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OSHA Postings are due the First day of February

Employers have to post OSHA Form 300A for 2018 by the first day of February and leave it up through April 30. This form displays illnesses and injuries that occurred during the previous year and serves as a log of work-related injuries and illnesses recorded. The form must be posted in an area where it is visible to all employees. Records must be kept at the worksite for a minimum of five years and available to not only current employees, but to former employees (or their representatives if need be) as well.

The United States Department of Labor requires employers with 10 or more employees to keep records of work-related illnesses and injuries that are considered serious (if an injury only required first-aid, it need not be recorded). Severe injuries regarding loss of an eye, amputation or hospitalization must be reported within 24 hours; any fatality must be reported within 8 hours. Businesses that employ 10 or less employees who work in low-hazard conditions are considered exempt from the above requirements.

Note: OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) is the only form needed for electronic submission for establishments in excess of 250 employees as of July 30, 2018 due to issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). In addition to form 300A, OSHA also requires the employers submit their (EIN) Employer Identification Number.

Ensure Your Workers Are Safe:

Employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment and by law are required to provide training and information to employees in a manner of communication that the employee/s understands. They must be made aware of certain hazards in the workplace and instructed on how to avoid them or prevent them from happening according to OSHA standards. This can include labeling hazardous materials or chemicals and providing Fact Sheets; posting signs, color-coding; safety training and written instructions clearly defined in an Employee Manual and the implementation of OSHA's Illness and Injury Prevention Program at your place of business.

Fines Are Steep for Violations:

Congress enacted legislation that required federal agencies adjust civil penalties to account for inflation as of November 2015. OSHA's maximum penalties have not been adjusted since 1990 and are going to increase by 78 percent. Moving forward, this will adjust each year for inflation based on the Consumer Price Index beginning after August 1, 2016 when they went into effect.

  • Serious or Other-than-Serious Violations are currently $7000 per violation and the new penalty will be $12,471 per violation.
  • Failure to Abate is currently $7,000 per day beyond the abatement date and the new penalty will rise to $12,471 per day beyond the abatement date.
  • A Willful or Repeated violation is currently $70,000 per violation and the new rate will become $124,709 per violation.

In the course of a citation being issued, it must remain posted and visible until it has been corrected, or for a length of three days, whichever comes first. Smaller businesses may see a reduction in OSHA penalties based on deciding factors and number of employees/sizes of business. OSHA's Field Operations Manual has been revised and is now available to field staff to address recent changes.

This may all sound a bit complicated, but it doesn't need to be. If your business does not have a designated HR department, try reaching out to a local HR agency such as Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia. Stellaris Group offers OSHA and Safety Programs, Government Compliance, Internal Investigations and everything you need for complete Human Resource Management for your business. 

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2019—It’s Time to Purge Those Records—Or is it?

 A new year always brings about change, and when it comes to which records you keep or toss at the office can sometimes be a challenge. 

Federal records and The Uniform Preservation of Private Business Records Act (UPPBRA) states that records should generally be kept for a period of three years. But sometimes you cannot find a clear-cut answer for how long you should keep certain records. 

Things can get a bit opaque if you don't have any information available to you and you don't want to purge your old records without being certain; you also don't want to keep records longer than needed "just because," so what do you do?

If you can't find an answer it could mean that the records in question should be kept permanently, but to be safe, do your research. Document all resources used during your research whether you fall back on permanently keeping the records or you lean more toward the three-year time period for records purging. This will ensure you will likely avoid any penalties should an audit or court case crop up. 

You can also check with your attorney or CPA because laws differ from state-to-state. Another great resource would be reaching out to a local Human Resource company such as Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia and have them review (or help you create) a Records Retention Schedule and time frame for record keeping or purging since they are always current on new and changing federal and state laws.

As of 2019, the following information offers a basic guideline of what to keep and what to toss after a certain amount of time. But again, to be sure, check with a local HR company, your attorney, or your CPA.

A three-year time frame applies to most, with the exception of the following:

USERRA Leave Records Permanent
Toxic and Bloodborne Pathogens Records - 30 Years
Job Related Injuries and Illnesses Records - 5 Years

Intellectual Property Ownership/Nondisclosure - 5 Years
Separation Agreement - 5 Years
Unemployment Claims Records - 4 Years

* Note: If applicant is not hired, keep records for three (3) years.

401 (k) Allocation Records - 4 Years
Pension Eligibility Records - 50 Years
Request for Calculation - 4 Years
Retirement Beneficiary Form - 50 Years

Paychecks/Stubs, W-2s-W-4; Earnings Register;
Employee Withholding - 4 Years
Federal and State Payroll Tax Forms - 4 Years
Federal Forms 1099 - 4 Years
Time Sheets and Cards - 4 Years
Computer Loan Agreement - 5 Years
Direct Deposit Records - 4 Years
Garnishment Records - 4 Years
Final Payroll Deduction Checklist - 4 Years

EEO-1 Reports Permanent
HR Policies (current) - 3 Years
Affirmative Action Plans and Records - 5 Years
Form 5500 - 6 Years
OSHA 300/300A - 5 Years
VETS- 4212 Reports - 5 Years

The above serves as a general guideline, but to recap: When in doubt, always check with someone who stays current with federal and state laws because they can and do change. Stellaris Group in Marietta has a team of HR professionals who can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to all facets of day-to-day office management and they will always lead you in the right direction.

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Holidays and Religion in the Workplace

Religious holidays are celebrated throughout the year by all ethnicities, and as an employer, you want to make sure everyone can comfortably enjoy the festivities. The Holiday Season brings with it many diverse options and opportunities to ensure everyone in the workplace will enjoy whatever they choose (or not choose) in order to celebrate without incident.

Your first line of defense against the possibility of a misunderstanding or discrimination in the workplace is to have a company handbook that clearly outlines company policy regarding religious holidays and reasonable accommodations that may be available, but this can get tricky because it is usually something that will happen on a per-person basis and each situation will be unique. Second, you must learn what your obligations are to employees regarding religious accommodations as outlined in "Title VII" of the Civil Rights Act.

Additionally, how do you pay employees during the holidays that may have a religious conflict with them, and are you legally responsible to pay them for religious holidays? What if an employee wants to work on Christmas and wants you to provide reasonable accommodation, yet it is not your policy to pay anyone to work on Christmas? Example: The Federal Government requires employees to take time off during a Federal holiday and the employee may or may not be paid for the required time off.

Private businesses may require employees to work during a Federal or State holiday with or without pay. This is to say if a non-Christian employee wants to work on Christmas Day and be paid for it, and it is your policy to observe that holiday without pay, can you legally do this without causing other workers to feel discriminated against? If you think changing your policy at the time would be a good idea, please note: When a private sector owner or manager changes its policy regarding paid holiday leave, employees must be notified before the change is made.

It isn't always easy, and it isn't always cut-and-dry when it comes to managing a diverse workforce. Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia provides Human Resource Management to businesses of all sizes and has first-hand knowledge of how to handle any situation regarding fair employee treatment. If you have an employee who requests reasonable accommodation due to religion/work conflict, Stellaris Group can help guide you in the right direction when it comes to dealing with reasonable accommodation that will not cause an undue hardship on other employees or the overall business.

When you choose to reach out to Stellaris Group for HR management for your business, you can be sure that your Christmas party will be fun and fair for everyone whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus. So, go ahead and celebrate Christmas with a fully-decorated Christmas tree; Hanukkah with your best menorah, Kwanzaa with the finest kinara; and don't forget the Festivus pole.

Stellaris Group wants to wish each and every one of you Happy and Safe Holidays from our families to yours. 

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Have a Thankful Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a fun time for most; it's a good time to stop and reflect upon what's going on in your life, in general. It's a given that you will enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends, but many will also set aside a day to celebrate Thanksgiving in the workplace. Whether your feast at work consists of each employee bringing a covered dish or having it catered in by a swanky restaurant or even going out to a popular restaurant, one thing should remain foremost in your mind: remember to thank your employees for a job well done.

A little praise goes a long way and acknowledging your employees who go that extra mile all the time by helping out others' in the workplace is very reassuring to them. They don't know how much they are appreciated unless you tell them. Take this time to let each person know how valuable he or she is to you and to your company. In turn, this makes happier, more content employees who are going to be happier at work and in the long run, will do a better job for you.

Being thankful does not only apply to your family and friends. It applies to those who run your business and keep things running smoothly for you. On average, you spend eight hours or more a day with your employees and some of those days can present challenges that can sometimes become stressful. Encouragement and thanks can erase stress and will work toward positive attitudes, growth and success. Being thankful can be a catalyst for motivation and positive attitudes all around and it should also motivate you to show your valued employees the support that they need year-round.

Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia wants to take this time to say "Thank You," to all of our employees who work hard for us each day and to our customers who depend on our professional Human Resource Management team who assist with recruiting and hiring, employee and labor relations; handbooks, policies and procedures, retirement services and ERISA; OSHA safety programs, government compliance and internal investigations. We are thankful for each and every one of you. Have a Happy Turkey Day!​

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Are Your Conversations Being Recorded?

Secretly recording conversations in the workplace is on the rise, and in some states, it is perfectly legal, but in the end, it all comes down to the subject matter being recorded. This trend has prompted employers to add human resource departments to their companies or to reach out to human resource management companies to implement employee training and to help to create employee handbooks outlining appropriate workplace behavior stating what is or is not allowed in the workplace; this should include tape recordings or taking photos at work.

Discrimination, sexual harassment, the "Me Too" movement, and whistle blowers have caused lawsuits to accelerate at record speed due to employees' taping conversations at work or at a company function outside the office without their employer's or co-worker's knowledge, but is this legal? Yes … and no.

Federal and state laws vary across the nation from the following: One Party Consent, All Parties Consent, Mixed Consent and Unestablished Consent. Georgia is a One-Party Consent State, as are most states. Georgia law, O.C.G.A. § 16-11-66, clearly states that it is okay to record a conversation where one person gives consent to the recording. This means that the person making the recording has knowledge of the recording and is consensual, even though the person he/she is recording has no knowledge of the recording. It is allowed either in a public or a private place.

Conversely, Georgia law O.C.G.A. § 16-11-62 prohibits recording a person or a phone call if the people they are recording have no knowledge of it: e.g., wire-tapping a phone between two parties other than yourself, or leaving a tape recorder in your bosses office to record a conversation between your boss and someone other than yourself; this action is strictly forbidden and will generally not hold up as evidence in a court of law.

So, what does an employer need to do to protect his or her company from a potential lawsuit? You must make the rules crystal clear that company policy prohibits tape recording supervisors, owners, or fellow employees in the workplace; however, according to The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) the following may be legally recorded without consequence:

  • Recording images of protected picketing;
  • Documenting unsafe workplace equipment or hazardous conditions;
  • Publishing discussions about the terms and conditions of employment, including discussions with management;
  • Documenting inconsistent application of employer rules; and
  • Recording evidence to later use in judicial or administrative proceedings."

Will outlining what is and what is not allowed in the employee handbook prevent secret recordings in the workplace? Maybe. Generally, the NLRB agrees that no-recording laws or no photos taken in the workplace should be allowed.In the case of employee endangerment, such as a whistle-blower situation, and if there is just cause that a real and present danger exists, the court will likely allow the tape recording as evidence, even though it was strictly forbidden. It pays to know your employees' rights, as well as your own.

Because the rules can be highly complicated, discussing your options with a reputable Human Resource Management Company like Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia will be your best bet. Stellaris Group has a network of knowledgeable personnel who stay up-to-date on human resource issues and they are more than willing to answer your questions and to address your concerns.


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Commonsense Halloween Protocol for the Workplace

Halloween is a great time for many people to release their alter egos, but when it comes to the workplace, you might want to play by the rules. The following are some basic guidelines to ensure that your Halloween costume won't wind up getting you fired. 

If in Doubt—Ask
If you aren't sure about how to dress for Halloween or what is appropriate to wear, ask a colleague, your supervisor, or check with your Human Resources Department. The information may also be in your employee handbook. The last thing you want is to show up wearing an inappropriate costume, or even worse, show up as the only one dressed in a costume.

Consider Your Environment
If your company policy allows for Halloween costumes but is somewhat vague, use common sense. What type company do you work for? Is it a highly conservative atmosphere or is it relaxed and informal? Are you in the medical field, on staff at a hospital, a social worker, or a paramedic where dressing in costume could be offensive or confusing to some people. In other words, it might not be a very good idea to dress as the Grim Reaper at a funeral home, etc. You get the idea.

Make Sure Your Costume Won't Interfere with Routine Duties
If you are determined to release your alter ego and want to dress as Iron Man, be sure you are able to function normally behind your desk or while using the phone: a cumbersome costume should not interfere with your work. If your alter ego is a sexy mermaid, be sure you would not show more bare skin than you would when dressed for a normal work day. Can you remove your costume on your own or will you need help when nature calls and have to rely on a colleague to assist you? If you have to second-guess it, you might want to re-think it.

Feeding the Masses
Bringing lots of Halloween candy and parking it on your desk sounds like a great idea, but in actuality, it can be disruptive. We all know that one person at work who always has food or candy at his or her desk for anyone to take, don't we? If you want to share Halloween treats with your colleagues, place it in the break room or in a common area instead of having everyone gather at your desk.

When it comes to choosing a Halloween costume for work, playing it safe is always your best bet. Try a theme such as having everyone dress like a favorite character from a popular television show, a blockbuster movie, or play. It's probably a good idea to leave politicians or religious figures out of your costume choices at work.

Just remember to ask if you are unsure and to use your common sense. If you don't have an HR department at your workplace, try checking in with a local Human Resource Management company like Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia. Although policies differ from work place to work place, Stellaris Group could definitely lead you in the right direction. Follow these guidelines and chances are that you will have a Spooktacular celebration that everyone will enjoy.

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Why it’s Important to Create a Cohesive Customer Service Culture in the Workplace

It seems as if every company has at least one person, when asked to help out with someone else's duties, they will whine, "But that's not my job! Why should I have to help them?" This person is only one of many who represent your company and what would you like to bet that they do not represent you in the way you would like to be represented? Odds are pretty good that they don't.  

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Wage and Hour Division Misclassifications

Nobody wants to tussle with the IRS and for the most part, wage and hour division misclassifications are generally caused by mistakes made during the hiring process. They are due to not knowing exactly how to classify an employee as a worker, as management, an independent contractor, etc. The IRS, Department of Labor, and Fair Labor Standards Act all have information on their websites that are invaluable to a business owner or manager when it comes to figuring things out.  

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Creating a Service Culture: Every Employee is a Customer Service Rep

Creating a service culture

What Should be the Biggest Investment in Your Business or Company?

Before you answer that, think about the last time you called a customer service representative—was the person courteous or was the person rude? How did the call affect the way you would approach doing business with them in the future; did it aid with your decision to either cut ties or continue using the service the company provides?

The answer is obvious: your biggest investment should be your employees. Providing proper guidance and training for your employees, followed up by recognition for their efforts through praise, awards or a promotion is going to ensure you remain in good standing with your customers. After all, employees are your direct link to your customers and unless your business is a total monopoly, good customer service can make or break good business relations.
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When it’s time for the pink slip

It's Friday afternoon, and you are ready for your last meeting of the day. The office is clearing out, and you call in… Janet. Janet hasn't been performing up to standards, and it's time to let her go. You've prepared as much as you can for this moment. There's a fresh box of tissues in your office. Janet enters and sees the termination paperwork on your desk and… throws your potted plant on the floor.

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3 simple hacks to help restore work/life balance

 Fatigue and burnout are becoming more frequent topics of HR discussion. The results of each – which can range from increased errors to employee turnover – have serious consequences for businesses of all sizes.

Even in our 24/7 society, it is possible to encourage work/life balance with your team. Try a few of the following hacks to encourage rest and daily restoration for your employees:

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You need people to succeed!

​There is one thing that every business needs to succeed: people. You need people to come up with the ideas, to create the products and to sell them. You need people to manage the people who do the work, and you need people to manage the company so that it stays viable. No matter what – you need people.

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HR trends for 2018

Every year HR trends change and fluctuate because of each department as well as the nature of the business. Here are some of the biggest trends we're seeing for 2018 to put on your radar:

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You’re not too small for us!

Your business may be small, but your dreams aren't. As your business grows, you will always be looking for ways to expand the workforce that you will grow to meet your changing needs. And when your workforce grows, the issues that face your company will grow too. An experienced HR professional or department is an asset to any company. They are the ones who can make sure that your employees have someone to understand their concerns and issues.

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Three reasons why the best employees leave their companies

Think people switch jobs primarily to earn more money? Think again. 

Gallup studies have found that about 50% of 7,200 adults surveyed left a job "to get away from their manager." 

Other surveys show that money is often the second, third or fourth most important reason for a job switch, but not No. 1. Surprised?

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Outsource your HR needs and stay in compliance!

As a small business owner, it's critical that you comply with federal, state and local regulations. One missed item can lead to significant penalties, fines or even the forced closure of your business.

Are your day-to-day responsibilities preventing you from making sure your human resources department is in order? Do you feel like you're regularly putting out fires with little time to formulate or follow a plan? If so, it's time to consider outsourcing your HR needs.

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5 Ways to Make Your Office Party a Success

The holidays are just around the corner and for many companies this means holiday office parties. Employers should aim to host events that are both fun and safe for employees while avoiding any type of liability. At Stellaris Group, we strive to keep companies informed to avoid litigation that could potentially arise from company-hosted events. Below is a list of compiled tips to keep holiday office parties festive and free of liability.

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Top 5 Reasons to Outsource

Remember when HR departments were personnel? I just dated myself, didn't I? Back in the day, most HR departments were the go-to spot for employees with questions or concerns about benefits, hiring, training, complaints, colleagues, etc. All the way back to when it was the "Personnel" department, before HR was even a thing. For executives, it was all about managing the masses, and probably where the term "Human Resources" came from. Who wants to be a "resource" anyway?

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Effective ways to meet and learn about another’s business.

There is nothing quite like breaking bread to make a connection and get to know someone.

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