Lightning Safety for Outdoor Workers

With severe thunderstorms threatening large parts of the southeastern United States this week, it is a good time to discuss ways for outdoor workers to stay safe when severe weather and lightning strikes.

According to OSHA, one of the first (and easiest) steps of lightning safety is to monitor all NOAA weather alerts and to stay indoors if a threat is imminent.

However, if you are caught outside as a storm approaches here are some steps to stay safe according to OSHA:

  • Lightning usually strikes the tallest object, make sure you are not the tallest object in the vicinity.
  • Avoid open areas such as sports fields and meadows
  • If no buildings or vehicles are nearby, seek shelter in low lying areas such a ditches or valleys
  • Stay far away from bodies of water. If you are in water, exit immediately.
  • Sheds, pavilions, and other non grounded buildings do not provide adequate protection from lightning

New E-Verify Law Coming into Effect in Tennessee

Starting on January first, employers in Tennessee with over 50 employees will be required to utilize E-Verify.

This requirements comes from a change to the TLEA, which is the Tennessee Lawful Employment Act.

Once January 1st rolls around, companies with less than 50 employees do not have to use E-Verify, but they are able to if they desire.

Penalties for TLEA violations are very high. They start at a $500 company fine and $500 per violation. For a repeat offender the fines can go up to a $2,500 company fine and $2,500 per violation.

Overtime Law BLOCKED

A federal judge in Texas has blocked the overtime rule that would have made up to 4 million more workers eligible for overtime pay. The rule would have taken effect on December 1st and would have raised the threshold for “exempt” employees to $47,500. The threshold is currently $23,660.

The law could possible still take effect at some point in the future, but for now employers do not need to make any changes.

Giving Back for the Holidays

The Christmas season is filled with opportunities to give back to the local community. The Trojan Labor offices in Charleston and North Charleston recently donated car seats for Giving Back Tuesdays and Charleston Halos. These car seats will protect a few of the smallest members of the Charleston community. All of us here at Trojan Labor are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to give back to the communities that we are a part of.

New Overtime Law Goes into Effect

The threshold for overtime pay will increase to $47,500.00 on December 1st. Currently, an employee making a salary of at least $23,660.00 can be classified as “exempt” and businesses do not have to pay them overtime.

Non exempt employees are required to receive time and a half pay for every hour they work over 40 hours in one week.  The Fair Labor Standards Act salary threshold increase will make many more employees that are currently exempt eligible for overtime unless their employers raise their salaries to the new threshold or above.

Companies will need to prepare for this law by anticipating higher payroll costs from overtime pay, increase employee salaries,  or make other adjustments to compensate.

Shop With A Cop

Trojan Labor in Denver, CO is a proud supporter of the “Shop with a Cop” event that is held by the Aurora Police Association. The annual program gives underprivileged kids in the Aurora area a chance to receive Christmas gifts, coats, and snow boots. Each child is given a $200 dollar gift certificate to buy their Christmas gifts while accompanied by a police officer from the Aurora Police Department. The Trojan Labor offices in Colorado are pleased to be able to support such a worthy cause. Every child deserves to have a wonderful Christmas and our hope is that the Shop with a Cop event allows that to happen in the Denver community.

 

shopwithacop

Independent Contractors

Time and time again business fall into the trap of believing they have an independent contractor providing work or services for them when, really, they have an employee.  Getting that determination wrong can have far reaching consequences in many areas, whether it be lack of withholding taxes, a requirement to bear the burden of unemployment benefits, unknown exposure to discrimination charges and wrongful termination cases, or consequences in many other areas that arise from an employer/employee relationship.
For whatever reason, business owners often believe that all they need to ensure the relationship is one of an independent contractor is a signed agreement.  While that is a good, and sometimes necessary first step, it does not go far enough.  Most states examine how the relationship actually plays out and apply a number of factors to make a determination.
The most important factor in almost every state is “control.”  Who controls the work?  Does the putative employer require the putative employee to be certain places at certain times to perform certain tasks?  Does the putative employer or putative employee decide how and when the work is to be done?  If it appears that the putative employer controls most aspects of the relationship, it is much more likely that there is an employer/employee relationship.
Other relevant questions include: who provides the tools to ensure the work can be completed? Is the putative employee paid by the hour or by the project?  Does the putative employee have its own company that provides services or are the services integrated into the putative employer’s business?  Does the putative employee provide services for other companies?  Is the work performed on the putative employer’s site or elsewhere?  Can the putative employee quit without ramifications or is there some sort of contractual liability for termination of the relationship?
There are many other factors that weigh in to the analysis. But with the ramifications being so far-reaching, it is worth a business owner’s time and effort to make sure the relationship is set up right.

Employment Situation Update

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, total non farm employment increased by 151,000 in 2015.

The number of people who are unemployed was relatively unchanged and the unemployment rate has been at 4.9% for the last three months. Over the last year, food and beverage positions have added 312,000 jobs. Jobs in construction, manufacturing, warehousing, etc have not changed a significant amount.

The Higher Quest Foundation Spotlight-Thailand

In 2007, the Higher Quest Foundation (sponsored by Trojan Labor and Acrux Staffing) completed their first fish farm project. The fish farm was built at Ban Meat Children’s village in Petchabun, Thailand. The children’s village is home to over 90 children and a school that feeds all of it’s students (who are children from the local community) a free lunch each day.

The farm was a huge  success. This past year they harvested thousands of kilos of fish that will provide the children and orphanage staff with delicious, protein filled meals.

The foundation’s first farm  set the foundation for all of the projects after it. With each successful farm, the foundation is one step closer to it’s goal of ending global hunger in a sustainable way.

To learn more about the Higher Quest Foundation, visit hqfoundation.org

21 States Sue to Block DoL’s New Overtime Rules.

On Tuesday, 21 states filed a lawsuit seeking to block the Department of Labor’s new mandatory overtime rules which sought to expand overtime payments to more than 4 million workers nationwide.  Hours later, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was joined by other pro-business groups, filed a separate challenge in federal court.
The states and Chamber claim that the new rules, which will require employers to pay overtime to salaried workers earning less than $47,500 per year and are set to go into effect on December 1, would place an undue burden on employers and the states themselves.
For its part, the government has vowed to fight the lawsuit vigorously.  It will have to counter the main arguments set forth by the states: that the DoL abused its authority by increasing the salary threshold so drastically, and that it violated federal law by setting the threshold at the 40th percentile of income.
We will be watching developments in this lawsuit as they happen.  Check back for updates.