Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Takin’ Care of Business & Working Overtime

I woke this morning to Canadian rock group Bachman-Turner Overdrive doing their iconic 70's hit, Takin’ Care of Business. As I danced to the kitchen on  those major and minor riffs, I brewed my newly acquired Detroit Bold coffee, and I belted out the most memorable line, “Takin’ care of business and workin’ overtime.” (For those not familiar with the tune go check it out on YouTube, I guarantee you’ll be dancing and playing air guitar)

Today we can't dance around the topic of overtime. Back in 2014, President Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to update the rules on overtime pay, and this year, the President and Department of Labor Secretary Perez have announced the final rule updating the overtime regulations to reflect the original intent of the Fair Labor Standards Act. 
What the new rule does:
  • Extends overtime pay protections to over 4 million workers (within the first year of implementation)
  • Simplifies and modernizes the rules so they’re easier for workers and businesses to understand and apply.
  • Raises the salary threshold indicating eligibility from $455/week to $913 ($47,476 per year)
  • Strengthen overtime protections for salaried workers already entitled to overtime.
  • Provide greater clarity for workers and employers.
  • Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004)
  • Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years 
  • Amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.

The final rule will become effective on December 1, 2016.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Is it Time to Make Pet Care Benefits a Standard?

Oscar and Lola in 2013
For 15 years Oscar and Lola were part of our family. We brought them into our home when Oscar was 8 weeks old and Lola, about 16 weeks old. Our two Lhasa Apso puppies quickly became a part of everything we planned including housing decisions, vacation destinations, and home entertaining.
Lola was diagnosed with diabetes about 18 months ago. She required insulin injections daily and continued to live comfortably until April of this year when constant seizures brought us to the heart breaking decision to euthanize her to end her suffering. 
It was hard to know if Oscar knew Lola was gone since he had been blind and deaf for a few years -- I think he knew. Oscar followed his nose to maneuver throughout the house so he had notice that Lola’s scent was missing at some point. He always knew where to find each family member at the appropriate time of day and would curl up on one his favorite blankets or behind a chair, or under a table or other odd places. 
Oscar had advanced renal failure. His age and overall condition made possible treatments unreliable for a positive outcome, but rather than euthanasia, we decided to keep him home and in familiar surroundings until the end. Oscar slept away on October 10, 2016 with my daughters and me next to him. My youngest daughter was visiting from Colorado and remarked that she was comforted as she fell asleep listening to his snoring the night before. Her sister decided to stop by to spend the day with her before her flight so they both had the opportunity to comfort Oscar. 
Both our beloved pets gone within 7 months of each other.
We are all sad, but honestly, I never expected to feel so distraught. If I feel this way surely others who have dealt with the death of a pet have experienced this sense of loss and subsequent grief. 
As a child, our family always had a dog, but the dog lived outside in a dog house built by my dad.The dog was not allowed inside our house. For the first three years we had Oscar and Lola they never ventured outside, they were litter box trained. They had their own room and went with us on vacations or vacationed at the Valley of Hounds if we couldn’t take them with us. 
Pets have become more integrated as family members and connection to them is more than cursory. Pets are central to our well-being and become part of our heart space. There are many reasons for this as pets often fill voids created by job mobility and military deployments that take people away from their families, friends and familiar surroundings. Socialization is also different as people delay, or forego marriage, delay or choose not to have children, or people that have children reach the point where they grow up and move on.
Since pets are integral in many employee’s lives, should employers provide bereavement benefits? Should benefit plans be expanded to include insurance provisions for regular care, care for chronic illness, or catastrophic illness? Perhaps flexible spending accounts and use of days reserved for personal use, sick time, or vacation time would meet the need. Some companies already recognize the benefit and need for these kind of programs. Is it time to make them a standard practice?