Payroll Tax Cut to Expire in 2013

paycheck - stock

In the great American tradition of waiting until the eleventh hour (really the tenth, but who’s counting), both parties have agreed to avert the plummet over the fiscal cliff. Unfortunately, what wasn’t included was the extension of the Temporary Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012.

Per the Washington Post

Regardless of the emerging agreement, many Americans are all but certain to face a broad hike in taxes starting Tuesday because of the expiration of the payroll tax cut, which was enacted in 2011 as a temporary measure to boost economic growth. The increased payroll taxes, combined with hikes affecting the very wealthy, would effectively mark the end of a prolonged period of declining taxation that has become a defining characteristic of the American economy.

Although most tax increases will land upon the upper classes, the increase in the payroll tax is significant to many within the middle and lower classes.

With the end of the payroll tax holiday, a worker earning $50,000, for instance, will pay $1,000 more in taxes this year; a worker earning less than $20,000 a year will pay about $100 more. Someone in the upper fifth of households, making $150,000 a year, will pay about $2,200 more.

Or to put in another way:

The payroll tax withholding, which is used to fund Social Security, is due to rise from a reduced level of 4.2 percent–which was set temporarily in 2009–to the normal level of 6.2 percent. The payroll tax will apply only to the first $113,700 of earnings in 2013. So you can simply calculate what two percent of your income will be in 2013, to estimate the additional amount you’ll pay. For the typical earner, a two-point increase will amount to about $700 in added tax payments per year.

I’m sure there’s much more to it, but the fact is that we’ll all be seeing less in our paychecks. But then again, at least its going to Social Security, something that all of us in the U.S. will eventually need.

Yeah, I know, but I need to find at least one silver lining in all of this.

Happy New Year to you all!

[image via San Francisco Examiner]

Contraceptive Mandate Temporarily Blocked in Illinois Case

Talk about confusing. First the US Supreme Court says no, but 7th Circuit Court of Appeals grudgingly says yes

A divided federal appeals court has temporarily barred the U.S. government from requiring an Illinois company to obtain insurance coverage for contraceptives, as mandated under the 2010 healthcare overhaul, after the owners objected on religious grounds.

In this case, of which there are many, Korte & Luitjohan Contractors wanted to change the employee health plan to one that abided with their Catholic beliefs, but the Contraceptive Mandate didn’t allow for such a change and that’s where the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prevents laws from “substantially burden a person’s free exercise of their religion.”.

From Reuters:

In issuing an injunction, the 7th Circuit majority said the Kortes had established a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits of their RFRA claim, and that the government had not yet justified the apparent “substantial burden” on their religious exercise.

The court also said the couple had established irreparable harm, because absent an injunction they would have to choose between maintaining insurance coverage they considered inappropriate or facing substantial financial penalties.

However, one judge on the >7th Circuit, dissented:

Judge Ilana Rovner dissented. She said the Kortes were “multiple steps” removed from the contraceptives services because it was their company paying for the coverage, and because it would be a worker, her doctor and the insurer involved in the decisions about the services and their funding.

Obviously to some, it is not a clear cut situation and with any new legislation, there’s bound to be confusion and objection. Again, I’m curious to see where this case and the many other cases go. There’s a lot riding on the decisions made through the Justice system.

The full text of the case can be found here.

Hobby Lobby Ignores Contraception Mandate

Hobby Lobby is not happy at all.

Perhaps it’s due to the denial of their emergency injunction and order that the company comply with the Contraceptive Mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) and provide contraception coverage to their employees as they pursue further litigation. The company pursued this case through the lower courts, being denied most of the way, although there was a brief injunction which was then reversed.

Justice Sotomayor stated in her Opinion:

Applicants do not satisfy the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief they seek…This Court has not previously addressed similar RFRA or free exercise claims brought by closely held for-profit corporations and their controlling shareholders alleging that the mandatory provision of certain employee benefits substantially burdens their exercise of religion…Moreover, the applicants correctly recognize that lower courts have diverged on whether to grant temporary injunctive relief to similarly situated plaintiffs raising similar claims, Application for Injunction Pending Appellate Review 25–26, and no court has issued a final decision granting permanent relief with respect to such claims. Second, while the applicants allege they will face irreparable harm if they are forced to choose between complying with the contraception-coverage requirement and paying significant fines, they cannot show that aninjunction is necessary or appropriate to aid our jurisdiction.

The attorney for Hobby Lobby, in his statement yesterday, intimated that the company would rather pay fines than comply with the order.

Via Think Progress:

The store plans to ignore the provision anyway, opting to pay a fine instead of provide birth control, including the morning after pill commonly known as Plan B, which the owner feels goes against his personal religious values:

With Wednesday’s rejection of an emergency stay of that federal health care law by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Hobby Lobby and sister company Mardel could be subject to fines of up to $1.3 million a day beginning Tuesday.

“They’re not going to comply with the mandate,” said Kyle Duncan, general counsel of The Beckett Fund for Religious Liberty, which is representing the company. “They’re not going to offer coverage for abortion-inducing drugs in the insurance plan.”

As for the potential fines, Duncan said, “We’re just going to have to cross that bridge when we come to it.”

This is not surprising by any stretch of the imagination. The company is very public about its religious beliefs, stating on its website:

The foundation of our business has been, and will continue to be strong values, and honoring the Lord in a manner consistent with Biblical principles. Hobby Lobby store hours are Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and all Hobby Lobby stores are closed on Sunday.

And in a statement to the Oklahoman, David Green, Hobby Lobby CEO said:

“Our family is now being forced to choose to between following the laws of the land that we love or maintaining the religious beliefs that have made our business successful and supported our family and thousands of our employees and their families,” Green said Wednesday during a conference call. “We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”

The Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby and Mardel retail stores, have long been public about their religious beliefs, reflected in the Sunday closings of their stores, the purchase of full-page Christian-themed newspaper ads on Easter and Christmas, the use of full-time chaplains to minister to employees and using profits to fund ministries and missions around the world.

I’m not going to get in to the politics of this one. If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you probably know how I feel about this issue. Either way, this is going to be an interesting one to watch.

With fines reaching up to a million dollars a day, Hobby Lobby has a lot at stake. And it will probably be the employees who will suffer the most.

UPDATE

So there’s been no movement on the part of Hobby Lobby. They are continuing to refuse to comply with the Federal order and racking up the fines. The question is, are the fines being levied?

While the company’s boldness in defying Obamacare has earned it praise from supporters, it remains unclear whether the IRS will act on its authority to levy the steep penalties.

And, as always, Mike Huckabee has to make it all about him – again, so he has put together “Hobby Lobby Appreciation Day“.

I will keep updating as this case (among others) moves forward. Being that this one is getting the most press, it stands to carry a great deal of weight one way or the other.

Diversity in Apple Management?

Is someone on to something? According to Colorlines.com, perhaps:

Bloomberg Business Week published an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook on Thursday morning. In the interview Cook said his company really valued “diversity with a capital D.”

But what kind of diversity? Because the top 10 executives at Apple Inc. are all white males.

“If you look at the top 100 people at Apple, you’re going to find very different people, very different personalities, very different styles. We’re not a Chiclet company,” Cook told Bloomberg Business. “We don’t put people through a machine where they come out and talk the same, look the same, think the same. We really value diversity with a capital D.”

Even if Apple’s top 100 people are a diverse mix, can you say you value “diversity with a capital D” when the 10 people who actually make the decisions all look the same?

Judge for yourself.

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[via Upworthy]

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Termination of HR Administrator

Crystal Dixon

A Federal Appeals Court in Cincinnati, Ohio has upheld the University of Toledo’s 2008 termination of Crystal Dixon. Ms. Dixon, a high level HR Administrator at the University was fired for expressing her opinion in the Toledo Free Press.

It all started with a letter to the editor. Ms. Dixon’s response upset a number of people when she argued that “gay and lesbian individuals are not civil rights victims because they have the ability to choose a homosexual lifestyle.”

Now in most situations, Ms. Dixon might be revered or hated for what she said. But in this situation, Ms. Dixon was terminated from her position as Interim Associate Vice President of Human Resources. Dr. Lloyd Jacobs, the President of the University, made his own statement to the Toledo Free Press

The University of Toledo welcomes, supports and places value upon persons of every variety. Disability, race, age or sexual orientation are not included in any decision making process nor the evaluation of worth of any individual at this university. To the extent that appearances may exist which are contrary to this value statement, we will continue to do everything in our power to align all of our actions every day with the value system discussed.

We will be taking certain internal actions in this instance to more fully align our utterances and actions with this value system.

The argument here is whether or not Ms. Dixon wrote the letter as a private citizen and did not identify herself with the university and in doing so, the University violated her right to free speech. However, per the Toledo Blade

Dixon did not put her position with the university with her signature; however, after her signature she wrote, “If you need information about my occupation, etc., it is as follows: Associate Vice President for Human Resources, University of Toledo, Elder/Minister, End Time Christian Fellowship, Toledo, Ohio.”

This reasoning runs down a really slippery slope. On one hand, Ms. Dixon’s comments are homophobic and hateful. On the other, if she wrote her commentary as a private citizen, was terminating her employment the answer?

Either way, I truly believe that those in HR need to hold themselves to a higher standard when it comes to treating all employees equally, even if their religious/other beliefs teach them otherwise. We write the policies that affect employees, we maintain the culture of the environment and we work hard to make sure that employees are treated with dignity at all times. Anything less is reprehensible. And if Ms. Dixon did truly represent herself as an employee of the University while writing her “editorial”, then her actions were beyond reprehensible.

And it seems that the 3 Member Panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Court agree,

“[Crystal Dixon] contradicted the very policies she was charged with creating, promoting, and enforcing, and cannot be excused as merely a statement of her own views as a private citizen.”

The case doc can be found here.

Vizify – A Visual Representation of You

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I recently discovered Vizify, site that aggregates your social media information (with your permission) to create a visual representation of your online life known as a “Graphical Bio”.

Like it or not, people look you up online before they interview, hire, or date you. Make sure they see your best.

  • Use your bio as a personal website.
  • Add it to your online profiles (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) and email signature.
  • Amplify your personal brand & show off your expertise to people searching for you.
  • Endorsed by 200+ HR pros

They’ve pretty much summed up what I would say regarding the online hiring research aspect. And while I can’t speak for the 200+ HR pros referenced above, this HR pro thinks it’s pretty cool.