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Monday, June 19, 2017

License to drone


It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a…a… a drone. That distinctive buzz. That speck of an object in the sky, hovering, but moving slightly side to side. The popularity of flying quad copters or drones has been growing in recent years. Everyone’s heard their use for package delivery, surveillance, but they are fast becoming popular for small business promotion and an enjoyable hobby for those interested in remote control flight. As the enthusiasm grows so do sales. The FAA expects the 2.5 million drones sold in 2016 to grow to 13 million by 2020. Commercial operators could purchase another 10 million.

FAA Regulation

Popularity translates to higher percentages of a drone encounter. They are being flown in congested areas that provides for the opportunity for interference with air traffic, power lines, buildings, and crowd gatherings. Most of the larger drones have the ability to attach cameras. Which brings up the issue of privacy. Congress, state legislatures, and the FAA are scrambling to get a handle on regulating drones without trampling on citizen rights and the hobby level user. To ensure the safe operation of drones in regards to nefarious use and poor decisions the FAA released Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) regulations in 2015. These rules for drone operation were updated in 2016 and include licensing and registration requirements.

Since the requirement for drone registration 760,000 hobbyists registered approximately 1.5 million drones. However, the registration rule was recently challenged in court. The rule required hobbyists with drones weighing between 0.55 pounds and 55 pounds to register their drones with the FAA. On May 19, 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. ruled that the FAA could not make that requirement as it violated the FAA’s own Modernization and Reform Act passed in 2012. The plaintiff successfully argued that the FAA “may not promulgate any rule or regulation regarding a model aircraft”.  The FAA is considering its appeal options, one of which is Congress taking action on the issue.

FAA licensing requirements

So. Who needs a drone license? First, the difference between recreational purposes and commercial. The FAA defines recreational as flying for enjoyment- not for work, business purposes, or for compensation or hire. If you’re being compensated the use is probably under the commercial category in the eyes of the FAA.

From the FAA-
Recreational flyers are not required to obtain a pilot certificate but may if desired. If your drone is more 0.55 pounds it must be registered with the FAA.
Basic operating rules are:
  • Fly at or below 400 feet
  •  Keep your UAS within sight
  • Never fly near other aircraft, especially near airports
  •   Never fly over groups of people
  •  Never fly over stadiums or sports events
  •  Never fly near emergency response efforts such as fires
  •  Never fly under the influence
  • Be aware of airspace requirements
To fly commercially there are different levels and requirements. Basically, the pilot must be licensed and the drone must be registered.
Commercial pilots:
  • Must be at least 16 years old
  • Must pass an initial aeronautical knowledge test
  • Must be vetted by TSA
Commercial operating requirements:
  • Class G airspace
  • Must keep the aircraft in sight (visual line-of-sight)
  • Must fly under 400 feet
  • Must fly during the day
  • Must fly at or below 100 mph
  • Must yield right of way to manned aircraft
  • Must NOT fly over people
  •  Must NOT fly from a moving vehicle

This was a synopsis of FAA requirements. Visit the FAA Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)-FAQ site for complete details.



Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Languages spoken?


As a customer of almost any business there is a high probability that you will interact with someone who speaks in accented English or speaks little English. As an employer, there is also a high probability that your job applicants will speak in accented English. Customers should to be patient and polite; Employers need to be cautious of not violating the law.

A colleague had a difficult time placing an in person order with a store employee who spoke accented English. They asked me if it was illegal for employers not to hire people who had difficulty clearly communicating with customers. The short answer is, yes. Any employer that discriminates against an applicant for their accent or attempts to establish an English only policy without establishing a business necessity would more than likely be in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Employers cannot use English only policies to discriminate against employees or prospective employees due to their accent or lack of English skills.

A lot of small business owners that I’ve encountered do not have documented hiring policies. They have a basic understanding of hiring laws, but still hire who they “like” with little documentation. Establishing a hiring component such as business necessity can be laborious for small businesses.

The Equal Employment opportunity Commission explains language discrimination as follows.
Discrimination Based on Accent
Treating employees differently because they have a foreign accent is lawful only if accent materially interferes with being able to do the job.
  • Generally, an employer may only base an employment decision on accent if effective oral communication in English is required to perform job duties and the individual's foreign accent materially interferes with his or her ability to communicate orally in English.
  • Jobs that may require effective oral communication in English include teaching, customer service, and telemarketing to English speaking clients.
  •   If a person has an accent but it is able to communicate effectively and be understood in English, he or she cannot be discriminated against.
Speak English Only Rules
The EEOC has stated that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate the law unless the employer can show that they are justified by business necessity. 
  •  A rule requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace at all times, including breaks and lunch time, will rarely be justified.
  •  An English-only rule should be limited to the circumstances in which it is needed for the employer to operate safely or efficiently.
  •   Circumstances in which an English-only rule may be justified include: communications with customers or coworkers who only speak English; emergencies or other situations in which workers must speak a common language to promote safety; cooperative work assignments in which the English-only rule is needed to promote efficiency.
  •  Even if there is a need for an English-only rule, an employer may not take disciplinary action against an employee for violating the rule unless the employer has notified workers about the rule and the consequences of violating it.
The complete EEOC pamphlet on immigrant rights can be found at
EEOC: Immigrants' Employment Rights Under FederalAnti-Discrimination Laws
State laws may also apply to these hiring situations. Employers should always consult their employment law attorney before establishing any hiring requirements.

See the blog archive for other posts about hiring.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Students say, “Ban the box!”


NOTE: This post was originally published on April 6, 2016 and has been updated with new information.            

On May 26, 2017, Maryland Governor Hogan vetoed a bill that would have barred Maryland colleges from inquiring about criminal history on admission applications. Governor Hogan reasoning the bill, in its current state, was too restrictive on schools and jeopardized student safety.

If passed, Maryland would have been the first state to prohibit all colleges and universities from including questions about criminal history on their applications. Admissions offices could still inquire about criminal convictions of accepted applicants but could not withdraw an offer of admission based on the answer.

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Many employment applications include the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime”.  For the past several years there has been a movement to have the question removed. Every year legislatures at the State, County, and City level take up the issue of whether or not to “Ban the Box”.  Advocates want job applicants to be considered for their qualifications and not rejected based on criminal past. Should the box be banned, February 2013
Currently there are 100 cities and counties that have passed legislation to have the question removed from their respective government employment applications. Twenty-one states have also passed laws-California (2013, 2010), Colorado (2012), Connecticut (2010), Delaware (2014), Georgia (2015), Hawaii (1998), Illinois (2014, 2013), Maryland (2013), Massachusetts (2010), Minnesota (2013, 2009), Nebraska (2014), New Jersey (2014), New Mexico (2010), New York (2015), Ohio (2015), Oklahoma (2016), Oregon (2015), Rhode Island (2013), Vermont (2015), Virginia (2015), and Wisconsin (2016). Seven of those states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, and Rhode Island) have removed the question from private employment applications as well.
            The Common App college admissions application has over 500 member education institutions and has been in use since the late 1990’s. Since the 2006-2007 admissions cycle the Common App has also included a question as to whether or not the applicant had been convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. The applicant answers yes or no and is required to submit a separate explanation if there is a conviction.
            On March 29, 2016, students from New York University (NYU) staged a sit-in to demand that the school stop receiving the criminal question data from the Common App. Although no immediate changes were made, the NYU administration and the CEO of the Common App met with the students. Much like the advocates for employment purposes, college applicants want to be considered first on their merits and not excluded because of criminal convictions.
            As the Ban the Box movement has steadily gained traction in employment circles, you can expect the issue to continue be brought up on college campuses as well.

See our blog archive for other posts relating to Ban the Box:

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Hiring in the millennial age



People between ages 18 to 34 are in the millennial generation and were projected to number 75.3 million in 2015, surpassing the projected 74.9 million Boomers (ages 51 to 69). That generational group fills the job pool and is highly sought after. Generational differences mean you need to adjust your job screening process. Below is an excerpt from an article posted on Society for Human Resource Managers, written by Angela Preston, which explains some legal issues you should be aware of when screening Millennials.
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Hiring this growing generation of workers introduces a whole new set of legal challenges to the HR department, and the background screening process is one of those challenges. These five legal lessons should provide a good starting place for making your screening program more compliant and Millennial-friendly.

Social Media Searches
Millennials love their social networks. In fact, social media in many ways defines this generation. Many have grown up with Facebook accounts and can’t remember a world without the Internet or even without Twitter. They chronicle their lives on Instagram. Some say Millennials share too freely and fail to appreciate the impact that social media posts can have on their careers. The oversharing can be tempting for hiring managers who are eager to tap into the wealth of online information…. employers are more likely to stumble upon protected class information that could get them into hot water. Employers need to make sure that any social media screening is done by those who are familiar with the legal risks—particularly anti-discrimination and privacy laws.

Digital Natives and Age Discrimination
Millennials are not direct targets for age discrimination. But here’s the rub—the hiring criteria you are using to attract Millennials might be at the expense of those older 40-somethings who are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and other similar state laws. Another example is the term “digital native.” It’s the new code for a recent graduate and it’s popping up in ads where companies are looking for a person who was born and raised in the digital age. In other words, Millennials. Legal experts agree that pre-screening for digital natives is a form of thinly veiled age discrimination.

Driving Records
Apparently Millennials don’t like to drive. According to AARP, Millennials drive around 25 percent less than their counterparts did just eight years ago. If a licensed driver with a clean driving record is your target, you might actually be eliminating a significant number of prospective Millennial applicants. That might not be a big deal, but like all parts of a pre-employment background check, you want to make sure that the information you are seeking is relevant to the job at hand. Before you run a motor vehicle report (MVR) on an applicant, you should be asking yourself why? Is a clean driving record a bona fide job requirement?

Credit
Millennials, more than any other generation, tend to rely less on traditional bank loans and credit cards. They are more likely to use cash, and as a group they actually spend less than Generation X or Baby Boomers. They tend to borrow less, which some experts think is related to their large amount of student loan debt. Credit is already a slippery slope, with many states prohibiting use of credit for pre-employment screening.

Job History and Verifications
Millennials job hop. According to Data Facts blog, “a whopping 91% of them don’t expect to stay at a job for longer than 3 years.” They are mobile, more likely to move to large urban areas and are less motivated by pay. Their priorities are different from those who came before them and will move on in order to find more meaningful work.

Also about millennials affect on the work force is our March 2017 post Customer service in the millennial age


Monday, May 8, 2017

What’s in your wallet?



The salary question

The movement to remove the criminal history question from employment applications has been steadily gaining popularity over the last several years. Ban the Box (referring to the checkbox asking if an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime) laws have been enacted by cities, counties, and states. Most affect only government applications but a few apply to the private sector. They are currently 26 states and 150 cities and counties. Maryland is one of those states and the laws applies to state government applications only. While it is not against federal employment laws (past bills in Congress have failed) the EEOC strongly encourages employers not to base hiring decisions based on the applicant’s criminal history.

Another interview question under scrutiny is the salary question-“What is your current and/or most recent salary?” Proponents feel that asking the question will help correct salary disparities by not basing offers on past pay. Arguing that pay should be offered for the position, based on market values, not the person. Employers feel that the new laws are more government intrusion that affects hiring and hurts their overall business.

The attention to this question comes from the equal pay for women campaign, which is gaining popularity on political platforms. Women earn roughly 80 cents per dollar compared to men based on information form the U.S. Census bureau. This pay disparity tends to follow a woman throughout her career when new salary offers are based on current or past history.

Pay equity laws

As with Ban the Box, once the wave starts rolling it does not take long for cities and states to follow suit. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists 43 states with equal pay laws that prohibit discriminating between the sexes. However, Massachusetts was the first to enact a law that specifically prohibits paying a woman less than a man.

In August 2016, the Governor of Massachusetts signed into law the Pay Equity Act, which will take effect July 1, 2018. Under this law it will be illegal for employers: to pay men and women differently for comparable work, screen applicants based on past salaries, contact the applicant’s former company reference salary, and restricting employees from discussing their salaries.

After Massachusetts big cities quickly passed laws. Philadelphia became the first to enact such a law, which was to take effect in January 2017, but is delaying implementation awaiting a federal ruling on a petition to block the law. In April 2017, New York City barred employers from inquiring about salary information.

This issue is gaining attention at the federal level as well. In September of 2016 the Pay Equity for All Act of 2016 was introduced to the United States House of Representatives and is still in committee. The original proposal would make it illegal to screen prospective employees based on their previous wages or salary histories; ask for previous wages or salary; or fire or retaliate against any current or prospective employee because the employee opposed disclosing salary information.

Maryland’s equal pay act took effect October 1, 2016 when The Equal Pay for Equal Work Act of 2016 was enacted. The law applies to employers of any size and extends protections to gender identity as well as sex and bars employers from prohibiting employees from discussing or disclosing wages or those of another employee. The full law can be found at Maryland Equal Pay for Equal Work 
  
See our blog archive for more Ban the box and hiring discrimination posts:


Monday, April 24, 2017

Teach your employees well


Small business hacking is becoming more prevalent. The payoff isn’t as big but the opportunity is greater and security is lacking. Security firm Symantec reported in 2016 that 43% of cyber attacks were against small business. Small businesses have little in the way of security and employee training. They often have more to lose in the sense that they have less cash flow or all of their money is tied up in their business. Making them more likely to pay ransoms. (Ransomware is explained in more detail in our post-If you ever want to see your files again…)

Attacks can be as simple as rerouting the web address to a porn site, locking all of the computers for a ransom, all the way to hacking financial data and cleaning out bank accounts. More than half of the companies attacked were forced to go out of business. Maintaining sound computer security cannot be emphasized enough.

The website Small Business Trends, in an article posted January 3, 2017, stated that 48% of attacks are caused by an employee error. In addition to updating security software one of the biggest defenses owners can deploy is educating their employees on cyber attack indicators. The malware has to enter the system somehow. Simply clicking on attachments will send the virus into the network to do its work. The more stealthy viruses will enter the system without a show of existence. These are meant to mine data from the system. By the time you find the virus the bank accounts are fleeced.

Regularly train employees on different types of attacks and how to defend against them. Establish a policy for computer usage. Explain what is acceptable Internet use. Malware can be injected via email attachments or links to websites. These links can be introduced through email or social media. Demonstrate what a suspicious email, link, social media contact looks like. Practice solid password policies and change regularly. Encourage employees to speak up when something is suspicious and do not click on the suspicious activity.

Even if you do not think you store valuable data, although customer records are a valuable commodity, the chance of losing your business data or risking a financial attack is too great a chance to take.

See our blog archive for other posts relating to cyber security:



Wednesday, April 12, 2017

437th sine die


The 437th session of the Maryland General assembly came to a close on Monday, April 10, 2017. Here are the business related laws that were passed.

Paid sick leave: Businesses with 15 or more employees would be required to provide five days of paid sick leave.

Manufacturing: Tax incentives will be offered to companies that add manufacturing jobs and provide related training for skilled workers.

Health care: A commission was formed to monitor federal actions that affect Maryland health care.

Governor Hogan has said that he will veto the paid sick leave bill. Governor Hogan proposed his own paid sick leave bill that set the employee mark for businesses at 50 and included tax incentives for smaller companies that offered paid sick leave. If the bill is vetoed, the legislature does have the necessary votes to override the veto. However, lawmakers will not have an opportunity to override the veto until next year’s legislative session, delaying the implementation of the bill until 2018.

437th session has more business laws January 2017