Compensation and Benefits

Compensation and benefits topics – whether it’s minimum wage, workers’ compensation laws, or employee pay – if properly handled, can help you retain workers and recruit new ones.

Use our advice to craft independent contractor agreements that keep independent contractors – and your bosses – happy.

It’s time to take a fresh look at the health questionnaires you hand out to employees as part of your wellness program. New federal regulations that prohibit discrimination against people with congenital medical conditions mean you must review health risk assessments to make sure they don’t ask employees to reveal protected information.

The cost cutting and staff reductions may not be completely over, but as the economy begins its recovery, HR will be dealing with new challenges in 2010. Still, the flush workplace of 2006 isn’t likely to rush back into vogue. In fact, the historic recession has made a lasting impression on many organizations, which could hang onto the lessons they learned while surviving lean times. Here are 10 trends to expect in the coming year, plus tips and tools to help you respond to each:

Employers, beware if you don’t stay on top of the intricacies of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The fact is, the law is still developing and employers that don’t keep up will be caught. Consider the following case involving the seemingly old question of “donning and doffing” clothing and gear before and after clocking in:

When was the last time you reviewed your company’s bulletin boards in the break room or alongside the time clock? Do they show the correct, updated federal- and state-law posters? A little time spent seeing what’s there—and what’s missing—will keep you in compliance with state and federal laws.

A New York City broker of apartment rentals and sales may face legal liability for alleged age bias—not because it discriminated, but because its independent contractor did. It’s a cautionary tale for any organization that outsources hiring.

If your organization uses independent contractors, watch out: Starting in February, the IRS will begin intensive audits of 6,000 randomly selected employers. One of the key targets: Determining whether employers are improperly misclassifying workers as independent contractors to save on taxes and legal risks.

Since Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, employers have again been in the position of having to defend paying men and women differently—and sometimes that means going back many years, to the time when pay scales began to diverge. If you can’t show a court that the decision you made years ago was legal under the Equal Pay Act, the employee may win.

Sometimes, employees prefer to work longer than eight hours a day in exchange for more days off. Ordinarily, changing schedules to accommodate such a request would mean paying overtime for the additional hours in excess of eight per day under California law. But now, in a unique case, the 9th Circuit has ruled that, in limited circumstances, changing the hourly rate for those who want the longer shifts doesn’t violate the law ...

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) makes it illegal to base unequal pay on gender. Employees have up to three years to sue after the last allegedly discriminatory paycheck if their employer’s violation was “willful,” and two years if it was not. Unfortunately, any obvious wage disparity is probably willful.

Q. While one of our employees was on workers’ compensation leave, she received disability payments. Due to a clerical error, we failed to take her off the payroll during that time, and she continued to receive her regular paychecks while on leave. The employee now refuses to sign an agreement to return the money on a payment schedule we were willing to set up. As a result, we would like to dock her pay for the overpayments. Are we allowed to do so?