North Dakota News & Analysis

  • Changing laws, attitudes pushing employers to explore alternatives to drug tests

    Nobody wants an impaired person on the job, especially in a safety-sensitive position. But how can a supervisor know if an employee who seems a little off is high? And—perhaps more important—how can an employer screen applicants to reduce the chance of hiring someone who is likely to come to work impaired? The first thought may be to use drug testing, but that option isn't as simple as it once was.

  • Looking to add an innovative benefit? Student loan assistance an option

    On a quest to recruit top talent, many employers are getting creative with perks and benefits. Free food and ping-pong tables are nice. So is a generous employer match on a 401(k). But many employees may not get too excited about perks and retirement benefits when they're struggling with student loan debt. And it's that financial burden that is leading employers to explore ways to ease the pain for their debt-ridden workers.

  • Salute! North Dakota named 'Hardest-Working State of 2019'

    North Dakota has been ranked first by WalletHub in a 2019 study that evaluated the hardest-working states, beating out other top-ranked contenders such as Alaska, South Dakota, Texas, Nebraska, Hawaii, Wyoming, Colorado, Virginia, and Maryland. (See "2019's Hardest-Working States in America," available at

  • Certain types of parent-teacher talks qualify for FMLA leave, DOL opinion letter says

    A U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) opinion letter published on August 8, 2019, found certain types of parent-teacher conferences can be considered qualified leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). As a result, some of you may have to provide employees with leave to attend the meetings.

  • Preparation, training help employers cope with unsettling ICE news

    The thought of immigration enforcement agents surrounding a workplace, seizing business records, questioning employees, and even making arrests is worrisome to say the least. But it has been and likely will continue to be a reality for many employers since audits and raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are on the upswing. Plus, the Social Security Administration has once again begun sending "no-match letters" to employers that have W-2 forms with mismatched names and Social Security numbers. Now referred to as educational correspondence (EDCOR) or an employer correction request (ECR), the letters require employers to take action to resolve the problem. So the signals are clear: Employers with undocumented workers are on notice that they face serious consequences.

  • New OT rule sparks questions beyond where to set salary threshold for 'exempt' status

    It has taken several years, but the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has finally issued its new final rule determining which employees can be exempt from the law requiring overtime pay. The new rule, slated to take effect January 1, 2020, is far more moderate than the Obama administration's effort to update the salary threshold for the overtime exemption. A federal judge struck down that rule shortly before it was to go into effect in December 2016.

  • Agency Action

    USCIS releases guidance on employment authorization. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) in August announced new policy guidance to address its discretion to grant employment authorization to foreign nationals who are paroled into the United States, including those who are otherwise inadmissible. The agency explained that certain foreign nationals may be paroled into the country for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit, but they aren't entitled to employment authorization solely because of that. Instead, they must establish eligibility and apply for employment authorization. USCIS will consider employment authorization for parolees only when, based on the facts and circumstances of each individual case, it finds a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted. The agency said it is taking the action in response to "the national emergency at the southern border."

  • Tips on responding to your first discrimination charge

    When your organization receives its first discrimination charge from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights (NDDOL), you may wonder, "What does this mean?" or "What do we do now?" A charge is a signed statement from an applicant, former employee, or even current employee asserting that an organization engaged in employment discrimination against the individual (often called "the charging party"). The charge isn't a lawsuit, but it is an administrative notice that the EEOC or the NDDOL will investigate a potential violation of federal and/or state antidiscrimination law.

  • IRS authorizes more preventive services to be paid by HSA-eligible health plans

    The IRS recently issued guidance expanding the definition of "preventive care" that may be covered—possibly free of charge—by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) that's paired with a health savings account (HSA). While the changes made by the guidance are relatively simple, they have the potential to make HSAs substantially more attractive, particularly to employees who have a chronic condition that is controlled by medication or therapy. Before diving too far into the details, however, it's important to have a solid understanding of HSAs and how they work.

  • Association retirement plans may not be ready for prime time

    The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently finalized regulations allowing multiple employers to offer a retirement plan to their employees through a combined association retirement plan (ARP). In what is becoming a common theme for the agency under President Donald Trump, the new rules are intended to make it easier for small to mid-sized employers to offer such plans to their employees. While they are similar to rules finalized last year that established a new type of association health plan, they go even further by establishing guidelines for professional employer organizations (PEOs) to sponsor retirement plans for their members' employees. Unfortunately, they also may face some of the same problems as those rules, but we're getting ahead of ourselves.