Is your business ready for the new salary and overtime rules?

Effective Dec. 1, 2016, new changes to overtime rules will apply to employers and millions of employees in Central Florida and throughout the country. The most significant rule changes in more than 20 years to the federal wage and hour law — the Fair Labor Standards Act — will have a direct financial impact on businesses and white-collar employees such as executive, administrative, professional and computer personnel.

Required minimum salary levels are changing for many in these groups dramatically, from $455 per week (or $23,660 per year for a full-time worker) to more than double that rate, $913 per week (or $47,476 per year).

Changes are also in store for those qualifying as a “highly compensated employee” with total annual compensation increasing 34 percent from $100,000 per year to $134,004 per year. Notably, these new salary rates automatically will adjust every three years, beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

Businesses are faced with a hard choice: substantially increase salaries of the exempt employees who fall below the new minimums or convert them to hourly pay, tracking all hours worked and paying them overtime. In either case, these changes will impact labor costs, potential productivity (if hours are reduced to minimize overtime), employee compensation and, possibly, morale. Because white-collar employees work whatever hours are necessary to get the job done and do not earn additional pay for overtime hours, many businesses may not realize how many hours salaried employees actually work.

For these reasons, in considering what changes to implement, businesses should take four critical steps:

  • Identify which and how many employees are impacted by the salary changes.
  • Determine the hours these employees actually work, including from home, remote work sites or when traveling.
  • Evaluate compliance with the “duties test” applicable to their exempt classification.
  • Analyze the financial impact of a salary increase or the new obligation of overtime, and productivity impacts if long hours are reduced or new hires occur to fill in the productivity gap.

These steps will help predict financial and operational impacts, and ready both the business and employees for implementation.

Compliance is critical. Currently, lawsuits filed by employees claiming misclassification or unpaid overtime are at an all-time high in Florida. The new rules may bring an increase in claims by employees or the Department of Labor in its enforcement capacity. Consequences for getting it wrong are significant, including unpaid wages, liquidated damages (a doubling penalty) and legal fees (for your business and possibly the employees who sue). If not correct, it can be a costly mistake.

In short, being proactive and ensuring compliance will help your bottom line.

Helpful resource materials may be found on the Department of Labor’s website ( and include the Wage & Hour Division’s “Fact Sheets” and Small Entity Compliance Guide, among other tools.

Cynthia Brennan Ryan is a Central Florida attorney who counsels employers in all matters related to federal and state employment laws. She may be reached at

Cynthia Brennan Ryan

NCCI Proposes Nearly 20% Florida Workers Comp Rate Increase

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) announced July 1 that the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) filed an amended rate filing to address a third legal change affecting Florida’s workers’ compensation system. This amended filing increases NCCI’s initial proposed combined average rate increase from 17.1 percent to 19.6 percent.

Individual projected rate impacts for all three recent legal changes include the following:

·       A 2.2 percent projected rate increase for the June 9th Florida Supreme Court decision in the case of Westphal v. City of St. Petersburg, in which the Florida Supreme Court found the 104-week statutory limitation on temporary total disability benefits in Section 440.15(2)(a), Florida Statutes, unconstitutional because it causes a statutory gap in benefits in violation of an injured worker’s constitutional right of access to courts. The Supreme Court reinstated the 260-week limitation in effect prior to the 1994 law change.

·       A 15 percent projected rate increase for the April 28th Florida Supreme Court decision in the case of Castellanos v. Next Door Company, which  found the mandatory attorney fee schedule in Section 440.34, Florida Statutes, unconstitutional as a violation of due process under both the Florida and United States Constitutions.

·       A 1.8 percent projected rate increase related to updates within the Florida Workers’ Compensation Health Care Provider Reimbursement Manual (HCPR Manual) per Senate Bill 1402. The manual becomes effective on July 1, 2016.


NCCI is proposing an effective date of October 1, 2016 for new and renewal workers’ compensation policies and that the 19.6 percent rate increase apply to all workers’ compensation policies in effect as of October 1, 2016 on a pro-rata basis for the remainder of each policy’s term.

OIR has scheduled a public rate hearing for August 16, 2016 at 9:00 a.m. to give NCCI an opportunity to discuss the filing and interested parties and other stakeholders the ability to provide testimony or comments. The hearing will be held in the Jim King Committee Room, 401 Senate Office Building, 404 South Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida. A media advisory with more details will be released at a later date.

NCCI is a licensed rating organization authorized to make rate filings on behalf of workers’ compensation insurance companies in Florida. The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation has primary responsibility for regulation, compliance and enforcement of statutes related to the business of insurance and the monitoring of industry markets.


3 ways businesses can protect employees, customers in wake of Orlando tragedies

Our community has suffered through some of the most shocking and horrific events imaginable in recent weeks. The worst mass shooting in recent U.S. history, the murder of a nationally renowned singer and an alligator attack of a child all happened right here in the greater Orlando area. No doubt these tragedies have both jolted and united this resilient community, leaving our friends and neighbors searching for answers.

Because all of these tragedies occurred on business premises, one question firms around the state are asking is, “What can I do now to better protect my customers and employees?”

Among other things, firms should consider these three actions:

1.        Develop an emergency action plan: Firms first should identify the possible future threats to employee and customer safety, such as extreme weather, fire, potentially unsafe conditions on the premises and workplace violence — including active shooter and hostage situations. Firms then can evaluate how to minimize those threats and their effects. Some examples include improving evacuation route accessibility for both disabled and non-disabled individuals, posting signs to warn of potentially unsafe conditions and providing adequate security measures. Once the threats have been identified and evaluated, the firm should develop an emergency action plan to guide employees when immediate action is necessary. The plan should be tailored to the potential threats relevant to a specific business. At a minimum, such plans generally provide: procedures for reporting and responding to emergencies; an evacuation procedure with workplace maps and safe areas; contact information for individuals within and outside of the firm; and procedures for performing essential services, rescue and first-aid duties when possible.

2.       Education and practice: Adopting an emergency action plan alone cannot provide meaningful guidance to employees in the event of an actual emergency. It is important to educate employees and new hires continually about the plan. For example, simply telling employees that the firm has a “run, hide, fight” policy for an active shooter situation will be unhelpful without education about what the policy means and how it should be executed. Likewise, firms continually should practice and refine the emergency procedures through instruction, training and practice.

3.       Insuring the business: To help the business and its employees and customers resume life after an emergency, firms must be properly insured for damage to its property, interruption of income and potential liability to employees (typically under a workers’ compensation policy) and customers (typically under a commercial general liability policy). Notably, since many emergencies are considered to be reasonably foreseeable, a firm can be held liable if it fails to take reasonable precautions to prepare for such an event. Therefore, the firm should understand how its commercial general liability policy applies to these different situations and how the “per occurrence” limits will be applied for the different types of emergencies.

Michael A. Semanie is a partner at the law firm of Killgore Pearlman. He can be reached at, (407) 425-1020 or

Managing: What to do when employees are consumed by news of mass tragedies

Managing: What to do when employees are consumed by news of mass tragedies

Managing: What to do when employees are consumed by news of mass tragedies

Question 1: What to do when employees are consumed by news of mass tragedies

I supervise someone who subscribes to news alerts on his cell phone and via email, and he kind of obsesses about news when it’s something like the California shooting.

While it’s a tragedy, especially considering it’s workplace violence that could affect any of us, I don’t think it’s worth dropping everything to follow. It usually takes hours or days for the full story to come out anyway. A person can watch CNN on their computer or keep newspaper sites open and refresh every few minutes, so it really can be a distraction. These things are unfortunately far too common so it’s not exceptional enough to allow it to interfere with work, in my opinion.

If it were within driving distance, I’d be on alert, but if it’s hundreds or thousands of miles away, I don’t think we should let it affect our workday. 9/11 was special because it affected multiple cities and potentially every airplane until we knew it was only four planes. But for localized things far away, I’d rather wait until the 6:00 news, or do my job and then check the news during break. I wouldn’t stop working and sit in front of a TV or stare at a cell phone.

Is that unreasonable?


Oooof. Honestly, my answer to this is different right now than it would have been a few years ago. In general, I think that employers should make allowances for these kinds of shocking events. We’re all humans, and processing this stuff is tough. You can realistically expect people to be unaffected.

But in the current atmosphere in the U.S., where this kind of thing is happening so frequently? With two separate mass shootings just last week? There is a point where someone being consumed by each and every one would start having a real impact on their work and where it’s reasonable to ask people to at least try to return to work.

But the key is communicating that in a way that doesn’t sound terribly callous and insensitive. You don’t want the message to be “work is more important than this tragedy” because work isn’t generally more important (emergency workers, etc. excepted). Rather, the message is more “this is awful and I so understand the impulse to follow it closely throughout the day, but we also need to find a way to keep work moving.”

That’s why the language in your letter probably isn’t the language to use with your employee; when you talk to him, you want to sound more sensitive to why he’s finding it tough to turn away. (Some of the framing is also open to debate. For example, I’d argue that 9/11 was different because it was a large-scale terrorist attack on our cities, not for the reasons you cited, but it’s better to stay away from that kind of thing anyway because it’ll distract from your point.)

I think, too, you want to use your judgment case-by-case. If a tragedy is close to home or hits an employee particularly hard for a personal reason, you might handle it differently. And if someone is visibly shaken and can’t return their focus to work, you could suggest they use PTO and leave early, as well as suggesting that they get in touch with your EAP if you have one. If their work truly doesn’t allow for leaving early (and some jobs don’t), you could say, “I’d love to be able to give you the rest of the day off, but unfortunately I can’t because X. But here’s what I can do (excuse you from that meeting, let you leave as soon as Y is done, or whatever).”

And one more caveat: If this person is an exempt employee whose productivity isn’t significantly affected by this and who can generally be trusted to manage his own time (and who may be working extra hours the rest of the week/month to get everything done), I wouldn’t even address it.

Each week Alison Green, who also writes the "Ask a Manager" website, answers workplace and management questions from readers. 

10 Sales Rules to Follow to Grow Your Business

When many individuals think about selling they first visualize an unsavory used-car salesperson.

But selling is a vital strategy for business growth in that it keeps businesses going, brings in income and pays bills. Therefore, to a great extent, organizations depend majorly on sales performance.

To impact a decent business development procedure through sales, a business needs to practice these 10 rules consistent.

A client likewise needs a motive to purchase. He should be informed that the commodity takes care of his needs and does it perfectly.

To impact a decent business development procedure through sales, a business needs to practice these 10 rules consistently:

1. Know your product and industry

Customers are not foolish. They can immediately tell when the individual doesn’t know anything or much about what they are selling. If taking out some time to thoroughly study the product and its industry is required, don’t hesitate to do just that.

2. Stop acting

Time and again, organizations beginning in sales think they need to somehow distort what they really represent. But speaking the truth has an enormous effect in winning a client's trust. They know who they're doing business with, they feel good dealing a candid business, and they believe the deal is just what they were told it is.

3. Persistence wins

Deals don't happen just like that. A business needs to strive and be diligent, regardless if they are rejected initially. In some cases, clients like to know that the business really wants their order.

4. Concise messaging

Together with being educated on a particular business, you additionally have to sell with concise messaging. People don’t have all the time in the world to listen to you talk about your business. Hit the nail on the head. Don’t bore them with too many irrelevancies.

5. Help solve problems

Many clients don't purchase an item simply because it’s a particular color. They purchase on the grounds that they require the solution to a problem or need. Show a link between the commodity and the client’s problem and it will win the client over immediately.

6. Respect

Clients have their own unique personality, experience, foundation and ability. Organizations should be aware of these factors instead of being dismissive or offensive. Nothing annoys a client more than a sales representative that portrays himself as a know-it-all.

7. Be accessible

When clients are prepared to purchase, they do it when it suits them and not when it suits the seller. Sales representatives who are accessible win the sale on the grounds that they make it easy for the client to purchase when it suits them.

8. Face rejection bravely

If a business got befuddled each time it was rejected, there would be no commercial enterprises. Dismissal happens frequently. Organizations should be solid even when told "no," so go at it again and again.

9. Learn how to listen

Many clients would like to express their issues. Unfortunately, business salesmen are so excessively occupied with trying to make sales that they don’t listen and observe enough to know that there is an opportunity staring them in the face. By just connecting on a personal level with the client, a lot of work can be avoided.

10. Follow up

Once the deal’s done, most sellers move onto the next available client. Keeping tabs on an existing client can take care of product issues rapidly before they result in complaints, produce new deals, and serve as the foundation for a long-term relationship with the client.

Deals may appear like a challenge because numerous organizations neglect to connect with their clients. Rather, the best selling occurs when there is good planning and legitimate data. With a solid strategy for business growth concentrated on the appropriate sales technique, a business will not just survive, but grow and expand. Therefore, sales make a whole lot of difference.

Gregg Swanson is a sales performance consultant and business coach who has authored several books and numerous articles on peak performance. Swanson specializes in helping companies internally align themselves to achieve superior business results. In addition, he helps sales professionals develop mental strength for optimum sales performance. He is founder and owner of Warrior Mind Coach.

Great Article on Creating Customer Loyalty

As business owners, we all want customers, but what’s the goal we should really set to sustain a successful business?

If your answer is “turning buyers into fans,” you thought right.

Sure, we all want as much traffic to our site as we can get and we are happy with any sales that come our way, but how do we turn buyers into full-fledged brand loyalists?

Word of mouth marketing

One of the best ways to market is through word of mouth. Nothing beats a review than one coming directly from someone you trust. Traditional marketing has its value, but there is no better marketing tool than having your customers become advocates for your brand.

Having customers that feel passionate about your business will not only show up as an upside to your revenue but also will help your business grow. Scaling a new business relies on its supporters.

One company I believe that has truly excelled in this area is Uber. Uber has done an exceptional job at marketing and taking the term “brand loyalist” to a whole new level. Giving out promotion codes to get the first ride free and allowing their customers to share these codes with their contacts really did wonders to help Uber spread the message about their service. I still cannot wrap my head around how fast people took to this service once their pricing became affordable for the everyday person.

Make customers feel appreciated

Actions speak louder than words. All the marketing material in the world won’t equate to the way you treat your customers. In order to convert customers into fans, you must put your fair share of work into making your customers feel appreciated.

The first step to turning your customers into brand loyalists is to ensure your customers have a top- notch experience every time they visit your page or contact your customer service. If you make your customer feel like they are the only thing that matters in that moment in time, they will be sure to remember it. Engage with your customers on a personal level, become their friends, not just a business they frequent.

Statistics have shown that 75 percent of brands do not know what engagement means but are “measuring” it. Don’t be one of these brands. Engagement is the definition of what it takes to convert customers into fans. Social media has opened up so many different avenues to communicate with your customers there really is no excuse not to be active around the clock to boost your brand. The better you manage your channels, the higher quality the experience will be for your customers.

Make everyone feel special

Another way to earn brownie points with your customers is to make all your customers feel special no matter the circumstance. Don’t be selective. Reward your customers whether they are shopping with you for the first time or the fiftieth. Even if it’s something small, a token of appreciation can truly make a difference.

Many companies make the mistake of only rewarding those who dish out the cash, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Rewards don’t always have to mean discounts or giveaways right off the bat. A simple “Thank you for your purchase, we see you liked this product, please enter your email to be among the first 25 customers notified when we run a secret shopping day. This means you have VIP access along with 24 other customers to purchase our products at a highly discounted price for a limited time.” As an online business, chances are you will eventually get an overstock of something. What better way to sell these products than a fun rewarding activity for your customers?

If you haven’t made converting your customers into fans a priority, it's time to re-strategize. Don’t let your competitors have the advantage by being more connected with your customer base. Treat your customers the way you want to be treated at a five-star resort — nothing but the best.

Amit Bhaiya

Contributing Writer

Do Your HR People Add to the Bottom Line?

How to align your employees and your culture

May 23, 2016, 7:10am EDT

How to align your employees and your culture

Image provided by Getty Images

Mis-hires most often occur because we aren’t digging down to the core of matching the person (not just the employee) to the organization (not just the job.)

Time and time again I hear CEOs and company leaders grumble about their staff — high turnover rates, new employees who “just don’t get it” and current employees who are only “so-so.”

An organization’s people are its most valuable asset. Who they are and what they are committed to will make or break an organization’s success.

Consider the current challenges with people in your own organization. Are they lacking the technical skills you needed? Or is there a gap in the cultural fit? If alignment with the culture is the problem, keep reading.

See Also

Building the team

Mis-hires most often occur because we aren’t digging down to the core of matching the person (not just the employee) to the organization (not just the job.)

During recruitment, interviews and on-boarding, ask yourself if you are:

  • Direct about the organization’s goals and expectations, mission and values
  • Focused on who they are as much as you’re focused on what they can do
  • Selecting people for an immediate role only, or considering their potential for success within the whole team
  • Temporarily hiring candidates to come aboard for a day or week for an on-the-job trial period
  • Speaking with the best references you can find, or simply connecting with those the candidate suggests
  • Considering “conscientiousness” as a predictor for job candidate success, and, figuring out how you will determine that or other key cultural strengths early in the interview

Growing their capacity

The team-building process doesn’t stop once someone is hired; then it becomes an effort to refine and cultivate the greatest collaborative community. Consider the answers to these questions:

  • Is someone who was right for the job in the past still good for the job as it is needed for the future?
  • Does each employee have the potential to learn and to lead?
  • Would I enthusiastically rehire each member of my team?

If the answers are “yes,” leaders must foster their potential and encourage growth. If the answers are “no,” and they are no longer coachable, move swiftly. An employee who is missing the capacity to learn and lead isn’t living your company’s core values or who no longer suits the direction of the business isn't alone in their lack of growth. They are thwarting the success of your organization.

Be candid about where you want your organization to go and who it will take to get there. Expect people — from candidates, to your existing team, and including yourself — to be honest and direct about who they are, what they want, and how, collectively, you’re going to make it happen.

Nancy Eberhardt

Contributing Writer

Business groups will try to block overtime rule, but don't expect them to succeed

Business groups will challenge the new rule that expands eligibility for overtime to millions of workers, but employers should act as if the regulation will go into effect as scheduled on Dec. 1.

There’s legislation pending in Congress to block the rule, and business groups are considering challenging the regulation in court. But the chances of blocking the rule before it goes into effect are slim.


Even many salaried employees will have to watch the clock under new overtime pay… more


The rule would make any worker making less than $47,476 a year eligible for overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week, even if they are managers or professionals. That’s double the current overtime pay threshold.

Momentum is growing for legislation that would force the Department of Labor to withdraw the rule until it conducts more analysis on its impact. But even if this bill passes both the House and Senate, President Barack Obama would veto it.

Getting a veto-proof, two-thirds majority in Congress for this bill will be difficult, but the business community isn’t alone in objecting to this rule. Nonprofit organizations, universities, and state and local governments also are worried about the rule’s impact, so they’re lobbying Congress as well.

This coalition “is only going to grow,” said David French, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation.

There also could be lawsuits challenging the rule. Business groups could contend the new salary threshold is so high that it’s contrary to Congress’ intent of exempting people with management responsibilities from overtime pay requirements. Or they could contend the Department of Labor doesn’t have the authority to automatically increase the overtime pay threshold every three years without going through the regular rule-making process.

Both of these legal strategies are long shots, however, said Tammy McCutchen, a principal at Littler Mendelson who headed the Wage and Hour Division when the Department of Labor last increased the overtime threshold in 2004.

Employers need to proceed as if the rule will go into effect Dec. 1, she said.

That starts with analyzing how your exempt employees are paid, and identifying the ones who will become eligible for overtime pay in December under the new pay threshold.

Then you’ll have to compare the costs of raising their salary to $47,476 in order to avoid overtime, with the costs of reclassifying them as non-exempt employees and paying overtime if they work more than 40 hours a week.

You’ll also have to figure out to track the time that salaried employees spend on work. For those making less than $47,476, travel time to conferences, training and work at home all will be counted as paid time that has to be tracked, McCutchen noted.

You can reclassify salaried workers as hourly workers, but that’s tricky. Many employees will see having to punch a clock as a demotion.

“Employers can expect many employees to feel hurt and underappreciated,” saidAlice Kilborn, consultant on workplace litigation prevention in Albuquerque, N.M., in a Society for Human Resource Management blog on how to tell employees that they’re be reclassified as an hourly employees. “Many workers place a premium on the prestige of being considered an exempt or salaried employee — no matter how much we emphasize that it’s just a categorization of pay and not a reflection of importance or level of contribution.”

So you should begin to talking to employees now about what the new overtime rules will mean for them, SHRM recommends.

Final Ruling On New Overtime Minimum Wages Signed

Wage and Hour Division (WHD)

Final Rule: Overtime

Defining and Delimiting the Exemptions for Executive, Administrative, Professional, Outside Sales and Computer Employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act

On May 18, 2016, President Obama and Secretary Perez announced the publication of the Department of Labor’s final rule updating the overtime regulations, which will automatically extend overtime pay protections to over 4 million workers within the first year of implementation. This long-awaited update will result in a meaningful boost to many workers’ wallets, and will go a long way toward realizing President Obama’s commitment to ensuring every worker is compensated fairly for their hard work.

In 2014, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Department to update the regulations defining which white collar workers are protected by the FLSA's minimum wage and overtime standards. Consistent with the President's goal of ensuring workers are paid a fair day's pay for a hard day's work, the memorandum instructed the Department to look for ways to modernize and simplify the regulations while ensuring that the FLSA's intended overtime protections are fully implemented.

The Department published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) in the Federal Register on July 6, 2015 (80 FR 38515) and invited interested parties to submit written comments on the proposed rule at by September 4, 2015. The Department received over 270,000 comments in response to the NPRM from a variety of interested stakeholders. The feedback the Department received helped shape the Final Rule.

Key Provisions of the Final Rule

The Final Rule focuses primarily on updating the salary and compensation levels needed for Executive, Administrative and Professional workers to be exempt. Specifically, the Final Rule:

  1. Sets the standard salary level at the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region, currently the South ($913 per week; $47,476 annually for a full-year worker);
  2. Sets the total annual compensation requirement for highly compensated employees (HCE) subject to a minimal duties test to the annual equivalent of the 90th percentile of full-time salaried workers nationally ($134,004); and
  3. Establishes a mechanism for automatically updating the salary and compensation levels every three years to maintain the levels at the above percentiles and to ensure that they continue to provide useful and effective tests for exemption.

Additionally, the Final Rule amends the salary basis test to allow employers to use nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) to satisfy up to 10 percent of the new standard salary level.

The effective date of the final rule is December 1, 2016. The initial increases to the standard salary level (from $455 to $913 per week) and HCE total annual compensation requirement (from $100,000 to $134,004 per year) will be effective on that date. Future automatic updates to those thresholds will occur every three years, beginning on January 1, 2020.

Although the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has reviewed and approved the Final Rule, the document has not yet been published in the Federal Register. The Final Rule that appears in the Federal Register may contain minor formatting differences in accordance with Office of the Federal Register publication requirements. The OMB-approved version is being provided as a convenience to the public and this website will be updated with the Federal Register’s published version when it becomes available.

What's the best time of year to shop Professional Employer Organizations (PEO)?

Clients of PEO's or ones considering a PEO, should now consider shopping.  In January all employee taxes start over again.  If you switch to a new PEO midyear, your taxes also start over again because your employees are moved to a new Federal Identification Number.  These taxes include FICA (Social Security & Medicare), Federal Unemployment Taxes (FUTA), State Unemployment (SUI or SUTA).  These costs are substantial and restarting mid year can be very costly.  For example a 30 employee company in Florida that pays $2.70 for SUI and $.60 for FUTA would pay $2.70 + $.60 = $3.30 x $7000 (wage cap for SUI & FUTA) x 30 = $6,930.00!  Let us start the shopping process for your company. Our services cost nothing for your company and we work for you.  We don't have to meet a quota so we don't force your company into an arrangement that doesn't make sense.  We have the best payroll/ASO option as well as PEO options. 

What PEO is RIGHT for your company?

A Workers' Compensation Mini Case Study - Company With 200 Employees

Over the last decade we have worked with many companies to help them reduce the cost of their labor. From one perspective or another we have helped these companies get ahead of their cost problem. More recently we worked with a company that has about 200 employees to reduce their workers’ compensation costs dramatically. Here is what we did for them.