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Mar27

Signing Form I-9 Electronically

Hi, Can we have employees complete and sign Form I-9 electronically? If so, do we need to have special software? We use the epad to sign all our other document now.

Yes, employers are able to have employees complete and sign Form I-9 electronically. There is no special software required to be used.

You can recreate Form I-9 with fill in and electronic signature functions. When recreating the form, there must be no change to the name, content, or sequence of data and there must be no additional data fields or language.

Your current epad software may have the capability of linking to the recreated form for employees to then sign it electronically. Otherwise, employees could fill out and sign the recreated form on their computer.

Also, when storing electronic Form I-9s the USCIS requires that an electronic storage must:

  • Include controls to ensure the integrity, accuracy and reliability of the electronic generation storage system.
  • Include controls to detect and prevent the unauthorized or accidental creation of, addition to, alteration of, deletion of or deterioration of an electronically completed stored Form I-9, including the electronic signature, if used.
  • Include controls to ensure an audit trail so that any alteration or change to the form since its creation is electronically stored and can be accessed by an appropriate government agency inspecting the forms.
  • Include an inspection and quality assurance program that regularly evaluates the electronic generation or storage system, and includes periodic checks of electronically stored Form I-9, including the electronic signature, if used.
  • Include a detailed index of all data so that any particular record can be accessed immediately.
  • Produce a high degree of legibility and readability when displayed on a video display terminal or reproduced on paper

HTH!

March 27th, 2017, 12:56 PM |  Posted in: Hiring and Staffing |
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Mar27

Employees Volunteer Information

Is it against hipaa rules to volunteer health care information with employers

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) mandates that covered entities comply with requirements to protect the privacy and security of health information. Covered entities are healthcare plans, healthcare providers, healthcare clearinghouses and their business associates. Common covered entities include doctors, clinics, company health plans and government programs that pay for healthcare.

The HIPAA Privacy Rule protects “individually identifiable health information”, including data that relates to:

  • an individual’s past, present or future physical or mental health or condition,
  • the provision of health care to an individual, or
  • the past, present, or future payment for the provision of health care to an individual;

and data that identifies an individual or for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify an individual. Individually identifiable health information includes many common identifiers (e.g., name, address, birth date, Social Security Number).

Not every employer is subject to HIPAA, but let’s assume you’re a covered entity.

Generally, employees volunteering their own medical information doesn’t violate HIPAA because the employee is providing the information him/herself. HIPAA’s Privacy Rule prohibits covered entities from disclosing protected health information.

It’s still important to consider what information is being requested from employees and how and why it’s being requested.

For example, asking employees to complete health assessments for a wellness program is acceptable as long as the information is not being shared inappropriately; while forcing employees to disclose their weight to the entire company as part of a wellness imitative is not a good idea.

HTH!

March 27th, 2017, 12:25 PM |  Posted in: Labor Laws |
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Mar23

Lunch Break Location

Does an employee in IL have to take their lunch break away from their normal work area/desk; even if they prefer to take their lunch there?

According to the Illinois Department of Labor, “An employee who is to work 7 1/2 continuous hours or more shall be provided a meal period of at least 20 minutes. The meal period must be given to an employee no later than 5 hours after beginning work.” There is no requirement that an employee must remain at or leave his/her place of employment during the lunch break.

Employers in Illinois must follow compensation requirements set forth under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Under the FLSA, short breaks lasting less than twenty minutes in duration must be compensated.

Meal periods lasting thirty minutes or more serve a different purpose than short breaks and are not time required to be compensated. Employees must be relieved of all work responsibilities during meal periods. If an employee does any work during his meal period the time must be compensated and counted towards the total number of hours worked in the workweek.

Some employers encourage or even require employees to leave their workstations during their lunch breaks to prevent them from working during the time.

For example, a receptionist who remains at his desk for lunch may be more inclined to answer the phones or provide assistance to people entering the office while he’s supposed to be taking an unpaid lunch break. Of course, since the employee is performing work duties during his lunch break, the time is not a bona fide meal period and must be compensated. Thus, by requiring the employee to leave his workstation for lunch the employer is ensuring the employee takes his full, uninterrupted lunch break.

HTH!

March 23rd, 2017, 11:19 AM |  Posted in: Labor Laws |
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Mar23

Bathroom Breaks

I have an employee that will go to the bathroom twice a day and sit in the bathroom for 30-50 minutes. The employee still takes an hour lunch when we are only authorized for a 30 minute lunch. It’s aggravating not knowing how to address this issue and how it affects others in the office. Please help.

An employee using the restroom 2-3 times in a standard 8 hour workday is not excessive or unusual. However, using the restroom for 30-50 minutes each time is a lot for the average person.

Since its one employee that is taking extended restroom breaks then it’s best to address the matter with him/her directly and privately. Let him know that the duration of his breaks is concerning. Focus on how business operations and his productivity are being affected. For example, he may be missing important calls or coworkers may have to pick up the slack caused by his excessive restroom breaks.

Sometimes simply letting employees know that their behavior is hindering their performance or burdening their coworkers is enough to make it stop.

It’s important to be aware if an employee has a legitimate medical reason for needing frequent and longer restroom breaks. If so, these employees must be given access to the restroom as needed and can’t be discriminated against for medical conditions/disabilities covered under the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The ADA prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any aspect of employment. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with covered disabilities unless doing so would cause an undue hardship, meaning a significant difficulty or expense.

If the employee has an ADA covered disability that forces him to use the restroom more frequently and for longer durations than the average person, then he must be allowed to use the restroom as needed as an accommodation.

Another point to consider is that sometimes employees take excessive and frequent restroom breaks because their prohibited from using their cell phones or addressing personal matters during the workday. Though employers are generally able to be as strict or lenient with such policies as they wish, it’s good practice to consider the needs of employees. Are employees given opportunities to check their phones like during breaks/lunches? Are employees’ family members able to contact them in case of an emergency? Think of employees who have kids in school or those who are caring for ill family members. Make sure that there is a real need for these policies and that they can realistically be followed.

Moreover, it’s important to be aware of that the federal Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) establishes and enforces standards to ensure safe and healthful working conditions. Just about all private employers are covered under the federal OSHA while many public employees are covered under OSHA approved state programs.

OSHA requires restrooms to be available when employees need to use them. Employers may impose restrictions on employee access to restrooms. However, the restrictions must be reasonable and may not cause extended delays.

In regards to the employee taking extended lunch breaks, this must also be addressed directly and privately. Instruct the employee that he is only authorized for a 30 minute lunch break and he’s expected to take only the 30 minutes as allowed. Let him know that further instances of extended lunch breaks without prior approval will result in disciplinary action such as a write up. It’s best to follow your normal disciplinary procedure.

HTH!

March 23rd, 2017, 11:07 AM |  Posted in: Workplace Health & Safety |
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Mar23

No Smoking Law

Is there a required distance where smokers have to be when smoking outside a business? Can employees smoke right by entrances?

The federal no smoking law only applies to federal buildings. Under this law, smoking is banned in courtyards and within 25 feet of doorways on properties controlled by the General Services Administration.

Many states have adopted their own no smoking laws for both public and private sector businesses. Some impose strict regulations requiring smokers to be a specified distance away from the entrance of the building while other states simply require smokers to be far enough away so the smoke doesn’t enter the building. Feel free to post a comment listing the state in question and we can research if an applicable state law exists.

In the absence of state law, employers are still able to adopt no smoking policies at their discretion. Such policies can mandate smokers be a specific distance away from building entrances, designate a specific location for smokers, or completely prohibit employees from smoking on company premises entirely.

March 23rd, 2017, 10:48 AM |  Posted in: Workplace Health & Safety |
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