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June Focus for Heath, Wellness & Safety

June is National Safety Month.  Injuries are a leading cause of disability for people of all ages – and they are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44. But there are many things people can do to stay safe and prevent injuries. The month is cosponsored by the National Safety Council (NDC). Each week in June, the NSC will provide downloadable resources highlighting a different safety topic:

Week 1: Stand Ready to Respond
Week 2: Be Healthy
Week 3: Watch Out for Dangers
Week 4: Share Roads Safely

They will also sponsor a free webinar on June 14: Hidden Epidemics: What the data tell us about our safety



Other Health, Wellness & Safety Observances in June

Fruits & Vegetables Month – Learn the top 10 reasons to eat more fruits & vegetables and find recipes, meal planning tips and more at More Matters, a health initiative focused on helping Americans increase fruit & vegetable consumption for better health

Men’s Health Month – Heighten the awareness of preventable health problems and encourage early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. This month gives health care providers, public policy makers, the media, and individuals an opportunity to encourage men and boys to seek regular medical advice and early treatment for disease and injury. June 13-19, 2016 is Men’s Health Week

Great Outdoors Month 2016
A truly American idea, the State and National Parks of this country represent our natura lheritage. This June, celebrate the natural wonder and outdoor spirit of America by getting outside during Great Outdoors Month. Once you come outside, you’ll never want to go back inside.

Fireworks Safety Month – 230 people on average go the emergency room every day with fireworks-related injuries in the month around the July 4th holiday. Sparklers can burn at 2,000°F, hot as a blow torch.

June 4 – American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day

June 5 – National Cancer Survivors’ Day

June 5 – 11 – National Rip Current Awareness Week

June 11 – Get Outdoors Day

June 17 – Eat Your Vegetables Day

June 19 – World Sickle Cell Day

June 19-24 – Lightning Safety Awareness Week

June 27 – National HIV Testing Day

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overtime rules

Employer Toolkit: FLSA Overtime Rule Change

It’s a shoe that employers have been expecting to drop: Today, the Department of Labor announced the final Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime rule change, which will increase the exempt salary threshold to $47,476 a year, more than twice the current salary threshold of $23,660. This is slightly less than the $50,400 that was proposed in 2015. The rule will affect millions of workers and will take  effect as of December 1, 2016.

Here is the Overtime final rule summary – Department of Labor main page

From the DOL page: Key Provisions of the Final Rule

The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  • Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
  • Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and
  • Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.

The effective date of the final rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

U.S. Department of Labor Blog: Plenty of Options with New Overtime Rule
overtime rules


Email from President Obama: I’ve Got News For You on Overtime


Economic Policy Institute report: The new overtime rule will directly benefit 12.5 million working people

As the tables show, raising the overtime salary threshold will directly benefit a broad range of working people, including:

  • 6.4 million women, or 50.9 percent of all directly benefiting workers
  • 4.2 million parents and 7.3 million children (under age 18)
  • 1.5 million blacks (who make up 8.9 percent of the salaried workforce but 12.0 percent of directly benefiting workers), and 2.0 million Hispanics (who make up 11.8 percent of the salaried workforce but 16.0 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 3.6 million workers age 25 to 34 (who make up 22.9 percent of the salaried workforce but 28.7 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 4.5 million millennials, defined as workers age 16 to 34 (who make up 28.2 percent of the salaried workforce but 36.3 percent of directly benefiting workers)
  • 3.2 million workers with a high school degree but not more education (who make up 15.5 percent of the salaried workforce but 25.3 percent of directly benefiting workers)

Employment Law Commentary & Resources on Overtime Rule

Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer’s Law Blog
I scream, you scream, we all scream … for the FLSA’s new salary test

Employers, you have a little more than six months to get your wage-and-hour houses in order. You need to figure out which of your exempt employees make less than $47,476, and determine what you are going to do with them—switch them to non-exempt or gross-them up to the new salary level.
If you switch them to non-exempt, you will have to deal with the employee-relations issues that arise from tracking (or restricting) overtime and limiting flexibility. If you gross them up to keep them exempt, you will have to deal with the employee-relations issues that arise from salary contraction. Will your manager be happy that she is being paid nearly the same as her assistant manager / supervisee?

Eric B. Meyer, The Employer Handbook
The new DOL overtime rules are here. You’ve got HR questions? I have answers!

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Prescription Medicine

Opioid abusers cost employers nearly twice as much in healthcare costs

Prescription Medicine

Opioid abusers cost employers nearly twice as much ($19,450) in medical expenses on average annually as non-abusers ($10,853), according to a recent report on how prescription drugs are affecting the workplace. What’s more, nearly a third of the pain medications abused by employees were paid for by the employer.

In Insurance Journal, Andrew G. Simpson reports on the study by San Francisco-based Castlight Health Inc.: Employers Pay As 32% of Opioid Prescriptions Are Abused: Report.


Simpson quotes study authors:

“The personal impact that opioid painkiller abuse takes on individuals, their friends and family is absolutely tragic,” said Kristin Torres Mowat, senior vice president of health plan and strategic data operations at Castlight Health. “This crisis is also having a significant impact on the nation’s employers, both in the form of direct and indirect costs. From higher spending on healthcare, to lost productivity, to the dangers associated with employees abusing medications in the workplace— these are aspects of the crisis that are too often overlooked in the current discussion.”

The study is one of a number of reports pointing to the high cost of prescription drug and opiod abuse in the workplace. Simpson links to many of these in the article.

Access the full study here: The Opioid Crisis in America’s Workforce

Recent and related articles on opioids

Survey Shows Need to Better Educate on Opioids
At Risk and Insurance, Nancy Grover reports on a study of treating physicians which shows that physicians need more training on opioids, addiction and pain management.

‘You want a description of hell?’ OxyContin’s 12-hour problem
Los Angeles Times investigative report: “… new insight into why so many people have become addicted to OxyContin, one of the most abused pharmaceuticals in U.S. history.”

More on the opioid crisis and the fentanyl factor
Workers’ Comp Insider reports that Massachusetts has seen a 190% increase in opioid deaths in five years, and many of those deaths show evidence of the confirmed presence of fentanyl, a synthetic opioid 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

Prescription Drug Guidelines: What employers need to know
Our prior post on HR Web Cafe talks about:

  • The scope of the crisis
  • Why should employers care?
  • What employers can do: Tools and resources for workplace programs
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The high cost of work stress: Take the stress test to see where you fall

Work stress is a funny thing and requires a delicate balance. Too much stress can be damaging to our health, our productivity and our overall sense of well being – check out the infographic below to get a sense of the toll it takes. But some stress can be good and can spur us on. In fact, studies show that some stress can actually be beneficial to our performance. But how much stress is too much? In Harvard Business Review, Francesca Gino offers a test to measure your stress in her article Are You Too Stressed to Be Productive? Or Not Stressed Enough? Take the test to see how you compare with the average. If you come out on the high side of the average, she offers some strategies to help reduce stress.

For other tips to manage stress, see:


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HR News Roundup: EEOC on transgender bathrooms; pregnant employees; interns and more

EEOC Issues Fact Sheet: Bathroom Access Rights for Transgender Employees Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Related: Transgender bathrooms is a solution in search of a problem

Jon Hyman of Ohio Employer’s Law Blog links to a variety of employment law blogs, commenting on this issue and the EEOC transgender employee fact sheet. He notes:

Here’s the bottom line.

Like OSHA said in similar guidance nearly a year ago, it is illegal to require an employee to use the bathroom of his of her gender of birth, or a single-user bathroom. Instead, an employer must permit a transgender employee to use the bathroom of the gender with which the employee identifies.

Pay Attention to Laws Affecting Transgender Employees
Dan Bowling and Lauren Sanders, Talent Management

The crux of legal complaints by aggrieved employees is that federal sex discrimination laws, which prohibit discrimination based only upon biological sex, also protect persons on the basis of their gender identity. They have found support with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC is the federal agency responsible for enforcing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the principal federal law outlawing discrimination based on gender, race, color, national origin and religion in the private sector. In 2012, an EEOC administrative judge determined that Title VII’s prohibitions on sex discrimination also prohibit discrimination because an employee is transgender. Last year, the agency reaffirmed its position in another administrative appeal.


SHRM: Anxiety over Transgender Women in Restrooms Persists
OSHA: A Guide to Restroom Access for Transgender Workers

Accommodating Pregnant Employees
Susan Schoenfeld, HR Daily Advisor

The challenge of how and when to accommodate pregnant employees has moved to the forefront as a result of recent changes to the law and recent guidance coming from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In July 2015, the EEOC issued revised guidance addressing an employer’s obligation to accommodate pregnant employees in light of the Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service Doc. No. 12–1226 (2015). EEOC’s Enforcement Guidance on Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues makes it clear that Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), prohibits discrimination based on current pregnancy, past pregnancy, potential or intended pregnancy (i.e., because a woman might get pregnant), and medical conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.

Related: Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace Is on the Rise, Says New Study

For Many Working Moms, the Struggle is Real
The Hiring Site Blog

CareerBuilder’s annual Mother’s Day survey reveals that at least 2 in 5 working moms and dads are the sole breadwinners for their households; yet working dads are almost three times as likely to earn $50,000 or more and three times as likely to earn six figures.

Although they face equal pressure to take care of their families, working moms who are the sole financial providers are still significantly lagging behind working dads in terms of salary.

Only one woman was named CEO of a major company in North America in 2015
Jena McGregor, Washington Post

Just four percent of S&P 500 CEOs are women. Only 19 percent of those companies’ board members are women. Yet even among the discouraging stats about the number of women in corporate leadership roles, this one stands out: Exactly one of the 87 new CEOs named to lead the largest public companies in the United States or Canada in 2015 was a woman, according to a new report.

Unpaid Interns, Under Scrutiny
C. Forbes Sargent III, National Law Review

With summer just a few short months away, employers across the country are gearing up to welcome this year’s class of anxious young college students as summer interns. While labor is in no short supply, free intern labor is under scrutiny. Employers need to takes steps to ensure their intern programs align with federal and state regulations.

Are older Americans healthy enough to work longer?
Charlotte M. Irby, Monthly Labor Review

Should people in the United States work longer since they are living longer, with women now living to be approximately 81 and men 76? Better yet, maybe the question that needs to be asked is, “Do older Americans have the health capacity to work longer?” Courtney Coile, Kevin S. Milligan, and David A. Wise discuss this question in their paper, “Health capacity to work at older ages: evidence from the U.S.” (National Bureau of Economic Research, working paper no. 21940, January 2016).

Currently, employment drops off rapidly once people reach their 60s, but, according to the authors, health tends to decline “steadily but quite gradually with age.” With increases in the Social Security retirement age and with some talk of a possible higher eligibility age for Medicare, the authors feel that older people’s health capacity to work longer is indeed a topic worth investigating.

Quick takes: More noteworthy HR news



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FMLA Employer Guide

3 from the DOL: New FMLA Guide & Poster; Veterans Job Portal; FLSA Salary Test Update

Here are three updates from the Department of Labor that all employers should note.

FMLA Issues New Employee Poster & Employer’s Guide

The Department of Labor has issued a new FMLA Employee Rights poster with this reminder:

“All covered employers are required to display and keep displayed a poster prepared by the Department of Labor summarizing the major provisions of The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and telling employees how to file a complaint. The poster must be displayed in a conspicuous place where employees and applicants for employment can see it. A poster must be displayed at all locations even if there are no eligible employees.”

DOL has also issued The Employer’s Guide to Family and Medical Leave Act. The 76-page booklet can be downloaded as a PDF. Print copies of the FMLA Employer Guide will be available to order from the Wage and Hour Online Publication Ordering System by mid-June, 2016.

FMLA Employer Guide

Jeff Nowak of FMLA Insights talks about this and offers links at: DOL Issues New FMLA Poster and Publishes Guide to Help Employers Administer FMLA.  Nowak says that he and other employer-side leaders were able to offer feedback on the Guide, and notes that it is a decent, user-friendly resource even if some thorny issues remain unaddressed.

FLSA’s salary test

Jon Hyman of Ohio Employer’s Law Blog posts about the anticipated FLSA’s salary test to an expected $50,440 per year – but are they thinking of lowering the salary threshold? See his post Looks like the DOL just put its new salary test on the discount rack . Unconfirmed word on the street is that the threshold may be lowered to $47,000 – final rules are expected this summer, with the effective date being in September.

Veterans Job Resource

The US Department of Labor Blog announces the launch of a virtual, one-stop online employment services website for veterans. The new site can be found at Resources include:

For Job Seekers

  • Connect with one-on-one assistance in the nearly 2,500 American Job Centers located conveniently in communities around the country.
  • Explore online job listings.
  • Search career paths by industry, by similarity to military careers, or by keyword.
  • Locate approved local training programs, colleges and universities.
  • Find federal jobs as well as government career programs in sectors like agriculture, transportation, energy/utilities and homeland security.
  • Learn how to start a business.

For Employers

  • Connect with our regional employer outreach specialists, who can share local resources for meeting your unique hiring needs.
  • Post position descriptions and openings.
  • Get a free hiring toolkit, “America’s Heroes at Work,” and other resources.
  • Make a public commitment to hire veterans.
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