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April 27, 2015

Managing Goals through Change

Filed under: Communication,Engagement11:02 am

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by Nancy Norman, HR Product Manager

Even with the most careful and brilliant planning, change is inevitable.  Imagine if a sailor navigating the seas was so set on his selected course that he failed to adjust to the change in the winds or weather.  He may never reach his intended port and may find himself in great peril.  The saying goes, “The only certainties in life are death and taxes,” which means that even the most carefully crafted goals should be subject to change.  While many of us feel that change is for the Byrds, “to everything… there is a season… and a time for every purpose.” It is each manager’s responsibility to be alert to the coming changes in the “seasons” that will impact his/her functional areas and appropriately adjust his/her course based on the company’s strategic plan and organizational goals.  If that’s the case, what can be done to encourage the creation of goals that are effective and properly nimble to ensure success?

Know and Understand the Strategic Plan:
In order to set goals that align with organizational strategy, managers have to first know what that strategy is and have a thorough understanding of how it applies to their departments and individual roles. Managers should be able to effectively communicate this to their employees.  Human Resources should be instrumental in making this information available in a timely fashion and helping management know what to do with when strategy changes direction?

Review the Strategic Plan and Goals Regularly:
When direction changes, it is important they take the time to re-assess the focus and direction of the goals that have been set and make the needed adjustments to stay on target.  We will not know of important changes if we are not keeping in touch with our organizations strategy.  Annual goals should be reviewed at least quarterly to ensure they are still accomplishing an outcome that will be meaningful.

Set Expectations:
Communicate to employees that their goals are significant and an important part of your overall success.  As goals are set with employees, be sure to set the expectation that they will be reviewed often and adjustments will be made if business needs shift.  The knowledge that their goals are a component of a greater purpose should provide the motivation and understanding necessary to weather changes with the proper attitude.

Don’t Confuse Flexible with Non-Specific:
While you want goals to be flexible, this does not mean that they are not defined.  You should not forget the rules of effective goal setting.  Goals need to continue to be SMART, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely.  Specific details set clear expectations and help the employee understand what it is they are trying to accomplish. They must be easily measured and feasible both in the employees ability to achieve the goal and its relevancy to their current role.  Timelines and due dates are also critical for success.

Human Resources is an important link between key company stake holders and the people on the ground getting things done.  HR can be instrumental in providing the necessary information and training for managers to be successful in setting goals and managing them throughout the year.  Create a culture where each employee thinks strategically and looks for and anticipates change.  It’s inevitable; it may as well be embraced.

 

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April 21, 2015

Avoid Dress Code Discrimination Issues

Filed under: Discrimination,Training12:12 pm

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This is the second of a two-part series of blogs regarding dress codes. Today’s post deals with discrimination, which can be a major item of consideration for many organizations. Here are some of the areas you want to think about when drafting your policy.

1. Disability Discrimination

a) Dress and Appearance

Dress or appearance standards that adversely affect or otherwise screen out qualified disabled applicants or employees have been found to be discriminatory.

Examples:

  • Excluding applicants or discriminating against employees because of obesity may be illegal.  Severe obesity may be a disability under the ADA.  Such cases would be examined on a case-by-case basis.
  • Regarding an individual as disabled because of obesity may also be discriminatory.  For example: an ADA violation was found where an obese applicant for a bus driver position was regarded as disabled because it was believed she could not move appropriately in case of an accident.  She was otherwise qualified for the position based on her driving record, experience, and references.

Failing to hire an applicant due to his facial disfigurement can constitute disability discrimination.

2. Religious Discrimination

Title VII requires that organizations must accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs and practices unless an undue hardship is created.

Examples:

The following practices have generally been upheld:

  • An employee was transferred to a janitorial position after refusing to shave his beard for religious reasons.  The company contended that the issue was safety, as the beard did not permit a proper fit of a respirator.

Discrimination has been found where:

a) A nurse had been required to wear a nurse’s cap without a tight fitting scarf underneath (her religion required that her head be covered).

b) A hair salon had refused to allow an employee to wear a yarmulke to work (Jewish skullcap).

c) An airport had refused to allow security workers to wear headscarves (as required by their religion).

3. Racial Discrimination

Charges by employees alleging that dress and grooming standards violated their freedom of expression have generally been upheld.  Expressions of cultural heritage are typically not protected by Title VII.

Examples:

a) African-American employee charges that the company dress code infringed on their black pride and culture were not upheld.

b) Title VII did not protect an employee’s wearing of nose jewelry, which she contended was an expression of her Mexican Indian heritage.

4. What about state and local laws?

Employers must also ensure that dress and appearance policies meet state and local legal requirements.

Examples:

a) California does not allow employers to prohibit employees from wearing pants in the workplace;

b) Wisconsin requires organizations to state their dress and grooming requirements at the time of hire;

c) The District of Columbia (as well as numerous localities) prohibits discrimination based on an individual’s appearance, including style of dress or hair.

We’d love to hear if you’ve face any dress code issues and how you dealt with them!

 

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April 13, 2015

Spring Flowers Lead to Summer Dress Codes

Filed under: Discrimination,General HR Buzz8:25 am

dress code

by Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Senior HR Consultant

If yours is like many companies, these two items may be part of your current discussion regarding summer dress code. Yes, it’s rapidly approaching, and it seems the discussion erupts after the first warm, unexpected day when an employee shows up to work in something that is, perhaps, questionable. Then the whole can of worms opens up. Is it appropriate to wear sleeveless tops? What about collarless shirts?

Many of these answers depend on your business, your customers and the overall philosophy of appropriate “dress” within your culture. Whatever the point of view, an understanding of the issues and legal concerns surrounding dress and appearance standards is necessary to ensure that you can implement an effective code that meets the needs for professionalism and safety in your organization. Our next two blogs will explore some items for consideration when drafting your dress code policy.

  1. How much freedom does an employer have in setting appearance standards for its employees?
    Typically, a lot. Organizations may generally impose standards based on “social norms.” Appearance and dress requirements that are based on legitimate business needs (e.g., safety needs, industry norms, management philosophy, types of jobs involved and common business standards) are more likely to be upheld should a discrimination charge be filed. Workplace rules based on “personal taste” are typically difficult to defend.
  2. What are the discrimination issues?
    Dress and appearance standards may violate federal or state anti-discrimination statutes if they are applied inconsistently or create a disparate impact on a protected group. Sex and religious discrimination are most commonly alleged.
  3. Sex Discrimination

a) Dress and Appearance
Dress code differences for men and women do not inherently create sex bias. Different dress standards for men and women that reflect common social norms have generally been upheld. Therefore, employers do not have to apply identical dress standards for men and women. However, dress codes not based on societal norms that impose a greater impact or burden on one sex, that are antiquated or based on sex stereotypes, or that are significantly different for men and women typically cannot be upheld.

Examples:

The following practices have generally been upheld:

  • Requiring men, but not women, to wear ties.
  • Allowing women, but not men, to wear earrings.
  • Terminating a female juvenile center employee for wearing too much makeup (after repeated warnings).
  • Prohibiting men from wearing long hair.
  • Because of safety reasons, requiring employees to wear hair a certain way or to use a hair net.
  • Requiring facial hair to be neatly groomed; however, completely prohibiting facial hair may be discriminatory on the basis of religion, disability or race.

Discrimination has been found where:

  • Female employees, but not males, were required to wear uniforms.
  • Female employees, but not males, were forced to wear smocks.
  • A manager required a female employee to wear makeup within days of being notified that the employee was pregnant. The manager had also asserted that pregnant women were less attractive.
  • Maximum weight requirements were established for female airline employees where none were established for males.
  • Only women were required to wear contact lenses.
  • A convenience store fired a black employee who had a skin disease aggravated by shaving and who refused to shave. (Black males are most likely to have this condition, known as PFB.) Company concerns regarding “image” generally don’t justify a “no beard rule.” PFB may also be a disability under the ADA.
  • Male employees were required to wear jackets and ties, but females could wear jeans, sweaters, and other informal apparel.

b) Harassment
Employers have been held liable for sexual harassment because they had required female employees to wear provocative clothing.

Discrimination has been found where:

  • A female lobby attendant was required to wear sexually revealing and provocative clothing that subjected her to derogatory comments and harassment from the public.
  • A female cocktail waitress was required to wear a revealing costume while male servers wore tuxedos.

Part two of this blog will focus on avoiding potential discrimination issues when concerning disabilities, religion and racial items. So, don’t miss next week’s blog!

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April 6, 2015

FMLA Updates Redefine Spouse

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:29 am

same sex

by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant

In 2013, the Supreme Court struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, ruling it unconstitutional. As a result of this ruling, many federal statutes have been reviewed to determine if this ruling has any implication on the interpretation of the act. The most recently updated law is the Family Medical Leave Act. Under the new law, the definition of spouse has been changed to reflect all legally married same sex spouses, regardless of the state in which they currently reside. This is referred to as the “place of celebration” rule, rather than the previously used “state of residence” rule.

In practice, this enables all same sex spouses, who were legally married in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, to take Family Medical Leave to care for their spouse or family member regardless of the state in which they currently reside. This final rule’s definition of spouse includes lawfully recognized same sex and common law marriages and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the United States, if the marriage could have been entered into in at least one state.

What does this mean in practice for administrators of the FMLA?

  1. Lawfully married same sex partners will be able to take leave under the FMLA to care for their own or their spouse’s serious health condition.
  2. Lawfully married same sex partners will be permitted up to 26 weeks of leave to care for a partner injured or suffering an illness as result of a military action.
  3. Eligible employees will also be able to take leave to care for their step-child (natural or adopted child of the employee’s same sex spouse)
  4. Eligible employees will be able to take leave to care for a step-parent who is the same sex spouse of the employee’s parent.

In order to be considered a covered employer under the Family Medical Leave Act, the employer must meet the following criteria:

  • private sector employer with 50 or more employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year;
  • public agency, including a local, state, or federal government agency, regardless of the number of employees it employs; or
  • Public or private elementary or secondary school, regardless of the number of employees it employs.

Eligible employees may take up to 12 workweeks of FMLA leave in a 12-month period:

  • for the birth of the employee’s child and for bonding with the newborn;
  • for the placement of a child with the employee for adoption or foster care and for bonding with the newly-placed child;
  • to care for the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent with a serious health condition; or
  • When the employee is unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job due to the employee’s own serious health condition.

If your company is required to follow the provisions of the Family Medical Leave Act, it is highly recommended that human resource practitioners update their handbooks and policy manuals to reflect the updates to the statute.

For more information or to read the Department of Labor fact sheet, click on http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/factsheet.htm

 

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