Vision Payroll

November 19, 2011

US Department of Labor National Emergency Grant to Assist Workers Affected by Layoffs at 12 Massachusetts Companies

US Department of Labor National Emergency Grant to Assist Workers Affected by Layoffs at 12 Massachusetts Companies
US Department of Labor National Emergency Grant to Assist Workers Affected by Layoffs at 12 Massachusetts Companies
The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced a $2,261,417 National Emergency Grant to provide re-employment services to about 365 workers affected by layoffs at 12 companies throughout Massachusetts, including four employee staffing businesses that provided workers for the other companies.

Layoffs Scheduled to Continue Through 2012

The layoffs, which began in May 2008 and are scheduled to continue until March 2012, are occurring at Biogen Idec in Cambridge, Commercial Sheet Metal in Canton, Covidien in Mansfield, EDO Fiber Innovations/ITT Corp. in Walpole, Henkel Corp. in Billerica, International Power America in Marlborough, Reveal Imaging Technologies Inc. in Bedford and Unilever-Breyers Ice Cream in Framingham. The staffing agencies include Kelly Services in Quincy, Randstad in Boston, Aerostek in Braintree and Total Technical Services in Waltham.

DOL Secretary Solis Comments on Grant

“This funding from the federal government is a step toward helping Massachusetts workers, who face a challenging market, find new employment,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The grant will support efforts to prepare these individuals for good jobs in high-growth occupations.”

Funds Are Awarded to the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development

Awarded to the Massachusetts Department of Workforce Development, the grant will provide training and supportive services for affected workers. Supplemental services will be available to workers who also have been deemed eligible for benefits in the form of Trade Adjustment Assistance. Those who are not eligible for TAA will receive the full array of employment-related services available under this grant.

Additional Funding May be Available at a Later Date

Of the $2,261,417 announced today, $998,078 will be released initially. Additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the commonwealth demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

National Emergency Grants Are Part of Discretionary Fund

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.

September 30, 2011

Question of the Week: What Are the IRS and DOL Doing About Workers Who Receive 1099s?

IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman
IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman
This week’s question comes from Steve, a small business owner.

Steve asks:

I’ve read about the Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) and its application process with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). What are the IRS and Department of Labor (DOL) doing about workers who receive 1099s?

Answer: The IRS and DOL are entering into agreements that include the IRS and DOL as well as several states to share information and coordinate enforcement of current laws and regulations.

Memoranda Signed at Washington Ceremony

Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis recently hosted a ceremony at DOL headquarters in Washington to sign a memorandum of understanding with the IRS that will improve departmental efforts to end the business practice of misclassifying employees in order to avoid providing employment protections. In addition, labor commissioners and other agency leaders representing seven states signed memoranda of understanding with the department’s Wage and Hour Division (WHD) and, in some cases, its Employee Benefits Security Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and Office of the Solicitor. The signatory states are Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Utah and Washington. Secretary Solis also announced agreements for the WHD to enter into memoranda of understanding with the state labor agencies of Hawaii, Illinois and Montana, as well as with New York’s attorney general.

DOL and IRS Will Share Information with Participating States

The memoranda of understanding will enable the DOL to share information and coordinate law enforcement with the IRS and participating states in order to level the playing field for law-abiding employers and ensure that employees receive the protections to which they are entitled under federal and state law.

Secretary Solis: We’re Standing United to End the Practice of Misclassifying Employees

“We’re here today to sign a series of agreements that together send a coordinated message: We’re standing united to end the practice of misclassifying employees,” said Secretary Solis. “We are taking important steps toward making sure that the American dream is still available for all employees and responsible employers alike.”

Commissioner Shulman: We Will Work Together More Efficiently to Address Worker Misclassification Issues

“This agreement takes the partnership between the IRS and DOL to a new level,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “In this new phase of our relationship, we will work together more efficiently to address worker misclassification issues, and better serve the needs of small businesses and employees.”

Misclassification Can Create Economic Pressure for Law-Abiding Business Owners

Business models that attempt to change, obscure or eliminate the employment relationship are not inherently illegal, unless they are used to evade compliance with federal labor laws — for example, if an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor and subsequently denied rights and benefits to which he or she is entitled under the law. In addition, misclassification can create economic pressure for law-abiding business owners.

Memoranda Arose as Part of the Misclassification Initiative

These memoranda of understanding arose as part of the department’s Misclassification Initiative, which was launched under the auspices of Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force with the goal of preventing, detecting and remedying employee misclassification.

Contact Vision Payroll Today

Contact Vision Payroll if you have further questions on the memoranda of understanding.

September 14, 2011

Tip of the Week: The US DOL’s Smartphone App…Made for Your Employees, Part II

The US DOL’s Smartphone App…Made for Your Employees
As previously described, the US Department of Labor (DOL) has launched its “DOL-Timesheet” smartphone application designed specifically to allow employees to track their daily hours worked. The app marks another step in the DOL’s strategic “Plan/Prevent/Protect” initiative of increased workplace compliance enforcement efforts. This app serves as a reminder to employers to make sure that their systems and processes accurately account for employees’ hours worked.

As more and more employees become familiar with, and start to utilize,  the DOL’s timesheet app, they may become more likely to file wage and hour grievances with the DOL. For employers, an important protection against employee grievance filings is making sure that your business satifies its obligations under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Challenges

  • Discrepancies between employer’s and employee’s records
  • Employee manipulation of records for more pay
  • Absence of employer records used as a basis for wage claims

Immediate Actions to Take

  • Require employees and their supervisors to verify (with signatures) the accuracy of time records
  • Review/update relevant employee handbook policies
  • Make sure timekeeping systems are accurate and consistent
  • Regularly audit the company’s time records

Learn More About the DOL Free Smartphone App for Your Employees

To get more details about the DOL free smartphone App for your employees, be sure to read the featured article by the HR pros at MyHRSupportCenter, The US DOL’s Free Smartphone App…Made for Your Employees, Part II. If you’re not yet signed up or would like a free trial of MyHRSupportCenter, contact Vision Payroll today.

August 23, 2011

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Idaho

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Idaho
US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Idaho
The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced a $1,825,595 National Emergency Grant to provide re-employment services to about 250 workers laid off by XL Four Star Beef Inc., following the June closure of the company’s beef processing and packing plant in Nampa, Idaho.

DOL Secretary Solis Comments on Grant

“I know that it is difficult to find a job in an area experiencing high unemployment. That’s why this federal grant which will support the retraining of Canyon County residents is so important,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The Obama administration is committed to assisting both these workers, and at the same time Idaho’s businesses, by making sure the local labor force is ready and able to help support the state’s growing industries.”

Funds Are Awarded to the Idaho Department of Labor

The grant is being awarded to the Idaho Department of Labor, which will use skill assessment tools and career counseling to identify education and retraining opportunities, including English for speakers of other languages instruction. Of the total funding amount, $928,386 will be released initially. Additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

National Emergency Grants Are Part of Discretionary Fund

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.

August 13, 2011

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Ohio

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Ohio
US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Ohio
The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced a $16,233,360 National Emergency Grant that will create 1,144 temporary jobs to assist in cleanup and recovery efforts in the wake of spring storms and flooding that occurred in Ohio. Communities across 15 counties located in the Appalachian region were affected by the storms, which occurred between April 4 and May 15.

DOL Secretary Solis Comments on Grant

“The destruction caused by the floods this spring has placed a terrible strain on thousands of Ohioans, and they need to know their government stands with them as they work to make their communities whole again,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “These emergency funds will help local workers provide for their families as they raze destroyed buildings, repair buildings, and clear streets and streams of debris. After natural disasters like this, it’s critical that Washington steps up to help residents rebuild their neighborhoods and families rebuild their lives.”

Funds Are Awarded to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services

These funds are being awarded to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Of the total award, $3.5 million will be released initially.

FEMA Declared 21 Counties Eligible for Assistance

On July 13, the Federal Emergency Management Agency declared 21 Ohio counties eligible for FEMA’s Public Assistance Program. This grant will assist 15 of those counties, including Athens, Belmont, Gallia, Guernsey, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Lawrence, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Ross, Scioto, Vinton and Washington. Other counties may be added at a later date if further evaluation warrants their inclusion. More information on designated disaster areas in Ohio is available from FEMA at: http://www.fema.gov/news/eventcounties.fema?id=15052.

National Emergency Grants Are Part of Discretionary Fund

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.

August 9, 2011

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Somerset, Pennsylvania

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Somerset, Pennsylvania
US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Somerset, Pennsylvania
The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced a $670,000 National Emergency Grant to provide re-employment services to approximately 145 former workers of FTCA, Inc. (FTCA) who were affected by layoffs at the company’s plant in Somerset, PA. FTCA closed the travel trailer and recreational camper manufacturing facility in January.

DOL Secretary Solis Comments on Grant

“Today’s grant will help these workers update their skills in order to obtain employment in growing local industries,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “The Labor Department is committed to helping American workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, prepare for the jobs of the future.”

Grant Will Be Operated by Southern Alleghenies Workforce Investment Board

Awarded to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, this grant will be operated by the Southern Alleghenies Workforce Investment Board to provide these dislocated workers, all of whom are certified as eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), with access to “wrap-around” and supportive services not available through the TAA program.

Additional Funding May be Available at a Later Date

Of the total award, $334,864 will be released initially. Additional funding up to the amount approved will be made available as the state demonstrates a continued need for assistance.

National Emergency Grants Are Part of Discretionary Fund

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.

August 3, 2011

Tip of the Week: The US Department of Labor’s Free Smartphone App for Your Employees

The US Department of Labor’s Free Smartphone App for Your Employees
The US Department of Labor’s Free Smartphone App for Your Employees
On May 9, 2011, the US Department of Labor (DOL) announced the launch of its first smartphone application, the “DOL-Timesheet” designed specifically for employees. In a DOL news release that same day, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis stated that by leveraging “increasingly popular and available technology …this app will help empower workers to understand and stand up for their rights when employers have denied their hard-earned pay.” However, this tool can be problematic for small to mid-sized businesses. Employers need to take extra caution to ensure that employees are absolutely paid correctly, complaints are handled effectively, and recordkeeping is maintained accurately.

DOL Timesheet Currently Available for iPhone and iPod Touch

The free app is currently compatible with the iPhone and iPod Touch. The Labor Department will explore updates that could enable similar versions for other smartphone platforms, such as Android and BlackBerry, and other pay features not currently provided for, such as tips, commissions, bonuses, deductions, holiday pay, pay for weekends, shift differentials and pay for regular days of rest.

Learn More About the DOL Free Smartphone App for Your Employees

To find get more details about the DOL free smartphone App for our employees, be sure to read the featured article by the HR pros at MyHRSupportCenter, The US DOL’s Free Smartphone App…Made for Your Employees, Part I. If you’re not yet signed up or would like a free trial of MyHRSupportCenter, contact Vision Payroll today.

July 25, 2011

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Spearfish, South Dakota

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Spearfish, South Dakota
US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Spearfish, South Dakota
The US Department of Labor today announced a $379,500 National Emergency Grant to provide training and employment services to about 200 workers affected by the closure of the Premier Bankcard call center in Spearfish, SD. The company announced in May that it would be closing the center and permanently laying off its workers.

DOL Secretary Solis Comments on Grant

“This grant will help dislocated workers by equipping them with the skills necessary to obtain good, stable jobs in the area’s high-growth industries,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Grant Awarded to the South Dakota Department of Labor

Awarded to the South Dakota Department of Labor, the grant will provide services that focus on supporting the needs of local industries, including health care and education.

National Emergency Grants Are Part of Discretionary Fund

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.

July 23, 2011

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Rochester, New Hampshire

US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Rochester, New Hampshire
US Department of Labor Provides Funding to Assist Workers in Rochester, New Hampshire
The US Department of Labor (DOL) recently announced a $248,878 National Emergency Grant to provide training and re-employment services for about 60 workers affected by layoffs at Thompson/Center Arms in Rochester, NH, which began in January and will continue through the end of the year.

DOL Secretary Solis Comments on Grant

“This grant will help these dislocated workers by equipping them with the skills necessary to obtain good, stable jobs in New Hampshire’s high-growth industries,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis.

Southern New Hampshire Services, Inc. Will Operate Grant

Awarded to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development, the grant will be operated by Southern New Hampshire Services, Inc. to prepare the workers for other manufacturing positions available in the area, as well as for positions in non-manufacturing companies in the southern New Hampshire labor market.

Thompson/Center Arms Is Part of Smith & Wesson Holdings

Thompson/Center Arms is a firearms manufacturer that produces pistols, rifles and accessories. The company became a part of Smith & Wesson Holdings in 2007.

National Emergency Grants Are Part of Discretionary Fund

National Emergency Grants are part of the secretary of labor’s discretionary fund and are awarded based on a state’s ability to meet specific guidelines.

July 11, 2011

Prince George’s County Public Schools Agrees to Pay $4.2 Million in Back Wages

Prince George’s County Public Schools Agrees to Pay $4.2 Million in Back Wages
Prince George’s County Public Schools Agrees to Pay $4.2 Million in Back Wages
The US Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has obtained an agreement for Maryland’s Prince George’s County Public Schools system (PGCPS) to pay $4,222,146 in back wages due 1,044 workers to resolve violations of the H-1B temporary foreign worker program. Investigators from the department found that PGCPS illegally reduced the wages of the H-1B workers by requiring them to pay fees that the school system was required to pay.

H-1B Visas Are for Temporary Hiring in Certain Specialty Occupations

The H-1B program allows employers to hire foreign professionals in certain specialty occupations to work temporarily in the US. Workers hired under the H-1B program must be paid at least the same wage rates and benefits as those paid to US workers doing the same job in the same area, so that the wages of similarly employed US workers are not adversely affected.

Foreign Workers Have Been Paid Back Wages

“The Labor Department has the responsibility for ensuring that employers who use the H-1B program follow the law and do not place US workers at a disadvantage to H-1B workers,” said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. “We are pleased this investigation has been resolved with workers paid all the back wages to which they are entitled.”

Civil Money Penalties Will Also Be Paid

Due to the willful nature of some of the violations, PGCPS also has agreed to pay $100,000 in civil money penalties and to be debarred for two years from filing new petitions, requests for extensions or requests for permanent residency for foreign workers under any employment-based visa program. Under the statute governing the H-1B program, willful wage violations are subject to a debarment period of at least two years. Violations are willful when an employer knew or acted in reckless disregard for whether its actions were impermissible.

Certain Fees Reduced Workers’ Wages Below Legal Limits

The H-1B visa program requires that employers pay certain fees, including an anti-fraud fee and a filing fee, when they utilize the program. Instead of paying these fees and other costs associated with recruiting H-1B workers and filing their visa petitions, PGCPS required the foreign workers to pay them. As a result, the workers’ earnings were reduced below the amount legally required to be paid. The Wage and Hour Division’s investigation covered fees associated with the H-1B application process from May 2005 to January 2011.

Agreement Subject To Approval

The agreement is subject to approval by an administrative law judge.

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