Cathy Baniewicz

Sep 182008
 
Privacy Compliance - Disclosing Health Information Has its Consequences

Some businesses are unsure how to handle privacy compliance in regards to HIPAA regulations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 has created more work for businesses in that they have to spend endless hours researching HIPAA regulations, training employees, rewriting contracts, internal documents, patient forms and policy and procedure manuals. If office administrators, practice managers or physicians are unsure how to handle privacy compliance, then there could be consequences which can include hefty fines. The types of business entities that are affected by the law include, health plans, health care clearing houses, and those health care providers who conduct financial and administrative transactions (e.g., electronic billing and funds transfers) electronically. In order to ensure the security of [...]

Sep 102008
 

According to the US Department of Labor, The Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) is a federal law that sets minimum standards for retirement and health benefit plans in the private industry. ERISA requires that those who establish plans must meet certain minimum standards. ERISA requirements provide that those individuals who manage plans must meet certain standards of conduct. The law also contains detailed provisions for reporting to the government and disclosure to participants. There also are provisions aimed at assuring plan funds are protected and that participants who qualify receive their benefits. ERISA confers substantial law enforcement responsibilities on the Department of Labor. Part five of Title I of ERISA gives the Department authority to bring a [...]

Aug 262008
 
Age Discrimination Lawsuits Carry Great Financial Penalties

Image via Wikipedia The Supreme Court’s ruling in Smith v. City of Jackson, Mississippi, has upheld the notion that persons who sue for age discrimination do not need to prove that an employer intentionally discriminated based on age. Instead, a person only needs to show that a workplace policy has a disparate impact on older workers. Due to the gray areas within this ruling, additional litigation has surfaced. Plaintiffs sue for emotional distress caused by age discrimination, and the typical age-bias cases average $150,000, while state law wrongful discharge lawsuits can run upwards of $1 million. Age discrimination lawsuits carry great financial penalties because the damages are based on the earnings of the plaintiffs and the time that they are [...]

Aug 192008
 

The liabilities of a sexual harassment suit are not just limited to big business. Employers of 15-100 employees can be liable for up to $50,000 in compensatory and punitive damages, and management personnel can also be sued personally for sexual harassment violations. Here are the facts: Employers with 15 or more employees are covered by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In 1991, Congress amended Title VII to permit victims of sexual harassment to recover damages, including punitive damages, under federal law. In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court broadened the reach of this law by making it easier to prove injury. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) expects to double its cases of sexual harassment over the [...]

Aug 132008
 

All employers are required to make certain that their workers are authorized to work in the United States. The Justice Department has recently issued guidelines to make certain that employers are not using the verification process to discriminate against employees because of their national origin. If the Department receives a complaint, the agency will first determine whether the complainant is an authorized worker. If the employee is authorized, the agency will conduct an investigation into whether or not an employer has engaged in unlawful discrimination. When an employer receives a no-match letter from the Social Security Administration or a “tentative non-confirmation” as a result of using the E-Veriffy System, the company must resolve those situations in accordance with the procedures [...]

Aug 122008
 

Employers can face stiff penalties for I-9 violations which include substantial fines and also debarment from government contracts. Penalties can be imposed for hiring unauthorized workers as well as simply for committing paperwork violations even if all workers are authorized to work. So how does an employer sort through the information and fully protect itself from fines? Knowledge is the key to understanding the severity of these penalties. Penalties can include $250 to $3,000 for improper completion of the I-9 form. Improper completion, retention or making it available for inspection fines range from $100 to $1,100 for each I-9. Knowingly hiring or continuing to employ unauthorized workers fines range from $250 up to $11,000 per violation. Firms who show a [...]

Aug 072008
 

Everyone is feeling the pain of the poor economy, particularly small businesses. Keeping your valued employees is especially critical at this time. You can’t afford to alienate your customers by eliminating employees and diminishing customer service. Consider the following before passing out the “pink slips”. Eliminate nonessential meetings and travel. Critical training should not be eliminated, but consider local resources and on-line seminars. Audit your office supply expenses. Employees need the tools to get the job done, but do you need 12 different colors of post-its and 6 different kinds of pens Ask your employees for their input on how you can save money. Employees are more likely to “grin and bear” the necessary cuts if they have a say [...]

Jul 312008
 

Having the correct human resources policies and procedures in place is not sufficient to prevent findings of unlawful discrimination if your supervisors are not properly trained. Often someone is promoted into supervision without any experience managing people. First line supervisors are considered to be “management” and as such are responsible for knowing and following the myriad employment laws. “Preventative maintenance” is always cheaper in the long run. The Number One Rule: Don’t’ promote someone to supervision solely because they are a good worker. Make certain the individual has the skills and abilities to become a good supervisor. If the employee has no management background, do skills assessments to help you determine if the person has what it takes to be [...]

Jul 252008
 

One of our readers pointed out that the IRS recently updated its test for determining whether or not an employee is an independent contractor. The following information was copied from their website: http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=99921,00.html Facts that provide evidence of the degree of control and independence fall into three categories: Behavioral: Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does his or her job? Financial: Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (these include things like how worker is paid, whether expenses are reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.) Type of Relationship: Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will [...]

Jul 242008
 

Employers who call their workers “independent contractors” merely to avoid unemployment, workers compensation insurance, and federal and state tax withholding etc. are headed for serious trouble with the Department of Labor (DOL) and/or the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS announced in May of 2007 that worker classification cases would be a major area of emphasis in 2008. In March of this year the DOL investigated a Texas water company and found that over 200 employees had been incorrect misclassified as independent contractors. The company ended up owing nearly $600,000 for two years of missed overtime pay. The IRS recently delivered FedEx a $319M tax hit due to classification issues. Is my worker an employee or independent contractor? Ask these [...]