North State SHRM News & Legal Updates
Your source of relevant news in HR in the North State, California and nationwide.
Through my years of working in the Talent Acquisition industry, I’ve come across many professionals who have varying views on how to attract and find the right talent. Most professionals take a pray and post approach to finding talent. Instead of thinking outside the box to find talent, they rely on the traditional job boards,… View Article
Unemployment has reached record lows, and recruiters are finding it difficult to get candidates to consider their open positions. Moreover, companies are struggling to keep current employees from jumping ship for better offers. Here are the five most significant recruiting and retention issues HR will face this year, according to a range of industry experts.
There’s a day devoted to “Take Your Parents to Work,” a LinkedIn idea that’s taken root at other organizations.
In late December, US Senator Ron Wyden introduced the Retirement Parity for Student Loans Act (Student Loan Act), which would allow employers to make matching contributions under 401(k), 403(b) and SIMPLE plans with respect to student loan repayments made by employees. If enacted, this legislation would provide powerful new guidance for employers looking to offer student-loan-repayment-related benefits to their employees.
Last year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released a groundbreaking private letter ruling (PLR) that helped to clear the way for employers to begin providing student loan repayment benefits as part of their 401(k) plans. More specifically, the PLR confirmed that, under certain circumstances, employers might be able to link the amount of employer contributions made on an employee’s behalf under a 401(k) plan to the amount of student loan repayments made by the employee outside the plan. However, the PLR only applied to the plan sponsor requesting the ruling and only addressed the specific issue and facts presented by the plan sponsor. As a result, although the PLR provided helpful guidance to employers, it also left many questions unanswered.
In response, many employers and industry groups have pushed for legislation that provides comprehensive guidance on how employers can and should structure student loan repayment benefits under their retirement plans. The Student Loan Act would address a number of the questions raised in response to the PLR and would provide employers more flexibility to offer student loan repayment benefits under their plans. In particular, the Student Loan Act would open the door for student loan repayments to be treated as elective deferrals under an employer’s plan and to qualify for corresponding matching contributions (rather than the special non-elective contributions described in the PLR). In addition, the Student Loan Act would clarify nondiscrimination testing requirements for student loan repayment benefits and address how student loan repayment benefits may be provided under not only traditional 401(k) plans, but also under safe harbor 401(k) plans, 403(b) plans and SIMPLE plans.
The Student Loan Act is part of the broader Retirement Security & Savings Act, which has bipartisan backing. The prospects for enactment of the Student Loan Act and Retirement Security & Savings Act are uncertain. Nevertheless, the release of the Student Loan Act, and its inclusion as part of the Retirement Security & Savings Act, shows that legislators are responding to employer demand and industry group efforts to seek further clarification on how they can provide employees with student loan repayment benefits under their tax-qualified retirement plans.
The recruiting process can be full of roadblocks, bumps, and workarounds that eventually lead you to a great hire. Getting through each step of the process involves a lot of work, but is there a way to smooth things out and ensure the process doesn’t take such a toll on your team? Yes, there is… View Article
A federal court jury in Miami has awarded a hotel dishwasher $21.5 million after concluding that her employer failed to honor her religious beliefs by repeatedly scheduling her on Sundays, and then firing her.The hotel argued that it had no idea that she was a missionary or had requested Sunday off. Her lawyer, however, disagreed. “There were letters in [her personnel] file and her pastor went down there.”
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, Marie Jean Pierre is a member of the Soldiers of Christ Church, a Catholic missionary group that helps the poor. She claimed that she hold her employer that she needed Sundays off for her missionary work. The hotel accommodate her for the first three years of her employment, but then began scheduling her on Sundays. After she advised that she would have to quit, the company again accommodated her scheduling request for another six years. Then, however, the hotel again changed her schedule to include Sundays. Pierre then provided a letter from her pastor explaining her religious need for the time off. The hotel, however, refused and ultimately fired her for unexcused absences.
Title VII requires an employer to reasonably accommodate an employee whose sincerely held religious belief, practice, or observance conflicts with a work requirement, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. An accommodation would pose an undue hardship if it would cause more than de minimis cost on the operation of the employer’s business. Factors relevant to undue hardship may include the type of workplace, the nature of the employee’s duties, the identifiable cost of the accommodation in relation to the size and operating costs of the employer, and the number of employees who will in fact need a particular accommodation.
Scheduling changes, voluntary substitutions, and shift swaps are all common accommodations for employees who need time off from work for a religious practice. It is typically considered an undue hardship to impose these changes on other employees involuntarily. However, the reasonable accommodation requirement can often be satisfied without undue hardship where a volunteer with substantially similar qualifications is available to cover.
In other words, permitting Pierre to take every Sunday off may have imposed an undue hardship, depending on the nature of her work performed and her job duties. Other employees could have agreed to move shifts around to cover for her, but employers cannot force such scheduling changes. In Pierre’s case, however, the fact that the hotel appears to have accommodated her for eight years would weigh heavily in favor of the reasonableness of the accommodation.
In plain English, there might be a way around granting time off for an employee to observe a religious practice, but do you want to risk the inevitable (and expensive) lawsuit?
Legalities aside, this issue asks a larger question. What kind of employer do you want to be? Do you want to be a company that promotes tolerance or fosters exclusion? The former will help create the type of environment that not only mitigates against religious discrimination, but spills over into the type of behavior that helps prevent unlawful harassment and other liability issues. If you can grant the accommodation, why not do so? And if you have granted it, why take it away?