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FL Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Legislation Regarding Vaccine Mandates

In response to the federal government’s recently created COVID-19 vaccine mandates, Governor Ron DeSantis signed bills that affects the impact of this new legislation for the state of Florida. The bills passed during the legislature special session on November 15-17, related to employee protections and parental rights relating to COVID.  The first bill states that health decisions for children are fully the right of the parent. The bill also prohibits COVID-19 vaccination mandates for employees who work in government and public education.  With respect to private-sector employers, a company can require mandatory vaccinations, but it must offer various exemptions to employees.  The exemptions include medical reasons, religious reasons, using personal protective equipment (PPE), immunity based on prior COVID-19 infection, and complying with regular testing which cannot be charged to the employee. The Florida legislature also authorized funds to purse litigation against the federal government over vaccine mandates by the Centers for Medical Services and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

If companies with less than 100 employees do not follow the new law, they may be fined $10,000 per violation.  Larger companies may be fined $50,000 per violation. ConsultStu will keep monitoring the situation and update employers when the Department of Health (DOH) releases the new emergency rules to implement the new law. Read the full notice.

Tips for Recruiting

Filling open job positions in 2021 has become more complicated than in recent years due to the pandemic and the way the workplace has evolved. Many people are labeling this time as “The Great Resignation” and workers are beginning to prioritize remote positions over going into the office. Research conducted by PWC states that 65% of employees are looking for a new job, and 88% of executives say they are seeing higher turnover than normal. Companies are exploring new ways to make recruiting more effective and to retain their talent once hired.

Here are some tips on what is working right now:

  1. Make sure the positions that you are advertising are accurate. Review your job descriptions, salary ranges, employee benefits, and your company culture.
  2. If you advertise your openings on your website or on job boards, ensure that the postings are up to date. Applicants may be less likely to apply to jobs that have been open for several months.
  3. Look into providing sign on bonuses or developing a referral program. This will help incentivize employees to share with friends and family that there are jobs available.
  4. Use social media. Keeping your social media pages like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn up to date can help drive business to your company. It is also a great way to advertise job opportunities.
  5. Work hard to retain the talent you have or have a plan to replace them if necessary. It is possible that your talent is being sought out after by other companies via LinkedIn or email. Spend time building company culture and pay them compensation that remains competitive within your market.

Currently, it is taking longer and costing more now than it has before to attract and retain talent. Take time to review and develop your recruiting processes to attract the right candidates. Read more about this topic here.  

Florida’s Minimum Wage Increases to $10.00 an hour on September 30, 2021

The increase to the state of Florida’s minimum wage is effective on September 30, 2021. The new minimum wage will increase to $10.00 per hour, and at least $6.98 per hour for tipped employees. All employers must pay their employees the hourly state minimum wage for hours worked. If the employer does not pay the employee the minimum wage, civil action may take place against the employer for a violation of Florida’s minimum wage law. Every September 30 following, the minimum wage will increase $1.00 an hour until 2026. The vote for the increase of Florida’s minimum wage occurred on November 3, 2020, where Amendment 2 was approved by Florida voters.

View the official notice and minimum wage schedule here. As an employer, remember to update your minimum wage poster.

CDC’s New Guidelines for Fully Vaccinated People

COVID-19 cases on the rise again, driven by the infectious Delta variant.  Based on these rising numbers, the CDC released new guidelines for fully vaccinated people on July 27. According to the CDC, about half of the US population is fully vaccinated, so make sure you are aware of the updated guidelines as an employer. The Mayo Clinic has an online vaccine tracker to follow the U.S. vaccine rollout and compare progress across states.

The CDC now recommends fully vaccinated people wear a mask indoors in public areas if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission. Here is a map to locate your area and transmission status.  The guidance does not define “public areas”, but it has been interpreted as including businesses and workplaces.

The CDC also recommends that fully vaccinated people should wear a mask if they are at an increased risk, such as being immune-compromised or if they have a family member who is.

If a fully vaccinated person has close contact with someone who has COVID-19, they should get tested 3-5 days after the exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms.  They should also wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until the test result is negative. If a vaccinated person tests positive for COVID-19, they should isolate for 10 days, consistent with the existing guidance for when a sick person can be around others.  For teachers and students in school, the CDC recommends masks regardless of vaccination status.

In May, Governor DeSantis signed an Executive Order (21-102) that says that “no county or municipality may renew or enact an emergency order or ordinance, using a local state of emergency … that imposes restrictions or mandates upon businesses or individuals due to the COVID-19 emergency.” It superseded any local orders requiring masks or limiting hours or capacity at bars and restaurants. In a related Executive Order, he invalidated any orders issued by a political subdivision due to the COVID-19 emergency which restricts the rights or liberties of individuals or their businesses. Your business can still implement its own mask mandates, physical distancing or other business restrictions.

Make sure you stay up to date with the CDC guidelines and update your business COVID-19 policy.  View the full guideline here.

How to Create an Account with CONNECT

Are you a Florida employer in need of a CONNECT account? CONNECT is Florida’s Reemployment Assistance claims system. All Florida employers should set up an account to login and see their claims and questionnaires in one place.  You will be able to respond online to all inquiries regarding claimants and file a protest against an incorrect benefit charge. Employers can also submit paper files or electronic forms when it is related to an appeal.  You will have a record of your filings and it is the quickest way to learn results.  Interested?  Here are the directions to set up an account.  

  1. Go to the DEO Web site:  
  2. To set up new access to the CONNECT system, contact the Employer Assistance line and ask for the set up. They ask that the authorized company representative be the person to set up the account. 
  3. Employer Support Unit line is 1-877-846-8770 
  4. Press 5, for “other assistance” 
  5. If you have the reemployment tax number, enter it 
  6. They will ask for your name and email (they need the company contact) and they will send an email assigning or confirming the User ID (it will be a “ep………..” 8 digit number). 
  7. You will receive an email conformation and to finish the registration.  You can now activate and assign a password to the CONNECT account. 
  8. Click the link (only good for 96 hours) 
  9. Enter the User ID and then set up the password and security question answers. 
  10. Make notes of the information 
  11. Password needs to have at least 3 of the following – upper case letter, lower case letter, numbers and special symbols. 

If you have any questions or need further assistance setting up your CONNECT account, please give us a call at (727) 350-0370! We are always happy to help! 

How to Create an Account with Employ Florida

Looking for a new place to post your job openings?  Employ Florida Marketplace is a free workforce resource for employers, as well as a way for job seekers to find a job and post resumes.  Employ Florida is Florida’s official online portal where employers can post job listings, search to find and view qualified employees, evaluate labor market information, and locate business services. Labor market information is also offered as employers can view job market trends, labor market facts, and employment and wage data. 

Here are the directions to create your Employ Florida account:

  1. Go to
  2. Click “sign in” and go to “Option 3 – Create a User Account”
  3. Click “Employers and Agents” and agree to the terms and conditions.
  4. Select your “Representative Type” and click next.
  5. Enter Employer Identification including the company FEIN or Social Security number and the UI Employer Account Number (not required). Click continue.
  6. Create a username, password, and develop security questions.
  7. Enter the Employer identification, location information, mailing address, contact information, company information, company profile, special characteristics, and benefits offered. The company profile is what job seekers will see which includes a summary of your major products and services.

Note: If there is already an account for the company and you cannot access it anymore, you can bypass this error by pressing continue and create a new account. This might happen if the company previously had an employee who created an account and left.

If you have any questions or need further assistance setting up your Employ Florida account, please give us a call at (727) 350-0370! We are always happy to help!

Employee not responding to FMLA notices, loses FMLA protection

Good news for employers! A recent Oregon court case demonstrated the importance of following the required FMLA notices to eligible employees and the consequences to an employee that ignored the notices to his detriment. Employees that fail to follow the employer’s usual and customary notice requirements for requesting FMLA leave, will ordinarily not be eligible for the law’s protections. Read why the court granted summary judgment for the employer.

What are the important lessons for Florida employers?

  • Implement absence notification policy.  Employers may require an employee to call or email their supervisor, a third-party administrator or report to the human resources department.  Having a standard notification process assists with administering FMLA.
  • Inform employees about the absence notification policy.  Whether the policy is contained in the Employee Handbook, or provided to employees electronically, maintain written documentation showing that employees received notice of the policy.
  • Require sufficient absence detail from employees.  Employees should not be allowed to submit vague requests without sufficient information to determine if FMLA is implicated.  It should be standard practice to follow up on vague doctor’s notes and leave requests.
  • Ask employee about unusual circumstances.  The FMLA regulations contains a loophole for employees to bypass employer usual notice policies in unusual circumstances.  So, employment lawyers recommend that employers ask employees why they ignored the employer notices and standard procedures.   According to the Employer’s Guide to the FMLA (DOL) whether the employee’s notice of unforeseeable leave is timely will depend upon the facts of the particular case.  No examples are given.

Bottom line. The court made clear that the FMLA does not prohibit employers from disciplining employees, up to and including separation from employment, for non-compliance with notice requirements.  FMLA is not violated if an employee is required to take an additional step to contact a third-party administrator managing FMLA.  In Oregon, the employer prevailed because it had a customary notice policy and the employee did not follow it.  The employee had actual notice of the policy and failed to submit sufficient information (he called off work and submitted 2 doctor’s notes) about his need for FMLA.  Since the employee could not show that he provided proper notice to the employer, he lost his case.

OSHA Posted a New ETS Regarding COVID-19

On June 21, The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released an expansive new emergency temporary standard (ETS) for those who provide healthcare services or healthcare support services. Effective immediately, the new standard was created to protect health care service workers from COVID-19.  Some of the major requirements Included in the ETS is developing a COVID-19 plan, patient screening and management, physical barriers, and vaccination rules.  There is an exception to the written COVID-19 plan requirements, if you are a non-hospital ambulatory care setting who screens out all patients (non-employees) who may have COVID-19.

Non-hospital ambulatory care settings include community clinics, vision clinics, dental clinics, and mental health clinics.  Those facilities are required to screen all non-employees prior to entry and not allow people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 to enter.   Review this workflow to find out if your workplace is covered by the COVID-19 Healthcare ETS.

Additionally, OSHA issued an updated guidance (June 10, 2021) for employers who are in other industries that are not healthcare related.  According to OSHA, except for healthcare workplaces covered by the ETS and mask requirements for public transportation, most employers no longer need to take steps to protect their workers from COVID-19 exposure in the workplace.

HR Software and Reviews

HR technology is available to help you streamline and automate all HR processes in your organization. Recently we had a small client come to us to find the right HR platform for their growing business and review plenty of options on the market. We were able to dive deep into different HR software that all offered valuable tools to help businesses remove paperwork, simplify HR, and add time into their busy work schedule. We researched and evaluated Paylocity, BambooHR, Rippling, and 15Five and here is what we found.

  • Paylocity

Review: Paylocity was one of our favorites because of how easy it is to use and that it contains the necessary functions such as payroll, time keeping, PTO tracking, and performance management. They offer a user-friendly platform that remained simplistic in what is essential for an all-in-one HR software. Paylocity was responsive to our questions, our client’s needs, and in giving support. It is customizable to your requirements as a company since you can add on certain features like applicant tracking (recruiting), onboarding, and benefit administration as you grow in size. Performance reviews are also customizable for employees and easy to manage with journal entries and full-scale feedback. Overall, this is great all-in-one platform with a good price.

  • BambooHR

Review: BambooHR was also another pick of ours as it is a SaaS (Software as a Service) company that provides a cloud based HR software for small and medium sized businesses. The platform is modern with design, easy to use, and simple to navigate. BambooHR offers an applicant tracking system, employee record keeping, time-off management, benefits tracking, performance management, and a mobile app for employees. One of the downsides of BambooHR is having to add on and pay for a payroll integration with TRAXPayroll. Overall, even with the payroll integration, BambooHR remains affordable.

  • Rippling

Review: Rippling is an HR and IT software that connects with various third-party applications like Slack and Zoom. Rippling includes payroll, benefits, time and attendance, learning management, and talent management. Rippling is unique compared to others because it can also handle IT such as device management and app management if you are interested in that service. Rippling was simple to use as well and looked great in their design when we were assessing it. Rippling offers assistance with transfers from other HR software during a switch. One of the downsides we found about Rippling was that performance management must be integrated, and it was more expensive than the other platforms we researched.  Performance management can be integrated through 15Five.

  • 15Five

Review: 15Five is a human-centered performance management software that can be used on its own or integrated through Rippling, Gusto, and other HR software that does not offer any. 15Five is a modern approach to engaging employees, measuring performance, and tracking goals. The “Give a High Five” tool for employees helps build a community at work and facilitate conversations through a mobile app or on a desktop.  More and more clients are looking to move their performance discussions online to accommodate remote employees and tech savvy employees.

We know it takes time to figure out what your business needs, decide on priorities, and then evaluate which HR platform will work best for you. While exploring the different types of software for our client, we were able to learn about each platform and what they can offer. Each platform has a little different twist that can cater to your organization better, so it is important to research and select which one will work for you currently and in the future. Make sure you assess your organization size, culture, what industry you are in, and the requirements that you want the HR platform to have before deciding.

Contact us today (727) 350-0370 if you have any questions or if you want to know more about an HR software for your business!

Should Employers Mandate or Encourage COVID-19 Vaccines?

Can employers require mandatory COVID-19 vaccines? In the first case of first impression, a judge in Houston, Texas dismissed a lawsuit regarding a hospital worker who refused a mandatory vaccine (June 12, 2021).  Per hospital mandate, to continue employment with Houston Methodist Hospital, managers had to be vaccinated by April 15 and all other workers had to be vaccinated by June 7.  Most employees followed the direction of the hospital, but there were over 100 employees that refused to be vaccinated.  The unvaccinated employees sued the hospital for “unlawfully forcing its employees to be injected” or be fired.  After trial, the judge dismissed the case by stating that Methodist hospital is trying to save lives without spreading the COVID-19 disease. The judge told the unvaccinated employees that they could find work somewhere else.

As we approach July 2021, we are hearing the news, friends, family, and business owners speak about mandatory vaccines and what they should do. Small business owners are planning about how they should approach vaccines in general. Over 50% of Americans having received a COVID-19 vaccine, but there are many others that have decided not to get it, and many others have natural immunities after recovering from COVID-19.  Should employers require or encourage COVID-19 vaccines? Most businesses that are mandating vaccines are health care employers followed by food service and education industries. Construction, administrative, real estate, and transportation are industries with the lowest percent of companies that are mandating vaccines for employees.

If you decide to mandate or encourage vaccines as a small business owner, there is some information to help guide you in this process. Ensure that you do not ask for too much information from the employee. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) states that you are allowed to ask about vaccination status and require proof such as a vaccine card. However, employers should not ask follow up questions regarding the vaccination status such as why they are or not vaccinated.  Answers to these questions may result in uncovering medical issues that implicate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  All questions should be job related and necessary for business without asking about general medical health. If employees provide vaccination status, make sure that the data remains confidential on the same level as employee medical information.

Employers that want to encourage vaccinations should educate and provide their employees with factual information about the injection. Learning about the vaccination can help reduce misunderstanding and answer any questions regarding whether they should or should not receive the vaccine. Making it easier for the employees to obtain the vaccine, such as providing information about vaccine locations and how to receive one, also boosts the number of vaccinated workers in your business. Other employers have decided to provide incentives to employees who get the vaccine or provide time off to deal with potential symptoms and side effects. Read more information about the vaccine here.

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