Looking for a good reason to hire veterans besides just filling a job vacancy?  The VOW to Hire Heroes Act provides employers with incentives to hire veterans: a $2,400 tax credit for veterans who are unemployed for more than 4 weeks, but less than 6 months; and a tax credit up to $5,600 credit for hiring veterans who have been unemployed for more than 6 months (or up to $9,600 for hiring veterans with service-connected disabilities who have been looking for a job for more than 6 months).  To qualify for the credit, the veteran must begin work on or after November 22, 2011, and before January 1, 2013.  In addition, a qualified veteran must work at least 120 hours for any credit to apply.

An employer must obtain certification that an individual is a qualified veteran in order to claim the credit.  Please contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant to aid with the application process and to help you claim the credit. For questions about the tax credit, please visit,,id=253950,00.html.

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If your company has ever been subjected to an ICE enforcement investigation, your first question may have likely been, “Why?” According to attorney Jeffrey S. Bell of Polsinelli Shughart PC, there are three main reasons that put companies on the ICE radar: random audits, lead-driven investigations, and tips from other federal or state agencies.

Random audits: It’s no secret that certain industries are known to employ unauthorized workers.  Companies within those industries should make certain their employment practices are in harmony with the law, as they are hot targets for the random audit pool – regardless of any leads given to ICE. 

Lead-driven investigations: Unhappy employees (current or former) may contact ICE in an effort to get back at their (former) employer when assumed or known unauthorized workers are employed.  In addition, competitors who are outbid may suspect undocumented workers when going head-to-head for contracts, with the assumption that the lower bid is due to lower wages being paid to undocumented workers.

Tips from other federal or state agencies: Within the past few years, government agencies have finally been more willing to share information to help with enforcement efforts, meaning ICE may now receive tips from agencies such as the DOL or IRS.

What Should We Do in the Event of an Audit?

In the event your company has been chosen for an ICE investigation, you will receive a notice of inspection (NOI) at least three days prior to the investigation.  This will give you a chance to put together your I-9 paperwork and, if subpoenaed, business documents.  “When ICE goes through your I-9s, they are extremely thorough.  Any possible mistake or error that could occur, they will catch.  It’s a very nit-picky, time-consuming process, but that’s what they do and they’re quite good at it,” Bell cautioned. 

What’s the best thing employers can do to protect themselves in the event of an ICE audit?  Ensure their I-9s are thoroughly completed and carefully organized.  This includes verifying that each employee’s identification appears to be genuine, and signing to confirm they saw the original form(s) of identification.

For questions or concerns about I-9s, ICE audits, or immigration enforcement, please contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187.

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Remember the 2010 amendment to the FLSA requiring employers to provide break time and private space for nursing mothers (employees) to express milk while at work?  If you remember this rule exists, you’re doing better than 57% of persons asked in a recent survey.  Not many companies have stepped up with creating accommodations to appease this regulation, even though employers are bound by the requirement to make their best efforts to comply.  Perhaps it’s because they need a reminder…

So what are the regulations again?

  • Employers must provide a “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.”
  • The frequency of breaks is on an as-needed basis for the mother.
  • The location must be “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”
  • Employers with fewer than 50 employees are not subject to this FLSA break time requirement if it creates an undue hardship.
  • Breaks taken for expressing milk must be treated similarly to general breaks provided by the employer; meaning if employees are normally compensated for break time, then employees taking breaks to express milk must also be compensated.  If breaks are not compensated, then the employee must be completely relieved from job duties or else time spent on break must be compensated.

Please contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187 with questions regarding this ruling or any other employment-related matter.

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Question 1: What part of Healthcare Reform are people saying isn’t constitutional?
Beginning on March 26, 2012, the Supreme Court will spend three days hearing arguments about three key issues to determine the constitutionality of healthcare reform, specifically:

  1. Is the individual mandate unconstitutional?  i.e. Is requiring people to buy health insurance or face a penalty in violation of the Constitution?
  2. Can the mandate be separate from the rest of the healthcare reform act?  If the individual mandate is ruled to be illegal, the court will then have to determine which parts of the law should be eliminated – if not the law in its entirety.
  3. Should this challenge be pushed to 2014?  Before answering questions 1 and 2, the Court must first decide if this mandate is a “tax.”  If so, the court cannot legally make a ruling on it until it takes effect in 2014 because of the “Anti-Injunction Act” that states that “consumers can’t challenge a tax law until they have to pay for it.”

It is assumed the court will rule on the challenge by the end of June.  Stay tuned.

Question 2: Should I even care about healthcare reform until after the presidential election occurs in November?
Assuming healthcare reform law is deemed constitutional, this presidential election could certainly lead to major changes in the White House, Congress, and, therefore, healthcare reform law.  If Republicans gain control, we will surely see healthcare reform (as we know it) substantially changed, if not repealed in its entirety.  If Democrats maintain control, much of the reform could be implemented as planned.  Until you know the tide is changing, however, you may want to keep up with the incremental changes.  Better yet, have ESG help you keep up with the changes.

Question 3: What is happening with healthcare reform in 2012?
The bulk of healthcare reform still doesn’t kick in until 2014.  However, there are a few things that are taking place in 2012 to keep the ball rolling. (Source:

  • Jan 1: Groups of healthcare providers started to form Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) to treat Medicare patients, with the intention to improve healthcare quality and decrease healthcare costs.
  • March 26-28: The Supreme Court will hear the constitutionality challenges (see Question 1).
  • Oct 1: Changes to standardize billing will take effect, requiring health plans to adopt and implement rules for the electronic exchange of health information.  Value-Based Purchasing will also take effect, connecting hospitals’ Medicare payments to performance metrics.  (Higher quality of care will receive higher payments.  Hospitals will be penalized if a patient is readmitted for an illness that could have been prevented during a previous stay.)
  • Nov 6: General election (see question 2).
  • Dec 31: States must report on the progress they’ve made in having their individual health insurance exchanges ready for 2014.  Feds may step in for states that haven’t made enough progress.

For questions about health reform or any other HR-related question, please contact our HR experts at 888-810-8187.


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Employers who are savvy with the workers’ compensation world understand that their experience modifier, or e-mod, is a critical component to having lower workers’ comp premiums. And lower workers’ comp premiums means more flexibility when bidding against competitors.  Or it simply means extra cash.  The bottom line is no organization would willingly sign up to pay more for workers’ comp if there was something they could do about it.  Breaking News: there IS something you can do!  Here are three EASY safety measures you can take to decrease your e-mod this year:

1. Establish (or re-establish) a safety program that:
   a. Identifies hazards;
   b. Trains employees to the specific hazards;
   c. Uses a safety committee; and
   d. Rewards safe behavior.

2. Have trained first responders that can:
   a. Administer first aid;
   b. Assess the need for additional medical treatment; and
   c. Identify the cause of the accident / injury.

3. Work with your Workers’ Comp insurance carrier by:
   a. Using preferred providers;
   b. Putting employees back to work on modified duty; and
   c. Reporting claims immediately.

ESG’s safety team is available and accessible for your company’s safety needs, from assisting you with your safety program, to personally training your employees on safety practices.  Our experts handle and administer your workers’ comp claims to get your employees back to work as soon as possible.  For more information, please contact our ESG Safety Experts at 888-810-8187.

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By Steve Bruce (with adaptations),

Wellness programs are no-brainers for today’s employers who want to keep employees healthy and reduce their health insurance expenses.  But easy-to-make mistakes can doom your program before it can gain traction. To have a thriving wellness program, here are health experts' Debra Wein and Courtney Hernandez' 10 key wellness mistakes to avoid:

Mistake 1: Failing to Plan
As with any significant project, wellness initiatives must be planned. Be sure to establish goals for ROI or for participation (or whatever you choose) and then structure a program to support the goals.

Mistake #2: Not Gathering Enough Data
Find out what employees are interested in, perhaps by doing a survey, and find out what health risks you'd like to try to deal with, perhaps through health screenings or assessments. Then see if you can marry the two. That will ensure the highest level of participation while simultaneously addressing important health issues.

Mistake #3: Thinking Yoga Is Enough
Some employers think that by starting a Yoga program and maybe offering a few other programs will create a wellness program. Wrong.  It takes a lot of planning to have a comprehensive program.

Mistake #4: Targeting Only High-Risk Employees
It's tempting to focus on those with the greatest number of health risks, but it's also important to encourage the healthy people to maintain good health.

Mistake #5: One Size Fits All
Variety in programming will ensure a higher percentage of employee participation.  Go for more than exercise: consider programming in stress reduction, mental health, diet, healthy family, and so on.

Mistake #6: No Incentives
It would be nice to think that employees would all participate without an incentive beyond better health, but many employers find they need to use incentives to encourage participation. Incentives may range from discounts on health insurance, to days off, to gift cards. 

Mistake #7: No Budget
Wellness programs can be low-cost, but not no-cost. Make sure you have at least a minimal budget to get things going.

Mistake #8: Lack of C-Level Support
You need management support for a budget, but you also need management as visible participants.

Mistake #9: No Tracking
Along with your goals, develop metrics that will help you to gauge what effect your program is having. The simplest metric is participation percentage.

Mistake #10: No Future Direction
Don't think the program will run itself once you get it going.  You must continue to evaluate employee needs and program results to keep the program meaningful and attractive.  Well-structured and well-run wellness programs can generate ROIs of up to 300% - music to management's ears!  But the key words are "well-structured" and "well-run." Poorly structured programs just spin their wheels—no health benefit or positive ROI.

For ideas on how to get your company’s wellness program started – or how to enhance its effectiveness, please contact an ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187.

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