A guide to managing employee website usage

With remote workers, employers need to be mindful of the types of websites their employees are accessing on company-issued technology. Continue reading for key considerations and best practices to review when properly managing employee website usage.


Whether employees are working from home, the coffee shop or the office, employers need to be mindful of the types of websites workers are accessing on their company-issued technology.

New accessibility creates greater flexibility, but employers need to be vigilant to ensure workers maintain the expectation of productivity and workplace privacy. Now more than ever, the workplace heavily relies on technology and companies must understand how to manage it to avoid risk.

Nowhere is the tension between technology and privacy rights more prevalent than in today’s workplace. At the forefront of this discussion is whether employers should block access to certain websites on company-issued technology. Here are key considerations and best practices to review when properly managing employee website usage.

Creating boundaries between work and personal affairs, without invading privacy. Employees typically emphasize that their private affairs should not be accessed by their employer. But the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) states an employer-provided computer system is the property of the employer, so when an employee visits certain websites during typical office hours using company-issued technology, what is accessed by the employee becomes the employer’s business as well.

There is no denying that placing blocks on certain websites is an effective way to separate work and personal matters, maintain professionalism, protect the company’s security, respect company property and utilize work time appropriately. However, employers should beware of potential legality issues regarding privacy. For example, employees are given some protection from computer and other forms of electronic monitoring under certain circumstances.

Productivity distractions. Blocking certain websites will not prevent an employee from utilizing company time for personal reasons, but doing so reminds employees to have integrity, focus and discipline when it comes to using technology in the workplace. Some employees will use company-issued technology to visit a plethora of websites such as social media platforms, personal email accounts, instant messengers, financial institutions, sports, entertainment and music sites, as well as inappropriate websites. It is easy to become distracted with an overabundance of virtual activity at our fingertips, and blocking sites sends a serious message to workers that business technology and time is for business-purposes only.

Security of confidential company data and information. In today’s interconnected world, employers recognize the importance of protecting confidential company information. Employers often choose to block certain websites because of the risk of a security breach. Employers are concerned with the exposure of any release of its data, work products, ideas and information not otherwise disclosed to the public or its competitors. Blocking certain websites gives an organization an opportunity to decrease the risk of its confidential information being accessed by external influences.

What employers can do to be more transparent with staff

There are no foolproof methods to preventing an employee from using their work time for personal reasons or inadvertently exposing the company to security breaches.

Employees can still access many websites of their choosing through their personal technology. However, the aforementioned reasons are convincing enough for employees to take more accountability in using company-issued technology for business purposes only. An employer that endorses a policy and practice of business technology for business reasons sets a clear expectation for employees to remember and follow.

  • Enforce a written policy that sets clear expectations for in-house and remote employees about not using company-issued technology to visit certain websites and explain the reason for such policies. Policies and procedures should be well-defined, widely communicated and reviewed at least annually.
  • Inform new employees that certain websites are not accessible via company technology. Highlight the written policy for both new and existing employees. Again, explain the reason for this policy.
  • Offer training and other educational opportunities that motivate productivity during times when work focus suffers.
  • Work with the company’s internal IT department to ensure that websites are properly blocked.

Usually, when employers remain transparent with staff regarding why a policy exists, employees are more receptive. In general, employers are encouraged to consult with an experienced HR professional or employment lawyer to avoid any potential legality pitfalls in the workplace.

SOURCE: Banks, S. (11 March 2019) "A guide to managing employee website usage" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/a-guide-to-managing-employee-website-usage?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


Dispelling the stigma around mental health disorders in the workplace

Forty million adults in the U.S. are affected by anxiety disorders each year, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Continue reading to learn more about the stigma associated with mental health disorders in the workplace.


It’s no secret that poor mental health impacts employee performance. Anxiety disorders, for example, affect 40 million adults in the U.S. each year, and nearly six in 10 American workers report that anxiety impacts their workplace performance, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

But because of the stigma often associated with mental health disorders, employees might not be using the benefits and programs clients have in place to help address the problem. That’s why just having programs in place isn’t enough, experts say. Instead, employers need to help remove the stigma of mental health conditions by creating a culture of inclusiveness in the workplace and forming employee resource groups.

Employers including Johnson & Johnson, Trulia and Verizon Media are doing just that, company executives said during a webinar last week hosted by the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions.

When Margaux Joffe, associate director of accessibility and inclusion at Verizon Media, started working on a proposal to form a mental health-focused employee resource group (ERG), dispelling stigma and empowering workers was one of her first priorities.

“We wanted to create a paradigm shift,” she said, speaking as part of the webinar. “Growing up, you’re taught to think you’re ‘normal or not normal;’ you’re mentally ill or you’re not. We started with the idea there is no such thing as a ‘normal brain’ as we’re increasingly understanding neurodiversity in the human race.”

A lot of people with mental health issues don’t necessarily identify with the word disability, added Meredith Arthur, content marketing manager at Trulia.

“We struggled around removing the word disability because there was a desire to face the stigma and take it on,” she said of Trulia’s ERG. “Ultimately, we wanted to reach as many people as we could. We wanted to be sharper in our focus on mental health.”

Trulia expanded its ERG statement of purpose from just focusing on mental health education and awareness to advocating for the needs of different abilities.

Joffe said putting in place an ERG for mental health at Verizon was done with the support of senior leadership. “We’ve been lucky to get a lot of support from the company for ERG,” she said. “A common challenge that exists across the board is lack of organization readiness.”

Readiness is a huge component of success in mental health programs, added Kelly Greenwood, founder and CEO of Mind Share, a nonprofit organization addressing the culture of workplace mental health.

“It is so important to achieve true culture change,” she said. “Oftentimes we work with leadership first and do workshops for executive teams before rolling them out to the company to really get that buy-in and understanding from the top down to build a transparent culture.”

At Johnson & Johnson, it took the company about nine months to get its ERG program up and running. “There was a lot of conversation internally if it should be its own ERG for mental health or integrated into another employee resource group,” said Geralyn Giorgio, talent acquisition change management communications and training lead at the pharmaceutical and consumer packaged goods manufacturing company.

At that time, she said, the company had an ERG called the alliance for disability leadership. The decision was made to put mental health under that ERG umbrella. “Since than happened, there were a lot of [employees] not seeing themselves in this ERG. We felt strongly we had to rebrand the ERG, and we went live last year, using the name alliance for diverse abilities to make it more inclusive,” she said.

This year, Giorgio said, the company will work to empower managers to handle mental health conversations.

“If you have a manager open to the conversation, [employees] have a different experience than someone whose manager is ill-informed,” she said. “That’s something we need to focus on this year — helping our managers feel more comfortable with having the conversation.”

SOURCE: Otto, N. (12 March 2019) "Dispelling the stigma around mental health disorders in the workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/dispelling-workplace-mental-health-stigma?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


7 ways to reduce stress this tax season

Does tax season leave you stressed out? Tax season is here, leaving many employers face-to-face with a number of demands. Continue reading this post from Employee Benefit News for seven ways employers can reduce stress during tax season.


Tax filing season is here, which means many employers will come face-to-face with a number of demands. Whether they do their own taxes, use online tax software or meet with a trusted tax adviser, there are many useful resources out there that will help employers work smarter, not harder.

Here are seven ways employers can reduce stress during tax season.

2019 U.S. Master Tax Guide

The U.S. Master Tax Guide contains timely and precise explanations of federal income taxes for individuals, partnerships and businesses. This guide contains information including tax tables, tax rates, checklists, special tax tables and explanatory text.

Legislative resources

Find a trusted, reputable resource for the latest news, opinions and laws regarding healthcare. Many companies in the industry have a designated section on their website that is dedicated to providing employers with updates and trends in the health insurance industry and how it will affect taxes.
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Payroll calculators

Employers can use payroll calculators to determine gross pay, withholdings, deductions, net pay after Social Security and Medicare and more. Calculator types include salary payroll calculators, hourly paycheck calculators, gross pay calculators, W-4 assistants, percentage bonus calculators and aggregate bonus calculators.

Keep, shred, toss

Now is the perfect time to organize tax records so that they’re easy to find in case they’re needed to apply for a loan, answer IRS questions or file an amended return.

The IRS has some helpful guidance you can share with your clients on what records to keep and for how long. They should remember to:

  • Keep copies of tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years.
  • Keep some documents for up to seven years.
  • Keep healthcare information statements for at least three years. These include records of employer-provided coverage, premiums paid, advance payments of the premium tax credit received and type of coverage.

Make sure records are kept safe — but when it’s time, shred or destroy

Whether they consist of paper stacked in a shoebox, electronic files stored on a device or in the cloud, it’s important to safeguard all personal records, especially anything that lists Social Security numbers. Consumer Affairs recommends scanning paper and keeping records stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD.

It’s more important than ever for employers to keep personal information out of the hands of identity thieves. That means not tossing records in the trash or recycling bin. Home paper shredders are often inadequate for large piles of paper, but many communities have professional, secure document shredding services.
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Start as early as possible

A deadline looming always makes the situation more stressful. It’s very important for employers to not wait until the last minute to start their tax return. If they choose to use a tax professional, be sure that they get in early. Tax professionals take on many clients, and only have a short timeframe to get all the work done.

Be honest

It may be tempting for employers to tell a white lie on their taxes to maximize their tax breaks or return, but that comes at a great risk. If they are audited by the IRS, they will liable for whatever was reported.

SOURCE: Waletzki, T. (12 March 2019) "7 ways to reduce stress this tax season" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/how-to-reduce-stress-this-tax-season?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


New tech helps HR pros practice hiring and firing — in virtual reality

A new platform from Talespin allows employees to practice challenging social situations, like the act of hiring and firing an employee, beforehand. Continue reading this blog post to learn more.


What if HR professionals could practice hiring and firing someone before they even set foot in the office? Virtual reality and artificial intelligence may be closer to making that a reality for some employers.

Talespin, a developer of virtual reality technology has released a new platform that allows employees to practice challenging social situations. The platform, called its Virtual Human Technology, is meant to mimic typical conversations that an employee might have at work. The software can simulate anything from performance reviews, to leadership training, sales conversations or even firing.

“We’re thinking holistically about the employee life cycle and how spatial computing is going to affect that,” says Kyle Jackson, CEO of Talespin.

Talespin aims to evoke real human emotions and give employees a sense of the best way to handle a difficult situation, Jackson says. The platform demo, for example, puts users in the shoes of an HR manager and asks them to fire an employee named Barry. Barry is an AI-powered virtual character that displays realistic human responses, like anger, when a user tells him that he has been terminated.

Users can be successful or unsuccessful at terminating Barry and the platform provides feedback on how they can improve these skills over time. The system can be tailored to provide responses based on the specific needs of the employer, Jackson says.

“The system can record all sorts of things: from your sentiment, to what you say, what branches did you activate, what different paths of process did you go down. With all that data it’s a question of what’s the learning objective and what’s the learning outcome that you’re looking for?” he says.

While the platform is best used in virtual reality, users can access it via desktop, mobile or audio only. Jackson says the company is deploying the platform with five employers in the telecommunications, automotive, insurance and consumer packaged goods industries. Farmers Insurance is already using Talespin technology to train new hires. Employers using the software pay per monthly active user plus the cost of the module, Jackson says.

Some employers are investing in AI and virtual reality as a way to attract and retain new talent. Pharmaceutical company Takeda, for instance, combined 360-degree photographs and an interactive map of its Cambridge, Massachusetts campus to create a virtual reality office tour for current and potential employees.

Jackson says they’ve heard from employers that poor treatment from a manager has in some cases, led to employee turnover. A VR platform like Virtual Human Technology can help managers develop their soft skills for interacting with employees and potentially improve retention.

“It’s not a technology problem, it’s not an efficiency problem. It’s really a people problem,” he says. “It’s the one area that’s really hard to fix.”

SOURCE: Hroncich, C. (8 March 2019) "New tech helps HR pros practice hiring and firing — in virtual reality" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/hr-tech-helps-practice-hiring-and-firing-in-virtual-reality?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


DOL proposes $35K overtime threshold

Recently, the Department of Labor proposed an increase in the salary threshold for overtime eligibility. The current overtime threshold is set at $23, 660. Continue reading this blog post to learn more about this proposed change.


The Labor Department proposed to increase the salary threshold for overtime eligibility to $35,308 a year, the agency announced late Thursday.

If finalized, the rule’s threshold — up from the current $23,660 — would expand overtime eligibility to more than a million additional U.S. workers, far fewer than an Obama administration rule that was struck down by a federal judge in 2017.

Unless exempt, employees covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act must receive at least time and one-half their regular pay rate for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

The proposal doesn’t establish automatic, periodic increases of the salary threshold as the Obama proposal had. Instead, the department is asking the public to weigh in on whether and how the Labor Department might update overtime requirements every four years.

The department’s long-awaited proposal comes after months of speculation from employers and will likely be a target of legal challenges from business groups concerned about rising administrative challenges of the rule. The majority of business groups were critical of Obama’s overtime rule, citing the burdens it placed particularly on small businesses that would be forced to roll out new systems for tracking hours, recordkeeping and reporting.

Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a statement that the new proposal would “bring common sense, consistency, and higher wages to working Americans.”

Under the Obama administration, the Labor Department in 2016 doubled the salary threshold to roughly $47,000, extending mandatory overtime pay to nearly 4 million U.S. employees. But the following year, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the ceiling was set so high that it could sweep in some management workers who are supposed to be exempt from overtime pay protections. Business groups and 21 Republican-led states then sued, challenging the rule.

The Department said it is asking for public comment for periodic review to update the salary threshold.

SOURCE: Mayer, K. (7 March 2019) "DOL proposes $35K overtime threshold" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/dol-proposes-35k-overtime-threshold?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Today’s workforce never learned how to handle personal finances

A bill was recently proposed in South Carolina that would require all students to take a personal finance course before they graduate. Continue reading to learn how this proposal could help today's workforce learn how to handle personal finances.


A bill was recently proposed in the South Carolina state legislature to require all students to take a half-credit personal finance course and pass a test by the end of the year in order to graduate.

This proposed legislation could prove to be a breakthrough idea because frankly, much of the high school-educated—or even college-educated—workforce has never had a formal education on how to take care of their personal finances, pay off their student loans, open an appropriate retirement account, select an insurance provider or generally prepare for personal financial success.

Without taking these now-required personal finance classes in high school, how is the current workforce expected to learn how to stay afloat and become financially stable?

For those in other states or for individuals who are past high school, the most logical solution for solving this problem is to put the onus on employers and business owners to teach their employees how to properly handle their financial well-being.

Having a staff full of financially prepared employees is in any businesses’ own interest, and there are statistics to show it. Numerous research studies have proven that companies with robust employee financial wellness programs are more productive because employees don’t have to spend company time handling personal financial problems. This results in an average three-to-one return for the organization on their financial wellness investment, according to studies from the Cambridge Credit Counseling Corp.

Employees who practice good financial wellness are also proven to stay with the company longer, be more engaged at work, less stressed and healthier—all of which add significant dollars to a company’s bottom line.

While understanding that HR, executives, and accounting have little time to spend teaching lessons in the workplace, how does a company go about offering financial wellness information to their employees?

There are several options available to companies when it comes to financial wellness. One of the most sought-after benefits in recent years is online financial wellness platforms that digitize the financial education process. This allows employees to work on their financial education on their own time from the privacy of their home computer, using a friendly and simple interface. And benefits solutions providers have access to a number of these resources – all companies need to do is inquire with their provider.

It is important to remember that not all financial wellness platforms are created equal in what they offer. Depending on the specific needs of an organization, they should assess the offerings available through each service provider to ensure they receive the program they intend to offer to their employees. Most platforms offer partial solutions and tools that could include financial assessments, game-based education, budgeting apps, student loan assistance, insurance options, savings programs, and even credit resources to help those who don’t have money saved to afford an emergency cost.

Not everyone goes to school to learn accounting, so we can’t assume that everyone knows what they are doing when it comes to personal finances. South Carolina is taking a major and important step towards improving their citizen’s futures by suggesting everyone take a personal finance course in high school. This could have a massive and positive effect on the economy in the future.

Finding a financial wellness solution that checks most, if not all, of these boxes will enable employees to take the initiative to either continue what they’ve learned (in the case of South Carolina students) or start down the path of gaining financial independence. Implementing a complete financial wellness toolset to give employees the ability to prepare for financial success is a huge step towards significantly increasing productivity.

As an engaged employer who cares about the well-being of their employees, it is important to offer as many resources as possible to encourage employees to stay financially well, decrease stress, and increase productivity in the workplace.


7 principles for helping employees deal with financial stress

More than 60 percent of survey participants are seeking support from their employer for all aspects of health with financial health as their priority, according to a survey by Welltok.  Read this blog post to learn more.


Employees are dealing with financial strain -- and they may want some help from their employer to address it.

The results of a recent survey on employer wellness programs from software company Welltok, reveals two important takeaways:

  • More than 60% of survey participants are seeking support from their employer for all aspects of health with financial health as their first priority.
  • If employers offered more personalized programming, 80% of respondents say they would more actively participate in their wellness offerings.

These findings attest to what we already know. First, there is no physical wellness without mental and emotional wellbeing and there is no mental and emotional wellbeing without financial wellness. Second, engagement demands personal relevance.

Today, Americans carry $2 trillion in consumer debt, student loan debt has overtaken credit card debt and 50% of consumers live paycheck-to-paycheck. Nearly half of Americans do not have $400 to cover an emergency. Over the past decade, consumers continually report that financial stress is the greatest challenge to their health and wellness.

Struggling with finances is a deeply stressful situation for employees, families, employers and communities nationwide. To date, programs to help employees address their financial concerns have been built on the assumption that if we just teach our employees financial literacy, their financial situations will improve. This ignores the fact that money is deeply emotional—a fact that any effort to change how we deal with our money must address.

When it comes to complex, emotionally-driven issues such as money, there is often a disconnect between knowing what to do, understanding how to do it and actually doing it. In this sense, financial wellness is similar to physical wellness. I may know I need to lose 20 lbs., I may even understand, in theory, how to lose weight. But I still have trouble acting on what I know.

With this in mind, there are seven core principles critical to helping employees make a real difference in their finances and their lives.

  1. Education alone is not enough. Education and financial literacy alone simply do not inspire or empower behavioral change.
  2. Personalization is key. People will engage with a solution when it feels like it’s about them and their particular situation. Support resources need to bring general financial principles home by addressing employees’ individual circumstances.
  3. Privacy matters. Money is a sensitive and emotional subject that is difficult to discuss — especially in a group setting. Support resources need to respect the need for privacy and empower participants to explore financial questions without fear of judgment.
  4. Take a comprehensive approach. Support resources must include participants’ full financial picture to ensure that each individual’s most important issues are identified and addressed.
  5. Behavior change is essential. Established principles of behavior change science work just as well for changing financial habits and decision making. Reinforcing social interaction, peer support, positive attitudes and outlooks, providing small steps and supporting regular accountability are key.
  6. Technology lowers barriers to action and change. Mobile access is key for reaching individuals, meeting them where they are and offering them self-paced, actionable advice in the moment they need it. Learning to deal with money can — and should — be gamified. It takes considerable effort to present complex financial principles in fun, friendly, accessible scenarios or modules that are easy for employees to digest. But the result is worth it: Finances are transformed from difficult and stressful to easy and even fun. Employees develop a sense of competence; their finances become something they feel confident about and want to tackle.
  7. Remember the human connection. Technology transforms the financial services landscape by expanding our ability to provide meaningful personalized advice, consistently and according to best practices. Still, nothing changes the importance of a human adviser who can create a relationship, connection, and the trust to empower behavioral change.

The time has come to give everyone the financial advice and tools they deserve, and that will engage and empower them to improve their situation. Fortunately, much of the necessary technology already exists — and it’s improving daily. At this point, then, it’s key to get these solutions into employees’ hands so they can start their journey.

Change won’t happen overnight, although the smallest insights — setting up your first budget, getting answers from a financial coach — can do wonders to relieve financial stressors. Step by step, change is possible, confidence grows and wellbeing improves.

SOURCE: Dearing, C. (20 February 2019) "7 principles for helping employees deal with financial stress" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/how-employers-can-help-employees-deal-with-financial-stress


4 FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks during tax season

Has your business been a victim of tax season cyber attacks? The most popular time of the year for W-2 related cyber attacks is during tax season. Read this blog post to learn more.


The most likely cyber attack a company will face will come in the form of an email. One of the most common forms of email attack is the business email compromise (BEC), and the most popular time of the year for the W-2 version of BEC is right now — tax season.

A BEC attack involves attackers sending emails disguised as coming from high-level executives within a company, such as the CEO, to lower level personnel. During tax season, the spoof email will often request that W-2s for employees be provided by return email.

While the email looks identical to the executive’s email, it is coming from — and then returned to — the criminal, not the executive, along with the W-2s and the personal information associated with the documents.

If an employee falls for the scam, the company now has experienced a serious data breach and must comply with certain legal requirements. Worse yet, the company’s employees’ sensitive personal information has been given to the attackers and they have this problem to worry about instead of performing their job. The disruption is substantial in their personal lives and for the company’s operations.

How do attackers use W-2 information?

In most cases, once the attackers have that W-2 information, they use it to attempt to file fraudulent tax returns for those employees and have their tax refunds sent to them instead of the employee. They also use it for traditional identity theft.

The attackers act very quickly once the information is obtained. In some cases, they have begun to fraudulently use the information on the same day they obtained the W-2 information from the company. Time is truly of the essence in responding to these attacks and legal assistance is necessary for properly responding to these data breach events.

Why do so many attacks happen during tax season?

Law enforcement officers and cybersecurity professionals report a drastic increase in these types of attacks during the beginning of each year because of tax season. This is consistent with what is seen in helping companies with these cases in past years, as well. The reason this type of attack is so common during tax season is because of the tax-related fraud aspect of this type of attack. That is, the attackers monetize their attacks by using the fraudulently obtained information to file fraudulent tax returns and obtain refunds from innocent victims.

And the sooner they can do this, the better their chances are of getting the refund before the taxpayer files and receives their tax refund.

If a company has not yet been targeted, it is likely that it will be very soon so it is important to be prepared.

What can you do to protect your company?

Educating employees is critical because they will be the ones who receive the emails from the attackers.

  • Make them aware of this issue by sharing the information in this article with them so that they understand the threat, how it works and how it could affect them personally.
  • Train them by having appropriate personnel discuss this threat with them and help them understand that they should be very suspicious of any requests to email out anything of this nature (or make payments, such as with the very similar wire transfer version of the BEC).

Have appropriate internal controls in place to protect against these types of attacks. These controls can include:

  • Limit who has access to your company’s W-2s and other sensitive information as well as who has the authority to submit or approve wire payments.
  • Have established procedures in place for sending W-2 information or other sensitive information as well as for submitting or approving wire payments so that dual approvals are required for these activities.
  • Require employees to use an alternative means of confirming the identity of the person making the request. If the request is by email, the employee should talk to the requestor in-person or call and speak to the requestor using a known telephone number to get verbal confirmation. If the request is by telephone or fax (many times they are), then use email to confirm by using an email address known to be correct to confirm with the purported requestor. Never reply to one of these emails or call using a telephone number that is provided in one of these emails, faxes, or telephone calls.

What to do if your company is hit by an attack

  • Immediately contact experienced legal counsel who understands how to guide a company through these incidents and, ideally, has appropriate contacts with law enforcement and the IRS to assist in reporting this incident quickly.
  • Report the incident to the FBI or Secret Service and appropriate IRS investigators so that the IRS can implement appropriate procedures to protect the employees whose information was exposed in the W-2s.
  • Prepare appropriate notifications to the people whose information was exposed and comply with all legal and regulatory reporting requirements. This should be a part of an existing incident response plan. Companies should have such a procedure in place to be better prepared if and when a security breach occurs.
  • Inform employees that the IRS will never contact them directly, for the first time, via email, telephone, text message, social media or any way other than through a written “snail mail” letter.

SOURCE: Tuma, S. (19 February 2019) "4 FAQs about W-2 business email compromise attacks during tax season" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2019/02/19/4-faqs-about-w-2-business-email-compromise-attacks-during-tax-season/


Everything employers need to know about employee job classifications

FLSA job classifications can confuse even the most experienced HR managers. Continue reading this blog post for everything employers should know about employee job classifications.


Chief among the issues that keep employers up at night is staying compliant with federal and state employment laws.

Arguably, wage and hour rules are the most complex and cause the most issues for companies. Job classifications under the FLSA can confuse even the most experienced HR managers.

In fact, some of the costliest wage and hour lawsuits and penalties on record could have been avoided if only the employer properly classified an employee as either exempt or nonexempt. It’s critically important to understand the law — and the devil is in the details.

Exempt or nonexempt?

Most employers understand that an exempt employee is not entitled to receive overtime pay for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week, according to the provisions of the FLSA. Conversely, nonexempt employees are required to receive overtime pay and should be classified as nonexempt from these same overtime provisions.

While it may sound straightforward, figuring out an employee’s exempt status is not that simple. Different types of exemptions exist and each has its own unique set of requirements that are outlined in the FLSA. Most of these exemptions are specific to certain jobs or industries, for example, some exemptions only apply to specific types of agricultural workers, or to truck drivers who transport goods in interstate commerce. But for most businesses, exempt employees will usually fall into one of the following three exemption categories: executive, administrative and professional. Collectively, these are referred to as the white collar exemptions.

A common error that employers make is to classify all their salaried employees, or all employees with the word manager in their title, as exempt. Neither of these factors alone is enough to make the exempt designation. Each of the white-collar exemptions has two components: a salary requirement and a duties requirement. The salary requirement is the same for each of the three exemptions, but the duties requirements are different.

The salary basis test

For any employee to be considered exempt under any of the white-collar exemptions, they must be paid on a salary basis. This means that any employee who is paid by the hour, per day, or is commission-only, regardless of their title or position, will not meet the criteria for any of the white-collar exemptions. How the salary is paid as well as the amount are also subject to certain restrictions. The salary basis test determines the minimum amount, which is subject to change from time to time. The minimum salary is currently $455.00 per week (or $23,660 per year). This test also provides restrictions on when and how an employer can make deductions from an exempt employee’s salary.

An increase to the minimum salary per week from $455 to $913 (or $47,476 per year) was originally scheduled to go into effect back in December 2016, but industry groups against the measure successfully lobbied to block it. The U.S. Department of Labor is exploring alternatives that could appease these industry groups while keeping the regulations in line with the times. The DOL is scheduled to re-start the rulemaking process in March 2019, and prior statements of the current DOL Secretary, Alexander Acosta, suggest that the new rule may propose a more modest salary increase to around $634 per week (or around $33,000 per year).

Job duties

In addition to the salary, each white-collar exemption has its own unique set of duties requirements. Employers must look at the actual duties that each employee performs to determine whether they meet the criteria and their title or position does little to influence the outcome. So, simply naming an employee a manager does not automatically qualify the worker as an exempt employee. To be considered exempt under the executive exemption, which is the most common exemption for managers, this employee would need to supervise two or more full-time employees (or the equivalent) and have the authority to hire and fire employees. Otherwise, they would need to meet the requirements for one of the other exemptions to be paid in this manner.

Knowing that these regulations exist and being well-informed of the framework is the first step in understanding overtime obligations – and reducing wage and hour worries. Employers should seek a qualified employment law attorney for additional guidance on the specifics of each requirement to ensure compliance with applicable overtime laws.

SOURCE: Starkman, J.; Nadal, A. (15 February 2019) "Everything employers need to know about employee job classifications" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/what-employers-need-to-know-about-job-classifications?brief=00000152-14a5-d1cc-a5fa-7cff48fe0001


LinkedIn’s job search feature gets smart

LinkedIn is planning on simplifying their process of finding and hiring talent via their recruitment features. The platform plans on consolidating their LinkedIn Recruiter, Jobs and Pipeline Builder products into one service. Continue reading to learn more.


LinkedIn plans to simplify the process of finding and hiring talent through upgraded recruitment features this summer.

The career platform will consolidate its LinkedIn Recruiter, Jobs and Pipeline Builder products into one service — the Intelligent Hiring Experience — to streamline the recruitment process for its corporate customers. Artificial intelligence algorithms will help talent recruiters find the most suitable candidates for open positions.

“[The] update is about how we can make those tools work even better by fostering collaboration and more efficient sourcing,” says John Jersin, vice president of Product for LinkedIn Talent Solutions and Careers. “We’ve started along this path by bringing more intelligence into our platforms, to ensure our products are working together optimally, and helping both companies and job seekers more easily zero in on the best opportunities.”

With the upgrade, messages between recruiters and potential talent can be shared with HR professionals and hiring managers. The platform also allows the recruiter and corporate hiring team to exchange notes on each job candidate. Recruiters who rely on LinkedIn to discover talent are optimistic the upgrades will make the hiring process more organized.

“I think that would be a great feature,” says Aimee Aurol, talent acquisition specialist for Acuris Group, a media company. “Hiring managers can get a better idea of what I’m doing as a recruiter, and I can see which candidates are moving along in the process.”

Aurol says LinkedIn is her primary tool for identifying and contacting candidates for her company. While the majority of her job placements come from LinkedIn, she says the platform’s candidate suggestions could use improvement. At its current state, Aurol’s candidate searches often turn up the same candidates over and over. But she hopes the updated AI will direct her to a wider variety of available talent.

And Jersin says it was designed to do just that.

“All of these tools are created to help learn your interests and surface the right candidates,” he says. “When a recruiter reaches out to a specific candidate, or a job seeker applies for a role, our AI algorithms take note, matching profiles with job descriptions and highlighting top recommendations.”

LinkedIn’s AI will also take into consideration whether previously suggested candidates were hired or not as it adjusts its personalized algorithm. To help the algorithm learn your company’s preferences, Jersin recommends setting up projects for each available role. Then, go through suggested candidates and save the ones you want to contact — and hide the ones that don’t fit.

Once a candidate is hired, the upgrades allow hiring managers to send rejection letters individually, or in mass. This part of the upgrade was designed to improve the hiring experience for both job applicants and employers.

“We believe applicants will appreciate knowing the outcome of their contact with your company — and it's bad business to leave applicants hanging,” Jersin says. “…one survey showed that over 40% of candidates said that if they don’t hear back from a company they’ll never apply to it again.”

While the upgrades are scheduled to debut in late summer, Jersin says LinkedIn will slowly introduce the new features over the next couple of months. The feature will be included in LinkedIn’s Recruitment and Job Slots membership packages; existing customers will not have to pay additional fees to access the service.

“The new features will make it simple for recruiters to simply keep doing their sourcing and hiring while inadvertently training our algorithms to learn more about their preferences,” Jersin says.

SOURCE: Webster, K. (20 February 2019) "LinkedIn’s job search feature gets smart" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/linkedin-introduces-intelligent-hiring-experience-platform?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


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