Monthly Archives

July 2017

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Oil Field Service

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Our company has been using Harbor America for the past 3 years and we have been very pleased. I did not do the initial meeting with our sales associates about switching from our current payroll company to them, they met with my dad. However, I was the one that would be dealing with them since I was in charge of payroll and all other employee operations. Not going to lie, I was a little hesitant at first because I was comfortable with our current company and had the process down to a “T”. Now, I am glad we switched to Harbor America.

They have always made you feel like a part of their “family.” At the beginning there were a few glitches and hiccups, but our sales associates would come by the office and ask about the issues and they would resolve them in a timely manner. They are also always good about dropping by, calling, or emailing to check on our company and make sure everything is going well and are always asking if there is anything they can do to help. It is a pleasure doing business with them.

I also deal with many of the other employees at Harbor America and also have been very pleased with them. The payroll processing division is always quick to get the invoices back to you and always has payroll dropped off on time. The safety rep is another one that is always coming by and checking on us and making sure we have everything we need to assure safety for our company and our employers. It’s just a great all around company and team to work with and we have been extremely happy and pleased, and plan to use Harbor America and stay part of their “family” for a long time.

Sincerely,
B. Easterling

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Commercial A/C Manufacturing

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Harbor America has been our Professional Employer Organization (PEO) for more than seven years. Harbor America was recommended to us by another company that occupied the same building at our previous location in Houston, Texas. Their recommendation came with high praises in regards to exceptional customer service and products at an affordable price. With each year, Harbor America has exceeded all of our expectations and continues to provide the support, knowledge and service that allows our company to succeed and obtain our goals.

Harbor America has maintained a continuous rapport with us as a client and keeps us current and apprised of changing policies, coverages, and services. In actuality, they alleviate the need for additional employees that would be needed for our small manufacturing firm. Harbor America handles all of the payroll issues and taxes, they provide safety training, services and inspections, they comply with and resolve and Worker’s Compensation issues that may arise, they provide guidelines and recommendation for hiring employees, and they provide administrative duties that are invaluable to our small company.

Each of the employees at Harbor America are very responsive and knowledgeable. Our dedicated payroll processor makes my job easier by establishing a routine that works like clockwork and makes any changes with ease. Our Safety Representative assists in our safety program by suggesting and helping us to identify and implement safety procedures and guidelines. If I have any questions or issues related to our workers, the HR staff is available and responsive. I can truly say that each of the Harbor America employees that I have dealt with is very professional, knowledgeable and easy to work with. They all have exceptional customer service skills.

Our sales associate is very attentive, knowledgeable and responsive. He goes the extra mile in maintaining client relations and is sincere in providing the support and expertise that our company needs. He has been an invaluable part of Harbor America. He is very responsive and attentive. One phone call and he is on top of our problem with a solution soon to follow.

Harbor America has truly been an asset to our company, from their ability to allow the payroll process to run smoothly to assisting with any problems or issues that arise in a very responsive manner.

Sincerely,
J. Dillon
Office Manager

Legal Alert: Landmark Appeals Court Ruling Extends Title VII Protection to LGBT Employees

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Groundbreaking Decision Could Lead Other Federal Courts To Follow Suit.

Late yesterday, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal court of appeals in the nation to rule that sexual orientation claims are actionable under Title VII. In a full panel en banc decision, the court opened the door for LGBT plaintiffs to use Title VII to seek relief for allegations of employment discrimination and retaliation.

The April 4 ruling is important to employers because it broadens the class of potential plaintiffs who can bring workplace claims against them, and will require employers to ensure fair and equal treatment to all applicants and workers regardless of their sexual orientation (Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College).

Background: What Does Title VII Cover?

The initial aim of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to protect employees from race discrimination in the workplace. Just before it was enacted, however, Congress added a provision prohibiting discrimination based on “sex.” Initially, federal courts took the position that “sex” should be interpreted narrowly. However, over the years, plaintiffs have sought a much broader interpretation of what should be covered as sex discrimination. Following the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision which made same-sex marriage legal across the country, federal courts have grappled with determining which types of claims are actionable under the “sex” provision of Title VII. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a July 2015 administrative decision ruling that “sexual orientation is inherently

However, over the years, plaintiffs have sought a much broader interpretation of what should be covered as sex discrimination. Following the landmark 2015 Supreme Court decision which made same-sex marriage legal across the country, federal courts have grappled with determining which types of claims are actionable under the “sex” provision of Title VII. Meanwhile, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a July 2015 administrative decision ruling that “sexual orientation is inherently a ‘sex-based consideration’ and an allegation of discrimination based on sexual orientation is necessarily an allegation of sex discrimination under Title VII” (Baldwin v. Foxx).

Although this decision involved a federal employee and was only binding on federal employers, other lower federal courts have discussed the rationale behind the EEOC’s conclusion and seemed ready to adopt the same approach. Indeed, on November 4, 2016, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania agreed with the EEOC and held that sexual orientation falls within the protection of Title VII (EEOC v. Scott Medical Center). However, no federal appellate court went that far – until now.

Employee Loses First Two Rounds Of Her Battle…

Kimberly Hively began working as a part-time adjunct professor for Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend, Indiana in 2000. She worked there for 14 years until her part-time employment contract was not renewed in 2014. During her employment, she applied for six full-time positions but claims never to have even been offered an interview, even though she said she had all the necessary qualifications and had never even received a negative evaluation.

Hively filed a federal lawsuit alleging sexual orientation discrimination under Title VII, and in 2015, the trial court dismissed her case. She appealed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (which oversees federal courts in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin), which initially agreed with the lower court by upholding the dismissal of her claim in July 2016.

The three-person panel of judges indicated that it had no choice but to deny Hively’s claim after reviewing a string of cases stretching back almost 40 years from across the country. The panel concluded that no other federal appellate court had decided that sexual orientation discrimination is covered under Title VII. The judges noted that we live in “a paradoxical legal landscape in which a person can be married on Saturday and then fired on Monday for just that act,” but indicated they were all but powerless to rule otherwise absent a Supreme Court directive or a congressional amendment to Title VII.

…But Wins Crucial Third Round

In October 2016, the full collection of 7th Circuit judges set aside the ruling and agreed to re-hear the case en banc, which means all the judges would hear the case together. Late yesterday, the en banc panel issued a final ruling overturning its initial decision by an 8 to 3 vote and breathing new life into Hively’s case. More importantly, however, the 7th Circuit created a new cause of action under Title VII for other LGBT employees in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. In the opinion, drafted by Chief Judge Wood, the court concluded that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of discrimination” and that it “would require considerable calisthenics” to remove the “sex” from “sexual orientation” when applying Title VII. In addition, the court noted that efforts to do so had led to confusing and contradictory results.

In the end, the court concluded that the practical realities of life necessitated that it reverse its prior decision. It remanded Hively’s case back to the trial court for a new hearing under this broad new standard.

What This Means For Employers

Employers in Illinois and Wisconsin are already subject to state laws protecting private workers based on sexual orientation, so yesterday’s decision should simply reaffirm their commitment to ensuring fairness and equality for these employees. For private employers in Indiana, however, the time is now to take proactive steps to ensure sexual orientation is treated the same as any other protected class – this includes reviewing your written policies, handbooks, training sessions, workplace investigations, hiring methods, discipline and discharge procedures, and all other aspects of your human resources activities. As for employers in the rest of the country, it appears likely that yesterday’s ruling will be followed by decisions in other circuit courts similarly extending Title VII rights to cover sexual orientation. In fact, the plaintiff in a prominent case recently decided by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (hearing cases from Florida, Georgia, Alabama) has indicated she could seek a full en banc review of her case in the hopes of extending Title VII to cover LGBT workers in that circuit. It would not be surprising for the Hively case to be the first in a series of dominoes that

As for employers in the rest of the country, it appears likely that yesterday’s ruling will be followed by decisions in other circuit courts similarly extending Title VII rights to cover sexual orientation. In fact, the plaintiff in a prominent case recently decided by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (hearing cases from Florida, Georgia, Alabama) has indicated she could seek a full en banc review of her case in the hopes of extending Title VII to cover LGBT workers in that circuit. It would not be surprising for the Hively case to be the first in a series of dominoes that brings about a new day for Title VII litigation across the country.

We can expect to see further judicial rulings in the coming years fleshing out this issue in more detail. For example, one issue not addressed by the 7th Circuit is how this new theory will affect religious institutions given that different standards apply to them under federal antidiscrimination laws. These and other considerations will be debated in courts across the country in the near future.

Even if these appeals court decisions do not immediately materialize, there are two other avenues whereby employers could still face immediate liability for such claims. The first is through state law. Almost half of the states in the country have laws prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in employment (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin), and some additional states protect state workers from such discrimination (Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia).

Second, plaintiffs have successfully argued to various federal courts that Title VII sex discrimination covers claims where plaintiffs allege mistreatment based on gender non-conformity actions. This includes situations where employers are alleged to have discriminated against workers for failing to live up to stereotypical gender norms. Courts have noted that drawing a line that separates these “sex-stereotyping” claims from pure sexual orientation claims is “exceptionally difficult” because the distinction is often “elusive,” meaning that employers anywhere could face a Title VII claim akin to sexual orientation discrimination that would be accepted as valid by a federal court no matter what the federal appeals courts say. This concept was discussed in the 11th Circuit’s recent Evans v. Georgia Regional Hospital decision, and the court in fact permitted the plaintiff to proceed with her case on a stereotyping theory.

While possible that the Supreme Court or Congress will step in and reverse this trend, as a recent court stated, “it seems unlikely that our society can continue to condone a legal structure in which employees can be fired, harassed, demeaned, singled out for undesirable tasks, paid lower wages, demoted, passed over for promotions, and otherwise discriminated against solely based on who they date, love, or marry.” Employers should take heed and prepare for what appears to be an inevitable extension of workplace protection rights for LGBT workers based on their sexual orientation.

If you have any questions about this decision, or how it may affect your business, please contact your Fisher Phillips attorney.

This Legal Alert provides an overview of a specific federal court decision. It is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal advice for any particular fact situation. Landmark Appeals Court Ruling Extends Title VII Protections To LGBT Employees

From www.fisherphillips.com

HR Tidbits

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Question:

When FMLA Time Runs Out What happens if an employee’s FMLA time has run out, but they say they’re not able to return to work?

Answer from Sarah, PHR, SHRM-CP:

Even if an employee has exhausted their FMLA leave for the year, their condition may fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Under the ADA, a disabled employee is one who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities such as seeing, hearing, speaking, walking, performing manual tasks, and working. If the employee’s condition is covered by the ADA, they would be entitled to continued job protection while on a leave of absence, so long as their leave did not create an undue hardship for the company. If the employee contacts you about needing an extension of the leave, you should engage in the ADA interactive process to determine if their condition makes them eligible for ADA leave and how much additional time they would need before returning. As part of the interactive process, you may request medical documentation supporting an accommodation request. You can then look at whether the additional leave is something you can grant without it causing an undue hardship. Be aware, however, that “undue hardship” is a high bar to pass. You could also choose to offer additional leave to an employee even if their condition did not require coverage under the ADA (employers occasionally want to do this with top performers). However, keep in mind that doing this would set a precedent for future requests, so it should be carefully considered.

HR Tidbits

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Question:

Can we ask an applicant why they are leaving their current job?

Answer from Monica, SPHR, SHRM-CP:

Yes, you may ask a candidate why they left a previous job or why they are looking to leave their current job. It’s fine to ask this question during the interview, but we recommend you collect this information ahead of time by asking about it on an employment application. In the section where the applicant lists their previous employment experience, you can ask that they provide their reason for leaving each job. When you see the reasons an applicant left previous positions, you may spot trends in the applicant’s employment history. These trends may be cause for follow-up questions during the interview or reason enough not to schedule an interview at all. If you ask about previous or current employment during the interview, be mindful of the direction the response goes. As with all interview questions, you’ll want to redirect the candidate if they start to share sensitive information. For example, if a candidate says they left past employment due to medical reasons, you’d want to steer them away from sharing any details about the medical condition and refrain from documenting anything about it. Instead, you could ask them to simply state whether they provided notice of their need to resign and whether they left on good terms.

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Inspection Services

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We have been using the services of Harbor America for approximately 5 ½ years. Harbor America primarily provides us workers’ compensation, payroll and tax administration service, and claims management. Our sales associates are helpful, fun to work with and respond when needed. Our company knows we can call on them to assist us in answering a question or provide the necessary follow-up as needed.

We appreciate all the Harbor America employees that are involved with our employment/administrative activities. One of our primary goals in which Harbor continues to excel is providing pre-employment verification and maintaining our payroll and tax administration services accurately and in a timely manner. Harbor PEO employees interact primarily with our office manager. From my discussion with her, they are interactive, friendly, easy to work with, and continue to be punctual in getting our payroll to our office in a timely manner by use of FedEx. We appreciate our sales associate’s efforts as well as everyone at Harbor America.

Thanks again,
D. Jenkins

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Painters

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The reason that we originally signed up with a PEO was so the office personnel could focus on billing, logistics and office management and not get bogged down with workers’ comp. and payroll issues.

We were pleasantly surprised at the extra services that were provided to us. The amount of time and money we have saved since utilizing Harbor for these services has no doubt aided us in being both successful and profitable – and was quite a surprise!

The employees at Harbor America are very responsive and professional at all times. Anytime there is a problem, phone calls and emails are returned in a very rapid time frame.

Our sales associates are the most professional and dedicated individuals that our company has the pleasure to do business with. They represent their firm well. It is always a pleasure to see them walk through the door for their visits, always attentive and ready to tackle any concerns we have.

Thank you Harbor America for being there for us in good times and bad!!!!

H & W. Smith
Co-Owners

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Iron Product Manufacturing

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We have utilized Harbor America for our payroll, medical and dental insurance, safety and workers’ compensation insurance for a little over a year and a half now. Prior to us utilizing Harbor America, we spent countless hours every week doing payroll, handling payroll issues, enrolling/changing employee health/dental benefits, initializing workers’ compensation claims, responding to unemployment claims and conducting safety meetings.

The most surprising benefit we received from utilizing Harbor America was how easy our transition was as well as how much time we saved. Prior to us utilizing Harbor America, we were reaching a point where we were going to have to hire another Human Resources Assistant just to keep up with payroll and health/dental insurance requirements. Not only did we not have to add another employee to handle those items but we were also able to free up several hours per week for our Office Manager who was doing all workers’ compensation and unemployment claims. Anytime we have questions from either our employees or ourselves Harbor is extremely easy to contact and we almost always receive instant results.

Our sales associates not only were here for our transition but they continue to follow up periodically to ensure that we are receiving the level of customer satisfaction they personally guarantee. We are proud to say that we utilize Harbor America for these services. As a small company who just recently employed over 50 employees, it is hard to imagine not having Harbor America to handle these services for us. The amount of time and money we have saved since utilizing Harbor for these services has no doubt aided us in being both successful and profitable. Harbor America is a vital resource to our company. Their expertise and professionalism have helped us succeed now and we are sure it will continue to help us grow in the future.

Respectfully yours,
R.Rice
Vice President