HR Intel – The Minimum Wage Battle Flares Up and More…

A roundup of workplace developments and legal trends to help keep HR ahead of the curve

HR Intel PictureFor employees, the fight for wages is personal.  Yesterday, thousands of fast food workers went on strike around the country, primarily seeking $15 minimum wage in their industry, but also a voice in next year’s presidential election.

Up to 65% of those who would be impacted by a $15 fast food minimum wage say that they would be more likely to vote in 2016 if a candidate supported that level of minimum compensation.  The current federal minimum wage is $7.25.

Not to be outdone, Tacoma, Washington passed its own minimum wage law, raising its local minimum wage to $12, well ahead of the federal benchmark.  Sacramento, California also passed legislation that will raise the local minimum wage to $10.50 starting on January 1, 2017.

On the other hand, Arizona’s 43,000 minimum wage workers will not see an increase in 2016, owing both to low oil prices and just 0.2% year over year inflation.

As always, the fight over money is not just a state or municipal issue.  President Obama signed the federal Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law (and without mention of a fiscal cliff!) formally repealing the automatic enrollment requirement of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  The new federal budget also increases some penalties under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) and addresses employer premiums with respect to pensions.

Corporate focus

Deutsche Bank AG has announced plans to cut 15,000 jobs and pull out of 10 countries around the world.  CEO John Cryan is trying to make the international banking behemoth leaner, more efficient and less risky.  Part of that process involves ending relationships with clients in “higher operating risk countries.” Cough RUSSIA cough.

Long-tenured Los Angeles Times sports columnist T.J. Simers won a $7.1 million age and disability discrimination lawsuit against his former employer. Simers alleged he was suddenly subjected to strict scrutiny from his editors after he suffered a minor stroke resulting in migraines.  The result couldn’t come at a worse time for the paper, which may lose about 15% of its staff due to voluntary buyouts.

Is your company storing its data with Amazon Web Services (AWS)?  Probably, but if not yet, it likely will soon.  AWS is already a $160 billion business, and is the fastest-growing corporate IT business in history.  Cloud data storage is tremendously useful for employers, but also creates some exposure for companies that don’t provide proper training for the handling of confidential information.

The softer side

The short-list of companies for the 2016 HR Distinction Awards is out and companies like Santander, Adidas, Starbucks, Pizza Hut and HSBC have made the cut.  Maybe your team didn’t make it this year, but next year could be your year in the spotlight, particularly after an HR Transformation.

Part of a transformation might involve providing modernized conflict resolution training to your managers and supervisors to enable them to solve problems and get the most out of employees.

Speaking of conflict, apparently there are some people who don’t like the new Starbucks holiday season cups?  If only there were some kind of best practices guide on how to handle delicate conflicts regarding religion in the workplace

Legal briefing

In Hefti v. Brunk Industries, an employee was fired after 18 months of disciplinary issues, together with repeated, well-documented warnings. However, some behind the scenes foot-dragging resulted in the official termination decision coming three days after the employee filed a claim for FMLA.  Despite the long history of misconduct, the court found that the timing of the termination, along with other factors, made it suspicious enough that the case should go to trial to determine if the employer “interfered” with the employee’s FMLA rights.

This case highlights the importance of being decisive and efficient when it comes to employee discipline and termination. The longer the process drags out, the more opportunity vindictive employees will have to create exposure for the company.  Particularly where severe instances of misconduct have occurred, employers should act quickly and decisively when responding, even if that means providing second and third chances for improvement.

How is this song relevant to HR?

In the last edition of HR Intel, we asked you how “Taxman” by the Beatles is relevant to HR.  “Taxman” was one of George Harrison’s first songs and interestingly, it wasn’t just about taxes.  It was also about protest.  Harrison used the song as a way to criticize the progressive tax system in the UK in the 1960s, which subjected the supergroup to a “supertax” of up to 95% of their rock ‘n’ roll income.  Thankfully, no such tax exists for American bands, though that would be a good way to stifle Nickleback.

In the world of HR, you may be on the hook for payroll (even if you use an outside vendor and they screw up!), but don’t neglect the protest aspect of this song. One way to guard against creative protests is to set up a HR communications program to ensure a direct channel of communication between employees and HR.

We leave you with the Johnny Cash version of “Long Black Veil,” a country ballad originally written by Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin.  Tell us how you think this song is related to HR in the comments section below.


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