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.
As of Feb. 15, 2018, employers must use new tables to determine how much income tax to withhold from their employees’ paychecks. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued the required new tables in Notice 1036 on Jan. 9, 2018. The new tables are also available in IRS Publication 15.
In addition, the IRS issued a new Form W-4 and a new withholding calculator on Feb. 28, 2018.
The updated tools aim to help employers improve the accuracy of their tax withholdings under changes made by the tax reform law, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was enacted on Dec. 22, 2017.
Employers should already be using the new tables for 2018. Employers are not required to use the new Form W-4 for 2018 but may use it for any 2018 withholding changes. Employers will be required to use the new version of Form W-4 for 2019.
Taxpayers can use the updated tax withholding calculator to determine whether they should make any changes to their 2018 withholdings.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made several changes to the tax code that will affect individual taxpayers in 2018. For example, the new law:
To reflect these changes, the IRS has issued three new tax withholding tools. The tools aim to help employers avoid withholding too much or too little from their employees’ paychecks for income taxes in 2018 and 2019.
For 2018, New Tables Work with Existing Forms W-4
The IRS’ new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that employees have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances for 2018. Thus, employers do not need to obtain updated Forms W-4 from their employees to use the new tables. The deadline for employers to begin using the new tables was Feb. 15, 2018.
New Form W-4 for 2019 May Be Used in 2018
For 2019, the IRS has revised Form W-4 to more fully reflect the new tax law and to help employees determine appropriate withholding amounts. Released on Feb. 28, 2018, the Form W-4 can be used in 2018 if an employee starts a new job or if existing employees wish to update their 2018 withholding in response to the new law or changes in their personal circumstances.
The IRS’ updated withholding calculator allows employees to perform a quick “paycheck checkup” to help them determine whether they should make changes to their 2018 withholdings. While the IRS encourages all taxpayers to use the new calculator, employees who have simple financial situations are not likely to require any revisions for 2018. Those with more complicated situations, however, are strongly encouraged to check their 2018 withholdings using the calculator. These include employees who itemized their deductions in 2017 or have:
- Two-income households;
- Two or more jobs at the same time;
- Children who claim credits; or
- High incomes.
Employees with even more complex situations (such as those who owe self-employment tax or have capital gains) may need to use Publication 505 instead of the withholding calculator. The IRS expects to release an updated version of this publication in the near future.
On Jan. 2, 2018, the Department of Labor (DOL) issued a final rule that increases the civil penalty amounts that may be imposed on employers under various federal laws. The final rule increases the civil penalty amounts associated with:
- Failing to file an annual Form 5500 under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA);
- Repeated or willful violations of minimum wage or overtime requirements under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA);
- Willful violations of the poster requirement under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA); and
- Violations of the poster requirement under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act).
The increased amounts apply to civil penalties that are assessed after Jan. 2, 2018.
Employers should become familiar with the new penalty amounts and review their pay practices, benefit plan administration and safety protocols to ensure compliance with federal requirements.
The 2015 Inflation Adjustment Act (Act) includes provisions to strengthen civil monetary penalties under various federal laws in order to maintain their deterrent effect. The Act required federal agencies, including the DOL, to adjust the civil monetary penalties with an initial “catch-up” adjustment. The DOL made this initial adjustment in July 2016. Federal agencies are also required to make subsequent annual adjustments for inflation, no later than Jan. 15 of each year.
The DOL’s final rule implements the 2018 annual adjustments for civil penalties assessed or enforced by the DOL, including penalties under the FLSA, FMLA, OSH Act and ERISA. The increased penalty amounts became effective on Jan. 2, 2018, and may apply for any violations occurring after Nov. 2, 2015.
The updated maximum penalty amounts are shown in the table below.
|Wage and Hour
|Repeated or willful violations of minimum wage or overtime requirements (FLSA)
||Up to $1,925 for each violation
||Up to $1,964 for each violation
|Violations of child labor laws
||Up to $12,278 for each employee subject to the violation
||Up to $12,529 for each employee subject to the violation
|Violations of child labor laws that cause death or serious injury to an employee under age 18
||Up to $55,808 for each violation (doubled to $111,616 if the violation is repeated or willful)
||Up to $56,947 for each violation (doubled to $113,894 if the violation is repeated or willful)
|Willful failure to post FMLA general notice
||Up to $166 for each separate offense
||Up to $169 for each separate offense
|Violations of the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA)
||Up to $20,111 for each violation
||Up to $20,521 for each violation
|Failure to file an annual report (Form 5500) with the DOL (unless a filing exemption applies)
||Up to $2,097 per day
||Up to $2,140 per day
|Failure of a multiple employer welfare arrangement (MEWA) to file an annual report (Form M-1) with the DOL
||Up to $1,527 per day
||Up to $1,558 per day
|Failure to furnish plan-related information requested by the DOL
*Under ERISA, administrators of employee benefit plans must furnish to the DOL, upon request, any documents relating to the employee benefit plan.
|Up to $149 per day, but not to exceed $1,496 per request
||Up to $152 per day, but not to exceed $1,527 per request
|Failing to provide the annual notice regarding CHIP coverage opportunities
*This notice applies to employers with group health plans that cover residents of states that provide a premium assistance subsidy under a Medicaid or CHIP program.
|Up to $112 per day for each failure (each employee is a separate violation)
||Up to $114 per day for each failure (each employee is a separate violation)
|For 401(k) plans, failure to provide blackout notice or notice of right to divest employer securities
||Up to $133 per day
||Up to $136 per day
|Failure to provide Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC)
||Up to $1,105 per failure
||Up to $1,128 per failure
|Employee Safety – OSH Act
|Violation of posting requirement
||Up to $12,675 for each violation
||Up to $12,934 for each violation
||Up to $12,675 per violation
||Up to $12,934 for each violation
||Up to $12,675 for each violation
||Up to $12,934 for each violation
||Between $9,054 and $126,749 per violation
||Between $9,239 and $129,336 per violation
||Up to $12,675 per day until the violation is corrected
||Up to $12,934 per day until the violation is corrected