Since the beginning of 2008, several violent incidents have occurred in the workplace, emphasizing the need for all companies to put safety protocols into place to guard against violence on the job. These protocols should include emergency steps on how to react to violent acts, and what steps to take to help prevent these acts. All employees, managers and workers alike, should be trained in these steps.
OSHA reports that between 1992 and 2006, homicide in the workplace decreased almost 50%. However, recent tragic events suggest a reversal in that trend.
Every Nebraska employer should have a plan in place to prevent workplace violence.
Possibly the most alarming of these incidents occurred at Northern Illinois University (NIU) in DeKalb, Illinois. On February 14, former graduate student Steven Kazmierczak, armed with two guns burst into a NIU lecture hall and started shooting. Twenty-two people were hit, six of them fatally. Kazmierczak had recently transferred to the University of Illinois in Urbana/Champaign to do graduate study in social work.
Kazmierczak was described by professors as an award-winning student, calm and committed to his studies. Criminal Justice was a particular focus. Police, however, reported that Kazmierczak had been behaving erratically for three weeks, because he stopped taking his medications. These reported were disclaimed by the gunman’s girlfriend, Jessica Baty. She stated that Kazmierczak bought the guns for security, and had been stressed by school, but his behavior had not been out of the ordinary.
City council members of Kirkwood, Missouri were shot by a gunman on February 7. A political activist who had been thrown out of two previous council meetings, burst in and began shooting. Two police officers and three city officials were killed. The mayor was shot, too, but survived his wounds.
Another tragedy occurred at a Lane Bryant store in Tinley Park, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, on February 2. A man posed as a delivery man and attempted to rob the store. Six women were in the store at the time. The gunman took them to the back room and bound them with duct tape. The store manager, however, had managed to put in a call to 911. When the gunman learned of the call, he “went crazy” and shot all 6 women. Only one woman survived.
Recent incidents of workplace violence in Illinois and Missouri are the two most recent episodes. Several attacks took place in 2007 as well.
At the Denny’s restaurant on International Drive over Labor Day weekend of 2007, a 40-year-old waitress died of stab wounds inflicted by her estranged husband. Several families were leaving Walt Disney World at the time and witnessed the incident. Both coworkers and customers chased the man, who escaped over a fence, leaving a shoe behind.
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the shooter had shown several warning signs of workplace violence. He had exhibited fits of rage and was not seeking treatment for his history of mental illness. He developed obsessive crushes on women he barely knew, then engaged in stalker-like behavior and jealousy toward them that was completely out of proportion to events. Cho also had an unhealthy interest in weapons.
Two 17-year-old students were shot to death during a tragic event in September at Delaware State University. Following the shooting the campus was put on lockdown and the 1,700 students on campus were confined to their dormitories. Many of the students were contacted by cell phone about the incident and the lockdown.
For the employed spouse of an injured soldier, the amount of unpaid leave has just increased dramatically.
Instead of the usual 12 weeks in a year available under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you can now take 26 weeks, or more than 6 months.
The change is effective immediately, and is a result of the new National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2008, passed at the end of January.
The U.S. Labor Department is rushing to develop a set of regulations based on the new law. Information should be published when it becomes available, probably in several weeks. In the meantime, employers are expected to act in good faith to comply with the law.
Under the NDAA, it appears that employers will continue to be able to count paid leave time against the 26 weeks of unpaid leave time. He or she must inform the employee in advance, however, that the paid leave is being deducted from the 26 total weeks of leave.
President Bush in December of 2008 vetoed the first version of the expanded FMLA when it was attached to the National Defense Authorization Act. At the time, the President said his veto was not because of the FMLA expansion, but because the larger bill would “risk imposing financially devastating hardship on Iraq that will unacceptably interfere with the political and economic progress everyone agrees is critically important to bringing our troops home.”
That remark opened the way to a reprise of the expanded leave, and in January of 2008 it passed handily.
The NDAA allows spouses, parents, sons and daughters to take the FMLA leave to nurture an injured soldier who is either regular military or a member of the Reserve or National Guard on deployment. Under some conditions, aunts, uncles and cousins (“next of kin” in the new law) may qualify.
Besides being used to care for an injured soldier, the time may be used if a soldier is called to active duty or will be deployed imminently. That use of the NDAA is likely to be taken advantage of by spouses of Reserve or National Guard members.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in 1993. It was not until the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008, however, that any major changes to the FMLA were made.
The new NDAA expands coverage for relatives of injured soldiers and soldiers on active duty.
The U.S. Department of Labor is busy developing regulations based on the new legislation. Details are sketchy yet, so it is not known yet whether all the FMLA’s rules will continue to apply.
The FMLA is the groundbreaking legislation that provided up to 12 weeks annually of job protected, unpaid leave.
The time may be used if the worker is seriously ill or must care for a member of the “immediate family” who is ill. “Immediate family” is defined as a spouse, child, or parent.
The law also allows workers to take the leave to care for and bond with a newborn child, a newly adopted child, or a new foster child under age 18. In that capacity it is a common maternity or paternity leave.
The FMLA only covers companies with 50 or more workers within 75 miles, although 11 states in the U.S. have extended the law to cover smaller firms.
Employers are allowed to count paid leave, such as sick time or PTO (Paid Time Off) against the 12 weeks of FMLA. However, the employee must be notified of that intention in writing before his or her leave begins.
“Job protected” means the employee is entitled to the same or similar work when he or she returns. If the same job cannot be provided then the employer must provide one with similar pay, duties, working conditions, and benefits.
While the FMLA limits leave to care for “immediate family,” some states have expanded that. Hawaii, for example, allows workers to take job protected unpaid leave to care for grandparents or in-laws.
Before the passage of the FMLA, employers were under no obligation to keep an employee who had to take time because of serious illness, even if the worker underwent chemotherapy or major surgery.
Northeast Community College in Norfolk has recently received a $1,999,999 grant to help train its students to be highly skilled workers in the energy industry. The grant was provided to the school, which has a solid academic reputation and a history of graduated highly skilled workers, by the US Dept. of Labor.
The grant that Northeast Community College received is part of a Nebraska employment grant of more than $2 million. The purpose of the grants is to help community colleges effectively train their students to fill vacancies in the healthcare industry.
The President’s Community-based Job Training Grants specifically develop highly trained workers for growth industries, including advanced manufacturing, construction, energy, transportation, biotechnology and healthcare.
Jobs in healthcare are surging. Healthcare is currently the largest industry in the U.S. In fact, projections for 2014 show that about 19% of new jobs created that year will be in the healthcare industry. Eight of the 20 fastest growing jobs are in the healthcare industry.
A few of the other fastest growing industries are advanced manufacturing, energy and biotechnology. But the healthcare is responsible for more jobs than any other market sector. It employs 13.5 million people. Half a million self-employed people work in the healthcare industry.
Training for most healthcare jobs can be done in less than 4 years of community college. “Community colleges are closely tied to the areas they serve,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Employment and Training, Emily Stover DeRocco, “and they have proven themselves adept at responding to the regional workforce demands for numerous industries.
The money for the Nebraska employment grant that Northeast Community College received came from a $125 million initiative introduced by President George W. Bush during his 2004 State of the Union address. The initiative, called the President’s Community-based Job Training Grants, is targeted towards schools that train workers in healthcare, energy and construction. The $125 million will go to 72 colleges in 34 states.
The grants for this nationwide effort to train better workers will go mostly to community colleges. However, a few grants will also go to non-profit agencies and companies that train their workers for higher paying jobs.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently released an alert concerning influenza. Influenza, or the flu, is prevalent during the fall and winter. Since it normally appears during these seasons, it’s often called seasonal flu, and outbreaks are often limited. Immunity to the most common forms of the virus is easily developed by most people. Older individuals and infants are at a much greater risk of the flu become an extremely threatening illness.
The most current announcement from the Nebraska OSHA addresses a potential worldwide outbreak of influenza. A worldwide outbreak of a disease is called a pandemic. The reason why employers and employees are being alerted is because, although it is spring time, if a new type of influenza develops, it could spread from person to person for months without a cure. The body develops immunity to certain germs once it has been exposed to them. Without prior exposure, immunity would not have occurred, and therefore leaves anyone susceptible to infection.
Please, do not panic. This does not mean that the OSHA has announced that there is a new type of influenza in circulation. At this time no discoveries of a new culture of the flu have been made. Simple put, the OSHA released the warning so that employers and employees can be aware of the possibility of the event occurring. This was everyone can prepare themselves should something like this occur.
If an influenza pandemic did occur, that does not mean that everyone who caught it would die. The worst possible thing that could happen is that many people would not be able to fight the sickness and lose their lives. A mild outbreak would seem like an unusually heavy circulation of the flu.
Be aware that pandemics have happened, and could happen. The OSHA urges everyone to practice safe and sanitary habits both in the workplace and at home.
Here’s a great new development makes providing accurate, timely W-2 forms easier than ever for employers are. Beginning this year, federal and Nebraska W-2 forms can be supplied electronically.
In this day and age, technology has made it much easier for employers to meet this requirement, with the internet readily accessible, forms like the W-2 can be delivered to employees electronically. What a great convenience! As you probably know, it is required by the IRS that every employer provide W-2 forms to each employee by January 31. Requested duplicates should be provided as soon as possible.
In order to secure personal information, a username and password should be required for each employee to access only their information on the site. Remember, the employee must sign the agreement first. If they would rather have a hard copy, it is required that they receive one. Nebraska W-2 forms can still be sent through email, with the consent of the employee. A paper form must be provided if the employee does not consent, however. A consent form must be physically signed by the employee in order to have a W-2 form sent electronically. Another electronic option is to post the form on a website.
Although time and money can be saved with electronic forms, the issue of addresses still lurks. An updated email address has to be provided. If an electronic account is inactive, or the inbox is full, the message containing the W-2 will not get through to the employee. Spam filters also may accidentally send the message to the trash or bulk mail folder. Email addresses that are spelled incorrectly can be sent back, or sent to the wrong inbox. Make sure that you have the correct email address of the employee before making the electronic submission.
Another issue that could arise is that if the employee is no longer with the company, current information may not be available. If the person has moved, and their company email is deactivated, there may be problems retrieving updated personal records in order to deliver the form.