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Have You Checked Your Handbook Lately?


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Ginger Galloway, SPHR, MBA | February 8, 2019

The beginning of the year is a great time to update employee handbooks.  Even if you have a few employees, having a handbook helps make the work place easier to understand and some critical policies are required for all employers. Here are a few handbook areas you want to check to make sure you are still in compliance.  Last month SHRM (Society for Human Resources Management) recommended five areas that employers should check in their handbooks.  We are looking at those same areas but adding a different look.

Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

Besides Federal protections, many state and local agencies are establishing their own EEO guidelines.  You need to know if your state and local agencies have implemented additional protections, definitions, education requirements or posting requirements.  EEO protections filter into many handbook policies such as anti-harassment, staffing and hiring and termination policies.  Make sure these are all in compliance.

Reasonable Accommodations

Some states, such as California, clarified current laws such as California’s Lactation Requirement.  Providing a space in the employee restroom, separate from a stall, is not enough.  The space should be private such as an office or room that can be locked.  Also, many companies have wellness programs.  Employers need to ensure they are providing accommodations to people with disabilities to allow them to participate as well.

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Leaves of Absence

States and local agencies continue to expand leave of absence policies.  The most common expansion is mandatory paid sick leave.  Employers also need to know about domestic violence leave, paid family leave, and leave for military members and their families.  These leaves are extending into small employers.

Equal Pay and Pay Discrimination

Again, states and local agencies continue to expand fair pay laws.  It isn’t necessarily fair pay for the same work.  It can also be fair pay for comparable work.  In California, employers cannot ask a potential applicant what their pay was in prior positions.  Please review applications to ensure this is not a required field and make sure anyone involved in the hiring process knows they cannot ask this question.

Driving for Work

According to the National Safety Council, more than 90 percent of car crashes are due to human error and distracted driving is a main culprit.  If you have employees who regularly drive in the course of their job, you need to make it very clear that they must not text while drive and not be distracted.  Distractions can be anything that takes their eyes off of the road such as viewing GPS, reading devices or physical material, eating and talking to other people virtually or physically in the car.

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Smoke and Vape-Free Workplaces

California already has a bunch of ordinances and laws on the books prohibiting smoking in public places.  Ensure you have designated smoking areas outside of the workplace and away from entrances.  Also, questions have arisen regarding vaping and marijuana use.  Employers can prohibit workplace use of vaping devices.  Finally, employers in states where marijuana is legal should include a statement in their Drug and Alcohol-Free Workplace policy that marijuana use is prohibited, just like alcohol use is prohibited, in the workplace.

Violence in the Workplace

Employers have a responsibility to ensure a safe, violence-free and harassment-free workplace.  Many state and local agencies have regulations around violence at work and the employer is expected to know these regulations.  Mental health professionals indicate that individuals may exhibit certain behaviors and signs

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before engaging in violent acts.  Some of these behaviors and signs, especially if combined, are anger, hostility, extreme agitation and resentment, ominous threats, discussing weapons and their use, overreactions and personality conflicts with co-workers.  Policies should indicate that the business expects its employees to use reasonable judgement and if they hear or observe of potentially dangerous situations, they must report it immediately to management.

Year End For Plan Sponsors

Sheri A. Creger, CPFA  Ι  November 28, 2018

As the year draws to a close there are many things that a Plan Sponsor providing a 401k plan needs to ensure they are doing in order to adhere to regulatory legislative requirements.

One place to start is to confirm that all plan participant notices have been sent. Notices to all plan participants are required to be sent annually for transparency and disclosure purposes. Depending upon your plan you may have different types of notices but most of the 401(k) and 403(b) plan sponsors are responsible for the following notices; Summary Plan Description (SPD) and Summary of Material Modifications, Automatic Enrollment, Qualified Default Investment Arrangement Updates, Fee Disclosure, Safe Harbor, Summary Annual Report.

The Plan Sponsor must also ensure that they are maintaining updated mailing information, tracking delivery dates, and confirming receipts of participant notices.

Review your plan documents and make sure that they are kept current and adhere to current laws and regulations. You must also ensure that ALL of your amendments are properly signed and that any of your third-party administrators such as your TPA and/or record keeper have the updated documentation. Your TPA needs to know what has transpired during the year. Not only do they need the updated documents, but they also need the updated employee record information such as hire/terminations/rehire/birth date etc.

Prior to filing your Form 5500, make sure to carefully review your submission and form once completed prior to filing.

Plan Sponsors that are required to maintain an ERISA bond need to ensure that they are meeting the fiduciary requirements of the policy. Although not required, having fiduciary liability insurance for the fiduciaries is a good practice. If you don’t have it this would be a good time to look into it and if you do have fiduciary liability insurance this would be a good time to review your current policy.

Too many times we have seen Plan Sponsors neglect their annual review of their 401(k) plans and then run into future problems that could have been prevented. We can help you! We can serve as your “delegated†ERISA 3(16) Fiduciary Administrator and ensure the proper administration of your 401(k) plan. Click on “Meet Your New BFF®â€above to find out how we can help you.


Alert – The IRS has Announced Retirement Plan Limits for 2019


The IRS announced cost-of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement related limitations for 2019, see Notice 2018-83. Most limits experienced modest increases with a few remaining at the same level. Notably, the IRA limit is higher by $500, now at $6,000, the last increase to IRA amounts was in 2013. Salary deferral contribution amounts to 401(k), 403(b), and 457 plans are also up to $19,000.

Below is a summary of the announced adjustments*

Limitations 2019 2018
Elective deferral limit for 401(k), Roth 401(k), 403(b), Roth 403(b), & 457 Plans $19,000 $18,500
Catch-up contribution limit for 401(k), Roth 401(k), 403(b), Roth 403(b), & 457 Plans $6,000 $6,000
Elective deferral limit for SIMPLE IRA Plans $13,000 $12,500
Catch-up contribution limit for SIMPLE IRA Plans $3,000 $3,000
Annual limit for defined contribution plans $56,000 $55,000
Annual limit to SEP IRA Plans $56,000 $55,000
Maximum plan compensation for retirement plan purposes $280,000 $275,000
Annual benefit limit for defined benefit plans $225,000 $220,000
Threshold amount for definition of a highly compensated employee $125,000 $120,000
Threshold amount for definition of a key employee in top heavy plans $180,000 $175,000
SEP IRA compensation threshold for eligibility $600 $600
Social Security Taxable Wage Base $132,900 $128,400
IRA or Roth IRA contribution limit $6,000 $5,500
Catch-up contribution limit for IRA or Roth IRA $1,000 $1,000
IRA Deduction phase-out limit for active plan participants starts at:
Single $64,000 $63,000
Married Filing Jointly $103,000 $101,000
Married Filing Jointly and one spouse is covered by a plan $193,000 $189,000
Roth IRA contribution phase-out limit starts at:
Single $122,000 $120,000
Married Filing Jointly $193,000 $189,000

*This summary is designed to provide an overview of the dollar limitations for retirement plans applicable in 2019 and is not comprehensive.  It is intended for general information only and is believed to be accurate and reliable as of posting date but may be subject to changes.  Benefits Functional Fiduciaries Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice.  Individuals should seek services from the appropriate tax and legal professionals as to how this information will apply to them under their individual circumstances.



Ginger Galloway, SPHR, MBA | November 7, 2018

Part Two of a Two-Part Series

As the holiday season approaches, it is amazing how fast time flies.  You should be well into planning and beginning implementation of year-end.  HR manages so many things at year-end.  Below is a list of some of the important year-end activities for benefits, compensation, and other compliance issues.  Last month, we reviewed planning and payroll year-end activities.

An important aspect of year-end is preparing a project plan.  Project management software can help you but all you really need is a checklist.  Build in all the steps for a task, timing to complete and who is responsible for it.  If you have a team, make sure you start reviewing the plan weekly with them then change to several times a week as action items due come closer.  If you don’t have a team and you are handing year-end solo, indicate updates to yourself on the checklist and set reminders on your calendar.

Also make sure to build in checks and balances.  Depending on your role, you should keep others updated that have an interest in ensuring year-end activities are completed successfully.  Involve the accounting manager and keep the CEO updated with high-level information on a schedule that she or he wants.

Some year-end activities for benefits, compensation and other compliance issues are below.  If open enrollment or pay increases are handled at a different time of year, please adjust accordingly and set up separate checklists and reminders for the applicable timing.


  • Spot check open enrollment elections and changes, especially deductions, in payroll.
  • Ask employees to verify and update beneficiary information.
  • Ensure child dependents are removed from insurance if they are older than 26 years.
  • Run reports to verify PTO or vacation balances to ensure what amount can be carried over.
  • Ensure all ACA requirements are verified and completed.
  • Ensure health care cost coverage will display on W-2s.


  • Ensure current FLSA classifications are still correct.
  • Plan, schedule and conduct merit increase process.
  • If you have pay grades, review them to see if they need to be adjusted.
  • Calculate minimum salary requirements for exempt status and process any necessary pay adjustments or change affected employees to non-exempt.
  • Calculate and schedule payment of any bonuses earned.

Other Compliance

  • Ensure updated employment posters are ordered and posted in visible location at all offices and work locations.
  • Distribute any year-end notices.
  • Ensure employees sign an employee handbook acknowledgement once handbook is updated for the new year.

Happy year-end planning and implementation.  May everything go smoothly, and you can enjoy your December and January in your own way.

Getting Ready for Year-End – Winter is Coming


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Ginger Galloway, SPHR | October 18, 2018

Part One of a Two-Part Series

We may be in the middle of autumn with cooler temperatures and Halloween decorations going up but in the HR world, this time of the year also means preparing for year-end activities.  Year-end activities can mean planning for performance reviews, calculating pay increases, bonus processing, open enrollment, and office parties.

Also, now is the time to prepare a project plan that can be used to manage these activities and identify who a task is assigned to and its due date.  Also make sure to build in a secondary review process to make sure nothing is missed.

HR manages so many things at year-end.  Therefore, this information is being brought to you in two articles.  The main areas we will cover will be planning, payroll, benefits, compensation, and compliance.

Below is a list of important year-end activities for planning and payroll that everyone should know.  All items may not pertain to you so use the ones that apply to your business.  Next week, we will cover benefits, compensation, and other compliance issues.

Year-End Activities

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  • Develop a strategy to address business needs such as retention, recruiting, and training.
  • Review HR expenses for the year and develop a budget for the new year.
  • Review all complaints made during the year to identify trends, training needs, and what policies may need clarification.
  • Review metrics for the year such as recruiting successes, turnover trends, and overtime.
  • Review policies and compare them to new laws and update the employee handbook as necessary.
  • Plan, schedule, and conduct performance reviews ensuring all employees have an in-person discussion.
  • Update job descriptions after performance reviews are completed.
  • Move prior year and 2018 records to storage making space for 2019 records.
  • Audit all terminated employee information to ensure it is separated from active employee information including I-9 and medical information.

Credit: iStock/Michail_Petrov-96

  • Obtain or develop a 2019 payroll calendar from your payroll processing vendor (or in-house payroll administrator) and make sure to include your company’s holidays.
  • Identify year-end processing dates and deadlines with your payroll processing vendor (or in-house payroll administrator) and communicate this necessary information to employees and supervisors.
  • Ask employees to verify their social security number, mailing addresses and dependent and emergency contact information.
  • Encourage employees to receive their W-2s electronically, if offered.
  • Remind employees they may want to submit new W-4s for 2019 before the first payroll. Provide deadline.
  • Process any deductions, expense reimbursement, group term life over $50K, and any other payouts or taxes owed as necessary before end of December.
  • Review and update ACA 1095 forms.
  • Compare and review with your accounting department how many 1099s will be filed.

The earlier you begin planning, the better your holiday season will be for you, your family and friends.  Once you get these administrative tasks under control, you won’t be as overwhelmed since the day-to-day HR work must still get done.  December will be here before you know it.  If you do fall behind, give us a call and we can support you in any way you want.