Iowa News & Analysis

  • No free lunch: hidden costs for employee tuition, education programs

    The headlines are rampant—Iowa has an unemployment rate of 2.9 percent, an aging workforce, not enough applicants for open jobs, a "brain drain," and a need to fill skilled positions. Iowa Workforce Develop-ment (IWD) has announced new initiatives for workforce training. As a counterpoint, many employers are also seeking to recruit and retain employees by offering supplemental educational support.

  • Between a rock and a high place: Meet Iowa's new medical marijuana statute

    In 2017, the Iowa Legislature legalized medical marijuana for residents with qualifying medical conditions. Although the new law has been in effect for more than a year, there are no manufacturers or dispensaries in existence yet to create and sell the controversial products, but that could change very soon. Under the law, the state-licensed manufacturers and dispensaries must be prepared to supply and sell their wares by December 1, 2018. So in less than two months, Iowans carrying a medical cannabidiol registration card will finally be allowed to purchase and use the products.

  • DOL issues FMLA opinion letters after a long break

    For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) Wage and Hour Division (WHD) has issued opinion letters interpreting the requirements of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This may be a sign that the Trump administration intends to rely heavily on opinion letters as a form of guidance for employers, a practice that had been discarded by the Obama administration.

  • Don't forget to properly classify independent contractors

    You likely recall a time not so long ago when the improper classification of employees as independent contractors was the hot topic for the IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). In 2011, the agencies entered into a "Memorandum of Understanding" in which they agreed to share information about potential misclassifications in an effort to crack down on the common practice. The DOL also entered into similar agreements with roughly 30 state departments of labor.

  • May we withhold final paychecks to cover theft losses?

    Q We recently discovered that one of our employees has been ordering supplies through his office account for his own personal use. He has admitted to the theft. We don't want to press charges, but we are going to fire him. Are we allowed to withhold his final two paychecks as repayment for the stolen supplies? He has signed a form authorizing us to do so.

  • Workplace Trends

    Salary increases expected to remain flat. Research from workforce consulting firm Mercer shows salary increase budgets for U.S. employees are at 2.8% in 2018—no change from 2017. Salary increase budgets for 2019 are projected to be just 2.9%, despite factors like the tightening labor market and a high rate of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs. The information comes from Mercer's "2018/2019 US Compensation Planning Survey." Mercer's research shows that even newly available investment dollars from the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act aren't enhancing the compensation budgets for most companies. Mercer says just 4% of organizations have redirected some of their anticipated tax savings to their salary increase budgets.

  • Religious bias at work: How you pray is not your employer's business

    The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), a division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), issued a new directive on August 10, 2018, related to federal contractors' compliance with Executive Order 11246. In conjunction with a variety of federal statutes, Executive Order 11246 prohibits federal contractors and subcontractors from discriminating against job applicants and employees on the basis of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as protected veterans. The new directive from the OFCCP is at least partly a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision overturning the Colorado Civil Rights Commission's determination that a baker's decision not to create a custom cake for a gay wedding, based on his religious beliefs, was discriminatory. Let's take a look at the guidance and see if we can apply its meaning beyond the arena of federal contracting.

  • The end of the Kennedy era

    For the past 20 years, Anthony Kennedy has decided the most important issues in America. An early protégé of Justice Antonin Scalia, Kennedy was appointed by Ronald Reagan as a conservative choice for the U.S. Supreme Court. At first, he voted with the conservative bloc more than 90 percent of the time and remained solidly conservative on criminal justice issues throughout his judicial tenure.

  • New technologies create new employee privacy issues

    Unless you work for a company that's very small or very low-tech by nature, chances are, one of your biggest challenges is keeping up with technology. If your competitors are taking advantage of the many new technological advances that promote efficiency and productivity while you're stuck in 1999, your business will struggle to compete.

  • Asking about citizenship on a job application

    Q Most of our positions require a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) security clearance. To get a DOD security clearance, an employee must be a U.S. citizen. Is it legal for us to require applicants to note on our employment application whether they are U.S. citizens?