Tag: PACE Staffing Network

Call Them Temps. Call Them Contractors. Call Them Consultants. Whatever You Call Them – You Need Them!

by Jeanne Knutzen | September 22, 2015

0 Blog, Flexible Staffing Strategies Employment Agency Bellevue, Flexible WorkForce, hiring, PACE Staffing Network, Recruiting, strategic staffing, Temporary Staffing, Temporary Staffing In Seattle, workforce solutions

Call Them Temps. Call Them Contractors. Call Them Consultants. Whatever You Call Them – You Need Them! Employers who have mastered the management of large and strategically focused flexible workforce's, and have learned to embrace this workforce rather than see it as a necessary evil, know that the workforce strategies represented by these workers are anything but temporary. … Read More »

How to Manage the B-Team

by Guest Author | September 9, 2015

0 Blog, INFO AND RESOURCES FOR EMPLOYERS, Management.Supervision Employment Agency Bellevue, Manage workforce, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Temporary Staffing

The reality is not every employee is either a “high performer" to be swept up the ranks or a “low performer" to be dealt with. Most fall somewhere in the middle—74 percent to be exact; a B-Team composed of average performers who do their jobs competently, and for whom top sales numbers or climbing the ladder aren't the primary motivation. … Read More »

Working Together Effectively After A Harassment Investigation

by Guest Author | September 9, 2015

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles Employment Agency Bellevue, Hiring Seattle, how to get along, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, working together

I have an employee that filed a complaint against their supervisor for alleged harassment. An investigation has been completed and it was determined that there was no harassment and the issue was resolved. I am very concerned about the employee and their supervisor being able to work effectively together in the future. What can I do to help them move forward after this situation? … Read More »

First Steps in Tackling the Year of the FLSA

by Guest Author | September 9, 2015

0 Blog, Legal Issues - Staffing bellevue staffing, Employment Agency Bellevue, Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, FLSA, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency

Under the proposed rule, an employee will need to earn a minimum of $970 per week (or $50,440 per year) and meet the duties test in order to be exempt from overtime wages, increasing from $455 per week ($23,660 per year). … Read More »

Getting the Most from Your Gen Y Workers!

by Jeanne Knutzen | February 18, 2014

0 Blog, Legal Issues - Staffing Gen Y, Gen Y Workers, Generation Y, hiring, Management, marketplace, pace staffing, PACE Staffing Network, recruiting agency seattle, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, staffing agency seattle, Supervision, Teambuilding

For the generation of people born in the mid 70’s to 90’s who have been entering the workforce for the last decade and a half, their experience of work has been quite different than the experiences of previous workers. According to a recent study by Yale Economics Professor, Lisa Kahn, the impact of these first work experiences, will shape how our Gen Y’s deal with their work environment for decades to come.      Unfortunately for most Gen Y’s, their first exposure to the economic marketplace has not been good. They’ve seen jobs lost, retirement funds destroyed, people losing homes and in some cases families—all because of economic realities that appear to be beyond individual control. While our Gen Y’s have been more sheltered by their parents than the generations of the past, they are also a generation who has  found itself working inside an economic environment where even the most  calculated risks and well thought out plans have not panned out. It is no surprise that our Gen Y’s are probably one of the most risk adverse generations of the recent past. Here’s how that risk adversity plays out in the workplace: ●  They are less likely to change jobs, IF you treat them right. Even if more difficult for your Gen Y workers to develop loyalty towards you as their employer, they will stay put at jobs and companies that meet their needs. While older generations have been told that when you are young, you are supposed to change jobs to find the right fit for you, the Gen Y folks are actually more hesitant to do so, even for an increase in pay. In fact, studies show that Gen Y’s are more likely respond favorably and stay put in jobs or work for companies and managers who provide the kind of work environment they prefer. ●  They value mentorship. If you are managing someone younger, you may want to consider over explaining your instructions and decisions—making sure your Gen Y folks are mentored at a level that meets their needs for knowledge, information, and praise. While lacking the experience and perspective to read between the lines, they are very eager to learn, and enjoy opportunities you can provide them to interact with you on decisions you are making. They love being asked for their ideas or feedback. The typical awards for good work—annual salary bumps, title adjustments, etc.—are often less motivating to a Gen Y worker than are ongoing opportunities for mentoring from someone they value and respect. ●  They distrust hierarchies and will challenge conventional thinking. In team meetings, they will look for all parties to be treated as equal team members. If you expect to be treated as “a boss,” think again, as it likely won’t happen and could get in the way of your goal to get the most out of your generation Y workers. If they challenge your ideas, don’t take it personally. If you experience them either unwilling or reacting negatively to your requests to “keep you informed,” it’s not that they want to be secretive about what they do; it’s that they see no value in “reporting up.” What Gen Y’s value most is mentoring and coaching from someone they respect, someone who looks and sounds more like a teacher than a manager. ●  They think of success as being about “luck” rather than planning. According to Paola Giuliano of UCLA’s School of Management and Antonio Spilimbergo of the International Monetary Fund, employees who started working during the last ten years, tend to believe that success is as much about “luck” and “being there” as it is about effort or planning. While they have seen government safety nets growing at a rapid rate, it has been amidst a growing skepticism about the government’s ability to do what it promises. This somewhat fatalistic attitude towards success has made our Gen Y’s good at compromising—accepting jobs or work that are very different from their planned careers, knowing that someone or something will always be there if their luck fails. For our Gen Y’s, planning for success seems more futile and less relevant to what they see as reality. ●  They VALUE HARD WORK. Even though luck is a component of the Gen Y mindset, it doesn’t mean they shy away from hard work when the job requires it. Many of our Gen Y-ers have never known job security and consider “being fired” a very real possibility if they don’t work hard enough. Managers shouldn’t be afraid to challenge their Gen Y workers with “more to do,” but give them lots of latitude in how/when to do it. The lines between work and play are much more blurred for your Gen Y workers than it has been for workers of the past. ●  They need clarity! Gen Y workers hate uncertainty and expect quick and clear answers, neatly defined goals and how to get there. They also want access to information that they can research on their own. Ambiguity at any scale is unsettling to our Gen Y workers; putting pressure on managers to provide them with more information than has been made available to workforces in the past. They LOVE scorecards that let them know exactly where they stand and they need to know what they must DO to improve their scores. Objective measures of success will ALWAYS trump your subjective commentary. ●  They love teams; they hate conflict; they’re talented negotiators.  Our Gen Y’s have been deeply engrained with the wisdom that teamwork is far more efficient than self-reliance and will look for ways to engage with others in and outside of formal team settings.  You don’t have to worry about Gen Y’s becoming mavericks as did our Gen X’s. Their affinity for and the skills needed to develop teamwork is unparalleled in the history of workforces. To get your Gen Y’s assimilated into your work group; put them on project teams, preferably with short turnaround times and clearly defined deliverables. And yes, when conflict arises, be prepared to experience their negotiation skills, they’ve been negotiating with their parents and peers for years! jeanneJeanne Knutzen is the owner and founder of the PACE Staffing Network, a 38-year-old staffing company headquartered in Bellevue Washington—a community just outside of Seattle. PACE places the full range of generationally defined workers from boomers, to X’s to Y’s and so on in a variety of work settings—interim project work, core teams, virtual work environments. “We regularly explore the mindsets and perspectives of employees and employers to assemble teams that work together effectively. Helping clients find, select, and then manage the right workers to deliver the highest levels of work performance, is what we’re all about.” For a private consultation about what is going on with the employees on your team and some ideas on how to manage each employee to optimal levels of performance, please feel free to contact Jeanne at jeannek@pacestaffing.com.

Temp to Hire Strategies – Do they Work? Do they Reduce or Increase our Staffing Costs?

by Jeanne Knutzen | December 12, 2013

0 Blog, Flexible Staffing Strategies, INFO AND RESOURCES FOR EMPLOYERS, Recruiting. Best Practices, Temp-to-Hire. Best Practices agency staffing, contingent staffing, contract staffing, direct hire, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, staffing, temp staffing, temp to hire staffing

We get asked these questions all the time and each time our answer is a resounding, YES! Temp to Hire staffing strategies reduce costs of hire, lower the costs of early hire turnover, and provide employers with quick and easy access to hard to find talent pools—in a “just in time” format. HR departments, while sometimes quick to criticize a temporary or contract workforce as being less committed or talented than their core workforce, generally like a certain percentage of their workforce as contingent as they represent employees who can be converted to direct hire status quickly when business heats up. But the real value of contingent workers is not just in providing companies with increased flexibility, but also the ability a contingent workforce provides for companies to tackle change quickly, with quick access to employees whose skill sets are unique and not easily developed “within.” Temp to hire strategies directly impact an organizations recruiting, staff and organizational development costs, impacting a company’s ROI for years to come. Temp to Hire contingent workers also impact bottom line profitability by driving down unemployment claims, workers compensation claims, upgrading employee quality (only the very best employees are eventually hired), and keeping core workers  “on their toes” with a fresh pool of new talent becoming the workplace norm. NancyThe mathematical difference between the costs of an auditioning employee compared to the costs of a fully benefited core hire almost always pencil in favor of the temporary worker as the lower cost solution. The design and execution of temp to hire staffing strategies is a core area of expertise for the PACE Staffing Network. Over 35% of the employees we place on temporary or contract assignments end up being hired by PACE clients each year. For programs specifically designed for hiring, the conversion rate can be closer to 85%. For a personal consultation on the effective utilization of temp to hire staffing strategies and to do an analysis of how a temp to hire model could impact your overall staffing costs, contact me, Nancy Swanson at nancys@pacestaffing.com, I am PACE’s VP of Partnership Development.  

Is Your Company Fully Optimizing it’s Flexible Staffing Strategies? Ten Questions you can ask yourself!

by Jeanne Knutzen | October 1, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles Contract Employees, Downsizing, Flexible Staffing Models, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Shamrock Organization, Staffing Solutions, Temporary Staffing, WorkForce Optimization

1. What percentage of your total workforce currently falls into one of the flexible worker (temp, contract, part-time) categories?  While there is no magic ratio of flex-to-core employees, if your percentage of core to non-core staff is 10% or below, look hard at the things your company is doing to embrace the “flexible work” model. The “shamrock organization” that has been widely touted as the model for the future, suggests that as much as 33% of your workforce can be contingent workers, while another 33% are the workers provided by “outsourced” service providers. Only 33% of this shamrock workforce are core employees, with the responsibility to manage and coordinate the work of the contingent others. Does this staffing model make business sense for your company? Your team? How much money could you shave off your operating budget if you became more “shamrock” like? 2. Is the demand for your goods or services increasing or decreasing? How have you adjusted your headcounts to deal with these trends? Reducing or adding to your temporary/flexible workforce is fast becoming the preferred staffing model to cushion the highs and lows of economic volatility. The notion of “right sizing” isn’t just about reducing staff; it’s also about not making permanent commitments to core employees until you know for sure that a business trend is stable. Using a flexible staffing strategy to always stay “right sized” has become a strategic method used by employers to transition wage costs from a fixed cost to a variable cost. Investing in or holding onto fixed costs that your competitors treat as variable will eventually impact profitability and your ability to compete. 3. Do you have a good handle on the rhythms of supply and demand for your department’s particular goods and services? The reoccurring low and high points of your team’s work cycles? With the growth in popularity of temporary and contract staffing options, an employer’s ability to move employees in and out of work environments quickly has significantly improved. Many employers have made a science out of staffing their teams at levels to support the lowest points in the demand cycle and using flexible workers to cycle-up or cycle-down in response to business need. “Workforce optimization” software’s have been developed to help companies track productivity requirements prior to impact. 4. How much overtime is currently being required of your workforce – core and flex? Overtime is very costly and is often a reactive strategy rather than the result of a well thought out plan. Staffing with the right number of core employees and augmenting up or down with flexible employees should eliminate most overtime requirements. 5. When special projects or reworks come up, do you typically have enough employees currently on staff to handle the extra work load? If you have core staff that consistently have the time to volunteer for additional work, chances are your company has too many fixed wage costs embedded into your workforce strategies. Most work that is non-reoccurring or not part of your regular routine should be done by your flexible workforce, not your core. 6. How long is it taking you to hire a core employee? What is the impact to your business of an inability to hire? If you need to move quickly and it takes too long to hire a core employee, you can miss important opportunities. Temporary or contract employees with the skill sets you need, can be brought in and put to work quickly. Temp-to-hire staffing models have dramatically increased over the last two years. Workers who have found themselves suddenly out of job are oftentimes willing to work in non-core ways. Many of these employees will bring new ideas and new ways of working to your company, promoting an atmosphere of change. 7. Are there jobs under your direction with high turnover, requiring you to be constantly in “hire” mode? Reoccurring turnover can be a sign that the job you are trying to fill just might not lend itself to a core staffing model. Many work groups composed of workers with low to moderate skill levels have been fully converted to a temporary staffing model. Another way of dealing with a high turnover job is to use a rotating group of auditioning contingent workers who you can use to keep work flowing, while giving workers a chance to demonstrate their special interest in or talent for the work to be performed. This auditioning process allows you to “always be hiring” while outsourcing much of the staffing costs to a third party employer. 8. Are there jobs under your direction where the morale of the work group seems to be an issue? Or where a large number of employees are no longer on their A-game? In large teams performing repetitive tasks, there are oftentimes cycles in employee performance that can be managed just like any other business cycle. If your productivity goals are such that all employees need to be on their A-game always, you might consider a more flexible staffing model that capitalizes on the opportunity to bring fresh new employees into your work group at just the right time—recycling employees who might have “burned out” into other work or jobs. 9. Is your team undergoing significant process changes? Bringing on new ways of working? New technologies? Periods of rapid or longer term change are often times when you need to slow down your commitments to core hiring and convert to a more flexible and short term work model. It is not unusual for work groups dealing with extended periods of uncertainty or change to be composed of more temporary than core workers. 10. How much of your operating budget can you devote to temporary or contingent staff? Many companies that monitor hiring levels carefully will at the same time provide considerable budget dollars for temporary/interim staff. One of the ways to add to your workforce without breaking full time employee (FTE) rules is to identify an employee you want to hire and instead of hiring them directly, you use an “employer of record” service through a third-party employer service. This staffing strategy avoids most of the hidden costs associated with core employees, retains the flexible component of an hourly employee who can go in and out of your workforce “at will”, plus protects your current core employees from the stress of trying to do more than they have core FTE to do. For more information about ways to drive down fixed costs by using flexible workforce strategies, contact the PACE Staffing Network at infodesk@pacestaffing.com.

In Pursuit of Accountability

by Jeanne Knutzen | June 26, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles Contract Employees, Fearless Leadership, Loretta Malandro, Managers, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Industry, Seattle Temporary Staffing, Temporary Employees

Despite the countless management and leadership books written about the virtue of accountability, according to most employees there are significant gaps between management’s knowing and doing when it comes to accountability. Most employees don’t rate their organizations highly in terms of their ability to hold individuals or teams accountable. While they believe they are personally accountable, they don’t always believe that others in their organization are held to the same “high” standards. Well intended managers can oftentimes fuel these perceptions. Excuses like “they’re new to the job,” or “I probably wasn’t clear in my directions,” can sound more like “permission” to underperform or the avoidance of a difficult conversation, than the commitment to fairness it might otherwise represent. The opposite track, an organization being too quick to act or terminate an employee whose results are off target (i.e. “John’s outcomes are awful. He needs to go,”) can often keep a team from looking at larger issues in market conditions or organizational performance that aren’t about John’s performance. Additionally, a manager who is slow to coach and fast to terminate can erode an organization’s commitment to its employees. Management 101 teaches us that by helping our employees to become more accountable, we make our teams more productive. The opposite is also true. When management drifts away from the habits of “accountability,” a culture of finger pointing, blame, and gossip often takes hold. Issues in productivity and outcomes, almost always follow. Unfortunately, individual managers—senior, middle, and entry level leadership roles—don’t always understand their personal role in an organization’s “accountability culture.” While most managers believe they do a good job of holding their team members accountable, it’s sometimes difficult to see how others are doing the same. When the going gets tough and results are off target, even high performing managers can look to “others”—a better resourced competitor, an underperforming colleague, an overly demanding customer, or an insensitive senior management—as the reason for their own subpar outcomes.  Anytime a manager takes their eyes off their own performance and looks for explanations of outcomes outside themselves, the organization’s “culture” of accountability suffers. In her book Fearless Leadership, Loretta Malandro, PhD., says that, for a business to create an accountability culture management accountability must be 100 %—each manager must become “personally accountable for their impact on people, even if others accept zero accountability.” Dr. Malandro is clearly stating the management challenge; it always has to start within. Managers also need to understand that the drift in an organization’s accountability culture typically happens slowly, then suddenly. While accountability is an intellectually simple concept, in reality it is both emotionally and behaviorally complex. For managers who take their mission to develop people seriously, they must find that just-right balance between holding people accountable and empowering them to make mistakes. Their goal is to help employees work from their strengths, while making sure their weaknesses don’t knock them over. Even a well thought out decision to terminate an underperforming but high impact employee, requires careful organizational planning that almost always involves others—which means that many accountability decisions can’t be made in a vacuum, outside the context of the team and its customers. This is a long way of saying that the balancing acts that in their aggregate reflect how you or your company is managing “accountability” are as easy and straight forward as others would like. It is my belief that a fully accountable culture represents an aspirational vision that is rarely fully achieved, but can produce a whole lot of small but “made a difference” successes along the way. So how do individual managers go about creating a culture of accountability? We have a handful of suggestions, starting with a good reflection of where you are now. Go through some of the checklists we’ve provided below and rate yourself on a scale of 1 -5—with 5 being the highest of the rankings and 1 the lowest. How are you managing your own team?

Self-Rating

1. CLEAR EXPECTATIONS. Does each team member know specifically what is being expected of them? How their work will be measured and/or evaluated?
2. ONGOING, HONEST FEEDBACK. Do team members regularly get all of the metrics and/or the feedback they need to evaluate their own work? Do they know at all times how I am viewing their work and outcomes?
3. ADDRESSING PERFORMANCE ISSUES. Do I follow up quickly to work more closely with team members whose results are off target? Do I listen carefully for obstacles, and coach them on ways to overcome them? Do I have clear processes in place to make sure that any potentially job threatening issues are escalated clearly and appropriately?
4. INDIVIDUAL DEVELOPMENT. Do I manage each member of my team as an individual, setting individual performance goals and avoiding comparisons with other team members?
5. PLANNING AND FOLLOW UP. When my team and I are discussing options, do I follow up to make sure what work needs to be done and by whom? That my priorities are clear? Do I regularly follow up on promised deadlines or benchmarks so that I physically inspect work in progress to ensure that each team member is completing work as promised?

Total Score

  How are you conducting yourself as a company leader?

Self-Rating

1. PERSONAL ROLE MODELING. When things go wrong, do I walk the talk of personal accountability—avoid making excuses or blaming others over explaining myself? Do I personally model my own “empowerment; engaging my team in ways to overcome obstacles, solve problems,   and make progress?
2. COACHING. DEVELOPING OTHERS. Do I spend enough time coaching others to success, avoiding   getting disappointed or angry when a team member doesn’t “get it?” Do I look for ways for my employees to work from strengths, even if that means some adjustments in how work gets done?
3. TRANSPARENCY. Do I make sure I always work from a plan, making my personal contribution to company goals transparent to my boss and colleagues?
4. WORD CHOICES. Do my word choices set a tone with the team and others of “positive problem solving” around things we can control, rather than focusing too heavily on issues and obstacles we can’t?
5. TEAMMEMBER SUPPORT. Do I always communicate in ways that demonstrate my respect for others, my ability to find value in “different” people, talents and perspectives? Do I avoid conversations with team members or colleagues that are more about gossip than problem solving? Do I listen when issues are brought forward, but avoid lengthy discussions about another team member’s performance?

Total Score

  Are you avoiding the assumptions that can erode the habits of accountability?

Self-Rating

1. Good team members always understand what’s expected of them. Am I mindful that clarifying expectations is an ongoing process?
2. Good team members will automatically self-correct. When a mistake is made or a ball dropped, do I help others determine what they will do differently next   time?
3. Everyone knows what I do/what I’m accountable for. Do I demonstrate daily the transparency in my own work that I want from others?
4. Everyone knows what changes need to be made now. How often am I communicating about change, and what we need to be doing differently?   How clear am I about my team’s priorities?

Total Score

  Accountability is an important element in the work we do to help our clients find and place the right employee for each request we fill—either for a job candidate to be hired by our client directly, a short term temporary or contract assignment, or a complex project level assignment involving full team engagement. We always want to know what each of our employees is accountable to produce—what outcome our client needs them to achieve. One of the important side benefits of “temporary” workers is that their accountabilities can generally be defined in simple terms, “achieve this result in this way, ” but the degree to which our customers can spell out these simple statements, the greater the probability that our employee will perform as expected. Our client’s chances for a successful temporary or contract assignment are directly impacted by the quality of information they can provide to all of their employees up front about their business (the context) and their expectations (the deliverable). NancyWe also encourage our clients to provide their temporary and contract employees with timely feedback relative to those expectations—as early in the assignment as possible and as ongoing as is needed. Many issues in employee performance, particularly in temporary or contract roles, stems from the employees not clearly understanding the client’s expectations. Keep in mind many temporary and contract employees go from assignment to assignment with their client’s expectations changing at each assignment. Early course corrections to clarify your expectations can make a huge difference. If you’d like to discuss any of these editorial comments, feel free to contact me at nancys@pacestaffing.com. I’m Nancy Swanson, Vice President of Partnership Development for the PACE Staffing Network.      

Opportunities and Challenges – IT and Engineering Staffing

by Jeanne Knutzen | May 28, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles, IT Staffing Engineering Jobs, Inavero, IT Jobs, IT Professionals, IT Staffing, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, TechServe Alliance

With the demand for skilled IT and engineering professionals showing no signs of slowing down, a new study from TechServe Alliance and global survey firm Inavero is poised to help IT and engineering staffing firms, clients, and consultants understand and address the myriad of opportunities and challenges faced by all stakeholders in the talent engagement process. The recently released IT & Engineering Staffing Firms, Clients & Candidates: A 360-Degree Perspective examines the flexible IT and engineering workforce from three perspectives—1) clients, 2) candidates, and 3) staffing companies. The findings were based on 700 survey participants. Here’s a snapshot of the findings: Clients look for value. The study showed that clients look to their staffing providers to help them 1) reduce risk, 2) increase flexibility, and 3) supplement their core competencies with specialized skills. While the right skill match is the number one factor in placement success, clients also ranked their staffing providers knowledge of their industry as second most important to ensuring a successful placement. Staffing companies need to be experts at understanding a client's business. Clients #1 Pain Point – ONBOARDING. The number one pain point for companies working with IT and engineering consultants is the onboarding process—the time it takes to get new talent up to speed. Staffing firms need to continue working with the client and the candidate after the hiring decision is made to ensure an effective onboarding process. Top Talent Is Snatched Up Quickly. One of the studies findings is that both the staffing firm and their clients must move quickly if they want to hire top IT and engineering talent. Eighty-four percent of the IT and engineering professionals surveyed found their current job in less than three months, and nearly one-third (32 percent) found their most recent position in less than two weeks. IT and engineering professionals affirmed their preference to work flexibly. They value the opportunity they receive to gain expertise across multiple platforms and industries through staffing firm engagements. For a free copy of the executive summary of the TechServe/Inavero study, visit http://www.techservealliance.org/research/360-degree-study.cfm### To request specialized IT or Engineering talent from the PACE Staffing Network, contact infodesk@pacestaffing.com.

Independent Contractor, W2 Employee, can you afford to blur the difference?

by Jeanne Knutzen | May 16, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles 1099 workforce, Employer of Record, Employer of Record Service, Independent Contract, Kyle Fitzgerald, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, W2 Employee, W2 Workforce, Workers Compensation

The world of work is changing rapidly, creating new ways of working, new ways for employers to get work done. For both companies and employees, the need to have quick and easy access to talent and work, has created a new way of working outside the traditional employee-to-employer relationship.  Independent contractors, often called 1099’s, are people who work assignment to assignment, project to project. Currently, this workforce is estimated to be 16 million folks, and by 2015 is targeted to be 21 million. Unfortunately, the legal and financial ramifications of this growing new workforce have not escaped the attention of taxing agencies who want to protect the revenues generated from a W2 employee base. W2 employees have their taxes withheld at each paycheck and their employer pays most, if not all, payroll taxes on their behalf. The IRS and multiple state taxing agencies are now challenging the validity of the “independent contractor” status, ensuring that employers are not using a worker’s preference to work independently as a way to avoid otherwise mandated tax calculations, payments, and reports. When employers organize work in ways that blur the distinctions between their W2 and 1099 workers, they are often doing so without being fully aware of the risks of creating a basis for a misclassification audit, which can be costly for both employers and 1099s. We have prepared the following Q and A to outline the issues employers are likely to face when defending the classification status of their 1099 workers. Make no mistake, if you are a large or significant user of the 1099 worker model, there is likely a state or federal taxing agency who either has you and/or one of your 1099 workers on their radar as we speak. Why independent/1099 workers? The independent/1099 worker provides employers with all the traditional benefits of flexibility. They are paid only for hours actually worked or in some cases results produced. Savvy independent contractors price their services at a level to appropriately cover the costs of taxes and benefits, so the per-hour rate is often considerably higher than applied to their W2 employee counterparts.  Employers are willing to pay the higher rates preferring a process where there is little to no paperwork for them, no hidden costs, and no complicated benefit packages to administrate. Convenience aside, the most frequently stated reason why companies hire independent contractors is that it has become a workforce made up of highly talented and sought after technical and managerial professionals—many calling themselves consultants. Most 1099 workers have not only fully mastered their craft, but because of their exposure to a wide range of project and organizational challenges, have created profiles with the skills, expertise, and talents that are highly valuable to most employers. Why do workers choose to work as “independent contractors”?   The popularity of independent contractor status within the employee community is also growing exponentially. At some points in their career, workers like the exposure they get to a wide range of technical or professional challenges, plus the flexibility that comes from being able to work when they want to. For many professionals, the higher per-hour pay they can earn as a “consultant,” in addition to the deductions they can take on their individual tax return for certain business expenses not normally deductible to a W2 employee, creates a level of financial security they would not be able to obtain working as a W2 employee. What is the difference between an independent contractor and a regular W2 employee? Theoretically, the two types of workers should be noticeably different in terms of when and how work is performed, how it is financially transacted (by invoice or paycheck), and the length and scope of the working relationship between worker and employer/client. In the real world, however, the differences between the two types of workers are not always that easy to discern and often comes down to a determination of whether or not the independent worker has legally created their independent contractor status (business license, tax id numbers, professional liability insurances, etc.). Given this breakdown between theoretical intent and pragmatic execution, the intended distinction between the truly independent and the truly W2 worker populations has been blurred, creating real consequences for worker misclassifications at an alarming rate. If I classify a worker as an “independent contractor” do I avoid having to pay all payroll taxes? Not really.  A nuance and little known aspect of Washington State law is that employers who use Independent Contractors to perform personal work are required to pay the Workers Compensation insurance and the state’s SUTA tax on hours and dollars paid to these 1099 workers. Only if a 1099 contractor is a fully licensed and incorporated business entity (an LLC for example), paying the required business revenue taxes, can these costs be avoided. Bottom line, classifying an individual worker as a 1099 in the State of Washington does not automatically bypass the employer’s responsibility to report hours of work for workers compensation insurance or earnings that are used to calculate and pay Washington State’s SUTA tax. There is more involved before those taxes can be fully avoided. Why do we need to classify workers correctly?      The issue at stake revolves around an employer’s obligation to calculate and pay taxes for W2 employees that they do not have for independent contractors. For their 1099 workforce, employers pay an invoice and there is no withholding for federal or state income taxes, calculation and payment of social security, Medicare or unemployment taxes. If a worker is originally classified as a 1099, but under audit turns out to be an employee, the employer is often subject to back taxes, fines, and penalties. The liabilities associated with a misclassification audit are both unforeseen and expensive.  Since September 2011, the IRS has collected 9.5 million dollars in back taxes, penalties, and fines from employers who have misclassified more than 11,400 workers. How do you “test” if a worker is a W2 or an independent contractor?      One of the common misperceptions with 1099 workers comes from employers who believe that if their “contractor” is legal, (i.e. they have the proper business licenses, UBI (tax ID) numbers, insurances, etc.) and a contract between themselves and their contractor that labels them “independent”, they meet all aspects of the 1099 test. Most taxing agencies, on the other hand, operate from the belief that the “legality” of the claim of independent contractor status lies with the nature of the work to be performed and the degree of control the employer has over how and when it is performed—not the legitimacy of the contractor’s right to work as an independent contractor.    There are a number of tests that are administered by different state and federal taxing agencies to determine if a worker is really an independent contractor or a W2 employee. Unfortunately, not all of these tests are fully compatible, nor is case law clear on how any test can be applied, making the whole landscape of proper classification a slippery slope. In the end, most of the classification tests come down to:

  • The degree of control the company has over the worker’s behavior. The more control an employer has over where, when, and how work is performed, the less likely the worker can be considered “independent.” Employers who place their independent contractors on work teams with required hours of work, mandatory attendance at meetings, and required collaborations around work products, often do so at the risk of having that independent contractor be re- classified as a W2 employee.
  • The degree of control over a worker's financial opportunity. The more control an employer has over a worker’s source of income, the less likely that worker will be found to be “independent.” An agreement to pay a fixed cost per week, for example, can be just as suspect as an agreement to pay an hourly rate if the agreement includes a provision to work 40 hours/week—both tie a worker to a single source of income for extended periods. Other considerations related to “financial control” include payments or reimbursements for business expenses, equipment or tools. The more these sources of income are directed and controlled by the company/client, the less independent a worker will appear.
  • The type of relationship (exclusivity or duration) that is formed between worker and company. Case law around the permanency of a relationship suggests that work assignments intended to last six months or longer make the independent status more suspect than shorter term work arrangements. A related factor is whether or not the worker is free to pursue other business opportunities during the term of their agreement. Companies who regularly entertain independent contractors who work a regular 40 hour work week, and for years at a time, are clearly stretching the definitions of “independent.”
What if I misclassify?       The first thing for you to know is that you’re not alone. The IRS estimates that businesses misclassify workers as 1099’s anywhere from 10-60% of the time. The bad news is that if a misclassification is uncovered under audit, the outcome can be serious—back taxes, fines, and penalties in addition to costly law suits stemming from unprotected workplace accidents or injuries. Why is the misclassification issue such a hot topic right now?      With state and federal government budgets fighting the pinch of reduced revenues, they have become increasingly aggressive about collecting monies they believe are owed to their agencies. When we first started writing about the misclassification issue two years ago, we were only concerned about federal agency (D of L, or IRS) audits. Today multiple state agencies have gotten involved because depending on how a worker is classified, this could impact who pays the workers compensation insurance, state unemployment and revenue taxes in the city of Seattle. For example, access to mandated Seattle Sick and Safe benefits is targeted to put increasing pressure on employers to clarify who is entitled to this benefit and who is not, and to defend that claim in a lower court test. The federal government has set goals for the number of employers they will audit, and have set aside significant budget dollars to resource these audits. Most alarming is that federal, state, and local governments have formal agreements to work together when cases of misclassification are uncovered—multiplying the financial ramifications that employers are likely to face under audit. What are some “red flags” that might trigger a misclassification audit—what should we avoid?   Here are some simple rules of thumb:
  • Overlapping a W2 and 1099 status for the same employee in the same report year can be an audit trigger. Avoid firing a W2 worker and bringing them back a week later as a 1099.
  • There is a form, IRS SS-8’s, which can be used to request government determination of a classification status. Keep the number of these forms you file or your 1099’s file on your behalf to a minimum.
  • 70% of misclassification audits get triggered by independent contractors filing for benefits routinely available to W2 workers, (i.e. workplace injury claims, unemployment claims). Make sure your workplace policies and practices avoid references to these benefits.    
What happens if an independent contractor files for unemployment or is involved in a workplace accident? One of the most common ways regulatory agencies become aware of misclassifications has come out of the increased number of unemployment and worker’s compensation claims that are being filed by workers formerly considered independent.  Unemployment officials have not only been granting 1099 workers benefits—implying they’re an  employee, not independent status—but have alerted other agencies as to the possible misclassification of other “similarly situated” workers, turning a claim for unemployment into a much larger misclassification audit. Another serious source of liability can occur if a workplace accident occurs involving a 1099 worker who is not covered under the employer’s Workers Compensation policies. Lacking coverage, the employer is not protected from the limited liability provisions of workers compensation laws, and can find themselves sued for double, if not triple personal injury damages. What can companies do to protect themselves from misclassification issues? The best answer is the simplest—make sure your independent contractors are really independent contractors, working in ways that would normally apply to someone or a company who works independently—free of your control. If that level of independence isn’t possible, as it often isn’t, your choices are 1) to end your relationship with the 1099, or 2) convert the 1099 to your W2 workforce. A third option, new to the misclassification issue, is to insert an Employer of Record Service provider who can turn your 1099 workforce into a low cost W2 workforce. This option is discussed below. If your analysis reveals that there is room for a genuine independent contractor to work in your organization, you need to:
  1. Develop and execute an independent contractor agreement that, among other things, acknowledges the intent of the relationship and waives any rights to company sponsored health or retirement benefits. We recommend including in your agreement a provision that the independent contractor recognizes you as their common law employer with respect to protections under workers compensation laws in the event of workplace accidents. We also recommend you include an indemnification clause that excuses you from any liabilities associated with an independent contractor’s failure to pay their own mandated self-employment or W2 taxes.
  2. Create specific policies and procedures for working with true independent contractors. Train your front line managers on the requirements for “independence” to ensure the lines of differentiation stay clean.
  3. Review benefit plans to ensure a clear definition of plan participants, specifically excluding the employees of third party employers and independent contractors.
  4. Conduct internal audits of your current 1099 workforce, ensuring all contracts are up to date, and that your company is paying the required taxes on those who are providing personal services.
What is an Employer of Record Service?  How can it help with misclassification issues?  Because the issues surrounding employee classifications are not white/black and courts are inconsistent in their rulings on the cases they have heard, one of the ways to avoid any risk of a misclassification audit is to create policies that prohibit the use of personal service 1099’s in your organization, while offering an alternative method for providing quick and easy access to high impact talent. Employer of Record Services do that by converting a 1099 workforce into a W2 workforce at a fraction of the costs associated with most employers W2’s. The Employer of Record Service provider simply handles paperwork, ensures worker compliance, arranges for weekly pay, and oversees the filing of all government required paperwork. As a benefit for the former 1099 worker, the Employer of Record Service provides full administrative and HR support, including a facilitation of their access to the benefit entitlements of W2 workers. The bill rate or “take home pay” either goes up or remains the same, but their financial benefits are substantially increased. Employer of Record Service providers typically will supply electronic paperwork to onboard or off-board workers quickly, preserving the benefits of immediacy and flexibility, while eliminating the risks of liabilities down the road. The IRS is happy with this solution as are all local taxing agencies. Your company is no longer on the target list for misclassification audits. The PACE Staffing Network now offers a full range of menu driven Employer of Record Services that can be used to turn a potentially dangerous 1099 workforce into a “legally compliant”  W2 workforce. We handle all aspects of the “change process” by working closely with your team to explain the financial benefits to your 1099s for becoming W2s, oftentimes facilitating their own ability to move between assignments with different companies. For a discussion about how your company currently uses 1099 contractors and the options you have to mitigate the risk of misclassification, contact our Employer of Record Specialist, Kyle Fitzgerald at kylef@pacestaffing.com.

Your 1099 Workforce – Avoiding the High Costs of Misclassifications

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 24, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles, What's New in Staffing? 1099, 1099 workforce, Independent Contractors, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Seattle Temporary Staffing, Temporary Staffing, Workers Compensation

While companies who have effectively used independent contractors to provide quick and easy access to specialized talent or consulting expertise are often considered amongst our most nimble, some of these same companies have recently found themselves facing hefty bills for back taxes, or complicated law suits stemming from workplace accidents or injuries involving a member of their 1099 workforce. Here’s the deal, if the IRS determines that a worker originally considered “independent” was actually an employee, companies can find themselves liable for unpaid Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment taxes. The IRS couldn’t be clearer, they see “employee misclassification” as a source of hidden revenue, and has budgeted several billion dollars to “identify and prosecute” employee misclassification issues. But unpaid taxes aren’t the only risk associated with the 1099 workforce. Additional issues have developed around workplace accidents where, because a worker was classified as an independent contractor and not covered under the employer’s Workers Compensation policies, the employer was not protected from the limited liability provisions of Workers Compensation and found themselves sued for double and triple damages. A nuance in Washington State law is that employers who use Independent Contractors are required to pay the Workers Compensation insurance and the state’s SUTA tax on hours and dollars paid to their 1099 workers. Not all states have this provision, nor do all employers in the State of Washington abide by this little known component of our state law. Bottom line, employers are at risk of incurring serious damage costs from a workplace injury by an “independent contractor.” One of the confusions we have seen employers make regarding their use of “independent contractors” stems from the mistaken notion that if the “contractor” is legal, meaning they have a business license or legitimate UBI (tax ID)  number, then they automatically pass the “test”, and can be considered “independent”.  The IRS, on the other hand, makes it clear that the “legality” of the claim of independent contractor status lies with the nature of the work to be performed and the degree of control the employer has over how and when it is performed.   The IRS offers several tests an employer can use to determine a worker's status:

  • The degree of control over the worker’s behavior, which addresses the extent to which an employer controls the work performed. The more control an employer has over how a worker performs the work—specifying where, when, and how the work is done—the less likely the worker will be considered “independent.” Employers who place their independent contractors on work teams with required hours of work, mandatory attendance at meetings, required collaborations around work products, etc., often put an independent contractor at risk of being re-classified as an employee, subject to all the provisions and benefits available to an employee.
  • The degree of control over a worker's financial opportunity, which relates to how a worker gets paid for the work performed or reimbursed for the costs they incur in performing the work. The more control an employer has over a workers total source of income, the less likely that worker will be considered “independent.” An agreement to pay a regular wage/salary for example, can be just as suspect as is an agreement to pay a worker hourly, but with an estimated work schedule of 40 hours each week. Work agreements that tie a worker to an employer who then becomes their sole source of income, suggests a less than “independent” relationship with that employer. A related financial consideration is how much personal investment the worker has in the tools they use.  Are they using their own tools/equipment or the company’s tools/equipment?
  • The type of relationship that is formed between worker and company, oftentimes construed as the exclusivity of the relationship, or the duration of the work commitment. Case law around the permanency of a relationship suggests that work assignments intended to last six months or longer better support the notion that a worker is an employee, compared to shorter term work arrangements. A related factor is whether or not the worker is free to pursue other business opportunities during the term of their agreement to provide their personal services to a company. If an employer is asking or assuming someone will work 40 hours/week on their behalf, it is hard to make the argument that they are free to pursue business opportunities elsewhere.
Unfortunately, case law on the use of these IRS tests to determine employee or independent status is riddled with inconsistent outcomes, making it hard for businesses to make quick, definitive classification decisions. An employer who wants to fully protect themselves can file IRS Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding. The downside, it often takes several months to get a response on a particular request. In light of the growing number of state or federally generated tax audits, we are seeing more and more companies who have historically relied on independent contractors for specialized work in the IT, engineering, or other professional services areas now looking differently at that staffing solution. Some companies have elected to hire these workers directly; others have elected to end long term relationships with 1099 contractors, sometimes leaving significant expertise holes in their organizations. A third option involves a new category of staffing service that allows an employer to continue to utilize their highly valued but flexible 1099 workforce, while avoiding the legal or financial risks being created by the revitalized audit efforts of state and federal agencies. The PACE Staffing Network now offers a full range of  Employer of Record services that can quickly and cost-effectively convert a client’s current 1099 workforce into a “legally compliant” W2 workforce without adding the additional costs normally attributed to a core workforce. The PACE Staffing Network regularly provides Employer of Record services to customers who are looking to optimize workforce flexibility, while avoiding the risk of unforeseen liabilities. For a complimentary discussion about how your company currently uses 1099 contractors and the options you have to mitigate the risk of misclassification, contact infodesk@pacestaffing.com.

More on Employee/1099 Misclassifications – The New “Right to Know” Proposal

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 16, 2013

0 Blog, What's New in Staffing? 1099, 1099 Misclassification, Department of Labor, HR Professionals, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Staffing Agency, The Society for Human Resource Management

As part of our watch on the governments crack down on employee misclassifications and the impact on the 1099 workforce, we thought our readers might be interested in the latest efforts of the Department of Labor to expand its attack on all forms of employee misclassifications that impact a workers access to taxable levels of pay and benefits.  The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division has proposed to conduct a survey to collect information from employees on 1) whether they are classified as an employee, independent contractor, or some other status, and 2) whether or not they understand the implications of their classification status on access to certain pay or benefits.   CommunicationThe survey is being tagged as a first step in the larger “Right to Know” initiative, which they consider a way to “foster more openness and transparency in demonstrating an employer’s compliance” with  certain recordkeeping requirements associated with the Fair Labor Standards Act.  When fully implemented, “Right to Know” regulations would require HR professionals to disclose to their workers how they determined their classification and how their pay and access to benefits will be calculated.     The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has been asked to comment on the survey proposal and will question the necessity for the survey, its format, and its use.  For more information on the DOL Misclassification Initiative you can visit their official website at www.dol.gov/whd/workers/misclassification. For information about the impact of a 1099 misclassifications and how to avoid the hidden liabilities of misclassifications in general, contact our infodesk@pacestaffing.com.

The Job Market – March 2013

by Jeanne Knutzen | April 10, 2013

0 Blog, What's New in Staffing? Job Growth, Job Market, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Staffing Firms, Temporary Jobs, Unemployment, Unemployment Rate

March was another big month for the temporary help industry. Staffing firms added between 20k-50k new jobs between the end of February and end of March. Year-to-year, the number of temporary jobs grew by 6-7% when compared to temporary jobs in March 2012. The growth in temporary jobs is explainable in the context of the broader market where the economy added 88,000 jobs in March. This is the lowest rate of job growth in nine months and far below the 200,000 or more jobs predicted by many economists.  This is just another example where growth in temporary jobs often goes hand-in-hand with a slowing down or increased volatility in the larger job market. Overall employment growth was primarily driven by new jobs in professional and business services (+51,000), health care (+23,000), construction (+18,000), and leisure and hospitality (+17,000). The overall U.S. unemployment rate took a small dip downward from 7.7% in February to 7.6% in March. Other negative news came from tracking layoffs where March reported companies announcing over 49,000 in layoffs. While this represents an 11% downtick of announced layoffs from February, it is a 30% increase over layoffs reported in March 2012. The first quarter of 2013 saw more announced layoffs than any quarter since 2011. A recent survey by PNC Financial Services Group indicates that the owners of small and midsized businesses planned to delay hiring new employees despite what is otherwise their cautious optimism about the economy in general. Three out of four small and midsized businesses expect their staffing to remain unchanged for the next six months. It would appear that the optimism with which most businesses started this year is now being tempered by ongoing reports of actual results falling short of expectations. For more information about the local job market and the availability of employees for temporary or direct-hire, contact infodesk@pacestaffing.com

IT and Healthcare – Where the Jobs Are!

by Jeanne Knutzen | March 8, 2013

0 Blog, IT Staffing, What's New in Staffing? Healthcare, Healthcare Industry, Healthcare Jobs, IT, IT Job Market, IT Marketplace, IT Professionals, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the IT job market added 62,500 jobs in 2012, a good start, but not yet a number that returns the sector to its pre-recession highs. But for those of us staffing IT professionals for the healthcare industry, we have seen an exceptionally robust demand for IT talent over the last three/four years. In 2012, IT jobs in healthcare and healthcare insurance lead the way as the fastest growing segments of the IT marketplace. 2013 is shaping up to look the same. Part of the reason for healthcare-related IT growth is driven by an overall growth in healthcare services in general—the growing patient population fueled by our aging baby boomers. Overall healthcare employment rose by 338,000 jobs in 2012, and is expected to surpass that number in 2013. According to the Center for Health Workforce Studies one in nine Americans will be working in a healthcare related job by the year 2020.  IT growth is also being fueled by changes directly impact the healthcare industry. Two of the primary drivers of growth in healthcare IT have been the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the 2010 Affordable Care Act, (ObamaCare). The Recovery Act set new technology standards for medical providers, requiring that hospitals, clinics and insurers adapt standardized electronic systems for storing and sharing patient health records. The new ICD-10 billing and coding standards are being implemented now. In similar fashion, the Affordable Care Act has created a whole new set of IT jobs stemming from the state-based online health insurance marketplaces that must be operable by January, 2014. By all counts, the basic infrastructure that needs to be in place just to meet the new service needs of the millions of new patients/consumers who will be entering the healthcare marketplace between 2013 and 2020 ensures strong growth in the IT job market for several years to come. As healthcare providers have been turning more and more to new forms of virtual care as a way to lower their operating costs, IT professionals have been expanding the quantity and quality of ways patients and providers can interface virtually. In the last two years, those interfaces have had to accommodate an increasingly mobile population of healthcare customers, requiring constant changes in mobile friendly interfaces. Other IT projects have been focused on improving clinical data searches, business intelligence, and the development of systems to allow various software, apps, databases and clinical hardware to share and exchange information. Big data has definitely been a trend alive and well in healthcare IT. With some variation between surveys, IT salaries have been slated to grow somewhere between 1-5% over the next 12 months, with the bulk of the higher percentage increases being earned by the IT professionals who are involved with healthcare. For more information about jobs in IT, healthcare, insurance and financial markets in particular, contact infodesk@pacestaffing.com—please include IT jobs in the subject line.

When is Work, Work?

by Jeanne Knutzen | March 7, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles Employer of Record services, Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, FLSA, Non-Exempt Employees, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing, Seattle Staffing Agency, Temporary Workforce

Under the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all non-exempt employees must be paid the minimum wage for all hours worked in a work week and must be paid overtime at the rate of 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate of pay for all hours worked in excess of 40 hours in a work week. What isn’t often discussed is what hours of work or work related activity must be included in the count of hours of work paid at either regular or overtime rate. We run into these issues periodically when working with our hourly paid flexible workforces. Whether these workers are categorized as exempt or non-exempt, they must be paid for all hours of work. The following is a list of situations where we frequently field questions from our clients:

  • Pre and Post-Job Activities. All job-related activities required as a part of an employee’s work must be calculated as hours of work.  This includes work performed either before or after the employee’s  actual work schedule and includes pre-start orientations, required after hours meetings, or any hours spent by workers for their employer’s (or our client’s) benefit. Examples of time to be paid would be the time it takes to complete a time card, to change in or out of required work clothes or equipment, to assemble materials needed to perform the work, or to receive instructions about the work—all are considered hours worked and the employee must be paid.
  • Waiting Time. Employees who arrive at a work site early—earlier  than the required start time—are not automatically entitled to be paid for any time they spend waiting to begin work.  However, if an employee reports at the required time and then waits because there is no work to start on, the waiting time is compensable.
  • Stand-By Time. Workers who are required to stand-by at a worksite “ready” to work, must be paid for this waiting time.  Stand-by time typically refers to short-term time periods where a worker is not officially working but is asked to “stand-by” ready to work. The defining rule for stand-by time is that if the employee remains under the employer’s control to the point where they cannot use their time for their own purpose or benefit, the stand-by time must be paid. 
  • On-Call Time. On-Call time is different from Stand-By time in that it includes time spent by an employee “available” to be called into work while free to pursue activities for their own benefit. The FLSA requires employers to compensate workers for on-call time when such time is spent “predominantly for the employer’s benefit.” This means that an employee, who is only required to be available for work if asked, is not considered working and is not paid for their time on-call.
  • Meal and Break Periods. Under FLSA rulings, time spent for meal or rest periods may or may not be compensable, depending on the amount of time provided for the break and to what extent the employee is relieved from their work duties while on break.
Bona fide meal periods need to be of sufficient duration (30 minutes or more) and free of work duties in order for the meal period to be exempt from required pay regulations. If, for example, an employee is asked to sit at their desk to answer phones during their lunch break, they should be paid for their meal break. While employers can have policies prohibiting employees from leaving the work site for a meal break, it is only when work is required of them during the break, that their time must be compensable. Rest periods, on the other hand for shorter periods (5 to 20 minutes) are always counted as hours worked.
  • Unauthorized Hours of Work. Employees who, with the direct or implied awareness of their employer, start work before their work is scheduled,  work through unpaid breaks,  or continue to work after their work schedule is officially over, are considered to be working during all these times periods and their time “at work” must be paid. This is true even if these hours of work were performed voluntarily and are considered by their employer to be “unauthorized.” If the work performed during these “unauthorized hours” benefits the employer, the FLSA requires that the employee be paid. This puts the burden on management to make certain that regular work time rules are rigorously enforced, perhaps even promising disciplinary action for employees who work in unauthorized ways.  Merely stating that all work be authorized is not sufficient.
For more information on the work rules outlined by FLSA regulations and as applied to either your temporary or hourly workforce, contact our infodesk@pacestaffing.com.

Top 10 Suggestions for Supervisors – 2013

by Jeanne Knutzen | February 14, 2013

0 Blog, Human Resource Roles Employee Evaluations, HR tips, human resources, Job Performance, Job Performance Evaluations, Management Tips, PACE Staffing Network, Seattle Staffing Agency, Temporary Staffing In Seattle, Work Place Environment

The following article was published by the ASA, as written by A. Kevin Troutman of Fisher & Phillips Law Firm.  As the New Year unfolds, supervisors may have even less time to manage all the complexities that arise in the world of employment law. With goals and deadlines to meet, well-intentioned managers may be tempted to rely on experience and “common sense” to guide them. Unfortunately, this approach often creates headaches and even litigation, despite managers’ good intentions. Today’s alphabet soup of employment laws (ADA, ADEA, FMLA, OSHA, NLRB, etc.) are simply too vast and complicated for most supervisors to digest on their own. Other issues are so subtle or counterintuitive that even seasoned HR professionals can find it difficult to recognize and/or deal with them. There is a silver lining to this cloud. A few basic practices can help supervisors avoid many problems—or at least recognize when to turn to HR for guidance. 1. Always tell employees the truth This rule encompasses more than avoiding outright falsehoods. Instead, it emphasizes the importance of making sure that employees always know how you assess their job performance. Of course this includes telling employees what they are doing well—but perhaps even more important, it means telling them how and where they are not meeting expectations. While many supervisors may prefer to avoid delivering “bad news,” this rule is an increasingly critical aspect of their jobs. Performance evaluations illustrate this point.  Audits routinely show that well over half of all evaluations rate employee performance above average, a de facto impossibility. Unfortunately, evaluations that overrate employees’ job performance can be devastating during litigation. Judges and juries are generally unsympathetic toward supervisors who suggest that they did not really mean what they wrote on a performance evaluation. This simple rule is so important that companies should consider discontinuing annual performance evaluations unless they can be done accurately and honestly. 2. Communicate clearly and directly Going a step beyond Rule No. 1, supervisors should expect employees to do their jobs and cannot let “politically correct” language obscure their message. Specifically, they must communicate clearly without being insensitive or disrespectful. For example, instead of telling an employee that he or she has an “opportunity” to improve, identify what specific aspects of performance are below expectations and what must be done to improve. Offer to assist, but make it clear that you expect improvement. When documenting these communications, be succinct and explicit. Always try to address “who, what, when and why.”  (As simple as it seems, this includes ensuring that documentation is legible, dated and signed where appropriate.) This rule applies to policy violations, poor attendance and simple coaching or reminder sessions. 3. Avoid surprises Many lawsuits result from anger or hurt feelings, which may be the result of an employee being surprised by disciplinary action or a termination. Remember, a supervisor’s silence is typically interpreted as approval, but if communication is consistent, clear and direct, employees should never be surprised by disciplinary action. They may not agree with the supervisor’s decision, but they should never be able to say truthfully that they did not see it coming. 4. Always get both sides of the story It’s surprising how often supervisors violate this simple rule. As a practical matter, there should be no exceptions to it. No matter how egregious or clear-cut the facts appear to be, always give accused employees a chance to tell their side of the story. (The only possible exception might be when there is a legitimate objective or safety concern that would prevent this from occurring.)  Consistent with this rule, do not document conclusions or prepare termination paperwork until the investigation is finished. 5. Keep your promises Don’t make promises that you cannot keep. Supervisors who promise to meet periodically with employees or to provide periodic feedback must do so. Again, jurors are unlikely to forgive supervisors who criticize an employee’s job performance, but fail to abide by their own follow-up schedule. So do not set deadlines or timetables that you cannot meet—instead, maintain some flexibility. Don’t make oral promises such as, “as long as you do your job, you will always have a place here.” In some states, these promises can be legally enforceable. 6. Do not ignore protected status in making employment decisions At first blush this rule may seem illogical, but when considering disciplinary action it is always important to consider how you have handled similar situations in the past. If an employee in a protected classification (race, sex, religion, age, disability, etc.) is treated differently under the same circumstances from someone who is not in the protected class, supervisors and HR must be able to justify the reasons clearly. When considering which employees fall in a protected classification, don’t overlook employees who recently took FMLA leave, sought an accommodation under the ADA, or provided information in response to an investigation of alleged workplace discrimination. These activities protect employees from retaliation and likewise require consideration of comparable situations where no employee had engaged in protected activity. 7. Think before hitting “send” Email traffic provides increasingly fertile ground for both sides in employment cases. Supervisors must therefore recognize that their email messages are potential trial exhibits. A quick, off-hand message has the potential to be extremely embarrassing if presented out of context to a jury. Therefore, it is never a good idea to fire off quick responses, especially when emotions are running high. Wait a few moments before hitting “send” and be especially careful about using the “reply to all” button. 8. Document important facts when they’re still fresh Important details can easily get muddled in today’s fast-paced work environment, so make a habit of jotting down those key facts when they occur. When doing so, be sure the documentation is dated, legible and understandable (see Rule No. 2). Always include objective language describing “who, what, when, where, why” and identify any witnesses. Identify the author of the documentation—sometimes nothing can be more difficult than retrospectively trying to determine who prepared unsigned material. 9. Send it to HR When supervisors keep files containing notes or information that has not been forwarded to HR, it almost always creates problems when litigation ensues. This can force the employer to change a representation it has already made to the EEOC or plaintiff’s counsel. More importantly, it can support a plaintiff’s contention that the supervisor (who is usually the alleged wrong-doer) cannot be trusted or is hiding something. On a related note, always refer employment verification and reference inquiries to HR, who will ensure company-wide consistency in responding. 10. Never forget that you are the boss Even during meal breaks, after hours, on weekends, or away from the workplace, supervisors still carry the mantle of company authority. Unguarded, inappropriate or “joking” comments can and do come back to haunt supervisors who forget this. When an employment relationship goes bad, seemingly innocuous comments often emerge. Comments made in jest rarely look good in front of a jury.  This is a critical and sometimes painful lesson for supervisors to learn. Bonus Rule 11 Always strive to be fair, consider “how would this look to a skeptical third party (like the EEOC or a jury) who knows nothing about me or the employee?” The workplace is complex and demanding, especially for supervisors striving to meet deadlines, maintain positive employee relations and avoid legal pitfalls. While they are not a “cure all,” these suggestions can help supervisors manage more effectively.