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Archive for February, 2012

5 Hidden Mandates in New Payroll Tax Cut Bill

HR Morning reports that the recently passed bill that extends the Bush-era 2% payroll tax cut isn’t all the bill is going to do.


The bill, dubbed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, also contains five other provisions that haven’t received nearly as much hype. Here’s a rundown of what else the bill will do:

1. Expand work-sharing program.T he bill will allow workers who’ve had their hours reduced to receive unemployment benefits equal to half of their reduction in pay. Unemployment insurance funds will be used to pay for this benefit. Proponents of this provision say the current unemployment system tends to encourage layoffs because unemployed workers can collect benefits worth half of the former wages. So this provision is expected to keep more people on the job.
2. More money to training programs. More funding will be given to programs like Georgia Works, in which unemployed individuals collect benefits in exchange for participating in a job-training program.
3. Providing benefits for self-employed. Entrepreneurs and self-employed workers will also be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.
4. Allow drug testing. States will be allowed to test unemployment benefits applicants for drugs if they lost their jobs because of drug use or they’re seeking jobs that require drug tests.
5. Extend unemployment benefits. Unemployment benefits will be extended once again. But the bill caps the maximum duration an individual can receive benefits at 73 weeks, down from 99 weeks.

President Obama hasn’t signed the bill yet, but has indicated that he will as soon as Congress passes it down to him.

For more information about the new payroll tax cut bill, contact Jeff DiDomenico at Valiant.


5 Hidden Mandates in New Payroll Tax Cut Bill

HR Morning reports that the recently passed bill that extends the Bush-era 2% payroll tax cut isn’t all the bill is going to do.

Continue Reading…


Megu Restaurant Hit With Tip and Overtime Lawsuit

According to an article on waiterpay.com, servers at Megu restaurant have filed a lawsuit claiming that the upscale Japanese restaurant violated various federal and state law pay requirements.


Lawyers for the workers claim that the restaurant improperly forced waiters and waitresses to share their tips with sushi chefs who had no contact with customers. The lawsuit also claims that the restaurant altered the servers’ time sheets so that they were not paid for all the time they worked. The class action complaint seeks tip credit damages, disgorgement of the tips that were improperly taken from the tip pool, payment of unpaid overtime, attorneys’ fees, and other remedies.

If you’d like more information about restaurant payroll, or any other restaurant workforce management issues, contact Rick Casmass at Valiant.


Managers Can Be Personally Liable for FMLA Violations

According to an article in HR Morning, managers who don’t follow Family and Medical Leave Act rules can be held personally liable.

That’s the message out of a recent appeals court ruling in Pennsylvania, in which a judge ruled that a supervisor in the Lawrence County Probation Department may be subject to individual liability under the FMLA.

Continue Reading…


Project Management Best Practices

Every so often, we come across words and expressions that have been so overused it’s hard to remember what they actually mean. “Literally”, “Thank You In Advance”, “Baby Bump”, “Occupy” are a few examples. If I had to come up with my personal list, “Project Management” would make my Top 10. This expression makes us think of what it takes to control a bunch of gnomes in a cave writing endless software code.

Truth is, regardless of what industry you find yourself in and what your job description is, you will at some point or another be faced with project management. You can be completing a school assignment, delivering a set of reports to your manager or filming a movie, all these processes require management. So, when discussing project management best practices, we want to take a simple, broad approach that will hopefully be useful in various situations.

Plan, Plan, and then Plan: It is important not to cut corners when planning before starting a project. You would never get in your car and start driving to a place you’ve never been before without getting directions and figuring out how long it will take to get there. You would be surprised, however, to find out how many projects start without the major players knowing where they are going and how long it will take to get there. A lot of what determines a project’s success or failure can be traced back to planning.

Define Your Objectives: You may go to the same grocery store to purchase supplies for a 4th of July party or to get lunch for the kids. The trip is very similar, but the objectives couldn’t be further apart from each other. Clearly defining your objectives will play a big part in knowing how much budget, time and how many resources to allocate to your project.

Define Your Deliverables (Scope): Make sure all parties involved understand what the tangible things are that define the completion of the project. The scope of your project may be “doing the laundry”. One person may interpret the project as completed after the clothes are dry, and someone else may think the project is only done when the clothes are folded. To avoid this situation, be sure to document your scope in detail and without ambiguity.

Know the Players: This sounds obvious, but you must make sure you know all the people who have any stake in the completion of this project. Knowing your resources allows you to staff your project in the most efficient way (you don’t want your catcher playing center field). And knowing all the stakeholders who will have a say in the success or failure of the project could prevent the importance of your project from being overlooked, and resources (budget, people, etc.) moved elsewhere.

Identify and Manage Risks: It is almost impossible to prevent unexpected hurdles from showing up at some point during your project. However, it is important to try and identify those hurdles up front, and have a contingency plan in case they occur.

Track Progress: Once your project starts, be sure to keep a close look on the progress. Any deviations in relation to the original plan must be communicated to all key players, because they will most likely affect cost, schedule, deliverables or all of them. You wouldn’t like to take your car to the shop for an oil change and later find out the engine was replaced. Be sure to communicate any variances constantly, via weekly meetings and/or status reports and be prepared to discuss a new plan of action if necessary.

The expression “no man is an island” would probably also make my overused list. However, as cliché as it sounds, this expression is very true in relation to managing the outcome of a project. Communication is at the center of all the bullet points above, and can never be underestimated (or overused!).


Project Management Best Practices

Every so often, we come across words and expressions that have been so overused it’s hard to remember what they actually mean. “Literally”, “Thank You In Advance”, “Baby Bump”, “Occupy” are a few examples. If I had to come up with my personal list, “Project Management” would make my Top 10. This expression makes us think of what it takes to control a bunch of gnomes in a cave writing endless software code.

Continue Reading…


Data vs. Information

We live in the era of sub-second information. Twitter, Facebook, smart phone applications and other tools allow us to follow the changing world around us at real time and we have got accustomed to that. It is not surprising, therefore, that we expect the same in the workplace. We want the facts to find us quickly, and they better be accurate.


But what does it take for this to happen? How can we guarantee that the facts are correct and that they are interpreted accurately by all people?

To answer these questions, we have to first define the two halves of the equation: Data and Information. These words tend to be used as synonyms a lot of times, but they are in fact two different ends of the decision-making assembly line. Think about the process of making a movie: the screenwriters put together a story with meaning and action that will resonate with the audience. The story needs to be organized in a meaningful way and it needs to move at the correct pace or the audience could be lost. Once the story is written, the actors are carefully selected and placed in the roles that best fit their characteristics. The ability of the actors is crucial for the outcome of the movie, because without good acting, the best written story would turn into a hard to understand, mediocre movie. Both writing and acting are very important in the life-cycle of a movie. The outcome as a whole is only as good as the lesser of the two parts.

The same is true when dealing with data and information. Every business has a certain amount of data it wants to analyze. The data can be entered and stored in a lot of different ways. Just like in a screenplay, data needs to be entered and arranged in a relevant way. Inefficiencies in the way data is organized can lead to increased cost in the form of data-entry downtime, hardware capacity and much more. Once the data is entered and organized, it needs to be extracted and presented. The way in which the data is presented and explained is what we call information. For this information to be useful, it needs to be arranged in a way that does not allow for misinterpretation by the consumer. It also needs to be delivered at the right amount. A five hour movie may put most folks in the audience to sleep. In the business world, information is delivered via reports, charts, tables, etc. and it needs to be created efficiently and without ambiguity, so correct decisions are taken at the correct times.

Like writing and acting, data and information are two distinct actions that require synchronization and cooperation. Good data delivered badly is just as useful(less) as good actors in a bad story.


Data vs. Information

We live in the era of sub-second information. Twitter, Facebook, smart phone applications and other tools allow us to follow the changing world around us at real time and we have got accustomed to that. It is not surprising, therefore, that we expect the same in the workplace. We want the facts to find us quickly, and they better be accurate.

Continue Reading…


Florida Bill Would Cut Hourly Wages of Servers, Bartenders

According to an article in the Orlando Sentinel, a bill that would cut the hourly wages of many waiters and waitresses in Florida was unveiled Tuesday by a State Senate committee in Tallahassee.

The bill would cut Florida’s minimum wage for tipped workers — now $4.65 an hour — to the federal tipped minimum of $2.13 for companies that agree to guarantee that with wages and tips their employees will make at least $9.98 an hour.


The newspaper goes on to report that the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is urging legislators to pass the bill. The trade group says Florida’s tipped minimum is crippling eateries financially, causing companies to cut back workforces and open fewer restaurants in Florida.

Combined with rising costs of food, insurance and implementing the new federal health-care law, “it’s going to be a matter of time before the back of this industry breaks,” said Carol Dover, chief executive officer of the trade group. “Minimum wage is killing them.”

But critics say the bill, which was introduced in the Senate’s commerce and tourism committee but not voted upon, will take money from workers who cannot afford it.

“Anything that reduces people’s wages is not what we need right now,” said Emily Eisenhauer, an associate with the Research Institute on Social & Economic Policy at Florida International University.

The Sentinel sites the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says that in Florida, the average hourly wage for a waiter or waitress is just under $10 per hour.

Dover argues that many make much more than that, and Florida’s current system is “just a very unfair model, when you’re looking at an employee who makes way over the minimum wage.”

Dover pointed out that companies opting to pay the $2.13 rate would have to guarantee all their tipped employees are making at least 130 percent of the state’s minimum wage. If any employees fall short of that figure – now $9.98 – the companies have to make up the difference.

The National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for lower-wage workers, says the bill appears unconstitutional. A state constitutional amendment establishing minimum wages and raising them each year to keep pace with the cost of living was approved by Florida voters in 2004.

Under that amendment, both the standard and tipped minimum wage rise by the same amount each year, based on inflation. This year it rose 36 cents to $7.67.

It’s unclear when the bill will next be heard.

If you’d like more information about restaurant pay, or other hospitality industry workforce management issues, contact Rick Casmass at Valiant.


White House Calls for Tighter Contractor Pay Cap

The White House claims the cap on executive salaries that may be charged to government contracts “has soared to unreasonable heights.” Indeed, the benchmark has risen from $250,000 in 1995 (the first year the cap was effective) to just shy of $694,000 in 2010. OMB did not update the benchmark in 2011 even though it’s a requirement of the OFPP Act (41 U.S.C. 435) which imposed the cap.

It actually took significant research to discover that the current cap is actually $693,951. Apparently, $694,000 is just so much more impressive in print.

As originally enacted, the law imposed the cap only on the top five contractor executives. Over time, this has been interpreted to mean the top five executives in each business unit of a multi-segment contractor. This introduced an interesting paradox in very large corporations where the compensation of the number six person (and others) might significantly exceed the cap, but be completely allowable – or at least not capped by law.

Fiscal 2012 saw a number of proposed changes to this provision including one by the White House as part of the President’s deficit reduction proposal to drop the cap to $200,000. This is the amount earned by the most senior federal executives (cabinet secretaries). That proposal never went anywhere, but the Senate included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to drop the cap to $400,000, an amount equal to the President’s salary. The House included a provision in its version of the NDAA that left the current benchmark in place, but extended it to all contractor employees instead of just the top five.

In the end, the NDAA bill the President signed on December 31st included the House language. So, the cap remains at the benchmark set each year by OMB, but is now effective for all contractor employees.
And, the saga is not over yet. Senior Government officials are concerned the overdue OMB update of the benchmark may push it over $750,000 and the White House is once again calling for a dramatically lower cap. On January 31st, the acting head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) posted an entry to the OMB Blog entitled “Ending the Overpayment of Federal Contractor Executives.” In it he called the current executive compensation benchmark “far in excess of what can be justified” and called on Congress to “abolish the outdated statutory formula” and tie the cap to the top salary of the Government executive pay schedule – $200,000.
Legislators from Senator Charles Grassley (R-IO) to Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have echoed this call and in the current Congressional environment, it could happen!

As they say in the advertising business, “Watch this space.”


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