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DO YOU PAY EQUITABLY AND FAIRLY ENOUGH TO SATISFY EEOC?

You may think you are paying your employees fairly and equitably until the EEOC comes knocking at your door to perform an audit. It is commonly known that EEOC requires that all employees are treated fairly regardless of national origin, race, religion, color, sex (including pregnancy and sexual orientation), disability or genetic information. And for employers with 20 or more employees, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act requires that you treat workers over 40 the same and younger workers. To be in complete compliance with EEO regulations, none of these factors can be used when you are hiring, promoting, disciplining and laying off workers. Additionally, private employers with at least 15 employees who work for you for 20 weeks or more a year must also comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and if you have a federal contract or subcontract you may be subject to EEO guidelines. Less commonly known is that fair treatment must also be extended to employees who marry someone of a different national origin, race, religion or color. What you don’t know can hurt you and therefore periodic pay equity self-audits are essential.

All forms of pay are covered by these regulations, for example; base salary, overtime pay, shift differentials, discretionary or non-discretionary bonuses, stock options, profit sharing plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, travel expenses, and benefits. If an inequality in wages between men and women is found, it cannot be corrected by reducing the wages of either sex.

To properly analyze your pay practices, you need to identify all factors that influence all types of compensation. Influencing factors may include:

• Company seniority
• Length of time in position
• Service interruptions
• Skills and experience required for the job
• Education, certifications, licenses, etc. required for the job
• Performance ratings
• Pay grade or level
• Historic pay increases
• Market Location
• Employment status such as Full-time/Part-time

Pay equity analysis should be performed that includes analysis by job group or salary grade; if no formal salary structure is in place, group by jobs with similar value and worth. Also, analyze by race and by gender. Ensure all your pay decisions are well documented as well as having good document retention policies in place. Of utmost importance is that you apply your compensation practices in a consistent manner and in accordance with your policies and procedures. If audited by the EEOC, you may need to defend your pay decisions and consistency and documentation will be crucial.

To protect your organization as well as ensure fair and equitable pay to all employees, it is essential to understand and stay up to date with all the regulations, ensure policies and procedures are in place for compliance and to perform periodic compliance audits. Even if you are in compliance today, that can easily and quickly change as your organization changes and evolves. Mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures can significantly impact pay equity as well as the day-to-day business operations of hiring, terminating, promoting, transferring, and restructuring within the organization including the realignment of job duties.

At WageWatch our experienced compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs. We can help you ensure internal equity and compliance with regulations as well as help you structure your compensation programs to support your company’s business strategy and objectives. WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.

Hoteliers Face Complex Union Negotiations

(This column recently appeared in Hotel News Now where Randall Pullen is a columnist for their on-line publication)

I attended the annual Hospitality Law Conference recently concluded at the Houston Omni Hotel.  Besides meeting with many of the leading labor attorneys across the country, it is an opportunity to learn about the latest legal issues and rulings that are affecting hotel human resources and labor markets.  This year was no different; there are a lot of new developments that are or will impact the hospitality industry now and in the near future.

It would take several columns to just deal with the many unknowns of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act also known as Obama Care, or the proposed changes to the immigration laws that are now being discussed in Congress, or with the many labor union contract negotiations scheduled to occur in 2013. While all three of these issues are very important to the Hospitality industry, I am going to focus on the upcoming negotiations between hotel companies and the labor union, UNITE HERE. There is much that can be learned from the last round of negotiations to prepare for this new round of union contract negotiations.

UNITE HERE represents the most hotel workers of any union with over 100,000 hotel workers in almost 1,000 hotels across the country.  The union currently has contracts with several of the major hotel companies that expire later this year.  The negotiations for the current contracts started in 2009 when the prior contracts expired, and were not signed until last year. The negotiations were contentious and drawn out due to many of the contracts expiring during the great recession. Management companies were looking for wage freezes, longer work hours as well as employees picking up a portion of the healthcare premium costs. Now, a year later the process will start all over.

In the prior negotiations, UNITE HERE made several changes in the tactics it used. The most notable was negotiating on a regional or national level with individual hotel companies instead of using the multi-employer model market by market previously used.  Once they achieved a concession from one employer, they would use it in negotiations with the other companies to accept a similar concession. Although carrying on multiple negotiations at one time made it more complex, the tactic appeared to work as they played management companies off against each other as well as in individual markets.

Also notable in several current contracts is the requirement that a successor company purchasing the hotel must honor the existing contract with the union.  This clause was added due to the many sales of hotels over the last 5 years where the contracts with the unions were ended and employees were rehired without a contract.  This expanded interpretation of succession was approved by the NLRB, which is quite different to how succession is typically determined. There have already been a number of hotel sales that have been cancelled due to this requirement.

Going forward this year, we will see a number of new tactics as well as some that were tried in the last round and will likely be front and center this time. Management companies successfully used poor financial performance as a tactic, which will not be available this time.  The strong recovery of the hotel industry with record occupancies and continued strong financial performance forecasted for 2013 and 2014 generally will preclude such a defense, even though RevPAR still lags.  For those markets not recovering as quickly as the major markets, hotel companies that make this argument will likely have to produce financial statements for all affiliated companies to prove there is a financial hardship.

We have already begun to see the counter arguments being made by the unions.  They are claiming that hotel companies have recovered and are making record profits.  The only ones left out of the recovery are the workers. A good example of this tactic is what occurred in Seattle last April.  In a report issued by SAGE (a union supported non-profit), Seattle Hotels Do Not Pay a Living Wage, they claimed that many hotel workers in downtown Seattle did not earn a living wage, had no benefits and a housekeeper’s job was more dangerous than working in a coal mine. Of course none of these claims were true, but it became a national news story. The AH&LA, with the help of WageWatch, was able to refute all of these claims.  No doubt, we will see this played out again and again this year and next as negotiations drag on into 2014.

UNITE HERE will intensify its efforts to negotiate one-on-one with management companies. The example they have made of Hyatt Hotels over the past 2 years is what awaits other management companies who refuse a union contract for all their hotels.  Flash mobs (Lady Gaga Flash Mob), boycotts (Hyatt Hurts) and employee lawsuits brought against individual hotels (Hyatt Settles Complaint) with the backing of the NLRB await those who don’t play ball.

Labor lawyers also believe a number of other provisions will become more mainstream in negotiations including: expanded successor language to require new owners to honor existing union contracts; more limitations on subcontracting of services including such things as prepackaged food, wedding cakes, arguing that such purchases equate to subcontracting culinary services; extended length of contract to 7 years; and significant wage increases to “catch-up” with wage freezes implemented during the recession.

Looking ahead, hotel companies will face an entirely new bargaining landscape in union negotiations this time around. Some of the lessons learned from the prior contract negotiations will likely shape the new negotiations, bargaining goals, concessions, and tactics employed. As more unions move toward the UNITE HERE model of nationally-focused bargaining strategies, employers that operate in multiple markets will be forced to take a “big picture” approach to their negotiations as well as to unique circumstances in individual markets. Smaller hotel companies that operate in a few markets or in a single market will be forced into accepting provisions negotiated with the major hotel companies or face the consequences.

 

Randall Pullen is President and CEO of WageWatch, Inc., which he founded in 1999 to design and implement Web-based wage and benefit surveys. Mr. Pullen’s work experience includes over 30 years of software development and consulting to the hotel industry. Mr. Pullen is a certified public accountant and a member of the AICPA. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in mathematics and an MBA from Arizona State University. He serves on the boards of a number of companies and associations, and is currently the Treasurer of the Arizona Housing Finance Authority.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

Copyright © 2004-2011 Smith Travel Research /DBA HotelNewsNow.com (HNN). All Rights Reserved.

WageWatch Looks Ahead to 2013

 

The New Year began with our political leadership in Washington, DC finally reaching an agreement on a permanent tax cut for 98% of Americans.  No longer will it be known as the temporary Bush tax cuts. It was not pretty to watch, but it was instructive. It marks the first of many more compromises that will be made during the year to begin the process of reigning in deficit spending and stabilizing our Nation’s debt crisis.

What does this mean to the U.S. economy and to employment for 2013?  Essentially, it is good news. This should not be as a surprise for most of our readers, but it probably means more of what we experienced in 2012.  A slow growing economy with employers cautiously hiring for critical positions, while trying to understand how the Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obama Care, will impact their costs and employee insurance plans.

Most economists agree with this scenario of slow growth with the possibility of the economy picking up speed later in the year if the private sector gains confidence in the future stability of the U.S. economy.  WageWatch will have more to say about the economy and the impact it will have on this year’s wage increases for the hotel and gaming industries when we publish our Employment Forecast 2013 next week. The forecast is based on our survey of over 4,000 properties late last month.

Looking at other trends for 2013, clearly, the ACA has garnered the most headlines during the year.  As we have previously reported, if you are a small business with 51 or more full time employees, you will be fined $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 employees, if you do not offer insurance for employees that work an average of 30 or more hours each week. For small businesses with 50 or fewer employees, there is no penalty. Small businesses of all sizes are also not required to provide insurance for part-time employees. We are already beginning to see examples of employers cutting back on the number of fulltime employees by reducing their hours. Also, look for small businesses with more than 50 employees to reduce their workforces or change the structure of their companies.

One bit of good news is the IRS ruled this past Monday that affordability does not extend to fulltime employees’ families. Under ACA, employers will have to offer insurance that is certified affordable only to employees. To be certifiable as affordable, the premium for each employee’s plan cannot exceed 9.5 percent of their total household income. If the insurance coverage doesn’t meet the affordability law, employees will be offered tax credits to purchase insurance on their own. Business owners will then have to pay whichever is less: $3,000 per employee that receives the credit or $2,000 per employee, excluding the first 30 workers.

Finally, WageWatch welcomes our newest employee, Debra Anundson, who joined us on January 1st as our new Manager of Compensation Analytics.  Debra was with Interstate Hotels & Resorts for 22+ years, where she served in many capacities in Compensation and Benefits at the corporate office, managing all facets of their compensation, health & welfare and retirement benefits.  She created salary structures for exempt and nonexempt positions in all divisions as well as the corporate headquarters.  You can read more about Debra in the press release.

WageWatch, Inc. is the leading compensation survey provider for the lodging and gaming industries with over 6,000 properties in our database participating in its PeerMark™ Wage survey. WageWatch also conducts compensation surveys the healthcare, staffing and non-profit industries. The PeerMark™ Wage Survey is the only Web-based custom survey tool that allows individual survey participants to select their competitive set for comparison purposes.