Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Scorecard

Failure to comply with the FLSA can result in lawsuits, criminal charges, fines and restrictions in commerce. The scorecard tool will help you make a general estimate of risk.

Click here to download FSLA Scorecard

Employee in the News-Steve King

If you are a Patriot’s fan, you must remember Steve King, a former linebacker with the Patriots from 1973-1981. Steve is best remembered as the first player to sack 4 future Hall of Fame quarterbacks in the same year: Joe Namath, Terry Bradshaw, Fran Tarkenton, and Bob Griese.

Steve continues to remain active with the New England Patriots Alumni Club, participating in volunteer events to support and promote youth football.

He is also very involved in community service. Steve currently serves as President and Board Member of Friends of Wrentham, Inc. (F.O.W.), a non-profit organization formed in 1979 to benefit the intellectually challenged residents of the Wrentham Developmental Center. They have provided ancillary needs the state does not fund, such as a walking/jogging track, an outdoor pavilion, an equestrian program, field trips, and a fitness gym, etc.. Since it’s inception, F.O.W. has raised approximately $2.2 million to benefit the residents of WDC.

Click here to meet Steve

Client Spotlight Biscom

We are pleased to spotlight Biscom in our summer newsletter.  Every day millions of users and thousands of enterprises rely on Biscom for secure and reliable document delivery solutions. Founded in 1986 Biscom developed the world’s first enterprise fax server. Since then, Biscom has developed additional solutions around secure file transfer, enterprise file synchronization and sharing, file translation, and secure mobile communication apps. Biscom also offers cybersecurity risk assessments and training.

They recently launched Biscom 123, a cloud based fax solution that gives small businesses and professionals the ability to send and receive faxes through email and mobile devices.

You can rely on Biscom’s Experience, Expertise, Reliability, Performance, and Support.  We wish them continued success.

Click here to learn more about them!

Making Sense of Certificates of Insurance

Understanding The Purpose Of Certificates Of Insurance

When stores lease real estate spaces or construction firms win jobs, the party on the other end usually has a very specific set of requirements. One of the main requirements is that the tenant, contractor or borrower must show proof that he or she has adequate insurance. Copies of insurance documents may be sufficient. However, not all companies want copies of documents sitting around. Space is valuable, and most banks do not have enough room to keep such copies of originals for every customer. A very helpful substitute for document copies is a Certificate of Insurance (COI). This item is simple to create and store. Unfortunately, not all firms and insurance buyers fully understand them.

ACORD constructed the forms that are most commonly used. Their instructions show that these certificates are intended for informational purposes. When some businesses receive these certificates, they think the items are contracts. However, the certificate is simply a snapshot of insurance provisions. It does indicate that a policy exists, but it is not the document that actually provides coverage. The only document that actually provides coverage when shown is the policy itself.

Standard certificates by ACORD state that insurers must provide advance notice to holders if policies are cancelled. Although policyholders rely on these words, they do not create a legal bond between the two parties. The only thing that can obligate the companies to give advance notice is the policy’s specific provisions. Many businesses want these certificates to have specific terms, phrases or words. However, agents have legal boundaries for such requests. The only way agents can add wording to a certificate is if the listed policies contain that wording. Changes are not always allowed.
Many states prohibit agents from handing out certificates implying provisions that are not included in the policies. For example, a certificate holder may want the item to state that coverage is primary and noncontributory. However, policies that do not reflect such information cannot have certificates indicate otherwise. Agents who add language implying otherwise could be in a great deal of trouble. Only the endorsements insurers issue can change policies. If an agent issues a certificate implying a change, this is a violation of the individual’s contract with the insurer and a violation of state insurance law.

Before you sign contracts including insurance provisions, we recommend verifying you comply with the coverage requirements. While we cannot provide any legal interpretations for the contract, we can certainly review the insurance provision and provide in-depth advice about the cost and availability of any missing elements. In some cases we may need to provide you with estimates for adding additional insurance coverages or increasing current limits. We can only issue certificates after coverage is in place. If certificates are used appropriately, they are valuable business tools. However, they can cause problems when they are used incorrectly.

Surety Bond Guarantee Program

The Small Business Administration (SBA) Surety Bond Guarantee Program
Presented by: Michael Regan

Did you know that the SBA, the federal organization that assists small businesses, will guarantee bid, performance or payment bonds issued on behalf of a small business by a surety company?

The guarantee program was implemented in an effort to help small construction businesses grow and share in the construction dollars expended by the federal government. However, the progam is not limited to federal work. They will issue guarantees on contracts at the state, municipal and private levels too.

Surety companies are conservative by nature. They want to bond construction companies that they know will be successful. However, there are many good contractors who may have some roadblocks to getting surety bonding. It may be because they are relatively new or lacking in financial capital. In these instances the SBA, after performing their own due diligence, can agree to issue a 90% guarantee to the surety of the bonds they issue.

The SBA also offers a cost neutral effort. The “fees” charged the contractors for the guarantees cover the cost of administering the program and funding the cost of any guarantees that are paid out.

The program has been very helpful to small, inner city contractors who may have limited, if any, access to standard surety.

Pay Equity Law

On August 1, 2016, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed legislation (S.B. 2119) aimed at eliminating gender-based pay discrimination.
Pursuant to the law, an employer may not discriminate in any way on the basis of gender in the payment of wages, including benefits or other compensation, or pay any person a salary or wage rate less than the rates paid to employees of a different gender for comparable work; provided, however, that variations in wages, including benefits or other compensation are not prohibited if based upon any of the following:

  • A bona fide system that rewards seniority with the employer (however, time spent on leave due to a pregnancy-related condition and protected parental, family, and medical leave may not reduce seniority).
  • A bona fide merit system.
  • A bona fide system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production or sales.The geographic location in which a job is performed.
    • Education, training, or experience to the extent such factors are reasonably related to the particular job in question and consistent with business necessity.Travel, if the travel is a regular and necessary condition of the particular job.

Further, it is an unlawful practice for an employer to:

  • Require, as a condition of employment, that an employee refrain from inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing information about either the employee’s own wages, including benefits or other compensation, or about any other employee’s wages.
    • Screen job applicants based on their wage, including benefits or other compensation or salary histories, including by requiring that an applicant’s prior wages, including benefits or other compensation or salary history, satisfy minimum or maximum criteria; or request or require as a condition of being interviewed, or as a condition of continuing to be considered for an offer of employment, that an applicant disclose prior wages or salary history.
  • Seek the salary history of any prospective employee from any current or former employer. However, a prospective employee may provide written authorization to a prospective employer to confirm prior wages, including benefits or other compensation or salary history only after any offer of employment with compensation has been made to the prospective employee;
  • Discharge or in any other manner retaliate against any employee because the employee: ◦Opposed any act or practice made unlawful by this law;
  • Made or is about to make a complaint or has caused or is about to cause to be instituted any proceeding under this law;
    • Testified or is about to testify, assist or participate in any manner in an investigation or proceeding under this law; or
    • Disclosed the employee’s wages, benefits, or other compensation or has inquired about or discussed the wages of any other employee.

An employer may not contract with an employee to subvert the law. However, an employer may prohibit a human resources employee, or any other employee whose job responsibilities require access to other employees’ compensation information, from disclosing such information without prior written consent from the employee whose information is sought or requested, unless the compensation information is a public record.
Employers are required to post a notice in their workplaces notifying employees of their rights under the law.
The law goes into effect on July 1, 2018.

How to Burglar-Proof Your Air Conditioner

Window air conditioning units can provide quick cooling to any room in a home, but they are also a target for burglars. Instead of just sliding the unit in, homeowners should take extra measures to protect the window. Once applied, the window will be fully operable during seasonal weather when the air conditioner is no longer needed. Some of the extra security measures can still be used on the windows when the air conditioning unit is no longer in place. Moreover, when your air conditioner is not well maintained, its parts become more prone to damage and can easily break with slight pressure. That is why it is critical to schedule AC maintenance on a regular basis. You could also choose to invest in AC maintenance agreements, which are essentially a contract between a homeowner and an HVAC contractor in which the contractor agrees to perform a list of services on your air conditioner a certain number of times (usually once or twice) per year for a set fee.

Other than that, here are a few pointers to keep in mind – Install an air conditioner bracket to the outside of the unit. The bracket not only supports the air conditioner, but it attaches to the bottom of the unit and the house, making it harder to move the air conditioner. Nevertheless, it might be a good idea to install an AC bracket while the AC installation expert (who you might have hired from companies offering AC installation in Port St Lucie, FL) is installing your appliance. This can ensure that both the brackets and the air conditioners are installed properly.
Anyway, if you are installing the bracket by yourself, add a sliding window lock to each side of the window frame. Depending on the type, the locks are bolted or screwed in. They prevent burglars from sliding the window up and down. Attach the lock into the frame just above the window. Tighten it securely.

Measure the length from the side of the unit to the wall. Purchase and attach a steel corner brace to each side of the air conditioner. Connect the other end to a secure section of the wall. Use screws or bolts to secure the brackets in place. This prevents thieves from pushing the air conditioner in or pulling it out. However, if you are not an expert in installing an AC bracket over a window air-conditioner, you may want to consider other options like a mini-split A/C system (learn more here “why you should consider installing a ductless mini-split“).

Coming back to brackets installation, screw-in plastic vent flaps directly to the window frame. If the air conditioner is smaller than the window, plastic vent flaps need to be pulled tightly to cover up the holes. This is a vulnerable spot for burglars. Use three or more screws to attach it directly to the window frame.

Install a small window sensor alarm. Magnetic controls set above the air conditioner will go off if the unit is moved or the window is opened. The high-pitched noise will alert anyone in the home and likely scare the burglar away.

Burglars will most often take the path of least resistance. It is important to add measures to prevent home break-ins and protect of your home.

Trusts Can Help Your Legacy Live On

Discussing death with anyone is never a pleasant aspect of financial planning, but it’s certainly one of the most important. While no one likes to discuss his or her own mortality, many wonder how they’ll be remembered. Perhaps you want your legacy to live on through the work of a charity, or desire to bypass the probate that is associated with a will. Whatever the reason, a trust may be an excellent option to consider.

Trusts, simply put, are a way to transfer assets and property into one legal entity. One of the biggest benefits to a trust is that when properly established, probate court and legal costs associated with a will can be avoided. A trust provides greater protection than a will against legal action from anyone who is unhappy with the distribution of assets and decides to challenge it. Also, a will is a matter of public record, while a trust, when established properly, is not.

Many important uses of trusts do exist. Trusts can minimize possible conflict between heirs when an estate is being settled, set out how assets are distributed to beneficiaries, who inherits property, as well as who has the right to use it and under what conditions, and how and when money is disbursed for children or grandchildren’s educational expenses. A charitable trust is a popular way to transfer assets such as money, real estate, or art, and designate that they eventually be given to a specific organization. Trusts can also help manage your clients’ affairs if they become unable to do so. Many set up trusts to prepare for the possibility that they may become disabled or ill before their death, and thus unable to manage their assets properly.

Aside from a will, trusts provide additional options for making certain that a legacy lives on. Trusts can help manage property and assets and make sure they are distributed after death according to your wishes.

(Re)Gaining Employee Loyalty

Position yourself for future growth

As the economy continues to improve, employee loyalty is on the decline. According to the recently released MetLife 9th Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends, employee loyalty has declined year-over-year and how now reached a three-year low. Yet many employers may be caught unaware by this downward trend. Employer responses show they assume employees feel as loyal today as they did three years ago.

While employers of all sizes saw productivity gains over the past 12 months, proving that many were able to “do more with less,” this short-term gain may have come at the expense of employee loyalty. More than one-third (36%) of employees hope to work for a different employer in the next 12 months.

“Worker loyalty has been slowly ebbing over the last several years, and it is important that employers take action to turn the tide around. The short-term gains employers realized from greater productivity appear to be short-lived and now pose bottom-line challenges as key talent considers other employment opportunities that have arisen as a result of the improving economy,” said Anthony Nugent, executive vice president, U.S. Business, MetLife. “There is no doubt that the rebounding economy will bring more opportunities for employees, especially the high performers. A well-architected benefits offering will play an increasingly important role in retaining employees and positioning organizations for future growth.”

Benefits Build Loyalty

The Study found that employers’ top benefits objectives remain the same as last year: 1) controlling health and welfare benefit costs 2) retaining employees and 3) increasing employee productivity. However, declining employee loyalty indicates that, without careful evaluation, steps to achieve one objective may negate efforts in another area.

Helping your clients understand the factors motivating employee loyalty is key. While employers recognize that salary and wages are one of the most important drivers of employee loyalty, there is a significant lack of awareness of how other benefits are also driving loyalty. For example, 59% of surveyed employees said non-medical benefits such as dental, disability and life insurance are extremely important loyalty drivers, while only 37% of surveyed employers say the same.

* Flexibility and Choice: While nearly all workers were impacted by the recession, they were at different ages and stages of life when it hit. This is translating into workers having different priorities and views about what their benefits should include. Voluntary benefits can help address the diverse employee needs and increase the perceived value of the company’s benefits program. Flexibility and choice through voluntary benefits are a way to deliver personalized and customized benefits to drive loyalty while still managing the bottom line. Perhaps surprisingly, employees across the board highly value these benefits – in fact, nearly two-thirds (61%) of employees report that they value them as a way to obtain benefits that meet their personal needs.

* Communications and the Generations: While a third of employers in the Study said that changing employee communications is not a current priority, communicating effectively is related to improved benefits satisfaction. Among employees who said that their employer improved communications over the past year, 65% felt their employer was loyal to them, compared to 33% of employees overall. Leveraging social media and providing benefits information on mobile devices is one strategy for improving communications for younger employees. While employers seem slow in adoption, the Study found that 42% of Gen Y employees and 38% of Gen X employees would be interested in accessing and receiving benefits information through social networking sites. Similar percentages of Gen Y and Gen X employees are interested in having information available through mobile devices.

* Holistic Health/Financial Wellness: Since employee lifestyle choices contribute significantly to health care costs, disability costs and productivity, it is not surprising that the number of employers offering wellness programs continues to grow. Taking a holistic approach to employee health is a way to address financial health as well. The Study shows that employees who say they are not in control of their finances are more likely to report poor health. Employees are clamoring for help – 52% report being interested in receiving financial advice and guidance through the workplace, and this increases to 81% among those who acknowledge that financial concerns have impacted their workplace attendance or productivity.

* Retirement – Employees Need a Map and Directions: When it comes to retirement planning, both now and in the future, employees need both guidance and access to protection. Over 60% of Baby Boomers indicate they are behind in saving for retirement. The Study also found that approximately half of employees who are behind in saving for retirement are interested in their employer automatically enrolling them in a savings program such as 401(k). In addition, employees have expressed an interest in receiving some, or all, of their retirement income in the form of guaranteed income. However, only 15% of employers said they currently offer annuities.