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Spring Hill visit 2014

    Our Alabama SHRM chapters had our spring Hill visit 19 March 2014. We had participants from every district, and several members of our NASHRM chapter joined us. The spring Hill visit usually takes place the day after the SHRM Legislative and Employment Law conference, so the Hill is busy with SHRM members from all over the country advocating for HR! We schedule meetings with each of our Representatives from the House and both of our Senators, but we don’t always discuss the same topics with the House and the Senate. SHRM chooses our topics based on upcoming votes and pending legislation.

    In the House we met with staffers for our representatives on the issue of Immigration Reform and the Affordable Care Act. Our talking points in reference to Immigration Reform covered E-verify and work visas. For E-Verify, we as an HR community would like to see them increase the abilities of E-verify and include a voluntary knowledge base authentication (KBA) step. The KBA could provide an extra step in an effort to verify that not only are the documents belonging to someone that is authorized to work, but they belong to the person presenting the documents. One of our attendees shared a story that at her place of employment they received two timecards on two employees with the same name and Social Security number. Both of these employees passed the E-verify authorization at the offices where they applied. The only reason the company caught the problem is because their corporate payroll system flagged the two different timecards for one Social Security Number. This is a prime example of where E-verify could possibly stop identity theft and a prime example of why employers need a safe harbor protection when we have done our part in using the E-verify system and practiced our good faith efforts to abide by regulations. If these two individuals had worked for two different companies the fraud might have gone on much longer without being noticed.

    In reference to the subject of work visas, SHRM members are concerned that we are pouring money into foreigners’ education, regardless if they pay for their tuition (we are still investing our time and resources in them by having a seat in the classroom, our universities infrastructure, etc.). We invest in these students then do not allow them to stay and work in our country. A high number of these workers end up going back to their country of origin or to other countries and ultimately end up competing with us. We know it would enable businesses to be more competitive on a global spectrum if we increased the number of visas available and let employers hire the best students coming from our own STEM programs. We had at least one business representative with us who is currently fighting this battle. They hired an incredibly intelligent recent graduate from one of Auburn’s engineering programs and are only guaranteed, per current visa, 17 months of employment for him. If he does not get selected in the “visa lottery,” the company could face a substantial investment of time, and money in this candidate only to lose him and possibly compete with him in the future. These are real stories from HR professionals like you.

    While discussing E-Verify, we also made a push for the I-9 document to go away (if we are going to continue E-Verify). A few things to consider when fighting this battle is that DHS knows E-Verify is flawed and DHS currently relies on the paper trail we are creating with the I-9 document if and when investigations have to happen.  The funds to invest in improving E-Verify’s flaws do not exist right now and DHS is timid about putting more time and effort into improving the system until we have a clear idea of what immigration reform is going to look like. The positive thing is that our Representatives and their staffs are talking with us, they are hearing our concerns, and they are communicating information like this back to us so we know they aren’t just tossing our notes in the trash after we leave and forgetting about us. While we know that nothing is going to happen right now, it is still important to bring these issues up to your Representatives when you have the opportunity. Informing them of the challenges we will be facing helps them be prepared with talking points when the time comes.

    Our issue with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is its definition of 30 hours a week being full time. Really what we are looking for here is consistency. We do know that some companies classify less than 40 hours as full time, depending on their industry, but most of us probably classify a full-time employee at 40 hours. With that being said, we don’t want to take away an employer’s flexibility to classify their own full time employee at less than 40, if that’s what they already practice. Overall, we agree that healthcare should be made affordable and available to more people, but we fear that businesses will use this 30-hour definition to lay employees off or keep them under 30 hours a week so they won’t classify as full time under this criteria, which we know could ultimately lead to people working multiple part-time jobs and still not qualifying for healthcare benefits.

    In the Senate, our agenda included Tax Reform and our previously outlined ACA talking points. In the area of tax reform, we want to communicate with our Senators that we believe tax incentives should be used to expand retirement savings. Provisions that encourage savings, such as increased contribution limits and catch-up contributions for older workers, are beneficial. With Social Security and individual savings, employer-provided retirement plans produce significant retirement benefits for America’s working families and SHRM members want to protect these benefits while the Government is defining Tax Reform.

    Submitted by Kristina H. Minyard, PHR

    Member Comments

    Valuable information to know.Great Job Kristina!