On July 24, 2009 the federal minimum wage increased by 70 cents from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour.
This is not the first increase for Alabama employers. The federal minimum wage increased from $5.15 to $5.85 per hour in 2007 and from $5.85 to $6.55 in 2008.
At present, the federal minimum wage in not scheduled to increase again in 2010. This could be good new for employers which are facing hard times in the current struggling economy.
Alabama is one of five states that have no minimum wage at the state level. Others include Mississippi, Louisiana, South Carolina and Tennessee.
In addition, effective July 24, 2009 there are 8 states that have a minimum wage lower than the federal rate. They are Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Alaska and Delaware.
In just two years, Alaska has gone from having one of the highest state minimum wages to having one of the lowest rates.
Seventeen other states increased the state minimum wage to match the federal minimum wage increase on July 24, 2009. They are: Florida, Missouri, Montana, (more…)
All minors under 18 must have work permits to be legally employed. Permits are issued at all city and county Boards of Education, and at many high schools in the state. Many private schools also issue permits.
Northwest-Shoals Community College will receive $1,911,507 to train new workers for the Advanced Manufacturing industry.
In addition, the school, located in Muscle Shoals, will receive a separate grant of $1, 929,716 to train employees for careers in healthcare.
This marks the first time in the history of this grant program that a single school has won two grants simultaneously.
The community college successfully competed against 340 other programs to win the grants totaling more than $3.8 million.
The President’s Community Based Job Training Grants Initiative awards grants to community colleges and training facilities to help workers compete for jobs in high-growth industries. The program was established in 2005 and awarded grants to 72 institutions. In 2006, the second round awarded 70 grants.
In 2008, according to a recent announcement by the U. S. Department of Labor, 69 community colleges across America were granted $125 million under this program.
These funds will assist workers in 36 states, including Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao made the following statement, “Community colleges are in a unique position to prepare local workers for careers in high-growth industries. The $125 million awarded today will expand enrollment in education and training programs and provide more workers with the skills they need to succeed.”
Due to changes from technology and innovation, an aging workforce and globalization, several industries are in dire need of skilled workers. Nationwide, industries such as healthcare, biotechnology and advanced manufacturing are but a few of these industries. Regional industries, too, such as the movie industry in California, also seeks skilled workers.
The grants are given to community colleges in areas where these industries are seeking help. The programs provide workers of all ages with training for positions in these high-paying jobs with good career advancement. For example, a manufacturing plant in Arizona needs skilled employees. The local community college could be awarded a grant to help fulfill that need.
Acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, Brent R. Orrell commented, “Preparing local residents for careers in growing hometown industries is critical to improving the quality of life of thousands of Americans These programs will provide participants not only with the skills needed to gain employment, but the change to enter into careers that offer opportunities for advancement.”
As a result of technological innovations, many industries in the United States will expand, and many new industries will come on the scene during the 21st century. Many of these industries are suffering a deficit of skilled employees, the available positions far exceeding the number of qualified applicants.
The U. S. Department of Labor has formed strong partnerships with business and industry to help remedy this need. The Community Based Job Training Grants are part of that partnership, and exist to provide funds to community colleges in areas that need skilled employees.
The Grants focus on the businesses and industries, and are an extension of a national model for development of a workforce on demand known as the President’s High Growth Job Training Initiative. These programs focus on community colleges in the areas that need help. Funds are granted to increase the college’s ability to train employees in these high-growth high-demand positions.
The Community Based Job Training Grants award funds to help train new and experience workers. These funds are used to hiring qualified teachers, arrange work-study programs and to provide updated equipment required for the training. The colleges work closely with the local industries to develop training courses and programs to help meet the needs of those industries.
Among other things, the changes permit employers to request recertification of what is called an “ongoing condition” at least once per 6-month period. The word “request” is used by the U.S. Labor Department, but in fact employers may deny FMLA leave to a worker who refuses to comply.
The FMLA gives Alabama employees the right to take as much as 12 weeks of unpaid and job protected leave annually to attend to their own or immediate family members’ “serious health condition.” Employers, in turn, have the right to require an employee to provide a medical certification from a doctor or other healthcare practitioner. Sometimes employers may also have the right to second or third opinions, provided they cover the cost of those additional opinions.
Under present regulations, there are two conditions under which an employer may request a recertification. First, they may request them after 30 days, provided the worker is currently absent on FMLA. Second, recertification may be requested if the healthcare provider named a specific time limit on the original certification. If employee Mary’s doctor, for example, said she must take 6 weeks of FMLA leave because of carpal tunnel syndrome, then recertification may be requested after 6 weeks.
The problem for both employers and courts has been that healthcare practitioners sometimes declare a condition “lifetime” or its duration “unknown.” In those cases, employers do not clearly have the right to request a recertification.
The new regulations formally permit employers to require new medical certifications yearly if a worker has a serious health condition that is ongoing. Assuming an employee had migraine headaches requiring periodic, unscheduled days off under FMLA, his or her employer could require annual recertification.
Proposed certification changes also address patient privacy. Employers may contact a healthcare provider for clarification of information on a certification form. But neither party may go beyond what is permissible in the HIPAA regulations about medical privacy. The Labor Department’s optional recertification form has been updated. Providers need not specify diagnoses.
More Alabama FMLA Changes
“Fitness-for-duty” certifications are one of the key tools an employer uses to cope with employees’ use of FMLA leave.
An employer may by law require that an employee returning to work after taking FMLA leave to tend to his or her serious illness provide a “fitness-for-duty” certificate from a healthcare professional.
The certificate must show that the worker is capable of resuming the most important tasks of his or her job.
The U.S. Department of Labor has announced a broad series of proposed changes to the FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act that affect employers across the nation in important ways. Among the changes proposed are important ones involving the “fitness-for-duty” certification.
Employers and others have until April 11, 2008 to comment on the proposals. After that, the changes will be published in the National Register and officially become law.
One proposed change in the certification system applies to workers who take intermittent FMLA leave, and it is designed to cut back or eliminate FMLA abuse by some workers. According to the change, if there were a reasonable safety risk involved, the employer would be allowed to require a “fitness-for-duty” certificate every time the worker takes FMLA leave and seeks to resume his or her job.
If truck driver “Carl,” for example, suffers intermittent migraine headaches that interfere with his vision, that would be considered a safety concern. Each time he took FMLA leave because of his vision problem and sought to return to the job, his employer could require him to submit a certificate again. On the other hand, if employee “Maria” is intermittently absent for a day or a few hours of FMLA leave at a time because of pregnancy-caused morning sickness, that would not be a safety hazard, and her employer could not require a certificate each time she came back from FMLA leave.
The other planned change would permit an employer to require that a certification address, in a direct manner, the worker’s capability of resuming the key tasks of his or her job.
OSHA warns employers of the dangers associated with Cold Stress and hypothermia in the wake of a tragic tornado in Prattville, Alabama last week.
The tornado severely damaged or destroyed 200 homes and businesses in the small town outside Montgomery. According to Mayor Jim Byard, crews were searching for survivors in the wreckage the next morning.
Two people were critically injured in the incident. A 35-bed mobile hospital was set up in a Kmart parking lot to handle victims with minor to moderate injuries. This enabled hospitals and emergency rooms to focus on those with more critical injuries.
OSHA warns that in the wake of such natural disaster, employers need to take special precautions to protect workers from cold stress and hypothermia. Emergency workers and utility workers, are particularly at risk. However, cold stress can strike any worker at temperatures up to 50 degrees, especially in windy or wet conditions.
Severe weather seems to be the rule in the past few weeks. Tornados were blamed for the destruction of four homes in Escambia County Florida. About 60 homes were damaged. In nearby Escambia County, Alabama two houses were destroyed in the town of Dixie, according to the National Weather Service. The storm also damaged some structures in Covington County, Alabama and toppled trees.
The National Weather Service warned of additional damage in Georgia.
Meanwhile, the Midwest was reeling from another major snowstorm that snarled travel for days. Freezing rain and snow fell across two-thirds of Wisconsin, causing a traveler’s advisory with authorities urging people to stay off the roads. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for the area.
Few employers realize that in cases like this, the weather in Alabama can be just as deadly as the weather in Wisconsin. Cold Stress and even potentially fatal hypothermia can occur at temperatures as high as 50 degrees.
During the aftermath of severe weather, utility workers and emergency responders are especially at risk. But, any employer should make sure that outdoor workers take precautions.
Outdoor workers, and those who spend a lot of time in freezers, are especially susceptible to cold stress, frostbite and hypothermia. OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) reminds employers to prepare for cold weather and to encourage employees to follow safety protocols.
Possibly the most obvious, and the most important, measure is for the employee to wear proper clothing. OSHA recommends at least three layers of clothing, with cotton on the innermost layer, followed by wool or down, completed by an outer layer of nylon.
The fabric is just as important as the layers. Cotton insulates until it gets wet. Wool, on the other hand insulates even when completely wet. Using wool as a second layer will absorb the sweat and still provide warmth. Nylon or Gortex is good as a wind break, thereby reducing the effects of wind chill.
Employees should avoid getting wet if at all possible. They should also keep a change of clothing in a warm, dry area to replace any work clothes that get soaked. Temporary shelters around the work site can help reduce the effects of wind, and if the shelters are heated, they can provide a warm area for the workers to take a break.
While working in cold temperatures, employees should take frequent breaks, drink plenty of fluids and eat warm food that is high in calories. Breaks should be taken out of the cold in a warm vehicle or a heated shelter. Employees should also work in pairs to watch for symptoms of cold weather exposure such as cold stress. Signs include disorientation, irrational behavior and confusion.
Training should be provided to all coworkers, managers and supervisors, so they are able recognize the signs of cold stress. If an employee begins to exhibit symptoms, or begins to feel uncomfortable, he or she must stop working and seek a warm area.