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Publications | July 28, 2017
2 minute read

HR Focus – News Digest – Summer 2017

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall union membership rate in the U.S. fell by 0.4 percent in 2016 to 10.7 percent of workers. This is down from 11.1 percent in 2015. Public-sector workers had a union membership rate of 34.4 percent — more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers, of which only 6.4 percent were union members.  In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data is available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent.  Union membership in Michigan in 2016 declined to 14.4 percent of workers compared to 15.2 percent in 2015.

    Most retirement plans subject to ERISA are required to obtain an ERISA fidelity bond that protects the  plan against losses resulting from fraud or dishonesty caused by anyone who handles plan assets. The bond must be at least 10% of plan assets as of the beginning of the year, with a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $500,000 ($1,000,000 if the plan includes employer securities).  We often find that the bond amount has not been updated as plan assets grow. The amount of the bond is reported on the plan’s Form 5500 and an insufficient bond increases your audit risk.  Check the amount of your ERISA bond before you file your Form 5500 each year to avoid increasing your audit risk.

    It is fairly standard for an employer to ask an applicant about salary history. This information can then be used to negotiate a starting salary. Some argue that this practice can propagate wage disparities between women and men (and between minorities and whites). Some jurisdictions are now taking steps to stop this practice. The cities of Philadelphia and New York have adopted laws prohibiting employers from asking applicants for their salary histories.  Under California’s Fair Pay Act, salary history is not a proper justification for a pay disparity (meaning that an employer cannot use prior salary history as a basis  for paying one worker more than a co-worker who is performing “substantially similar” work). Employers should expect this trend to likely continue.