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October 2019: The New Overtime Rule

By | Business Consulting, Human Resources, News

Contributor: Kevin Grey, Warren Whitney’s Human Resource Director

WHAT BUSINESS OWNERS NEED TO KNOW

On September 24, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced a final rule increasing the earning threshold to exempt executive, administrative, and professional workers from the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime pay requirements.

The new rule, effective January 1, 2020, raises the federal overtime exemption threshold from $23,660 per year ($455 per week) to $35,568 per year ($684 per week). This law was last updated 15 years ago.

To better understand the new overtime law, Warren Whitney’s Human Resource Director, Kevin Grey, explains:

  • The meaning of the new federal overtime rule
  • Ways to be cost-effective
  • How to communicate the change to affected employees
  • Penalties for non-compliance

 1) The meaning of the new federal overtime rule

This law impacts employees currently classified as salary exempt that are making over $23,660 a year and under $35,568 a year. For these employees, you will be required to:

  • Reclassify the employee as non-exempt (if appropriate).
  • Compensate the employee at time-and-a-half as overtime pay for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week.

Employers should analyze their salary exempt workforce in consideration of the new threshold and communicate any changes to the affected employees before it takes effect on January 1st, 2020. This is a good time to update your position descriptions as you conduct your review.

There are additional provisions under the final rule to consider:

  • The duties requirements for these employees remains the same.
  • Non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) may be used to satisfy up to 10% of the new salary level requirement.
  • The annual salary level for classified highly compensated employees is being raised from the current level of $100,000 per year to $107,432 per year.
  • The final rule does not include automatic increases to the threshold.

2) Ways to Be Cost-Effective and minimize the impact on your balance sheet

 i. Pay Overtime as Necessary

If your employees typically work 40 hours a week and occasionally or seasonally work overtime, it might be advantageous to reclassify them as non-exempt. In this scenario, you would budget for overtime instead of raising their yearly salaries above the threshold. Limit workers’ hours to 40 hours a week. If possible, redistribute workloads to ensure that non-exempt employees remain within a 40-hour workweek.

ii. Hire Temporary Workers

To limit your non-exempt employees to a 40-hour workweek, you may find the need for the occasional temporary worker to meet business demands. Hiring temporary workers can be more cost-effective than either raising salaries to be above the threshold or paying overtime.

iii. Raise Salaries above the Threshold

If you have employees consistently working more than 40 hours a week and these employees are already being compensated at or near the salary threshold, it might be worth considering raising salaries above the $35,568 threshold. However, keep in mind that the employees’ duties must pass the Duties Test required by the FLSA. In the event of a DOL audit, the job description must support the exemption. If it is not within your budget to increase salaries, you will have to reclassify the salary exempt positions to non-exempt.

3) Be sensitive when communicating the change

There are employees who tie professional esteem to being salary exempt. If you determine that paying on an hourly non-exempt basis is more cost-effective for your business, be sensitive to the affected employees when communicating the changes.  Even if there is no change to their income or duties, they may perceive their now non-exempt position to have less professional status.

In Virginia’s particularly tight labor market, effectively disseminating information to your workforce is important to ensure your employees don’t feel slighted as your business moves to ensure compliance with new regulations.

 4) DOL Penalties for non-compliance under the FLSA

Penalties and sanctions for non-compliance with the FLSA are severe and aren’t a risk worth taking. In addition to the back payment of lost wages to all affected employees, willful violators may be prosecuted criminally and fined up to $10,000. A second conviction of violating the FLSA can result in imprisonment. Employers with repeated violations may be subject to fines of $1,000 per incident.

All businesses must comply with FLSA rules to not only avoid penalties and/or sanctions but to also protect their most important investment; their employees. Warren Whitney’s Human Resource professionals have hands-on experience helping organizations with HR compliance. If you have questions about the new overtime rule or other compliance-related issues, please contact Kevin Grey at 804.282.9566 or kgrey@warrenwhitney.com.

Learn more about Kevin Grey www.warrenwhitney.com/kevin-grey/

September 2019: Fraud — Threat & Reality in your Business

By | Finance & Accounting, News

Contributor: Richard Kannan, Warren Whitney Finance & Accounting Director

The larger the company, the bigger the risk of fraud, right? Well, not necessarily. On a relative basis, smaller organizations may be at greater risk. The average fraud loss for companies with less than 100 Employees is $200,000, versus larger businesses where the average fraud loss is $104,0001. Fraud losses occur when there are NOT proper controls put in place. When small to medium-sized businesses have a leaner accounting team or one person with too much authority, they become vulnerable. The fact is that inadequate controls create opportunities for fraudulent activities.

American criminologist, Donald Cressey, developed the “Fraud Triangle” theory which explains the factors that can lead to fraud and unethical behavior as:

  • Opportunity (i.e. Lack of internal controls)
  • Pressure (i.e. Personal finances in jeopardy)
  • Rationalization (Reasoning decreases with #1 & #2)

The combination of these three factors can turn individuals you wouldn’t suspect into a fraudster. Fortunately, as business leaders, you can take control and identify the points of weakness to deter fraudulent activity. The critical element is identifying the vulnerable areas to address immediately by establishing the proper protocols.

INTERNAL CONTROLS

Half (50%) of all fraud cases in small businesses occur due to a lack of internal controls1. The below list of real-life scenarios exemplifies how easily it happens and how it can be prevented.

REAL LIFE SCENARIOS HIGHLIGHT VULNERABILITIES IN THE SYSTEM

Scenario #1: A checking account number was used to print checks made out to the fraudster. Checks were written to an account and all available funds were transferred out as soon as funds were available. The checks continued to be written until the bank caught on and stopped payment immediately. The fraudster disappeared with the money.

Lesson Learned: Bank controls would have prevented this from happening. Banks offer “Positive Pay” protocols which will not allow checks to clear unless the company registers the check number and amount. This simple and inexpensive control will prevent checks from being hijacked.

Scenario #2: A bookkeeper wrote checks to herself using familiar amounts to the owner (i.e. monthly truck payments, rent, etc.). She shared the account reconciliation with the owner every month. The owner, who trusted his bookkeeper, conducted only a cursory review.

Lesson Learned: A trusted employee scammed her employer in a clever way. This is where business owners need a clearly defined approach to reviewing checking accounts, reconciliation, and spending.

Scenario #3: A vendor’s email account was hacked. The hacker sent an email from the hacked account to the vendor’s client requesting a large payment along with new wiring instructions. The client did not question the email and the wire was sent to the fraudsters account and the money was lost.

Lesson Learned: Always confirm payment method changes. This may require a face to face discussion, or a phone call to a known member at the organization to confirm the changes.

Scenario #4: A CFO stole $500K over 2 ½ years by sending cash from the entity’s operating account to a PayPal account he controlled. The company had no reason to dispute PayPal since the transactions were on the bank statement. The CFO controlled the bank reconciliations and nobody reviewed them or the bank statements. The fraud survived two annual audits (proving you can’t expect auditors to identify fraud). The scheme was caught when the numbers got too big to hide.

Lesson Learned: Always review your company’s bank reconciliations. Your controller should have a clear listing of all the cash movement tools.

Scenario #5: A bookkeeper “borrowed” money from a small company by writing checks to herself instead of paying the payroll taxes. Because the bank statements were not being reviewed, nobody realized that the payroll taxes were not being paid. The bookkeeper was caught when the IRS sent notices for unpaid taxes.

Lesson Learned: A defined review/checklist of the bank reconciliations is critical. Be sure to include aged reconciliation items, names of payees, etc.

Scenario #6: A bookkeeper was making her car payments with a company debit card. She would open the mail and scan the bank statement. She then used PDF editing software to change the description from her bank account to a company vendor. She then presented the doctored bank statement to the owner for approval. No one could tell the statements had been altered.

Lesson Learned: Always print out the company bank statements and/or look up the balances online to confirm that the document is legitimate.

The overall lesson learned in these scenarios is not to give one-person complete authority of your banking transactions – establish procedures for checks and balances.

These simple, smart changes can enhance the leanest team’s internal controls:

  1. Implement “Positive Pay” with your bank accounts so that all checks are registered by check number and amount with the bank. Checks for varied amounts or non-valid check numbers will not clear.
  2. Review your checking account reconciliations – use a formal checklist to make sure you have the appropriate levels of review.
  3. Do not allow your bookkeeper to control credit or debit cards, regardless of how much you trust them.
  4. Add wire controls with the bank – all wires/ACH require two people – one to initiate and one to approve.
  5. Implement individual access passwords for each person for bank, ledger, investment account, credit cards, and PayPal.
  6. Never change payment information without directly confirming the change with the authorized person.

Warren Whitney’s team of Fractional CFOs and Controllers can assist your business to enhance your internal control environment. We have experience in helping businesses with limited accounting staff and strategically align with your goals and objectives.

To learn more about how to mitigate fraud in your business, contact Richard Kannan at rkannan@warrenwhitney.com or 804.282.9566

[1] Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, 2018.

August 2019: Preparing for the Next Gen of Nonprofit CEOs

By | News, Nonprofit, Strategy

Contributor: Katherine Whitney, Warren Whitney Co-Founder and Director

Preparing for the Next Gen of Nonprofit CEOs

As organizations change, we will see many opportunities for new nonprofit CEOs. If you are part of the leadership of a nonprofit, there are steps you should take. Alternatively, if you are outside of the field and want your career path to lead to becoming a nonprofit CEO / Executive Director, you also should be preparing.

Nonprofit CEO Succession Planning

Every nonprofit should have a succession plan and many do. But when it comes time to select a new CEO, you may find there are some important steps left to complete.

  1. Form a search committee. It is a board’s responsibility to select the next CEO, but who should be on the search committee? We recommend at least one person who knows the organization well and at least one person who is newer to the Board and who has several years left in his/her term. A best practice is to include the expected next board chair, perhaps as the committee chair.
  2. Be clear about the search committee’s role. Begin with what’s needed for the role and attributes. The committee and the board should be clear about whether the search committee’s job is to present one candidate to the board for approval or to present the top two or three final candidates for the board to debate the final selection. We recommend the first approach.
  3. Assess the position and direction of the organization to determine the skills and experience needed in the next CEO. This analysis is vital to help candidates self-assess whether this is the right opportunity for them, and it will serve as a guide for the search committee to evaluate final candidates. Avoid letting the pendulum swing to the far side of the skills and attributes of the current CEO. It is understandable to want attributes that the current CEO lacks, but a big swing is often too much of a shift for staff and boards to handle.
  4. Check the market to determine competitive compensation. Long-term CEOs may have allowed the board to slip out of the competitive range in compensation. It’s best to negotiate compensation with a good understanding of what’s reasonable and what the organization is able to pay.

These steps will help you prepare to move forward on your own or with the help of a search consultant.

Nonprofit Professional Career Development

Do you want to be a nonprofit CEO? That question isn’t just a lead into an article on “how to become…” it’s the first question you should ask yourself after you assume that, to have a career successful for you, that should be your goal. There are many important roles in nonprofits, and if becoming a nonprofit CEO is your dream, make sure you’re ready to handle responsibilities such as:

  • Raising money. With very few exceptions, a nonprofit CEO’s top responsibility is to raise money for the organization. The CEO is the outward face, telling the story to increase awareness, building relationships, and ultimately making the “ask.” If that doesn’t sound like fun, you should rethink the path.
  • Analyzing your financial position. While you may be able to get some help here from your Finance Director/CFO or from board members, in the end, you have to understand the financial drivers and the impact operating decisions have on your financial position.
  • Managing people. Most rewarding, you have the opportunity to help others develop in their careers and to carry out your worthwhile mission. Along the way, however, you’ll have to address performance problems and possibly terminate employees for any of a number of reasons.

If you can check the “yes, I want to do that” box on those areas, read on for some suggestions.

  1. Round out your experience. If you are in the program or operations side of your organization, find a way to get involved in Development/Fundraising. Learn more about your organization’s development goals, and find ways to support them. Help with grant writing and grant management; participate in calls; take seminars to learn how fundraising works. If you are on the development side, look for ways to get experience in managing people. Many smaller nonprofits have only one or two development professionals; as a CEO, it’s likely that you’ll manage a team. Build some type of proof that you’ll be able to lead a team.
  2. Learn how to analyze financial positions. Take some classes. Become responsible for creating and managing part of your organization’s budget. Review your organization’s financial statements to make sure you understand them.
  3. Build your network. There’s often so much to do between job responsibilities and family that networking gets pushed aside. When you’re known in the community, you’ll find that interesting opportunities to advance your career come your way more often.
  4. Make sure your personal financial house is in order. Your credit history matters. If you make the list of finalists for a CEO position, it’s likely that you’ll have a background and credit checks run. If you can’t manage your personal finances, the hiring committee should wonder whether you can manage the organization’s.

Finally, when you find yourself as a candidate for a CEO job, make sure you do your homework and ask thoughtful questions. It will impress the search committee, and it may keep you from jumping at an opportunity that really is too good to be true. Every job opening and job search should be a two-way process. As a candidate, you are “selling” your capabilities, and you are also committing the next stage in your career to the new organization, so be sure you are investing wisely.

To learn more about board development, please contact Katherine Whitney at 804.282.9566 or kwhitney@warrenwhitney.com .

July 2019: Financial Management for the Non-Financial Leader

By | Finance & Accounting, News

Contributor: Gene Gregory, Warren Whitney Finance & Accounting Director

Financial Management for the Non-Financial Leader

Whether you have just bought the company or have risen through the ranks, as the CEO, President, or Executive Director, you are responsible for overseeing operations, ensuring financial sustainability, and managing the organization.

If your career path has been in operations, business development or fundraising, you may feel your financial acumen is insufficient.  With this lack of experience, you question how can you be confident in your role and responsibility for financial sustainability.

This is not an unusual scenario.  The non-financial leader often carries this burden and can feel inadequately trained.  If this is what you face, below are recommendations to follow for your organization’s financial health.

  1. Internal Controls

Spend some time to make sure you understand how financial transactions flow through your organization.  Look for any concentration of duties or conflicts of interest that create risk.  Make sure there are clear lines of authority for all financial affairs; consider both the physical and virtual security of the organization’s assets. Remember assets may be “virtual”.

KEY POINT

“Cash is King”!  Embezzlement of cash is the most frequent means of misappropriation of an organization’s assets.  A simple monthly review of the bank statement might identify issues and, at a minimum, puts your staff on notice that you are paying attention to the details.

  1. Financial Reporting

Financial reports summarize your organization’s financial activities and position.  Your accounting department should produce consistent and accurate financial statements.   At a minimum, receive and review:

  • The monthly income statement that measures revenue and expenses.
  • The balance sheet that highlights assets owned, debts owed, and net equity.
  • The cash flow statement that shows how cash is being earned and used.

If your organization has significant accounts receivable, large capital expenses (building, equipment, etc.), or debt service requirements, the cash flow statement may tell a different story from the income statement.

Reviewing monthly and YTD income and cash flow statements will explain how the organization is progressing (or regressing).  Comparative statements showing current results and positions compared to past results and positions will identify trends.  Comparison to budgeted activities (see #3 below) will show how closely you are following your plan.  Ideally, your staff and system(s) can report activity at the “business unit” level that is important to your organization (i.e., division, location, department, program).

Make sure your reports are relevant to your needs.  External reporting likely requires financial statements prepared in accordance with the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP); however, you may need a different view or format to make good business decisions.

  1. Budgets

Budgets are essential to good financial management because they project future revenue and spending.  Your budget should be your roadmap to operations.  Even if your operational managers lack budgeting experience, have them participate in the process.

Without a budget, your organization will “fly blind.”  The budget outlines your operational plan in terms of revenues and expenses.  How do your operations generate revenue? What is the expense structure of your organization?  Asking yourself these questions and reviewing the company’s past expenditures will help guide the process (Note- Units of sales or services usually have predictable revenue values).

As mentioned above, reporting financial results versus the budget shows how you are doing against your planned operation.  This comparison may indicate a need for greater skill in planning and budgeting or for a change in operations.

KEY POINT

  • Admit what you don’t know and seek help. Learn how to relate basic financial statements to your operation, mission, and financial health.
  • Make sure your leadership team and program managers can relate basic financial statements to the operation, mission, and financial health.
  • Your accounting staff must understand how operations work and why they are relevant.
  1. Outside Resources

Learn from the advisors who support your organization.

  • Your banker can share observations about your financial position. Banks offer many financial services, and you can learn a lot by investigating those services (even if you don’t adopt them).
  • Your audit firm will have a good financial perspective because they work with other similar organizations. While the practices of their other clients are confidential, they will have general observations they can share.  Many CPA firms offer newsletters and seminars on financial topics that impact industry, businesses, and operations.
  • Your payroll service provider (if you use one) is a good source for employment regulations.
  • Your benefits broker understands market trends for health, retirement, and other benefits. They may also be a resource for employment laws and regulations.
  • Your property, casualty, and liability insurance broker can provide a profile of organizational risk and suggest ways to mitigate it.
  • Investment managers have a perspective on the economic outlook that may be useful in organizational planning.
  • Peers from other organizations can provide their point of view and you may find shared solutions to issues.
  • Industry and community organizations may provide “capacity building” assistance for smaller organizations.
  • Professional associations offer industry learning opportunities.
  • Many, many more resources exist. Think about opportunities within your community.

Warren Whitney

Many of our clients have found that our accounting and finance professional offer an efficient and effective solution to financial management.  Our professionals work on an ongoing, part-time, fractional basis to provide a cost-effective way to supplement your finance function and build for the future. To learn more about financial management, please contact Gene Gregory at 804.977.6693 or ggregory@warrenwhitney.com

NAVIGATING THE COMPLEX TERRAIN OF HR REGULATIONS

By | Human Resources, News

Contributor: Beth Williams, Warren Whitney, Director Human Resource Practice Group

Today in business, there are more acronyms, legal agencies, and regulatory requirements than ever before. If you employ people in your business, you must understand and comply with these requirements, which can be daunting. The number of people on your payroll determine the magnitude of your time involved and, ultimately, the work expended to comply with the requirements. The full life cycle of an employee from recruiting strategies through terminations and all actions in between present opportunities for legal issues. The key is creating best practice processes, policies, and a workplace culture that protects your company and manages risk.

Where are we now? Every February the President’s administration releases its proposed fiscal year budget for the upcoming year outlining the White House’s priorities for the year ahead. Many of the items for FY 2019 contain a number of workplace-related proposals, specifically changes to labor, healthcare, and immigration. Below are the main topics to consider when assessing strategic decisions for your business and HR policy. While some of these areas are still in the proposal stage, they will be items to keep an eye on going forward.

LABOR

Paid Parental Leave establishes a federal and/or state paid parental leave program. Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed and allows for unpaid leave for up to 12 weeks if your organization meets the qualifications. A new regulatory proposal suggest that paid parental leave might be found and funded within the unemployment insurance program. These provisions, if passed, would begin in 2021. Another option is a voluntary Social Security (SS) benefit program that would provide pay during parental leave as an offset to future SS benefits for employees who wish to take six weeks (2019 proposal) of paid leave for mothers, fathers and adoptive parents to stay home to recover from childbirth or bond with their children. This federal legislation did not pass for this year but many states and companies have implemented a similar policy as a way to address retention.

Employees who work for the State of Virginia are now eligible for paid parental leave per the Governor’s Executive Order signed in 2018. The new benefits, which took effect last summer, provide eight weeks of leave at full pay to mothers and fathers alike. Workers who become parents through adoption or foster placement are also eligible.

DOL and Overtime
Held over from 2016, and still ongoing, are revisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and overtime regulations. These regulations affect almost every employer and are paramount in the minds of employees in non-exempt status roles who are eligible for overtime compensation. In May 2019, the DOL has proposed revisions to allow employer specific policies and practices that will drive employee engagement, retain the current duties test, and adjust the nationwide salary level (using the same methodology used in previous rulemaking). The Department of Labor has proposed an increase in the salary-level threshold for white-collar exemptions by $11,648 (from $23,660 to $35,308 per year). If finalized, the new overtime rule would result in the reclassification by employers of more than a million currently exempt workers as nonexempt and an increase in pay for others above the new threshold. The proposal does not call for automatic annual adjustments to the salary threshold.

As an organization, consider the reclassification exercise as a way to review job duties, schedules, staffing levels, and salaries. This could have a profound impact on payroll and budgets by making more employees in the workforce eligible for overtime pay when converted from exempt to non-exempt. Above all, ensure that your approach is consistent across the organization.

The Second Chance Act (in the original budget proposal) supports individuals exiting prison to transition to community life and long-term employment through mentoring, job training, and other initiatives. Part of this effort includes apprentice programs at the state level to enable successful outreach strategies, partnerships, economic development strategies, and fuller integration into society. The First Step Act (legislation passed by Congress in December 2018) gives judges more discretion in sentencing offenders for nonviolent crimes and gives inmates credits for in-prison job training and education so they can earn early release.

HEALTH CARE
Affordable Care Act (ACA) proposals have contained funding for a two-year cost sharing reduction in subsidies. This will impact the individual market and may shift significant costs to employers and other private sector payers as well as the federal government.

Prescription Drug Costs
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published a proposed rule to lower the cost of prescription drug prices by encouraging drug manufacturers to pass their rebates directly to consumers (by-passing the pharmacy benefit managers). This proposal targets Medicare plans and other government health plans but, over time, will impact employer sponsored group health plans. If approved, the effective date is January 2020. In October 2018, President Trump signed into law the Patient Right To Know Drug Prices Act which allows pharmacists to discuss drug pricing with patients. Pharmacists may now educate consumers regarding their medication, pricing, and alternative cost-efficient options.

Association Health Plans and “repeal-replace” were debated throughout this past year, a lot still remains to be discussed and debated in the health insurance arena.

IMMIGRATION
I-9 Audits
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have significantly increased the number of I-9 audits this past year due to new federal initiatives. It is expected that I-9 audits will continue to be a significant hot button for ICE in 2020. Small to mid-sized employers are especially vulnerable and are easy targets for fines. It is important to know: 1) How to complete the employer portion of the I-9 form, 2) What documents are acceptable, and 3) How to interpret those including expired documents. Ensure all I-9 files are kept separately from other employee files; they require ongoing maintenance and compliance.

Employment Verification
Over recent years, there has been a push for a nationwide mandatory process using E-Verify, the government’s electronic employment eligibility verification system for all employers. The same proposed funding includes staffing for more Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers and additional worksite investigators. Much of the funding for these initiatives are a result of employer I-9 audits and associated fines.

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Warren Whitney’s Human Resource professionals can assist you in providing a better understanding of the legislation and their potential impact on your business. Now is the time to assess your best practices, current policies and to obtain advice for strategic initiatives for your organization that will help minimize risk.

Beth Williams, Director of the HR Practice Group at Warren Whitney
Contact Beth at BWilliams@warrenwhitney.com or at (M) 804.301.8009 or (O) 804.282.9566.