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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Employee Discipline – Get it Right!

employee discipline
Employee Discipline – Get it Right!

No one enjoys having to initiate employee discipline. Yet, this is part of the manager’s responsibility to maintain order and workplace compliance. There’s a few steps that must be followed in order to manage appropriate disciplinary actions and it all begins – and ends – with documentation.

Disciplinary Actions Must Be In Writing

Anytime it is appropriate to discipline an employee, put it in writing. This can be on paper and filed in a paper filing system, sent in email and then printed and saved to employee’s file, or shared and recorded to a digital personnel file. This is for the protection of the manager and the company and it supports an appropriate manager-employee relationship.

Employee Discipline Must Be Timely

It is important to issue the discipline right away. Don’t wait three weeks or until their next performance review. If the issue is a big enough deal to impact the employee’s current or future standing, do it right away. Waiting is not good practice.

Disciplinary Action Must Never Be a Secret

It is not appropriate to keep an infraction secret from the employee and then drop it like a bomb in an employee review. The employee must know about it when it happens. Having issued the discipline in a timely manner and recorded it in writing, provides documentation in support of a future promotion or demotion.

All Disciplinary Records Must Be Filed

No matter what form (paper, email, digital) employee discipline is issued, the disciplinary action must be put in the employee’s personnel file. This is not something you leave laying in the “file” bin or somewhere on or in your desk. Putting proper documentation in the personnel file is necessary for Human Resources to prepare for any litigious actions from a demotion or termination.

Do you have a particularly difficult disciplinary situation you’re struggling with? We’d love to help so you stay in compliance and implement a healthy disciplinary practice. Reach out! We’re here to help.

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Pump Act Update
“Pump Act” Update You Need to Know!

As of April 28, 2023, a Pump Act violation can make an employer liable for legal or equitable remedies under the FLSA. In other words, if an employer violates an employee’s right to reasonable break time and space to pump breast milk, the employee can take appropriate legal or equitable remedies under the FLSA.

If you’re not familiar with the legislation, here’s a Fact Sheet.

The “Pump Act” supports a lactating mother’s right to fulfill her desire to breastfeed her child. It is the goal of legislation to help reduce socioeconomic disparities in breastfeeding rates and the related barriers to breastfeeding for working mothers.

Employers who understand the benefits of breastfeeding can become an advocate and in doing so support better health for mother and child. Not only is breastfeeding good for mother and child, but studies show a mother choosing to breastfeed reduces costs for an employer since health risks to breastfed babies are lower and consequently reducing health care costs.

Here’s a Mini-Guide to help you become a supportive employer to the needs of lactating employees.

Do you have questions about staying in compliance with laws like this and more? Reach out! We’re here to help.

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