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Discovering polybutylene piping in a home can be a difficult obstacle to overcome when buying or selling a property. Insurance carriers do not typically want to insure properties with this type of plumbing and may require homeowners to replace this piping to insure the property. … Read more

IRS Publishes 2015-2016 Special Per Diem Rates

On September 16, 2015, the IRS released the 2015-2016 special per diem rates for taxpayers to use in substantiating the amount of ordinary and necessary business expenses incurred while traveling away from home. The rates are effective for the period from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016.

The guidance provides the special transportation industry meal and incidental expenses (M&IE) rates, the rate for the incidental expenses only deduction, and the rates and list of high-cost localities for purposes of the high-low substantiation method.

Read IRS Notice 2015-63

OFCCP Announces Final Rule Prohibiting Pay Secrecy

On September 10, 2015, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) published a Final Rule implementing Executive Order (EO) 13665 issued by President Obama on April 8, 2014, which prohibits federal contractors from discriminating against employees or job applicants who inquire about, discuss, or disclose their own compensation or the compensation of other employees or applicants. EO 13665 amends EO 11246, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, and national origin.

The Final Rule generally applies to any business or organization that:

  • Holds a single federal contract, subcontract, or federally assisted construction contract in excess of $10,000;
  • Has federal contracts or subcontracts that have a combined total in excess of $10,000 in any 12-month period; or
  • Holds government bills of lading, serves as a depository of federal funds, or is an issuing and paying agency for U.S. savings bonds and notes in any amount.

The Final Rule goes into effect on January 11, 2016.

Read the Final Rule View the FAQS on the Final Rule

Administration Issues Executive Order Requiring Paid Sick Leave for Federal Contractors

On September 7, 2015, President Obama issued an Executive Order (EO) requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to provide their employees with paid sick leave.

Pursuant to the EO, employees will accrue paid sick leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. Employers may cap accrual at 56 hours (seven days) per year. Employees must be allowed to carryover all unused sick leave.

Paid sick leave may be used by an employee for an absence resulting from:

  1. A physical or mental illness, injury, or medical condition.
  2. Obtaining diagnosis, care, or preventative care from a health care provider.
  3. Caring for a child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or any other individual related by blood or affinity whose association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship, who has any of the needs listed in (1) and (2) above.
  4. Absences resulting from domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, if the absence is a result of seeking medical attention, obtaining counseling, seeking relocation, seeking assistance from a victim services organization, or taking related legal action.

Requests for leave may be made orally or in writing and must include the expected duration of the leave. If the need for leave is foreseeable, employees must provide at least seven calendar days’ advance notice. If the need for leave is not foreseeable, notice must be provided as soon as practicable.

If an employee is absent for three or more consecutive days on paid sick leave, the employer is permitted to request a certification from a health care provider (if the absence is related to a medical condition) or from an appropriate individual or organization (if the absence is related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking). The certification must be provided no later than 30 days from the first day of leave.

The Department of Labor is required to issue regulations by September 30, 2016.

The Executive Order applies to contracts entered into after January 1, 2017.

Read the Executive Order

NLRB General Counsel Issues Guidance on Electronic Signatures

On September 1, 2015, the General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) issued guidance (Memorandum GC 15-08) regarding the use of electronic signatures to support a showing of interest on a union petition. According to the guidance, the NLRB has determined that the Amended Election Rules, which went into effect on April 14, 2015, permit the use of electronic signatures.

Pursuant to the guidance, to be acceptable and considered authentic and reliable by the NLRB, an electronic signature must include all of the following:

  • The signer’s name.
  • The signer’s email address or other known contact information (e.g., social media account).
  • The signer’s telephone number.
  • The language to which the signer has agreed (e.g., that the signer wishes to be represented by ABC Union for purposes of collective bargaining or no longer wishes to be represented by ABC Union for purposes of collective bargaining).
  • The date the electronic signature was submitted.
  • The name of the employer of the employee.

The guidance also explains the procedures for submission of a showing of interest based on electronic signatures. As such, a party submitting electronic digital signatures must submit a declaration:

  1. Identifying what electronic signature technology was used and explaining how its controls ensure both that the electronic signature is that of the signatory employee, and that the employee himself or herself signed the document; and
  2. That the electronically transmitted information regarding what and when the employees signed is the same information seen and signed by the employees.

The guidance further explains the procedures for electronic signature submission.

Read Memorandum GC 15-08

EEO-1 Filing Deadline Extended to October 30th

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that the EEO-1 Joint Reporting Committee has extended the deadline for all EEO-1 Report filers from September 30 to October 30. The Employer Information Report EEO-1, otherwise known as the EEO-1 Report, must be submitted and certified by October 30 at the latest.

Visit the EEOC EEO-1 Survey Webpage

PosterFlorida recently changed its discrimination law by adding language to specify that discrimination based on pregnancy is specifically prohibited. Now, the state has released a new version of its discrimination labor law poster to reflect this recent change to the law. Since the Florida discrimination poster has never had a revision date, it becomes important to focus on what has changed about the new labor law poster. Most importantly, “pregnancy” is now listed as a protected category. Secondly, the Florida Commission on Human Rights has an updated address that is now reflected on the poster.

The Florida Commission on Human Relations, the state agency responsible for enforcing the Florida Civil Rights Act, requires Florida employers to post an anti-discrimination poster at their place of business.

Click here to download the new discrimination poster.

Each year, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspects workplaces around the country for safety and occupational hazards. OSHA inspectors don’t often drop by, but when they do, they drop by unannounced, ready to hand out citations and fines for non-compliance to their safety standards. So, how do you not end up blindsided and have better control of the outcome of an OSHA inspection? Preparation is key. Here’s an OSHA checklist of five important things you can do to prepare for an inspection:

  1. Be safe enough for an inspection 365 days a year.

You’d be surprised by how many companies think they can skimp on safety because OSHA rarely comes around for an inspection. Don’t make that mistake! The number one thing you can do to prepare for an OSHA investigation is to make safety a priority. We recommend having a comprehensive safety program in place that you commit to in the long-term. This program should include regular safety training for your employees, a plan for keeping safety equipment like goggles and hardhats in stock for employees, and a standardized protocol for responding to hazardous situations. For more information on how to implement an effective safety culture in the workplace, contact your Gulfshore Insurance Client Advisor.

  1. Communicate with your team.

Your employees often have a better idea than you do of workplace hazards. So, make sure you check in with them regularly to ask about the equipment they’re using and how safe they feel on the job. You want them to know that there’s an open door policy when it comes to safety concerns and that their protection at work is one of your top priorities. So, don’t be afraid to start discussions about safety and ask your employees to be on the lookout for hazards for you. Communicate with your team about the potential inspection and educate them on what is involved.

  1. Get your paperwork in order.

You can count on the OSHA inspector asking to see your OSHA 300 form (or other log of illnesses and injuries). Update your company’s OSHA 300 logs, records of all work-related injuries and illnesses, on a regular basis. Additionally, you should plan on having to show written documentation of employee safety training. You will also likely need to furnish written proof of the safety programs you have in place. Make sure you have all of this in writing, and make sure that you know where all pertinent documents are before the inspection. These forms should be organized and easily accessible.

  1. Create an inspection team.

Assign key team members to a designated “inspection team.” These individuals will be responsible for helping the rest of the company prepare and for managing the inspection once the OSHA representative is on site.

  1. Hold a mock inspection.

Conduct semi-regular mock inspections on your own to identify potential health and safety issues that an OSHA inspector would find. In doing so, your company can correct any major issues long before the programmed inspection. This proactive approach will also help your company manage workplace hazards in future years, removing the need for an OSHA inspection entirely.

OSHA inspections can be unnerving for a company and its employees. Whether you’re on OSHA’s list of programmed inspections, or you’re just being proactive, the methods above will help prepare your team for assessment.

On August 20, 2015, the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) delivered its annual workers’ compensation insurance rate filing to the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation.

Based upon its review of the most recent data available, NCCI has proposed an overall average rate level decrease of 1.9 percent. With a reduction in the expense constant from $200 to $160 and changes to minimum premiums, the overall average premium decrease would be 2.2 percent, effective January 1, 2016.

If approved as filed, the overall average rate level change for each industry group will be as follows:

  • Manufacturing: -4.7 percent
  • Contracting: +1.0 percent
  • Office and Clerical: -5.1 percent
  • Goods and Services: -1.6 percent
  • Miscellaneous: -1.8 percent
  • Total: -1.9 percent

Today, Florida’s workers’ compensation insurance rates remain stable and commensurate with other southeastern states overall. However, rates could increase, perhaps dramatically, depending on decisions issued in a couple of pending court cases being monitored by the NCCI.

The Office of Insurance Regulation is expected to schedule a public rate hearing this October. We will keep you updated.