Debi Pettit Earns SHRM Senior Certified Professional Designation

CITEC Business Solutions is pleased to announce the certification of Business Advisor Debi L. Pettit by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) at the level of Senior Certified Professional (SCP).

The SHRM certification was developed over the past four years to be the globally recognized standard of excellence for professionals in the HR field. SHRM began offering the certifications in January 2015 for HR professionals already accredited by the HR Certification Institute – through which, Debi is presently recognized as a Senior Professional in Human Resources.

Debi joined CITEC in 2010 as a Business Advisor who specializes in providing HR expertise to a wide variety of firms located across the North Country region. Her services range from supervisory and leadership development programs to serving as a temporary HR professional for start-up businesses and larger Canadian-based manufacturers who need to make sure they adhere to New York State and U.S. labor requirements.

CITEC’s experts provide highly-tailored, impact-driven assistance to businesses located across the North Country so that they can create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. CITEC is part of a nationwide and New York State network that provides world-class assistance to small- and medium-sized firms under the Department of Commerce’s NIST-MEP and Empire State Development’s Regional Technology Development Center programs.

In addition to her HR certifications, Debi is certified in Prosci Change Management processes, holds a White Belt and is a Green Belt-candidate in Lean process improvement.  She serves on the North Country Empire State STEM Hub, is a founding member of the Association of Change Management Professionals, and is the principal founder of the North Country Human Resources Consortium.  She specializes in using her expertise in human resources, employee training and leadership coaching to help address each company’s unique needs to connect the dots that connects employees.

Prior to joining CITEC, Debi served as the HR Director for Schonbek Worldwide Lighting (Swarovski), Plattsburgh; HR Director for Salerno Plastics Corporation in Plattsburgh; HR Manager for BBA Nonwovens in Lewisburg, PA; and, HR Manager for International Paper in Tennessee.

She serves the North Country from her CITEC office in Plattsburgh – the community she also calls homes, with husband Michael Pettit, plant manager at Plattsburgh’s Pactiv facility.

For more information on CITEC and to connect with Debi, visit www.CITEC.org or call the Plattsburgh office at 518-907-4481.

Background checks: Recent New York lawsuit highlights importance of FCRA compliance

April 22, 2014

Background checks: Recent New York lawsuit highlights importance of FCRA compliance

New Yorkby Kristen E. Smith

The number of employers that conduct background checks as part of the hiring process has steadily increased. Background checks can help uncover misconduct or dishonest behavior at previous jobs and determine whether applicants possess the positive traits employers desire.

They can also help avoid negligent hiring claims if things go wrong with a new hire. However, a recently filed lawsuit demonstrates that the decision to use background checks should be carefully considered and implemented.

Background

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires employers to provide applicants with a stand-alone disclosure and authorization form before conducting background checks. The disclosure and authorization form must be separate from the employment application and cannot include language that releases the employer from liability associated with conducting a background check.

Unfortunately, many employers fail to comply with the FCRA by relying on disclosures in employment applications to inform applicants that they will be subject to a background check or by including additional language in the disclosure.

A proposed class action lawsuit against Whole Foods Market California reminds employers to review their disclosure and authorization forms to make sure they comply with the FCRA. The lawsuit accuses Whole Foods of using an invalid form to obtain applicants’ consent to conduct background checks during the application process.

Specifically, the suit alleges that (1) the employer relied on a consent form in an online application that contained other consent forms and (2) the consent form included a release of claims for obtaining a background check.

If Whole Foods is found to have used an invalid form, the consequences will be significant. They may include invalidation of the consent form, statutory damages of up to $1,000 for each applicant, costs and attorneys’ fees, and punitive damages.

Steps to take

First, make sure you know the requirements of the federal FCRA and the New York Fair Credit Reporting Act (NYFCRA). Those statutes largely mirror each other, and they contain technical requirements for the collection and use of background check information.

However, in certain areas, the NYFCRA contains more restrictive requirements. For that reason, don’t assume that a background check vendor has all the requirements covered, especially if it is an out-of-state vendor.

Another common mistake is assuming the FCRA and the NYFCRA apply only when an employer seeks credit information. Even though the titles of both laws contain the term “Fair Credit Reporting,” they cover several types of reports. For example, if a criminal background check is performed by an outside agency instead of the employer, it is considered a “consumer report” and is covered by both laws.

Also, many employers make the mistake of relying on an employment application to inform applicants that they will be subject to a background check. Again, the FCRA requires employers to provide applicants with a stand-alone authorization form.

Those are just a few mistakes employers make when conducting background checks. There are many more pitfalls. The bottom line is, if you conduct background checks, make sure you are fully versed on the details of the FCRA and the NYFCRA.

Also, be aware of Article 23-A of the New York Correction Law. Most employers understand that it is unlawful to refuse to hire an applicant simply because of a previous criminal conviction (except in certain circumstances). However, many employers may not know that under a February 2009 amendment to the NYFCRA, employers must provide applicants with a copy of Article 23-A when obtaining an investigative consumer report (a narrow subset of background checks) or a criminal background check.

The amendment includes a posting requirement. New York state’s Labor Law Section 201-f now requires all employers — not just those that conduct background checks — to post a copy of Article 23-A in the workplace.

Finally, be sure to apply your background check policy consistently. Cherry- picking applicants for background checks or skipping the process for some applicants can expose your company to discrimination or negligent hiring claims.

Strategies going forward

The lawsuit against Whole Foods is a reminder that complying with the FCRA makes good business sense. Periodically review your application and hiring forms and processes to ensure strict compliance. In this area, a little care will go a long way.

Kristen Smith is an associate in the Syracuse office of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC. She can be reached at 315-218-8518 or ksmith@bsk.com.  She is an editor of New York Employment Law Letter.

Posting requirements, an overview of what you need!

While posting requirements are extremely important in communicating employee rights, they are often a trouble spot for employers. With laws changing regularly, it’s difficult to ensure that posters are up-to-date and an employer can easily fall behind. Here is a quick checklist to help make sure your employment posters are the poster-child of perfection!

I have all the proper federal posters. Here is a list of the seven current, required federal posters with a link to where they can be downloaded:

 I post all required state posters. All states have at least a required minimum wage poster of their own and most have posters concerning leave and child labor.

 I have checked to see if my industry has required posters. Some industries, such as construction or agriculture, have specific required posters. Employers should check with their State’s Department of Labor for more information.

 My posters are up-to-date. Having an out-of-date poster doesn’t do you much good and can result in fines, so check regularly to make sure your posters are current. Posters have an effective date in the lower right corner. Here are the current effective dates:

  • Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA): July 2009
  • Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA): February 2013
  • Job Safety & Health Protection (OSHA): No date, but the most current one has a QR code in the corner (a small black and white symbol)
  • Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA): June 2003
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA): October 2008
  • Employee Rights for Workers with Disabilities: June 2007
  • Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC): November 2009

  I display my posters in a “conspicuous” place. This is trickier than most employers realize. All posters most be readily visible to employees, but the EEOC, FMLA, and EPPA poster must be visible to applicants as well (as they are the target audience), so make sure to post those accordingly!

 I post in the proper language. Several of the posters are available in other languages. While requirements on which languages need to be covered aren’t exactly set in stone, employers should make their best effort to display posters that the majority of their employees can understand.

Employee posting requirements give loads of employers trouble, but they don’t have to – just go through this checklist regularly to avoid making costly poster mistakes!

NY State Report In Pay Requirements

If you weren’t able to make today’s policy writing workshop, you missed great networking and information regarding what policies you may need and why.  During our breakout discussion, we looked at a sample of a Cancellation of Operations policy to spark discussion about the need for one and what should we include.  We thought it was good to look at this time of the year!  This brought up the question is it mandatory to pay employees that come to work only to realize that the facility or organization was closing due to an emergency or extreme weather.  Some felt there was a NY regulation requiring a minimum of four hours pay and others said there wasn’t a requirement. What do you think?

The answer is..Yes!  There is a NY State requirement.  Here is what Business and Legal Report had to say:

New York Callback/Report-In Pay: What you need to know!

General Rule

New York requires employers to pay workers for reporting to the workplace, even if the employer has no work for them to do. An employee who is requested or permitted to report for work on any day must receive at least 4 hours’ pay or, if the scheduled shift is shorter than 4 hours, wages for the number of hours in the shift. The hourly rate must be at or above the minimum wage (NY Admin. Code Tit. 12 Sec. 142-2.3).

 

Exceptions

There is no minimum pay for reporting to work in the case of:

• Employees who live on the employer’s premises and are on call during sleeping hours or on call while they are free to leave the workplace

• Employees in building services industries

• Administrative, executive, professional, and outside sales employees

• Farm laborers

• Taxicab drivers

• Babysitters and companions

• Golf caddies

• Staff counselors in children’s camps and camp employees who work fewer than four hours a day

• Booth renters (independent contractors renting space in a beauty shop)

Hour’s pay added. Employees who report to work a second time in any workday (other than after a lunch period of an hour or less) must be paid an additional hour’s wages at a rate no lower than the minimum wage. An additional hour’s pay is also due whenever the spread of hours in the workday exceeds 10 (NY Admin Code Tit. 12 Sec. 142-2.4).

 

Source:  BLR Article

 

Hope this helps clear this up before the snow flies.  If you have a comment, please post it in the blog.

Debi

Job Stress: Coping with Uncertainty

In a recent article she wrote for Strictly Business, the Consortium’s own Bonnie Black offered valuable info on dealing with workplace stress.

For workers everywhere, the troubled economy may feel like an emotional roller coaster. “Layoffs” and “budget cuts” have become bywords in the workplace, and the result is increased fear, uncertainty, and higher levels of stress. Since job and workplace stress grow in times of economic crisis, it’s important to learn new and better ways of coping with the pressure. [Click to read the whole article.]

Upcoming Reporting Deadlines

Just a few weeks remain to prepare and comply with upcoming federal reporting and employee notice requirements.  Listed below is the mandated report and the deadline.  If you have any questions, please post here!

HIPPA Privacy Final Rule – 9/23

EEO-1 Report  – 9/30

VETS-100/100A – 9/30

Exchange & Updated COBRA Notices  – 10/1

Medicare Part D Annual Notice – 10/15

Summary of Benefits/Coverage (Open enrollment)

 

 

Mistakes – Leaders Know How to Accept and Grow Forward

OK, it’s the third time your manager has come to you with another story about ‘that’ employee.  More mistakes, more lost time and profit.

It’s time for you to refocus your manager’s emotions from anger to potential.  How?

Here’s an article that can assist you in guiding your managers and supervisors to look beyond and move forward: http://learnthis.ca/2009/01/leadership-accepting-mistakes/

Leaders are Smart Risk-takers

Sometimes we need to push ourselves and our organizations out of our comfort zone to achieve growth, innovation, results, and satisfaction.  But, that’s a risk!  It’s a risk that, in order to move forward – and even maintain our stasis – we must learn to take….wisely.

The following is an article that can give you a bit of reassurance that risk-taking can, indeed, be a smart move: http://www.leadershipnow.com/leadingblog/2013/01/5_things_smart_risk_takers_do.html

Can I Require a Full Medical Exam Before My Employee Returns to Work?

The link below is a great explanation of when an employer can require a physical from an employee to confirm the employee is ready to return to work after a leave of absence.  If you find yourself in this position, be sure you can articulate clearly what supports your “reasonable belief” that a medical exam is needed.

http://www.fmlainsights.com/fitness-for-duty/i-believe-my-employee-is-unfit-to-return-to-work-can-i-require-a-full-medical-examination-before-his/