The Long Island Auto Body Repairmen’s Association (LIABRA) met Oct. 16 at Levittown Ford on South Broadway in Hicksville, NY. This meeting focused largely on the labor laws established by the New York State Labor Department with a mini-seminar explaining how to properly run your collision repair business to avoid costly encounters with the Labor Department, an important topic since the NYS Labor Department has specifically targeted the collision repair industry for audits. Other topics included LIPA Energy Efficiency Rebates and Enterprise Rent-A-Car’s ARMS Auto Technology.
Ed Kizenberger, Executive Director of LIABRA, began the meeting by talking about PartsTrader. Because of the many complaints that PartsTrader causes inefficiency, PartsTrader released an efficiency study on Oct. 9 claiming they have addressed their efficiency problems and the newly-increased efficiency of the program will allow shops more free time; however, Kizenberger claims their study is not transparent because the bottom line is that PartsTrader “really does adversely affect your business” by negatively impacting parts profits. Moreover, this program will not cease with one insurance company but will expand to others as well. Because of this, there has been substantial pushback from the American collision repair industry, and Kizenberger has scheduled a meeting with New York State regulators and legislators to discuss why this program is a bad idea in the U. S.
Next, Kizenberger briefly discussed a recent press release from Honda regarding their new website on parts, collision.Honda.com, which he lauds as being informative and user-friendly for shops as well as consumers. He also mentioned the 2003 Avery v. State Farm case where State Farm was sued for the use of imitation parts, resulting in a $1,000,000,000 judgment which was overturned in their appeal. The case stifled the rise in imitation parts until the appeal was won. As of Sept. 26, the plaintiffs brought the case to the Supreme Court concerning how the appeal was handled and accusing State Farm of RICO handling.
After a quick reminder that the use of counterfeit and salvaged air bags is illegal in the state of New York, Kizenberger introduced LIABRA member Greg Smith for a new problem-solving segment to allow members to discuss issues they’ve faced in their shops. Smith and several members conversed about fighting for their money against insurance companies who do not want to pay. LIABRA plans to continue this segment in future meetings as they find it beneficial to discuss problems with others in the collision repair industry since, as Smith noted, “we all have the same problems.”
A brief political presentation followed as Kizenberger insisted that it is important for trade organizations to be politically involved because it is useful to have legislators and elected officials who understand the issues faced by this industry. He introduced two candidates for the Supreme Court, Joy Watson and Chris Quinn, who each spoke for a moment on their platforms.
Mike LiPetri, from the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA), then presented on LIPA’s 2012 Commercial Efficiency Program. The goals behind the program include reducing peak energy usage, deferring the cost of building new power plants, helping customers save money, and stimulating business. LIPA is offering rebates through December 2012 in order to boost the economy and to encourage shops to convert their large lighting fixtures to more energy-efficient options. These options include T8 High Bay Fixtures which last longer and are more efficient than traditional T12s, as well as LEDs which are brighter and last longer. Though these options are more expensive, the rebates currently offered by LIPA can cover up to 80% of the cost in some cases.
LIPA’s enhanced incentive for fall 2012 includes T12 replacement, the addition of LED High-bays (L800) and more lighting controls, such as daylight sensors and dimming ballasts. Rebates for lighting controls range from $20 to $150, while LED rebates begin at $300 and can be as high as $500. The rebates have been enhanced to increase the number of shops replacing their low-efficiency fixtures before many of these are outlawed next year.
LiPetri continued by explaining the guidelines of the program. All projects require pre-inspections, pre-approvals and post-inspections. The pre-inspection involves validation of existing conditions and an appointment with the customer. Measures that are installed prior to the pre-installation process are not eligible for rebates. Additionally, eligible lighting products must be listed on one of the following websites: Consortium for Energy Efficiency (www.ceel.org), Energy Star (www.energystar.gov), or Design Lights Consortium (www.designlights.org). The documents required to receive a rebate include a signed application, W9 form, cutsheets, worksheets and invoices, in addition to assignment letters and 501 © 3 Certificates, if applicable. The cutsheets are required for all measures proposed or installed, and they serve to indicate what product is proposed for the project and to validate the measures performed.
All non-residential LIPA customers are eligible to participate in the Commercial Efficiency Program. Applications should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, and additional information can be obtained by calling the Energy Infoline at 800-692-2626.
The next segment was hosted by Jenelle Proudfoot of Enterprise Rent-A-Car about their ARMS program. The purposes of this program are to simplify rentals, work smarter and increase efficiency by enhancing customer service and streamlining communication between the shop, the rental company and the customer. The three tiers of the system are Repair Updates, Exchange and Customer Repair Status Notification. In the Repair tier, shops fill out the information pertaining to the repair and receive feedback. Exchange works with the shop’s estimating system to pull in labor hours, and ARMS can sync with most management systems as well. This will also provide Body Shop Reporting which consists of a summary of vehicles repaired, cycle times and so forth, broken down by insurance companies.
The final tier, Customer Repair Status Notification, allows shops to text customers with the status of their repair, regardless of whether the customer uses the rental company. Improving communication between the customer and the shop leads to be a better informed customer and a higher customer satisfaction rating. Shops can elect to have texts automatically sent at certain points in the repair process, or they can opt to send messages through the system at will. Soon, ARMS will be updated to allow shops to make rental reservations for their customers through the system. The ARMS program is intended to save shops time by minimizing the number of phone calls they receive daily. More information about ARMS can be acquired by visiting http://armsautosuite.com or by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meeting’s final segment, Bob Arnold and Bob Arnold Jr. of Arnold Standard Cost Control Services in Long Island, NY discussed how the Labor Department is targeting the auto body industry in their audits, specifically as a Tier 1 Audit Target. Most shops are ill-equipped to deal with these issues, but they need to be addressed because the authorities are aware and are using this information to shops’ disadvantage. Arnold stressed that it is important to look at a shop’s operations because the industry standards have to change, and he suggests “every shop conduct internal procedural audits.”
Several key points in these audits have been the requirement for employees to receive a 30-minute meal break after working four hours, employees must be paid for 15-minute breaks, and overtime has to be paid at time and a half. If the Labor Department audits a shop and finds that employees aren’t being paid for their 15-minute breaks, shop owners will be forced to reimburse employees for these 2.5 hours per week deficit in overtime pay, plus they face a 50% fine. If the oversight is deemed intentional or has been noted for a second time, the fine is increased to 100%. One attendee noted that when he was audited, he was forced to pay all present and past employees for the past two years for the 2.5 hours of weekly overtime. Arnold Jr. emphasized that it is “necessary to understand the law and what your responsibilities are as a business owner.”
Arnold Jr. noted that record-keeping is very important as it pertains to this issue. Employees are obligated to keep detailed records, and such records can be used to prove a shop’s adherence to labor laws in case a disgruntled former employee brings said shop to the Labor Department’s attention. Additionally, employee handbooks should be reviewed and updated, if necessary, at least once a year. Arnold insists shop owners “must have your records in order and be in compliance so you come from a position of strength.”
Some additional notes during the Question and Answers section with attendees included that Federal and NYS laws are nearly identical, as both are governed by wages and hours. Employees should clock in directly before starting work and clock out when they leave, and though breaks that last less than twenty minutes must be paid, employers do not have to compensate workers for breaks that exceed 20 minutes. Also, shops should complete the Labor Department’s forms and update them manually, at a minimum. Kizenberger promised to expand on this topic at LIABRA’s next meeting, leaving attendees with this comment: “Whining about it doesn’t eliminate the problem; we all need to know what our responsibilities are.”