Guest column

Houston expert: 4 questions to ask when hiring employees in other states

Remote workers became a necessity in the pandemic — now it's becoming the norm. Here's how to navigate the remote hiring process. Photo by Edmond Dantès via Pexels

A larger share of employees has found themselves working from home, or at least working remote, than ever before and many continue to do so permanently. As employers actively take steps to ensure a strong showing throughout the economic recovery, the nature of remote work has allowed employers to cast their nets far and wide in search of top-notch talent. Remote work also opened up the option for some existing employees to seize the opportunity to move to their dream locale.

Due to the nature of employment law in the U.S., remote workers spread out in varying states pose a challenge to employers – and most business owners are simply not prepared. However, by asking the right questions, employers can ensure that they are in line with cross-border rules when it comes to the challenges of having employees based in other states.

What are the payroll requirements?

When it comes to hiring remote employees in other states, it is most important to confirm that they will be properly paid. A record of compliance with state-specific payroll laws is critical in the event of a Department of Labor audit. Examples include local and state minimum wage and pay frequency requirements. Other relevant details range from overtime calculations to payroll deductions. If working with a payroll provider, employers should verify that they are set up to pay out-of-state employees.

What are the state-specific labor laws and regulations?

Another caveat of out-of-state remote employees is the requirement of local- and state-specific labor laws and regulations. Regardless of where a company is headquartered, employers are required to abide by regulations in a number of categories. A few employment regulations that may vary by location include leave – both paid and unpaid – as well as employment benefits, workers' compensation and breaks provided.

How to keep up with regulatory changes?

State-by-state employment regulations are frequently changing, and employers can be especially challenged to maintain compliance with each state's evolving labor laws. Before making a remote workforce a more permanent solution, business owners should decide between assuming the responsibility of regulatory compliance through their own research and system or delegating the role to an external partner such as an employment attorney or professional employer organization.

How to ensure the success of remote employees?

Of course, the undertaking of properly hiring remote employees in other states is only worth it if employers take steps to ensure their success. Company culture is critical to onboarding and retaining remote employees. Business owners should look beyond bookkeeping to support new hires who may be miles away from the company headquarters. Gestures such as branded swag bags and personalized video messages from teammates can make remote employees feel welcomed from afar. Virtual mentorship programs also are valuable in the development of virtual team members.

As employers further consider leveraging the remote workforce or the emerging hybrid workplace model, minimizing regulatory headaches at the onset can potentially save time and money should issues arise. By asking about payroll requirements, maintaining compliance with local and state employment regulations and preparing to preserve compliance in the future, business owners can confidently tap into the growing remote workforce with ease.

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Jill Chapman is a senior performance consultant with Insperity, a leading provider of human resources and business performance solutions.

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Building Houston

 
 

From a low-cost vaccine to an app that can help reduce exposure, here are the latest COVID-focused and Houston-based research projects. Photo via Getty Images

While it might seem like the COVID-19 pandemic has settled down for the time being, there's plenty of innovative research ongoing to create solutions for affordable vaccines and tech-enabled protection against the spread of the virus.

Some of that research is happening right here in Houston. Here are two innovative projects in the works at local institutions.

UH researcher designs app to monitor best times to shop

A UH professor is putting safe shopping at your fingertips. Photo via UH.edu

When is the best time to run an errand in the pandemic era we currently reside? There might be an app for that. Albert Cheng, professor of computer science and electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston, is working on a real-time COVID-19 infection risk assessment and mitigation system. He presented his plans at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers conference HPC for Urgent Decision Making and will publish the work in IEEE Xplore.

Cheng's work analyzes up-to-date data from multiple open sources to see when is the best time to avoid crowds and accomplish activities outside the home.

"Preliminary work has been performed to determine the usability of a number of COVID-19 data websites and other websites such as grocery stores and restaurants' popular times and traffic," Cheng says in a UH release. "Other data, such as vaccination rates and cultural factors (for example, the percentage of people willing to wear facial coverings or masks in an area), are also used to determine the best grocery store to shop in within a time frame."

To use the app, a user would input their intended destinations and the farthest distance willing to go, as well as the time frame of the trip. The risk assessment and mitigation system, or RT-CIRAM, then "provides as output the target location and the time interval to reach there that would reduce the chance of infections," said Cheng.

There's a lot to it, says Cheng, and the process is highly reliant on technology.

"We are leveraging urgent high-performance cloud computing, coupled with time-critical scheduling and routing techniques, along with our expertise in real-time embedded systems and cyber-physical systems, machine learning, medical devices, real-time knowledge/rule-based decision systems, formal verification, functional reactive systems, virtualization and intrusion detection," says Cheng.

2 Houston hospitals team up with immunotherapy company for new vaccine for Africa

The new vaccine will hopefully help mitigate spread of the disease in Sub-Saharan Africa. Photo via bcm.edu

Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital have teamed up with ImmunityBio Inc. — a clinical-stage immunotherapy company — under a licensing agreement to develop a safe, effective and affordable COVID-19 vaccine.

BCM has licensed out a recombinant protein COVID-19 vaccine candidate that was developed at the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development to ImmunityBio. According to the release, the company engaged in license negotiations with the BCM Ventures team, about the vaccine that could address the current pandemic needs in South Africa.

"We hope that our COVID-19 vaccine for global health might become an important step towards advancing vaccine development capacity in South Africa, and ultimately for all of Sub-Saharan Africa," says Dr. Peter Hotez, professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor and co-director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development.

ImmunityBio, which was founded in 2014 by Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, is working on innovative immunotherapies that address serious unmet needs in infectious diseases, according to a news release from BCM.

"There is a great need for second-generation vaccines, which are accessible, durable and offer broad protection against the emerging variants," says Soon-Shiong. "ImmunityBio has executed on a heterologous ("mix-and-match") strategy to develop a universal COVID-19 vaccine. To accomplish this, we have embarked upon large-scale good manufacturing practices and development of DNA (adenovirus), RNA (self-amplifying mRNA) and subunit protein (yeast) vaccine platforms. This comprehensive approach will leverage our expertise in these platforms for both infectious disease and cancer therapies."

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