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  • I just watched an interesting webinar from the Better Business Bureau on the 5 Gestures of Trust for employers to use when dealing with their customers.

    They are:
    Be Honest–honesty is what builds trust the most.
    Be Proactive–Anticipate what it is that our customer may want or need and then work together with them to achieve those goals.
    Be Equitable–it is not only about one party but the entire situation. We partner with our customers on their needs.
    Be Transparent–we have nothing to hide.
    Be Humble–I realize that without my customers, I would not stay in business. I strive to do right by my customers and to treat them with the best customer service that I can provide.

    What makes consumers trust businesses?
    Honesty/integrity/ethics/transparency. Compassion, sincerity, honesty; if you can treat your customers like this they will trust you.
    Good Reputation Built over time. Transparent fees, ethical behavior and a good reputation with your customers. History of doing the right thing, backing up your products and services.
    Good Customer Service/Quality. Providing excellent customer service will provide for this.

    So, add these items to your mission statement and then begin practicing them. You will be rewarded greatly by getting positive customer reviews!

  • Human Resources Comments Off on Pay Equity Wage Gaps

    Women are almost half of the workforce. They are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of American families with children. They receive more college and graduate degrees than men. Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2015, female full-time, year-round workers made only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men, a gender wage gap of 20 percent.

    Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. In middle-skill occupations, workers in jobs mainly done by women earn only 66 percent of workers in jobs mainly done by men. IWPR’s report on sex and race discrimination in the workplace shows that outright discrimination in pay, hiring, or promotions continues to be a significant feature of working life.

    IWPR tracks the gender wage gap over time in a series of fact sheets updated twice per year. According to our research, if change continues at the same slow pace as it has done for the past fifty years, it will take 44 years—or until 2059—for women to finally reach pay parity. For women of color, the rate of change is even slower:

    Hispanic women will have to wait until 2233 and Black women will wait until 2124 for equal pay.

    IWPR’s Status of Women in the States project tracks the gender wage gap across states, by race/ethnicity and by age.

    Reasons for the gender wage gap are multi-faceted. IWPR’s research shows that, irrespective of the level of qualification, jobs predominantly done by women pay less on average than jobs predominantly done by men. Women have made tremendous strides during the last few decades by moving into jobs and occupations previously done almost exclusively by men, yet during the last two decades there has been very little further progress in the gender integration of work. In some industries and occupations, like construction, there has been no progress in forty years. This persistent occupational segregation is a primary contributor to the lack of significant progress in closing the wage gap.

    Persistent pay inequality can have far-reaching economic consequences. According to a recent regression analysis of federal data by IWPR, equal pay would cut poverty among working women and their families by more than half and add $513 billion to the national economy.

    Since 1987, IWPR’s research on the gender wage gap and occupational segregation has changed the conversation on women’s pay and provided policymakers, journalists, and advocates the data they need to better inform the debate on women’s earnings.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on Dementia: A Public Health Concern with Personal, Occupational Consequences

    As a public health concern projected to gain momentum in the coming decades, Alzheimer’s disease presents substantial consequences not only for individuals and families but also within the larger American workforce. Alzheimer’s—along with other forms of dementia—therefore demands attention today and into the future.

    Statistics indicate that dementia is on track to present a host of complications for the U.S. healthcare landscape. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5 million Americans were living with Alzheimer’s in 2013, and as many as 14 million are projected to suffer from the disease in 2050. Alzheimer’s is among the top ten leading causes of death in the United States and the fifth leading cause of death for those aged 65-85. Finally, Alzheimer’s is costly: the disease incurred estimated costs between $159 and $215 billion nationwide in 2010, an amount that could rise to as much as $500 billion annually by 2040. [i]

    With dementia expected to strike millions of additional people in the coming years, experts anticipate wide-ranging effects not only on the individual level but also in the workplace.

    Defining Alzheimer’s
    Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia, a degenerative neurological disorder that affects memory and cognitive function. The anatomic hallmark of Alzheimer’s can be found in the plaques and tangles that form in the brain, particularly in areas associated with memory. According to CDC, initial symptoms may include memory loss, getting lost, repeating questions, taking longer to complete daily tasks, displaying poor judgment, losing or misplacing things and mood or personality changes. While Alzheimer’s is not the only form of dementia, it is the most common type, representing up to 80 percent of all cases.

    As researchers continue to learn about Alzheimer’s, many questions surrounding the disease’s causes, risk factors and treatments persist. Lawrence Raymond, MD, Medical Director, HEALTHWORKS Division, Carolinas HealthCare System, cites a host of potential risk factors, some of which are still in the early stages of research. Risk factors might include obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, lack of education, alcohol consumption or traumatic brain injury. Some studies suggest that hearing loss, proton pump inhibitors (heartburn medication) or exposure to air pollution might be connected to an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s, as well.

    But by far, the most significant risk factor is age.

    “If you’re over 65, you’re at risk,” Dr. Raymond says. “And if you have a family history of someone who developed dementia younger, say in their fifties, then it’s all the more important to get on the preventive bandwagon as soon as possible.”

    Postponing Alzheimer’s
    The stark reality is that doctors are unable to prevent, cure or halt the progression of Alzheimer’s. As Dr. Raymond points out, it may be more realistic to focus on postponing the disease’s development.

    “There is no drug on the market that prevents Alzheimer’s,” he says. “Currently, medications are being prescribed with the hope of postponing development of more severe dementia over the course of the next five years [in a patient’s life]. We’re not likely to come up with a medication to prevent Alzheimer’s entirely anytime soon, so the goal is to delay the manifestations of severe dementia.”

    Preventive methods include maintaining a healthy weight, staying physically active, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and remaining mentally engaged. The possible link between hearing loss and increased dementia risk suggests that in the workplace, employers must ensure employees wear hearing protection in noisy environments.

    While there’s no question that Alzheimer’s disease is devastating on the personal level, it also has the potential to make a big impact on the U.S. workforce.

    The Alzheimer’s-Employment Conundrum
    Longer life expectancies, combined with a projected rise of Alzheimer’s diagnoses, and the fact that many workers are either retiring later or not at all, suggest that the future occupational landscape may be altered by this public health issue.

    “Workers are increasingly staying on the job after age 65, and that’s when dementia tends to rear its head,” Dr. Raymond explains. “Perhaps they transition to a new career later in life, or maybe they simply stay in their current job. Either way, to be an employer of choice, you need to make this issue your concern.”

    That doesn’t mean employers have free rein to pry into their workers’ personal health. If employers issue cognitive screenings or medical exams, for example, they must apply them consistently to all employees, not just those above a certain age. And as with any potential health problem, Dr. Raymond stresses the concern should always be the worker’s performance, not the specifics surrounding a possible illness.

    “If it’s a performance issue—if the worker’s language fluency or memory seems affected—take action on the performance,” he explains. “It’s not your right to know their diagnosis.”

    If a worker begins to exhibit cognitive impairment consistent with dementia symptoms, employers may refer workers to the employee assistance program (EAP) or a physician. Employers should also make reasonable accommodations, such as narrowing the scope of responsibility, in an effort to keep the worker on the job and professionally engaged. And because those suffering from the early stages of dementia may be more likely to get injured on the job, it’s vital that employers pay attention and make appropriate accommodations.

    Dementia also impacts the workplace indirectly. While an employee might not suffer from Alzheimer’s herself, she may be a caretaker to a parent, spouse or other loved one suffering from the disease. Caring for Alzheimer’s patients is physically and emotionally taxing, and proactive employers will recognize that these workers may require support. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is one option, but employers can go beyond that by creating a support group for these employees or otherwise recognizing the demands of caretaking.

    The implications of Alzheimer’s disease are complex and far-reaching. While individuals can take preventive steps to safeguard their own health, employers should pledge to remain aware and prepared to handle the issue.

    “A good employer should have a vested interest in a workforce’s brain health,” Dr. Raymond says. “Anything you do to make these workers feel supported can help.”

  • Human Resources Comments Off on If an Employee Attends a Beyonce Concert While on FMLA Leave, Can She Be Terminated?

    By Jeff Nowak on September 14, 2017
    Posted in Abuse of FMLA leave
    All the single ladies . . . all the single ladies . . .

    Now put your hands up, oh, oh, oh . . .

    Imagine marketing director, Michelle, jamming to this Beyonce song in the middle of AT&T Stadium in Dallas. On that very day, however, she’s supposed to be recuperating at home after suffering a panic attack at work.

    Days earlier, Michelle had been given a performance improvement plan (PIP) to address her poor performance. By all accounts, she deserved it, since she struggled with the volume of the work required for her position. Although Michelle agreed that she could not keep up and her performance was deficient, she didn’t think she deserved a PIP.

    Upon receiving the PIP, Michelle immediately left work. The next day, she called off, reporting that she was “not well to return back to work” and would be filing for short-term disability benefits. Less than one week later, however, Michelle was spotted at a Beyonce concert – in her employer’s corporate sky box.

    I’m not kidding.

    When word spread that Michelle was at the concert, Michelle’s boss left her a voicemail, asking to discuss why Michelle thought was appropriate to attend the concert when she was not working. Michelle responded by email that she had not been released by her doctor to meet and that as soon as she was released, she would be willing to meet.

    Her boss responded by email, giving her a deadline to respond by later that day. When Michelle failed to respond, she was terminated for three reasons: poor work performance, her attendance at the concert while on leave, and her failure to respond to her boss’ inquiries. As the story goes, Michelle sued her employer, claiming it interfered with her FMLA leave and retaliated against her for taking leave.

    ‘Cause if you liked work, then you shouldn’t have taken leave
    If you liked work, then you shouldn’t have taken leave
    Don’t be mad once you get yourself canned
    If you liked work, then you shouldn’t have taken leave
    Oh, oh, oh
    Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh

    Insights for Employers

    With Beyonce’s “Naughty Girl” playing in the background, I’m sure, the court quickly dismissed Michelle’s FMLA claims, finding that her employer had an honest suspicion that she was abusing leave, and her failure to respond to her boss’ inquiries could only lead the employer to conclude that she was indeed taking leave for reasons having nothing to do with the FMLA. Jackson v. BNSF (pdf)

    Michelle’s missteps actually provide some helpful practical pointers for employers:

    1. You can require your employees to respond to your reasonable inquiries while they are on leave. Employers often are gun shy about conducting workplace investigations or taking disciplinary action against an employee while the employee is on FMLA leave. This approach is understandable, as employers are worried about the appearance of retaliation because the employee may claim (as she did here) that the employer took action on the heels of an employee’s request for FMLA leave.

    Yet, this court decision is an endorsement to carry on with your internal investigations and disciplinary measures so long as you can show that you would have done the same absent any request for FMLA leave.

    2. You CAN Terminate Employee Who Fail to Communicate with you while on leave. Similarly, employers feel paralyzed to take any action against an employee while they remain on leave.

    Stop feeling powerless!

    What I love about this court decision is that it reaffirms the principle that the employer was well within its right to terminate Michelle’s employment after she failed to communicate with the employer. The court got it right — when an employee fails to communicate with their employer, they suffer the consequences.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on School Activities Leave: Are You Required to Provide It?

    With the school year starting, employees may ask for time off so they can attend their child’s school play, parent-teacher conference, or other school-related activities. While no federal law requires employers to provide time off for these reasons, currently, eight states and the District of Columbia do. Here is a brief summary of these laws:

    California | District of Columbia | Illinois | Massachusetts | Minnesota | Nevada | North Carolina | Rhode Island | Vermont | Other States


    Covered employers: Employers with 25 or more employees at the same location must provide leave for employees to attend school activities. In addition, all employers must grant unpaid time off for employees to attend disciplinary meetings at their child’s school or child care facility.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 40 hours per calendar year to visit a child’s school or licensed child care provider to:
    Find, enroll, or re-enroll a child (not to exceed eight hours in any given month);
    Participate in their child’s activities (not to exceed eight hours in any given month);
    Address an emergency.
    There is no limit on the amount of time an employee can take for a conference to discuss their child’s suspension.

    Rules: Employees must generally use accrued vacation or personal leave during the absence and provide reasonable advance notice. Employers may require documentation.

    District of Columbia:

    Covered employers: All D.C. employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 24 hours of leave during a 12-month period to attend or participate in a school-related event for a child, including performances, meetings with a teacher or counselor, or similar activities.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid, unless the employee elects to use accrued vacation or other paid time off.
    Rules: Employees must provide at least 10 days’ advance notice when the need for leave is foreseeable.


    Covered employers: Employers with 50 or more employees.
    Employee eligibility: The employee must have worked for the company for at least six consecutive months.
    Leave entitlement: Up to eight hours per school year (not to exceed four hours in any given day) to attend school conferences or classroom activities if the conference or classroom activities cannot be scheduled during non-work hours.
    Pay: The employee must use accrued vacation or other paid time off, if available. Otherwise, the leave is unpaid. Employers must generally make a good-faith effort to allow employees to make up time missed during the same workweek.
    Rules: Generally, employees must provide at least seven days’ written notice of the need for leave.


    Covered employers: All Massachusetts employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 24 hours of leave during a 12-month period to participate in a child’s school activities. Under the same law, employers must also provide time off for a child’s doctor or dentist appointment, or an elder relative’s doctor, dentist, or other appointment related to their care.
    Rules: An employee may elect, or the employer may require, the employee to use paid vacation, personal leave, medical or sick leave during the absence. If the need for leave is foreseeable, the employee must provide seven days’ notice. Employers may require documentation.


    Covered employers: All Minnesota employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to 16 hours during any 12 month period to attend school conferences or school activities or to observe or monitor pre-kindergarten or special education programs.
    Employee eligibility: The employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months immediately preceding the request.
    Rules: An employee may use accrued vacation or other paid time off for the absence.


    Covered employers: Employers with 50 or more employees. However, all employers are prohibited from taking adverse action against individuals who appear at a conference requested by a school administrator or who are notified during work of an emergency regarding their child.
    Leave entitlement: Up to four hours per school year per child at a public school to:
    Attend school-related activities and parent-teacher conferences;
    Volunteer or otherwise be involved at the school during regular school hours; and
    Attend school-sponsored events.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid.
    Rules: The employer may require the employee to provide up to five days’ written notice and the leave must be at a time mutually agreed upon by the employer and the employee. Employers may also require documentation.

    North Carolina:

    Covered employers: All North Carolina employers.
    Leave entitlement: Up to four hours of unpaid leave per year for school activities.
    Rules: The leave must be at a time mutually agreed upon by the employer and employee. Additionally, the employer may require at least 48 hours’ written notice, along with verification from the school.

    Rhode Island:

    Covered employers: Employers with 50 or more employees.
    Employee eligibility: Employees must work an average of 30 or more hours per week and be employed by the employer for 12 consecutive months.
    Leave entitlement: Up to ten hours of leave during any 12 month period to attend school conferences and activities.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid; however, an employee may substitute accrued vacation or other paid time off.
    Rules: The employee must provide 24 hours’ advance notice and make a reasonable effort to schedule leave so it does not unduly disrupt the employer’s operations.


    Covered employers: Employers with 15 or more employees working an average of 30 or more hours per week.
    Employee eligibility: Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least one year, averaging at least 30 hours per week.
    Leave entitlement: Up to four hours in any 30-day period (not to exceed 24 hours in 12 months) for employees to attend school activities and attend to certain other family matters, such as accompanying family members to medical, dental, and other appointments related to their care and well-being.
    Pay: Leave is unpaid; however an employee may elect to use accrued vacation or other paid time off.
    Rules: The employee must provide at least seven days’ notice, except in the case of an emergency, and the employee must make a reasonable attempt to schedule appointments outside of regular work hours.

    Other States:

    Louisiana, Oregon, and Tennessee encourage, but do not require employers to provide school activities leave. For instance, Louisiana’s law states that employers may offer employees up to 16 hours of leave for school-related purposes. Note that Louisiana has specific requirements related to substitution of paid leave for those that offer school-activities leave voluntarily.


    If you have employees in one of the above states, review your state law in full to determine whether the provisions apply to your employees and to confirm that your policies comply. In states without these requirements, employers may want to consider providing such leave voluntarily in order to help employees balance their work and personal responsibilities.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on Why Employees Decline to Move

    Employees appear to have been a little more willing to relocate in 2009 than they were the previous year. More than half (56 percent) of responding firms saw employees decline relocations compared to 65 percent in 2008. For the second year in a row, housing/mortgage concerns surpassed family issues/ties as the No. 1 reason for refusing relocation. Seventy-seven percent of respondents cited housing concerns, including worries about selling a home, as the reason for declining relocation.

    However, 66 percent of firms responding offered employees incentives to encourage relocations, with relocation bonuses, loss-on-sale protection, cost-of-living adjustments and extended duplicate/temporary housing benefits rounding out the top four methods used. In 2009, extending duplicate/temporary housing benefits jumped to the most popular perk, with 69 percent of firms offering this incentive. So successful were these incentives that 90 percent of companies said they “almost always” or “frequently” convinced an employee to relocate. Forty-five percent of companies also help an employee’s spouse find work in a new location.

    Reference: HR.com, Why Employees Decline to move.

  • Federal Guidance, Human Resources Comments Off on SHRM Proposing new regulation on sick and paid leave

    SHRM is working with representative, Mimi Walters, CA, to propose a devised regulation that would meet all of the state and local mandated sick and paid leave that states are now drawing up. This regulation would allow:
    Employers that choose to participate by offering a minimum threshold of paid leave and a flexible work option to all employees will automatically satisfy all state and local requirements.

    Amends ERISA, providing participating employers flexibility and predictability in designing workplace flexibility offerings, rather than a patchwork of conflicting government mandates.

    The bill would amend ERISA by adding to the definition of an ERISA plan a “Qualified Flexible Work Arrangement Plan” (QFWA)
    1.Employer voluntarily chooses to offer a QFWA Plan to their employees
    To qualify as a QFWA Plan, employer would have to offer two major components to ALL employees:
    A. Paid Leave – the number of days would be scaled to the size of the employer and an eligible employee’s tenure with the employer
    B. Flexible Work Arrangement – the employer would offer at least one flexible work arrangement to each eligible employee

    Find below the Federally proposed regulations:
    1.Working Families Flexibility Act (S. 801/H.R.1180) – compensatory time accrues at a rate of 1½ times the employee’s regular rate of each hour worked over 40 hours.
    Allowing employees to accrue up to 160 hours of comp time

    Bills to mandate paid leave introduced in new Congress, but action unlikely

    2. Healthy Families Act (S.636/H.R. 1516) – Requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide up to 56 hours of paid sick leave

    3. FAMILY Act (S. 397/H.R. 947) – Creates a paid family leave insurance fund through a payroll tax to provide partial wage replacement for FMLA qualifying events.

    This is an important topic in Congress right now and by voting for the SHRM proposal, you are electing the ERISA safe harbor plan, which means you meet all state and local regulations. Please be on the lookout for the SHRM proposal and support it by voting for it. By having to adhere to each state’s and local’s laws, would be cumbersome and an administrative nightmare. But by voting for SHRM’s proposal, we would all be lending a hand to making one law to be followed.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on 10 Myths about the Hiring Process

    The steps you take during the hiring process can mean the difference between a productive quality hire and a costly bad hire. To help ensure an effective process, avoid these 10 hiring myths:

    Myth #1: To save time and resources, it’s a good idea to automatically exclude candidates with a felony conviction.
    Fact: Blanket policies barring candidates with criminal convictions may violate federal, state, and local laws and can disproportionately affect minorities and other protected groups. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that an employer cannot simply disregard any applicant who has been convicted of a crime. Instead, employers should evaluate how the specific criminal conduct relates to the duties of a particular position. When making this assessment, consider a variety of factors, such as the facts and circumstances surrounding the offense, the timing of the offense, the number of offenses for which the individual was convicted, rehabilitation efforts, and employment or character references.

    Myth #2: Relying on one recruiting method, as long as it’s worked in the past, is a great strategy.
    Fact: Relying on one recruiting method, even if it’s worked for you in the past, could limit the quality and diversity of your applicant pool and increase the time it takes to fill the open role. Consider a mix of recruiting methods that fit your budget, including online job boards and referrals. For highly specialized roles, consider industry organizations or use a professional recruiting firm.

    Myths #3: Bans on asking about salary history are a trend I don’t need to worry about.
    Fact: Some jurisdictions, including Massachusetts (effective July 1, 2018) and New York City (effective October 31, 2017), have enacted laws that restrict employers from asking about an applicant’s pay history during the hiring process. Other jurisdictions are considering similar laws, since pay history may reflect discriminatory pay practices of a previous employer, which could lead to lower wages in the new job. If you are subject to these restrictions, remove salary history questions from your application form and train your managers not to ask about an applicant’s pay history during the pre-employment process.

    Myth #4: If we have a candidate’s resume, we don’t need their application, since they’re basically the same thing.
    Fact: Even if a candidate has provided a resume, he or she should also be required to submit an employment application. An application can reveal job-related information that the candidate may have excluded from their resume, such as the reason for leaving their former jobs. Additionally, applications allow you to collect relevant information in a standardized way, making it easier to compare candidates to one another and identify any potential discrepancies between the information provided in the resume and the application.

    Myth #5: We can’t compete for candidates with other employers that pay more.
    Fact: Candidates look at a wide variety of factors when determining whether to accept job offers. Even if your company is unable to offer the highest wages, consider a total compensation package that includes a mix of both direct compensation (wages, salaries, commissions, and bonuses) and indirect compensation (health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, etc.). Some job seekers may also place a greater emphasis on flexibility or professional development, so if you can offer flexible work schedules, telecommuting, or other perks, this could help you recruit more employees.

    Myth #6: Interviews are a waste of time.
    Fact: Even though interviews aren’t always easy, they can uncover important job-related information beyond what’s provided in the candidate’s resume or application. When used effectively, interviews can help you identify how candidates have handled situations in the past that are similar to what they would experience on the job. They also provide an opportunity for the candidate to clarify and expand upon the information on their resume or application. Preparing for and conducting interviews can take time, so be sure the candidate meets the minimum qualifications for the job by carefully reviewing their resume and employment application. Also, consider conducting a phone interview before bringing candidates in for a formal interview.

    Myth #7: We aren’t required to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants with disabilities. We only have to worry about that after they’re hired.
    Fact: Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and similar state laws, applicants with a disability may require a reasonable accommodation during the hiring process in order to have an equal opportunity to be considered for a job. For example, an otherwise qualified individual with a sight-related disability may need to take a written test in an alternative format, such as in large print, or may need a reader, in order to have the same opportunity to apply for the position. The ADA requires reasonable accommodations during the hiring process even if providing an accommodation on the job would create a hardship for your business.

    Myth #8: We need to wait for the perfect candidate.
    Fact: Ideally, you will have several strong candidates with many of the skills, knowledge, and attributes you seek. While there is no such thing as the perfect applicant, your job is to determine the best fit for the open position. If you have difficulty filling a position, you may need to reevaluate your criteria. Perhaps there isn’t an exact match for the skills you need but maybe there are candidates with related skills and on-the-job training could fill in any gaps.

    Myth #9: Rejection letters are passé.
    Fact: Sending rejection letters is still considered a best practice to help maintain goodwill with applicants. This can be important if your needs change and you want to tap into former applicants for future openings or if someone ever asks the candidate about their experience applying for a job at your company. Once you have disqualified a candidate, inform him or her of your decision in writing.

    Myth #10: If you make a verbal offer to a candidate, there is no need for a written offer letter.
    Fact: While some employers choose to gauge the candidate’s interest by first extending a verbal offer, it’s a best practice to follow up with a formal written offer. A written offer should include the job title, supervisor, location, work hours, starting pay, an abbreviated summary of benefits, and a statement that the offer letter is not an employment contract. Additionally, if applicable, clearly list any contingencies that could lead to withdrawal of the offer, such as results of a background check, drug testing, references, and/or the individual’s inability to demonstrate work eligibility.
    Following misguided hiring advice can make the process more time consuming and costly. Make sure you have an effective hiring process that complies with federal, state, and local laws.

  • Human Resources Comments Off on 10 Policies to avoid in your Employee Handbook

    Employee handbooks can help employers communicate rules, benefits and other important information to employees. In the past, we have covered must-have policies for your employee handbook, but it is also important to know which policies to avoid. If your handbook isn’t drafted carefully, certain policies may conflict with federal, state, or local law. Here are 10 policies to avoid.

    X Withholding Final Pay Until Company Property Is Returned
    Federal law requires employees to receive their final pay by the next scheduled payday. Many states have shorter timeframes, such as at the time of termination. Employers must meet final pay deadlines, regardless of whether the employee has yet to return company property.
    Best Practice: Whenever possible, reclaim company equipment prior to the employee’s last day. Depending on the state, employers may be permitted to make limited deductions from a non-exempt employee’s final pay for unreturned equipment (these deductions are prohibited if the employee is classified as exempt), provided the deduction does not bring the employee’s pay below the applicable minimum wage and does not reduce any overtime pay due. However, some states expressly prohibit deductions for unreturned equipment. Review your applicable laws and consider consulting legal counsel before deducting from final pay.

    X Unauthorized Overtime/Early Punch-Ins Will Not Be Paid
    Under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees must receive one and a half times their regular rate of pay for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek (some states require overtime in additional circumstances and at a different rate). If a non-exempt employee has worked overtime, he or she must be paid an overtime premium, regardless of whether the overtime was pre-authorized. A policy that no overtime work is permitted unless authorized in advance doesn’t relieve the employer of this requirement. Similarly, employers may not withhold pay for time worked if the employee punches in before his or her scheduled start time.
    Best Practice: Employers may subject the employee to disciplinary measures for working unauthorized overtime, but in no case may the employer withhold overtime pay.

    X Requiring a Doctor’s Note for Every Sick Day
    Most leave laws allow employers to ask employees for reasonable documentation of the need for leave. However, certain laws do have restrictions. For example, some state and local paid sick leave laws prohibit employers from requesting documentation unless the employee has taken sick leave for more than three consecutive days.
    Best Practice: Even in the absence of a restriction, consider what, if any, documentation would be reasonable to require from employees, and apply your policy consistently. Also keep in mind that certain laws limit the type of medical information an employer can request, and any medical documentation or health information received must be kept confidential and separate from the employee’s personnel file.

    X Prohibiting Lawful Off-Duty Conduct
    Several states prohibit employers from taking adverse action against employees and applicants who use tobacco. Additionally, a few states expressly prohibit employers from taking adverse action against individuals on the basis of any legal off-duty conduct.
    Best Practice: Even if your state doesn’t expressly protect employees from legal off-duty conduct, it is not considered a best practice to have such a policy.

    X Safety Bonuses Based on Days without an Injury
    Safety incentive programs that offer rewards to employees for consecutive days without a workplace injury may violate the Occupational Safety and Health Act. These programs could discourage workers from reporting workplace injuries out of fear they’d jeopardize the bonus for themselves and/or co-workers.
    Best Practice: Consider incentives that promote worker participation in safety-related activities, such as incentives for identifying hazards, making suggestions for safety improvements, participating in safety committees, or assisting in investigations of injuries, incidents, or “near misses.”

    X Pay Secrecy
    Under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees have, among other things, the right to act together to improve wages and working conditions and to discuss wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment, with or without a union. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which enforces the NLRA, and many courts have found that pay secrecy or pay confidentiality rules violate Section 7 rights. Additionally, some states and local jurisdictions prohibit pay secrecy policies.
    Best Practice: Never take action or implement policies that could be construed to restrict employees’ rights under the NLRA. Instead, consider taking steps to better communicate information about your company’s compensation program and how employees’ salaries and wages are determined.

    X Overly Broad Social Media Restrictions
    The NLRB has taken the position that an employee’s use of social media to protest unfair working conditions (such as unequal pay or harassment) may be protected under Section 7 of the NLRA. Policies prohibiting employees from tarnishing the company’s reputation or maintaining confidentiality through social media postings may violate the NLRA if they:
    Explicitly restrict Section 7 protected activities.
    Prevent employees from engaging in protected activity out of fear that they may be disciplined.
    Contain catch-all language that the policy isn’t intended to restrict Section 7 rights, without context to show that the policy is in fact compliant.
    Best Practice: Draft social media policies carefully and provide sufficient details and contexts to make it clear that the rules do not infringe on protected activity. For example, any confidentiality provisions should clearly indicate that employees’ wages and other working conditions aren’t considered confidential information.

    X Probationary/Introductory Periods
    Probationary or introductory periods are sometimes used to assess a new hire’s performance, but can lead to confusion regarding “at-will” status. At-will generally means that either the employee or the employer may terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any lawful reason. When employers use probationary periods, employees sometimes think that once they successfully complete a probationary period, they are no longer at risk for termination based upon their performance. This misunderstanding can lead to increased risk of wrongful termination claims. Additionally, the term “probationary period” may have a negative connotation. New hires may misinterpret “probationary” to mean that they are immediately placed on a disciplinary action plan at the start of their employment.
    Best Practice: Whether it’s an “introductory period,” “training period,” or “orientation period,” they all generally run the risk of confusing employees about their employment status. Instead, create a development plan, set clear performance goals, and hold regular check-ins with all new hires to ensure they’re meeting performance expectations.

    X Discipline Policies that Lack Flexibility
    Disciplinary action provisions should give the company flexibility to take action based on the facts and circumstances of each case. If drafted incorrectly, discipline policies may lock you into taking one course of action, such as policies that indicate a verbal warning will be given for all first offenses, a written warning for all second offenses, and so on (commonly known as progressive discipline).
    Best Practice: Avoid policies that restrict your ability to decide what type of discipline is appropriate given the severity of the offense and the employee’s history of misconduct. State that violations may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination, and that the company reserves the right to decide what disciplinary action to take in any given situation. Keep in mind, however, that treating employees fairly is key and similar situations and past practices should guide and impact the disciplinary action taken.

    X English-Only Policies
    The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has taken the position that rules requiring employees to speak only English in the workplace violate federal law unless they are reasonably necessary to the operation of the business. Policies that require employees to speak only English in the workplace at all times, including during breaks and meal periods, will not likely be considered reasonably necessary.
    Best Practice: Employers that believe an English-only rule is reasonably necessary to the operation of their business should consult legal counsel to determine whether it is permitted. If permitted, apply the rule in limited circumstances and only when it is needed to operate safely and efficiently.

    When drafting and reviewing your employee handbook, carefully consider what policies to include and what policies to avoid, while taking into account all applicable federal, state, and local laws.

  • Human Resources, Payroll Comments Off on Final Pay Rules

    When an employee leaves your company, you have a responsibility to ensure that he or she receives their final pay in accordance with federal and state law. Generally, these laws dictate when you must provide the employee with their final pay and what the pay must include. Here we provide answers to frequently asked questions about final pay.
    Q: When is final pay due?

    A: Under federal law, final pay is generally due by the next regular payday, but many states require final pay sooner. In some cases, this time frame differs depending on whether the employee initiates separation (voluntary termination) or the employer initiates separation (involuntary termination). For example, California requires final pay immediately for involuntary terminations. For voluntary terminations, the state requires final pay within 72 hours. However, if the employee provides at least 72 hours of notice, final pay is due on the employee’s last day. Note: Some states have separate final pay deadlines and other rules for commissions, bonuses, and other special situations.

    Q: Do I have to pay employees for unused vacation when they leave?

    A: It depends on your state and company policy. States generally handle unused vacation and paid time off in one of three ways:

    Employers must pay employees for accrued, unused vacation time at the time of separation;
    Employers can exclude unused vacation time from final pay only if they have a written policy that explicitly states that employees will not be paid for any accrued, unused time upon separation; or
    Employers can exclude accrued, unused vacation from final pay absent a policy that says otherwise.
    Q: Do I have to pay employees for unused sick leave at the time of termination?

    A: Most sick leave laws don’t require employers to pay employees for accrued, unused sick leave at the time of separation. However, if you bundle all leave, including sick leave, into a single paid-time-off (PTO) policy, your state may apply the same rules as it does for accrued, unused vacation/PTO (which could require payout upon separation). Check your state law to ensure compliance.

    Q: An employee quit and has failed to return a company computer. Can I withhold his final paycheck until he returns it?

    A: As a general rule, you may not withhold final pay until an employee returns company equipment. You must meet the applicable final pay deadline even if the employee hasn’t returned company property.

    Q: Instead of withholding the entire paycheck, can I make a deduction from the employee’s final check to help pay for unreturned equipment?

    A: The federal Fair Standards Labor Act (FLSA) does not permit this type of deduction from exempt employees’ pay. For non-exempt employees (those entitled to the minimum wage and overtime), the FLSA permits employers to make deductions from employees’ pay for lost/stolen/unreturned equipment provided it does not reduce the employee’s pay below the minimum wage and does not cut into any overtime pay. Some states prohibit this practice or have additional requirements, so check your state law before making a deduction.

    Note: Under the FLSA, employers are generally required to obtain an employee’s consent before making a permissible deduction. The agreement must specify the particular items for which deductions will be made (e.g. company uniforms, equipment, or employee theft) and how the amount of the deduction will be determined. It is a best practice to obtain the employee’s authorization in writing and consult legal counsel before making a deduction.

    Q: An exempt employee who typically works Monday through Friday resigned. Her last day is Wednesday. Do I have to pay her full salary for that final week even though she will only work part of it?

    A: Apart from a few narrow exceptions, the FLSA requires employers to pay exempt employees their full salary for any workweek in which they perform work. However, if an exempt employee doesn’t work a full workweek in their first or last week on the job, you may prorate the employee’s salary for that workweek so that it only covers the days worked.


    Failure to provide final pay in accordance with applicable laws may result in fines. Develop policies and procedures to ensure compliance.

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