October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM). Declared in 1988 by the United States Congress (though its roots go back to 1945 when Congress urged employment for WWII servicemembers with disabilities) , NDEAM is a good occasion for us to celebrate the contributions of people with disabilities to workplaces and the economy. We also recommend taking this time to better understand employer obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act and consider how to be more inclusive and accommodating than what the law strictly requires.
The DOL’s Office of Disability Employment Policy is commemorating NDEAM this year with the theme “America’s Recovery: Powered by Inclusion.” This theme “reflects the importance of ensuring that people with disabilities have full access to employment and community involvement during the national recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
We’re glad to see this.
People with disabilities (1 in 4 adults in the United States) are at greater risk of poor outcomes from COVID-19. At the start of the pandemic, workers with disabilities lost their jobs at a higher rate than the general population. As the pandemic continued, those with intellectual disabilities were six times more likely to die from the virus than other members of the population. Helping people with disabilities stay safe and succeed as the pandemic continues will be essential to a full recovery, and employers can play a huge role in that.
Supporting employees with disabilities may also be vital to the success of individual employers—now and after the recovery. According to a CNBC poll, nearly 80% of workers say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity, and inclusion. With roughly half of small businesses struggling to fill roles, competition for talent is fierce. Employers who don’t appear to believe that it’s important to include and support employees with disabilities put themselves at a huge disadvantage.
What can you do to help?
First, make doubly sure you understand your compliance obligations related to applicants and employees with disabilities. We have lots of resources for you on the HR Support Center. If you search disability in the search bar, you’ll find articles, forms, guides, law summaries, letters, policies, Q&As, videos, and more.
Second, as the pandemic continues, do what you can to accommodate employees with disabilities who may be at greater risk of severe illness or death. Accommodations to consider may include remote work for those who can do their jobs from home and extra PPE (e.g., N95 masks, face shields, gloves) for those who need or want to work onsite. Other possible accommodations are different shifts, job changes to reduce physical proximity or public interaction, extra breaks (for handwashing or mental health), permission to keep a minifridge or other personal storage device at one’s workstation, and extra cleaning supplies. All in all, when an employee requests an accommodation, do what you can to try to make it work. Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.
Third, stress to everyone that respect and empathy are nonnegotiable values. Employees who need extra support so they can do their jobs well aren’t going to ask for it if they believe their concerns will be dismissed or that they’ll be ridiculed or looked down on by coworkers. If they don’t feel like they can ask for an accommodation, they’re more likely to look for a job elsewhere. And if they stay, it’s unlikely that they will be as productive or successful if they feel unsafe and stressed out. That’s a lose-lose. But it’s a win-win when employees feel safe asking for accommodations and those accommodations enable them to succeed.
5 Creative Ways To Make Your Employees Feel Valued
As a business owner, making your employees feel valued is an underrated aspect of running a company. Employees are the lifeblood of your company and they make the wheels turn. You want them to be as happy and motivated as possible so they can produce at their full potential and so they stay with your company for a long time.
Making your employees happy can be done in an almost limitless number of ways, so you should experiment and test out numerous methods to find the combination that works best for you.
In case you need some ideas, here are 5 creative ways to make your employees feel valued.
1. Benefits and Compensation
Money talks, which makes benefits and compensation the number one tool for you to make your employees feel valued. By offering the opportunity for raises as well as offering Fringe benefits packages and performance bonuses, you can show your employees that you’re willing to pay to keep them around. This is the single most effective morale booster and can be used sparingly to great effect.
Gamification is a creative way to not only offer financial incentives for performance, but to pit your employees against each other in friendly competition. This breaks up the monotony of the everyday grind and allows employees to use a different type of motivation to fuel their productivity. Gamification is another highly effective tool to improve employee wellbeing and make work fun.
3. Public Recognition
You don’t always need to give your employees something to make them feel valued. In fact, sometimes it’s as simple as giving them a public shoutout on your social media page.
This can be a point of pride for people who like and share it with their friends and family and put it in their list of professional accomplishments. Creating content to give thanks and recognition to your employees is a great way to show them off and make them feel proud while also increasing your brand awareness.
4. Food Parties
Food parties are the oldest trick in the book but people really appreciate them. As long as you use additional tactics to boost morale, everybody loves a food party. Pro-tip, provide all the food yourself. This cuts down on hygiene concerns and feels more like a gift from you to the employees rather than a bring-your-own-dish potluck.
You can go cheap here and bring in a handful of pizzas or a bunch of donuts, but if you really want to know how to make employees feel valued, don’t underestimate the power of a good catering service. They offer way more variety and have a larger impact than cheap junk food.
5. On-Site Fitness
Most business owners prefer to keep things as professional as possible at the office, but offering on-site fitness can be a very fruitful investment. By encouraging a culture of fitness and using physical exercise to refresh and recharge the mind, you can make your employees feel like you are a bigger part of their lives.
For fitness-heads who are already active, this is a big plus, and for people who aren’t very physically active, it could be a transformative feature that really defines part of their daily schedule. This would further tether them to your company and make them feel valued.
Valued Employees Produce Better Results
A great culture and morale is everything when it comes to maximizing the productivity of your employees. Happy people work harder, so by showing your employees you value them, you can improve their overall level of happiness at your business and keep them around. Use one or more of the 5 tips we listed for surefire results and employees that truly feel like they’re part of a family.
AZ HR Hub can help companies with culture and making your employees feel valued. We are your #HRPartner so you can focus on your business. Email us today for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 480-565-8121.
Exempt and non-exempt are classifications under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). That’s the federal law requiring that most employees receive at least minimum wage for each hour worked and overtime pay for hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Usually, employees who are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime are called non-exempt. Those who are not entitled to both are called exempt.
Any position can be non-exempt, meaning that employees in that position are entitled to both minimum wage and overtime pay. But if you would like to classify a position as exempt, it would need to qualify for one of the exemptions listed in the FLSA.
The most commonly used exemptions, particularly in office settings, are the executive, administrative, and learned professional exemptions. These are part of a group of exemptions often referred to as “white-collar exemptions.” Employees who are properly classified this way are not entitled to minimum wage or overtime. But, to qualify, each position must pass a three-part test:
Duties: The employee must perform specific tasks (such as managing at least two people) and regularly use their independent judgment and discretion. Each exemption has its own duties test.Salary level: The employee must make at least $684 per week (under federal law, a few states have higher minimums)Salary basis: The employee must be paid the same each week regardless of hours worked or the quantity or quality of their work, with a few limited exceptions. If a position meets all the criteria under one or more of the white-collar exemptions, the employee may be properly classified as exempt and will not be entitled to minimum wage or overtime pay. If the position does not meet all the criteria under a specific exemption, the employee must be classified as non-exempt and paid at least minimum wage and overtime when applicable.
In general, concerted activity takes place when employees act as a group (in concert) for their mutual aid or protection. This includes activities like discussing the terms and conditions of their employment, such as pay, benefits, treatment by management, dress codes, workplace policies, or scheduling.
This activity—when engaged in by non-supervisory employees—is protected by Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. That means employers are legally prohibited from trying to stop employees from engaging in concerted activity or taking adverse when they do. While supervisors don’t have these protections under Section 7, the term supervisor has a narrower definition than you might expect. To be exempt, supervisors must have real authority and use their independent judgment when wielding it. For instance, the 19-year-old assistant manager who is technically in charge when other supervisors are on break, but who doesn’t have the power to fire, discipline, or respond to the grievances of other employees, almost certainly still has protections under Section 7.
Employers should also be aware that it’s fairly easy for an employee to be protected under the act if they are discussing the terms and conditions of their employment either physically around co-workers or managers or in the same virtual space as co-workers or managers. While an employee may not be intending to act in concert for the mutual aid of themselves and their coworkers, if they post on Facebook about how they are overworked and underpaid, and several colleagues chime in that they agree, or even just “like” the post, that can become protected concerted activity.
Running a business comes with no shortage of perks: the freedom to be your own boss, invest in an idea, steer its trajectory, and, with a little luck, create wealth. It has its challenges, too. Competition may be fierce. Demand for what you offer may be low. Costs may not be sustainable. But even if everything else is going your way, there’s one challenge that’s ever-present. We’re talking, of course, about HR compliance.
Defining HR Compliance
HR compliance is the work of ensuring that your employment practices conform to federal, state, and local laws. This work requires learning which laws apply to your organization and understanding what they require you to do. That’s easier said than done.
HR compliance is truly an art. It requires knowledge, skill, and cooperation. You have to be able to decipher legalese, know where to go to ask the right questions, and create policies and procedures that minimize business risk. You have to ensure that everyone from the executive team to newly minted managers know what they can and cannot do. You have to conduct investigations and enforce your rules consistently. And all this is just the bare minimum—necessary, but not enough to create a truly successful culture.
The work of compliance is never entirely done. Not only do new legal requirements appear on the regular, but, as you’ll read below, compliance obligations are often unclear. While some compliance obligations are definitive, others are unresolved, and a good number of laws require you to make a judgment call. Let’s look at each of these in turn.
Why HR Compliance Can’t Always Be Assured
Some employment laws take the form of “Do this” or “Don’t do that.” The requirements may be simple, like minimum wage, or complex, like FMLA, but either way there’s usually no real question about what you need to do or not do. Compliance with these laws is pretty straightforward. Don’t pay less than the minimum wage. Provide leave to eligible employees for the reasons that qualify, continue their health benefits (if applicable), and return them to their position when their leave ends. As long as you’re clear on the details, you’re not likely to lose sleep wondering if your policies and procedures are compliant.
Sometimes, however, those details are unsettled. Lawmakers don’t always specify everything a law requires before it passes or takes effect. Even when laws seem clear, trying to put them into practice often raises a lot of questions. And the legislature isn’t the only source of law: regulatory agencies demand their say, and courts get involved, too. To complicate matters, these branches of government don’t always agree with each other, and what they say today may not be what they say tomorrow. Keeping up with the latest official guidance takes time and persistence. It can feel like a marathon, when what you want is a quick sprint to the answer. You have other demands on your time, after all.
Finally, a lot of employment laws have standards you have to follow, but they don’t tell you how. Neither the IRS nor the DOL, for example, tells you whether your workers are employees or independent contractors—unless there’s an audit or complaint. Instead, these agencies publish tests with general criteria that you use to make case-by-case determinations.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) works this way, too. Under the ADA, an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, with a few exceptions. One of the exceptions is that the accommodation doesn’t create an undue hardship on the employer’s business. The basic definition of an undue hardship is an action that creates a significant difficulty or expense. Although the law provides factors to consider in making this determination, the onus is on you to decide whether an expense or difficulty from an accommodation is significant. And, ultimately, your conclusion could be challenged in court.
Why HR Compliance Looks Like This
If HR compliance seems convoluted, that’s because it is. Our current legal landscape is the result of three competing philosophies about how the workplace should be governed, who should govern it, and whose rights in the workplace should be prioritized in the law.
Owner Control According to the first view, business owners should have control over their workplaces and the work that takes place for the simple reason that they own the business. It’s their property, and as owners they should have the legal right to govern it. Employees have no right to control aspects of the workplace because the workplace isn’t theirs. They don’t own it. It’s not their property. If their desires don’t align with the owners, or if they don’t like the terms and conditions of their employment, they can and should go elsewhere.
Of course, an owner might employ managers or an executive team to make decisions about who to hire and fire, what to pay, how to assign work, and other such matters, but in principle the owner is still in charge. Advocates of this view include the economist Milton Friedman who, in 1970, famously wrote that corporate executives have a direct responsibility to conduct business according to the desires of the owners. The will of the owners reigns supreme.
Worker Control According to the second view, workers should have a say in the decisions that get made simply because those decisions affect them and their livelihoods. In this line of thinking, the governance of the workplace should adhere to the principles of democracy, although proponents for this view differ on how democracy in the workplace should be practiced.
In the 1930s, Senator Robert F. Wagner introduced the National Labor Relations Act to guarantee the “freedom of action of the worker” and ensure that workers were “free in the economic as well as the political field.” And, today, talk of democratizing the workplace usually refers to bolstering unions. But there are other proposals to note. Some champions of workplace democracy, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, have pushed for employee representation on corporate boards. Others favor cooperative models in which the division between employers and employees doesn’t exist.
Full-fledged workplace democracy is still a fringe view, though. The very definition of an employee remains a worker who does not have the right to control what the work is, how it’s done, or how it’s compensated. However much authority employees are given to make decisions, however much influence they have over their superiors, they are not legally in charge.
Societal Control Advocates of the third view argue that the government has an interest in exercising some measure of control over the work and the workplace. In the employer-employee relationship, employers typically have significantly more power than employees—especially an employee acting as an individual. Frances Perkins, who served as Secretary of Labor and was a key architect of the New Deal, believed that government “should aim to give all the people under its jurisdiction the best possible life.” She saw a role for legislatures in countering long hours, low wages, and other conditions unfavorable to employees.
How These Philosophies Have Played Out
In the United States, HR compliance is the result of these three competing and arguably incompatible philosophies. Government action with respect to employment has tried to empower workers and afford them certain rights, protections, and freedoms in the workplace, all while preserving the employer’s control over their business.
We can see this balancing act in the differences among state laws. Some states prioritize the right of owners to control their workforces and are loath to restrict that right through legislation. Other states act out of what they see as a duty to secure the rights of workers. Imposing obligations on employers doesn’t bother them.
We also see this balancing act in the way that employment laws tend to set parameters rather than dictate exactly what employers must do. You can pay employees whatever you want, so long as you pay at least the minimum, offer an overtime premium when applicable, and meet equal pay requirements. You can theoretically terminate employment for any reason or no reason at all (though we don’t recommend it); but you can’t fire someone for an illegal reason. Even laws that require a new practice, such as paid leave, allow flexibility provided the minimum conditions are met.
First, when you’re assessing your compliance obligations, understand that not all compliance obligations are clearly delineated or settled law. Unsettling as that may be, it’s how our system has been set up. In those cases, you’ll have to weigh your options and the risks involved, and then make a decision. Sometimes you may need legal advice in addition to HR guidance. Remember, though, that despite all the many employment laws on the books and in the imaginations of legislators, the system is designed to keep employers in charge of their work and workplaces. You can’t eliminate all risk, but by understanding the nuances and open questions, you can significantly minimize it.
Second, document your actions and decisions. It only takes an employee filing a complaint for enforcement agencies to get involved, but you are better protected if you can quickly and clearly explain to them the reason for your actions.
Third, evaluate whether your policies, procedures, and practices are satisfactory to employees. No employment law gets written in a vacuum, and no law is truly inevitable. The Fair Labor Standards Act came to be because workers and the general public felt that labor standards were unfair. Today we wouldn’t have people pushing for predictive scheduling laws if they felt that work schedules were already sufficiently predictable. Harassment prevention training wouldn’t be mandatory (where it is) if sexual harassment weren’t widespread.
Fourth, lead by example. Make good employee relations a key part of your brand and competitive advantage. Employees have higher expectations today than they used to. Meet those expectations and motivate other employers to do the same, and you may find that the compliance landscape of the future is less winding and boggy than it could have been.
Finally, we have an online portal (HR Support Center) that is available to our clients where you can learn about your compliance obligations. Our laws section breaks down federal and state employment laws in a way that people can understand, and the News Desk keeps you up to speed on the latest compliance obligations and contingencies you should consider. HR compliance is an art, and the first step to mastering it is learning what it entails and how it works.
Take a 30 day trial of our HR Support Center for FREE! Simply email email@example.com today.
Did you spend years dreaming of retirement… only to get there and realize you miss having a job? For previous generations, retirement was considered the end of your working years, but today’s seniors are redefining what it means to live life to the fullest in retirement. In some cases, the need to earn extra money drives retirees to work, while for others, it’s the desire to find a meaningful pursuit or meet other people. Whatever it is that’s driving you to look for work, start your search by asking yourself these questions, provided courtesy of HR Consulting Services. There are limitless opportunities out there (you can even create your own!).
Where do you want to work?
We don’t mean where in terms of specific jobs, but instead, ask yourself the type of work setting you want. Do you want to be in an office that’s fast-paced and exciting, or maybe somewhere low-key and chill? Maybe you love art and would enjoy working in a local museum, or if you love the outdoors, spending your time as a trail guide might be fun.
On the other hand, you may be ready to spend some time at home after years of going into work. When you first started your career, working from home wasn’t nearly as popular or as feasible as it is today. Now you can find remote work opportunities in all kinds of fields, whether you want a role that was traditionally office-bound, such as sales, marketing, or customer service, or you want to branch out on your own in a freelance role like writing. Most remote positions offer flexible hours, and you get to do something you enjoy from the comfort of home. Best of all, these jobs are easy to find with online job boards, plus most of these search sites also have their own app that you can use from a mobile device.
How important is pay?
Wanting to be compensated fairly for your time is a given, but it’s a simple fact that some jobs pay better than others. The question is – how much weight do you give to the pay compared to other factors like how enjoyable and rewarding a job is? If you’re looking for work because your budget is tight, finding a job that offers higher pay may be a top priority. However, you may be ready for a job that’s less demanding or that involves service, which may not pay as well as other opportunities.
Pay certainly isn’t the only factor involved, but it’s worth knowing what to expect when you start your job search. Some of the best-paying jobs for seniors are often found in professional arenas, such as being an adjunct professor or a consultant in your field. If you have something else in mind, check out AARP’s top jobs for retirees, which are broken down by average salary.
What skills can you offer?
If you aren’t sure where to start with your job search, think about the skills you have from your career – or even skills you gained while raising children or volunteering. You can often turn those skills into an opportunity that’s similar to your previous job but that’s also more flexible. For example, someone who is good with numbers could become a bookkeeper or tax preparer. If you retired from education, you could be a tutor or a substitute teacher.
Are you willing to learn a new skill?
Relying on the skills you have is an obvious choice, but what if you want to give something different a try? If you’re willing to learn new skills, there’s no time like the present to start gaining the knowledge you need for a second career. You can boost your skills with continuing education courses, online classes, and certification programs. Many community colleges and public libraries also offer coursework and classes that will help you prepare for a new job.
Do you want to travel?
If you dream of spending retirement as a jet-setter, there’s no better way to fund your travels than to find travel-related work. One option is to use the talents you already have while looking for opportunities abroad. For example, if you have experience working with children, you can find jobs in other countries as a nanny or teaching English as a second language.
Another option is to get into the travel industry. These opportunities can include everything from traditional jobs, such as being a travel agent, to more creative roles like becoming a travel blogger. Many seniors also get jobs working for cruise lines, resorts, or campgrounds. If there’s a locale where you would love to be, chances are there’s an opportunity to live and work there.
Is starting your own business the right move?
More and more retirees are enjoying the benefits of launching their own small businesses. And the perks are pretty compelling. You get to set your schedule, be your own boss, use skills you’ve built up, and do something you really enjoy. There are definitely a lot of pros to starting a business, but there are also some drawbacks.
You’ll need to have a worthwhile service or product that customers want that can pay the bills. You’ll also need to create a solid business plan, and prepare for potentially high startup costs, as well as steel yourself for long days. This is only the tip of the iceberg. There’s also a possible learning curve that can elicit all kinds of questions like “What is payroll?”, “Do I need an accountant?”, “What type of compliance laws do I need to understand?” It’s a lot. However, if you have the means and the energy, this could be a great way to generate income in retirement.
The bottom line is that, whatever you choose, this next job should be one you’re excited to go to. That may mean working from your home office… or traveling halfway around the world. The choice is yours – and the options are endless.