List of Office Holiday Party Do’s and Don’ts

Office Holiday party

The holiday season is fast approaching, and between the rituals of hanging up lights and shopping for gifts, there’s another event to remember: the office holiday party. No matter how much you like your coworkers, the prospect of going to the annual holiday party may strike fear into your heart. Read our ultimate list of do’s and don’ts to ensure you thrive at this year’s event.

Don’t: Decline the Invitation

We get it. Holiday parties have the potential to be awkward affairs (like that time your boss’s boss was heading your way from across the room just as Bob from Accounting launched into another one of his very off-color stories). No matter how tempted you are to ditch the party this year, stop and rethink your actions. The holiday party is an excellent opportunity to network, show your face, and remind everyone that you’re a team player. You owe it to yourself to put in an appearance, even if you only stay for an hour.

Do: Remember that This is a Business Event

No matter how relaxed your office culture, it’s essential to remember that the holiday party is first and foremost a work event. When people are dressed festively, the drinks are flowing, and everyone is having a good time, it may seem like the lines are a bit blurred. Be yourself, but act as though your boss is watching. After all, he or she might be doing just that!

Do: Ask About the Dress Code

Hopefully your party invitation comes with a note about the dress code, but if not, ask around. Offices vary widely in how formal or dressy their holiday events may be, and you don’t want to feel uncomfortably over- or under-dressed. Feel free to be trendy and dress with personality, but err on the side of being slightly more conservative than you would at a friend’s holiday event.

Don’t: Talk Business Incessantly

Of course, the one thing that brings all of you together is your shared workplace. When that’s your point of commonality, it can mean that talk automatically turns to the office. Talking business is okay in small doses, but use the holiday party to get to know your colleagues as people. Talk about their families, pets, leisure activities, travel plans, or other more personable topics. This will help you get to know your colleagues better and will help you make a good impression.

Don’t: Drink Excessively

This should go without saying, yet every office holiday party seems to have that one person careening across the room, sloshing their drink. Yes, there may be an open bar. Yes, you should feel free to imbibe and enjoy yourself. Just know your limit, and switch to water after a couple of drinks. You want to be memorable, but not for being “that person.”

Do: Know Who Is Invited

Some offices encourage employees to bring spouses or significant others to the party. Others prefer to keep it just to people who work at the company. Ask about your company’s policy beforehand. Nobody wants to be the only person who invited their partner to a work event (and believe us, your partner won’t feel comfortable either).

Don’t: Forget to Thank Your Host

Just like at any other party, it’s important to thank your host. This means that you should go up to your boss or the most senior person at the party and thank them warmly for hosting the party. (This has the added bonus of making you stand out to the higher ups). Also remember that support staff workers or members of your office events committee likely put in hard hours of work to make the party happen. A sincere “thank you” can go a long way to making them feel like their effort paid off.

Do: Mingle with New People

It’s tempting to hang out with the people you see on a day-to-day basis, but remember to branch out beyond your team. The holiday party brings people from all departments together, so take the time to get to know your colleagues from other parts of the organization. This can be a fantastic networking opportunity.

Do: Have Fun!

At the end of the day, it’s just a party. The whole reason your company throws a holiday party is to celebrate and thank you for your hard work. It’s a chance for you to relax and enjoy the company of your colleagues, so remember to have fun!

 

Marijan Pavisic MS SPHR

Can I work with an expired green card (Permanent Residence Card)?

XFOEXNY4WO5T4RUTDCVA2SFUJQ

 

 

 

 

Although you can work with an expired green card, it’s extremely difficult to start a new job with an expired green card. As a permanent resident, you may lawfully work in the United States. The problem is that when your green card expires, you can no longer prove your immigration status.

Accepting New Employment with an Expired Green Card

It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain new employment with an expired green card. U.S. employers are required by law to confirm that all new hires are authorized to work in the U.S. To satisfy this requirement, you must provide valid proof of your permanent resident status. Generally, this means you must present an unexpired green card.

When you start a new job, your employer will most likely ask you to complete a Form I-9. The Form I-9 is an employment verification document that the employer uses to verify your identity and employment authorization. The employer must review a physical copy of your valid green card. The employer cannot legally accept a photocopy or expired card.

Existing Work with an Expired Green Card

When your green card expires, your status as a U.S. permanent resident does not expire. If you are employed at the time your green card expires, there’s no reason for you to inform your employer. What’s more, there’s no reason that your employer should ask you for an updated green card. Therefore, if you’ve been continuously employed with the same organization since completing your original I-9, your employer should not request a new green card and should allow you to work with an expired green card.

Of course, nobody has complete job security. It’s always a possibility that you’ll be looking for a new job in the near future. You might even get an unexpected job offer. Without valid proof of your permanent resident status, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to accept new employment.

How can resolve this quickly?

To renew (or replace) a green card, permanent residents must file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. However, it may take approximately six months to get the new card. There may be a solution to help you work with an expired green card.

Once you’ve filed Form I-90, USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment. At this routine appointment, most USCIS offices will offer a sticker to place on your expired green card. The sticker extends the validity so that you can accept new employment. The biometrics appointment generally gets scheduled about 4-6 weeks after filing Form I-90. Need it faster?

If you cannot wait for the biometrics appointment or perhaps you’ve lost your card altogether. In this case you may be able to obtain an “I-551” stamp in your passport. You must have a valid, unexpired passport from your home country. Schedule an appointment at your local USCIS office. Take your passport and the I-797C, Notice of Action, that you received by mail approximately 1-2 weeks after filing Form I-90. The USCIS officer should be able to provide an I-551 stamp inside your passport. This stamp serves as valid proof of your permanent residence and can be used to accept new work, even with the expired green card.

Update from feds: DOL releases opinion letters regarding FMLA, FLSA

DOL

It was a busy week for the DOL — not only did the agency release a new set of FMLA forms for employers, but it wrote four opinion letters addressing several FMLA and FLSA concerns. 

As far as the forms go, the only thing that changed is the expiration date. The updated FMLA forms are exactly the same as the previous set.

The opinion letters will be of more interest to employers, as they address tricky scenarios managers may run into when dealing with the FMLA or FLSA.

Here’s a rundown of the situations the DOL addressed in the letters:

1. Organ donation is covered under the FMLA

In FMLA 2018-2-A, an employer asked whether an employee could use FMLA leave for undergoing organ donation surgery. The DOL says yes. Even if the employee was in good health before the surgery, organ donation still qualifies as a “serious health condition,” and therefore is covered under the FMLA.

A serious health condition is defined as an illness or physical condition that requires inpatient care at a hospital. Since the typical hospital stay after organ donation surgery is four to seven days, this certainly qualifies as a serious health condition.

2. FMLA leave “freezes” no-fault attendance policies.

In FMLA 2018-1-A, an employer detailed its attendance policy. Employees would accrue points for absences, and if those absences added up to a certain number in a year, they’d be terminated. But employees could also shave some points off with consistent good attendance. The employer’s question? If an employee takes FMLA leave, does that mean they cannot accrue or lose any absence points?

The DOL said yes, employers are permitted to “freeze” the absence points of employees on FMLA leave. It’d be an FMLA violation to give employees absence points while on leave, but it’d also be an unfair benefit to remove points while employees were not working.

Note: This freezing policy must apply equally to all types of leave, such as vacation and worker’s comp.

3. Voluntary health and wellness events can be unpaid.

In FLSA 2018-20, an employer asked if employees needed to be paid for attending voluntary biometric screenings during the work day. The DOL says no. Since the event is voluntary, and is primarily for the benefit of the employee, it isn’t compensable. When an employee is attending a wellness event, they are relieved of their job duties.

4. Clarification on retail or service establishment exemption

In FLSA 2018-21, an employer wanted to know if the “retail or service establishment” exemption applied to sales reps at their business. The company sold a unique technology platform to a variety of clients, and not in large quantities. The DOL decided this type of business qualified for the exemption.

The retail or service establishment exemption says employees don’t receive overtime pay if they meet the following requirements:

  • they work at a retail or service establishment
  • their regular rate of pay exceeds one and a half times the minimum wage, and
  • more than half their earnings consist of commissions.

 

Marijan Pavisic MS SPHR

Hiring Ex-Offenders Is a Positive Move

secondchance-e1461099468455-300x239

As the labor market tightens in our expanding economy, companies will need workers. And people returning to society from prison need jobs. Keeping potential employers and employees apart is fear, lack of understanding, and about 20,000 statutes and regulations across the country that restrict the hiring of ex-offenders.

Businesses and governments want to change that. Yesterday, the White House hosted a roundtable comprising executives from such companies as Uber, Home Depot, and Johns Hopkins Health System, as well as officials like governors John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Matt Bevin of Kentucky, to discuss the challenges and benefits of hiring the group of people now referred to as formerly incarcerated.

Crime has been in decades-long decline, but roughly 70 million adults in this country have criminal records; and more than 10 million return to their communities from incarceration each year. For this group, more jobs equals lower recidivism equals better lives. Yet fresh starts are curtailed by cultural bias, skills deficits, and myriad regulatory barriers. Among the most common: state rules that deny professional licenses to people with criminal histories.

Roundtable participants said they would like to see such rules eased or eliminated. They also want more collaboration between governments and businesses to create pathways from incarceration to employment (primarily for nonviolent offenders). The idea of creating more job-training programs inside prisons was discussed. So was raising the profile of the Department of Labor’s 52-year-old federal bonding program, which guarantees for six months the honesty of hard-to-place job candidates, including people with criminal records.

The smallest business at the table was also the most experienced. For more than 30 years, Greyston Bakery, based in Yonkers, New York, has practiced “open hiring”–filling available positions with anyone who wants them, no questions asked. The $20 million company has employed thousands of ex-offenders. Around 65 percent of the current workforce has been incarcerated.

During the roundtable, Greyston CEO Mike Brady dispelled some of the myths around hiring ex-offenders, whom he called “fully functional and productive members of our team.” Insurance and workers’ comp costs at Greyston are no higher than at comparable businesses, and turnover is actually lower. “Our history is a demonstration that people coming out of the criminal justice system make for an amazing workforce,” said Brady, in a follow-up interview.

Brady urges businesses to be much more inclusive about hiring. Growing competition for talent, he says, “is a great opportunity to look at your human capital plans and make them more welcoming.” The challenge for small companies differs from large ones, however. “We don’t have a large staff of human resources people and lawyers who would raise obstacles to these programs,” he says. “But those resources would also make it easier for us to address risks.”

Policymakers have been making some strides. For example, more than 150 cities and counties have adopted ban-the-box rules preventing employers from asking about criminal history on job applications. But there’s a distinction between making it harder for companies to not hire the formerly incarcerated and persuading them to actively seek out ex-offenders and help them become valued employees. “The governor of Kentucky said we have to keep biting the apple. There is just so much low-hanging fruit,” says Brady. “Progressive businesses have an opportunity to take the lead in giving people a chance. It has got a positive ROI if you do it right.”

Everyone deserves a 2nd chance.

NYC Mayor DiBlasio signs package of sexual harassment bills

Sexual Harrasement

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday signed 11 bills that aim to bolster protections against sexual harassment — both for municipal and private employees.

The measures triple the statute of limitations for filing a complaint with city government from one to three years and mandate that city agencies publicly report each complaint received.

Additionally, private firms with 15 or more employees must now provide anti-sexual-harassment training annually, de Blasio said.

“The offhand offensive remark or innuendo, the joke masking as micro-aggression, and the unwanted contact . . . today we are saying that we as a city will no longer let it slide, we will no longer let it stand,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who sponsored one of the bills.

“This is about setting a positive ­example for everyone.”

City Hall recently revealed that municipal workers filed 1,425 complaints of sexual harassment between July 2013 and December 2017, of which 221 were substantiated.

In response to questions from ­reporters, the Mayor’s Office has promised it would reveal how workers were disciplined in the substantiated cases — but it has yet to do so.

De Blasio came under fire last month for questioning whether the reports were legitimate, blaming the 471 at the Department of Education on a “hyper-complaint dynamic” at the agency.

Employees name 4 biggest workplace distractions: Here’s how to help them

officespace

It’s not surprising that a recent survey found 69% of full-time employees get distracted at work. The more interesting finding is that 70% of workers think their managers could help them focus better through training. 

Udemy conducted a survey of 1,000 full-time office workers in the U.S. to find what was causing the distractions, how employees cope with them and what employers can do to help workers regain their focus.

Biggest distractions

Fifty-four percent of employees believe they are underperforming due to workplace distractions. Here’s what topped the list:

  • Talkative co-workers (80%)
  • Office noise (70%)
  • Meetings (60%), and
  • Social media (56%).

The majority of workers who said social media was the biggest distraction admitted that its use wasn’t work-related, but they couldn’t get through the day without checking personal accounts. One-third of millennial employees are on their phones for up to two hours during the workday.

A lot of workers are aware these distractions affect their productivity and try to combat them on their own.

Forty-three percent of employees shut their cell phones off during work. Thirty percent listen to music to block out conversations and other noises. And when workers know they’re distracted and won’t be able to focus, 26% use that time to complete simpler tasks.

What employees need to focus

Distractions not only impact productivity, but also have a long-term impact on careers.

Twenty-two percent of workers think distractions can prevent them from reaching their full potential and advancing in their careers, while 34% said distractions simply make them like their job less.

Employees had some ideas of what would make them more inclined to focus at work:

  • Trying new things (54%)
  • Being encouraged to learn new skills (42%)
  • Knowing the path for professional advancement (35%), and
  • Participating in workplace trainings (22%).

The survey also found some more tangible things employers can do to cut down on distractions. Here are the top suggestions:

  • Allow flexible schedules/telecommuting (40%)
  • Have designated spaces for quiet work and teamwork (38%)
  • Provide time management training (37%)
  • Define office norms for noise levels, conversations, etc. (31%), and
  • Have regular “no meetings” days.

IRS’ first FAQ on paid-leave credit answers some key questions

download

Employers finally have federal guidance regarding the paid-leave tax credit created under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), but that guidance is likely to fall short of what many firms were expecting.

In fact, in the initial FAQ on the tax-credit, the IRS even said it will eventually offer more comprehensive guidance for employers. But until that additional guidance comes, employers will have to make do with what the feds just rolled out.

12.5% to 25% credit

What employers already knew about the credit: It was established for employers that provide paid family and medical leave, as described under the FMLA, to employees for wages paid between Jan. 1, 2018, and Dec. 31, 2019 and will sunset unless Congress decides to extend it. Employees on leave must be paid at least 50% of their normal wages while on leave.

The tax credit ranges from 12.5-25% of the amount of wages paid to a worker during leave, depending on exactly how much of their normal wages are actually paid out. The credit only applies to those who earn below $72,000 and doesn’t apply if by paid leave is mandated by their state or local law.

While the FAQ essentially reiterated a lot of what was in the TCJA, it did clarify what constitutes “paid family and medical leave” under the credit:

  • Birth of an employee’s child and to care for the child.
  • Placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care.
  • To care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition.
  • A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the functions of his or her position.
  • Any qualifying exigency due to an employee’s spouse, child, or parent being on covered active duty (or having been notified of an impending call or order to covered active duty) in the Armed Forces.
  • To care for a service member who is the employee’s spouse, child, parent, or next of kin.

In addition, if employers provide paid vacation, personal, medical or sick leave that isn’t specifically for one of those reasons, it will not be considered family and medical leave for the purposes of the tax credit.

The FAQ also clarified how employers must calculate the credit. For example, companies must reduce their deductions for wages paid by the amount of any tax credit for paid leave.

The attorneys over at Winston & Strawn LLP offered a specific example of how the calculation would apply to an employee earning $50,000 that included $5,000 of paid FMLA leave. In this example, the employer received a $1,250 credit for the leave it provided. Therefore, it could only deduct $48,750 of the employee’s wage expense ($50,000-$1,250).

What the feds didn’t include

Despite the clarifications, the IRS said IT has a lot more guidance coming on the finer points of the credit. Specifically, the agency said it will address (“eventually”) the following in future guidance:

  • When the written policy [on paid FMLA for purposes of tax-credit calculation] must be in place;
  • How paid “family and medical leave” relates to an employer’s other paid leave;
  • How to determine whether an employee has been employed for “one year or more”;
  • The impact of state and local leave requirements; and
  • Whether members of a controlled group of corporations and businesses under common control are treated as a single taxpayer in determining the credit.