“History is an extraordinary thing. You can choose to learn from it, or you can choose to repeat it.”
- Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
Sometimes going back in history helps us learn how the laws and regulations we have in place today relating to workforce safety came into existence and the significant events that helped shape our future.
March 25th marked the 100 year anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City which claimed the lives of 146 young immigrant workers… mostly young women and teenage girls. The deaths of these workers triggered the beginning of the modern day labor movement and changed the future of the American workplace.
The Triangle Factory fire led to many reforms including new safety and fire regulations, child labor laws and workers’ compensation. This tragedy forced government action and within three years, 36 new laws were passed by the New York State legislature improving the quality of workplace conditions. These laws set minimum wages and maximum hours, limited child labor and created new fire safety and building codes… which would serve as a model for other states as well as the nation.
Twenty years later, the New Deal passed similar legislation at the Federal level, with the help of many of the same individuals who were responsible for the changes that impacted the New York labor code after the Triangle fire. Close to 40 years after the New Deal, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was born during the second major wave of workplace reform. It is estimated that OSHA has saved the lives of over 400,000 American workers.
Watch the Trailer for the HBO Documentary… Triangle: Remembering The Fire
Watch the 7-Minute CBS News Video… Remembering the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
Watch the PBS Documentary on the Triangle Fire
Photo Credit: The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - 100 Years emblem is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor website.
One year ago, on March 23, 2010, President Barack Obama signed into law the Affordable Care Act (ACA) making health care more accessible and affordable for Americans. Some information explaining the health care law came out this week to help clarify the benefits Americans and small businesses can expect from this legislation.
Watch a 5-Minute Video: Vice President Biden Talks About One Year of the Affordable Care Act
Health Care Reform Now and in the Future: Benefits to Young Adults and Small Business
U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis answers three questions about the new health care reform law.
1. The health care reform law contains a provision benefiting young adults. Can you explain how it works?
The new law already ensures young adults up to age 26 have an option when it comes to their health care. Historically, some 30 percent of young adults have been uninsured – a rate far higher than that of any other age group. The new law allows young adults to remain on their parents’ plan, or rejoin it until age 26, even if they no longer live with their parents, are not a dependent on their tax return or are no longer a student. The new flexibility even applies if they are married. This is very helpful as they continue through school, or transition into the job market where health care coverage may not be immediately available through their employer.
2. What are some of the other benefits available now?
Currently, in a step towards good jobs for everyone, up to 4 million small businesses are eligible for a health care tax credit to help them provide insurance benefits to their workers. Also, the new law says coverage cannot be denied for those under age 19 because of a pre-existing condition, annual dollar caps on care are limited, and all new plans must pay for potentially lifesaving routine procedures such as mammograms, cervical cancer screenings and colonoscopies.
3. What should we expect to see in the coming years?
By 2014, denying coverage to anyone based on a pre-existing condition will be banned. Annual dollar caps on care, which are already limited, will be prohibited, and state-based health insurance exchanges will create a new marketplace, giving more employers and millions of Americans the ability to purchase affordable coverage.
Better Benefits, Better Health for Small Businesses
Thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), small business owners and employees may be eligible for important new benefits that will ensure they get the care they need and deserve for a lower cost.
If you own a small business with fewer than 25 full time-equivalent employees, you may qualify for a small business health care tax credit
to help offset the costs of covering your employees.
Employer-based plans that provide health insurance to retirees ages 55-64 can get financial help through the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program
. This program is designed to maintain health coverage for retirees, workers, and employers.
If you are in a new insurance plan, insurance companies cannot charge you or your workers a deductible or copay for recommended preventive services, like mammograms and flu shots. See a list of preventive services
that will be covered without a copay.
Learn About 4 Other Health Care Reform Benefits for Small Businesses
As the one year anniversary of the health care reform act approaches, how much do you really know about the law? Want to test your knowledge with a simple 10 question quiz? You might be surprised at how well you understand what the law will really do.
The Kaiser Family Foundation created a 10 question interactive quiz that allows Americans to test their knowledge about what’s in… and what’s not in… the health care reform law. At the end of the quiz, your results will be compared to others that were asked the same series of 10 questions in one of the Foundation’s recent monthly Health Tracking Polls. The quiz also includes links to more information about specific provisions of the law to help you better understand any questions you did not answer correctly.
Take the Health Reform Quiz Now!
How Well Do Americans Understand the Health Care Reform Law?
Kaiser Family Foundation’s quiz asked Americans whether they thought a series of ten provisions were included in the new law, ranging from five items that are part of the law to five items that popped up at times in the larger debate but are not in the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
The results from the health care reform quiz break out like this…
- A quarter scored an impressive grade of 7 to 10 right answers
- Less than 1 percent responded to all 10 questions correctly
- Roughly a third scored 0 to 4 right answers, with 2 percent failing to get a single question right
- Two‐thirds of Americans (65 percent) got 5 or more answers correct
- Most people hovered around the middle, correctly answering 4 to 6 questions
Which Health Reform Questions Confused Most Americans?
While the majority of Americans can identify certain provisions as being part of the new health care law, the quiz shows that many people have false impressions about its provisions.
The two questions that 25% of Americans could not answer correctly are…
- Will the health reform law require all businesses, even the smallest ones, to provide health insurance for their employees? (Only 25% answered this question correctly.)
- Will the health reform law create a new government run insurance plan to be offered along with private plans? (Only 27% answered this question correctly.)
Download the Detailed Results from Kaiser’s Findings on How Familiar Americans are with Health Reform
How well did you score on the quiz? Let us know!
With all the announcements, proposed changes and regulation updates that come out from the various government agencies, it’s hard to keep up with everything. To help you stay informed about some of the most important news that could directly affect your business, we’ll periodically post news briefs on our blog. These articles will contain short snippets of news that are released from the IRS, Department of Labor, OSHA and other government agencies.
Labor Department to Target Misclassification in 2011
In a live Q & A session earlier this year, Nancy Leppink, Deputy Administrator of the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) discussed initiatives aimed at the misclassification of employees as independent contractors in several high-risk industries… construction, janitorial, home health care, child care, transportation and warehousing, meat and poultry processing, and other professional and personnel service industries. While the precise extent of misclassification is unknown, 13 studies suggest that it may affect 10 to 30 percent of employers. WHD is currently conducting directed investigations, having an increase presence in these key industries and is targeting employers who are identified as having misclassified employees or groups of employees.
IRS Audits Employers Claiming HIRE Act Exemption
The Internal Revenue Service has begun examining employers that have claimed the payroll tax exemption enacted as part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act (HIRE Act).
Documents employers are asked to provide include:
A list of qualified employees
A written statement explaining whether any qualified employees were hired to replace another employee and whether any of the qualified employees are related to the employer
Copies of Forms W-11 or other similar statements signed by each employee
The correspondence and field examinations are conducted by examiners from Employment Tax Operations and are part of the agency's overall employment tax compliance program.
House Bill Would Increase Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees
The minimum wage for tipped employees such as waiters and waitresses would increase under a bill proposed by U.S. Representative Donna Edwards (D-Md.). The bill (H.R. 631) would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to raise the Federal minimum wage for those workers to $3.75 an hour from $2.13 within three months of the bill's enactment. The bill would then increase the wage to $5 an hour a year after enactment, with the wage rate going to 70 percent of the regular Federal minimum wage, or no less than $5.50 an hour, after the second year.
FLSA Rules Are in Play as Daylight Saving Time Returns
Daylight saving time began at 2 a.m. on March 13th when clocks were set ahead by one hour across most of the country, ending standard time. Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa do not observe the time change. For payroll departments, the change may result in questions about wage payment rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act. While many overnight shift employees will lose one hour of work time, the FLSA does not require employers to pay the lost hour. Standard time resumes at 2 a.m. on November 7th.
IRS to Issue Guidance on Health Care Reporting on W-2s
The Internal Revenue Service plans to issue guidance on reporting health care costs on Form W-2 within 30 days, said John Tuzynski, chief of employment tax operations at IRS's Small Business/Self-Employed Division. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act added a section to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) that requires the aggregate cost of applicable employer-sponsored health care coverage to be reported on the W-2, but IRS delayed applying the law's W-2 reporting requirement for 2011.
When filing your Federal income tax return, taxpayers can choose to either take the standard deduction or to itemize their deductions. The IRS has put together the following six facts to help you choose the method that gives you the lowest tax.
Whether to itemize deductions on your tax return depends on how much you spent on certain expenses last year. Money paid for medical care, mortgage interest, taxes, charitable contributions, casualty losses and miscellaneous deductions can reduce your taxes. If the total amount spent on those categories is more than your standard deduction, you can usually benefit by itemizing.
Get Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions on Itemized Deductions & Standard Deductions
1. Standard deduction amounts. These are based on your filing status and are subject to inflation adjustments each year. For 2010, they are:
Married Filing Jointly $11,400
Head of Household $8,400
Married Filing Separately $5,700
Qualifying Widow(er) $11,400
2. Some taxpayers have different standard deductions. The standard deduction amount depends on your filing status, whether you are 65 or older or blind and whether an exemption can be claimed for you by another taxpayer. If any of these apply, you must use the Standard Deduction Worksheet on the back of Form 1040EZ, or in the 1040A or 1040 instructions. The standard deduction amount also depends on whether you plan to claim the additional standard deduction for a loss from a disaster declared a Federal disaster or state or local sales or excise tax you paid in 2010 on a new vehicle you bought before 2010. You must file Schedule L, Standard Deduction for Certain Filers to claim these additional amounts.
Download IRS Publication 17 – Your Federal Income Tax Guide for 2010 for Individuals
3. Limited itemized deductions. Your itemized deductions are no longer limited because of your adjusted gross income.
4. Married Filing Separately. When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction and therefore must itemize to claim their allowable deductions.
5. Some taxpayers are not eligible for the standard deduction. They include nonresident aliens, dual-status aliens and individuals who file returns for periods of less than 12 months due to a change in accounting periods.
6. Forms to use. The standard deduction can be taken on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. If you qualify for the higher standard deduction for new motor vehicle taxes or a net disaster loss, you must attach Schedule L. To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration announced a final rule that improves the H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker program, better protects U.S. workers and addresses the calculations used to set wage rates for H-2B workers. The final rule addresses concerns that the calculation method enacted in the 2008 rulemaking did not adequately reflect the appropriate wages necessary to ensure U.S. workers are not adversely affected by the employment of H-2B workers.
View the H-2B Wage Rate Ruling Press Release from the U.S. Department of Labor
When Does the Final H-2B Rule on Set Wage Rates Go into Effect?
The new wage rates will apply to wages paid for work performed on or after January 1, 2012. The final rule requires employers to pay H-2B and U.S. workers recruited in connection with an H-2B job application a wage that meets or exceeds the highest of the following: the prevailing wage, the Federal minimum wage, the state minimum wage or the local minimum wage. The final rule also permits the use of private wage surveys in very limited circumstances.
View the Final Rule on Wage Methodology for the Temporary Non-agricultural Employment H-2B Program Published in the Federal Register
Under the final rule, the prevailing wage would be based on the highest of the following:
- Wages established under an agreed-upon collective bargaining agreement
- A wage rate established under the Davis-Bacon Act or the Service Contract Act for an occupation in an area of intended employment, if the job opportunity is in an occupation for which such a wage rate has been determined
- The arithmetic mean wage rate established by the Occupational Employment Statistics wage survey for an occupation in an area of intended employment
What is a Temporary H-2B Work Visa?
The H-2B Work Visa program allows the entry of foreign workers into the U.S. when qualified U.S. workers are not available and when the employment of foreign workers will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of similarly employed U.S. workers.
The H-2B Work Visa targets workers looking to temporarily fill non-agricultural jobs in the U.S. in which local American workers are in short supply. These work visas are aimed mainly at skilled and unskilled workers whereas the H-1B Work Visa category caters to college-educated workers. The H-2B program is limited by law to a program cap of 66,000 visas per year.
Access the H-2B Work Visa Application for Skilled and Unskilled Workers
What are the Eligibility Requirements for an H-2B Work Visa?
There are four key requirements for obtaining an H-2B Work Visa:
- You must have a job offer from a U.S. employer to perform work that is either temporary or seasonal.
- You must have the correct background to qualify for the job that you have been offered.
- There must be no qualified U.S. workers to take the job. A labor certification is required.
- You must intend to return home once your visa expires.
Learn More About the H-2B Program and the Process for Hiring H-2B Workers
Earlier this year, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released an updated version of The Handbook for Employers to help employers better understand the Form I-9 process.
The Handbook has been revised with new information regarding applicable rules and policies, new regulations about electronic storage and retention of I-9 forms, how to process an employee with a complicated immigration status and also addresses public comments and frequently asked questions.
Revisions to The Handbook for Employers & Understanding the Form I-9 Process
Some of the many improvements, new sections and tools included in The Handbook for Employers, Instructions for Completing Form I-9 are:
- New visual aids for completing Form I-9
- Examples of new relevant USCIS documents
- Expanded guidance on lawful permanent residents, refugees and asylees, individuals in Temporary Protected Status (TPS), and exchange visitors and foreign students
- Expanded guidance on the processing of employees in or porting to H1-B status and H2-A status
- Expanded guidance on extensions of stay for employees with temporary employment authorization
Verifying Employment Eligibility is Mandatory
The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) prohibits the hiring or continued employment of aliens whom employers know are unauthorized to work in the United States. Employers who hire or continue to employ individuals knowing that they are not authorized to be employed in the United States may face civil and criminal penalties.
By law, U.S. employers must verify the identity and employment authorization for every worker they hire after November 6, 1986. To comply with the law, all U.S. employers must verify the employment eligibility and identity of every worker hired by completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, regardless of the employee’s immigration status.
Get More Information Regarding Form I-9 and E-Verify from the USCIS Website
How to Avoid I-9 Violations and Penalties
The fines and penalties that result from an I-9 inspection or audit vary depending on whether your company has knowingly hired unauthorized workers or failed to comply with Form I-9 employment verification requirements. Fines range from $110 to $16,000 per violation depending on the type of violation.
Last year we wrote a series of blog articles on I-9 violations and what you can do to avoid them. Learn what color ink not to use when filling out Form I-9, how to make corrections to I-9 forms and that accepting an expired U.S. passport is no longer considered a valid document for proof of identity. Check out these articles…
Nationwide I-9 Audits Continue in Search of Immigration Violations
Using Red Ink Can Get You into Hot Water With ICE
More is Not Always Better When the Government is Involved
The following is a guest blog post by Bob Melso,
Vice President at DocuSense.
Are you paying too much for office equipment you don't use? I can’t remember the last time I felt good after reviewing a prospective client’s office machine fleet billing. Last week I saw yet another example of the type of mistakes companies routinely make when acquiring printing and copying equipment. This client has 30 machines, all of them 11 x 17 tabloid-capable tanks.
Real Life Example of Copier Usage
Here’s an example of one of their typical devices. This one’s been leased for 2 out of the 5 years for $276/month.
Total Copies 60,701
Total Prints 200,199
Total Pages 260,900
11 x 17 pages 9
Duplex pages 443
Are You Paying for Copier Features You Don't Use?
When we ask new clients how much their pages cost they never know off-hand the price they are paying for their leases but are almost always quick to point out that it only costs a half a penny per page. This client was no different. Nine tabloid-sized pages in two years. Really? Their office had no reason to have the big devices on their floor wasting money when smaller, less expensive machines would fit just fine. Therefore the higher lease costs they were paying for the tabloid-sized devices was unneccessary.
When we streamline this client they’ll have much less equipment costs, and almost no large leases but if you’re wondering how this happens in the first place, it’s because there is a lack of clarity and focus of intent when acquiring and managing office equipment. Why? Information Systems folks are trained and concentrate on Servers, PC's and Networks; no training on document workflow. Also remember the dealer’s salesperson may not always take the time to review or inquire deeply enough to help IT or purchasing reduce costs by buying less equipment.
Consider Your Document Output When Purchasing Equipment
Large devices come with a low cost per page and also a large lease payment. Remember your document output is changing every year and copies are declining (Why are you copying anyway?) so think twice before leasing the huge device and instead, put workgroup printers in place or lower-cost letter/legal-sized multifunctions where you need them and don’t give into the lure of the half-cent-per-page.
DocuSense is a document consulting company specializing in Managed Print Services. They help their customers understand, manage and control the cost of document production. DocuSense is headquartered in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Click here for more information on how to contact DocuSense.
What is your strategy for building repeat business, boosting brand awareness and increasing the average amount of a customer’s purchase? Is it through advertising, direct mail or email campaigns? Did you know that traditional direct mail campaigns often deliver response rates of less than 1 percent? How would you like to generate response rates that are 4 to 7 times higher than traditional direct mail promotions? Prepaid incentive cards are the new direct marketing tool that can give you these kinds of results.
In the economic times we live in, businesses are looking for innovative ways to connect with new customers, capture their attention and deliver relevant incentives prompting them to take action. Prepaid incentive cards just might be the boost your company is looking for.
What is a Prepaid Incentive Card?
A prepaid incentive is a payment card with a cash value on it… similar to a gift card. These incentive cards are set up with a certain dollar value on them and are sent out as part of a direct marketing campaign. The cards are immediately activated when the recipient responds to the call-to-action you specify… like filling out a short online survey or visiting a particular store and making a purchase.
Prepaid incentive cards are frequently viewed by recipients as free gift cards instead of simply paper discounts. You may think that only traditional retailers that use coupon-based marketing can benefit from an incentive card program. See how an insurance company and a natural gas company used prepaid incentive cards in their direct marketing efforts when you download the white paper below.
Benefits of a Prepaid Incentive Card Program
Incentive card programs can be designed specifically for the needs of your business and can help you achieve any of these objectives…
- Driving consumer traffic to a particular location
- Building repeat business and encouraging more frequent customer visits
- Increasing average purchase amounts
- Creating effective relationship marketing
- Supplementing brand loyalty campaigns
- Targeting highly specific audiences
Prepaid incentive cards combine the power of gift cards with the measurability of direct mail marketing. Enhance your marketing efforts and gain greater insight into what captures a consumers’ attention and motivates them to take action.
Download a FREE White Paper and Learn How to Create the Right Prepaid Incentive Card Program
The Key to a Successful Incentive Card Program
At first glance, launching a prepaid incentive card program may sound like a lot of work, involving multiple vendors. The key to creating a successful, cost-effective and hassle-free incentive card program is choosing the right partner. The easiest way to implement a program is to find a specialized vendor that works as a single point of contact… from start to finish… handling all the coordination and administration for you.
Interested in Using Incentive Cards to Boost Your Direct Marketing Success?