How to Attract and Hire the Right Staff

According to Wasp Barcode's recent annual State of Small Business Report, 50 percent of small businesses say hiring new employees is the top challenge they face. That makes it the No. 1 challenge for businesses with less than 499 employees, followed by increasing profits, employee health care, growing revenue and cash flow.

There is little question that if Wasp’s small business researchers had only surveyed the dog walking and pet sitting industry, any company with at least one employee would agree that hiring is their biggest challenge. Our industry is an intimate service where we access a client’s home and handle their most prized asset; our reputation is directly in the hands of those we hire and vouch for with our clientele. If you’ve ever hired someone and regretted it, you likely know the mantra “Slow to hire; Fast to fire” for good reason. 

So how do you know who to look for? What qualifications, character traits and availability should you expect from your hires?  How will you know who you can trust, especially considering they will be entering your clients’ homes unsupervised and representing your company?

“How do you know who you can trust?”

The truth is, hiring is a delicate combination of looking at someone’s past and current makeup as well as their future goals—and trusting your instincts. Asking for a resume, for example, allows you to see how long this person has stayed at each previous job. If they have changed jobs every four months over the past two years, will they leave after four months with you?

Attracting the Right Kind of Staff

When you’re looking to bring on pet sitters and dog walkers, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’ve budgeted a certain amount for advertising your job post, you may consider job boards such as Craig’s List, Indeed, Zip Recruiter or Glassdoor, just to name a few. If you would prefer not to spend money, you may have free opportunities at a local coffee shop, community center, library or gym to attract a local candidate. It’s important to remember, however, that if you’re serious about finding good help, it may be worth the financial investment.  

In your job description, be as specific as possible about what the job entails and what you expect. Being vague will mean that you’ll need to weed people out by engaging in emailed questions and interviews, which is a waste of your time and theirs. Tell candidates exactly what you’re looking for so they can weed themselves out if this is not the job for them. For instance, if your region experiences severely inclement winters, you’ll need dog walkers who can spend a fair amount of time in frigid temperatures.

“Tell candidates exactly what you're looking for”

You’ll also want to be upfront about how much they can earn working for you. Be realistic and honest—if they will only make $250 per week, job seekers need to know that. You’ll also need to think about the availability your candidates will need to have, while considering other part-time jobs that would work in tandem with yours. If you’re looking for Monday through Friday dog walkers, you’ll likely want them available between 10am and 4pm. That means your staff could be working another job in the early mornings or nights. Or it could also mean they have financial flexibility.

Grad students, for example, may have financial assistance allowing them the flexibility of a smaller work schedule. Classes typically take place at night so their daytime hours are free, and they may be looking for a more relaxing job away from the mental stress of their studies. For that reason, if you’re located near a college, consider posting your ad on the university job board. Actors, restaurant workers, freelance writers or video editors, parents with school-aged children and retirees can all make viable candidates as well because their days are typically open.

In your requirements list, there are a few additional things you may want to include. Depending on your service area, it may be essential that they have a car or a bike to use for work. Where they live can also be important – you don’t want them driving too far to and from the job unless you’re planning to compensate for their excessive commute time. If you are using a scheduling software, they will also need a smart phone so they can access their schedule, check-in/check-out and send feedback reports to your clients after their jobs are complete. If you’re hiring independent contractors (ICs), you’ll likely want them to have previous experience since your training, by law, must be limited; and they’ll need their own legally set-up company from which to invoice you.

Responses to Your Job Listing

Today’s applicants range from those simply using their cellphone to utilize a “one-click” reply with a preloaded resume, to those who actually take the time to go through your ad and thoroughly respond.

Because your staff must have an attention to detail – they will need to read through all of the visit routine notes to ensure they are following the client’s direction – you should expect them to have an eye for detail when it comes to responding to your ad.  If you’ve asked any questions or requested a resume, your applicant should reply accordingly. Additionally, a well-written response with enthusiasm gives you foresight into what their communication style might look like with your clients.

Once you’ve narrowed your search to a few candidates, it’s smart to start with a phone interview. Your time is valuable, so it’s important to get the information you need as quickly as possible. A phone interview will allow you to explain the job in further detail so your candidate knows what would be expected of them. Then, having passed your first two rounds of screening, a face-to-face interview will give you a full sense of your applicant. If you’ve settled on a certain contender, be sure to check their professional references and execute a background check before moving forward – these two steps could prove to be critical in identifying your potential hire.

Once hired, your onboarding systems and thorough training process will set your new additions up for success!

Cash Flow Issues? Consider a Business Line of Credit.

Cash Flow Issues? Consider a Business Line of Credit.

If you’re like me and run payroll biweekly, there will be two months each calendar year where payroll is paid 3x in one month! Depending on your client payment cycle(s), this may result in a slight (or not so slight) cash flow issue – aka you don’t have enough business funds to pay for a potentially large expense like payroll, workers compensation payment, or insurance payment.

Working Your Way

Working Your Way

Most pregnant women understand the urge to “nest” and get ready for their baby by preparing a nursery, attending childbirth classes and reading books on what to expect. In 2015, I was a pregnant entrepreneur and pushed myself to “nest” for my baby AND business all at once.

Hiring Independent Contractors vs Employees

Hiring Independent Contractors vs Employees

Hiring for the first time can be a terrifying necessity if you plan to grow. You must trust that another person will deliver the same care you have always provided your clients, and that loss of control often leads owners to grip tightly onto rules for their new staff members to follow. But the amount of instruction you are allowed to give your new hires depends on how you define the relationship between the two of you.

Houston dog mysteriously dies under care of popular dog walking app Wag

Instead of receiving a call to confirm that Winnie was back home after the walk, the couple was told Winnie was at a nearby vet and they needed to go pick up her body.

"We were devastated. Winnie was our best friend," Nick said. "We would get grief from our family because our world revolved around that dog. We were just in disbelief."

Nick and Sara Moore of Houston hired a dog walker through the popular company Wag in Dec. 2018. After Winnie was killed during a walk with a Wag walker, the company allegedly offered the couple a little less than $200 to keep quiet about the incident and refused to answer any of their questions.Media: Nick Moore

The Moore's said they experienced several major inconsistencies from the time they heard the news about Winnie up until their last contact with the company. Any history of Winnie's last walk, which was recorded by GPS through the app, was deleted. The couple never found out where the accident took place or who even took their dog to the vet after she was struck.

"Every time we talked to them and we tried to get information, we got conflicting information, information that didn't make sense," Nick said.

A representative from Wag provided the Chronicle with the following statement regarding Winnie's death:

"We were deeply saddened by Winnie's death, and we extend our sympathy to the Moore's during this difficult time. The walker has been suspended from the Wag! platform. We have offered to reimburse the pet parents for their expenses."

The Moore's said Wag did offer to pay for Winnie's cremation but required that they sign a settlement and non-disclosure agreement preventing them from sharing any details regarding the incident. That included posting about Winnie's death on social media, posting any negative reviews or holding Wag or the walker responsible.

They decided not to sign the document and after much debate, shared a heartbreaking video of Nick playing with Winnie, commenting on the incident. The Moore's said their intentions were not to cast blame on the company or seek revenge but to hopefully inform other Houston dog owners of their personal experience with the company.

"We thought to ourselves if this happened to our neighbor or one of our friends, we would want them to tell us," Sara said. "We felt like we would be doing a disservice to the people we cared about [if we kept quiet]."

The Moore's post went viral, earning over 138,124 views as of Jan. 21. They said they received support from all over the world and have been overwhelmed by people's responses to their story.

"I've had someone reach out that said she had a similar story and us sharing our story has given her the confidence to share hers as well," Sara said. "It's [the online response] so much more than we anticipated, but we don't regret our decision."

Monday night, Wag's chief executive officer, Hilary Schneider, shared a letter to the Wag community addressing various claims other Wag users have made, including how the company responded and handled recent incidents.

Schneider stated in the letter it will be "revisiting and reviewing" customer service systems and is also updating its payment claim.

"As a result of your feedback, we've already updated our policy regarding such agreements so that we're responding with the highest level of sensitivity to the nature of each individual case," the letter stated.

Rebecca Hennes covers community news. Read her on our breaking news siteChron.com, and on our subscriber site, houstonchronicle.com. | rebecca.hennes@chron.com| Text CHRON to 77453 to receive breaking news alerts by text message


New ABC Test For Independent Contractors Sends California Employers Reeling

Are you running a business in California? If so, there is an important ruling regarding employing 1099 contractors. More and more states are considering adopting this same ABC test. Read below for important information and let us know if we can help!

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The “ABC test” recently adopted by the California Supreme Court in the Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court case is now touted as the best way to make the distinction between an “exploited employee” and an “entrepreneur.” The court’s adoption of the ABC test for determining whether an employee should be classified as an employee or independent contractor has sent shock waves to businesses which have relied in the past upon a flexible, multi-factor common law test where none of the individual factors, taken alone, are necessarily controlling.   

ABC Test

A hiring entity classifying an individual as an independent contractor now bears the burden of establishing that such a classification is proper under the “ABC test.” To do so, the entity must prove each of the following three factors:

(A)  that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact;

(B)  that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and

(C)  that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed.

More than 20 states already use some form of the ABC test, although for most of them the test has been used for only a particular inquiry such as unemployment insurance determinations. In California, however, the state Supreme Court specifically ruled that the ABC test should be broadly applied for inquiries under the California Wage Orders as to whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor.

Because the Wage Orders regulate the terms and conditions of employees in all industries and occupations, the new test will have far-reaching consequences. Some areas of the law remain unsettled, such as whether the ABC test should be applied to Labor Code claims not arising under a Wage Order (for example, claims for expense reimbursement under Section 2802) or to what extent state or local federal courts could find that an element of the test is preempted by federal law.

Applying The ABC Test

Many businesses have service workers who request to be paid as 1099 independent contractors. These include workers across a broad spectrum of occupations and industries, such as truck drivers, exotic dancers, contract accountants, IT workers, and even high-level managers with special skills. Among their most common reasons: avoiding income taxes or other tax relief benefits. But a worker’s request to be reclassified, standing alone, won’t turn the scales in an employer’s favor. 

In Dynamax, the court maintained that the public interest in social welfare does not always jive with the personal interests of workers and that, in the end, the intent of public policy in protecting workers is a central consideration in determining employee versus independent contractor status. The consequences of misclassification continue to raise complicated issues when multiple entities are involved, including joint liability upon a finding of joint employment. 

Another problem made worse by the Dynamex case arises from the growing number of workers in the “gig economy,” which depends on the use of independent contractors as a business model. Companies are now being forced to rethink whether their particular model at the heart of their business runs afoul of the ABC test and could result in misclassification liability.

In the end, businesses should think not only about their own potential liability, but the potential liability of affiliated companies benefitting jointly from the services performed. Given that the risk of misclassification presumably could be greater in such situations, vendors and business affiliates similarly should be concerned about these risks. They could impact contractual relationships including the attempt, noted by Dynamex, to spread the risks by various means such as indemnification agreements. 

PRONG A – “free from the control and direction of the hiring entity”

Due to the prevalence of decisions examining “control” under the old test, it is foreseeable that many businesses will suffer losses due to misclassification under factor A of the ABC test. The fact that some workers request, or require, a 1099 arrangement generally will not help much if the other facts don’t support independent contractor status. And one issue impacting this factor is whether the worker treated as an independent contractor was also the same individual doing the work when classified as an employee, which the Dynamex court cautioned is an example of where control is implicit.

PRONG B – “performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business”

Many employers in California using independent contractors have been confronted with the reality that, given the ABC test—particularly Prong B—their business model is in trouble. The California Supreme Court reasoned that services that would ordinarily be viewed by others as falling within the hiring entity’s business rather than a worker’s “own independent business” render that worker an employee and not a contractor.

The examples provided by the court where a worker would satisfy this prong and be properly classified as a contractor were relatively clear cut: a retail store retaining a plumber or electrician to perform maintenance work at the facility, not a service normally provided by the retailer. As for specialized technical work within an isolated function of an employer’s business, the court said these are not among the types of jobs that would typically qualify, even though these have historically fallen within a gray area. This prong of the test could create differing opinions among courts attempting to interpret the new law.

Because the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act (FAAAA) preempts state laws that relate “to a price, route, or service” of a motor carrier, at least in the transportation industry, employers may argue that the FAAAA preempts an overbroad application of the “B” prong. So far, however, California courts have not ruled in favor of preemption when this element was part of the larger list of factors subject to discretionary weighing. On the other hand, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals, addressing Massachusetts’ ABC test, has found preemption of the B factor on different facts, so there may be some hope on the horizon if California courts revisit this question.

PRONG C – “independently established trade, occupation, or business”

Under the third prong, businesses will be required to prove that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work they are performing for the hiring entity. The court again referred to such workers as plumbers and electricians retained for limited functions or projects as those traditionally fitting into this prong. On the other hand, workers engaged to carry out a skilled function that is a normal part of a particular integrated part of a business—as opposed to someone in a separate trade, occupation, or business retained for doing a separate service outside the employment context—may nonetheless be prone to be viewed as employees no matter how skilled the work involved. 

For the above reasons, organizations with independent contractors will need to examine these factors as they relate to their business. There is good reason to be very careful with regard to engaging any independent contractors going forward, especially workers who are working as single individuals (“one-person company”) rather than companies who have retained a force of workers in an independent business. 

Does Dynamex Have Retroactive Application? 

There is yet another reason for concern by employers: the issue of whether the Dynamex decision applies retroactively. This issue could mean the difference between catastrophic liability or merely a correction going forward, as needed.

Businesses maintain that the new mandatory test adopted by the Dynamex decision should not apply to employers retroactively because it would violate due process. After all, businesses relied upon the older tests that balanced multiple elements for years, establishing their business model in reliance upon the more flexible factors. On the other hand, employee advocates contend that the decision merely clarified existing law and therefore should apply retroactively. This issue is currently before the California Supreme Court, and we should soon have an answer to this question. 

Does Dynamex Apply To Joint Employment Scenarios?

There is some good news, however. One California appellate court has already limited the scope of the ABC test, ruling that the test does not apply when determining whether two businesses are joint employers of an individual already treated as an employee. Instead, the court ruled that it only applies when determining whether an individual has been correctly classified as an independent contractor. A word of caution, however: the May 18 decision in Curry v. Equilon Enterprises, LLCcomes from a state appellate court, not the state Supreme Court, so there may be further court rulings on this topic before all is said and done.

Conclusion

Regardless of the outcome on the retroactivity and joint employment questions, businesses would be wise to carefully evaluate their independent contractor relationships with Fisher Phillips legal counsel in California to avoid liability going forward, as there are bound to be further legal decisions clarifying the application and scope of the ABC test.

For more information, contact the author at JSkousen@fisherphillips.com or 949.798.2164.

Business owners warn of consequences from minimum wage hike in Illinois

Are you ready for the minimum wage hike in your area? Let the PIC guide you through this process.

SPRINGFIELD — With an increase in Illinois’ minimum wage headed for approval, a group of business owners got together on Monday to warn of the consequences the law would have if no changes are made.

At a Statehouse news conference, they made a plea that Illinois communities outside of Chicago be spared having to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025. The statewide rate is now $8.25 an hour.

“I and many business operators want to make sure employees make a good living,” said Mike Monseur, who operates Godfather’s Pizza and the Dew Chilli Parlors in Springfield. “We’d love to pay much higher than the minimum wage, but the market dictates what is affordable in order to keep our lights on and workers working.”

Monseur said he employs about 200 people at his restaurants, including people just starting out in the job market. If the higher minimum wage goes into effect, he said he’ll probably have to stop hiring inexperienced workers and possibly eliminate deliveries.

“I would like to keep investing in our community, but my government is forcing me to change or make other choices,” he said.

The news conference was organized by the Illinois Retail Merchants Association, which is pressing lawmakers to enact a tiered minimum wage. Its proposal would have a $15 wage in Chicago, while the suburbs surrounding Chicago would have a $13 wage and the rest of the state would have an $11 minimum wage by 2025.

The differences are meant to reflect that it’s cheaper to live outside of Chicago and that other areas of the state do not have the same economic activity as Chicago. The states of Oregon and New York use a tiered approach, paying a higher minimum wage in a major urban area and lower wages in less-populated areas.

So far, Gov. J.B. Pritzker has opposed a tiered system, and Illinois House Democratic leaders have also indicated they do not support changes to the minimum wage bill as it passed the Senate last week. If the bill passes as is, IRMA president Rob Karr said the result “is going to be devastating, particularly to suburban and downstate communities. Treating Chicago as if the rest of the state has the same strengths as Chicago is just simply illogical.”

Darin Dame, president of the Springfield Hotel Association, said some Springfield hotels could be forced to close if the minimum wage is increased and others may not be able to afford needed improvements. He said the average room rate might increase to as high as $125 a night, from the current $86 because of the higher wage.

Dame could not estimate how many hotel employees in Springfield are currently making minimum wage.

“A lot of the hotels in town try to bring in people above the minimum wage because we’re looking for a higher qualified person,” he said.

However, if the wage increases, he said, hotels will be competing with fast-food outlets and other traditionally lower-wage businesses for workers.

“It’s going to be hard for us to increase it another couple of dollars to try to find that person who’s a little bit above,” he said.

The House is scheduled to consider the bill in committee on Wednesday. That would set up a possible floor vote on Thursday. Pritzker has said he wants to sign the higher wage into law before his budget speech Feb. 20.

Doug Finke: doug.finke@sj-r.com, 217-788-1527, @dougfinkesjr

Independent Contractors vs. Employees

You may be in the process of starting your business or a seasoned business owner, but regardless of where you are in the ownership process, you want to run a business that abides by all laws. The problem is that the state and federal laws are complex and confusing.

We are here to simplify the process for you and explain one of the most important distinctions in the dog walking industry: employee classification. As an employer, you can employ either 1099 contractors or employees. Most people go off the common misconception that dog walkers are 1099 contractors as they typically work autonomously. Unfortunately, this does make walkers 1099s. There is a strict and thorough test to determine worker classification. Please note that the federal test CAN differ from state laws. In most cases, state laws tend to be even stricter on classifications. Please research your state laws if applicable.

Below is a quick checklist to help you determine your workers’ correct classification. Reach out to the PIC for specific questions and assistance-we are here to help you!:

Behavioral Control A worker is an employee when the business has the right to direct and control the work performed by the worker, even if that right is not exercised. Behavioral control categories are:

  • Type of instructions given, such as when and where to work, what tools to use or where to purchase supplies and services. Receiving the types of instructions in these examples may indicate a worker is an employee.

  • Degree of instruction, more detailed instructions may indicate that the worker is an employee.  Less detailed instructions reflects less control, indicating that the worker is more likely an independent contractor.

  • Evaluation systems to measure the details of how the work is done points to an employee. Evaluation systems measuring just the end result point to either an independent contractor or an employee.

  • Training a worker on how to do the job -- or periodic or on-going training about procedures and methods -- is strong evidence that the worker is an employee. Independent contractors ordinarily use their own methods.

Financial ControlDoes the business have a right to direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker's job? Consider:

  • Significant investment in the equipment the worker uses in working for someone else.

  • Unreimbursed expenses, independent contractors are more likely to incur unreimbursed expenses than employees.

  • Opportunity for profit or loss is often an indicator of an independent contractor.

  • Services available to the market. Independent contractors are generally free to seek out business opportunities.

  • Method of payment. An employee is generally guaranteed a regular wage amount for an hourly, weekly, or other period of time even when supplemented by a commission. However, independent contractors are most often paid for the job by a flat fee.

Relationship: The type of relationship depends upon how the worker and business perceive their interaction with one another. This includes:

  • Written contracts which describe the relationship the parties intend to create. Although a contract stating the worker is an employee or an independent contractor is not sufficient to determine the worker’s status.

  • Benefits. Businesses providing employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation pay or sick pay have employees. Businesses generally do not grant these benefits to independent contractors.

  • The permanency of the relationship is important. An expectation that the relationship will continue indefinitely, rather than for a specific project or period, is generally seen as evidence that the intent was to create an employer-employee relationship.

  • Services provided which are a key activity of the business. The extent to which services performed by the worker are seen as a key aspect of the regular business of the company.