0:00:00.0 Announcer: So you wanna know the ins and outs of managing your money? Well, lucky for you, you are just in time for another episode of Master Your Finances with certified financial planner professional, Kurt Baker. Kurt and his panel of experts are here for you, and will cover topics from a legal and personal standpoint. They’ll discuss tax efficiency, liability, owning, managing and saving your money, and more. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment, and Rider University. Rider offers continuing studies programs for adults who need flexibility. Want to add new skills to your resume? Take a continuing studies course at Rider University. Now, let’s learn how we can better change our habits with Kurt Baker.
0:00:46.9 Kurt Baker: Good morning, and welcome to Master Your Finances. Now that employees are in demand and people are changing jobs more frequently, how can you keep employees from leaving you? What can you as an employer do to better manage the risk of COVID before, during and after employee contracts the virus? Are you currently challenged with workers who are working remotely? How do you balance an in-person versus a remote work environment? These and many other questions will be answered today by labor and employment expert attorney Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney. With more than 20 years of litigation experience in both the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Corrections, you will be learning from an expert who has seen the complex issues from both the government and small and medium-sized businesses’ side. Please join me in welcoming Jennifer to the show. How are you doing, Jennifer? Been a little while.
0:01:40.8 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yes.
0:01:41.2 Kurt Baker: Things have changed a little bit, right?
0:01:43.1 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: They have quite a bit.
0:01:45.7 Kurt Baker: So, what are your thoughts now? Maybe give people a little bit of background on how you got here and what you… As far as how you got to be an employment attorney and what motivates you to represent people.
0:01:56.5 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Okay. Well, I started my career with the state of New Jersey while I was still in law school, actually, as a paralegal/attorney assistant. And my first assignment was not where I thought I was going to be, in the Department of Environmental Protection, because my undergraduate degree was in chemistry. It was instead with a unit that needed some statistical analyses to get out from under a consent decree that they had signed with the Federal Department of Labor trying to integrate the New Jersey State Police. So after I spent the summer doing that and working with the labor and employment attorneys, labor and employment law was just so much fun that I never went back to even thinking about doing environmental work. I mean, ’cause it’s all about drama.
0:02:55.3 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:02:56.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Much of it is about people behaving badly at work.
0:03:00.1 Kurt Baker: Okay.
0:03:00.9 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: None of it’s mine, I just get paid to watch it and try and sort it all out and help people solve it. So it’s kind of like getting paid to watch reality TV.
0:03:09.7 Kurt Baker: Oh, so you’re actually [chuckle] you get paid for this, so. So now that we’ve… The environment has changed a lot. We went from kind of a normal environment, to people couldn’t go to work at all… Depending on what business you’re in, I know attorneys and advisors, we were still busy ’cause we could work remotely, but other people had to stop working that… So you had this division of some people who, it really didn’t affect them, the pandemic that shut down, not in any material way, other people, it affected them significantly. And now that things are rolling open again, one thing we’re noticing is employees are in high demand, right? So how has that impacted what you do and the employers that you work with and things like that, and the employees?
0:03:50.6 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well, I have an interesting mix of clients. Some were in essential businesses, so their operations didn’t really change much, other than requiring that they spread desks apart and add hand sanitizers and require people to wear masks. Others were just shut down for months. The hair salons, the dog groomers, non-essential retail, they were just completely shut down. So we wound up going through figuring out how to lay all their people off, make them all eligible for unemployment, how to apply for the PPP loans, how to figure out how to pay out the PPP loans, because they still weren’t allowed to open. It was really very interesting. And then, of course, there was a certain number of clients who were attempting to do hybrid work, so they had some people coming to the office and some people not, depending on how essential they were. And then I also have municipal clients, and so, of course, their police, EMT, fire departments, etcetera, all had to keep functioning as normal while their other functions, the Building Department, and grounds and maintenance and that, were all affected badly by it. I spent a lot of time writing protocols for sanitizing things and for how to bring people in through the checkpoints with the questions and the temperature and all of that. Because you know, if somebody had to get to work 15 or 20 minutes earlier to stand in line to go through this mandatory process, you had to pay them for that.
0:05:55.8 Kurt Baker: Right, exactly.
0:05:57.4 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: So there were all kinds of strange implications. And then of course, once the pandemic restrictions rolled back some. Then we had to figure out how to bring everybody back and what you could and could not do and what to do about the employees who couldn’t come back for one of a number of reasons. Because of course it took a very long time for daycare centers, summer camps, public schools to reopen. So there were… And then they kept closing again, because as soon as one kid tested positive for COVID they would shut everything down. So you spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to work around all this, because whatever person was the primary caretaker for either the elderly who couldn’t be left alone, or children who couldn’t be left alone, were really hard pressed to get to work every day in an office or in a physical location other than their homes, because the support structure that permitted all adults to work outside the home evaporated.
0:07:17.4 Kurt Baker: Right. So we learned a lot, I think, during the pandemic, right, where we had to really kind of pivot kind of mid-stride almost where things were kind of normal. At one point you thought it was gonna be short term. And then obviously pretty quickly thereafter, we realized it was at least medium to long term. We didn’t know how long exactly. And we’re still not really sure exactly what’s gonna happen. But so what were some of the significant things that I think the employer employee relationship, how it might have changed a little bit during the pandemic? And now that we come out of it, we’re seeing this high demand for the employees and employers that have been in these kind of tougher the in industry, such as hospitality, is an example that comes to mind. Where I know when this, when they first started opening up, they had difficulty attracting people back for one reason or another.
0:08:05.1 Kurt Baker: In those cases they were just getting paid more to stay at home. In other cases, they were concerned about coming back. Other cases, they couldn’t come back. They weren’t feeling well. I mean, there’s all kinds of reasons. There was this shortage. And even today where it seems to be… At least from my perspective, every time I go to the restaurant, it seems like there’s a couple more people there. It doesn’t seem like they’re full staff, but it seems like it’s slowly getting better. So how are some of these employers managing all these challenges that they have to maintain the business, try to keep and retain the employees and things like that? So what have you seen as far as all that goes?
0:08:35.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well, it’s tough. Particularly when we’re talking about jobs that were low paid customer service, customer facing, whether it was retail or folks working in restaurants or fast food places. These were people who were being put at a very high risk for COVID because they were having to interact with so many people in fairly close proximity. Think about how close you are to the grocery store clerk when you check out at the grocery store. And then think about how many people that clerk checks out at the grocery store of this space of an eight hour shift and all of those people, she, or he has to be concerned, “Are they… Do they have COVID?”
0:09:25.5 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:09:26.4 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: “Did they just run to the grocery store anyway” Because there was a lot of that and there still is.
0:09:34.0 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:09:34.8 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: So a lot of people who had been told for years by employers that working at McDonald’s or at the grocery store or in retail, in the mall or waiting tables, “Well, we’re not gonna pay you anything because if you want real money, go get a real job.” Well, guess what? During the pandemic, they all went and got a real job.
0:09:56.6 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:09:56.9 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Because when FedEx and UPS were paying $20 an hour to start, and I think it’s higher than that now. But a year ago it was $20 an hour to start. And the restaurants were still paying $2,63 an hour plus tips. And if you’re sorting packages in a FedEx or UPS warehouse, you don’t have to inter interact with the public who are being demanding and not understanding of, “We’re out of this, we’re out of that.” I have four times the number of tables I should have to be able to serve you properly. Then it really makes moving boxes in a warehouse look a lot more attractive.
0:10:44.8 Kurt Baker: Boxes don’t complain? Is that what you’re telling me? [laughter] Okay. So now that obviously that’s a challenge, right. So these people that were told, “Go get another job.” They got another job. Now that we really want them to come back into the public-facing realm, so to speak, whether that’s retail or restaurants, hospitality. You go to the hotel, it is kind of nice to have somebody there to say hello to you when you walk in the hotel, right. So how are some of the employers meeting this challenge of saying, “Hey, we do want you back. The public doesn’t want to talk to other people. Let’s see if we can get you back out there and… ” So what are some of the things they’re doing, the techniques they’re doing to get people back out there again, as far as employees go?
0:11:24.5 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well, you’ve got a number of things going on. Wages are going up. I think Apple just announced that their minimum wage for all their employees and their stores is now gonna be $22 an hour. Beyond that, we’re seeing the death of, “Just in time scheduling,” which was one of these horrific things that I think it was Starbucks that thought up, they didn’t tell you what time you were working tomorrow until the end of your shift today.
0:11:54.3 Kurt Baker: Oh, my goodness. I didn’t know that.
0:11:55.5 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah.
0:11:56.0 Kurt Baker: That’s amazing.
0:11:57.5 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: So…
0:11:58.3 Kurt Baker: Hard to plan your life.
0:11:58.8 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Right? [laughter] Very hard to plan your life. So what would happen, was that people couldn’t plan their lives and… If you’ve got more people than jobs available, you can do that when the situation flips and you’ve got more jobs available than people to do them, now you have to give somebody a set schedule in order to, so that they can either operate their life around it, go to school around it, child care or a second job, because entry level and customer-facing jobs are still not paying really enough to… To only have one of them in New Jersey.
0:12:47.9 Kurt Baker: Absolutely. So yeah, we’re gonna take a quick break. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, and I’m here with Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney, be right back.
0:12:55.8 Announcer: This is Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a certified financial planner professional, learn about tax efficiency, liability, owning, managing and saving your money. And more from Kurt and his experienced panel of guests. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment, and Rider University. Rider University offers flexible education for adult learners for more information, it’s rider.edu/nextstep.
0:13:27.1 Kurt Baker: Welcome back to Master Your Finances. I am here with Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney, and we’re talking about some of the challenges that have occurred during COVID and the lockdown, and now that we have this labor shortage, so to speak, as people are a little bit hesitant to come back to work or they don’t wanna come back to work, or they found a better job or… There are many, many, many, many different reasons. And Jennifer is going through those and discussing how we might be able to get back to a more balanced employment environment where when you go to the restaurant, you have enough people. And you go to these different places. So what are some of the things to do? I know that you said Apple increased their, minimum to $22 an hour, which is good, and I’m sure that helps. And then I guess, Starbucks you mentioned had the, just in-time scheduling, and now you can actually plan out your weekend because you’ll know at least a few days in advance what you’re doing, which is I guess pretty nice.
0:14:18.2 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well I don’t know that every Starbucks is done that.
0:14:20.0 Kurt Baker: Okay. Interesting.
0:14:22.3 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: But that is… They also, I think that particular policy is one of the things that drove the unionization drives at Starbucks, the other thing that companies can do is because you have employees who need flexibility and who don’t have child care, instead of hiring one person and expecting them to work, 50 hours a week. You hire two so that you’ve got two part-timers who can now both, between them, you can cover the hours you need to cover, and you can let everybody flex their time so that they can… The one who can’t come in until they get elementary school kids on the bus can get to work at 9:30 because before school care isn’t there yet, the One who has high school kids whose kids are on the bus at 6:15 in the morning can be the one who gets there at 8 o’clock and can be the one who leaves at 2 or 1:30 to be home when the high school kids get home, whereas you can have the folks from who have smaller kids or who don’t have kids, or a college student or an intern or something, be the one to work the last part of the day.
0:16:03.9 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: But you have to be flexible. Not everybody is gonna be able to work full-time hours. Much less the American, which across most of the world is 35 hours a week, much less the American definition of full-time hours, which comes closer to 50 hours a week because the child care industry just pretty much dried up and went away.
0:16:28.3 Kurt Baker: Oh right, yeah.
0:16:30.4 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And then I think schools are now done with a child tested positive, if we’re going to shut down the whole school for two weeks, but that was definitely a factor all of last year.
0:16:45.1 Kurt Baker: So based on all the adjustments we’ve been having to make, it sounds to me like more employers are open to the idea of part-time, and I know that people that are working don’t necessarily wanna full-time now, that they’ve spent a lot of time at home they’re like, “Hey, I kinda like this. Maybe I can… Nice to cut my hours back to 25-30 hours a week, and I think I’m okay with that, even though it might be a reduction in income. ” So are you seeing both sides of that… A little bit, maybe a little bit of each. Is that what’s happening here?
0:17:10.9 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah, well, you’re seeing certain jobs staying remote that before the pandemic were not remote, because employers have now been forced to understand that remote is possible for a lot of jobs, you’re also seeing a lot more disabled people being hired, people who could have done these jobs remotely before the pandemic, but nobody would hire them because they had to be remote, and the employer’s claimed remote wasn’t possible.
0:17:44.1 Kurt Baker: That’s a great plus, we talk about all the negatives that’s a huge plus, because if somebody has difficulty moving or traveling or they can’t drive or many things they can’t do, if you now connect them up to Zoom or something, they can join every meeting just like everybody else That’s actually a big positive… I hadn’t really thought about that one. That’s fantastic.
0:18:03.3 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah, it has enabled a lot of disabled people to join the workforce who couldn’t before and who really always wanted to be able to work. So that’s been an advantage. It’s also allowed people who needed the part-time flexibility, who couldn’t join the workforce before because nobody wanted to hire part-time to join the workforce. So this is definitely helping as employers are starting to think more flexibly and more out of the box, they get more people, and as they’re willing to say, “Okay, maybe my receptionist doesn’t have to have a four-year college degree.”
0:18:51.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Because, really receptionists don’t need four-year college degrees. And there were a lot of jobs that we were demanding, a lot of credentials for that really didn’t need those credentials. And so now employers are rethinking who can do this job? Does the receptionist have to be 18-years-old or 23-years-old and right out of college? Can the receptionist be right out of high school? Can the receptionist be somebody who’s retired from a high-stress job and just wants to do something part-time to be out of the house? Can you have two or three receptionists who are each working part-time? There’s a lot of things that people are now being more flexible about, and I think that’s a good thing for everybody, because there were a lot of people who retired along the years because, at… I’ve had several of them come to me, “I’m 60. I just can’t haul boxes up and down the ladder 40 hours a week plus overtime every week.” Okay. Well, now that part-time’s available, they can still haul boxes over ladders 20 hours a week, and they want to, but they didn’t have that option before. So yeah, it’s definitely helping pull more people into the labor market.
0:20:23.6 Kurt Baker: Well, that’s good news for people on my side of the world with the wealth management, where we’re always talk about, “Bill, you have to stay active, even if you’re retired.” Retired isn’t what it used to mean, retired used to mean, oh, you stop and you sit and you’re… I don’t know what you do, watch TV, basically vegetate. But most people don’t wanna do that, they wanna stay active in some way, shape or form, whether that’s they just pivot at their job to something else or if they work contract work or they work part-time. But it’s important to keep yourself physically and mentally active, even when you’re “retired” not because you necessarily need the finances, but because you want to stay engaged with society at your… “Under your terms.” So in a way that you… That works for you, so to speak. And that helps with that aspect of it as well, right?
0:21:03.7 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yes, it does. And it helps everybody because having… The more perspectives you have in a workplace, the better the chances are that you’re gonna solve a problem, because if everybody who’s trying to solve the problem thinks the same way, comes from the same place, has the same experiences, you’re gonna get a limited number of proposed solutions to any given problem. But the more different people that you have working, the more likely you are to get a solution suggested that you might not have thought of. As we’ve been discussing, trying to figure out, how to measure time while we’re in here, a millennial or a Gen Z response would be, “I got a set a timer on my phone.” But a baby boomer’s going, “Where’s the clock on the wall? You could just put a clock on the wall and then we wouldn’t have to worry about this.”
0:22:04.3 Kurt Baker: That’s true.
0:22:05.1 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: So that’s what I mean about the different perspectives in solving problems. Having more generations and more people from different walks of life, working in a place gives you a lot more different perspectives on solving a current problem.
0:22:24.1 Kurt Baker: Yeah. I agree 100%. In fact, somebody just told me the other day about, they did this test on different generations, how they do that, “How do you start a car?” And depending on your age, you might push… You would show pushing a button or you might turn a key, or if you’re really old, you might be cranking. [laughter] So it’s like… Everybody’s like, “Oh yeah, it’s true.” Or holding a phone, one… The younger person would hold it up like a flat face, like they’re holding an iPhone, the other one would hold it up like they’re holding the old style receiver phone. So they could tell your age by just asking you some basic questions. But that’s true. And now you can get each generation and the older ones, if you go back thousands of years, maybe it was the older people taught the younger and they worked together, so you blended all these expertises together and you got the energy and the excitement of the younger people and you got the long term experience. And so it’s fantastic when you can blend all that. I agree 100%.
0:23:11.6 Kurt Baker: Some of the other things we learned… We’ll start off, we gotta have a break in a few minutes, but I know that the other area that we have learned a lot about was, is, and we’ll just kick this off a little bit, the risks of COVID are out there or any virus for that matter. So what are some of the things that we’ve learned really about safety things? And I know one of the things that my wife and I commented on was, “Well, wow, is it nice that people actually are washing their hands when they walk outta the bathroom, right.” I dunno if they’re still doing it, but at least for a little while, I was like, “Oh, finally, we got people convinced that this is a good idea.” [chuckle] So as far as the workforce goes, how do we learn what to do from an employment space before something happens, maybe if there is some type of an infection, whether… No matter what it is? Or, how do you manage afterwards if you have a reduction in force simply because the employees are out? I know we’ll… Why don’t we just kick off? We’ll take a quick break and then we’ll come back and we’ll talk about those when we come back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances, I’m here with Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney.
0:24:10.2 Announcer: This is Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, Certified Financial Planner professional. Learn about tax efficiency, liability, owning, managing, and saving your money and more from Kurt and his experienced panel of guests. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management & Investment and Rider University. Rider University offers flexible education for adult learners. For more information, it’s rider.edu/nextstep.
0:24:42.9 Kurt Baker: Welcome back. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m here with Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney and talking about the employment workspace and some things I think we’ve learned through the pandemic and really managing any type of infectious disease. And during the break we were talking briefly about how years ago, if somebody didn’t feel well, the employer would say, “You have to come to work.” Or even to school. “No, you can’t stay home. I don’t care if you’re… If you can get up and you can get outta bed, you can get in a car, you come to work, I don’t care how sick you are.” Well, I think at least we’ve changed that attitude a little bit, that bringing in infectious disease to work is probably not a great idea. If you don’t feel well, take a few days off till you feel better and then come back. So what are some things from the employer-employee perspective that you’ve seen really develop as far as a systemic kind of thing that we do, “Hey, here’s what you do to manage it ahead of time. Here’s what we do if something is occurring that might affect this as far as the employment space. And then, okay, how do we manage it afterwards if something is going on? How do we do that long term?” So what are some of the things that you’ve found that people have done to make adjustments?
0:25:42.1 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well, certainly there are now policies that if you’re sick, don’t come to work. And most companies have also put out policies that say even if you’re not sick, if you test positive for COVID, don’t come to work. And the CDC guidelines change on how long you have to stay home after a positive test versus after exposure to somebody who’s tested positive. But there are guidelines out there, it’s not that hard to look them up. The last time I told somebody what exactly what the guidelines were without having the website open, I was right at the moment I said it, but half an hour later, they changed them.
0:26:26.5 Kurt Baker: They’re flux, aren’t they? They do fluctuate. Don’t they? [laughter]
0:26:28.7 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And I had to call the person back.
0:26:29.6 Kurt Baker: The page is refreshed on me. [laughter]
0:26:33.4 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Right. So I’m not gonna predict what they are at this exact moment ’cause I don’t have a computer open in front of me. But you definitely have to make sure that people are not coming to work when they’re sick. You also are seeing employers being more understanding of employees who have long term illnesses that make them more susceptible to diseases. A lot of employers are permitting folks who have some of these underlying symptoms or who live with people who are being treated for cancer or who have other diseases that mean they have a compromised immune system to work remotely instead of having to come into the office. And if they do have them come into the office, we’re seeing a lot. I don’t know if you’ve been through the change in office space over the decades, but we went from everybody has a hard walled office to everybody has a seven foot cube wall office, to people have a four foot cube wall office to, everybody sits on a long bench. And often there’s two benches facing each other. So you’ve got… You stretch out both arms. You can hear a couple of…
0:27:55.7 Kurt Baker: Does this correlate to the length of skirts, like whether we’re doing well or not doing well, like how high the wall is in the cube? [laughter]
0:28:02.6 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: No, no, it it came with this idea that if you took away all of the barriers, that people would interact more and that there would be more teamwork. But instead, what happens is that everybody brings their headphones to work, listens to their own music, and ignores everybody as hard as they can in order to make some attempt at concentrating in the middle of chaos.
0:28:28.5 Kurt Baker: Well, yeah, the thing I’ve definitely noticed, even just in my small world of people that I work with, it’s like, okay, some people are okay with lots of noise. Other people, it better be pin better be able to drop or you’ll not be able to think. And I’m one of those people who are, if I need to think, I really need it quiet. I can’t work in a subway station and do analytical work, I just can’t. Just it’s not gonna work for me. But I think we’re all built differently too, so I don’t think it’s like a one size fits all and hopefully, something we’re learning is that we can customize the workspace to some degree to meet the needs of the individual employee or employer so that it kind of works better for everybody. Hopefully, that’s something we’re starting to learn.
0:29:05.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well, as more people are being able to work remotely, we’re also seeing that they’re spacing out the people who are left in the office more. Now, whether… You’re talking about not passing on the common cold, not passing on COVID, not passing on whatever the next disease of the month will be. Having people six foot apart instead of having two feet between their shoulders is definitely cuts down on the amount of germs that they can pass along. So we’re seeing employers spacing people out better, both to prevent and to deal with any kind of what happens if. And, of course, the what happens if everybody now has to have a protocol for what happens if, somebody came to work yesterday and calls you this morning and says, “I just tested positive for COVID.” So you have to have a protocol to alert all the employees who were in the office that or your facility that day, who could have come in contact with that person that somebody was in yesterday who has tested since tested positive for COVID, that they may be affected, that they should go get tested.
0:30:35.6 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Now, some people will, some people won’t. But you have to make sure that you let everybody know that they were exposed, because you don’t know which employees have a pregnant spouse at home or stop and take care of their grandmother who’s being treated for cancer on the way home from work every day, who has a decreased immune system because of the chemo. And you don’t want to be responsible for somebody getting sick who didn’t have to get sick. So there’s a whole lot of thought around how to let people know, whether they’ve been exposed, whether it was an employee or a customer who was kind enough to let you know that they tested positive and they were in yesterday. So you’re seeing that, but we’re all learning how to live with this.
0:31:39.5 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:31:40.3 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And thankfully, the newer variants don’t seem to be quite as severe as the earlier variants and as people have been exposed to earlier variants, if you got the original one, you still have some residual immunity to the new ones. Same thing if you got the immunizations against the original, you have some immunity. So that makes people less sick, or at least people with well-developed immune systems less sick when they get it. But it is fairly brutal.
0:32:23.6 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:32:23.8 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: In the last two weeks, I have had one deposition had to go remote because one of the attorneys tested positive for COVID, and I had another where we had to do a discovery extension because the attorney had been sick in bed with COVID for a week and wasn’t gonna get their discovery out. Now, in case you’re thinking that these were 70-year-olds that I’m dealing with, no. Both of these people were at least 15 years younger than I am.
0:32:56.6 Kurt Baker: Okay. Yeah, but you just never know. So you have to know your profile and see if you’re a higher risk, of course, and just know your own… Just like with anything, you manage it appropriately because it can be very serious for people. And then you’re right. The good news is, I guess, my understanding is viruses tend to get less lethal and more contagious as they go on because they wanna survive too. The more host they kill, they’re not gonna continue. So if they kill hosts, they have to become more contagious, so to speak, to find a new host, ’cause they have to be able to travel further, but they don’t wanna kill that one. So it’s weird how they even understand, even as a virus, to sustain, they kind of modifies, and its kind of interesting to me. When I learned this then, it was kind of, “Oh, I guess that makes sense.” If you’re a virus, not that a virus thinks, but it’s kind of odd to me, but…
0:33:46.6 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah. Well, they don’t think, but certainly the ones that are more contagious but less lethal get passed more.
0:33:54.9 Kurt Baker: They’ll survive. Right, they survive. Correct.
0:33:56.5 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: So therefore they stay in the population.
0:33:58.9 Kurt Baker: Yeah, I didn’t mean to imply they think. [laughter] It’s what it does, they are survivors, and when they got further, but didn’t kill the host. So it kinda makes a lot of sense, and unfortunately, for most of us, that’s enough, but you point out, it’s still a very dangerous thing. You have to be careful. So now that we kind of know what to do, beforehand, we take the precaution, set the people apart on, you notify people. So after, there’s something that happens, there’s a shutdown, I guess we just, we go more remote or we do learn how to modify the work place, ’cause some places can modify, some places can’t really. So what kind of things have we learned in the after effect, if you have a large contagious event, so to speak, infections event?
0:34:39.3 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well, I think we have learned, one, how much can be done remotely, two, that we can change the way that we do certain functions so that we have fewer people present doing them at the same time. So I have a neighbor who works in building maintenance, maintaining HVAC systems up in the city for huge corporations. And they split them between day shift and night shift so that there would only behalf as many people in the plants at a time, but all the work would get done ’cause half of them would be there in the day and half of them would be there at night. So we’ve realized that we can do things like that to even for people who must be in the workplace in order to get their work done. So we’ve learned how flexible we can be.
0:35:42.3 Kurt Baker: Well, that’s great. We’ve kind of pushed the envelope. We’ll take another… Which is amazing. We definitely learn when we… When adversity comes in, you tend to learn things from that. I think we have definitely learned a lot. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I’m here with Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney. We will be your right back.
0:36:00.4 Announcer: This is Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, Certified Financial Planner professional. Learn about tax efficiency, liability, owning, managing and saving your money and more from Kurt and his experienced panel of guests. Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment and Rider University. Rider University offers flexible education for adult learners. For more information, it’s rider.edu/nextstep.
0:36:32.3 Kurt Baker: Welcome back again. You’re listening to Master Your Finances. I am here with Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney, and she’s been giving us a lot of great information about the employer-employee relationship, and now we’ve actually done some updates as far as the work environment goes. So what is currently… I know we’ve had a lot going on for the last two years. So what are some of the current issues that are going on between employer and employee that people should be aware of whether you’re an employer or employee right now?
0:36:58.5 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Alright. So the two big kinds of issues I’m seeing right now, the first revolves around people moving between jobs. And before the pandemic… Now, the year before the pandemic, we were already having trouble finding enough employees to fill entry-level jobs. But if you go back five years before, it was an employer’s market. And so a lot of employers were having employees sign, what lawyers call restrictive covenant agreements, what lay people call non-competes. And these things say that if you leave your current job or they fire you, you can’t go work for a direct competitor, for X amount of time, or a related business within a certain radius. You can’t take their confidential information and you can’t solicit their customers or vendors, employees. Now, during the pandemic, a lot of companies shut down, employees got laid off, some of them got brought back, some of them didn’t. A lot of people started jumping between jobs, and now people are definitely jumping between jobs because, for some reason, folks don’t wanna train anybody, but they’re willing to bid up the price on folks who are already trained. So there’s a lot of competition for employees. And what is happening is the prior employers, rather than meeting an offer or preemptively paying their people more money or making better working conditions, are instead choosing to go into court to sue former employees and their new employers on the non-compete agreements.
0:38:58.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Now, these things are rarely upheld. The no using confidential information, and the don’t solicit your prior employer’s customers is routinely upheld.
0:39:12.5 Kurt Baker: Yeah, that’s a pretty big one. [laughter]
0:39:14.5 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah, the courts will uphold those restrictions, what they are very loath to uphold are restrictions on somebody moving to a different employer.
0:39:25.0 Kurt Baker: Yeah, the old saying is, “You can’t stop somebody from totally working,” especially with specialized talent and so to speak, it’s like, “Okay, you can restrict and protect your business, so to speak, but the other side of it is you can’t stop somebody from working,” and that’s the way I read that whole thing. It’s like, yeah, you wanna be fair to both, especially with the pandemic where they literally shut down and here’s somebody that’s not working, he’s like, “Hey, I gotta find a job,” and maybe the previous employer hadn’t even started up yet. Wasn’t ready yet for this person, theoretically.
0:39:55.8 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah, so what happens here is that employers try and use these provisions to prevent people from leaving, and the courts don’t like that, and so you’ve got employers who will go out and who will sue the first guy who left, to try and send a message to everybody else who’s still working there that you better not do the same thing. And I have four or five non-compete cases going right now. All at the same time.
0:40:35.6 Kurt Baker: Wow.
0:40:35.9 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Now, normally, I would see four or five over the space of a year, not four or five of them simultaneously.
0:40:46.3 Kurt Baker: Wow.
0:40:47.1 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: So there are employers who are really using these non-competes as a sword, not just as a shield, and I think it’s gonna result in some bad case log because I think courts are going to see that and are going to start issuing decisions that are even more anti-non-compete than what’s on the books, and there are some legitimate uses for non-competes, but what I’m seeing people try and enforce is not the one that the hair salon has that says that if you leave, you can’t start working at another salon within a two-mile radius of this salon.
0:41:31.5 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:41:31.6 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Well, now every court out there is gonna uphold that because that is a entirely reasonable.
0:41:35.0 Kurt Baker: Reasonable. Sure.
0:41:38.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah, For a year, can’t work within two miles for a year, that’s entirely reasonable. But you can’t work for a competitor, a client or a vendor for two years with broad definitions of all of those things, including perspective clients and yet courts aren’t gonna uphold that, it’s just not gonna happen. So we’re gonna get some case log that does not go in employers favor as a result of some employers trying too hard to hold on to employees the wrong way.
0:42:12.4 Kurt Baker: And I think that does two things, you have to be careful, obviously you wanna protect your business. But also, don’t you wanna create kind of reputation for being reasonable? Because how are you gonna attract new employees if everybody else gets word, and I know of a local place that basically had some skilled people in there and they were so hard that nobody really wants to go there and work. And it’s the kind of place where they would… It’s similar to a hairdresser type thing, where they are fitness instructors, things like that, and they held on them a little bit longer because of these terms, but now are having trouble attracting people, ’cause they’re like, “I don’t really want… I’m afraid of working there because I don’t wanna sign that thing.”
0:42:51.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yeah.
0:42:51.5 Kurt Baker: And so you gotta be really cautious about that, if it’s reasonable to both parties, most people say, “Okay, that’s fine.” If it’s not reasonable, it can hurt their business to long term, they just have to be careful about what they’re having their employees agree to.
0:43:04.4 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Particularly when employees have a lot of choices of where to go work. Because employers do get reputations.
0:43:11.3 Kurt Baker: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. So what’s the other thing that was up there? Okay. Yeah. Yeah.
0:43:16.1 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: The other thing that I am seeing a lot of is the Department of Labor is actively looking for mis-classified employees. They are doing a lot of unemployment audits right now because the unemployment funds took a huge hit during COVID.
0:43:36.9 Kurt Baker: Oh my gosh, yeah.
0:43:37.4 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And the fund was completely drawn down, all the federal government money was completely drawn down, and so in order to refill these coffers, they are going looking for mis-classified independent contractors, and for people who were not paid properly. Because of course you’re… What you pay for your premium for unemployment is based in large part on what your employees are paid, so if you’re not making people employees, you’re trying to make them independent contractors, or you are a service type business that sends people out to make house calls, and you’re not paying them for travel time from the point, from the shop to the first call, or between calls or from the last call back to the shop, then you’re shorting people hours of pay every day, which is dropping your unemployment premium by a percentage of that.
0:44:48.6 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And so DOL is looking for those situations too, and that repair people or contractors, technical people who have to drive from a starting location to a customer site, and then from the customer site either to another customer’s site, or back to the shop who are not paid for that commute time is one of the things that both the federal and the state departments of labor are focusing on right now, so you gotta make sure that you’ve got your pay practices right, and if you have any questions as to whether somebody should be an independent contractor or an employee, they’re an employee because in New Jersey, it’s really tough to make somebody an independent contractor, and I see people who do it all the time. “Oh yeah, well… Yeah, the receptionist is an independent contractor.” No, she’s not. Now, if you are using a virtual office…
0:45:58.9 Kurt Baker: Yeah, it’s little different. Yeah.
0:46:00.1 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Then the receptionist who assists you is paid as an employee by that company, that’s different.
0:46:09.0 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:46:09.7 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: They’re not your employee at all, you’re not paying them directly, you’re paying the company which is paying them. That’s fine, but if you’re paying the person, they’re sitting in your office, and you’re telling them what to do, when to get there, how to do it, providing the tools and equipment for them to do it, they’re an employee.
0:46:33.1 Kurt Baker: Yeah, I just remember when I first moved to New Jersey, it was pretty restrictive because it was just exactly what you said is like, if you’re telling them what to do, when to do it and how to do it, basically they’re employee, the other stuff is like, oh, you just pay them as employee ’cause you’re not gonna be happy when they come on to you ’cause you were either gonna pay the right to be… ‘Cause then you pay everything. [laughter] So then… Because that happened in the mortgages for years and years and years, ago, where everybody tried to hire people as independent contractors, and they came and just swiped through and said, nope.
0:47:03.1 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: Yep.
0:47:03.7 Kurt Baker: And it was like a…
0:47:05.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And then you pay.
0:47:05.6 Kurt Baker: And anybody who tried they were, that was it. No, no, definitely not. Yeah.
0:47:09.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And then you pay the employer share of all of the taxes, the employees share of all the taxes, you pay all the back unemployment pay that you didn’t pay, and you’re gonna pay administrative fees and fines.
0:47:22.7 Kurt Baker: Right.
0:47:23.0 Jennifer Meyer-Mahoney: And you’re gonna have to pay either your accountant or your attorney or both, to get you out of that mess with as little damage as possible, which is gonna cost you a whole lot more than just paying people as employees in the first place.
0:47:36.4 Kurt Baker: That is absolutely correct. So I agree with Jennifer a 100%. If you think you have an independent contractor, chances are they’re not, you wanna probably wanna double check it because in New Jersey there is a high probability you really have an employee, so just check with somebody. And Jennifer, I appreciate everything you told us today, out there, we’ve learned a lot, and you can get some more resources from the New Jersey DOL by going to www.NJ.gov/labor, and there’s a couple of drop-downs in there, you could learn about employer, employees as well as things to do about COVID and so forth. If you have any information that you have questions about, you can reach Jennifer by going to njhrlawyer.com, you can listen to all the podcasts and please subscribe by going to MasterYourFinances.us. And I hope you enjoy learning more about how to keep employees and how to improve the work environment to keep more employees working longer, and what to do as far as non-compete clauses in New Jersey and to have better employer/employee relationships. And what the DOL is looking for now, you got it all here, Master Your Finances. Have a great day.
0:48:55.6 Announcer: That was this week’s episode of Master Your Finances with Kurt Baker, a Certified Financial Planner Professional. Tune in every Sunday at 9:00 AM to expand your knowledge in building and managing your wealth. Missed an episode? No worries, you can subscribe to a free weekly episode of Master Your Finances to listen to on your favorite podcasting platform, Apple, Spotify, Google podcasts, whatever, Master Your Finances is underwritten in part by Certified Wealth Management and Investment and Rider University. Rider offers continuing studies programs for adults who need flexibility. Want to add new skills to your resume? Take a continuing studies course at Rider University.