employment law
Employment Law – What You Don’t Know Will Hurt You!

Did you know employment law is subject to the number of employees you have? No matter if you’re a start-up with a few employees, or your business is growing, you must comply with relevant mandated employment law. In today’s article, we will look at a few federal laws and the applicable number of employees so you can know how it impacts your business. We’ll also discuss how State laws can add another layer of complexity.

To understand the scope of many of the federal laws, it is important to know the definition of discrimination.

What is Discrimination in Employment Law?

In the context of employment law, discrimination means taking an adverse action, or a negative action, against an employee.

These adverse actions can be:

  • Failure to hire, train, or offer an opportunity or promote.
  • Failure to offer accommodation as required by law.
  • Offer a lower wage or fewer benefits as compared to their peers.
  • Take more aggressive disciplinary actions against one peer versus another.
  • Reduce pay or benefits.
  • Transfer an employee to a less desirable position, shift, or location.
  • Demote or terminate based on a discriminatory reason.

All of these could be valid reasons an employee would file a discrimination lawsuit against your company.

Federal Employment Law and Company Size

One of the federal employment laws that would apply to companies with 15 or more employees is the ADA or the Americans with Disabilities Act. This protects qualified individuals, whether they’re an applicant or an employee, that may have a disability, from unlawful employment discrimination. Employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation for their disabilities, unless it causes undue hardship.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act applies to companies with 15 or more employees. This law prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, and the list could go on and on.

Another employment law that also applies to companies with 15 or more employees is the Pregnancy Disability Act. This is an amendment of the Title VII Act, which prevents individuals from being discriminated against for being pregnant or giving birth, or from being temporarily disabled due to medically related conditions because of pregnancy or childbirth.

Another law for companies with 15 or more employees is the Genetic Information, Non-discrimination Act (GINA). This makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate against an individual because of genetic information that may be found in family medical history. It also includes any kind of DNA information that might be acquired through testing.

A Few More Employees Means More Compliance Requirements

The Age Discrimination Employment Act applies to companies with 20 or more employees. This prevents discrimination against those who are 40 years old and older. It forbids mandatory retirement ages except for certain executives and high policymakers who are over 65.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to companies that have 50 or more employees. This basically allows employees to take job protected leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or if they themselves have a serious health condition, or birth or adoption of a child.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also applies to companies with 50 or more employees. This act mandates and requires employees working at least 30 hours per week to be offered minimal essential health coverage at an affordable rate as all full time employees. If that doesn’t happen, then you could face some serious fines when it comes to the ACA.

Human Resources and State Law

It’s important to understand what laws apply to you at a federal level versus what laws apply to you at a state level. When it comes to state laws some states have heavy regulators. The West Coast and some of the Northeastern states have a little bit more content versus the federal law.

Some states have additional protected classes in employment law, like Title VII. This could include:

  • sexual orientation
  • arrest records when off duty
  • use of legal products and garnishments
  • credit information
  • marital status

Those are additional protected classes in multiple states such as pregnancy accommodation expansion. Some states have robust pregnancy accommodation laws. If an employee is going through a pregnancy related disability, certain laws protect these pregnant employees. Employers may still ask for a doctor’s note, etc., offer light duty, with the burden on the employee to prove that they are disabled.

More and more states are passing paid sick leave employment laws. Basically, many of the state laws are one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 or 40 hours worked, depending on the state. This allows them to use paid sick leave to take care of themselves, or a family member.  

Criminal History, Salary History, and Social Media

There are many states with a Criminal history inquiry ban. This is a ban which prevents employers from asking about a criminal history either until the interview is scheduled, or a contingent job offer is made to the candidate.  There also might be specific notice requirements if you as the employer decide not to hire an applicant because of their criminal history.

A salary history ban in some states prohibits employers from inquiring about a candidate’s current or previous wage, whether directly or through a third party. And some of the salary history bans are standalone employment law, while others are part of the larger Equal Pay Act.

And then lastly, there’s social media privacy. There are many state laws that prohibit employers from requiring or requesting employees or applicants to disclose their social media login credentials. Second, some state laws say employers cannot require or request that an employee or applicant access their personal social media in the employer’s presence or add the employer to their contacts or friends list. Some state employment laws prevent or prohibit retaliation or failure to hire should an applicant or an employee refuse such social media requests for access.

Covering Your Assets Through Employment Law

We know this is a lot of information to try to remember and digest. Let’s be frank. You didn’t get into business to become an employment law expert. Yet, failure to stay on top of it can cause a damaged business reputation and loss of revenue through litigation costs. The solution to this situation is working with an HR consulting firm who has your back. It’s easy and immediate to get help. What are you waiting for? Reach out today!

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workplace harassment
Workplace Harassment – The Investigation!

Workplace harassment is a very unpleasant experience for everyone. Uncovering the details can be an intimidating process for business owners and HR. In this article, we will outline the steps to a workplace harassment investigation. This information will help you handle this delicate matter with the respect and thoroughness it deserves.

Step 1 – Select an interviewer.

The workplace harassment investigation should be conducted as expeditiously as possible after receiving the claim. Choose a manager, company officer, or HR representative who can be impartial. They must approach the investigation process without a presumption of guilt or innocence and with a commitment to being fair and thorough. Ideally, this person has completed training on conducting a harassment investigation.

Step 2 – Conduct interviews and gather evidence.

Speak with the employee who made the workplace harassment claim (if known), the accused employee, and any witnesses named. The questions asked during the interviews should not lead an interviewee toward a particular response and should not be accusatory in nature. The questions should be unbiased, open ended, and prepared in advance. Follow-up questions should be asked, if needed. Collect any documents, emails, photographs, videos, etc., that might exist and assist in coming to a fair conclusion in the investigation.

Step 4 – Make a decision and take action.

Once the interviews are complete and all evidence is gathered, decide what to do and document the conclusions and actions taken. If the company determines the accused employee violated the harassment or other workplace policy, appropriate disciplinary measures should be taken. What qualifies as appropriate will depend on the severity of behavior of this workplace harassment incident. A summary of the findings should be placed in the accused employee’s file. The accused employee should be reminded that any retaliation against their accuser is unacceptable.

Step 5 – Inform the employee who reported the workplace harassment claim.

Alert the offended employee and others with a true need to know about the conclusions reached in the investigation. While the specific disciplinary action taken (if applicable) doesn’t need to be shared, assure the employee appropriate steps to address this situation and prevent future harassment have been taken. Remind this employee that retaliation is not be tolerated and to notify management if they’re experiencing any backlash because of reporting the harassment.

All reports of workplace harassment should be taken seriously. Handling each one with care and expeditiously is equally important. If you would like support with employee harassment training, we’d love to help! Contact us at your convenience.

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workplace harassment
Workplace Harassment – The Training Program!

A workplace harassment program is crucial to running a successful business. Otherwise, you might end up spending more time being a referee or mediator than a business owner. Not to mention, how important it is to preventing legal issues. In this article, we’ll outline what a workplace harassment program should look like. This will be a birds-eye view so if you want help creating a program (so you stay out of the weeds), we invite you to reach out.

Workplace Harassment Training Program

Leadership Must Be Committed and Engaged

The workplace harassment program is more than something that checks a box. Leadership demonstrates a genuine commitment to creating a welcoming, safe, and supportive work environment by dedicating resources for the development and implementation of a training program. This means Leadership understands this as a standalone program, beyond the EEO policy, and is equally important.

Comprehensive Anti-Harassment Policies

To ensure there is no chance the definition of workplace harassment and the associated behaviors are not clear, an organization must have written, detailed policies. This means it is clear what workplace harassment is, as well as what it is not. Understanding by all is not left to chance or assumption. Every employee must participate in the education process and sign off verifying their understanding and commitment to cooperating with the policies. These policies are part of the employee handbook and are easily accessible by all via print and digital formats. Policies must be reviewed and kept up to date with current trends and legislation.

Trusted and Accessible Reporting Procedures

The steps to report an incident must be clear. The promise of a professional and respectful investigation must have consistent follow-through. Additionally, the protection from retaliation must be communicated and enforced.

Regular, Interactive Training Tailored to the Organization

Workplace harassment education isn’t a one-time event. It’s good practice to make this training part of a yearly organizational training program for all employees, including all leadership roles. It’s human nature to “forget” so this minimum yearly reminder will keep the commitment to a harassment-free workplace top of mind for all employees.

Contact us if you’d like help creating a workplace harassment training program for your organization.

employee handbook
This Does Not Belong in Your Employee Handbook

The employee handbook is an important document for your small business. As discussed in a previous article, a good employee handbook can protect you from all kinds of legal complications. Consequently, it is also important to know what to exclude in your handbook. In this article we will explore 3 things you should not include in your employee handbook.

Exclusion 1 – Health and Welfare Benefits Specifics

The first item to exclude is the specifics of your health and welfare benefits. It is better to prepare a separate Benefits Booklet. The reason being, plans for benefits often change from year to year. It is much easier and more efficient to update a separate document.

However, it’s a good idea to include a brief section outlining what types of benefits are offered. Subsequently, you can reference the Benefits Booklet (or whatever you decide to call it) for learning the details.

Exclusion 2 – Procedures, Safety Rules, and Job Duties

Next up on the list of items not to include in your employee handbook are procedures, safety rules, and job duties. Those details, much like the health and welfare benefits, are best documented in a separate document. In this case, an operation’s manual. The purpose of the employee handbook is to outline things in the employee-employer relationship and only what impacts all employees. This ensures it does not become a cumbersome and confusing document.

Exclusion 3 – Legally Binding Contracts

Lastly, the final item on the list of things to exclude is legally binding contracts. This would include arbitration, non-disclosure, and non-compete agreements. Remember, the employee handbook is to serve as a guide. It does not constitute an employee contract. As such, legal documents must be drafted and executed by a qualified attorney and then included with an actual employee contract to ensure proper execution.

If you’d like a review of your employee handbook, we invite you to Book an Appointment! We’d love to help.

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employee appreciation
Employee Appreciation and Your Bottom Line

Employee appreciation is more important than you think. In this article we’re going to explore just how impactful employee appreciation really is. We’ll demonstrate how genuine appreciation can transform a business in many ways. Consequently, you’ll understand how the lack of employee appreciation impacts your bottom line and has the potential to sabotage success.

We’ll begin with research by Workhuman® and Gallup®. Their report reveals that when employee appreciation efforts were doubled (from 1 in 4 to 2 in 4 polled stating they felt appreciated at work) businesses realized a 9% improvement in productivity, a 22% decrease in safety incidents, and a 22% decrease in absenteeism. For larger companies these numbers amount to millions of dollars being added to the bottom line. This study included large US businesses so when a smaller business incorporates this kind of cultural development, it serves to reason even higher percentages of improvements can be experienced in these areas.

Why it Works.

Humans are wired to do better when they feel appreciated. In fact, the feelings generated from appreciation occur when the chemicals in the brain are stimulated by the 5 senses. This article isn’t a science expose, but it helps to understand human behavior to nurture good mental health in the workplace. When genuine praise is given the brain releases dopamine. This creates a feeling of pleasure and the desire for more of it drives the behaviors by which they can repeat the feeling. So, when giving praise be specific and clear so the employee can know how to replicate it.

It’s Not Easy for Everyone

Something so simple should be easy to do but unfortunately, we humans can be complicated creatures at times. We carry around all sorts of baggage making it challenging to communicate praise. If it’s hard for you, here’s some ways you can ensure your issues don’t stand in the way of giving employees the acknowledgement they need to feel good about their work.

Ways to Show Employee Appreciation

Need to improve an environment in which employees bad mouth each other too much? Saying nice things is free, and it goes a long way in creating positive behavior. Create a “caught being nice” contest. Over a determined amount of time, cards are collected when a person is “caught being nice”. Their name is written on a card and put in a fishbowl or a box. The person with the most notes can win a prize or be celebrated at lunch.

Create a “Job Well Done” box in which peer-to-peer or even manager-to-peer praise notes are collected. The note acknowledges something done well. They can be collected and then given to the individual or read aloud at meetings. This is a great way to create team bonding and mutual support.

Create an employee of the day/week/month and celebrate these individuals. Set up a gift program to demonstrate appreciation. It can be as simple as taking an employee to coffee to say thank you or a gift card they can use anywhere.

While praise doesn’t always have to have a monetary reward attached to it, creating an environment in which employees feel appreciated most definitely has the ability to positively impact the bottom line of every business.

Need help creating an employee appreciation program? We’re here to help! Reach out so we can chat soon.

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Increase Employee Retention

Employee Discipline – Get it Right!

employee retention
Increase Employee Retention Using Flexible Scheduling

Offering more flexibility to your employee’s schedule is an area in which you can be creative. This is one way to increase employee retention and give your employees control over their time at work. We are sharing 5 ways you can offer flexibility while still maintaining the coverage you need.

  1. Implement self-scheduling. Self-scheduling is when you let your employees know what shifts are needed and allow them to choose when they are going to work. You can use software or a paper calendar. Allowing employees the choice over the days and times they will work gives them control over their week. This will also offload the manager’s responsibilities of regularly making a schedule.
  2. Communicate with employees about open shifts and encourage them to share changes to their schedule with managers or the team to keep shifts covered.
  3. Offer incentives, such as bonuses or shift pay, to persuade staff to pick up additional or less desirable shifts.
  4. Offer cross training. Not only does this give your employees the opportunity to gain experience a new skill, but it will give everyone more flexibility as they can cover different shifts and roles.
  5. Look at offering a variety of shift lengths or different starting times. Determine what shifts would work to provide the coverage you need and then collaborate with your employees to discuss which options they would like to see.

This may not work for every business but being flexible and creative in this area will go a long way with employee retention.

Need more ideas on how to increase employee retention? Reach out for additional support.

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