Severe Flu Season Creates HR Challenges

With the outbreak of the corona virus dominating headlines, it is a great time to dust off the company policy on dealing with flu season and infectious diseases, generally, in the workplace.  Contagious diseases are particularly troublesome subjects for companies because of the varied circumstances and cultures on the wisdom of working through a sickness.  Some managers reward employees who “tough it out” and show up under the weather, while other company cultures encourage sick employees to work from home or stay away altogether.  Similarly, some employees may have the luxury of taking a sick day, while others may not be able to suffer a loss of income.   No matter where a company comes down on these important questions, there are lots of significant related legal issues that should be considered in formulating an HR strategy.

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Posted in paid sick leave

HR Investigations Pay Dividends: A Healthier Workplace and Protection in Court

Many HR professionals spend a significant amount of time investigating employee complaints and, depending on the outcome of these investigations, implementing corrective measures to halt and prevent bad behavior in the workplace. Some within an organization (usually not the HR folks!) sometimes doubt whether the time and energy spent on HR investigations are worthwhile.  As one exasperated corporate VP once said to me, “If he’s going to sue us, he’s going to sue us, why do we have to investigate everything?”

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Posted in Human Resources, Investigations

Five Ways to Simplify Your Employee Benefit Plan Administration For 2020 and Beyond

As we get ready for 2020 (and beyond) here are five hot employee benefits ideas to implement in order to make your employee benefit plan administration easier:

1. Adopt (or update) Cafeteria Plan and Wrap Plan Document for Health and Welfare Arrangements

In order to allow employees to choose to pay pre-tax money for their portion of  health and welfare plan premiums, employers must adopt a written plan document, which is known as a “Cafeteria Plan” or “Section 125 Plan.”  Employers of all sizes have cafeteria plans because they include cover medical plans, prescription drug programs, dental plans, vision plans, and flexible spending accounts.  However, many employers do not have a formal Cafeteria Plan which outlines the specific details including a description of the benefits covered under the plan, participation rules, and procedures for benefit elections.  This lack of appropriate documentation can become an issue in the diligence process if the company is being sold or if discovered by the IRS in an audit. 

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Posted in Benefits, Labor & Employment

Countdown to 2020: Five Hot Compliance Tips to Keep HR Professionals Out of Hot Water

It is time to make sure you are ready for 2020 (and beyond). Here are five (5) hot HR compliance issues you should be tracking and implementing:

  1. New Salary Thresholds for Exempt Employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act

Effective January 1, 2020, the standard minimum salary levels for exempt executive, administrative and professional employees will increase from the current $455 per week to $684 per week (which equates to $35,568 annually). The minimum annual salary for the highly compensated employee exemption is increasing from the current $100,000 to $107,432. The exemption for certain computer employees remains $27.63 per hour if the employee is paid on an hourly basis. Read more ›

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Posted in Benefits, Labor & Employment

IRS Sets March 31, 2020 Deadline for 403(b) Plan Document Compliance

The United States Internal Revenue Service (the “IRS”) has released Revenue Procedure 2019-39, which sets forth a March 31, 2020 deadline by which tax-qualified 403(b) plans must have plan documents that fully comply with the 403(b) requirements.  A 403(b) plan is a tax-qualified defined contribution retirement plan that is similar to a 401(k) plan, but that is sponsored by a public school district or a tax-exempt entity.  Read more ›

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Posted in Labor & Employment, Tax

#No Filter: Terminating an Employee for Social Media Posts – Part 2

Prior to the advent of social media and especially the #MeToo movement, employers were generally comfortable drawing a bright line between what employees did on their own time and workplace misconduct. Those bygone times, however, have been replaced by a modern era wherein employers are forced to apply employment laws created before the personal computer to their workforce in an increasingly virtual world. In this installment of #No Filter, we will continue to explore sample cases involving an employer’s decision to take disciplinary action following an objectionable social media post. Read more ›

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Posted in Labor & Employment, Social Media

Texas’ Expansion of Medical Marijuana May Impact Employers

Texas has largely avoided the wave of marijuana legalization sweeping the country and the accompanying legal complications that have come along for the ride.  Those days may be numbered as the Texas Legislature recently passed a significant expansion of the state’s Compassionate Use Program. The program has been around since 2015 and allowed limited legal use of medical marijuana for certain epilepsy patients.  In the 2019 Legislature, however, the law was significantly expanded to include multiple sclerosis, other seizure disorders, autism, cancer and other incurable neurodegenerative diseases like ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and others. To qualify for legal cannabis, a patient must obtain a prescription from a qualified physician who is board-certified to treat the patient’s particular condition. The medical-grade cannabis products must contain low levels of THC and cannot be smoked.  The law substantially expanded the number of licensed dispensaries and the use of this largely ignored law is expected to increase in Texas. Read more ›

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Posted in Cannabis, Labor & Employment

Is It Illegal To Consider A Foreign Accent When Evaluating Candidates For a Customer-Service Job?

Yes, unless the candidate’s language skills would clearly interfere with their ability to do the job.

Amidst all of the current controversy concerning immigration in the United States, the experience of immigrants in the workplace is also receiving heightened attention. The truth is, immigrants, including those who have become U.S. citizens, often have different workplace experiences than native-born Americans.  One such difference has to do with accents and how they can affect perceptions of competence. Read more ›

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Posted in Discrimination

Don’t Say That! … Or Do? New Court Guidance on Employer Statements in Union Organizing Campaigns

Misconceptions Here, There and Everywhere.

I often advise employers large and small on what to do (and what not to do) during union organizing campaigns. I am continually surprised at how many employers have misconceptions about the do’s and don’ts when a campaign is underway. I can’t tell you how many times clients have told me they thought that, under the law, when a union is campaigning to represent workers, managers and supervisors must maintain strict silence and not say anything about the pros and cons of unionizing. This simply is not true. Federal labor law legally protects employers’ right to speak out: Section 8 (c) of the National Labor Relations Act allows employers to express “any views, argument or opinion” as long as they do not make threats or promise benefits. Read more ›

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Posted in Labor & Employment, Union

Dallas Paid Sick Leave Ordinance – What You Need to Know


On July 30, 2019, two Dallas-area businesses filed a federal lawsuit to stop the Dallas Paid Sick Leave ordinance from going into effect on August 1. The lawsuit, brought by the Texas Public Policy Foundation on behalf of ESI/Employee Solutions, LP and Hagan Law Group LLC, argues the ordinance oversteps and is contrary to the Texas Constitution and the state’s minimum wage act. The lawsuit specifically asks for an injunction to stop the ordinance from going into effect. However, unless and until the court enters a preliminary injunction, the ordinance is still set to go into effect on August 1. We are closely monitoring these developments, and will provide an update when we have additional information.

Meanwhile, the City of Dallas has now provided a FAQ page (link HERE), that provides useful information on geographic limitations of the ordinance as well as answers to important questions regarding practical application of the new rules, using hypothetical scenarios from different employment arrangements and industries.

For those interested in whether their business is subject to the new ordinance, here is a link  to a searchable map of the boundaries of the City of Dallas, broken into its various districts (note that the city boundaries do not necessarily correspond with Zip Codes, and do not include the municipalities of University Park, Highland Park, or Cockrell Hill).

The Dallas City Council recently joined several other major Texas cities in passing a mandatory paid sick leave ordinance. The new rules (found in Chapter 20 of the Dallas City Code, and summarized in this memorandum from the City) are set to go into effect on August 1, 2019, for employers with 6 or more employees, and on August 1, 2021, for those with 5 or fewer employees. Although Dallas employers are encouraged to closely review the new rules and format internal policies accordingly, here is what you need to know to start that process: Read more ›

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Posted in Labor & Employment, paid sick leave
About HR Headaches
HR Headaches is a blog for Human Resources professionals, business owners, and in-house counsel to get the latest news, analysis and tips in the area of labor and employment law. Every day there are new court decisions, agency interpretations, and regulations which affect the workplace, making it difficult, if not impossible, for many employers to keep current. HR Headaches is dedicated to providing information in a practical, no-nonsense manner to help employers avoid legal disputes and keep policies up to date.
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