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HR Report - Articles
MMA HR Report | October 2009 | Issue 96
  1. Q & A from the MMA H.R. Help Line
    1. Health Care Changes for College Students
    2. OSHA Campaign to Target High-Risk Industries
    3. Employee Privacy Rights and Social Networking Sites
  2. Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace
  3. Freedom One Announces “Get SMART”™
  4. MMA Joins in Opposition to FUTA Surtax Extension
  5. The Case for More Women Leaders
  6. MMA Regional Meetings
  7. MiManufacturingJobs.Com

1. Q & A from the MMA H.R. Help Line

A. Health Care Changes for College Students

Q. Our company provides health care coverage to employees and their legal dependents over the age of 19 if they are full time students. The child of one of our employees is suffering from a medical condition that has required an extended leave of absence from college. Is health insurance coverage lost in that circumstance?

A: Not any more. Last year, “Michelle’s Law” was enacted, which ensures continuity of medical coverage under group health care plans for college students who take a medically necessary leave of absence. The new law is effective for all plan years beginning on or after 10/9/09 (10/1/10 for calendar year plans). A group health care provider or insurer that provides health insurance coverage in connection with a group health plan is prohibited from terminating coverage of a “dependent child” during a qualifying medically necessary leave of absence from (or other change in enrollment status at) a postsecondary educational institution. To qualify, there must be medical certification from a treating physician that the dependent child is suffering from a serious illness or injury and that the leave of absence, or other change in enrollment, is a medically necessary result.

When your health care provider next requires certification of student status for coverage under the plan, the carrier must also provide a description of the requirements under Michelle’s Law in understandable language.

B. OSHA Campaign to Target High-Risk Industries

Q. I have heard something about a new record-keeping campaign by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). What is that?

A: Several academic studies allege significant under-reporting of workplace injuries and illnesses by employers. As a result, OSHA has launched what it calls a National Emphasis Program to investigate the accuracy of OSHA Form 300 filings and the reasons for the difference in the number of injuries estimated by the various data sources. This one-year program began 9/30/09. Each participating employer will receive an official letter of selection from OSHA, followed by a full review of completed OSHA forms, selection of various employees for review of pertinent medical records for, and interviews with, those employees. Follow up interviews may be held with the designated record keeper for the employer, various management representatives, first aid providers and health care professionals. This pilot program targets OSHA-specified high-risk employers. Included in that category are animal processing plants, air transportation employers, steel and other foundries, refrigerated warehousing and storage, as well as concrete pipe, rolling mill and equipment, bottled water, motor vehicle seating and interior trim manufacturing and related entities. If your company does business in a high-risk industry, it is suggested that you contact legal counsel to map out a strategy in advance of any notice by OSHA of selection for the program.

C. Employee Privacy Rights and Social Networking Sites

Q. An employee called in sick. Upon return, he presented a doctor’s statement and the absence was converted to an authorized paid sick leave. Shortly thereafter, we find out the employee was bragging on his Facebook account about a 3-day party as the cause of the extended absence. Can we use the Facebook information against him?

A: The manner in which the employer discovered the Facebook information is key. Facebook only allows access to authorized invitees. If another employee with authorized access reported the information to management, and that employee is willing to testify (against what will soon be a former friend), the company may be able to utilize the information. In the first case of its kind, an employer in New Jersey was found to have violated the federal Stored Communications Act by coercing an employee to utilize her password to get into the Facebook account of another employee suspected of violating company policy. The coercion was found to be a violation not only of federal law, but of the general privacy rights of the employee. The court found an expectation of privacy on Facebook since access was supposed to be by invitation only.

Employee use of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MySpace and its future progeny should be included in a comprehensive computer/internet use employment policy. All supervisors should be trained in the policy, especially when access to such websites is unauthorized and/or a violation of federal or state law.

Information is provided by the law firm of Clark Hill PLC. If you have additional questions, please e-mail the firm at MMA@clarkhill.com or call the toll free MMA H.R. Help Line at 800-676-9077. MMA is not responsible for information or assistance provided. Information provided in the MMA HR Report and in response to H.R. Help Line inquiries are for general informational purposes only and expressly does not create an attorney-client relationship in any way. Legal counsel should be contacted for specific advice before taking action on the information presented


2. Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission updated a technical assistance document on 10/9/09 called the Pandemic Preparedness in the Workplace and the Americans with Disabilities Act to assist businesses in preparing for a possible influenza pandemic, such as the 2009 H1N1 flu, in the workplace. The document also identifies established Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) principles that are relevant to questions frequently asked about workplace pandemic planning, such as:

  • How much information may an employer request from an employee who calls in sick in order to protect the rest of its workforce when an influenza pandemic appears imminent?
  • When may an ADA-covered employer take the body temperature of employees during a pandemic?
  • Does the ADA allow employers to require employees to stay home if they have symptoms of the pandemic influenza virus?
  • When employees return to work, does the ADA allow employers to require doctors’ notes certifying their fitness for duty?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers weekly updates, statistics, press releases, FAQ’s, etc., on the 2009 H1N1 Flu, including a guide for small businesses — Planning for 2009 H1N1 Influenza: A Preparedness Guide for Small Business [pdf file]. Additional information can be found online at Flu.gov.

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3. Freedom One Announces “Get SMART”™

Freedom One Financial Group, Michigan’s largest retirement plan consultant, has partnered with the Investment Fiduciary Leadership Council (IFLC), to announce their new Get SMARTTM program, a retirement plan fiduciary training event.

With uncertainty in the investment market, business owners are seeking advice and information from resources they can trust. Get SMARTTM will provide an in-depth look at fiduciary responsibilities including executive-level guidance, practical and topical assistance and, most importantly, tools and solutions for today’s fiduciary challenges. Plan fiduciaries and investment committee members are invited to attend and participate in user groups with executive-level peers.

Keynote speaker Ronald E. Hagan, chairman of the Fiduciary Standards Committee of Roland|Criss, will conduct this training event. President and CEO of Freedom One Financial Group Mark Wayne will provide a state of the industry presentation.

Two training events are scheduled:

  • Wednesday, 12/9/09, in Grand Rapids
  • Thursday, 12/10/09, in Troy

Both events will begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 5:00 p.m. Registration is $750 a person, and $600 for each additional guest from the same organization. This is half-off from the regularly priced IFLC training. Register at FreedomOneFinancial.com or call Lesley Goodwin, Freedom One Marketing Manager, at 248-620-8100.

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4. MMA Joins in Opposition to FUTA Surtax Extension

MMA, along with 29 other business, industry and commerce organizations, sent a letter [pdf file] to the U.S. Congress on 10/15/09 to urge support for amendments that would delete the extension of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) 0.2 percent surtax — a direct tax increase on job providers.

The proposed extension would pay for additional unemployment compensation under a House-approved unemployment insurance bill, HR 3548. Specifically, HR 3548 would extend unemployment insurance (UI) benefits by up to 14 additional weeks in all 50 states and by up to 20 weeks in states with a three-month average total unemployment rate of at least 8.5 percent, including Michigan.

MMA believes that now is not the time to add a federal UI payroll tax. The current FUTA surtax, which imposes a $14-per-worker annual tax on businesses, is set to expire at the end of 2009 after being in place for more than 30 years. Extending the FUTA surtax, as outlined in HR 3548, would be a huge financial burden on businesses, further discouraging job creation and costing employers approximately $2.7 billion.

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5. The Case for More Women Leaders

As Michigan continues to re-tool and reinvent its economy, professional women remain an underutilized resource, according to the results of Inforum Center for Leadership’s 2009 Michigan Women’s Leadership Index (WLI) released 10/19/09. Inforum, a professional women’s alliance, thinks it is time for Michigan’s top companies to join those corporations that are leading the way toward greater gender diversity at the very top.

“Research shows there is a strong correlation between how well top corporations develop and promote women leaders and how successful those corporations are in the marketplace,” said Terry Barclay, CEO of Inforum and Inforum Center for Leadership. “If Michigan’s companies lag behind when it comes to utilizing talented women, they could be at a big disadvantage compared to their peers and competitors. One big reason for this is that women are their biggest customers, accounting for the majority of consumer purchase decisions in our consumer-oriented economy.”

Visit the Inforum Center for Leadership website for more information.

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6. MMA Regional Meetings

At a time when so much is changing from day to day, skewing the future of your company, it’s crucial for you to stay connected to critical resources.

Join us for a free lunch and talk to other MMA members about the business issues they are facing and how they’re overcoming them. You’ll also get a quick update on what’s happening at the Capitol that could affect your business and what MMA is doing to help make Michigan a more manufacturing-friendly state.

We are in challenging times but, by sticking together, we can grow stronger! Join us at a meeting in your area:

November 9 — Wayne County
Dario’s Italian Eatery
32293 Ford Road, Garden City
December 8 — Jackson

Location details will be published for the Jackson meeting as arrangements are made. For more information, contact Lounn Ticnor, MMA membership specialist, at 800-253-9039 (press 9, then ext. 531) or 517-487-8531.

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7. MiManufacturingJobs.Com

MiManufacturingJobs.com can save manufacturing companies time and money when they need to fill manufacturing positions such as engineers, machine operators, plant managers, IT specialists, etc. This jobs portal is a great way to search for skilled workers. It’s also a great place to attract the right people with a job listing.

MMA is offering this valuable service for 90 days absolutely FREE of charge. During this trial period, companies can perform unlimited searches and post an unlimited number of positions.

After the 90-day trial period, MMA members can subscribe to the website for an incredibly low price of just $200 per year. Manufacturers not currently affiliated with MMA can also subscribe to the website for an additional charge.

For more information about MiManufacturingJobs.com contact Tonya S. Vakili, MMA director of insurance and services, at 800-253-9039 ext. 523 or 517-487-8523.

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Posted on Friday, October 30, 2009 (Archive on Monday, January 01, 0001)
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