Simple Open-Enrollment Tips That Can Make a Big Difference

Thirty-three percent of employees stated their primary emotions when thinking about open enrollment season as annoyance and dread. Read this blog post from SHRM for a few simple tips that can make a big difference this open enrollment season.


Trepidation is what comes to mind for many employees when asked their feelings about open enrollment, the annual period when they select employer-provided benefits for the coming year.

According to a nationally representative sample of 1,000 employees polled earlier this year, 33 percent cited "annoyance" or "dread" as their primary emotions when they thought about open enrollment and just 10 percent of workers said they were "confident" in the benefits choices they made when the enrollment process was over, according to VSP Vision Care's annual Open Talk about Open Enrollment survey.

In another survey, HR software company Namely found that 31 percent of employees give their employer a "C" or lower when it comes to open enrollment.

Here are some tips from benefits experts that will help you raise your grade this open-enrollment season.

What to Do, and Not to Do

Jennifer Benz, national practice leader at benefits communications firm Segal Benz, shared three bad HR practices that undermine open enrollment and three best practices for doing open enrollment the right way.

  • Don't hide vital information from employees. Benz recalls how one company sent out its benefits materials but didn't include monthly costs. "A group of enterprising employees crunched the numbers and came up with estimates and circulated a rogue spreadsheet. Dealing with this communications fiasco took more work" than being upfront about costs, she noted.

Best practice: Be transparent and share the reasons you are making benefits changes. Break down the details and do the work for the employees. Provide scenarios so employees can better understand their options and cost breakdowns for different life situations.

  • Don't cram in every benefit at once. Some companies hand out pages and pages of text, jamming a year's worth of communications into a few weeks, and figure they have done what they need to do. "What they have done is confused their employees," Benz said.

Best practices: Communicate the technical details of your various benefits over time. "Don't assume employees will weed through all your materials to make sense of the benefits offered to them," Benz said. Also make full use of visual aids. "Photos, icons, infographics, memes, charts, graphics and more—they all help to attract, and more importantly hold, people's attention," noted Amber Riley, a communications consultant to Segal Benz. "Whether you're driving an open-enrollment campaign, creating a new benefits guide or promoting a wellness program, when you increase the visual pleasure of what you are communicating, your people are more likely to engage, learn, understand and ultimately take action."

  • Don't give employees too little time to process their open-enrollment choices. While many people wait until the last day to fill out the health care selection forms, they may have been considering their options with family members for weeks, so giving them just a few days to make decisions is not going to be enough.

Best practice: Build in a time frame that gives HR staff and employees the time they need. Benz recommended three weeks.

"People are always talking about learning from the best practices and success stories, but you can also learn a lot from other companies' mistakes," she noted. "When you prepare for enrollment in advance and anticipate issues—including those you and others have experienced in the past—you are better-equipped to avoid missteps. Your employees will notice and appreciate the extra effort."

Help Employees Ace Open Enrollment

"Open enrollment is often time-consuming and confusing for employees, but these choices can make a huge financial impact," said Julie Stich, CEBS, vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans, an association of benefit plan sponsors. She suggested that HR share the following advice with employees to help prepare them for the upcoming enrollment season:

  • Take your time. Take time to really read through the enrollment materials you receive. If you are invited to a face-to-face meeting, make time to attend. It's possible you'll be offered different plan options and coverages this year. The better you understand the changes, the better decisions you'll make.
  • Look ahead. Consider what the next year will look like for you and your family. Are you planning to have a baby? Knee replacement surgery? A root canal? Does someone need braces? New glasses? Keep this in mind as you look at your coverage options.
  • Dive into the details. It's important to note whether the plans' provider networks have changed. Make sure your doctors are still in-network. Is your chiropractor also covered? Does the plan cover orthodontics? Is your spouse's daily prescription drug covered, and did the coverage change? Also consider areas of need like access to specialists, mental health care, therapies, complementary and alternative medicine, and chronic care. Look at the options offered in all plans, including health, dental, vision and disability.
  • Get out your calculator. Add up the amount you'll need to pay toward your health premium plus deductibles, co-payments (flat-dollar amounts) for prescriptions and doctor office visits, and co-insurance (a percentage of the cost you'll pay) for services. Understand what you'll be asked to pay if you seek care outside your network. This will give you a clearer picture of how much you're likely to spend. The plan that looks to be the cheapest option may not really be the cheapest for you.
  • Determine what's right for you. Consider your comfort level with risk. If you want your family to be covered for every eventuality, a more traditional plan, if one is offered, might be right for you. If you're comfortable taking on some upfront costs, a high-deductible plan with a lower premium ight be your plan of choice.
  • Take advantage of extras. Your employer may offer the option to reduce your health premiums in exchange for your participation in a wellness program or health-risk assessment. It may match some or all of the money you save in your 401(k) plan. It might let you set aside tax-deferred money into a health savings account or flexible spending account. Also, check with your employer to see if it offers voluntary insurance with a group discount and payroll deduction for premiums—like critical-illness, pet, auto and homeowners coverage. If these options work for your situation, sign up.
  • Ask questions. Don't be shy about asking your HR or benefits department to explain something if you're not sure. They're there to help and want you to make the best decisions for your situation.

"Taking the time upfront to carefully choose the best options will help employees better manage their finances throughout the year, alleviating stress and promoting productivity," Stich said.

SOURCE: Miller, S. (24 September 2019) "Simple Open-Enrollment Tips That Can Make a Big Difference" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/benefits/Pages/simple-open-enrollment-tips-make-a-big-difference.aspx


Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released a health alert warning that severe pulmonary disease is associated with vaping products. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about vaping and how to address it in the workplace.


The use of electronic cigarettes, also known as vaping, is believed to be responsible for five deaths and 450 severe lung injuries in what appears to be a nationwide epidemic, according to new reports.

E-cigarettes are battery-operated and produce vapor that simulates smoking. They can resemble regular cigarettes, cigars, pipes, pens, USB sticks and other everyday items. They do not burn tobacco, but the device heats a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavorings and other chemicals.

While most employers ban smoking in the workplace, their policies don't always extend to e-cigarette products. However, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) health alert on Aug. 30 warned that severe pulmonary disease is associated with using e-cigarette products. The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, launched a multistate investigation into the lung illnesses on Aug. 1.

"Although more investigation is needed to determine the vaping agent or agents responsible," wrote Dr. David C. Christiani of the Harvard School of Medicine, "there is clearly an epidemic that begs for an urgent response." He shared his comments in the Sept. 6 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, along with the preliminary report "Pulmonary Illness Related to E-Cigarette Use in Illinois and Wisconsin."

The CDC is working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, states and other public health partners and clinicians to determine what is sickening users, and in some cases resulting in fatalities. On Friday, it suggested that people refrain from using e-cigarette products during its investigation.

SHRM Online has collected the following articles about this topic from its archives and other trusted sources.  

5 Deaths Linked to Vaping. Officials Are Urging Consumers to Stop. (Chicago Tribune)

How Are You Handling Vaping at Work? (SHRM Online)

More States Ban Vaping, E-Cigarette Use in Workplaces (Bloomberg)

Florida Adds Vaping to Regulated Indoor Smoking (SHRM Online)

SOURCE: Gurchiek, K. (6 September 2019) "Illnesses, Deaths Tied to Vaping" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-news/Pages/Illnesses-Deaths-Tied-to-Vaping-.aspx


Creating High-Performance Teams

Having a high-performance team is essential in creating strong work environments. Can having a plan for more than the hiring process help both future employees and current? Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about creating high-performance teams at your organization.


Every organization needs its teams to deliver a high level of performance to succeed in today’s business environment. Author Omar L. Harris offers clear guidance on how to hire for, support, and guide high-performance teams.

What are some tips to hiring employees to fit into high-performing teams? 

My top tip for hiring employees to fit into high-performing teams is to understand the key mix of attributes that the high-performing team members possess. Look beyond IQ and pedigree and focus on more attitudinal attributes such as work ethic, passion, solution-orientation, and the maturity to productively manage disappointment and conflict.

What are the stages of forming a high-performance team? 

The stages are:

  • hiring the right W.H.O.M. (work ethic, heart, optimism, maturity),
  • effectively onboarding each team member by getting to know them on a deeper level,
  • helping them accelerate their learning curve,
  • setting clear expectations of their roles,
  • building trust between the team members by encouraging vulnerability and open dialogue, and
  • crafting a clear mission with superordinate goals that bring the team together to achieve something that no one could achieve on their own.

What are the hallmarks of a high-performing team? 

One hallmark of a high-performing team is a level of professional intimacy among the team members, meaning they know each other well both as professionals and as people and enjoy working together. A level of transparency and passion for the work being done that leads to productive conflicts resulting in better decision-making. An adherence to norms that define how every member works together. And an absolute focus on delivering results. The characteristics that make this happen are simply people who work hard, have shared passion, search for solutions with a sense of urgency, and have the maturity to overcome inevitable conflicts and disappointments.

How can senior leadership create a culture of strong teams? 

Focus on creating a team of managers who love achieving results by putting their people in their strengths zones and developing their capacity and talents.

Do high-performance teams vary across companies, industries, or geographies? 

I've had the opportunity to lead teams across the world in the U.S., Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, and people are the same all around the world. People want to be valued. They want to believe in the mission of their organization. They want to have opportunities to develop. So leaders who want to create high-performance teams anywhere in the world need to be able to tap into these commonalities and work tirelessly to create the condition for the success of their people.

How can leaders help struggling teams? 

First understand the source of the struggle. Most issues occur during the team formation and team storming stages. And then level-up their own leadership skills to respond to the challenges of the moment. The best advice I can give is to look to deepen the understanding and connection with each member of the team and by improving each members focus and alignment, you improve the team dynamic by default. Lastly, recognize if the ingredients are off and make the necessary decisions to move poisonous people out of the environment.

What are other things to remember about managing high-performance teams? 

Performance is relative and the goal posts must be continually stretched to keep everyone engaged. Also, plan for succession so as people on the team achieve results and receive greater opportunities, the next generation of team members are ready to step up and continue on the mission.

SOURCE: Harris, O. (15 August, 2019) "Creating High-Performance Teams"(Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/creating-high-performance-teams

Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy

Summertime is often a season when work takes a back seat to barbecues and beach vacations. Providing flexibility during the summer months is often appreciated by employees and can help boost engagement. Read this blog post from SHRM for best practices on managing staff during the summer months.


Summertime is that season when "the livin' is easy," as the famous tune by George Gershwin goes—a season when work often takes a back seat to pool parties, barbecues and beach vacations.

How do employers keep workers' heads in the game when their toes are itching for the sand? Or how do they plan for the disruption that summer holidays and vacation schedules inevitably bring? What are their best practices for keeping productivity high?

In the health care industry, patients' needs mean productivity can't fluctuate with the seasons. At Maine Medical Center in Portland, nurse manager Michele Higgins oversees a staff of 70 on an adult general medical unit.

"Summer is busy in health care, especially at a level-one trauma hospital such as Maine Med, but we continue to care effectively for patients, and we remain patient-centered," she said.

Anticipating higher patient traffic in the summer months, the hospital pushes out its June, July and August schedules as early as March. Staff view the schedules, are reminded of guidelines for taking vacation time, and plan time off around shifts or swap shifts with co-workers.

But what happens when an employee unexpectedly calls out "sick" over the Fourth of July weekend? A pool of floating in-house nurses responds to shortages. When the pool of nurses cannot meet the demand, managers ask staff to cover shifts for incentive pay. According to Higgins, a 10-year Maine Med veteran, the numbers typically work out and the medical center maintains favorable nurse-to-patient ratios. But she's always prepared to show up in scrubs and jump in as needed. "Being present is important to me," she said. "I make myself accessible and stay positive, supporting the staff and recognizing their efforts."

Higgins rewards her staff with hospital-sponsored special events throughout the summer. These include "nurses' week" at the beginning of May, when employees win gift cards and goody bags in daily raffles, participate in a book swap, and play games like cornhole. Later in the summer, senior leaders host staff appreciation lunches, smoothie breaks on the patio and an ice cream bar. The hospital also reserves box seats for each of its 23 units at minor league baseball games at Hadlock Field in downtown Portland.

"Maine Med is a great place to work," Higgins said. "But busy is the norm."

Workers Appreciate Flexibility

For employees who are parents, juggling work and school-age children who are either home for the summer, at camps or in day care can be challenging—and expensive.

Recognizing this, some employers observe summer hours so parents can start and end the workday earlier. Employees at Princeton University call it quits at 4:30 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. from June 1 through Labor Day.

River City Dental, a dental office in Williamsport, Md., operates on an 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. schedule in June, July and August. Office manager Lori Robine reports that the employees, many of whom are parents, appreciate the flexibility of the shortened workday and increased free time.

Workplace flexibility is another benefit that can boost spirits—and productivity—during the summer months. Maine Medical Center can't tweak its summer hours, but fewer meetings are held, and they're even put on hold in July.

When summer arrives, workplace productivity doesn't have to suffer. Employers can look for opportunities to be flexible with scheduling and dress codes, find ways to recognize and reward employees, and host events that celebrate the warm months.

Michele Poacelli is a freelancer based in Mercersburg, Pa. 

SOURCE: Poacelli, M. (12 July 2019) "Summertime—and Working Ain’t Easy" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/employee-relations/Pages/employee-engagement-in-the-summer.aspx


A 55-year-old intern? Why older apprentices may be the answer to the talent gap

Internships and apprenticeship programs may not just be for young professionals. The DOL’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion recently called for a process that would establish industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs). Read this blog post for how older apprentices may be the answer to today's talent gap.


LAS VEGAS — Want to revitalize your workforce? Try hiring a baby boomer as your new intern.

Apprentice programs may not be just for young talents fresh out of college. Employers should study such programs for older workers, said the leader of the world’s largest HR professional society.

“We oftentimes think about apprenticeships for young people, but what about the 55-year-old who needs to work or wants to work an additional 20 years and needs to learn the new coding language?” Johnny Taylor Jr., CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, said Tuesday during a media event at the annual SHRM conference. “So apprenticeship writ large ... it’s a broader idea than just what we all think about young people getting an opportunity.”

The comments come after the DOL’s Task Force on Apprenticeship Expansion on Monday called for a process to establish industry-recognized apprenticeship programs (IRAPs).

IRAPs will be customizable apprenticeship models that the DOL calls "a new pathway for the expansion of apprenticeships."

In addition, the proposed rule outlined the process to become a standards recognition entity (SRE), which would set standards for training, structure and curriculum for the IRAPs.

DOL would ensure that SREs have the capacity and quality-assurance processes and procedures needed to monitor IRAPs and recognize that IRAPs are high quality. The department's criteria for high-quality IRAPs include: paid work, work-based learning, mentorship, education and instruction, industry-recognized credentials, safety and supervision and adhering to equal employment opportunity obligations.

"The apprenticeship model of earning while learning has worked well in many American industries, and today we open opportunities for apprenticeships to flourish in new sectors of our economy," Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a statement.

Taylor has addressed expanding apprenticeships before, noting the association has recently renewed its support by studying ways to make programs more inclusive and broaden them beyond high school or college students, he said.

“I was at a meeting the other day and they referred to restoring the dignity of the first job,” Taylor said. “That’s a real aspirational thing.”

Employers also need to do more to tap hidden pools of skilled labor from the disabled to the formerly incarcerated to bridge the workplace talent gap in the United States, he said.

“How do we do that? For example, instead of a four-year college experience, maybe it’s a six-year average college experience because you go knock out your first two years,” and break up subsequent educational experiences between semesters of work, school or a mix of both combined with work internships.

The former labor employment lawyer also said key themes that SHRM is focused on this year include workplace culture, age discrimination, diversity and reskilling the U.S. workforce for the jobs of the future.

“Everyone is talking about work,” Taylor said. “It’s a great time to be in HR.”

Additional reporting by Nick Otto.

SOURCE: Siew, W. (26 June 2019) "A 55-year-old intern? Why older apprentices may be the answer to the talent gap" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/news/shrm-calls-on-expanding-workforce-apprenticeships


How to Respond to the Spread of Measles in the Workplace

How are you responding to the spread of measles? With measles now at its highest number of cases in one year since 1994, employers are having to cooperate with health departments to fight the spread. Continue reading this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Employers and educators are cooperating with health departments to fight the spread of measles, now at its highest number of cases in one year since 1994: 764.

Two California universities—California State University, Los Angeles (Cal State LA) and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)—recently quarantined staff and students at the request of local health departments.

In April at Cal State LA, the health department told more than 600 students and employees to stay home after a student with measles entered a university library.

Also last month, UCLA identified and notified more than 500 students, faculty and staff who may have crossed paths with a student who attended class when contagious. The county health department quarantined 119 students and eight faculty members until their immunity was established.

The quarantines ended April 30 at UCLA and May 2 at Cal State LA.

Measles is one of the most contagious viruses; one measles-infected person can give the virus to 18 others. In fact, 90 percent of unvaccinated people exposed to the virus become infected, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes.

Action Steps for Employers

Once an employer learns someone in the workplace has measles, it should immediately send the worker home and tell him or her not to return until cleared by a physician or other qualified health care provider, said Robin Shea, an attorney with Constangy, Brooks, Smith & Prophete in Winston-Salem, N.C.

The employer should then notify the local health department and follow its recommended actions, said Howard Mavity, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Atlanta. The company may want to inform workers where and when employees might have been exposed. If employees were possibly exposed, the employer may wish to encourage them to verify vaccination or past-exposure status, directing those who are pregnant or immunocompromised to consult with their physicians, he said.

Do not name the person who has measles, cautioned Katherine Dudley Helms, an attorney with Ogletree Deakins in Columbia, S.C. "Even if it is not a disability—and we cannot assume that, as a general rule, it is not—I believe the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] confidentiality provisions cover these medical situations, or there are situations where individuals would be covered by HIPAA [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act]."

The employer shouldn't identify the person even if he or she has self-identified as having measles, Mavity noted.

Shea said that once the person is at home, the employer should:

  • Inform workers about measles, such as symptoms (e.g., dry cough, inflamed eyes, tiny white spots with bluish-white centers on a red background in the mouth, and a skin rash) and incubation period—usually 10 to 12 days, but sometimes as short as seven days or as long as 21 days, according to the CDC.
  • Inform employees about how and where to get vaccinations.
  • Remind workers that relatives may have been indirectly exposed.
  • Explain that measles exposure to employees who are pregnant or who might be pregnant can be harmful or even fatal to an unborn child.
  • Explain that anyone born before 1957 is not at risk. The measles vaccine first became available in 1963, so those who were children before the late 1950s are presumed to have been exposed to measles and be immune.

Employers may also want to bring a health care provider onsite to administer vaccines to employees who want or need them, Shea said.

"Be compassionate to the sick employee by offering FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act] leave and paid-leave benefit options as applicable," she said.

When a Sick Employee Comes to Work Anyway

What if an employee insists on returning to work despite still having the measles?

Mavity said an employer should inform the worker as soon as it learns he or she has the measles to not return until cleared by a physician, and violating this directive could result in discipline, including discharge. A business nevertheless may be reluctant to discipline someone who is overly conscientious, he said. It may opt instead to send the employee home if he or she returns before being given a medical clearance.

The employer shouldn't make someone stay out longer than is required, Helms said. Rely instead on the health care provider's release.

SOURCE: Smith, A. (9 May 2019) "How to Respond to the Spread of Measles in the Workplace" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/legal-and-compliance/employment-law/pages/how-to-respond-spread-measles-workplace.aspx


Background Screenings and Second Chance Employment - 3 Tips for Success

Nearly seven out of 10 companies reported that they conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates, according to a 2012 SHRM survey. Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more.


Today’s employers may choose to run background checks on job applicants for variety of reasons. Concerns about negligent hiring, verifying a candidate’s honesty and accountability, and other safety- or performance-related issues may all play a part in this decision. In fact, according to SHRM's 2012 survey, nearly 7 out of 10 companies report that they conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates.

Understandably, employers want to do everything they can to protect their businesses and to ensure (as much as possible) that they’re also protecting their employees. And while an interview is an important opportunity to learn about a job candidate’s character and experience, a background screen provides tangible and practical verification of a candidate’s past, and that is reassuring. What’s important to keep in mind is that background screens are most effective when they’re used judiciously and carefully. Here are a few suggestions to consider.

  1. Tailor background screens to search for information relevant to the specific responsibilities of the job. While it can be tempting to want to know all the information available about a candidate’s past, the ethical and legal use of background screens means that a motor vehicle report, for example, isn’t relevant for a candidate who won’t be driving as part of their job. Limiting searches to the information that is most relevant to the execution of the job functions will keep you in EEOC compliance and will yield more effective background screens.
  1. Use a professional background screening company to assist you. There are many excellent and affordable screening companies to choose from, and we at Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation have had great experiences in our work with Occuscreen, GoodHire, and Checkr, among others. A professional background screening company can help you get the most out of your background checks and can work with you to ensure you’re soliciting the right information for the right purpose. Additionally, quality background screening companies are able to verify information through court runners and other means, which improves accuracy and reduces the likelihood that you’ll see or use irrelevant data (arrest records not leading to convictions, for example).
  1. Remember to be consistent. If you have two or more applicants applying for the same job, you should be requesting the same information about them when you run their backgrounds. Varying types of job responsibilities and roles might require varying levels of inquiry, but if multiple candidates are applying for the same job with the same title, it’s important to keep your process consistent. This will help you avoid the appearance of discrimination or favoritism.

And remember, background screens may involve some level of technological or human error. The information provided from a background screen is a valuable tool to help you in your hiring decision, but it is only one tool. Thoughtfully integrating this information—with your intuition, your experiences with the candidate in the interview, and your willingness to suspend bias or assumptions about an applicant’s character based on their past—can help you to make the best hiring choice every time.

Have questions about how to proceed with a report’s findings? Many employers aren’t criminal code experts, and don’t have to be. Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation is here to help. Get in touch.

SOURCE: Martin, G. (16 April 2019) "Background Screenings and Second Chance Employment - 3 Tips for Success" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://blog.shrm.org/blog/background-screenings-and-second-chance-employment-3-tips-for-success


Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation is the nation’s only nonprofit foundation dedicated to inspiring and equipping employers to embrace Second Chance Employment

This post is part of a series for Second Chance Month, which highlights the need to improve re-entry for citizens returning to society and reduce recidivism. One of the primary ways to do this is by providing an opportunity for gainful employment. To sign the pledge and access the toolkit with information on how to create second chances at your company, visit GettingTalentBacktoWork.org


E-Verify Is Down. What Do Employers Do Now?

What do employers do now that  E-Verify, the federal government's electronic employment verification system, is down? The system compares employee information with the DHS and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility. Read on to learn more.


What are employers supposed to do now that E-Verify—the federal government's electronic employment verification system—has expired?

Funding and congressional authorization for the program ran out Dec. 22, 2018, as the government went into a partial shutdown after Congress and the White House could not agree on how to fund some agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which administers the system, for fiscal year 2019.

E-Verify compares information from an employee's Form I-9 to DHS and Social Security Administration (SSA) records to confirm employment eligibility. Employers enrolled in the program are required to use the system to run checks on new workers within three days of hiring them.

During the government shutdown, employers will not be able to enroll in E-Verify, initiate queries, access cases or resolve tentative non-confirmations (TNCs) with affected workers.

All employers remain subject to Form I-9 obligations, however. "Remember that the government shutdown has nothing to do with an employer's responsibilities to complete the Form I-9 [in a timely manner]," said Dawn Lurie, senior counsel in the Washington, D.C., office of Seyfarth Shaw. "Specifically, employees are required to complete Section 1 of the I-9 on or before the first day of employment, and employers must complete Section 2 of the I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee begins work for pay."

No Cause for Alarm

Lurie advised employers not to panic while E-Verify is down. "Employers will not be penalized as a result of the E-Verify operations shutdown," she said. "Employers will not be penalized for any delays in creating E-Verify cases. However, employers are reminded that they must continue to complete I-9s in compliance with the law, and when E-Verify becomes available, create cases in the system."

To minimize the burden on both employers and employees, DHS announced that:

  • The three-day rule for creating E-Verify cases is suspended for cases affected by the unavailability of the service. "Normally, the employer enters information from the I-9 into E-Verify within three days of hire, but that won't be possible while the system is unavailable," said Montserrat Miller, a partner in the Atlanta office of Arnall Golden Gregory. "DHS will provide a window of time to submit those held cases once service resumes."
  • The time period during which employees may resolve TNCs will be extended. The number of days E-Verify is unavailable will not count toward the days the employee has to begin the process of resolving a TNC. "Employers can't take any adverse action against a worker with a pending TNC regardless, shutdown or not," Miller said. Currently, an employee who chooses to contest a TNC must visit an SSA field office or call DHS within eight federal government working days to begin resolving it. This period will have to be extended because of the shutdown, she added.
  • Additional guidance regarding the three-day rule and time period to resolve TNC deadlines will be provided once operations resume.

Amy Peck, an immigration attorney with Jackson Lewis in Omaha, Neb., advised employers to keep track of all new hires with completed I-9s for whom there are no E-Verify queries due to the shutdown. She also recommended attaching a memo in a master E-Verify file tracking the days that the program was unavailable. "I've seen the discrepancy come up years later during an audit," she said.

"Once the system is back up, work with counsel on how much time employees have to resolve their TNCs," Peck said. "Someone receiving a TNC the day before the shutdown is a different case than somebody who had 10 days to resolve their TNC when the shutdown occurred. Those circumstances should be considered on a case-by-case basis."

Federal contractors with a federal acquisition regulation E-Verify clause should contact their government contracting officers to extend deadlines. "Federal contractors have a particular concern because nobody is supposed to be working who has not been verified through the system," Peck said. "People can be hired, but whether they are allowed to work on the contract before being run through E-Verify is a critical consideration that should be discussed with counsel."

Prepare for the Resumption of Service

Miller said employers should monitor the shutdown. "When it is over, log in to the system and see what instructions there are for creating and submitting queries," she advised. "There is an obligation to create those queries if you are enrolled in the program, even if enrolled voluntarily."

The backlog created as a result of the shutdown might have a significant impact on employers that process many E-Verify cases and specifically on the HR staff and other team members in charge of the process.

"Not all employers will be able to push all their cases through at once when the shutdown ends," Miller said. "If everyone did that, the system would crash. DHS will provide instructions on how to submit queries. Employers will be asked why the query is being submitted after the required three days. In the past, 'Government Shutdown' was one of the options in the drop-down menu."

Peck reminded employers that the loss of E-Verify does not mean there is a prohibition against hiring. "Companies should continue to hire as they need," she said.

SOURCE: Maurer, R. (3 January 2019) "E-Verify Is Down. What Do Employers Do Now?" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/talent-acquisition/Pages/EVerify-Outage-What-Do-Employers-HR-Do.aspx


Bringing personal services to work

Are you looking to incorporate onsite benefits in your employee benefits package? Read this blog post from SHRM to learn more about the different onsite benefits employers are offering.


Onsite employee benefits that go beyond big-ticket items like health clinics, gyms and child care centers are now within the reach of many employers.

When Cassandra Lammers, vice president of total rewards at Audible Inc., a publisher of audio books in Newark, N.J., wanted to encourage employees to schedule regular dental visits, she focused on the large percentage of the firm's employees who are part of the Millennial generation. These younger workers tended not to use their dental benefits, claims records showed.

To address the situation, Lammers began researching mobile dental services, looking for a vendor that would provide dental care onsite during the workday. That was not as easy as it sounded. "Most of these services are designed to help the elderly and the disabled who are not able to get to a dentist's office," she noted.

See also: 15 employee benefits on the rise

After many months of looking, Lammers connected with Henry the Dentist, a mobile dental office that parks its trailer at an employer's location for a few days to provide onsite dental services. The trailer offers state-of-the-art dental services and can serve three patients at a time.

The biggest selling points for Audible were the convenience for employees and the fact that all of the dentists were in-network providers for the company's dental plan, so audible does not have to pay for the service.

"We now schedule a few days each quarter to help employees get into a normal cycle for dental visits," Lammers said. The initial visit was scheduled to last only two or three days. However, employee demand for appointments was so great that the visit lasted six full days to serve 189 employees. Lammers expects to schedule five days per quarter going forward.

"The feedback from employees has been fantastic, and they love the convenience," she said.

Alexandria Ketcheson, marketing and brand director at Henry, said that under the company's current employment model "all our dentists are full-time employees of Henry," and that "a large part of our promise to our corporate clients is that their employees will see the same medical staff during every visit."

Fill'er Up

Onsite benefit programs should be designed to save employees time and to make their lives easier. Miami-based Carnival Cruise Line offers a range of onsite benefits to accomplish just that, including dry cleaning, a coffee shop and deliveries from a flower vendor every Friday so that employees can buy fresh flowers for the weekend.

"This is all part of our effort to be an employer of choice," said Tami Blanco, the company's vice president of shoreside human resources. "We focus on providing services that employees use or need regularly. Employees want to spend their time off with family, not running errands."

One of the more popular onsite benefits is access to Neighborhood Fuel, a service that comes to Carnival Cruise employees in South Florida and fills up their gas tanks in the parking lot while they are working.

See also: The Changing Landscape of Employee Benefits

By using a smartphone app, employees can request a fill-up, leaving the gas cap door ajar on their cars. Once the fuel truck completes the fill-up, the app sends an alert with the total cost of the gas.

So far, half of Carnival Cruise's Miami-based employees have signed up to use the service, and 75 percent of those employees say it is of great value to them, Blanco said.

Beware Upselling

When an employer offers any onsite benefit to employees, it comes with an implicit endorsement of the vendor's services, so it's important for employers to proceed with caution when choosing those vendors.

Carnival Cruise Line, for example, often offers new services to one group of employees as a pilot project to see if it is something the company wants to offer to all employees.

Before offering onsite dental care, Lammers not only read the reviews of the dental providers working for Henry the Dentist but also asked pointed questions about how the service ensures the safety of employees while they are walking to and from the mobile facility and while they are inside receiving treatment. "We also wanted to understand how they operate [and] how they interface with employees, ensure confidentiality, et cetera," said Lammers, who inspected the mobile dental facility personally.

See also: How millennials are shaping employee benefits

Once employees begin using any onsite service, employers should check in periodically to make sure employees are happy with the service and comfortable using it. For example, if employees feel a vendor is putting pressure on them to buy more or to upgrade, that's something an employer may want to address directly with the vendor so that employees don't feel pressured.

SOURCE: Sammer, J (5 July 2018) “Bringing personal services to work” (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/benefits/pages/bringing-personal-services-to-work.aspx


What to Know in the Immigration Debate Now: “Queen-of-the-Hill”?

What will be the fate of those who dream to come to America? Explore the immigration debate in this article from SHRM.


Immigration reform is filled with complexities.  Just to name a few are the politics, the body of law and policy and often the use of terms that only add confusion. During the 2007 immigration debate, I recall the term “clay pigeon” (a Senate floor procedure) confused even the experts.  Right now, the term that is turning heads is “Queen-of-the-Hill”. So why does it matter you ask? Well let me explain.

A bipartisan group in the House has called on leaders to consider a proposal for a "Queen-of-the-Hill" (most votes wins) immigration rule (H. Res. 774) and urge action to vote on a legislative solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. SHRM and CFGI are members of the coalition for the American Dream which issued a press statement in support of action.

A vote on this issue matters because earlier in the year votes in the Senate failed. Right now, 190 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the House (a majority of the House) support H. Res. 774 and a debate and vote on immigration DACA related proposals.  If Congress, could begin to move proposals forward there might be a chance (if even a small chance) to break the logjam on immigration reform.

Specifically, "Queen-of-the-Hill' is a House procedure that has not been used since 2015. The procedure would require separate votes and consideration of (four immigration) proposals on the House floor and members could vote in support of as many proposals as they want.  The proposal that receives the greatest number of votes would be adopted. If none of the proposals receive a majority-of-the-votes, then none of the proposals would be adopted.

The proposals that would get a vote under H. Res. 774 include:

  • The Securing America's Future Act (HR 4760), a bill that would allow DACA recipients to apply for three years of work authorization and deferred deportation that may be extended if they qualify. The bill also includes other provisions like mandatory E-Verify, historical limits to family sponsored green cards, a reallocation of visas to employment-based green cards and a new agricultural guest worker program.
  • The House DREAM Act (H.R. 3440), a bill that would allow DACA recipients and DACA eligible individuals to apply for work authorization and deferred deportation, legal permanent residence and a five- year path to citizenship if they qualify.
  • The USA Act (H.R. 4796), a bill that would allow for DACA recipients and DACA eligible individuals to apply for work authorization and deferred deportation and legal permanent residence if they qualify.
  • A yet to be unveiled bill from House Speaker Ryan (R-WI)

Whether there is any chance for success will be up to House leaders, as the House bipartisan group is asking leaders to support H. Res. 774.  However, the resolution may be far from successful. House Speaker Ryan (R-WI) has publicly stated he does not believe it makes sense to bring a bill through a process that only produces something that would get vetoed by the president. In this scenario, it is possible that any immigration bill that could pass the House might not make it through the Senate let alone find support from the president. 

Given, the president’s resistance to many DACA related proposals, perhaps in the end, he will be the “King” of this “Queen-of-the-Hill” strategy.

This article was written by Rebecca Peters of SHRM Blog on April 23rd, 2018.