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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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!
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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
How effective are your training programs? Do they result in greater productivity, fewer accidents, less expense, lower turnover, increased employee satisfaction or greater customer retention? Do they change people’s attitudes? Do they lower your risk of lawsuits? Answers to questions like these are necessary to determine if your training efforts are producing results … results that can affect your bottom line.
Conducting an ongoing evaluation of your training programs is absolutely necessary. It can help you keep your training programs cost-effective and relevant by revealing when programs should be revised or replaced. You must analyze your training results in several different areas, such as:
- Training Participant Evaluation
Getting participant feedback is a vital part of training evaluation. You can do this through surveys, either via paper or computer. Areas to evaluate could include: content, delivery and logistics. Keep in mind that surveys are subjective, but they should help you get an overall feel for how the training is received.
- Skills/Principles Learned
Actual learning as a result of training is another important area to measure. If the training teaches certain skills, participants should be tested prior to and after the training so you can see what skills they gained. If the training covers knowledge and theory, testing participants at the end is a simple way to measure learning results.
- Identify Results
It’s important to be able to assess how the training impacts the bottom line. Identify specific results that are desired from the training and follow up to see if they occur. It’s also important to assess the behavior of training participants once they return to the job. Did the training impact their behavior?
- Calculate ROI
The final step is to calculate the return on investment (ROI) as it relates to the training. Once you identify the results and calculate the costs of the training, decide if the return is worth it. Be sure to factor in ALL costs related to the training: wages of developers and presenters, outside trainer fees, material costs such as paper and pens, downtime during training, facility and equipment charges, administrative costs, travel costs, etc.) The list can be extensive, but needs to be complete for the results to be useful.
Calculating the benefits of your training programs can be a bit time-consuming, but it’s essential if you want to know whether your training efforts are helping you meet your goals.
If your organization needs a hand developing, measuring or improving its training, HR Performance Solutions’ HR consultants can help.
by Megan Mohr, CCP, Compensation Consultant
Know anyone that’s thinking of changing jobs in the not too distant future? You’re not alone. A survey from CareerBuilder and Harris Interactive found that 21% of fulltime employees were looking to change jobs last year. That’s up 4% from the year before – and the highest percentage since 2008.
A major reason employees want to flee is lack of recognition in their workplace. Another study, this one from Bersin & Associates, discovered that employers who had recognition programs to promote employee engagement had lower turnover.
When you consider that the average job tenure for U.S. employees is 4.6 years and only 3.2 years for millennial employees, it may be time for your company to rethink its recognition program. And if your organization doesn’t have one, now’s the time to put one in place. Here are four things to consider when rewarding employees:
- Rewards Aren’t Always Monetary
Even though actions speak louder than words, sometimes employees need both in the form of positive feedback. Whether it’s verbal or written, formal or informal, a few kind words can go a long way to making your employee feel valued. And an employee that feels valued will stick around longer and produce better results.
- Start Early
Don’t wait for an employee’s five-year anniversary to shine a light on them. The sooner you recognize an employee, the sooner you set the standards for work quality and fulfill their need to be appreciated. Try a yearly anniversary recognition – this will keep them engaged with their job and your organization.
- Give it Meaning
Who wants a hollow compliment? Definitely not your employees! Personalize your recognition program so it means something to each individual and makes them feel special. Instead of a more blanket form of recognition, perhaps let each department have input in how they’d like to be recognized.
- Get Everyone on Board
From top to bottom, everyone needs to fully buy in to your company’s recognition program. Make sure that your managers actually have the skills and feel comfortable enough in their roles to work with and recognize their employees. Some training may need to happen before your program can be successful and impactful.
However your organization approaches its recognition program, here are the two the main takeaways: 1) You need to have one in place, and 2) Some thought and care need to be taken before unveiling it to your staff. If done correctly, your recognition program can be the gift that keeps on giving.
If your company needs a hand contending with employee recognition or training, our HR Performance Solutions HR consultants can help. Click here to contact us or to learn more.
by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant
Most employers have a traditional at-will employment policy that states either the employee or the employer can terminate employment with or without cause at any time with or without notice. This is a great policy … until the moment of execution when the manager wants to terminate an employee with little or no documentation. Conducting a termination by invoking the at-will policy may find your company at the wrong end of a discrimination lawsuit.
Employers who choose to hide behind a reduction in force or position elimination may also be at risk. This strategy may be effective, unless the position is not eliminated and the “downsized” employee finds an advertisement for her eliminated position posted online two weeks later and sues the employer for discrimination or wrongful termination.
So, what strategies can an employer put in place to reduce the risk of being sued by a disgruntled former employee? Honesty is always the best policy and, in most cases, the reasons for termination should not be a surprise to the employee.
Following are a few steps to help reduce the risk of being accused of unfair employment practices:
- Clearly communicate to the employee the specific performance issue
- Establish goals for improvement
- Identify a timeline for improvement
- Follow-up and follow through with employee to ensure they understand the importance of improvement
- Document all follow-up and action steps
- Terminate employee if objectives are not met
Of course, there may be circumstances that require immediate termination. In these circumstances, best practices still dictate that the reasons for termination be communicated clearly to the employee.
Whether your organization needs help with performance management or any other HR related area, please contact HR Performance Solutions today.
by Nancy Norman, HR Product Manager
Having worked at HR Performance Solutions for nearly 12 years, I have been “around the block” when it comes to dealing with performance appraisals. After implementing hundreds of performance management systems and training thousands users on performance management best practices, I have one piece of advice that can make all the difference. Keep it simple!
What do I mean by this? The process should be kept simple enough that it makes it easy for your managers and employees to be successful. Often I hear how difficult it is to get managers to do timely appraisals or to keep track of things throughout the year. Employees often think of appraisals as a bad experience or one that has little or no value.
Here are three tips to keep it simple and find greater success:
- Culture: Create a culture that expects both managers and employees to manage performance throughout the year. When managing performance is the expectation and foregone conclusion, it’ll become a natural part of their daily routine. “Everybody’s doing it.”
- Tools: Implement tools that are simple and easy to understand. Sometimes the biggest hurdle is an application that’s difficult to understand and use. If the problem is training, you can fix that. If the problem is the tool, you can fix that as well.
- Process: Well meaning, but misguided decision making sometimes results in an over-complicated appraisal process. It can be hard enough to get employees and managers to do one appraisal a year, let alone monthly or quarterly. If the nature of your business is such that it demands this level of feedback, then make sure your employees understand why and help them to buy into the process. If you’re able to meet the needs of your business and your employees with a simpler process, you might want to scale back.
Ultimately, ask yourself why you do appraisals and what do you expect for your return on investment? Does your business culture, its tools you use and the processes you have defined support the “why”? Are you getting the results you need and expect? If not, don’t be afraid to mix it up.
And if you need help, HR Performance Solutions is here to review your system setup and make recommendations. Our HR consultants are here to help get your organization where it needs to be.
by Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Sr. HR Consultant
Job descriptions. They’re something every human resource person and manager know are important, but keeping them current and pertinent can sometimes slip through the cracks.
Having the most accurate job descriptions for your employees not only ensures everyone is on the same page on duties and responsibilities, but they can help protect your organization from facing disability discrimination claims.
If your business has at least 15 employees, you need to ensure that your job descriptions correctly identify what all the essential job functions are of each position – and list any specific tools or resources needed. Here are six steps to help ensure that all of your current and potential employees have the most comprehensive job descriptions:
- Collect Information and Analyze
Why not start at the source? Interview your employees and managers about the various positions. Use questionnaires. You might even want to take some time to casually observe your employees in their positions to confirm that your descriptions are correct.
- Use Visual Aids
If an employee needs specific resources or equipment for their job, include a photo of what they are. Or, depending on the position, you could videotape the individual performing their job.
- Identify Hazards
Include any hazardous exposure disclosures that safety laws require.
- Describe the Environment
Is the position indoors or outdoors? Is there easy access from one floor to the next (stairs and/or elevator)?
- Mental and Physical
Be sure the job description includes employer expectations outlining mental and physical requirements, education and training plus any attendance or schedule requirements.
- Making Distinctions
As with anything, there’s a difference between what’s required and what would be “nice to have.” There’s no place in a job description for the latter. Only include what an employee needs to get the job done.
Writing Those Descriptions
When it comes to sitting down and actually writing the job descriptions, you’ll want to: use simple and concise language with active verbs; try not to include any industry jargon that outsiders may not comprehend; use a consistent format throughout all your job descriptions; and have supervisors and employees verify the information. Combine these and the six steps above and you’ll have comprehensive job descriptions to keep everyone on the same page and the Americans with Disabilities Act satisfied.
By Joyce Marsh, SPHR, Sr. HR Consultant
Think you have a good grasp on the difference between regular employees and independent contractors? The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) seems to be cracking down even more lately when it comes to enforcing misclassifications.
The DOL recently announced numerous instances where a number of companies failed to classify their employees correctly and now owe the agency back wages and damages ranging from $109,000 to $1.3 million. To save your company from being added to this list, here are a few vital warning signs that you may have misclassified your employees:
- You have given your contract employee paid vacation or sick leave.
- You pay your contract employee by the hour or on a salaried basis, versus by the project.
- The work they perform is usually paid reported on a W-2 basis.
- The person’s business expenses have been reimbursed.
- You’ve had the contract employee sign a non-compete agreement.
- They only perform work for you and do so as an individual, rather than as a company.
Don’t be mistaken, the DOL is taking this seriously. They’ve hired over 2,000 investigators since 2008. Looking for misclassifications has become a routine investigation for them now.
So, take a second look at any contract employees you may have and reclassify as needed. Just make sure you make up any back pay you may owe them to be compliant.
by Megan Mohr, CCP, Compensation Consultant, HR Performance Solutions
In an ideal world, HR would be able to hire the perfect mix of internal and external candidates to keep their company running smoothly and its staff happy. Unfortunately, none of us work in a perfect world! So, that leaves HR with the internal vs. external quandary for most of their hires. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for when to hire internally or externally, here are some pros and cons of both options:
- Increased engagement
- Quicker onboarding
- Less expensive
- Better cultural fit
- Potential for less innovation
- Internal politics
- Biased hiring
- Fewer applicants
- Fresh ideas
- Larger talent pool
- Increased diversity
- Avoid internal politics
- Less cost-effective
- Longer onboarding
- May not fit company culture
- Possible detriment to staff morale
These lists of pros and cons only skim the surface of the components HR considers when making the decision of internal vs. external hiring. If you look at the numbers, the majority of positions are filled with external candidates. The SHRM Human Capital Benchmarking Database shows that in 2013, 66% of positions were filled externally compared to 26% internally.
Decisions, Decisions …
Each company and each position is different and has different needs. HR will usually make its internal/external hiring decision based on whether the position requires collaboration, if the skillset is unique to the company, what the internal supply of talent actually is and any changes within the company or industry. Whichever approach your HR department decides to take, it needs to consider these factors when making a decision:
- Thoughtful Job Descriptions
If you find you’re using the same tired, canned job descriptions every time and getting unsatisfactory hires, it might be time to breathe new life into what’s written. Be sure the language you choose is universal and not limited to just what an internal candidate would understand. Take some time to see how the competition is handling job descriptions. Many industries are opting for more fun yet realistic job descriptions versus the old, worn out ones.
- Beware of Biases
No one is without bias. But in HR, you can’t let that affect any decision you make. Don’t fall for any pressure to hire from within if that’s not the best decision for the company. Take a hard look at your hiring practices to see if there’s more of an internal or external trend and then determine why it may favor one over the other.
- Take a Good Look at What Makes You Unique
Every company and its culture are truly unique. Take a good, objective look at what makes your organization and the positions unique. This will help the HR team better weave its new hires and the company culture into a more tightly-woven and cohesive entity.
- Think Succession Planning
Make sure you know the movers and shakers within your company and those that do their best to fly under the radar and take that into consideration when new positions open up. Keep upper management up-to-date on who’s moving up and who is stalled out. This lets you be proactive when it comes to succession planning.
- Don’t Stop Onboarding
If you think that once the new hires have been shown their desk and gone through orientation that onboarding is done, think again. To the new hires, onboarding can be a long, slow process. Make sure they get to spend quality time with not only the team they’ll be working with but with upper management as well. The more employees feel like they understand and are part of the big picture, the more welcome they’ll feel and the harder they’ll work.
Let HR Performance Solutions and its HR consultants help your organization with its recruiting, hiring or onboarding process. Contact us today for more information.
by Emily Sternberg, HR Consultant, HR Performance Solutions
Managers often say “if we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always gotten.” In today’s business environment, this couldn’t be less true; managers should now state; “if we do what we’ve always done, we may go out of business.” The key to success in today’s business landscape is transformational innovation.
According to recent KPMG study, innovation isn’t brought on by investing more in research and development or better technology, but by investing in human capital and creating an innovative culture. Human resources professionals are now uniquely positioned to influence a culture of innovation. It begins with talent acquisition and performance management. HR must work directly with functional leaders to identify competencies for success in specific positions and recruit for those needs. Performance Management is the next key role in developing a culture of innovation. Train and encourage managers to set stretch goals and hold employees accountable to them. These types of goals will help the company achieve its objectives and more importantly its competitive advantage. HR must encourage risk taking, rewarding successes while also using failures as an opportunity to learn and try again.
Most importantly, HR must recognize that culture change isn’t a task to check off a list. The role of creating a culture of innovation is ongoing, it’s about looking at industry best practices, and applying those not in the same manner that brought success to other organizations, but in a way that is a best fit for your company.