The HR Strategist: August 2015
In this issue:
- Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act
- Uber & Lyft Drivers: Employees or Independent Contractors?
- Montgomery County Passes Paid Sick Leave Law
- Thermostat Wars: It's August and the Office is Freezing
- Did You Know?
On February 5, 2015, The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act was introduced to the House of Representatives by Senators John Thume (Republican, South Dakota) and Sherrod Brown (Republican, Ohio). Similar legislation had been introduced in 2013 but did not garner enough approval to pass the House Judiciary Committee.
The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015 provides a clear, uniform framework for when states may tax non-resident employees who travel to the taxing state to perform work. In particular, the bill prevents states from imposing income tax compliance burdens on non-residents who work in a foreign state for fewer than 30 days in a year.
The legislation would simplify the burdens placed on employees who travel outside of their resident states for temporary periods and on employers who have corresponding withholding and reporting requirements. The 30 day threshold and uniform rules would help ensure that the appropriate amount of tax is paid to state and local jurisdictions without placing undue burdens on employers and employees.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation by a vote of 23-4 on June 17, 2015. No further action has been taken by Congress to date; HRi is closely monitoring new developments regarding this legislation and will continue to keep our clients informed.
In a recent class action suit, Uber took the position that its drivers are independent contractors rather than employees. Some legal factors bearing on that designation were in Uber's favor: drivers supply their own vehicles, they decide when they are going to work, and their contract describes them as independent contractors.
Uber drivers submitted evidence to the contrary, arguing that they have no say in how much Uber charges riders and they are paid a flat 80% of the amount Uber collects. Drivers are prohibited from making their own deals with riders or from undertaking any direct or indirect solicitations of business. Uber also conducts background checks, interviews, and pre-engagement tests of their knowledge and submits drivers to a detailed ranking system, including timeliness, cleanliness of their cars, and the quality and substance of passenger communications. All of that, drivers argued, constitutes control over their work.
Lyft drivers have also filed a similar class action suit.
The court stressed that a number of factors for determining independent contractor status are intertwined. In this case, perhaps the most important is whether a person who performs the inherent core function of a business – without which a business can't exist – is defined as an employee. Uber's basic function is to drive people around, suggesting the drivers have employee status.
Uber made some creative, if ultimately unsuccessful arguments – claiming that the drivers were "simply its customers," who purchased leads or dispatches from a "technology company" rather than a transportation provider.
The court dismissed the arguments, noting the disconnect from Uber's marketing to its riders who would probably be surprised to learn that Uber doesn't consider itself a transportation company. Additionally, the court concluded, "Uber is not more a 'technology company' than Yellow Cab is a 'technology company' because it uses CB radios to dispatch taxi cabs."
Since Uber looks like a transportation company and acts like a transportation company, the court ruled that the question of whether it is in fact a transportation company with control over its drivers should at least go to a jury.
Montgomery County, MD has joined in the recent trend of mandatory sick leave laws by requiring employers with one or more employees in the county to provide paid sick and safe leave to covered employees.
Beginning October 1, 2016, employers in Montgomery County will have to provide most employees in the county with up to 56 hours of paid sick and safe leave. The law includes new requirements such as:
- Employers with five or more employees must provide at least one hour of paid leave for every 30 hours worked, not to exceed 56 hours of earned paid leave in a calendar year.
- Employers with fewer than five employees must provide leave at the same rate – one hour for every 30 hours worked – and up to 56 hours of leave per year. However, for these small employers, only 32 hours must be paid and 24 hours can be provided on an unpaid basis.
- Employers may either award leave as it accrues throughout the calendar year or grant the full amount of leave to be earned over the course of the calendar year at the beginning of the year.
- Leave accrues at the beginning of employment but employers may prohibit use during an initial 90-day probationary period.
- Earned leave does not have to be paid upon termination.
As an HRi client, our HR Business Partners will review your current leave policies that cover Montgomery County employees and determine if revisions are necessary to comply with the earned sick and safe leave requirements. We will also help you in providing notice to current and new employees of these new requirements.
If you have any immediate questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your dedicated Client Services Specialist at 410-451-4202.
Office thermostat wars can be an issue year-round and Human Resources often finds itself on the front lines of the temperature war, forced to deal with complaints and mediate disagreements about appropriate thermostat settings.
According to a CareerBuilder survey, when asked if the temperature at work affected their ability to get work done:
- 22% said a work environment that's too hot makes it difficult to concentrate
- 11% said a work environment that's too cold makes it difficult to concentrate
- 27% describe the temperature at work as too hot
- 19% describe the temperature at work as too cold
The survey also reported that disagreements about the thermostat setting can cause conflict between co-workers. In fact, 10% of workers said they have fought with a co-worker over the office temperature. And nearly one in five (19%) believe their employers have turned down the office temperature this year!
If the thermostat becomes a concern, employees and employers can follow a few tips to maintain productivity regardless of temperature.
- Hold a brief meeting to discuss a compromise as a group – this way you have full workforce buy in on the decision.
- Encourage staff to deal with fluctuating temperatures by layering clothing.
- If a particular time of day or part of the office is too uncomfortable for productive work, offer alternatives to those employees – Telecommute? Arrive later in the day? Work in the conference room for part of the day?
Please meet Lorry Twisdale – our Client Services Manager. Lorry manages our Client Services Department to ensure quality customer service is provided to all of our clients, including Payroll Administration, Benefit Administration, and Human Resources consulting. She is also responsible for setting up new clients and helping with their transition until the client is comfortable with the process and payroll for all employees is running smoothly.
Here is a little information to get to know Lorry better:
- Favorite color: Purple
- Favorite book: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
- Favorite movie: Grease
- Favorite sports team: Baltimore Ravens