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Posts by michael

TELEWORKING: Productivity tips for working remotely.

in News and Features

During this challenging time, employees are now being asked to work from home. Here’s a list of tips that can help both employers and employees be more productive when working remotely. TIPS FOR SUPERVISORS WHO MANAGE REMOTE WORKERS  Profiles of successful employees who work remotely have the following attributes: are proactive and self-initiating by nature, are project-driven and comfortable working alone- but know how to communicate regularly to a supervisor or team. Remote employees work best when there are deliverable deadlines to keep everyone focused and on task.  Managers must communicate well and often with the remote worker. It is recommended to set up weekly check-ins to prevent isolation and to create a workflow rhythm. Both employer and employee should utilize video chat platforms so that it becomes second nature to all involved.     EQUIPMENT & SOFTWARE If teleworking is required—meaning there is no choice due to a community health crisis, employers may be financially responsible for providing the proper equipment to enable an employee to work remotely. Employees will need to have a good, adjustable chair, or a stand-up desk to help with comfort and ergonomics. Besides the required computer equipment for remote connections, employees may want to install flexible monitor arms, touchscreens, wireless keyboards, and a mouse. Provide employees with sound-blocking earplugs or earmuffs which protect against chaotic households and helps when employees need to concentrate. Set up video conferencing software and tools before meetings. Employees must make sure to arrange for no interruptions during the conference—remember that European ambassador who was interrupted by his toddler? There’s no guarantee your company or client will be that understanding. Remind employees to turn off all the unnecessary notifications on their phone to avoid interruptions when conferencing, including buzzing microwaves, doorbells, and timer bells.  Emergency connectedness/backup work: Set up a local NAS for shared files and backups. Employees must factor in a REGULARLY SCHEDULED back up of their work to the cloud. Have a VPN for those days, which is also essential if your local network connection goes out. If your local ISP is down and employees are on a deadline, everyone will want to know what location to travel to that has Wi-Fi and bandwidth.    EMPLOYEE TIPS...

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Temporary Revised Requirements for Form I-9 “In-Person” Documentation

in News and Features

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it will defer the requirements for employers to review Form I-9 documents in-person with new employees, due to the COVID-19 emergency. Here are the temporary, revised requirements: EMERGENCY PROCEDURES: I-9 Documentation procedures to be used during COVID-19 public health emergency: Employers taking physical proximity precautions due to COVID-19 will not be required to review a new employee’s identity and employment authorization documents in the employee’s physical presence. This change applies only to employers and workplaces that are operating remotely. The physical documentation review requirements will not be excused if any employees are physically present at a work location. Employers who avail themselves of this option must provide written documentation of their remote onboarding and telework policy on the I-9 from for each new employee by writing in the Section 2 “Additional Information” note box, “ Physical inspection delay due to COVID-19″ as the reason for the lack of in-person verification of the documents. Employers must still inspect the Section 2 documents over video conference, by fax, or by e-mail. Employers must still obtain and retain copies of the I-9 form/documents within three business days of hire.   NEW PROCEDURES ONCE EMERGENCY OPERATIONS HAVE BEEN LIFTED: Employers are required to re-verify I-9 Documentation of all employees hired during the emergency: Once normal operations resume, all new employees who were onboarded using remote verification must report to their employer within three business days for in-person verification of their identity and employment eligibility documentation. Once the documents have been physically inspected, the employer should add the notation in the Section 2 “Additional Information” note box, “documents physically examined” and include the date of inspection.   These provisions are in effect until May 19, 2020 or within three business days after the termination of the national emergency, whichever comes...

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FEDS TIGHTEN I-9 REQUIREMENTS & ADD NEW FORM

in News and Features

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services releases new I-9 Form – Employers must begin using it by May 1, 2020.   EMPLOYERS USING OUTDATED I-9 FORMS RISK COSTLY VIOLATIONS The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) have released a new Form I-9, and employers must begin using it by May 1, 2020. Employers may continue to use the previous form through the deadline, but for convenience, employers may begin using the new form now. To stay compliant, you may download the new form directly from USCIS’ website. NEW CHANGES ON ELECTRONIC FORM ONLY: Added two listings: Revised the Country of Issuance field in Section 1 and the Issuing Authority field (when selecting a foreign passport) in Section 2 to add “Eswatini” and “Macedonia, North” per those countries’ recent name changes. Instructions: Clarified who can act as an authorized representative on behalf of an employer Updated USCIS website addresses Provided clarifications on acceptable documents for Form I-9 Updated the process for requesting paper Form I-9 Updated the DHS Privacy Notice   COMPLY WITH ALL VERIFICATION REQUIREMENTS OR FACE FINES U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are fully committed to ensuring that employers comply with Form I-9 employment eligibility verification requirements. These requirements prove that an employee is legally allowed to work in the United States . Fines can range from $110 to $1,100 for errors such as not completing the form—but they increase dramatically for knowingly, or continuing to employ unauthorized workers—up to $14,050 for each violation.   TIMELY COMPLETION OF I-9 FORM Section 1 must be completed “at the time of hire” means on or before the first day of employment. Employers must take care in conducting the documentation review required for Section 2. Someone must review all identification documents in person, even for remote hires – on or before the third day of employment. Employers must retain an employee’s completed Form I-9 either three years after the date of hire or one year after the date employment is terminated, whichever is later.   FAILURE TO RETAIN ORIGINAL I-9 FORM Failure to retain the original Form I-9 (unless electronically stored and compliant with those rigorous requirements) constitutes a breach of protocol and will be classified as either a “Failure to...

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WORKPLACE SAFETY: Calling 911

in News and Features

Can Your Employees Call “911” directly from the company phone? If not, you are in violation of Kari’s Law! Multi-line phone systems must allow direct dialing to 911 and automatically notify a designated staff member. What is Kari’s Law? It is a federal law that includes two mandates: All phone lines must have direct dialing to 911—removing the need to dial a prefix for an outside line when calling 911. Companies that use multi-line telephone systems (MLTSs) installed or manufactured after Feb. 16 must comply with a new regulation for calls made to emergency services. In addition to standard phones, “soft” phones that make calls over the Internet, are included in this deadline. Designated personnel—such as a designated staff member, a company security team or front desk attendant—must be notified that a 911 call has been placed. These notifications can take the form of a phone call, email, SMS/text message, or a conspicuous on-screen message. The notification will inform the designated member that there’s an emergency and to assist/escort emergency personnel directly to the crisis location.   Why Kari’s Law? When Kari Dunn was attacked and killed by her estranged husband in a hotel room, her 9-year-old daughter attempted to call 911 but her calls never went through because the hotel’s phone system required guests to dial a 9 before placing outside calls. What are the Consequences of Non-Compliance?  Endangering employees, customers, visitors, and others Fines and additional penalties for each day the business remains non-compliant  Potential civil liabilities if an emergency occurs   What is a MLTS phone line? MLTSs are commonly used in office buildings, hospitals, school campuses, and in hotels.  They usually require people to dial a prefix, such as a 9, before making an external call. Kari’s Law mandates that these phone systems allow direct dialing to 911 and notify designated staff when emergency services have been contacted. This rule will allow all employees and people in hotels, office buildings, and campuses to dial 911 to reach the help that they need in an emergency, and to help aid response times when emergency personnel arrive.   What about older phone systems? While Kari’s Law applies only to MLTSs installed or manufactured after February 16th, 2020, businesses...

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When is “Harassment” NOT Harassment?

in News and Features

Understanding the definitions of a Hostile Work Environment and Workplace Harassment HARASSMENT means different things in different settings to different people. People will often say they’re being harassed when they’re actually being pestered or bothered. At work, harassment has a specific legal meaning. It is recommended that those in the workplace, especially supervisors, reserve the word “harassment” for conduct that meets the specific legal definition. Here’s the definition:  Unwelcome conduct + bad behavior based on a protected class = Harassment True conduct labeled “harassment” must be both unwelcome and based on a protected class—otherwise, the offending employee is not “harassing” in HR terms. Here are the most common types of workplace harassment: Verbal Sexual Personal Discriminatory Cyberbullying Physical Quid Pro Quo Psychological Retaliation 3rd Party Even if the offending employee is harassing, the conduct may not be necessarily unlawful. Harassment only becomes unlawful when tolerating this behavior is a condition of continued employment; or the harassment is so severe, or pervasive, that a reasonable person would find it hostile, intimidating, or abusive, and interferes with the employee’s ability to perform his/her job. HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT Many employees believe that a lousy boss, a rude co-worker, or an unpleasant workplace constitutes what is known as a hostile work environment. A bad boss contributes to a poor workplace. A lack of perks is irritating. A loud coworker is obnoxious. Feeling overworked, underpaid, and unhappy in one’s job does not constitute a hostile work environment. Treating staff and co-workers badly makes poor business sense and will drive away good employees, but it’s not illegal. For a work environment to be defined as legally hostile, it needs to go beyond minor inconveniences, casual joking, and general rudeness. A hostile workplace describes a workplace where unlawful harassment that is severe or pervasive takes place. A hostile work environment is created by a boss or coworker whose actions, communication, or behavior make doing a job impossible. For a workplace to be hostile, specific legal criteria must be met. California labor law defines harassment and a hostile work environment much the same: a hostile environment harassment generally occurs when there is severe or pervasive conduct. “A hostile work environment occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct unreasonably interferes...

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