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Kris Mayer of General Motors took no questions at CIC after the automaker’s announcement that week that it would be discontinuing the publication of list prices for crash parts, in favor “MyPriceLink.com,” a new, online and real-time pricing system that would always quote "competitive prices."
Coming just three weeks before the change was initially going to go into effect, the announcement stunned many dealers, shops and insurers.
“We know it’s disruptive. We are taking that into account. We know what those disruptive points are,” Mayer said at CIC. “Every single workflow disruption that we’ve come across we have a possible or alternative solution to minimize that workflow disruption.”
GM subsequently delayed the launch until sometime in the first quarter of next year, but it initially announced it would happen on December 1.
As described by GM, the system will allow a shop using one of six supported estimating systems to create an estimate itemizing the GM parts needed (the parts prices will show only as “$0.00”). That estimate would then automatically be transmitted to the MyPriceLink pricing engine, which then sends notice back (generally in less than a minute) to the estimating system that the parts prices have been changed. When the user reopens the estimate, the parts prices would be listed.
Alternatively, users can log into MyPriceLink to manually get parts prices through the website. There’s no charge to shops for using the system. It operates through OEConnection, which gives dealers access to information about all parts listed on the estimate including non-OEM and recycled parts.
In his 5-minute presentation at CIC, Mayer acknowledged, “there’s probably some disruption and some unintended consequences in this process,” but he said, “We’re trying to be open and work through those.”
California shop owner Randy Stabler speaks at the 2014 CIC meeting held at SEMA.
California shop owner Randy Stabler jokingly thanked GM for providing “a controversial topic” for discussion at CIC just as his term as chairman of the quarterly conference begins in January. Stabler succeeds State Farm’s George Avery, who concluded his 2-year term as chairman at CIC in Las Vegas. Stabler said GM’s unexpected decision “to hold their data proprietary” is a good example of the need for a forum like CIC.
“Making that decision in a silo has some consequences that maybe are not going to be the best for everyone in the long run,” Stabler said of GM’s announcement. “It shows the validity of having a forum where the disparate parts of the industry can get together and talk and come up with some potential solutions.”
California attorney Cory King addresses the minimum wage issue.
With CIC being held just two days after the November 4 election, California attorney Cory King addressed one of the human resource issues effected by the vote in several states and cities: minimum wage.
King began his presentation at CIC by reminding shops that minimum wage impacts shops even if, for example, their technicians are paid flat-rate and earn significantly more than minimum wage. Though wage-hour laws vary by state, most jurisdictions are covered by federal fair labor law which allows flat-rate or commission employees to be exempt from overtime provided two provisions are met.
“One, they make more than half of their money from flat-rate or commissions,” King said. “And two, they must make at least 1.5 times the minimum wage for all hours worked. If you’re not running this number every pay period, if you ever get audited or sued, you’re not going to be able to prove that you’re not paying your people overtime because they are exempt.”
To do that calculation, shops need to be aware of the minimum wage. In last month’s election, voters in at least four states passed minimum wage hikes, joining more than 20 others that have done so. Workers in San Francisco and Oakland, Calif., also will see voter-enacted minimum wage increases; San Francisco, for example, joined Seattle in enacting a minimum wage that rises to $15 over several years.
The other data point shops need is the actual clock hours every employee works. That’s why all employees, including flat-rate or commission technicians, should be using a time clock, King said.
King’s presentations at CIC are structured as quizzes, with attendees asked to gauge the possible legal ramifications for employers of various human resource issues King lays out. One such question he posed at CIC in Las Vegas:
An employee with a state-sanctioned medical marijuana card crashes a customer car into the shop’s paint booth.
“And he was higher than a kite when he did it,” King said. “Can I fire him?”
About half of CIC attendees indicated they thought the shop could fire such an employee, and King said they are generally correct. Most (though not all) states with medical marijuana cards protect the holder only from criminal penalties.
In those states, King said, you also do no have to hire a medical marijuana user “as long as you have a quality alcohol and drug policy that prohibits having measurable amounts of illegal drugs in their system.” (Marijuana is still illegal under federal law.)
Even in the few states that offer civil protections to medical marijuana card holders, he said, the law “does not allow the employee to possess, use or be impaired [by marijuana] while they are on company premises or during working hours.”
The employee who crashed the car, therefore, could be fired, King said.
King’s next scenario: A shop wants to fire a newly-hired and underperforming receptionist. She recently refused to put up the Christmas decorations in the shop office, citing religion reasons. Can she be fired for insubordination?
No way, King said; that would be seen as religious discrimination. As with someone with a disability, King said, the shop should have talked with the employee and found a reasonable accommodation (in this case, found someone else to put up the decorations) and moved forward.
But the shop also found the receptionist had left a window open on her computer screen that indicated she’d been looking for a job while at work. Can the shop fire her for that?
It depends, King said, on what the shop’s employee handbook says about Internet usage. It might say shop computers cannot be used for personal use. But when was she using it? She could have been legally looking for a job while on her break. And does the shop enforce the Internet rule consistently with all employees?
“It’s a little dicey to say you’re going to fire her because you don’t like what she was doing on the Internet even though you allow other people to do it,” King said.
It comes down to the “smell factor,” King said.
“It smells like you’re coming up with violation of our computer policy as a pretext for what you're really getting rid of her for, which is you don’t like her religious affiliation and the fact that she refused to do something based on religious grounds,” he said.
Instead, he said, as with all employees, notify her of how she is under-performing in her job, explain why that is important, and give her the reasonable assistance she needs to be successful along with time to improve. If she does not, you will have a defendable basis for firing her.
John Yoswick, a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon, who has been writing about the automotive industry since 1988, is also the editor of the weekly CRASH Network (for a free 4-week trial subscription, visit www.CrashNetwork.com). He can be contacted by email at jyoswick@SpiritOne.com.