What and how you pay your workers is becoming a major issue managers are being forced to address. The ability to recruit and retain star employees is driving wages upward. And both the states and federal government are zoning in on wage violations, while at the same time proposing stricter, more costly guidelines.
In this post, I will outline some key compensation trends and the potential pitfalls which could prove very costly to you and your organization.
- Wage Growth: expect to see a steady increase in wages. In 2014, we saw a 2.5% increase followed by 3% this year. Plan on another 3% in 2016. The Northeast has been experiencing greater growth and certain positions, such as electrical engineers, IT, line workers and nurses are demanding and getting greater increases. Review all your wages to ensure they are in line.
- Wage Equity: Recruitment is impacting existing wage programs. The need to pay job candidates higher wages than your current employees to get them to accept your job offer is throwing internal equity out of whack. Employers must remain competitive to attract talent, but you must also maintain parity so as to retain your current employees. It’s a difficult balancing act. Review your compensation program to insure you have both internal and external competitiveness and equity. As a best practice, this type of study should be done every 2 years. (As an aside, I have been asked to conduct several compensation reviews and analyses just this year).
- Wage Violations: There are a wide range of wage regulations that are getting significant attention. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is one of the employment laws that employers frequently violate, often without intent and knowledge that they have gone afoul of the law. Unfortunately, intent is not a good defense and the consequences are severe and include 2-3 years back pay for each infraction, legal fees and in extreme cases, criminal penalties. Here are some of the problem areas:
- Misclassification of salaried workers (exempt versus non-exempt): You cannot simply pay an individual a salary to avoid paying overtime. The Department of Labor has developed a complex testing process to determine whether a job is legitimately exempt or not. You should review and test all your salaried positions to ensure they meet the requirements. Here is the DOL link to the test. Call me if you need help.
- Prohibited deductions of exempt employees wages: You cannot arbitrarily reduce the wages of an exempt worker for missing work or leaving early to go to the dentist. In doing so, you jeopardize the position’s exempt status and frankly, open up a huge can of worms. I have developed a white paper on making proper deductions. Give me a call and I will send it to you.
- Failure to pay for all time worked: This is a big problem. While Wal Mart continues to grab the headlines for these violations, I regularly get calls from clients on my HR HelpLine concerning obligation to pay for work done off the clock, work being done during breaks, eligibility for comp time (both for municipal and private sector workers), requiring workers to be on-call, storm closings, travel pay, and expecting all workers to monitor and respond to emails and calls 24/7. Review your policies and procedures to ensure employees are properly paid.
- New Proposed White Collar Regulations. The DOL is proposing to increase the means test requirement (that’s the minimum dollar amount you must pay a salaried worker) to $50,444, up from $23,660. If this passes for 2016, and many experts believe it will, that will double the amount required. Prepare now by reviewing every exempt worker you have; determine whether they fall below the threshold; and then develop a strategy around how you will deal with this issue. There are a variety of options. Call me if you need help.
- Independent Contractors: For the last few years, the various states, IRS and DOL have been hammering employers who employ Independent Contractors. In many cases they have declared these contractors as employees and have required employers to pay back pay, back taxes, workers comp, unemployment comp, and back benefits to the workers. Each state has their own tests and the IRS has another. Before you hire an Independent Contractor, test the position. Here’s the IRS test.
- Student Interns: While most unpaid student interns meet the required educational standards, DOL has been clamping down on abusers. Follow the 6 criteria point test to ensure you are not in the wrong.
Listed above are just some of the trends and pitfalls. What you should do now includes:
- Auditing your compensation and pay practices today.
- Making sure your entire compensation program is up-to-date, compliant and competitive.
- And, If you need assistance, give me a call.
Other Dacri posts you should read:
- FLSA Record Keeping Requirements
- How to Comply with Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increase
- Linkedin Gets Burned for Overtime Violations
- Overtime: Should Holidays and Vacation be Included?