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November 5, 2014

Train Now or Be Sorry Later!

Filed under: ADA & Disability,Compliance,Discrimination — Tags: 2:20 pm

Can a one-armed security guard be effective?  A jury recently found for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who sued an employer for unlawfully discriminating against a licensed security guard who lost his right arm in a car accident.  The employee, Alberto Tarud-Saieh, was removed from his post because of a customer complaint about his disability.  In fact, it was the president of a community association that stated, “This company is a joke.  You sent me a one-armed security guard.”  The company responded by removing Tarud-Saieh from his post and not reassigning him to another post, thus terminating his employment.

Treating a disabled individual based on customer preferences, stereotypes, and assumptions as to what the employee can and cannot do is a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  Instead, a disabled individual should have the opportunity to be considered based upon their actual abilities to perform the job.  Tarud-Saieh was awarded $35,922.  Besides the award to their former employee, the company must also engage in training and implementing anti-discrimination employment policies.

This is a good example of how sound policies and a little training can go a long way to protect your company from charges of discrimination.  Training managers to understand what constitutes discrimination under the ADA is vital to ensure an equal employment opportunity for all.

 

Source:  www.eeoc.gov.

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October 23, 2014

Employee Handbook – A Tool You Shouldn’t Be Without

Employee handbooks serve many purposes in an organization.  They can be considered tools for risk management, communication of expectations, and a guidebook of general rules for the workplace.  Employees are not the only ones to benefit from handbooks, but managers and employers also gain an advantage from a well-written and professional-looking handbook.  Here is how:

  • Employees – The handbook should outline how employees are to behave and what the consequences are if they don’t.  It will teach them what needs to be done in their job to be successful in the company.  The handbook should serve as a protection to employees by outlining a process for complaining about possible harassment, reporting an on-the-job injury, and promoting awareness of workplace violence.  Other areas that should be covered are the absence reporting process, how to request time off from work, what dress is appropriate, and how the company feels about complying with all employment laws.
  • Managers – Consistency is key for managers.  They must have a set of standards for how to handle organizational issues.  This should not be step-by-step instructions they must follow, but should consist of principles they can apply consistently in employee relations, performance management, and other areas within their scope of responsibility.
  • Employers – The handbook is a mouthpiece for employers to openly communicate their behavioral expectations for employees and managers alike.  It gives clearly defined parameters for personal conduct, acceptable behaviors, and company expectations.  It is also an effective tool for communicating a summary of the benefits of employment with their organization, (e.g. paid time off, medical and other insurance coverages offered, tuition reimbursement, retirement planning, etc.).  

Ensuring employees have easy access to the employee handbook and have acknowledged its receipt can go a long way to protect an employer in a lawsuit.  Sometimes copies of the policy violated and the acknowledgement of the handbook receipt are all that is needed to dispute an unemployment claim.  Now is the time to minimize your risk by having an up-to-date, legally compliant, and tailored to your company handbook.  It conveys to your employees you care about them and their success!

 

Source:  Brannen, D. Albert.  “Why Your Company Needs a Handbook.” Fisher & Phillips Attorneys at Law.  Available here.

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May 8, 2014

Third-Party Sexual Harassment

Filed under: Compliance,Harrasment,Legal Issues12:54 pm

Many times we think of sexual harassment as ‘quid pro quo’ (this for that) between a supervisor and employee.  However, other forms of sexual harassment can involve coworkers and third-parties and are just as serious for an employer to address.  Here are a couple scenarios to illustrate how third-parties can affect employees and create a hostile work environment:

Scenario 1:  A financial institution teller has a customer who conducts business weekly at her branch, and insists on only her helping him.  He lingers at her teller window beyond the time it takes to take care of business.  He always makes small talk that becomes too personal and that makes her uncomfortable.  His conversations escalate to him asking her repeatedly to meet him outside of work time.  The teller finds his conversations inappropriate and is upset when he won’t take “no” for an answer.  She now hides in the back room and another employee waits on him as he asks her whereabouts.

Scenario 2:  A retailer has a business relationship with an independent contractor.  The contractor is in and out of the business daily and talks to various individuals in the course of business.  However, the contractor uses foul and slang terminology when referring to African-American female employees, even in their presence and brings one employee to tears.  He discusses openly his sexual liaisons.  Over time, the employee develops depression and anxiety.  She has reported his behavior to management and she has told him directly she doesn’t want him speaking offensively around her. 

Now, the question: Is an employer liable for a third-party harasser (a customer or independent contractor)?  And, the answer: Yes, IF the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to address it and take action.

No doubt as a conscientious employer you have a competent anti-harassment policy in place, including a complaint process and a thorough investigative action plan.  If you do – - kudos to you!  If you don’t – - please contact HRN and we will help you with your policy!

 

Source:  Meyer, Eric B. “What Do You Do When Your Contractor Is a Sexual Harasser?”

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April 18, 2014

Did You Know . . . HRN Offers Job Descriptions?

Filed under: Compliance,Hiring & Jobs — Tags: 6:00 am

When writing job descriptions, do you get as tongue-tied as a fifth grader trying to spell “onomatopoeia” at a spelling bee?  Job Descriptions Plus from HRN Performance Solutions is a collection of more than 650 job descriptions written by HR and legal experts and can save you time, money, and potential litigation.  Don’t settle for those too-good-to-be-true free cookie cutter job descriptions.  A great job description clearly defines the role, responsibilities, and performance requirements for each job position.

Benefits of Job Description Plus
Job descriptions are an important part of any well-organized company, offering the basis for clear employer/employee communication and sound HR practices. But even creating one position description from scratch can take hours. Job Descriptions Plus makes a difficult task straightforward and simple and will pay for itself with the first description you use.

Features
Job Descriptions Plus is much more than job descriptions – it’s a resource, HR expert, and training tool that not only helps you write effective descriptions but also addresses Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) issues.

It includes:
* Hundreds of comprehensive, ready-to-use, editable job descriptions covering most functional areas.
* A job description guide, job analysis worksheets and checklists to help you write new descriptions from scratch and maintain current ones.
* ADA Tools to assist in adding appropriate mental and physical job requirements.
* Exempt/nonexempt materials designed to help you apply complex and confusing FLSA tests used in determining who must be paid overtime.
* FLSA Resources provide detailed information regarding exemption issues, how to protect and maintain exempt status as well as address common.
* FLSA questions surrounding “hours worked,” breaks, time off, calculating overtime, paying employees, and recordkeeping.

Sample Job Descriptions
To view sample job descriptions and a list of all included job titles, go to www.hrnonline.com and click on the link for Job Descriptions Plus.

Available in Word
Available in Microsoft® Word and delivered on CD-ROM, Job Descriptions Plus is easy to use and customize.

For more information:
* Visit www.hrnonline.com
* Call toll-free 800.940.7522
* E-mail sales@hrnonline.com

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April 10, 2014

Supreme Court Expands SOX Whistleblower Protection

Filed under: Compliance,Legal Issues6:00 am

In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court extended the circumstances in which an employer can possibly be held liable for retaliation against whistleblowers. The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) law passed in the early 2000s prohibits publicly-traded companies from retaliation against whistleblowers who report corporate fraud. The case before the Supreme Court involved the question of whether the law’s anti-retaliation provisions would also apply to a private company which performed contract or subcontract work for a publicly-traded company. The court held that the word “employee” under the relevant SOX provision could be construed to protect employees of such contractors and subcontractors, thus expanding the reach of the SOX whistleblower law.

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March 26, 2014

Strategic Planning – Vital to Your Success in 2014

A well-written strategic plan can have a synergistic effect on the internal operations of a company.  The synergy that results from everyone’s combined efforts improves the efficiency of operations, the use of resources, the exploitation of opportunities, and creates new paradigms of success.  HRN’s strategic planning experts have over 25 years of experience and have participated in more than 200 strategic planning sessions throughout Michigan and across the country.

Each organization has its own unique needs that must be considered when starting a strategic plan.  Board members and executive management may want to ask questions such as, “What are our top five key issues for 2014?” or “What opportunities should our company evaluate over the next 2 years?” These questions are of great value when planning strategies that affect all aspects of an organization.  Answers given to these questions build strategic focus, and after the answers are tabulated and analyzed, it becomes very clear which strategies should be given “top priority” status and need to be addressed first at the strategic planning session.

To track progress in a strategic plan, many companies will create a ‘Dashboard’ which allows any one team member to quickly look at the current status of each goal at their leisure.  This keeps key strategies, goals, and tactics in the forefront so they don’t get lost in the everyday fires of managing a business.  Ultimately, these companies achieve more financial success, have happier customers and staff, and accomplish more of their goals each year than their counterparts.

Some companies make the mistake of having a strategic plan that is too narrow and only focused in one particular area.  A comprehensive, balanced strategic plan is necessary to take a good company to a great company.  A two- to three-year strategic plan that ties into your business plan and budget is strongly recommended.  It’s important to remember to not bite off too much in your strategic plan.  Set your goals so you have to stretch a little, but don’t overwhelm yourself to the point where you don’t have enough time to take care of the day-to-day tasks of running your company.  While the following is not an exhaustive list, in today’s economy, it’s recommended that companies include these components in their strategic plan:

  • Financial Goals
  • Customer Service Goals
  • Management Training Goals
  • Facility Goals
  • Technology, including Social Media Goals
  • New Products and/or Services
  • Regulatory and Compliance Goals
  • Marketing and Brand Image Goals

Planning to plan is a crucial aspect of successful strategic planning.  Time is precious at the strategic planning session because there is always more to discuss than time allows.  Whether using four hours in a board meeting or a day and a half on a weekend, it’s important to have a set agenda with time frames that keeps everyone on schedule.  While there is no formula for the perfect agenda, planning ahead and realizing that no two organizations are exactly alike, will help all parties involved to see the common goal of planning the organization’s future and how they will get there stronger and better.

For information regarding Strategic Planning, you may contact Mike Moyes by email Mike.Moyes@HRNonline.com OR click here.

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March 13, 2014

Background Checks – (Almost) Everything You Want to Know!

Background checks seem to get more and more confusing with each additional official communication we receive about them.  For employers, knowing what document the employee or applicant must sign to constitute an authorization, which documents must be provided “in-writing,” or what information employees and applicants should be notified can be mind-boggling.  But what about the employee or the applicant?  They want to know why they have to sign this, why they received that, if they have any recourse on what the employer based their decision, or whether the information provided about them to the employer was even accurate.

Well, be confused no more!  The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) just co-published two technical documents designed to assist employers, employees, and applicants through the hurdles of background checks.  The agencies emphasize that employers need written permission from job applicants before getting background reports about them from companies in the business of compiling background information.

At the same time, the agencies want job applicants to know that it is not illegal for potential employers to ask about their background, as long as the employer does not unlawfully discriminate.  Also, when people are turned down for a job or denied a promotion based on information in their background reports, they have the right to review the reports for accuracy.

You can read the new documents on the EEOC’s website:  Background Checks:  What Employers Need to Know and Background Checks:  What Job Applicants and Employees Should Know.

 

Source:  www.eeoc.gov

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March 11, 2014

Embracing Social Media to Promote Employer Brand

It should come as no surprise that the explosion of social media has fundamentally transformed the way we conduct every aspect of business from product development, marketing, sales, and even how we manage the human resources function.  Often as the gatekeeper of policies, HR is reluctant to embrace technology or adapt technology to business processes as this often involves creating new policies, new procedures, and training plans.  Now is the time for HR to take down the firewalls and promote using social media as a tool to engage employees and grow brand awareness.

Social media may now be the single best way for companies to attract talent that is not only a good fit for the technical aspects of the position, but also a great cultural fit.   HR professionals and hiring managers now have a unique opportunity to give potential employees a glimpse of company culture through the use of industry blogs, company web sites, and company Facebook posts and Tweets.  Tweets and Facebook posts give quick real time insight into company successes and events.  In contrast, a lack of online presence may lead a great candidate to overlook your company.  Since it is clear the social media revolution is a permanent presence in our business lives, don’t let the opportunity to use this tool to attract all the rights candidates pass you by!

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March 6, 2014

Religious Garb and Grooming – New Publication from the EEOC

Filed under: Compliance,EEO,Legal Issues,Title VII11:45 am

Dress codes are always a hot topic in HR!  Deciding what is allowed, what is not, and what kind of perception a company wants to create with its customers, are all affected by how its employees dress and groom.  Employers have been warned against being too strict in their dress code policies and to realize that at times they must make exceptions to their usual rules or preferences to be in compliance with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  For instance last year, clothing retailer, Abercrombie & Fitch, learned the hard way (several times) not to discriminate against an employee or applicant whose sincerely held religious beliefs require them to wear hijabs.

To help employers sort out this sometimes personal topic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today issued a practical guide, entitled “Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace:  Rights and Responsibilities” along with a Fact Sheet regarding the same.  This guide provides practical advice for employers and employees, and includes a question-and-answer format with numerous examples based on EEOC litigation.  It is hoped that this guide will protect employees and applicants from job segregation, workplace harassment, retaliation, and discrimination based on their religious beliefs.

Check out the EEOC’s new publication today!

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January 23, 2014

A Workplace Perk that Could Payoff!

Filed under: Benefits,Compliance,General HR Buzz,Legal Issues11:04 am

A recent article caught my eye the other day.  Inc.com reporter, Will Yakowicz, wrote an article about Lending Club, a peer-to-peer lending marketplace, who is in talks with Google to offer employees a new employment perk, low-interest rate loans.  The idea is that a company could lend from their treasury reserves, which only pays them one or two percent interest and the employee could use those monies at the rate of two to four percent interest.  Thus, a greater yield for the company and a great perk for the employee who needs some fast cash.

So, I got to thinking what would happen if Google decides to do this.  Like many other trends, if one company offers a new benefit, word gets around, and other companies feel the pressure to enrich their own benefits and they follow suit.  The argument is that it could be a good recruiting and retention tool.   But, what about HR?  Come on, put on your HR thinking caps and let’s see what some of the hurdles could be that an employer may have to clear.

  1. Would there be regulatory requirements for an employer that is not a financial institution to enlist the services of another entity to engage in lending?
  2. What HR policy would need to govern this new perk?  Is it a benefit?  Is their tax reporting involved?  Payroll deductions?
  3. What if the employee quits or is terminated prior to paying the loan off?
  4. How will this conflict with the possibility of new laws restricting an employer’s use of credit reports in employment decisions?
  5. Who is the decision maker as to whether the employee is eligible for a loan?  And, will loans be made to an employee on a personal improvement plan?
  6. How many loans can an employee have at one time?
  7. Will the employer be responsible for having a loan loss reserve to cover uncollected debt?

I’m sure you can probably think of a few other things worth consideration.  No decision by Google has been made, but what if . . . ?

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