them to, or if your team is fairly homogenous—which researchers have repeatedly found discourages a healthy level of creativity— this article from the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM) suggests appointing someone within your team to play devil’s advocate.

Other suggestions to improve the collaborative working environment within your team include:
 
  • Anticipate conflicts and set down guidelines for how your team will handle them
  • Encourage your team to socialize outside of work—it’s a shortcut to improving collaboration and allowing teams to become more socially responsive to one another
  • Recognize, reward, and celebrate collaborative behavior
  • Think systematically, but make innovation of the utmost concern
  • Let those who benefit from your organization weigh in from time to time
July 11, 2014

HR Question: Holiday Pay & Leave

Q: If a holiday falls during the week of an employee's leave (either vacation or unpaid leave of absence), how does a company pay salaried (exempt) and hourly (nonexempt) employees that week? Does a part-time employee get paid for a holiday?


A: The answers to your questions are ultimately determined by company policy due to the fact that there is no mandatory requirement under state or federal laws to offer employees holiday pay.  Many employers do, however, offer holiday pay to both full- time and part-time employees as part of the company’s competitive total compensation package.

It is a matter of company policy regarding pay for a holiday that falls within the week of an employee’s vacation.  You may define eligibility criteria for these benefits, such as requiring that employees work the day before and the day after the holiday to receive the benefit unless on approved time off, or holiday pay will only be provided when the holiday falls on a regularly-scheduled work day.
 
  • For non-exempt hourly employees:  If your company does not offer holiday pay and your business is closed for the holiday, you would not be required to pay non-exempt hourly employees for that day.  Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), these employees are paid on an “hours worked” basis.  Employees could request that available accrued paid time off be substituted for that day in order to be paid.
  • For exempt employees:  Under the FLSA, exempt employees are paid on a “salary basis”,  Employers may not make deductions from an exempt employee’s pay for absences caused by the employer or by the operating requirements of the business during the workweek, such as the business being closed for a holiday.  If the employer has a policy that employees have to be at work either the day before or the day after the holiday in order for the holiday to be paid, the employer could deduct from the exempt employee’s accrued paid time off bank for the absence on the holiday.  If exempt employees have no accrued paid time off benefits available , the holiday would still be paid by the employer as part of the salary basis requirement, and the paid time off bank hours would be in the negative until additional time off is accrued.  For more information about the FLSA rules, click here.


Nothing under the federal or state family and medical leave laws (FMLA or state “mini-FMLA”) require an employer to continue a holiday pay benefit during an unpaid leave for either hourly non-exempt or exempt employees.

Question and Answer provided by ThinkHR. Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to their expert HR staff here.
July 10, 2014

UST Debuts New Animated Video, “Unemployment and HR Solutions Just for Nonprofits”

As the nation’s largest and lowest cost alternative to paying state unemployment costs, the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) is working to educate thousands of nonprofits about their human resource cost-saving options.



On July 9th the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) released its first ever animated video short. As a part of UST’s ongoing efforts to educate nonprofits about the cost-saving alternative exclusively available to those with a 501(c)(3) tax status, the video will be shared with thousands of nonprofits.



About a minute long, the video reveals how more than 2,000 nonprofit employers with 10 or more employees have saved up to 60% on unemployment costs and reduced time spent on HR after joining the UST program.

By developing a highly focused repertoire of services—including an expert HR Hotline and Resource Library, and an expert claims management system with a secure online claims dashboard—UST helped members save $32,598,054 in mitigated unemployment claims last year.

Last month an additional $8,762,873 was returned, in cash, to participants that had an overall positive unemployment claims experience in 2013. Altogether this represents more than $43 million in claims savings, audited state returns, and cash back for members last year.

To learn more about the UST program for 501(c)(3) employers, visit www.ChooseUST.org or call (888) 249-4788 to speak with an Unemployment Cost Advisor.

About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance alternatives. Visit www.ChooseUST.org to learn more.
July 08, 2014

Nonprofits Slated to Receive More than $8.7M in Cash Back this Year from UST

Over the next several weeks 521 current participants in the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) will receive a combined $8,762,873 in cash back.

Over the next several weeks 521 nonprofit members of the Unemployment Services Trust (UST) will receive a combined $8,762,873 in cash back. In total this brings participant savings over the past year to more than $43 million in claims savings, audited state returns, and cash back.

“One of the most exciting times of the year at UST is when we get to tell members that they will be receiving money back,” said Donna Groh, Executive Director of UST. “For members that elect to take the cash back as a check this money often helps them expand important initiatives. And, learning the exact impact that each dollar we’re able to save, and return, to nonprofit employers helps motivate us to find even more ways to lower unemployment costs across the board for our members.”

The UST program, which helps nonprofits with 10 or more employees control unemployment-related HR costs, includes an annual review of its 2,000+ nonprofit accounts–using an advanced actuarial model. Unlike the state unemployment tax system or some private insurance where taxes and premiums cannot be refunded (even when benefits paid out are far below what the employer paid in), UST instead allows for cash back when an organization has a positive unemployment claim experience.

UST members whose claims were lower than anticipated, and that are well-funded for future claims, will receive a direct refund or credit to their nonprofit organization.

“Hearing the individual stories about what members plan to do with their cash back is extremely rewarding, and allows us to better emphasize the mission-driven impact of becoming part of the UST program,” seconded Adam Thorn, Director of Operations.

By aiming to ensure that a nonprofit is properly reserved for unemployment claims costs, but not holding excess funds beyond the necessary cushion for future claims, UST helps serve its mission of “Saving money for nonprofits in order to advance their missions.”

To learn more about the UST program for 501(c)(3) employers, visit www.ChooseUST.org or call (888) 249-4788 to speak with an Unemployment Cost Advisor.

About UST: Founded by nonprofits, for nonprofits, UST is the largest unemployment trust in the nation, providing nonprofit organizations with 10 or more employees a safe, cost-effective alternative to paying state unemployment taxes. UST has partnered with 80 state and national nonprofit-based associations to teach their members about their unemployment insurance alternatives. Visit www.ChooseUST.org to learn more.
July 03, 2014

How HR Departments Impact the Nonprofit Sector

For most nonprofits, sticking to a smaller budget makes it harder to allocate the necessary time and resources needed to maintain an effective HR department. Responsible for salaries, training, recruitment and paperwork, your HR staff greatly influences your organization’s potential growth.

 

XpertHR and Nonprofit HR conducted a 2014 survey of Senior HR professionals to reveal the way nonprofit HR departments are constructed and held accountable. Representing 260 organizations throughout the US and Canada, the results showcase the importance of measuring and documenting an HR department’s effectiveness.

According to the survey, just over 1/3 of organizations reported documenting an official HR strategy. And with nearly 40% of HR professionals failing to measure their department’s effectiveness, many nonprofits have trouble building upon their HR best practices.

In addition to sustaining an effective HR department, nonprofits are also burdened by a limited HR budget. Taking the cost of HR salaries, recruitment, and administration into account, the median cost of running an HR department is reported at $91,715.

In order to alleviate financial HR costs, UST offers its members exclusive access to ThinkHR, a value added service that provides HR professionals with expert advice and support tools. This service includes a live HR Hotline, an online HR library, and over 200 employee training courses. Learning how to outsource and prioritize your organization’s HR needs can save you money—money that can be put towards mission advancement and further HR staff development.

Learn more about how your nonprofit can gain access to ThinkHR’s expert HR staff here.