April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and your workplace must be safe for employees, vendors and customers. Make time this month to refresh your understanding of sexual harassment as you prevent sexual assault and create a safe work environment.
Define Sexual Harassment
Sexual harassment includes any unwanted sexual advances such as offering a work benefit in exchange for sexual favors, inappropriate touching, unwelcome or intimidating behavior, offensive jokes, and inappropriate decor. Federal and state laws prohibit any form of sexual harassment.
Know Your Role
As an employer, you have the responsibility to prevent sexual harassment and create a safe work environment for all employees. A harassment-free work environment improves morale and productivity, and it reduces liability.
Write a Clear Anti-Harassment Policy
Your employee handbook should include a comprehensive anti-harassment policy that outlines:
- The definition of sexual harassment
- Your zero-tolerance policy
- Reporting procedures
- Investigation process
- Disciplinary action
- Anti-retaliation details
Consult your attorney to ensure the policy meets or exceeds federal and state requirements and covers all your bases.
Conduct Frequent Training Sessions
Schedule annual or more frequent training sessions to ensure all your employees understand the definition of sexual harassment, your company’s official policy, how to report it, and ways to prevent it. These trainings should be mandatory for all your employees, including supervisors.
Ensure Leadership Complies with the Zero-Tolerance Policy
All supervisors and managers must comply with your zero-tolerance policy as they prevent sexual harassment. Leaders set the bar for everyone else’s behavior and must be trusted to handle cases appropriately.
You can monitor email and other electronic communications as well as behavior as you look for and stop inappropriate behavior. Encourage your employees to monitor and report inappropriate behavior, too.
Clarify the Reporting Procedure
Despite your efforts, sexual harassment may occur, and you will need to clarify the reporting procedure and empower victims and onlookers to report improper actions. While employees should tell the perpetrator to stop, they should also know who to report to, what information to share and how to report harassment perpetrated by their direct supervisor.
Every employee should know the consequences of sexual harassment. They should also be confident that the consequences will be applied consistently to all employees.
Create a Safe Culture
While you need and want to prevent sexual harassment, the company’s culture should also support your stand. No crude or offensive jokes, inappropriate activities during after-work events or other improper actions should be tolerated, encouraged or allowed.
Your company must be safe for everyone. This April, improve sexual assault awareness and prevent sexual harassment as you follow the law and improve your company and culture.
On Dec. 22, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the tax reform bill, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, into law, after it passed both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
This tax reform bill, drafted based on a tax reform plan that was developed in consultation with the Trump administration, will make significant changes to the federal tax code. Specifically, the tax reform bill will have a substantial impact on businesses.
For example, it:
- Lowers the corporate tax rate—Beginning in 2018, the bill reduces the corporate tax rate to 21 percent (down from 35 percent) and eliminates the corporate Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), in an effort to make American corporations more competitive globally.
- Creates a new tax deduction for small businesses—The bill establishes a new 20 percent tax deduction for all businesses conducted as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs and S corporations.
- Allows “expensing” of capital investments—The bill allows businesses to immediately write off (or “expense”) the cost of new investments for at least five years.
- Repeals or restrict many existing business deductions and credits—Because the bill substantially reduces the tax rate for all businesses, it also eliminates the existing domestic production (Section 199) deduction, and repeals or restricts numerous other special exclusions and deductions (including those for employer provided transportation and commuting benefits). However, the bill explicitly preserves business credits related to research and development and low-income housing, as well as deductions or exclusions for employer provided dependent care assistance programs (DCAPs), education assistance programs and adoption assistance programs.
- Ends “offshoring” incentives—The bill ends the incentive to offshore jobs and keep foreign profits overseas by exempting them when they are repatriated to the United States. It imposes a one-time, low tax rate on wealth that has already accumulated overseas so there is no tax incentive to keep the money offshore.
- Repeals the individual mandate tax penalty imposed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), effective in 2019.
However, the tax reform bill does not affect the following tax provisions:
- Tax treatment of employer-sponsored health plans; and
- The ACA’s Cadillac tax on high-cost employer-sponsored health coverage.
Scurich Insurance will continue to monitor the tax reform process for any future updates.
On Aug. 31, 2017, a federal judge in Texas struck down the Department of Labor’s (DOL) 2016 overtime rule, stating that the DOL had exceeded its authority by issuing a new salary level requirement for white collar exempt employees.
The DOL is unlikely to appeal this court decision because the ruling does not put into question the DOL’s general authority to set any type of salary limit.
However, the DOL has also signaled its intention to propose a new overtime rule. The DOL has published a request for information (RFI) to invite the public to comment on the issues the DOL should consider before proposing a new overtime rule.
Employers are not required to comply with the 2016 overtime final rule. This ruling ensures that the rule will not take effect. Employers should monitor developments on a new overtime rule proposal.
DOL Rule on White Collar Exemptions
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) establishes minimum wage and overtime pay protections for many workers in the United States. However, the FLSA exempts certain workers, such as white collar employees, from these protections. The white collar exemptions apply to certain executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, computer and highly compensated employees.
To qualify for the executive, administrative or professional (EAP) exemption, an employee must meet a salary basis test, a salary level test and a duties test. The DOL’s 2016 overtime rule would have increased the required salary level from $455 per week ($23,660 per year) to $913 per week ($47,476 per year). Highly compensated employees (HCEs) must also satisfy the salary basis and duties tests to be considered exempt, but a different salary level applies to them. The DOL rule would have increased the required salary level for highly compensated employees from $100,000 per year to $134,004 per year.
Challenges to the 2016 Overtime Rule
In September 2016, a coalition of 21 states and a number of business groups filed two separate lawsuits challenging the new rule. These two lawsuits were combined in October. On Nov. 16, 2016, the court held a hearing on whether to grant an emergency injunction blocking the implementation of the rule. The judge presiding over the case issued his written ruling granting the injunction on Nov. 22, 2016.
On Aug. 31, 2017, the same federal court struck down the 2016 overtime rule stating that the DOL exceeded its authority when imposing the $913 per week ($47,476 per year) and $134,004 per year salary level limits.
The Future of FLSA Overtime Regulations
On July 26, 2017, the DOL published an RFI regarding the overtime exemptions for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales and computer employees. The purpose of the RFI is to gather information from the public before formulating a proposal to amend the FLSA or its regulations.
The RFI does not place any responsibilities on employers. However, any individual or organization interested in responding to the RFI must submit their comments to the DOL by Sept. 25, 2017. The DOL is encouraging individuals and organizations to submit their comments electronically, using the instructions in the Federal eRulemaking Portal.
When submitting a comment, employers should remember that, once submitted, comments are considered public records and will be published without editing. This includes any personal information provided.
Please contact Scurich Insurance for more information regarding current overtime rules, compliance with the FLSA or the RFI on overtime regulations.