Archive for January, 2012

Bad Work Comp Claims

I recently joined a very lively conversation in the Work Comp Analysis Group on LinkedIn http://www.linkedin.com/groups?home=&gid=1328307&trk=anet_ug_hm&goback=%2Egmp_1328307

A few salient points were made:

  1. Most claims are legit.
  2. While it’s easy for folks to point fingers depending on their agenda, all sides impact the analysis. As an example, Paul Jahn contributed this insight:

“An interesting discussion on the perceived stigma of filing a workers’ compensation claim but all in all one that is focusing on outlier claims.

The system (in the US) typically does a pretty fair job of handling and resolving the vast majority of claims. At PERMA (where I am very familiar with the data), 75% of our claims resolve without loss of time and 80 to 90% of the lost time claims resolve with a return to work. Typically we have 10 to 15 long term litigious claims per accident year out of a universe of 3500 or so.

These claims all have to be looked at on an individual basis (and they all tend to be very high cost). I have been doing so for over 20 years and can draw some general conclusions.

  1. Most claims that do not resolve in some sort of a return to work start out with a poor relationship between employer and employee.
  2. Distrust between providers of coverage and injured workers can make placement in alternative employment a futile effort. An assumption of good faith on both sides could help everyone involved in the system.
  3. A poor economy exacerbates systemic problem. Some employers place less value on injured workers when they can be easily replaced and in a tough job market placement in alternative employment is difficult.

As a system designed to temporarily tide injured workers over until they can return to their original employment, the system works pretty well. As a means of dealing with management issues and economic problems that complicate long term serious disability, the system is at best a band aid.”

I couldn’t agree more! Take a look at the Injury Prevention That Works Report.

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Acting General Counsel Seeks Changes in Deferral Policy

Citing concerns about delays in processing grievances through parties’ contractual grievance-arbitration procedures, NLRB Acting General Counsel Lafe Solomon has proposed that the Board consider revising the existing policy of deferring charges to arbitration in certain circumstances. To see the press release and additional information, go to http://www.nlrb.gov/news/acting-general-counsel-seeks-changes-deferral-policy.

Very simply, the NRLB non-employee disputes are taking too long to go through the delegated arbitration process and so the Board will be deciding these cases directly to speed up resolution. It will be interesting to see how they will be able to take on this burden with a tight budget. Whether you agree with the approach or not, this is yet one more pro-union move by the Administration.

Show Up Pay Limited for Company Meetings

A California Appellate Court shut down a class action effort which, in a sense, would have provided employees for a minimum of two hours show up pay for attending weekly team meetings which were not concurrently conducted with their work schedules. For example, when employees show up for an all team meeting on a Saturday morning at 10:00. The court ruled that as long the meeting was a) scheduled, and b) the meeting lasted for at least half the time scheduled, and c) the employees were paid for the time they did attend, the law has been satisfied. However, if it’s not a scheduled meeting and say somebody is pulled into the office for only 15 minutes, then you may be required to pay between two and four hours of show up pay depending on their “normal work schedule.” Reporting time pay is defined in the following manner:

“Each workday an employee is required to report to work and does report, but is not put to work or is furnished less than said employee’s usual or scheduled day’s work, the employee shall be paid for half the scheduled or usual day’s work, but in no event for less than two hours no more than four hours, the employee’s regular rate of pay which shall not be than less than minimum wage.”

So, for example, if they normally work an 8-hour day, and they’re sent home, they have to be paid for four hours. If they normally work a 3-hour day and are sent home, they must be paid for at least 2 hours. In this case, the battle was over employees showing up for weekly meetings when they did not go to work immediately thereafter.

Bottom line: Identify how long the meeting will be, spend at least 50% of the scheduled time, and make sure they record their time.

All in a Month

A review of the EEOC’s press release from the 30-day period between December 13 and January 13 reveals the following:

Pepsi to Pay $3.13 Million and Made Major Policy Changes to Resolve EEOC Finding of Nationwide Hiring Discrimination Against African Americans 1/11/12

Family Dollar Stores of Virginia to Pay $45,000 to Settle EEOC Sexual Harassment Lawsuit 1/11/12

Matrix L.L.C. Will Pay $450,000 to Settle EEOC Race Discrimination and Retaliation Lawsuit 1/6/12

DynCorp to Pay $155,000 for Sex-Based Harassment and Retaliation In Iraq 1/6/12

Bank of Albuquerque Discriminated on the Basis of Age and Sex, EEOC Alleges in Lawsuit 1/4/12

Grand Central Partnership Fired Rastafarian for Complaining of Threatened Violence, EEOC Says 1/3/12

RCC Consultants, Inc. Sued for Disability Discrimination 12/29/11

EEOC Sues Midwest ISO for Disability Discrimination 12/23/11

Mesa Systems Sued by EEOC for National Origin Discrimination 12/23/11

American Apparel Agrees to Settle EEOC Disability Bias Suit for $60,000 12/19/11

Jim Robinson Ford-Lincoln-Mercury to Pay $56,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Lawsuit 12/16/11

EEOC Retaliation Case Against Cognis to Proceed, Federal Judge Orders 12/16/11

Wal-Mart to Pay $275,000 to Former Employee Fired after Cancer Surgery 12/16/11

EEOC Launches Small Business Task Force 12/15/11

EEOC Sues Wal-Mart for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation 12/15/11

B&B Pharmacy in Bellflower to Pay $70,000 for Disability Discrimination In EEOC Suit 12/15/11

M. Slavin & Sons to Pay $900,000 to Settle EEOC Discrimination Suit 12/15/11

Vitas Healthcare Sued By EEOC in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit 12/14/11

Dairy Queen Restaurant Sued By EEOC for Sexual Harassment and Retaliation 12/14/11

Federal Court Signs Order for Blockbuster Inc. To Pay Over $2m to Settle EEOC Suit for Sex, Race and National Origin Discrimination, Retaliation 12/14/11

UPS Unit to Pay $95,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit 12/14/11

King Soopers to Pay $80,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit 12/13/11

Bottom line: The EEOC is cranking it up. Make sure you have your disability, discrimination, and sexual harassment training and tools up to date…or you could be the next press release!

Are You At Risk for LinkedIn Puffery?

Employers are challenged by the fact that many people they seek to hire, have hired, or no longer work for them have engaged in puffery or outright deceit on their LinkedIn and similar social media pages. A company that knows or should have known of this deception can be held vicariously liable to someone who relies on this content to their detriment. The amount of misrepresentation that can come from a desperate current job seeker is downright scary! For example, in one case a former employee was sued for trademark infringement and interference with prospective business relations because he inaccurately alleged that he was the owner of the company at which he previously worked.

What’s an employer to do? Treat misrepresentations made on social media sites as you would any other misrepresentation made by a prospective employee, current employee, or former one. First of all, don’t hire liars. If you find somebody lying on their LinkedIn page or on their résumé, you don’t hire them, no matter what their “story” is. If you find out after you hired them that they misrepresented who they were, then you have the right to terminate them. This right is something you should place in your job applications and other offer letter type documents. See the Sample Job Application and Sample Offer Letter on HR That Works.

If somebody generates the puffery while in your employ, simply ask them to correct it and make sure they don’t do it again. If they knowingly misrepresent themselves or the company then at a minimum document your discipline and consider possible termination. Monitor the situation to make sure the fix occurs and no third party was affected by it.

Lastly, if it’s a former employee, you can certainly begin by sending them a certified letter asking them to remove the inaccuracies and if that doesn’t work, consider getting your attorney involved. The cautionary note here is that you may stoke a fire where this former employee then reacts by blasting you in social media and, in the end, you wished you had never messed with it. If you haven’t worked with your workforce to produce a social media policy that makes sense, spend some time on the Social Media Training Module on HR That Works.

Employer Relies on Hearsay Evidence to Support an the Issuance of a Restraining Order Against an Employee in Order to Prevent Workplace Violence

This case represents one of the scariest scenarios related to workplace safety. Apparently, after being terminated, the former nurse employee and her husband returned to the hospital where she worked to visit some former patients. When told she was not to be in the nurses’ area, her husband made threats to the managing nurses. The court eventually upheld a three-year “stay away” injunction over the plaintiffs’ complaint that the Court relied on hearsay statements to issue the injunction. The statute involved, which is similar to that found in many states, allows an employer to seek a temporary restraining order and an injunction on the behalf of an employee who has already suffered violence or a credible threat of violence carried out in the workplace. The employer may obtain a temporary restraining order if the affected employee files an affidavit that, to the satisfaction of the court, shows reasonable proof that an employee has suffered unlawful violence or a credible threat of violence by the defendant, and that greater irreparable harm would result to an employee.

The question in this case is whether typical rules of evidence (like those related to hearsay) apply to this type of procedure. The court ruled that due to the unique and expedited context pertaining to a workplace violence injunctions that the typical rules of evidence do not apply. Kaiser Foundation Hospital v. Jeff Wilson, 4th Appellate District http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D058491.PDF

Lesson to employers: You have an obligation to seek these types of injunctions should you catch wind of a credible threat. Remember, the last thing you want is to have any regret afterward because you did not make every effort possible to prevent violence, even if based on hearsay statements.

California Supreme Court Clarifies Administrative Exemption

As a farewell to 2011, the California Supreme Court went to great lengths to spell out the parameters of the administrative overtime exemption. This is the exemption from overtime laws that seems to get employers into trouble more than any other. If you are a human resource executive in California you must read this case. Yes, there is a lot of legal mumbo jumbo…but it’s something you must understand or you will unnecessarily expose your company to overtime claims. Perhaps as here on a class action basis.

In Harris v. Liberty Mutual Insurance, the court provided much guidance. Here is some of the instructive language:

[W]ork qualifies as administrative when it is directly related to management policies or general business operations. Work qualifies as directly related if it satisfies two components. First, it must be qualitatively administrative. Second, quantitatively, it must be of substantial importance to the management or operations of the business. Both components must be satisfied before work can be considered directly related to management policies or general business operations in order to meet the test of the exemption. (Fed. Regs. § 541.205(a) (2000).)….

[T]he administrative/production worker dichotomy distinguishes between administrative employees who are primarily engaged in administering the business affairs of the enterprise and production-level employees whose primary duty is producing the commodity or commodities, whether goods or services, that the enterprise exists to produce and market.

The Court understands that:
[B]ecause the dichotomy suggests a distinction between the administration of a business on the one hand, and the production end on the other, courts often strain to fit the operations of modern-day post-industrial service-oriented businesses into the analytical framework formulated in the industrial climate of the late 1940‘s.

Bottom line: The administrative exemption causes the vast majority of mis-classification headaches. According to this decision even the judges and the DIR have a hard time getting it right. Read this case. Make sure your workers are not mis-classified. If they are, take a look at the report on HR That Works So You Have a Wage Claim Exposure–What Do You Do About It?

I Protest, Thus I am Protected

It seems as if the National Labor Relations Board has lost touch with reality. In case after case, it has protected employees hell bent on complaining about everything from work assignments to tucking in their shirt or having to take their hat off. They can complain about poor marketing campaigns, curse out their bosses, wear shirts that defame the company, and do about everything else possible to not do their jobs. Whether you consider the administration to be in the pocket of the unions or not, they’ve taken a very aggressive stance at the NLRB. Consistent with recent DOL practices, the NLRB has shown their litigation muscles and paraded their record enforcement in terms of fines, penalties, and back wages recovered.

Collectively these agencies are particularly aggressive when it comes to union organizing, wage and hour, health and safety, and employee misclassification (whether exempt vs. non-exempt or employee vs. independent contractor). Critics claim that this litigious approach is nothing more than a money-making opportunity, figuring the more auditors and enforcement personnel they hire, the more revenue they can bring in that exceeds the cost of those hires. The aggressive approach of the DOL, NLRB, and OSHA has not missed attention in the press. For example, there was a great deal of media coverage when the NLRB made its effort to prevent Boeing from moving its manufacturing plant out of Washington State.

What’s an employer to do?

1)      Stay on top of the law whether you have 15 employees or 1,500. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse that will garner any sympathy.

2)      Where possible, purchase employment practices liability and other coverages to mitigate against these risk exposures.

3)      Use the proper strategies, tools, and training to make sure you comply with today’s myriad of laws. There is a ton of great tools on HR That Works.

4)      Don’t hesitate to rely on expert assistance the second you realize you don’t know what you’re doing. This is a complicated area even for the lawyers!

Obama Signs Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act; Presents New Employer Risks and Opportunities

President Obama recently signed into law the “VOW to Hire Heroes Act” (H.R.674), a law that provides tax credits for employers who hire unemployed veterans and veterans with service-related disabilities. The new law allows a company to claim a tax credit of up to $2,400 if it hires veterans who have been looking for work for at least one month. The maximum credit is increased to $5,600 for hiring veterans who have been searching for work for at least six months. Additionally, employers may be granted a $9,600 tax credit for hiring out-of-work veterans with service-related disabilities.

The new legislation also amends the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (“USERRA”)—which was enacted to prohibit civilian employers from discriminating against employees engaged in military service—to recognize claims of “hostile work environment” on account of an individual’s military status. The law states that employees who perform military service “shall not be denied initial employment, reemployment, retention in employment, promotion, or any benefit of employment” on the basis of that service. However, courts had previously rejected the notion that the statute creates a cause of action for “hostile work environment” harassment against military service members. By clarifying that “benefit of employment” includes the “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment,” the new legislation brings the USERRA in line with Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act, both of which include the phrase “conditions…of employment.”

EEOC Approves Draft of Rule Amending Age Discrimination Regulations The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) has approved a draft final rule amending its Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) regulations in light of U.S. Supreme Court decisions addressing disparate impact claims and the “reasonable factor other than age” (“RFOA”) defense.

The proposed rule is based on the EEOC’s analysis of Smith v. City of Jackson (2005) 544 U.S. 228 (2005) (holding that an employment practice that has a disparate impact on older workers is discriminatory unless the practice is justified by a reasonable factor other than age) and Meacham v. Knolls Atomic Power Lab. (2008) 128 S. Ct. 2395 (holding that the employer bears the burden of proving the RFOA defense).

Under the proposed rule, a “reasonable” factor is one that is objectively reasonable when viewed from the position of a reasonable employer under like circumstances. The rule explains that whether a particular employment practice is based on RFOA turns on the facts and circumstances of each particular situation and whether the employer acted prudently in light of those facts. According to the EEOC, this standard is lower than Title VII’s business-necessity test but higher than the Equal Pay Act’s “any other factor” test. The standard is intended to represent a balanced approach that preserves an employer’s right to make reasonable business decisions while protecting older workers from facially neutral employment criteria that arbitrarily limit their employment opportunities.

To assess whether an employment practice is based on RFOA, the proposed rule provides a non-exhaustive list of factors to be considered:

  • whether the employment practice and the manner of its implementation are common business practices;
  • the extent to which the factor is related to the employer’s stated business goals;
  • the extent to which the employer took steps to define the factor accurately and to apply the factor fairly and accurately (e.g., training, guidance, instruction of managers);
  • the extent to which the employer took steps to assess the adverse impact of its employment practice on older workers;
  • the extent to which the employer took preventive or corrective steps to minimize the severity of the harm, in light of the burden of undertaking such steps; and
  • the existence of a lesser discriminatory alternative and the reasons why the employer selected the option it did.

The proposed rule also emphasizes that in order for the RFOA defense to apply, the challenged practice must be based on an objective, non age-related factor (e.g., salary, seniority, etc.).

The EEOC’s final draft regulations now go to the White House Office of Management and Budget for a review period that takes approximately 90 days. If the draft regulations are approved, they will return to the EEOC for a final vote before taking effect.

To learn more go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2011/11/21/president-obama-hire-veteran.

Article courtesy of Pettit Kohn (www.pettitkohn.com).

January 2012 Compliance and Culture Newsletter

“You’ve got to find what you love – and that’s as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large art of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle!”  —Steve Jobs

This issue discusses:

  • Editor’s Column: Yesterday’s Over With, So Don’t Be a Dinosaur
  • HR Wisdom
  • Desperate Times Create Desperate Employees
  • The End of the NLRB’S Reign?
  • EEOC Sues Employers for Accommodation Violations
  • EEOC Charges Hit Record Highs
  • Making Your Next Hire
  • The Ultimate in Religious Accommodation
  • NLRB Poster Requirement … One More Time

We have also provided you with the Form of the Month.

Please click here to view the newsletter in PDF.

Editor’s Column: Yesterday’s Over With, So Don’t Be a Dinosaur


The past is gone. Poof. No mas! The challenge is that most of us are deeply rooted in the past and find a great deal of comfort in it – whether it was good or bad. We hear ourselves saying to both loved ones and people in the workplace, “When I was young…”

It’s frightening to go through today’s rapid change. As Buckminister Fuller stated, we’re going through a period of “accelerating acceleration” in which things are happening faster and faster — at a faster rate. Today’s rate of change is generating a significant amount of dislocation, uncertainty, and fear — and that doesn’t feel good.

For the first time in generations, we’re looking to those younger than us for advice — primarily in technology. We’re living in a technological age. It’s not just about production and information, but how technology affects every aspect of our lives.

What are you or your company doing to drive past this fear of change? Have you set out to learn from younger workers? Have you invited them to educate and enlighten you on today’s technologies? Will you and your company embrace the need for this invitation or will lose out to competitors who do?

Change makes us uncertain about what we can contribute and how this contribution can create job security and personal growth. If we can’t do things the “old school” way, then what are we going to do? For example, many employees somehow feel affronted when their company decides to offshore everything, from data management to customer service. What’s left for us to do?

How do we drive past this fear? How do we choose not to play victim to the great change? Fundamentalist religion has blossomed worldwide as one answer. In a sense, we’ve decided to prohibit change. I’ve seen bosses and employees take a fundamentalist view about their work too, doing everything they can to block, sabotage, and resist change. The problem is that when we look backward hoping for a sense of security, we can turn into pillars of salt. Although we might not die physically, we’ve surrendered in our minds. Now all you have to look forward to is retirement — and it can’t come fast enough.

I remember speaking to a top executive at a billion-dollar organization about an opportunity in her business. Her entire conversation was about the lack of support she received from other corporate departments and the retirement she’s looking forward to with her husband. When I asked, “what’s your edge?” she didn’t have one. I can tell you that her department will be going in only one direction — and it’s not one that will please shareholders.

It’s very difficult to break up a relationship with another person, especially when this person is the “former me.” The past provides a false sense of strength in the familiar.

I was speaking with a 63-year-old human resource executive who was laid off from a major corporation and then hired by one of my business partners to help implement our program. This man called our customer support service because he didn’t know how to download and open a Word document. Two days later, he called me to ask a question he could have easily found the answer to on the HR That Works web site. When I began to try to show him where he could get the information, he cut me off and told me that he didn’t “like all this new technology” and wasn’t very interested in using it. He actually asked me if I could send him a three-ring binder with the materials from the web site!

The role of Wisdom within all of this change is to understand and communicate what is continuous or cyclical. For example, long-term investors warned novice dot-com and real estate investors about the rule that cuts across investing: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” If these novices listened to the wisdom of the Warren Buffets, they wouldn’t be in a financial mess today. We need to listen to the wisdom that things will always change. Then we have to project our will firmly into the future. We must be open and invite new ideas. We have only begun our life’s story — and many exciting chapters lie ahead.

Here are some steps you can take to reach this goal:

  1. Identify those things that you wish could have remained the same. You might wish there were no cell phones or electric cars, then recognize the past is over with, give it its proper funeral, and run like heck to embrace what has replaced it.
  2. Invite an Innovation and Wisdom Dialogue among your workforce. What timeless lessons and cutting-edge technologies can be shared? How can we allow the people in our organization whose strength is wisdom to utilize this ability? How do we empower those whose strength is technology to make full use of those abilities?
  3. Realize that if you don’t embrace change, you will — or should be — be let go. I’ve seen too many employers face paralysis in letting employees go because they were once productive in the old way of doing things.

We need to force the hand of change. You can create your own game plan for embracing change and moving forward, have your managers do it for you, or start planning an early and unfulfilling retirement. The choice is yours!

HR Wisdom

In light of the discussion about change and enduring wisdom, here’s what I consider the wisdom available to HR managers:

  • Great HR practices generate a competitive advantage, whether you have five or 5,000 employees.
  • The “tipping point” in human resources is the hiring process, which has a greater impact on productivity, teamwork, constant improvement, profitability, and compliance than any other factor.
  • According to the HR That Works Cost Calculator, there’s at least a 10% cost or variance of payroll in your human resource practices. For example, if you have a $1 million payroll, your cost or variance is at least $100,000. You’ll need to bring in, at a minimum, $400,000 to put that $100,000 back to the bottom line.
  • The greatest risks in employment practices are uninsurable. Despite all the noise of the legal community, poor hires, high turnover, and lack of productivity left on the table every day have the greatest impact to the bottom line. Every company should cap its employment practices liabilities by purchasing Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI).
  • You need to find HR exciting to be any good at it — even if it’s only one of three hats you’re wearing.

Desperate Times Create Desperate Employees

At a recent HR presentation for CEOs, three of the 15 executives present reported that an employee had embezzled from them or engaged in other financially destructive activity during the past few months. We’re getting similar questions on Hotline calls from Members. Here’s the reality: If you don’t have significant checks and balances around your money, you’re conducting a social experiment and making your business easy prey for the desperate, greedy and villainous.

In one of these cases, a new HR director told the payroll company that she was given a substantial raise only days after joining the company, the payroll company never questioned it, and she made off with thousands of dollars. As the Russian proverb states, “Trust, but verify.”

The End of the NLRB’S Reign?

Many employers, including Boeing (which the National Labor Relations Board blocked from moving to an aircraft assembly facility in Charleston, South Carolina), have been upset with the NLRB for the past few years. In this newsletter and our Webinars, we’ve discussed the Board’s efforts to make unionization far easier, as well as to expand the National Labor Relations Act to social media postings. The NLRB has not had a full complement of five board members for five years. When Craig Becker’s term expires this year, the Board won’t have enough board members to rule on labor disputes. Republican lawmakers will surely try to block any nominations President Obama appoints to the Board. Many employers feel that the NLRB is trying to do through administrative pressure what Congress would not do through legislation.

Expect the Board and Administration to push right up to Election Day.

EEOC Sues Employers for Accommodation Violations

According to a SHRM article, the EEOC has filed disability lawsuits against:

  • Ford Motor Company for failure to allow an employee with a gastrointestinal condition to telecommute.
  • Kohl’s Department Stores for refusing to accommodate a diabetic employee’s request for a regular schedule.
  • SITA for rescinding a job offer when it found that an applicant who needed surgery for cancer asked to delay her start date.
  • The Scooter Store for refusing to accommodate an employee’s request for a temporary leave of absence due to a knee injury and then firing him.

Here’s the point: The EEOC is on the warpath when it comes to disability accommodation. Go through the process. Take a checklist approach. Treat your people the way you would want to be treated. Get professional help if you need it. The HR That Works Hotline is a good place to a start for Members as is the Job Accommodation Network: http://askjan.org/.

EEOC Charges Hit Record Highs

The EEOC received a record 99,947 charges of discrimination in fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30 — the highest number of charges in the agency’s 46-year history. EEOC staff also delivered more than $364.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of workplace discrimination. This is also the highest level obtained in the Commission’s history. The fiscal year ended with 78,136 pending charges — a decrease of 8,202 charges, or 10%. In previous years, the pending inventory had increased as staffing declined 30% between fiscal years 2000 and 2008. Comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal 2011 will be available in early 2012.

Making Your Next Hire

In this tight economy, many employers are reluctant to make any new hires. This is a big mistake. The first thing to consider is who it is that you should get “off the bus.” Our test has always been this: If the employee quit today, would you be relieved or upset? If the answer is “relieved,” then do what you have to do: Let this employee go or put them on some type of performance plan that guarantees their success or departure. One of the problems with trying to resurrect poor employees is that they tend to look for job security by filing claims, hoarding knowledge, or other conduct which will make their staying on board even more costly. In our experience, when you let these people go you really learn the truth about them.

Now that you’ve “culled the herd,” don’t replace them immediately with the same level of employee. Instead, take away the lowest value work of the existing team and hire an entry-level employee who you can groom in your way of doing business. How much $10, $15, or $20 an hour work can you take away from the existing team? Do they want it taken away from them or not? Instead of hiring an entry-level employee, many companies outsource administrative tasks to consultants and other third parties.

Taking this approach will increase workforce productivity and revenue per employee. You’ll also be able to give existing employees a raise because they’re adding more value to your organization.

Remember, when recruiting entry-level employees, provide them with a career map so they can see the opportunity in your business. HR That Works has sample “career ladders” to consider.

The Ultimate in Religious Accommodation

This summer, New York City enacted the most “progressive” statute on religious accommodation in the workplace. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be “safe” in any jurisdiction.

According to the new law, the term “reasonable accommodation” means, “such accommodation that can be made that shall not cause undue hardship in the conduct of the covered entity’s business. The covered entity shall have the burden of proving undue hardship. In making a determination of undue hardship … the factors which might be considered include but shall not be limited to:

(a) the nature and cost of the accommodation;
(b) the overall financial resources of the facility or the facilities involved in the provision of the
reasonable accommodation; the number of persons employed at such facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of such accommodation upon the operation of the facility;
(c) overall financial resources of the covered entity; the overall size of the business of a covered entity with respect to the number of its employees, the number, type, and location of its facilities; and
(d) the type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of such entity; the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity.

“In making a determination of undue hardship with respect to claims for reasonable accommodation to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance … the definition of ‘undue hardship’ set forth in paragraph (b) of such subdivision shall apply.

“(b) ‘Reasonable accommodation,’ as used in this subdivision, shall mean such accommodation to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice as shall not cause undue hardship in the conduct of the employer’s business. The employer shall have the burden of proof to show such hardship.

“‘Undue hardship,’ as used in this subdivision shall mean an accommodation requiring significant expense or difficulty (including a significant interference with the safe or efficient operation of the workplace or a violation of a bona fide seniority system). Factors to be considered in determining whether the accommodation constitutes an undue economic hardship shall include, but not be limited to:

(i) the identifiable cost of the accommodation, including the costs of loss of productivity and of retaining or hiring employees or transferring employees from one facility to another, in relation to the size and operating cost of the employer;
(ii) the number of individuals who will need the particular accommodation to a sincerely held religious observance or practice; and
(iii) for an employer with multiple facilities, the degree to which the geographic separateness or administrative or fiscal relationship of the facilities will make the accommodation more difficult or expensive.

“Provided, however, an accommodation shall be considered to constitute an undue hardship, for purposes of this subdivision, if it will result in the inability of an employee who is seeking a religious accommodation to perform the essential functions of the position in which he or she is employed.”

This language should seem familiar because it matches that of disability accommodation. Of course, the definition of “reasonable accommodation” under the ADA is litigated on a case-by-case (Don’t you just love the uncertainty of it all?). To learn more, go to http://www.nyc.gov/html/cchr/home.html.

NLRB Poster Requirement … One More Time

With so many employers taken by surprise, the NLRB extended its poster requirement to April 30. As of April 30, 2012, most private sector employers are required to post a notice advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. As a practical matter, the Board’s jurisdiction is very broad and covers the great majority of non-government employers with a workplace in the United States, including non-profits, employee-owned businesses, labor organizations, non-union businesses, and businesses in states with “Right to Work” laws. The notice should be posted in a conspicuous place, where other notifications of workplace rights and employer rules and policies are posted. Employers also should publish a link to the notice on an internal or external website if other personnel policies or workplace notices are posted there. You can get the poster, read a FAQ and learn more by going to https://www.nlrb.gov/poster.

This poster is an invitation for disgruntled employees to organize and otherwise complain about work conditions. The only defense is good personnel practices and readily available legal help if you need it. HR That Works Members should watch or listen to the recorded Webinars we did on NRLA requirements. You are also encouraged to post your literature on the wall. Let employees know the company vision, mission, goals and values. Share employee success stories. Remember, the workforce needs a drama. You have a choice of who will write the script.

Here is the poster language that employers should be concerned with:

Under the NLRA, you have the right to:

  • Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Form, join or assist a union.
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
  • Discuss your wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
  • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.
  • Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.

Under the NLRA, it is illegal for your employer to:

  • Prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms.
  • Question you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.
  • Fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.
  • Threaten to close your workplace if workers choose a union to represent them.
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support.
  • Prohibit you from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances.
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings or pretend to do so.

Under the NLRA, it is illegal for a union or for the union that represents you in bargaining with your employer to:

  • Threaten or coerce you in order to gain your support for the union.
  • Refuse to process a grievance because you have criticized union officials or because you are not a member of the union.
  • Use or maintain discriminatory standards or procedures in making job referrals from a hiring hall.
  • Cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against you because of your union-related activity.
  • Take adverse action against you because you have not joined or do not support the union.

If you and your co-workers select a union to act as your collective bargaining representative, your employer and the union are required to bargain in good faith in a genuine effort to reach a written, binding agreement setting your terms and conditions of employment. The union is required to fairly represent you in bargaining and enforcing the agreement.

Form of the Month

I-9 Compliance Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) – There were so many questions after our I-9 Webinar that we created this FAQ to help.

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