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Florida Minimum Wage will increase to $11.00 per hour on September 30, 2022

Effective September 30, 2022, the Florida minimum wage will increase from $10.00 to $11.00 per hour. Additionally, the minimum wage for tipped employees will increase by $1.00 to at least $7.98 per hour, in addition to tips. The next minimum wage increase is set for September 30, 2023.

In 2020, Florida voters approved a state constitutional amendment to gradually increase the state’s minimum wage each year until reaching $15.00 per hour on September 30, 2026.

Download these new posters for FREE from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity – English version and Spanish version.

Conciliation Agreements: What are the EEOC Requirements?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigates charges of unlawful discrimination and conducts an investigation into the allegations and the employer’s response. After assessing the evidence, the EEOC sometimes issues a Letter of Determination that there is reasonable cause to believe that a company discriminated against the charging party (employee) in violation of Title VII. In the Letter of Determination, the EEOC will attempt to resolve the case through a written conciliation agreement. The Conciliation Agreement is a settlement of the case and contains a list of required actions that the employer must take to eliminate the alleged unlawful practices. An employer is typically given seven (7) days to inform the EEOC if it wishes to participate in conciliation. We examined a recently proposed Conciliation Agreement and here are the EEOC requirements.

Can an employer decline conciliation? Yes, if the employer declines conciliation or the EEOC investigator is unable to secure a settlement acceptable to the Commission, the EEOC will advise the complaining party and employer about the court enforcement alternative and will issue a “Right to Sue” letter to the employee.

Here are the EEOC requirements from the Conciliation Agreement:

  • Five year agreement.
  • Dollar amount for settlement.
  • Retain a subject matter expert to conduct yearly training to employees about Title VII (live and in person) – for 5 years
  • Retain subject matter expert to conduct yearly training to management and HR employees (live and in person) – for 5 years. Specific recommendations for training content.
  • Implement an Anti-Discrimination policy that contains specific content including language about: (1) clear complaint process, (2) identifies individuals to receive complaints, (3) prompt, impartial investigations, (4) examples of prohibited conduct, (5) no tolerance for prohibited conduct, (6) protection from retaliation, (7) confidentiality protection, (8) appropriate disciplinary action for violations, (9) managers required to escalate complaints of harassment, and (10) retaliation that is substantiated will result in discipline.
  • Adopt a policy to hold supervisors accountable for compliance with EEOC policies and procedures.
  • Maintain recordkeeping procedure for tracking discrimination, harassment and retaliation complaints.
  • Submit an annual report to the EEOC regarding various actions under the Conciliation Agreement, including information about complaints, investigations and company responses.
  • Display the EEOC poster in a location accessible to employees and applicants.

in 2021, there were only 111 successful conciliation agreements (0.5% of cases), down from 377 (1% of cases). The Trump Administration had proposed new conciliation regulations in 2021, designed to make conciliation more transparent and require the EEOC to disclose facts known to the EEOC. Before it took effect, President Biden signed a joint resolution eliminating the new rules and declared that the “onerous and rigid new procedures,” would increase the risk of retaliation against workers who file complaints or participate in discrimination investigation.

CDC Streamlines COVID-19 Guidelines

In early August, the CDC updated and streamlined its guidelines for COVID-19 to help people better understand risk and how to protect themselves.  As compared to earlier in the pandemic, there is significantly less risk of severe illness and death thanks to the resources available to us now.

In support of this update, the streamlined guidelines put forward by the CDC include promoting the importance of up-to-date vaccination.  The new updated guidance equalizes treatment for those vaccinated, and not vaccinated, when there is an exposure to someone with COVID-19.  Regardless of vaccination status, instead of quarantining after exposure to COVID-19, CDC now recommends wearing a mask for 10 days and testing on day 5 after exposure to COVID-19.

CDC still recommends isolation away from others after testing positive for COVID-19, including a 5-day isolation period after first testing positive for the virus and an end to isolation if fever-free for 24-hours. If an individual has moderate or severe illness, it is recommended that isolation be extended through day 10 and it may be wise to contact your health care provider.

In the coming weeks, new updates will be added for travel, healthcare settings, and other high-transmission settings.  Click here for the CDC media release source.

IRS Increases Standard Business Mileage Rate to 62.5 cents per mile

High inflation and soaring gas prices caused the IRS to make a mid-year adjustment in the business mileage rate. Effective July 1 through Dec. 31, 2022, the standard mileage rate for the business use of employees’ vehicles will be 62.5 cents per mile—the highest rate the IRS has ever published—up 4 cents from the 58.5 cents per mile rate effective for the first six months of the year. Announcement 2022-13 informs taxpayers that the Internal Revenue Service is modifying Notice 2022-3, 2022-2 I.R.B. 308, by revising the optional standard mileage rates for computing the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business and for determining the reimbursed amount of these expenses that is deemed substantiated. If you want to know how to calculate a mileage deduction, check out this Nerdwallet article.

Prohibiting BLM Messages on Employee Clothing is Legal says NLRB Judge

Most employers have dress code requirements and prohibit employees from wearing certain messages and symbols on their work attire. At Home Depot, its dress code states that the orange apron “is not an appropriate place to promote or display religious beliefs, causes or political messages unrelated to workplace matters.” Home Depot employees are prohibited from using the apron for “displaying causes or political messages unrelated to workplace matters.” After George Floyd, a Minneapolis area employee put BLM messaging on his apron, in violation of policy. Despite the manager trying to convince the employee to remove the message, he was terminated after he refused to remove it. He complained to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the agency sued Home Depot and claimed that the retailer violated federal labor law by preventing staff from displaying the message “Black Lives Matter” on their aprons, as well as by threatening and punishing employees to discourage collective action.

On June 10, 2022, an Administrative Law Judge last week ruled for Home Depot because he concluded that the BLM messaging lacked any objective and direct relationship to terms and conditions of employment, so it was not legally protected by federal law (NLRA). He concluded that the message was originally used to address the unjustified killings of Black individuals by law enforcement and vigilantes. To the extent that BLM is used beyond that, it operates as a political message for societal concerns and only relates to the workplace because workplaces are in society. The NLRB issued an unfair labor practice complaint against Home Depot for enforcing its dress code policy and requiring the employee to remove the BLM message. However, the evidence showed that BLM messaging neither originated as, nor was shown to be reasonably perceived as, an effort to address the working conditions of employees. It may have profound societal importance, but it was not directly relevant to the terms and conditions of Home Depot employees, as employees.

Under the Biden Administration, the new NLRB General Counsel has announced an intent to expand the concept of “concerted protected activity” beyond traditional limits, by including activity in support of political and social justice issues, such as BLM, $15 minimum wage, undocumented workers etc… The NLRB has also taken legal action against Whole Foods, which also prohibits employees from wearing face coverings with Black Lives Matter imprinted on them.

Are Union Election Petitions Increasing in early 2022?

Yes. According to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), during the first six months of fiscal year 2022 (October 1–March 31), union representation petitions filed at the NLRB have increased 57%—up to 1,174 from 748 during the first half of FY2021. At the same time, unfair labor practice charges have increased 14%—from 7,255 to 8,254. Read more. The numbers are driven mainly by over 250 cases filed by Starbucks employees alone (with around 40 stores voting for a union). In recent years, unions have been moving away from manufacturing and toward non-profits and the healthcare industry.

A representation petition is filed by employees, unions, or employers with an NLRB Field Office to have the NLRB conduct an election to determine if employees wish to be represented by a union. The Field Office investigates the petitions and, if meritorious, conducts an election to allow employees to decide whether or not they wish to be represented by a union. An unfair labor practice charge is filed by any member of the public with an NLRB Field Office if they believe an employer or union has violated the National Labor Relations Act. An NLRB field office will then investigate the charge and issue a complaint, absent settlement, if the Regional Director determines the charge has merit.

What workplaces are subject to the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)? The NLRA applies to most private-sector employers, including manufacturers, retailers, private universities, and health care facilities.  The NLRA does not apply to federal, state, or local governments; employers who employ only agricultural workers; and employers subject to the Railway Labor Act (interstate railroads and airlines). It covers employees at union and non-union workplaces. The law does not cover independent contractors and most supervisors.  Read more.

Arbitration Clause Won’t Prevent Sexual Harassment Lawsuits

Over the years, many employers include pre-dispute mandatory arbitration agreements with new employees (sometimes in an employee handbook, and otherwise in a separate agreement). Both parties agree to submit any employment-related disputes to arbitration, rather than to the traditional court process. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution technique that is very different than a court case, in front of a judge and jury. A dispute is heard by an arbitrator, who follows the applicable law, and issues a binding decision on the parties. These decisions, in general, can not be appealed, so the decision is final.

In March 2022, a new federal law ended forced arbitration of sexual harassment claims. The Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021, H.R. 4445 (The “Act” or “EFASASHA”), was signed by the President. The Act prohibits the forced arbitration of sexual harassment claims and allows these claims to be brought in court even if the Employee is bound by a mandatory arbitration agreement. Mandatory pre-dispute arbitration agreements are not invalid or unenforceable, but the new law permits the employee to be a named party to a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment or sexual assault under federal or state law.

Net result for employers is that an employee with a sexual harassment claim for conduct that arose on or after the date of the EFASASHA (March 3, 2022) can invalidate any pre-dispute arbitration agreement even if it was signed prior to March 3. The new law goes beyond employment agreements, and also covers independent contractors, customers, and any other persons with whom a business may try to enforce mandatory arbitration. Arbitration agreements can be enforced for other workplace and employment disputes, such as claims for retaliation, wage and hour, and discrimination.

Form I9 Audits – What you need to know

The I-9 Form is a legally required document for new hires. It is used by employers to prove an individual is legally eligible for employment in the United States. The form is legally required by the U.S. Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). The current form is 2 pages long; employees and employers complete their respective sections, as well as sign and date it.  A properly completed form verifies the identity of an employee and ensures that the individual is legally capable of working in the U.S. These forms shall be kept separate from the employee’s file, and in Florida, employers are required to either use E-verify or keep copies of the employment authorization documents.

So far in 2022, Consultstu has performed several independent third-party immigration reviews for companies contracting with Publix Supermarkets Facilities Services. When completing I9 audits, here are some common compliance errors we identify in client paperwork:

  • I9 form was created late (employee completed Section 1 after 1st day).
  • Section 2 (review and verification section) is not fully completed by the employer or an authorized representative (within 3 business days of hire).
  • Employee start date missing, or different than payroll records.
  • Issuing authority of out of state drivers’ license incorrect
  • Employee failing to complete the translator box (bottom of page 1).
  • Putting Driver’s License information in List A (should be List B).

According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services, if corrections are necessary to an I9 form, corrections should be initialed and dated on the form so it is clear who and when the correction was made. Employees make corrections to Section 1, and Employers make corrections to Section 2.

When completing an audit, ConsultStu provides the client with valuable notes and recommendations regarding your Form I-9s, how to correct any errors, and best practices to improve your knowledge and overall compliance.  This extra service has been greatly appreciated.  Our service is completely remote, thorough, and accurate, and reviews your company’s Form I-9s, supporting documents, and E-Verify documentation. 

Have any questions? Call us today at (727) 350-0370 to discuss or schedule an annual (new or re-certification) Publix Immigration Review and I-9 Audit.

CDC Revises Indoor Mask Guidance (Feb 2022)

In late February 2022, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) relaxed its mask guidance for communities where hospitals aren’t under high strain. The CDC announced its new COVID-19 Community Levels tool which is a way for communities to decide what prevention steps to take based on the latest data. Levels can be low, medium, or high and are determined by looking at hospital beds being used, hospital admissions, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in an area.  According to early news reports, nearly 70% of Americans live in communities with low or medium risk and are not advised to wear masks indoors.

The new guidelines for assessing community risk weighs hospitalizations for COVID-19 and the proportion of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients in local hospitals more heavily than rates of new infections alone. The CDC will release updated county-by-county risk levels weekly on its website. Unfortunately, the CDC does not release the underlying community data so that individuals can decide on their own. The CDC change comes at a time when many states are dropping mask mandates and people are becoming increasingly fatigued from mask-wearing. Recent studies and medical scholarship has also reached varying conclusions about the effectiveness of cloth masks under normal wear conditions.

Check your state and county here. In high-risk (orange) communities, the CDC Guidance recommends wearing a well-fitting mask indoors in public, regardless of vaccination status or individual risk.

Connie Beck, HR Generalist, joins Consultstu

Connie Beck is passionate about people and feels that Human Resources plays an integral part in both the employee’s success, as well as the employer. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from the University of South Florida, as well as two HR designations; Professional in Human Resources through the Society of Human Resources Management and Certified Practitioner through the Human Capital Institute.

Connie has worked in various industries including manufacturing, entertainment, medical, financial, and assisted living, giving her the unique opportunity to work with diverse populations and grow her human resources skills. She has extensive experience working with employee relations, training, policy and procedures interpretation, employee investigations, and unemployment. Outside of work, she loves spending time in her North Carolina home. Her favorite activities include quilting, working in the yard, and spending time with friends and family. She and her husband currently have one child, their fur baby Wiggy, rescued from a kill shelter 14 years ago.

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