Monday, June 20, 2016, 11 AM EDST
GVCSHRM Meeting with Senator Gillibrand’s Staff, Federal Building, 100 State Street, Rochester, NY
In Attendance: Sarah Clark, Deputy State Director; Niambe Tomlinson, Regional Assistant; Paul Keneally, Partner, Underberg & Kessler and GVCSHRM Board member; Jonathan Lee, Underberg & Kessler; Christine O’Rourke, Director of HR, JCC and GVCSHRM Board member; Ann Maynard, HR Consultant, Maynard HR Consulting and President-Elect, GVCSHRM.
Gave Senator Gillibrand’s staff an overview of GVCSHRM, its membership and its mission of advocacy and education.
1st Concern -The new FLSA overtime regulations were the first topic of discussion. Many issues were raised from our members such as – the new salary threshold of $47,476 and the financial burden placed on small companies under 50 employees and some mid-size not-for-profits who are considering lay-offs and other cutbacks to comply with the December 1st deadline. Complicated operational issues in reclassifying employees as a result of the overtime rule, cuts in benefits to absorb costs and manage overtime. Morale issues. Employees who worked their way up won’t like punching a clock and will feel as if they have been demoted. This could lead to increased turnover. Inconsistency for large employers that may have to reclassify the same position differently depending on local economics. Impacts on services and whether extra work that exempt employees did will not happen after the reclassification. We asked the Senator to raise the concern to the DOL and have it begin a more comprehensive study to monitor the effect these new regulations are having/will have on employers of a certain size, in rural areas, in certain industries etc.
Miss Clark asked about minimum wage increases to come and what are we hearing from our membership. We commented that it was not an overwhelming concern at the moment because if the tiered implementation over the next several years. The overtime rule change is a more immediate concern to our membership.
2nd Concern – ‘Quickie’ Election Rule-decreasing the timeframe during which union organization elections occur; increased requirements for employers faced with organizing campaigns. The concerns we have are- the new rule severely limits the time for employer dialogue with employee voters, interfering with voters’ right to be fully informed on the important question of union representation. Second, a non-petitioning party (usually the employer) must submit a position statement of all pre-election issues shortly after the petition is filed or risk waiving its arguments. This will cause significantly more work for employers with significant time constraints and may result in a denial of due process. The financial burden on employers, especially not-for-profits, to prevent union organization due to the cost of outside consultants is a tremendous concern. We asked the Senator to press the Department of Labor for consideration of these issues.
3rd Concern-Paid Family Leave – The Senator has been actively seeking a Federal paid family leave law similar to the NYS version that as of January 1, 2018: will allow workers will be able to take paid family leave to:
- Bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children);
- Care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent; or
- Address certain military family needs.
In 2018: that will be up to 8 weeks of paid leave a year.
In 2019 and 2020: that will be up to 10 weeks of paid leave a year. In 2021 and following years: that will be up to 12 weeks of paid leave a year. One concern was around employees who might abuse the leave program by requesting paid leave to take time off from work for an extended period of time. Another concern was for employers who grant the leave to one or more experienced workers who cannot be effectively replaced in the short term.
– Mental Health issues in the workplace. As human resources professionals, we are seeing an increase in the number of mental health issues that our employers are facing with their employees. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, or just generally being stressed out – these are but a few of the more common health challenges we face. In the last year alone, the effects on our clients as a result of employee mental health concerns include:
- Increased sick day usage;
- Marked decline in work productivity and quality;
- Employees self-medicating with alcohol and drugs-especially increased opioids usage;
- Interpersonal and communication problems;
- Increased short-term disability and long-term disability claims.
Our HR Departments are not qualified to diagnose or handle the increasing number of employee and supervisor concerns that arise almost daily. Employee Assistance Programs are overworked and understaffed to handle the large number of referrals that are happening within our worksites. As mental health issues become increasingly common workplace issues, we asked the Senator to consider federal attention to the mental health crisis.