NH employment law changes – Recently enacted New Hampshire legislation relative to the minimum wage and the status of civil unions will create obligations for employers in the Granite state. Effective September 1, the minimum wage will increase from $5.15 per hour to $6.50, and to $7.25 on September 1, 2008. In addition, New Hampshire joins a handful of other states (VT, CT, NJ) in recognizing civil unions of same-gender couples. Charla Bizios Stevens highlights some of the ways this could effect employers:
“Each benefit offered to employees will need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis in order to determine whether the employer can, should or must offer the same coverage to civil union partners as it does to spouses. For example, federal law (ERISA) still governs employer-provided benefits and pre-empts state law. ERISA and the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) prohibit the recognition of civil unions or same-sex marriages. Therefore, the term spouse, when used in benefit plans governed by ERISA, does not include civil union partners.
State-mandated benefits, such as crime victim leave, must also be offered in scenarios in which it would be offered to spouses. If the employer provides medical, dental or other insurance benefits to spouses, the same coverage must be provided to domestic partners. Employers who provide self-insured medical, dental and other benefits must make sure the plan documents clearly identify whether or not domestic partners are covered as they are not covered by the same state laws that govern insured plans.”
The linked article also notes other minor legislative changes, as well as some proposed legislation that was not enacted. In a related matter, the state of Washington’s domestic partnership law goes into effect today. While the law is limited in its protections, some benefits will be extended to same-sex partners of state employees. Private sector employers have no specific obligations relative to this law.
COBRA – If you think having under 20 employees protects you from COBRA obligations, you may be wrong. Michael Fox of Jottings By an Employer’s Lawyer discusses how an employer’s conduct can jeopardize the COBRA threshold exemption. More on this topic from Diane Pfadenhauer of Strategic HR Lawyer.
Surprise your employees with a creative bonus – Jay Shepard of Gruntled Employees blogs about Apple’s iPhone give away to employees, discussing many reasons why it was such a smart move on the part of Apple. He uses this as an object lesson to suggest that employers who find creative and surprising ways to reward employee will in turn be rewarded with better performance. Makes good sense.
Exempt vs. non-exempt – In response to a reader question, Evil HR Lady discusses the perils of misclassifying all employees as exempt in a misguided effort “to be nice.” She points out the very real consequences of violating employment laws and suggests that, “Being a manager is very much like being a parent. It’s fine to be a parent and a friend, but when those two roles come in conflict, you always have to pick being the parent.”
New employee drug use survey – According to a new Health and Human Services survey, as many as 1 in 12 of your employees may be using illegal drugs. And some businesses are more at risk than others: The highest rates were among restaurant workers, 17.4 percent, and construction workers, 15.1 percent, according to a federal study. About 4 percent of teachers and social service workers reported using illegal drugs in the past month.
Background checks and social networking – George Lenard of George’s Employment Blawg has an excellent series of posts on the pros and cons of employers using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace in hiring, background checking, and discipling or firing employees. A good read from a knowledgeable source: part 1, part 2 and part 3
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