By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
Unless Congress acts in a hurry, new overtime rules viewed as burdensome and costly to business will take effect Dec. 1, leaving some employers scrambling to comply.
The new regulations will require employers to pay overtime to most workers who make less than $47,476 per year when they work more than 40 hours a week, more than double the current threshold of $23,660. That means millions more workers would qualify for overtime. Those not subject to overtime are classified as exempt.
The House has passed a measure that would delay the U.S. Department of Labor’s increase of the minimum exempt salary amount for six months, but a similar measure introduced in the U.S. Senate is stuck in committee, and observers see little chance of passage before the rule is set to take effect.
Despite the dramatic increase, a recent survey by human resources company Paychex Inc. found that 49 percent of business owners polled were unaware of the pending change, first announced back in May.
“Lawmakers from both parties recognize that the administration’s radical changes to overtime rules are too much, too fast,” National Retail Federation Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French said recently. “With the Dec. 1 compliance deadline looming, the window for congressional action is quickly closing. Pushing pause on implementing these one-size-fits-all regulations would provide welcome breathing room for retailers large and small struggling to comply with the changes during the holidays, their busiest time of the year.”
The Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools, and Nonprofits Act would give employers an extra six months to come into compliance by pushing the deadline to June 1, 2017.
Research conducted by the National Retail Federation suggests the regulations will force employers to limit hours or cut base pay in order to make up for added payroll costs, leaving most workers with no increase in take-home pay despite added administrative costs. A separate survey found that the majority of retail managers and assistant managers — positions that the regulations are supposed to help — oppose the plan.
Similar reactions are being voiced by a number of industries.
“It’s just days away from becoming a reality,” said Thomas E. Berry Jr., a principal in the law firm of Jackson Lewis P.C., who has conducted multiple presentations on the rules in recent weeks in Metro East.
The audience at each of his presentations had plenty of questions.
The change to the overtime rules is the first since 2004. The last increase prior to that was in 1975, Berry said.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
EDWARDSVILLE — The sounds of a campus institution still reverberate over 88.7 on the FM dial. But they are strained these days.
The longtime jazz format now blends with other sweet chords as WSIE tries a new niche — even as it attempts to find its way out of difficult financial times.
Today, the station bills itself as The Sound, a blend of jazz and blues and local talk shows. Management says fans like it, and the change could determine how long the station can keep going.
State of Illinois budget woes and support from local listeners and businesses will have a lot to do with the station’s endurance, interim General Manager Steve Jankowski says.
He describes the station’s situation as “very precarious.”
“From what I’ve been told, come July 1, the state support for salaries will all but disappear, meaning the station will be responsible for paying all of its bills. If we can’t demonstrate that we can generate $150,000 a year (in operating costs) and show a consistent trajectory upward, the university has bandied about the possibility of selling the radio station,” he said.
Jankowski, a television fixture from his days as a reporter at KSDK in St. Louis, cut his teeth in radio as a student at SIUE in the 1970s. He left KSDK in 2006 for the job as alumni director at SIUE.
When his alumni post was eliminated Oct. 28, 2015, he was given a one-year role as director of financial planning of the radio station.
Just weeks later, in December 2015, Greg Conroy retired as general manager of WSIE.
“They asked me if I would serve as the interim general manager. My contract was supposed to run out on the 28th (October 2016). That Friday I would have been out of here and in retirement,” said Jankowski, 64. “But the powers that be like what we’re doing over here so they extended my contract through next June. I have at least another eight months to work here,” he said.
Jankowski and Daryl McQuinn, the longtime chief engineer, are the only full-time employees. Their salaries are borne by the state — and on the chopping block as the result of the state’s fiscal outlook.
By DENNIS GRUBAUGH
Given how some people feel captive to their insurance coverage, it’s ironic that something called captive insurance is increasingly finding fancy among Illinois businesses.
Such plans are appealing to corporate executives because of savings on underwriting services, including for coverage of worker’s compensation, property and casualty, and more.
Through its captive, Kankakee, Ill.-based Midwest Transit Equipment, the largest bus dealer in the United States, has saved 20 percent on all its underwriting services since 2010. It launched a “Stretch and Flex” program that requires employees to stretch for 10 minutes at the beginning of their shifts and after their meal break. The initiative has helped reduce injuries — and expenses, the company said.
According to the Center for Insurance Policy and Research, a captive is an insurance company created and wholly owned by one or more non-insurance companies to insure the risks of its owners. Captives are essentially a form of self-insurance.
Captives are formed to cover a wide range of risks, “practically every risk underwritten by a commercial insurer,” the center says.
Captives are like regular insurance companies, but they only insure their owners. The owners pay premiums to the captive, and the captive pays claims. Any leftover money stays with the owners or can be rolled over to cover future claims.
Captives have been formed by major multinational corporations and Fortune 500 companies, but they also have been formed by nonprofit organizations. Once established, captives operate like any commercial insurance company and are subject to state regulatory requirements including reporting, capital and reserve requirements.
The captive concept and name is credited to Frederic Reiss, a property-protection engineer who applied the idea to mining coverage in Youngstown, Ohio, in the 1950s.
The casualty group captive insurance industry was formed more than 30 years ago. By 2012, that group had hit about a billion dollars in premiums. But since 2012 that premium pool is much closer to $2 billion.
Today, there are over 7,000 captives globally compared to roughly 1,000 in 1980, according to AM Best Captive Center.
There are around 50 group captives operating in the United States. One of the most successful of those in the St. Louis market was formed in 1994, called Archway Insurance Ltd. It has 227 members and generates around $150 million in annual premiums.
Simmons Hanly Conroy has been named by the 3rd Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee as the Pro Bono Firm of the Year for 2016.
Simmons Hanly Conroy was honored for its longstanding commitment to pro bono initiatives, including the Madison County Expungement Day hosted by the firm in 2016 and the annual Madison County Bar Association Internship Program, which was founded by Simmons Hanly Conroy attorney Jo Ann Pollock.
Made up of lawyers and judges, the 3rd Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee strives to enhance equal access to justice by encouraging and promoting pro bono work in the 3rd Judicial Circuit, which is in the 5th Appellate District and includes Bond and Madison counties in Illinois.
“We are humbled by this recognition by the 3rd Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee for our firm and our attorneys’ ongoing pro bono efforts and programs,” said John Simmons, chairman of Simmons Hanly Conroy. “Whether it’s helping to give our neighbors a second chance at improving their lives, encouraging future leaders in the legal profession, or helping people diagnosed with asbestos-causing cancer and their families, our firm will always be committed to supporting the people and communities that we serve.”
Presented by the Madison County Circuit Court and the State Attorney’s Office and held at the firm’s Alton office on June 18, the Madison County Expungement Day helped approximately 200 people begin an expedited process to have their criminal records sealed or expunged. Attorneys from Simmons Hanly Conroy and the Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation volunteered their time at the event, which also included drug testing on-site. The event allowed attendees to meet with an attorney to determine their eligibility, file all necessary paperwork, and pay filing fees on a single day in one location.
Started in 2012, the Madison County Bar Association Internship Program matches Alton-area high school students with attorneys whom the students shadow in visits to courthouses and at depositions and help with filing and office work. One of the goals of the four-week program is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider law careers. Pollock is chair of the internship program Sub-Committee of the 3rd Judicial Circuit Pro Bono Committee, which helps coordinate the program.
In addition to its pro bono programs, Simmons Hanly Conroy is the leader among law firms for supporting the mesothelioma community, contributing more than $20 million to cancer research, and is a major corporate contributor overall to the cause. Simmons Hanly Conroy helped build the Simmons Cancer Institute at Southern Illinois University and spearheads the annual Alton Miles for Meso 5K race, in addition to sponsoring other walks and runs around the country.
Simmons Hanly Conroy was formally honored as the Pro Bono Firm of the Year at a luncheon Oct. 25 in Edwardsville.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy, LLC
Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is one of the nation’s largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm’s attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.