By Karen Dybis

Hey, office worker – yes, you, sitting at your desk for hours and hours at a time. You need to stand up, sit less and move more, researchers say.

Sit-stand desks may be a solution, according to Mark Benden, Ph.D., CPE, director of the Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M University. He discovered that the very thing that made us less active — technology — can be used to encourage activity.

That means using office furniture designed for sitting and standing encourages office workers to move around more, which is better for your work, your body and your overall health, according to Benden.

A sit-stand desk is a height-adjustable platform placed on top of the desk itself. The desk users are required to lift or lower the platform to change to sitting and standing heights.

Sit-stand desks have become an international trend. However, utilization rates are still below expectations. Therefore, they are unlikely, at typical use levels, to produce the type of health impacts researchers like Benden had hoped to achieve.

He evaluated the use of computer-prompted reminders to determine if the frequency of position in sit-stand desks changed. The study, published in the International Journal of Environmental

Research and Public Health, is the first to measure digital, objective data about desktop, sit-stand desk usage.

Research buddies Benden’s research subjects were staff members at Texas A&M University. “Texas A&M is a living learning laboratory, and we have thousands of office workers here on campus who may benefit from this work,” he said.

Sedentary lifestyles are one of the biggest health risks to this generation, Benden said. He says it is crucial for people to routinely change positions and hopefully pick up extra steps in the process as core strength increases and ambulation occurs more frequently.

“If we can find ways to get office workers to stand up and move more throughout the day, then those little movements will do a lot to help their overall health,” he said. “The act of moving back and forth between sitting and standing uses more energy than either sitting or standing alone.”

Sitting study A research team led by Benden and Parag Sharma, DrPH, a recent doctoral graduate of the School of Public Health and clinical data scientist at Humana, tested a new computer-based software intervention. The software aimed to increase the number of position changes in a group of workers within the Division of Student Affairs on the Texas A&M University campus.

To start the study, researchers installed the software, which was designed to use reminders to change the position of their sit-stand desks and monitor workers’ computer use time, and a USB accelerometer sensor, which measured the height of the desk.

The first phase of the study only monitored workers’ computer use time and the position of the desk. This phase lasted three months and provided a baseline of the activity of the participants. The second phase of the study lasted two months and utilized the software to remind the participants to stand for 10 minutes after every 30 minutes of sitting. Also, the software displayed statistics about percentage of time they personally stood and remained seated.

After collecting the data, researchers found the software proved effective in getting office workers to stand more often than they did before the software reminders. During the first phase, the participants completed one desk position change per every two working days. However, during the second phase, they, on average, completed one desk position change every day.

Friendly reminders “The people who needed to sit and stand the most, as in the people who tended to remain the most sedentary throughout the day, responded the most to this software,” Benden said. “A group of participants did not use the sit-stand desk at all during the first phase. However, with the software reminders, not a single person failed to use their sit-stand desk.”

After the second phase, the researchers gave the participants a survey. The results of the survey indicated 51 percent of the workers were influenced and more motivated by observing their co-

workers’ habits with the sit-stand desks rather than by the software reminders. The social context for reducing sedentary behavior is an important finding for future studies.

By J.D. Booth

When it comes to a classic supply-demand issue — this one the imbalance in the number of workers needed to take care of an aging population in Michigan — experts are saying things aren’t likely to get better unless some fundamental changes occur in the funding model.

Indeed, solving the problem is mostly about the money — particularly what the industry is paying its workers — which means fewer people are choosing to go into a field where demand already outstrips supply.

Dr. Clare Luz, an assistant professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University who has studied the issue for a decade, says there’s a need for some 32,000 more eldercare workers next year.

Difficult jobs

It’s a critical shortage, said Luz.

“Most older people want to stay home and families need help caring for them,” she said. “In-home personal care assistants are important because they can pay close attention to people’s medical needs.”

Those jobs are difficult, both mentally and physically, notes Erin Swadley, who owns Marquette Home Care, which provides assisted living for the elderly. “A lot of times care workers are dealing with people who have dementia, so you’re always repeating yourself, and that can be emotionally draining,” she said.

Melanie Brim, president and CEO of the Michigan Health Council, agrees with Luz’s observations.

The issue is exacerbated by high turnover of staff, largely related to the rates of pay that are typically at or around $12 an hour, which is considered to be below a living wage.

“The result is that recruiting people to the field is difficult,” said Brim.

Rewarding, but taxing

And while there may be personal rewards to those who serve as a caregiver, there’s also an acknowledgment that the inherent conditions of the work are often taxing — including incontinence and behavioral issues, even to the point of sudden bursts of violence exhibited toward a caregiver.

“It’s hard work,” notes Brim. “It’s not well-paid so there’s an incredibly high turnover, so as you’re trying to recruit, you’re also always trying to replace people.”

Experts like MSU’s Luz, who is part of IMPART Alliance, an organization of elder care workers, researchers and agencies working to fill the need for more workers, are working to create a standard training program and increasing awareness of the need.

IMPART Alliance officials also meet with legislators to alert them to the problem.

Perhaps the best long-term answer to the problem lies in better pay for eldercare workers.

Ruthanne Sudderth, senior vice president of public affairs and communications at the Michigan Health & Hospital Association, said taking a very broad perspective on the issue is important, especially due to the different challenges faced in different parts of the state.

“There are some that are aligned, but the challenges faced by our members definitely vary based on who they serve and where they serve them,” said Sudderth.

“Part of it is making sure we have reliable data on the healthcare workforce issues that we are facing and understanding where the need to focus is,” she added. “We need to ensure we have the leadership capacity from the state and from stakeholders like the MHA and others to work together to develop solutions to some of these capacity issues, whether that’s incentivizing providers to go into some of these high-need fields or incentivizing providers to go into high-need geographies.”

Recruitment and retention

Currently, however, firms that hire those workers are faced with reimbursement rates that don’t support the kind of wages that are likely to sustain an organization’s recruitment and retention efforts.

Bob Stein, general counsel for the Michigan Assisted Living Association, would agree that work needs to be done at the level of professionalizing the field and communicating to prospective employees how intrinsically rewarding the work can be.

However, a better economy also means that people have more options when it comes to entry-level jobs.

“This is not one of their choices,” he said. “In Traverse City, for instance, places like Walmart, McDonald’s or Target raise their minimum wage to $11 because you can pass the cost to the customers, but not with this job.”

MSU’s Luz says the issue here is different because it’s a matter of life or death for many.

And then there’s Marquette Home Care’s Swadley, who says the basic problem is a fundamentally easy one to understand, but not one that’s easily solvable.

“I’ve been struggling to hire more workers for a while now and the best thing we can do is to provide a more livable wage,” she said. “That’s the best way to attract more skilled workers.”

Zaria Phillips of Capital News Service contributed to this report. See her full story at:

By Brad Kadrich

Ever wonder why researchers seem to be so passionate about their work?

Researchers at the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids believe they’ve tracked a gene believed to be part of the cause of pancreatic cancer and one that will lead to earlier detection of the disease.

By adding huge numbers of investigators and increasing budget and facilities, researchers at Michigan State University say they’re making big strides in women’s health issues such as endometriosis and other cancers, as well as women’s health issues related to childbirth.

And, at the University of Michigan, a team of medical researchers has come together under the name Michigan OPEN to study how opioids are being prescribed to surgery patients of all kinds, and to use that knowledge to develop the first-ever prescribing guidelines for surgeons based on what patients actually use.

That’s why.

“We’ve been working on a test for pancreatic cancer, one of the most deadly forms because it’s diagnosed so late,” said David Van Andel, chairman and CEO of the Van Andel Institute, an independent biomedical research organization. “There hasn’t been a good test at all to diagnose it early, and this gives us a chance to do that. By the time it’s detected it’s usually stage four and it’s impossible to treat at that point. This would be a big change for pancreatic cancer treatment.”

The test, Van Andel said, would be like a blood test taken at an annual physical that “would be able to detect it extremely early.”

Van Andel said VAI’s researchers have already accomplished this feat in the lab.

“We’ve been able to prove it out in the lab, with a small populace of patients,” he said. “Now we have to go through the formal process, and go through the whole FDA process, to get it approved.”

‘Passion for it’

It’s only one area where VAI is building a research resume. The institute, established by Jay and Betty Van Andel in 1996, has grown into an organization that supports the work of more than 400 scientists, educators and staff, according to its website.

VAI excels in research into cancer, metabolism issues and degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, a subject near-and-dear to the family since VAI founder Jay Van Andel succumbed to it in 2004.

Van Andel said VAI researchers have “discovered the existence” of a protein in the appendix, and now “we have to figure out if there’s a triggering process.”

“If there is, we want to interrupt that process, and that would be the next stage in our research,” he said. “I truly believe we are one of the few global thought leaders when it comes to Parkinson’s research, and we’ve done that on purpose.”

Van Andel said his father’s passing from Parkinson’s is “guiding, entirely, the reasons we’re doing (the research).”

“We have a passion for it,” he said. “We felt it was an area that was grossly underserved. A lot of the attention goes to cancer, so a lot of these other – we call them ‘orphan’ diseases – don’t get a lot of attention. We felt we could make a difference.”

VAI has been making a difference since joining – helping to create, really – the “Medical Mile,” which started in the mid-1990s with discussions with then-Gov. John Engler about creating the Life Sciences Corridor.

The idea was to tie VAI together with the three universities – University of Michigan, Michigan State and Wayne State – to “work together instead of competing with each other.”

“Since we made that decision, there’s been about $2.5 billion of infrastructure built around us,” Van Andel said. “I believe we were a catalyst … bringing the MSU Medical School to Grand Rapids … by adding all those pieces to the puzzle, we began the journey.”

Michigan State University

MSU not only joined in the Medical Mile effort but has been involved in a major expansion of its medical research facility over the last five years. According to Dr. Doug Gage, the school’s assistant vice president for research and innovation, MSU has seen “significant growth” in the Grand Rapids area.

In particular, Gage said, the school opened two buildings in the Grand Rapids Research Center, a brand new, $100 million research facility.

With the new buildings come more researchers. Gage said the school has hired more than 100 new faculty in the STEM and biomedical research areas as part of an initiative called the Global Impact Initiative, and 86 faculty in a variety of areas ranging from genomics to cancer, biology, Alzheimer’s and, like VAI, work in Parkinson’s.

“The opportunity to collaborate with Spectrum Health and the (other) universities was a great opportunity,” Gage said. “We have a great partnership with Spectrum, and with Children’s and a number of hospitals along the Medical Mile.”

The school is also heavy into research into women’s health issues and neuro-developmental conditions such as autism.

“The value of Spectrum Health and having the medical community nearby can’t be underestimated,” Esselman said. “It’s a huge value to us.”

With some 30 principal investigators – and 6-10 staff people for each – MSU has a “few hundred people in the new building,” according to Dr. Walt Esselman, MSU’s senior associate dean for research, those are focused on “a huge effort” to tackle neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Gage pointed to another initiative – the Institute for Quantitative Health, Sciences and Engineering – centered around biomedical engineering and imaging. They have an “experienced, well-known investigator” in Christopher Contag from Stanford, who Gage called “one of the world leaders in biomedical imaging” which, he said, covers everything from the molecular level to organ-level imaging.

“The (institute) has a very strong emphasis on imaging,” Gage said. “We’ve been able to recruit 20 faculty from around the country, including Johns Hopkins, Harvard, etc. It’s a great opportunity to pioneer biomedical engineering with a focus on imaging.”

According to Gage and Esselman, MSU has been making “major advancements” in research the last half-dozen years. Expenditures have increased almost 40% in the last few years.

“It’s another example of bridging the gap between clinical science and basic education,” Gage said. “We don’t have a university hospital, so most of our work is done in partnership with other hospitals. There’s a new McLaren Hospital on our campus; Karmanos (Cancer Center) will also be represented. It provides a great opportunity for collaboration.”

University of Michigan

Like its educational brethren, the University of Michigan puts a lot of effort – and faith – into its research program. The school spends some $1.5 billion – that’s billion with a “b” – on research of all kinds.

About 40% of that – some $640 million – is spent by the U-M medical school on research. But the medical school isn’t the only one involved.

“There is health and medical research (going on) in some other areas of the university, too,” said Kara Gavin, the school’s research & policy media relations manager. “I think it would be entirely safe to say that more than half of all research at U-M is related to medicine and health.”

U-M’s research facilities and staff are significant enough to draw a ton of federal funding, as well. According to Gavin, of all the institutions in the country that receive funding from the National Institutes of Health, which funds the vast majority of the nation’s medical research, U-M’s medical school ranked 12th in dollars received.

How important is medical research at U-M? According to the school’s website, there are 2.8 million square feet of lab space. But even that doesn’t tell the whole story, according to Gavin. Some research – clinical trials and health services research, for instance – doesn’t require lab space.

Gavin said the school is undertaking some 1,800 clinical studies, allowing patients and community members to volunteer to work with school researchers to test new treatments going on at any given time. And health services research “crunches massive amounts of data” about health care, she said, to find new things, including “what’s working and what’s not.”

“Another measure of the importance of research at U-M is the number of times every year our researchers share their knowledge with the world by publishing findings in medical research journals so that others can learn from and use them,” said Gavin, who pointed out that, in fiscal 2018, U-M Medical School researchers published 6,791 papers.

In Michigan Medicine, the name for U-M’s academic medical center (which includes the medical school), more than 10,000 faculty and staff are involved in research. According to Gavin, there are more than 3,000 research projects going on at any given time.

One of the more exciting projects going on, Gavin said, is the U-M Precision Health initiative, a major effort launched in late 2017 that brings together researchers from a broad range of scientific and health disciplines across U-M, to “advance health research and improve clinical care by harnessing ‘big data.’

“The initiative includes everything from building big databases of genetic and clinical information for researchers to use in their research, to funding specific projects, to a graduate certificate training program that will train people to work in the emerging field of precision health,” Gavin said.

Tackling the opioid crisis

Of course, the school has had a lot of research success, with one recent example, Gavin said, designed to “tackle a major problem in our society right now” – the opioid epidemic. Specifically, it’s figuring how to reduce the over-prescribing of opioid painkillers to patients having surgery across our state and nation, to reduce the risk that they’ll develop opioid dependence, while still making sure they get good pain control.

A team of U-M medical researchers has come together under the name Michigan OPEN to study how opioids are being prescribed to surgery patients of all kinds, and to use that knowledge to develop the first-ever prescribing guidelines for surgeons based on what patients actually use.

“They’ve helped surgery teams statewide actually put those guidelines into practice, and help surgery patients understand opioids better,” Gavin said. “The team has also planned drug take-back events across the state that make it easier for patients to dispose of any leftover opioid pills so they don’t fall into the wrong hands.”

By Karen Dybis

As a company that focuses on the health of the human eye, OCuSOFT Inc. works hard to make sure its employees see ways to improve, understand their growth potential within the company and have leadership training to get where they want to go as a professional.

To make that happen, the Rosenberg, Texas-based company seeks training opportunities, finds creative ways to help people learn more about their jobs or other job-related skills and goes out of its way to promote from within, said Courtney Mason, director of marketing for OCuSOFT.

Learning more on your own so you can become better at work is a key component to job success, studies show. One Pew Research report found that “54% of U.S. adults in the labor force say that, in order to keep up with changes in the workplace, it will be essential for them to get training and develop new skills throughout their work life.”

The privately held company describes itself as a research, development and supply business that specializes in eye and skin care. Founders Nat G. Adkins Jr., the company’s chairman, and Cynthia Barratt, the president and CEO, founded the company some 33 years ago to come up with ways to help people suffering with ocular surface disease or other eye-related issues.

Today, the company is most recognized for its doctor-recommended brand of eyelid cleansers, OCuSOFT Lid Scrub, in addition to its standing as the preferred distributor of ophthalmic products and supplies by eye care professionals.

Big growth The company’s growth since 1986 has been substantial. OCuSOFT started in an office complex with 350 square feet of space and currently has a 72,000-square-foot, 18-acre complex in Rosenberg. According to Barratt, OCuSOFT originally had representatives only out in the field. But about 20 years ago, it developed an inside sales force to meet and greet people the company couldn’t otherwise physically reach. As a result, of its more than 160 employees, about 40 are out in the field and 35 are inside sales customer service representatives.

The idea has always been to “lead from within,” Mason said, or to help its employees grow with the company so they could become managers and executives. That means taking on new skills, and that requires a lot of additional training.

To meet that goal, OCuSOFT relies on online training to help people gain that expertise so they can move up within the company’s ranks. If you’re interested in marketing or communications, for example, the company makes sure you also get training in graphic design, photography and video so you have a complement of skills right for those jobs.

The company’s HR team also gives employees access to websites such as Lynda, which has a wide array of courses and instructions on how to learn a new skill that may end up being a key part of receiving a new job within the organization.

“We want to help you achieve those skills because it’s beneficial to the individuals but also beneficial to the team,” Mason said.

In other words, OCuSOFT wants a staff that’s well-versed in the skills needed for the current job as well as future roles within the company, Mason added. Posting jobs internally with the skills needed gives current employees a chance to get up to speed and gain the skills they’ll need for those roles. Then, if they get the job, they receive the title and raises to match.

Open opportunities “We’re always interested in giving people a chance,” Mason said. “Because (these current employees) are already part of our culture, the learning curve isn’t as steep and you can jump right in.”

That said, OCuSOFT also is open to bringing in new people as needed. That’s why its employees carry business cards that have the information about the business right on them and easy ways to contact its HR department.

So if you meet someone interesting or who might fit in great for the culture, “we always have cards to give people,” Mason said. “We have a friendly corporate culture despite being such a big company. We operate more like a family.”

By Karen Dybis – August 29, 2019

Mondo’s “Career” website page highlights just how different this staffing agency is — and most of the information it shares has to do with how the industry leader handles vacation, paid time off and flexible work options.

The goal, explained copywriter Marcus Hatten, is to give the New York-based business a strong group of job candidates, which helps them find “the best of the best” to add its team.

To that end, Mondo created the Unlimited PTO policy. According to its website, it allows employees to “Chill hard, work harder.” The idea at first was to make sure every worker understood that they should take a vacation and that they deserved that time off, Hatten said.

“Personally, I can honestly say I don’t perform that well when I feel overwhelmed and stretched in too many places versus when I maybe take a day off or work from home one day of the week and have a chance to refresh,” Hatten said. “I can feel that I’m performing a lot between the next time I’m at work.”

Hatten said everyone receives vacation time at Mondo. Yet not everyone was using it. This included new employees, who may have decided that working themselves at all hours and every day was a good way to show that they were committed.

So then they got tough – PTO is now mandatory. Yup, you have to go out, leave the office and go… somewhere.

“That was a great policy, but employees weren’t using it. We wanted to encourage everyone to take time off and get away from the office,” Hatten said. “So we created a new policy – PTO is required. For example, a new employee has five mandatory PTO days versus a long-time employee. So someone who has three years in at the company has 15 mandatory PTO days.”

How has it done as a policy? It’s working, Hatten said. Now, people are taking their days and getting away from their desks.

“We’ve noticed it’s helped to take the stigma off of asking for paid time off,” Hatten said.

Every Mondo manager across the company is responsible for overseeing PTO on their teams, Hatten said. They collaborate with the HR department to receive a monthly report. In that report, there is everything about the team’s PTO, such as who has taken time off and who has not. From there, managers are supposed to encourage the team to take a day for vacation.

There’s good reason for Mondo’s policies. More than half of candidates say benefits and perks are among their top considerations before taking a new gig, according to Glassdoor’s 2017 employee benefits guide. Mondo believes tech employers should take extra time when crafting benefit and perks plans because the IT industry tied for the top spot among industries with the highest-rated benefits.

That goes hand in hand with Mondo prioritizing mental health and wellness. According to Hatten, Mondo believes that people need time off to reset your brain and reflect.

“We want you to be the best that you can be and you won’t be your best if you’re here every day,” Hatten said. “People need work-life balance because employees need to take care of themselves first and foremost. You can’t take care of the business if you’re not taking care of yourself.”

To that end, Mondo offers an annual membership to the Headspace app to encourage its employees to balance work and life, to improve their self-care and try meditation.

“Happy employees is good business,” Hatten said. “For example, we’re seeing if (Headspace) is a tool that can help them, especially the sales team and account managers who are out in the field and have a more robust and all over the place day.”

By Karen Dybis – June 13, 2019

The numbers don’t lie: Nationally and locally, employees of every level in business are feeling burned out.

In a survey conducted by Robert Half in April, Detroit workers reported their level of burnout to be 6.51 on a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being not at all burned out, 10 being completely burnt out). This compares to the national average of 5.6.

Some of the reasons why Detroiters felt burned out included constant interruptions, unmanageable workloads, long hours at the office, career stagnation or a feeling that there is no room for growth as well as toxic workplace cultures.

Burnout is a real and serious issue, said Robin Ankton, regional vice president of Robert Half in Detroit. She believes both sides of the office — employees and employers — need to take responsibility for recognizing and addressing workplace burnout.

“This is so real right now to people. We’re doing more with less every day and we have to take care of ourselves and employers have to be more flexible to help us,” Ankton said.

Q: How do workers know if they’re burned out?
A: People don’t always recognize that they’re burned out. They’re so deep into the treadmill that they keep doing the same things over and over. They don’t recognize they’re not in a good place. They need to look for signs — it starts in your physical body. Some signs can include fatigue, lack of sleep or difficulty sleeping.

Q: How do you know if you’re burned out from work or a busy life?
A: I tell people you need to work backwards — why do I feel this way. There are two areas to consider: Work and home. If you look at work, think about how you’re doing on the job. Are you missing deadlines? Are you making mistakes you never made before? People don’t slow down enough to reflect — you’ll be better off in the long run to take that time.

Q: How do you manage burnout?
I definitely think people need to be more physically active. It could be yoga. It could be gardening. But you need some sort of physical release beyond the normal, like doing dishes or laundry. Get out, go beyond the normal. Get some fresh air. Take a walk. Try to find something enjoyable when you’re not at work to balance that out. But you also need to prioritize your time at work and protect your time. Prioritize your day so you can get things done in a timely fashion. Learn to say no. Ask for help. What can be done today? What could be done tomorrow? Slow down so you can be more productive.

Q: How can you take time to avoid burnout while at the job site?
A: Take a break. Get up from your desk, get outside, take five minutes and get some fresh air. It’s surprising how good that can make you feel, especially with the summer weather and sunshine. Don’t suffer alone. If you feel that burned out or overwhelmed, you have to talk to somebody. Take to your supervisor; open that dialogue. Ask for help. There’s nothing like face-to-face interaction.

Q: What can employers do?
A: The employer too has to pay attention. Look at attitudes. Look for decreased productivity or mistakes. Take those steps of going to employees who never miss a deadline and ask if everything’s ok. Encourage open communication. Don’t assume they’ll come to you if there’s a problem. (Your employees) might need work-balance arrangements like telecommuting, flextime, job sharing, compressed work weeks. There are options you can offer that can really help (and) they’re at no cost! The upside of that can be tremendous.

By Karen Dybis – February 14, 2019

The Michigan Legislature recently enacted, and later amended, a new paid sick leave law – the first of its kind in the state. It goes into effect in March.

The new law was enacted and amended in an unusual manner, which has led to much uncertainty and conflicting information.

Rebecca Davies, a labor and employment attorney at Butzel Long, is an expert on the current status of Michigan’s Paid Sick Leave Act and helps businesses identify the top 10 things all Michigan employers should know about the new law.

Davies has had success both in and out of the courtroom and has received no cause verdicts in the defense of employment and commercial jury trials as well as obtaining numerous summary judgment decisions, dismissals and favorable settlements in a wide range of employment disputes, including harassment, discrimination, and wage claims. She also regularly counsels employers regarding compliance under federal and state employment laws (including FLSA, FMLA, ADA and Title VII), drafts employment policies, and advises on preventative strategies.

Davies and her fellow Butzel Long attorneys Lynn McGuire and Brett Rendeiro gave Corp! magazine a primer on newly enacted Paid Medical Leave Act (“PMLA”) that soon be taking effect. The following is a brief summary of this new law:

Q. How much paid time off is required under the PMLA?
A. The Act requires covered employers to provide 40 hours of paid medical leave to an eligible employee per year.

Q. Must all employers comply with the PMLA?
A. No, the PMLA only applies to employers with at least 50 employees. Further, the Act’s definition of “employer” specifically excludes the United States government, another state, or a political subdivision of another state.

Q. Would all workers be eligible for paid medical leave?
A. “Employee” is defined to include individuals for whom the employer is required to withhold federal income tax (in other words, it excludes independent contractors). However, the 12 exclusions to this definition severely limit its applicability. Some of the major exclusions include:
• employees who are considered exempt under “white collar” exemptions of the Fair Labor Standards Act;
• employees who worked in the previous calendar year an average of fewer than 25 hours per week;
• employees who have worked for 25 weeks or fewer in a calendar year for a job scheduled for 25 weeks or fewer;
• an individual who is not employed by a public agency and is covered by a collective bargaining agreement that is in effect;
• an individual classified by the employer as a variable hour employee during their first year of employment because the employer expects their hours to vary and does not reasonably know if they will average over 30 hours per week for the year; and
• an individual whose primary work location is not in Michigan

Q. Must the employer provide this paid leave time separate and apart from other paid leave it offers?
A. No, paid leave must be available for use for medical leave as discussed below, but the employer can allow it to be used for other purposes too, such as paid vacation days, paid personal days, and other time off.

Q. Is the employee restricted to using this paid time off only for the employee’s personal medical issues?
A. No, an eligible employee may use paid medical leave accrued for any of the following: (a) the eligible employee’s mental or physical illness; (b) the eligible employee’s family member’s mental or physical illness; (c) the medical care and/or time to participate in court proceedings if the eligible employee or his/her family member is a victim of domestic violence or sexual assault; or (d) for specific public health emergencies, ordered by a public official or healthcare provider, for the employee or the employee’s child.

Q. Must the covered employer provide all of the paid sick time up front at the beginning of each calendar year?
A. No, a covered employer has two options to provide this leave: (1) accrual method; or (2) frontloading method. Under the accrual method, eligible employees accrue a minimum of one hour of paid leave for every 35 “hours worked,” for a maximum of one hour per calendar week and 40 hours in a “benefit year.” An alternative to accrual, employers may “frontload” 40 hours of paid medical leave to employees at the beginning of the benefit year.

Q. Can eligible employees carry over any unused time to the next year?
A. It depends on the distribution method used by the employer.

If the accrual method is used, the covered employer is required to allow an employee to carry over up to 40 hours of accrued leave per year. Even if the employee carries over time to the next year, the employer is not required to allow the eligible employee to use more than 40 hours per year.

If an employer frontloads the time, then it is not required to allow an employee to carry over any paid medical leave to the next year.

Q. What are the consequences, if a covered employer fails to comply with the PMLA?
A. Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs may impose penalties and grant an eligible employee or former eligible employee payment of all paid medical leave improperly withheld. Penalties may include an administrative fine of not more than $1,000. Also, an employer that willfully violates the posting requirement is subject to an administrative fine of not more than $100 for each separate violation.

Q. May an employee file a lawsuit if he/she believes that the employer violated the PMLA?
A. No. The Act has eliminated the private cause of action and retaliatory personnel action provisions. Any claim alleging a violation of the Act must be made as an administrative complaint, rather than as a lawsuit in court. Thus, an eligible employee who believes his or her rights have been violated must file an administrative complaint with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs within six months.

Q. Can an employer provide more paid medical leave than required by the Act?
A: Most definitely!

With House Republicans proposing a rollback on the sales tax on gasoline as part of their road funding plan, schools and local governments are probably wondering how lawmakers would make up the roughly $900 million in revenue lost as a result.

One potential source: Expand the state sales tax to services, which would yield $10.7 billion in revenue, according to a state report from 2016.

The House budget for transportation and roads proposes dialing back the sales tax on gas and replacing it with the gas tax, with the idea that all of the revenue collected at the pump would go to roads.

But regardless of where it’s collected, 73 percent of sales tax revenue goes to the School Aid Fund, with the remainder going to local government and other spending items from the General Fund.

A Citizens Research Council (CRC) report from earlier this year put the amount of sales tax collected at the pump at $894 million.

It’s also been estimated at between $800 and $850 million, with the School Aid Fund about a $600 million chunk of that.

According to the Treasury report based on Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 data, the estimated loss of sales tax revenue for the state because of the services exemption was $10.7 billion.

The biggest chunk of potential revenue comes from the health care and social assistance services sector, which could generate $3.3 billion. The next biggest sector was professional, scientific and technical services, at $2.02 billion in possible revenue.

But the Treasury report notes that “attempts by states to extend sales taxes to services have been unsuccessful generally,” including here in Michigan, when the Legislature approved a short-lived sales tax on services in 2007 as part of a deal to avoid a government shutdown.

Yet the Treasury report indicated the “expanded tax base was sharply criticized” and the expanded tax was repealed as it was scheduled to take effect a few months later, replaced by a business tax surcharge.

All exemptions in the state sales tax — including food and prescription drugs, as other examples — add up to a total of $15.3 billion in foregone revenue in FY 2014, according to the report.

Treasury noted that eliminating every exemption would allow the state to drop its sales tax to 2.2 percent while maintaining current revenue.

By Carole Valade – June 6, 2019

The number of Michigan public colleges and universities creating shared relationships is increasing, a point made obvious by the posting of continuous updates by Michigan Association of State Universities from across the lower and upper peninsulas.

But someone had to be first and that came in 1986 with a relationship between the Grand Rapids Community College and Ferris State University.

The initiative, the first two-year/four-year link-up, is being credited to Grand Rapids Junior College President Richard Calkins and Ferris President J. William Wenrich as the GRCC Applied Technology Center was amidst funding and construction.

Storied collaboration
The two higher education institutions celebrated the storied collaboration in Grand Rapids in late May when Ferris President David Eisler honored GRCC President Bill Pink during a “partner celebration” punctuated by success stories of recent grads of the dual programs.

While the unique West Michigan collaboration continues to be celebrated almost 30 years later, its most important aspect was underscored by Pink: “The product of that intentionality is an educated citizen.”

FSU President Helen Popovich celebrated the beginning of the collaboration in 1991 when Ferris first opened classrooms in GRCC’s new Applied Technology Center (a project which, itself, brought together several economic development, community investors and leaders in storied Grand Rapids partnership style. Former Cascade Engineering CEO Fred Keller raised cash and in-kind contributions of equipment and furnishings from 173 individuals and companies).

Remarking on his predecessors, Eisler noted, “They did something that had never been done before. … A student can begin their education right at home at GRCC and then — in the same building — continue with their education… still taking GRCC courses and taking FSU courses at the same time. That’s the beauty of this arrangement,” he said. And then he stressed that while the opportunity is commonly used by traditional-age students, Eisler added, “It’s a lifesaver for adult learners,” who budget time and resources between jobs, families and education. “We’re creating an educated workforce for Grand Rapids and West Michigan,” he emphasized.

Pink noted GRCC is the oldest community college in Michigan and one of the oldest in the country. He half-joked that after taking the office of president two years ago and seeing how the partnership worked, he wanted to call former colleagues to say, “Hey, guess what we’re doing!

Being intentional brought results
“It’s all about intentionality,” Pink emphasized, “That follow up must be there and must be sure. That’s what this partnership is all about, intentionality. It was a whole other thing (back then) to move into one’s building and then have people in that (shared) building collaborate.”

Pink pronounced, “The product of that intentionality is an educated citizen. A graduate. Someone who walks across the stage, walks into a job, walks into a career that is meaningful. And that’s why this partnership works.”

In 2001, the institutions signed a concurrent enrollment agreement and 10 years later inked a reverse transfer agreement that allows coursework completed at a four-year university to be transferred back to a community college, satisfying requirements for an associate degree.

The schools have also partnered to offer 2+2 and 3+1 programs that allow students to move more efficiently toward the completion of a degree.

The ATC (renamed in 2008 to honor the financial support of David and Michelle Bottral and Tom and Joyce Wisner) houses labs for a litany of fields, among them CAD; plastics technology; computer applications; electronics; robotics; energy management; machine tooling; air-conditioning, heating and refrigeration; materials testing; hydraulics and pneumatics; the Secchia Institute for Culinary Education; nuclear medicine; molecular diagnostics; respiratory care; digital animation and game design; and digital media software engineering.

Sustainability took a step forward with the 2007 installation of a “green roof” on GRCC’s building.

The two institutions re-signed an agreement in September of 2016, committing to continued learning opportunities for West Michigan students. And in early May of this year, GRCC Foundation campaign leaders celebrated having raised $12 million toward a $15 million community-based fundraising goal. The public-facing effort follows support from the State of Michigan and Foundation for scholarships and a 20,000-foot expansion of the ATC.

“Our work engages partner organizations that in turn make our programming more robust and valuable to students,” said officials from Ferris State. “The celebration showcases how FSU and GRCC work together to have a transformative effect and change lives — the positive difference innovative collaboration makes for area families.”

Both presidents left the podium of the May event, perhaps only rhetorically asking, “What’s next?”


By Dave Ramsey – June 6, 2019

Do meetings at your company sometimes feel like a big waste of time? If yes, you’re not alone. More than 11 million formal meetings are held each day in America, and according to a survey by Microsoft, nearly three-quarters of the attendees feel those meetings are not productive. Add to that the nearly 40 percent who admit to dozing off at some point, or the 90 percent who fess up to daydreaming for a portion of these sessions, and you can see why meetings have earned such a bad reputation.

There are many ways to keep your meetings on-track and worthwhile, however. To get you started, here are a few of the most common meeting-related problems and how to fix them:

Meetings never start on time
Time is money. So, when your staff comes dragging in, even just a few minutes late, it’s costing you. Let everyone on your team know, in writing, that being late to a meeting is not an option. Be kind, but clear. Those attending should be prepared and ready to go, even if it means arriving 10 minutes early. Your meetings should always start on time, no matter how many people are missing.

Nothing gets accomplished, except scheduling another meeting
Set an agenda, and stick to it! If someone goes off track, it’s your job as a leader to reel them back in. If an issue isn’t resolved, assign someone to work on it, to report back by a certain date, then move on.

No one pays attention
In our society, the average attention span is about 10 to 18 minutes. Even a quick, half-hour meeting can cause people to check out. Keep your team engaged by asking for input. Avoid lectures, too. These are sure-fire attention killers. If you must schedule a longer meeting, include one or two breaks.

Also, a meeting scheduled too early or too late can kill its effectiveness. If you plan a meeting near noon, make sure lunch is provided. Nothing gets someone off track as much as hunger.

The meetings run long
Have you ever been in a meeting that just goes on and on, taking twice as long as necessary? We all have, which is why it’s a great idea to set a time limit. Then, if the session gets off-track or someone feels the need to endlessly talk about a situation, you can gently (but firmly) remind everyone that time is limited.

Meetings don’t have to be brain cell-killing, time-sucking gatherings. If done right, they will increase productivity and communication—despite the time they take!