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Opinion: 3 hot topics facing human resources managers

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Major topics impacting area employers include an increase in the base salary requirements of four categories exempt from overtime pay, the creation of two new health reimbursement arrangements and legally sound recommendations to combat the flu season at work.

Fair Labor Standards Act
The U.S. Department of Labor recently published the 2019 final rule effective Jan. 1, 2020, regarding increasing salary levels for exemption from overtime pay. The new minimum compensation mandated for the executive, administrative and professional white-collar exemptions rose to $684 per week or $35,568 per year from $455 a week or $23,660 per year. Up to 10% of the salary requirement may be met with nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments and/or commissions, if the aforementioned are paid at least annually. Businesses with employees presently classified as “salaried exempt” in these three categories must either raise their salaries to at least the new minimum or change the staff members to hourly status, enabling them to receive overtime.

The minimum salary required for the highly compensated associate exemption grew to $107,432 per year from $100,000. The final rule requires at least $684 per week or $35,568 per year to be paid on a salary or fee basis. The minimum salary for workers in computer-related jobs increased to $684 per week, but the current $27.63 hourly rate will remain. The rates will be reassessed every four years with deviations implemented after announcing anticipated changes and petitioning remarks from the public.

Health reimbursements
The departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and the Treasury recently issued final regulations concerning the creation of new health reimbursement arrangements. The individual coverage HRA permits companies to establish them so that laborers can obtain health coverage on the individual market. Unused funds may roll over from year to year. Employer contributions are pretax and not included in taxable wages. Personnel must be covered by Medicare or individual health insurance during each month they are covered by an individual coverage HRA.

Excepted benefit HRAs allow organizations to credit up to $1,800 annually to HRAs from which team members may receive reimbursement for specific medical expenses, such as copays and deductibles. They must be offered with a traditional health plan. However, employees do not have to be enrolled in the group health plan to participate in the excepted benefit HRA.

Combating the flu
At this time of year, enterprises wonder if flu vaccines can be mandatory. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission warns of pitfalls that may lead to discrimination claims based upon disability or religious beliefs. Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials simply recommend accurately advising personnel of the benefits of vaccinations.

To avoid potential litigation, three policies and procedures will help corporations reduce workplace disruptions due to the flu.

First, encourage all staff members to obtain the seasonal flu vaccine. Consider holding an on-site flu vaccine clinic. Second, create leave policies that urge sick associates to stay home. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, advise everyone to stay home until at least 24 hours after a fever is gone and the usage of fever-reducing medicines has ceased. Workers diagnosed with or suspected of having the flu should stay home for at least four days after the commencement of symptoms, even if there is no fever. Laborers who arrive at work with flu symptoms or become sick while at work should be separated from others and asked to go home. Third, provide tissues, no-touch trashcans, hand soap and hand sanitizer to promote behaviors that reduce the spread of the flu.

Lynne Haggerman holds a master of science in industrial organizational psychology and is president/owner of Lynne Haggerman & Associates LLC, a Springfield firm specializing in management training, retained search, outplacement and human resource consulting. She can be reached at


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