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On Sunday, November 4th at 2:00 A.M., remember to move your clocks back one hour and “gain” an extra hour. Otherwise, you may be arriving to work on Monday morning a bit early.

Every year, during late Winter we move our clocks one hour ahead and “lose” an hour during the night and begin what we call “Daylight Saving Time” and each Fall we move our clocks back one hour and back to “Standard Time.”  And if you’ve gone to grade school in any country over the past half century that practices Daylight Saving Time, you may remember the famous mnemonic phrase “Spring forward, Fall back” which helps us to remember how to adjust our clocks.

Daylight Saving Time or DST was originally thought of by Benjamin Franklin. The idea was widely ignored, however, because by the time Franklin came up with DST he was getting on in years. And his peers mostly viewed him as delusional because he had a habit of flying kites during thunderstorms and going around uttering nonsense  like “A penny saved is a penny earned.”  It wouldn’t be for more than another one hundred years after Franklin died when the idea behind DST was finally put into practice with the onset of both World Wars I and II. However, after both wars, DST was cast aside until finally in 1966 it picked up a great deal of traction through the Uniform Time Act. This Act standardized the start and end dates for daylight saving time but allowed individual states to remain on standard time if their legislatures allowed it.

And if you think that you are vaguely feeling that there was some change in the last few years in the timing of when DST started and ended, you’re correct. The U.S. government announced a major change in DST around mid-2005. The change had to do with an energy bill that Congress passed that included extending DST. As of 2007, DST officially begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the  first Sunday of November.

Not everyone in the U.S. uses DST.   Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas never made the switch to DST in March.  They remain on Standard Time year round.

Enjoy your extra hour of sleep next Sunday!

Although Halloween may turn out to be a soaked out event for much of the U.S. East Coast suffering from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, the holiday arrives tomorrow (Wednesday, October 31st), for those of us not affected by the big storm events. Halloween is a mix of ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals and European folk traditions that blended together over time to create the holiday we know today with trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror movies.. Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity and life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition.

Although Halloween is not a holiday observed as one with time off in the workplace, it has certainly become popular for purposes of improving workplace motivation. According to survey data released in 2007 by Vault.com Inc., 37% of employees say they celebrate the holiday with their co-workers and 27% dress up in costume. It has also been stated that
Halloween is the second most popular holiday after Christmas and that celebrating it in the workplace “appeals to the child in each of us and helps create a motivational, team work-oriented work culture.”

Of course, on-the-job masquerades are more appropriate for some workplaces than others. For some organizations, such as manufacturers or equipment handlers, costumes could
jeopardize safety. Other organizations such as hospitals don’t want to let professionalism slip for even a day, fearing that masks or costumes might alarm patients. And a local bank has two sensible rules: no masks and no toy weapons.

If you’re thinking about a Halloween bash at work this year, there are lots of great ideas all over the place for celebrating that include decorating the workplace, baking Halloween-themed cookies and desserts, and holding a costume and pumpkin carving contests.  However, here are a few tips that you want to be sure to also consider if it’s a workplace celebration.

  1.  Make it Optional. Make sure that you clearly inform your employees that Halloween festivities including costume wearing are optional and not required. If any employee complains about the festivities because of religious beliefs, make sure they understand that it’s optional. If they really find it offensive, recommend to them that they take
    either a vacation day or unpaid one day leave.
  2. No Alcohol on Company Property. We’re pretty sure you already know this. However, let us re-explain that drinking on company premises is always a bad idea due to such things as: a premises liability lawsuit when a guest falls on your property or premises after having a few too many drinks, a workers’ compensation claim when an employee injures
    themselves after drinking too much, and a sexual harassment claim when someone says and does something stupid while they are drinking.
  3. Set Some Guidelines on Costume Wearing. Although one would like to think that we all have “common-sense” and decent judgment, many people don’t. It may be a good idea to remind people that it’s a company party and costumes such as exaggerated body parts, body revealing,  and anything political, religious or ethnic are probably not a good idea.

Especially for these days when our lives are fraught with all sorts of economic problems, Halloween can be a great time for company-related activities for building camaraderie, teamwork and alleviating workplace stress. However, plan it wisely. HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

11/02/2012
9:30 amto11:30 am

HRM Partners will be conducting a seminar in conjuction with Japan Business Association of Southern California & Mr. Toshi Akiyama of American Data Bank.

The seminar will be conducted on Friday, November 2nd, 2012 between 9:30 am and 11:30 am.  Location will be Miyako Hybrid Hotel at 21381 South Western Avenue. Torrance, CA 90501.

Mr. Munero Ueda will talk about Hiring and HR Process to Avoid Lawsuits in Japanese.

10/10/2012
9:30 amto12:00 pm

Please join us on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 for a seminar on Sexual Harassment Prevention – conducted in Japanese by Mr. Akira Takahashi, HRM Partners, Inc.

This seminar will be conducted between 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.  The location will be at 825 3rd Avenue, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10022.

This is a “Fee charge” seminar.  Please contact Mr. Ryota Mitsugi at rmitsugi@hrm-partners.com for more detail.

11/15/2012
9:00 amto12:00 pm

Please join us on Thursday, November 15, 2012 for a seminar on Salary Update and Human Resource Management Practices for a Continued Weak Economy – conducted in English by Mr. Joseph Rusinovich, HRM Partners, Inc.

This seminar is held in conjuction with Actus Consulting Group, Inc. and will be conducted beginning at 9:00 a.m.  The location for the seminar will be at The Nippon Club, 145 West 57th Street, New York, NY 10019.

This is a “no charge” seminar.  However, due to limited seating, you must contact Mr. Ryota Mitsugi at RMitsugi@hrm-partners.com or Actus Consulting Group directly to reserve seating.

Halloween, celebrated each year on October 31 (this year on a Wednesday), is a mix of ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals and European folk traditions that blended together over time to create the holiday we know today with trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching
horror movies.. Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity and life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition.

Although Halloween is not a holiday observed as one with time off in the workplace, it has certainly become popular for purposes of improving workplace motivation. According to survey data released in 2007 by Vault.com Inc., 37% of employees say they celebrate the holiday with their co-workers and 27% dress up in costume. It has also been stated that Halloween is the second most popular holiday after Christmas and that celebrating it in the workplace “appeals to the child in each of us and helps create a motivational, team work-oriented work culture.”

Of course, on-the-job masquerades are more appropriate for some workplaces than others. For some organizations, such as manufacturers or equipment handlers, costumes could jeopardize safety. Other organizations such as hospitals don’t want to let professionalism slip for even a day, fearing that masks or costumes might alarm patients. And a local bank has two sensible rules: no masks and no toy weapons.

If you’re thinking about a Halloween bash at work this year, there are lots of great ideas all over the place for celebrating that include decorating the workplace, baking Halloween-themed cookies and desserts, and holding a costume and pumpkin
carving contests.  However, here are a few tips that you want to be sure to also consider if it’s a workplace celebration.

  1.  Make it Optional. Make sure that you clearly inform your employees that Halloween festivities including costume
    wearing are optional and not required. If any employee complains about the festivities because of religious beliefs, make sure they understand that it’s optional. If they really find it offensive, recommend to them that they take either a vacation day or unpaid one day leave.
  2. No Alcohol on Company Property. We’re pretty sure you already know this. However, let us re-explain that drinking
    on company premises is always a bad idea due to such things as: a premises liability lawsuit when a guest falls on your property or premises after having a few too many drinks, a workers’ compensation claim when an employee injures
    themselves after drinking too much, and a sexual harassment claim when someone says and does something stupid while they are drinking.
  3. Set Some Guidelines on Costume Wearing. Although one would like to think that we all have “common-sense” and decent
    judgment, many people don’t. It may be a good idea to remind people that it’s a company party and costumes such as exaggerated body parts, body revealing,  and anything political, religious or ethnic are probably not a good idea.

Especially for these days when our lives are fraught with all sorts of economic problems, Halloween can be a great time for company-related activities for building camaraderie, teamwork and alleviating workplace stress. However, plan it wisely.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

With autumn beginning recently, so also begins the flu season. Although last year’s flu season was on the quiet side getting off to a very late start with the warmer than normal autumn and winter temperatures, influenza typically begins to show up in late October, peaks in January and begins to subside by February.

Although a great many people might consider the flu to not be a big deal, historically speaking we’ve had five serious world-wide flu pandemics in the last 100 years that should give us some thought about what may occur in the not too distant future.

First, going back to 1918, the Spanish flu killed somewhere between 20 and 50 million people. Then it wasn’t until 1957 that another pandemic occurred with the Asian flu. Fortunately by this time, medical personnel were more educated and proactive in reducing the outbreak’s world-wide deaths to two million. Eleven years later, the more mild Hong Kong flu of 1968 killed an estimated one million people. Then in 1976, we had the first swine flu outbreak that turned out to be more of a mass panic via scaremongering than actual deaths from the outbreak. However, in 2009 came the 2009 H1N1 virus (aka, swine flu) which was
especially lethal because it was a new combination of man, swine and avian elements and humans didn’t have any natural immunity to it and we lagged behind in getting a vaccine for it.  By the time the pandemic had subsided in late spring 2010, it is estimated that between 300,000 to 600,000 people died from it.

Given the global nature of business and travel, there is an excellent chance for a new pandemic virus to spread very quickly throughout the world even faster than what we’ve seen in the past 100 years. Although you may think that the chances of a pandemic flu like in the 2011 medical thriller film, “Contagion” are more fiction than fact, the creators behind that movie went to great lengths to fact-check their story of a viral pandemic that goes on to kill tens of millions of people, retaining a panel of famous virologists and epidemiologist as consultants.

The H1NI flu outbreak in 2009 created some common problems in the workplace that bear some discussion. First, what happens in the workplace if employees complain that a co-worker is sick and coughing and infecting the office? From this came the need to create a policy to allow anyone to report a concern, that the concern remain confidential, unlike harassment claims, and management use the power of persuasion to get the sick employee home and out of the business of spreading germs at the office.

Another important problem was that of attendance. Instead of telling people to just stay home and/or work from home without any time and attendance requirements, employers

have found they need to have good time and attendance policies that are clear and make practical sense. One problem arose from employers’ generous impulse to let employees, especially hourly employees, take liberal leave, coupled with working from home. The problem with this is dealing with Fair Labor Standards Act wage and hour laws. If an hourly employee works for three days, for example, and you send him/her home and he/she uses two days of sick leave on his/her time card, that’s simple and okay. However, what if that employee might actually work six or eight hours of work-from-home and then not put it on their
time card. At some point in the future, you could have a potentially expensive wage and hour dispute.

Although employers have learned some important lessons from the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak, continued education is needed today to make sure that everyone in the workplace is being vigilant about hand washing, sneezing into sleeves rather than blowing germs out into the air, using hand sanitizers, and especially staying home when they are sick. Today as opposed to even a few decades ago, we have excellent tools such as the internet to carry on effective work via telework.

As we move further into flu season, here are some good ideas for employers to consider implementing in the workplace.

  1. Buy hand sanitizers. Place hand sanitizers in several locations and make sure employees understand the value of using it.
  2. Safe Practice Signs. Place safe practice signs up in the bathrooms and bulletin boards.
  3. Written policy on dealing with a pandemic. Have written flu pandemic policy spelled out your employee handbook and on the company website
  4. Convince sick people to stay home. Sick employees may think they’re being dedicated workers when they still come into work but, the truth is, they spread germs to other employees and cut down on the overall productivity of the business. Encourage employees to stay home when they are sick at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever or severe symptoms. Consider instituting a flexible leave policy — and appropriate technology — that allows employees to work from home if they or their kids are sick.
  5. Encourage flu shots. Getting a flu shot each year has been scientifically proven to be one of the best protections against influenza throughout the flu season. Flu shots are offered in a multitude of locations, including doctor offices, clinics, pharmacies, as well as by many employers.
  6. Educate employees about hand washing. In combination with a flu shot, washing your hands frequently is one of the best ways to avoid germs. Frequently means after you shake someone’s hand, after using public transportation, after handling money, etc.
  7. Hold a health fair. Contact your local hospital to see if they provide health fairs for larger offices. You can also contract the coordination of an on-site health fair with a company specializing in the service.

In addition, here’s some important information to share with employees in preparation for flu season:

  1. Avoid touching commonly used surfaces & handles. Avoid touching door knobs. handles, sink controls, levers or switches of any kind. Use your sleeve, tissue or anything that puts a barrier between a possibly contaminated surface and your hand.
  2. Wash hands continuously & use hand sanitizers.  As stated above, other than getting a flu shot, washing your hands continuously throughout the day is probably the other most effective way to avoid getting sick. Also, make a conscious effort to keep your hands away from your face, particularly your mouth, eyes and nose. Keep your hands below the neck at all times, unless you’ve just washed them.
  3. Get enough rest. When your body is exhausted, your immune system isn’t working to fight off incoming diseases. Most people don’t get enough sleep during a normal night, so make sure you actually get at least eight hours of sleep. Yes, the typical person needs about eight hours of sleep a night.
  4. Ingest vitamins C & E. You have probably heard that taking lots of vitamin C, typically found in citrus fruit, is a great way to fight off colds. In addition, however, taking vitamin E, which is found in almonds, sunflower seeds, peanuts, etc. is another great way to fight off colds.
  5. Consider using probiotics. There’s more and more good news about probiotics. Probiotics, found in such things as yogurt, pickles and supplements, work toward improving digestion and can help prevent upper respiratory infections.
  6. Smoking & drinking alcohol.  Smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol are good friends to catch a cold. They tend to have a negative effect on a person’s immune system and make your body more attractable to a cold. If you smoke and drink on
    a regular basis and start to feel like you’re coming down with a cold, try to stop smoking and drinking for a few days.

With the 2012 Presidential elections approaching in early November, employers need to remember that most states have laws requiring employers to allow employees to take time off to vote, sometimes with pay, subject to the employee’s hours of work and the times when the voting polls are open. In a few states, employers are required to post notices in advance of an election, advising employees of their rights. The following is a listing of several state law requirements.

Alabama Employers are required to give employees time off to vote unless the employee’s work shift commences at least two hours after the polls open or ends at least one hour before the polls close. If an employee requires time off for voting, the employee must give the employer “reasonable notice.” The employer is not required to grant more than a one-hour absence, and the employer may designate the time when employees may leave work to vote. Time off for voting is not required to be paid time off. Alabama Code § 17-1-5.
Alaska Employers are required to give an employee as much time off “as will enable voting,” unless the polls are open for two nonworking hours before or after the employee’s work shift. Time off for voting must be paid. Alaska Stat. § 15.15.100.
California If an employee does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote, the employer must provide enough time off that, when added to time available outside of working hours, the employee will be able to vote. Unless otherwise agreed, the time off must be at the beginning or end of a shift, whichever allows the most free time to vote and the least time off from work. Employees who, three working days before the election, have reason to believe that time off will be necessary must give the employer two business days’ notice. Up to two hours off must be paid. Employers must post, in a conspicuous place, a notice setting forth these provisions no less than 10 days before the election. Cal. Elec. Code §§ 14000-14001.
Colorado Employers are required to give an employee two hours off to vote unless the employee has three consecutive nonworking hours available for voting at the polls. The employee is to be paid for working time he or she is required to miss in order to vote. The employee must apply for the leave before the day of the election and the employer may specify the hours that the employee may be absent, provided, however, that the hours shall be at the beginning or end of a shift if the employee so requests. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 1-7-102.
Georgia Employers must give an employee up to two hours of time off to vote, unless the polls are open for two consecutive hours before or after the employee’s work shift. The employer may specify the time when employees may be absent. Employers are not required to provide paid time off to vote. Ga. Code Ann. § 21-2-404.
Hawaii Employers are required to give an employee two consecutive hours off for voting unless the polls are open for two consecutive hours before or after the employee’s work shift. Time off for voting must be paid if the employee presents proof of having voted (with a voting receipt). Haw. Rev. Stat. § 11-95.
Illinois Employers must give an employee up to two hours’ time off in order to vote unless the polls are open two hours before or after the employee’s shift. The employer may specify the hours when an employee may be absent. Time off for voting must be paid. 10 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5/17-15.
Iowa Employers are required to allow an employee up to three hours of time off for voting unless the polls are open three hours before or after that employee’s shift. The total time off allowed is three hours, less the time the polls are open before or after the shift. Employees are required to apply for the time off in writing before Election Day and the employer may designate the period of time to be taken. Time off for voting must be paid. Iowa Code Ann. § 49.109.
Kansas Employers must give an employee up to two hours of time off from work to vote unless the polls are open for two hours before or after the employee’s work shift. The total time off allowed is two hours, less the time the polls are open before or after work. The employer can specify the particular time when the employee may be absent as long as that time is not during a regular lunch break. Time off for voting must be paid. Kan. Stat.
Ann. § 25-418.
Kentucky Employers are required to allow employees at least four hours of time off in order to vote or cast an absentee ballot, but employees must request leave before the day of the election. The employer may select the time during which employees may be absent from work. Employers are not required to grant paid time off. Ky. Const. § 148; Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 118.035.
Massachusetts Employers are required to grant an employee time off to vote during the first two hours after the polls open, if the employee requests time off during that period. Only those who are employed in a “manufacturing, mechanical, or mercantile establishment” are eligible for time off under this provision. Time off for voting need not be paid. Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 149, § 178.
Minnesota Employers are required to give employees sufficient time off to vote during the morning of the election. Time off for voting must be paid. Minn. Stat. § 204C.04.
Missouri Employers are required to give an employee up to three hours off from work to vote unless the polls are open for three nonworking hours before or after the employee’s work shift. The employer may specify the three hours that the employee may take off for voting. An employee taking time off to vote must request such time off before Election Day. Time off for voting must be paid. Vernon’s Ann. Mo. Stat. § 115.639
Nebraska Employers are required to give time off to vote to employees who do not have two consecutive nonworking hours while the polls are open. This time shall be up to two hours but any nonworking time the employee has while the polls are open may be subtracted. If the employee applies for the absence before Election Day, the time off is to be paid. The employer may specify the time when the employee may be absent. Neb. Rev.
Stat. § 32-922.
Nevada Employers are required to give “sufficient time” for employees to vote if it is impracticable for them to vote during nonworking hours. An employee who works two miles or less from a polling place may take one hour; two to ten miles, two hours; more than ten miles, three hours. The employer may designate the hours an employee will take to vote. Time off is to be paid. Nev. Rev. Stat. § 293.463.
New Mexico Employers are required to give an employee two hours off to vote unless the employee’s work day begins two hours after the polls are open or ends three hours before the polls close. An employer may specify the hours during which the employee may be absent. Time off is to be paid. N. Mex. Stat. § 1-12-42.
New York Employers are required to give up to two hours paid leave to vote to employees who do not have four consecutive nonworking hours between the polls opening and closing, and who do not have “sufficient” nonworking time to vote. Employees must request the leave between two and ten days before Election Day. The employer may decide whether the leave is to be taken at the beginning or end of an employee’s shift. Employers must conspicuously post this rule in the workplace ten days prior to the election. Consol. Laws of N.Y. § 3-110.
Ohio Employers cannot fire or threaten to fire an employee for taking a reasonable amount of time to vote. Employers may not otherwise induce or compel an employee to vote or refrain from voting. Ohio Rev. Code §
3599.06.
Tennessee Employees who begin their workday less than three hours after polls open and finish less than three hours before polls close are entitled to up to three hours paid leave to vote. Employees must request leave by noon the day before the election. The employer can set the time for leave to vote. Tenn. Code § 2-1-106.
Texas Employers are required to allow an employee sufficient time to vote, unless the employee has two consecutive nonworking hours in which to vote. Time off is to be paid. State agencies must allow each agency employee sufficient time off to vote in any national, state or local election, without a deduction in salary or accrued leave. Tex. Elec. Code § 276.004; Tex. Gov. Code § 661.914.
Washington Employers are required to arrange their employees’ schedules on Election Day so as to allow each employee a reasonable time, up to two hours, in which to vote. If an employee does not have two free hours during the day, the employer shall permit that employee to take up to two paid hours to vote. However, these provisions do not apply if the employee had time to secure an absentee ballot. Wash. Rev. Code § 49.28.120.
Wisconsin Employees are entitled up to three hours’ leave to vote. Employees must request such leave before Election Day. Pay can be deducted for the time away from work. The employer may decide when the leave is taken.
Wis. Stat. § 6.76.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills Sept. 28 that lay the groundwork for a first-ever state-sponsored program that would require private employers to offer a retirement savings option to workers.

S.B. 1234 by Sen. Kevin De Leon (D) creates a nine-member appointed board to study whether it is legally and financially possible to launch the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Investment Program. S.B. 923 by De Leon allows for the set-up and design of the program but requires the governing board to come back to the Legislature for approval before the program can begin operation.

According to De Leon, the savings accounts would be like individual retirement accounts, providing a retirement savings mechanism for millions of private sector workers who do not have employer-sponsored pensions or retirement benefits. The accounts would be equivalent to IRAs that are insured.

The program’s governing board will be chaired by the state treasurer and include the state controller; the state director of finance; and members appointed by the governor, Senate president, and Assembly speaker.

Viability of the program hinges on whether the IRA-like accounts qualify for federal pre-tax treatment under the tax code and whether the accounts are not considered pensions that would fall under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. The governing board will ask the Internal Revenue Service and the Labor Department to issue determinations on those questions.

If the retirement program is eventually allowed to go forward through enactment of another bill, employers of five or more people would be required to offer the savings option to workers. Employees would be able to opt out of the program, but if they do
participate, they would contribute 3 percent of their annual earnings into the fund.

S.B. 1234 and S.B. 923 do not apply to employees covered by collective bargaining agreements that provide pension plans; railroad employees; or employees of federal, state, or local government agencies.

The governing board would hire outside firms to manage the investments, which would have a guaranteed rate of return tied to 30-year Treasury bonds.

Both bills had the support of labor groups, including the Service Employees International Union. Last-minute amendments to the bills led to a neutral position from groups that had opposed the measure, including the California Chamber of Commerce. 10.8.2012

Beginning January 1, 2013, a new law will require employers that have any employees who will receive commissions for providing services in California to have written commission agreements that meet specific requirements.

Assembly Bill 1396, which amends Section 2751 of the state Labor Code, applies to each employee paid a commission, regardless of whether it represents all or just a portion of the employee’s compensation, and to employers located in or outside of the state. Former Labor Code 2751 required out-of-state employers to have written contracts with their California employees who are paid a commission, including details about the method of paying the commissions. The law was invalidated by a federal court because it
treated California-based companies more favorably than employers who had no fixed place of business in California.

AB 1396 corrects this defect by imposing the same requirements on California employers. Thus, as of January 1, 2013, both California and non-California based employers must have written contracts with employees in California who are paid in whole or part on a commission basis.

Commission wages don’t include short-term productivity bonuses (for example, those paid to retail clerks). The term also doesn’t encompass bonus and profit-sharing plans—unless the employer has offered to pay a fixed percentage of sales or profits as compensation for work to be performed.   10.08.2012

Upcoming Seminars

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