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HR & Benefits News: Myth Busters—Avoid Risky Employment Practices

Chris Cooley mental health
Chris Cooley

Editor’s note: HR & Benefits News is a monthly column by Chris Cooley, co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors.

We hear three common myths about employment regulations as we work with independent grocers. Believing these myths could sink a small to medium-sized business. This “myth busters” chart can help independents recognize reality and avoid employment practices that put them at significant financial risk.

The Myth The Reality
1.     Our grocery business is too small for any official audit or review. Businesses of all sizes, especially low-wage employers, are subject to federal scrutiny.
2.     We can “fly under the radar” because we’re not in a large metro market. Many small market employers have faced investigations regarding immigration law documentation.
3.     My employees wouldn’t blow the whistle on me—we are “family.” We have found time and again that a “family atmosphere” lasts only until an employee is terminated. Then those seemingly benign jokes over the water cooler or good-natured ribbing can turn into charges of harassment or hostile work environment.

The financial risk is real

Understanding the reality of the situation helps independent grocers ensure their employment practices are in line with state and federal laws. Here are several examples of the financial risks independents face if they continue to believe the myths and overlook regulatory requirements:

  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) secured more than $482.1 million for victims of discrimination in 2016.
  • Affordable Care Act (ACA) fines can be as much as $2,320 per full-time employee.
  • Incorrectly filling out or omitting Form I-9s can lead to fines between $110 and $1,100 per form.

How to protect your company

Actions independents can take now to protect their businesses include:

  • Ensure you’re meeting ACA requirements
  • Update policies and procedures
  • Confirm hiring procedures meet federal, state and local requirements
  • Evaluate current HR practices

Ensure you’re meeting ACA requirements 

First, figure out whether your company is required to comply with the ACA Employer Mandate. This means determining if your business is an Applicable Large Employer (ALE). If the answer is “yes” and you wish to avoid the penalties, you’ll need to put procedures in place to:

  • Determine which employees are eligible for health insurance
  • Offer eligible employees insurance within the required time
  • Determine the “affordability”—as defined by the ACA—of the insurance you’re offering
  • Perform IRS-required year-end reporting

Update policies and procedures

Employee handbooks are the backbone of the employee/employer relationship. They should be reviewed at least annually. This helps ensure the handbook is up-to-date with ever-changing regulations as well as business and cultural trends.

Ensure hiring procedures meet government requirements

Put the right hiring procedures in place to ensure government required forms are properly filled out and kept on file. Pay special attention to the I-9 Form to ensure it is filled out accurately; inaccuracies on this form can lead to significant penalties.

In addition, explain to new hires that 1) their hiring is at-will and 2) they or the employer can end the employment at any time. Failure to make this distinction could lead to a court determining an employee contract is in place.

Evaluate current HR practices

Successful companies always challenge how they are doing things, including HR policies and procedures. We suggest an annual review at a minimum. Here’s a checklist of what to include in the review:

  • ACA
  • Federal laws such as Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), COBRA, etc.
  • Employee hiring / separation procedures
  • I-9 and E-Verify (if applicable)
  • Employee handbook
  • Workplace rules
  • Training of supervisors and mangers

Consistently assessing your HR policies and procedures can help significantly reduce risks associated with employment practices.

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Chris Cooley is co-founder of MyHRConcierge and SMB Benefits Advisors. Clients rely on him for employee handbooks, HR compliance and administration, workforce management and benefits advisory solutions. Cooley’s companies specialize in helping small to mid-sized grocers throughout the U.S. He can be reached at 855-538-6947, ext. 108 or at [email protected].

Keep reading:

HR & Benefits News: ACA Non-Compliance Not Worth The Risk

HR & Benefits News: Avoid Sexual Harassment Policy Hazards

HR & Benefits News: Current Employee Handbook: A Must for Grocers

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