Workplace Harassment

Over the past two years, the #MeTooMovement has changed the landscape of workplace harassment and other workplace issues. Even though the #MeTooMovement changed the landscape, workplace harassment is still is a very serious and common problem.

It is important for HR departments to be educated and aware of types of harassment and how to handle them. When equipped with the right information, HR and employee relations can be critical in identifying and eliminating all different types of workplace harassment before anything escalates. 

Here are the 5 most common types of workplace harassment:

  1. Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace is still common, even though the #MeTooMovement empowered victims to speak up. Unwelcome and offensive comments, unwanted physical attention, and requests for sexual favors are all considered sexual harassment in the workplace. 

2. Disability Harassment 

Disability harassment is when unfavorable treatment or harassment of employees with a physical or mental disability occurs. Disability harassment is very widespread in the workplace, so it is important for managers to be aware of the signs of this type of harassment. 

3. Racial Harassment

Racism is something that unfortunately occurs everywhere, but being able to identify it in the workplace is critical. Some common displays of racial harassment include displaying discriminatory symbols, mocking someone’s accent, making unwelcome comments about ones race, telling derogatory jokes, and using racial slurs. 

4. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Harassment

These two types of harassment are when individuals make derogatory, offensive or demeaning remarks based on a persons sexual orientation or gender identity, including transgender status. These two types of harassments are different and here’s why; sexual orientation harassment refers to whether a person is homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. Gender identity harassment refers to a persons self-identification as a man or a woman. 

5. Ageism

More than 1 in 3 employees feel that their age has prevented them from getting a job after they turned 40. Age discrimination is still common, even though it should not be. 

If your organization seems to come across workplace harassment issues, and you need help – let us know! AZ HR Hub is your #HRPartner, so you can focus on business!

Benefit Requirements

As an employer, it is important to understand what benefits you are responsible for obtaining for your company. In some cases, creating a benefit package is the best way to go. Some perks, like vacation days  and tuition reimbursement, are nice to offer, but they are not required by law. It is vital to be aware of what laws mandate employee benefits so you can plan accordingly.

Social Security and Medical Taxes 

Regardless of the size of the busines, every employer in the United States is required to match their employees’ social security and Medicare tax contributions. The cost of these contributions can vary based on the age of the employee and their earned income. 

Unemployment Insurance

No matter how many employees and employer has, they must carry unemployment insurance. Both part-time and full-time employees are entitled to unemployment benefits. 

Workers Compensation

Employers are required to carry workers compensation insurance which acts as a wage replacement and medical benefit is an employee should become injured or ill while working. 

Disability Insurance

Disability insurance is only mandated for employers in the following states; New York, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Rhode Island. Disability Insurance provides partial wage replacement insurance coverage to employees that suffer from a non-work related injury or illness that causes them to miss work. 

Family Medical Leave

Family medical leave benefits are required by law for any employer that has 50 full-time employees or more. This benefit allows employees to receive up to 12 weeks of unpaid medical leave per year while still maintaining their job and benefits. 

Health Insurance

The Affordable Care Act requires employers that have more than 50 full-time employees to offer acceptable health insurance. 

Workplace Safety

Safety in the workplace is one of the most important things that employers can promote. The Occupational Health and Safety Act (OSHA) sets rules and regulations for employers to follow, these guidelines ensure a safe work environment for everyone. 

Human resource departments play a vital role in ensuring safe workplace conditions. HR departments have to stay up to date with OSHA standards and enforce them correctly and effectively. HR personnel also have to oversee management to make sure that they are following organizational safety practices. Follow along for a workplace safety guideline that will help your HR department when ensuring safe work conditions. 

1.     UNDERSTAND RULES AND REGULATIONS 

Every company is different, meaning every company will have different standards to follow. Understanding your industry’s requirements is imperative to providing a safe work climate. 

2.     CREATE TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES

Employees will only know the things that they are taught. Providing training opportunities will allow employees to gain knowledge about workplace safety and will teach them how to implement safety in their work lives. 

3.     PROVIDE VISUAL AIDS 

Visual aids help grab an employee’s attention and can give them quick, important information. OSHA and many other government-based organizations provide free signage for employers to post in their workplace. 

4.     ESTABLISH A SAFETY COMMITTEE

Creating a safety committee of all different types of employees is key to making sure working conditions are always safe. This safety committee should include personnel from all departments, as well as senior executives and entry-level workers. 

5.     PERFORM SAFETY AUDITS

Safety audits allow employers to see how effective their current safety practices are. It also allows employers to make sure they comply with all local, state, and federal rules and regulations. 

Human resource departments are not the only people who can help in ensuring workplace safety – it involves everyone’s help and it’s a team effort. Following OSHA guidelines will help protect employees and employers from workplace accidents. Reach out to AZ HR Hub for assistance with maintaining OSHA guidelines!

Minimum Wage Increases for 2021

2020 has been a year of crazy events, from a global pandemic to a historical election – we have constantly been on our toes. 2021 might be just as crazy, but we can go into it with some knowledge. 

The minimum wage for many states will be changing going into the new year. The federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour but if states or municipalities have a higher minimum wage, employers must pay their employees the higher rate. 

Check out the map below to see minimum wages for 2021. Some states will see an increase on January 1st, some states will see an increase on different dates, some will not see a minimum wage change and other states do not have a minimum wage, therefore they follow the federal minimum wage. 

Source: HR Daily Advisor

Alaska$10.34 (effective January 1)
Arizona$12.15 (effective January 1)
Arkansas$11.00, tipped employees must regularly earn at least $20/month in tips (effective January 1)
California$14.00 with 26 employees or more, $13.00 with 26 employees or less (effective January 1)
Colorado$12.32 (effective January 1)
Connecticut$13.00 (effective August 1)
Florida$8.65 (effective January 1) Increases to $10.00 (effective September 30)
Illinois$11.00 (effective January 1)
Maine$12.15 (effective January 1)
Maryland$11.75 with 15 employees or more, $11.60 with 15 employees or less
Massachusetts$13.50 (effective January 1)
Michigan$9.87 (effective January 1)
Minnesota$10.08 for large employers (annual gross revenue $500,000 or more) $8.21 for small employers (annual gross revenue less than $500,000) (effective January 1)
Montana$8.75 (effective January 1)
Nevada$9.75 for employees without healthcare benefits, $8.75 for employees with healthcare benefits (effective July 1)
New Jersey$12.00 with more than 5 employees, $11.10 for seasonal employees and/or 5 or fewer workers, $10.44 agricultural employers (effective January 1)
New Mexico$10.50 (effective January 1)
Ohio$8.80 for gross receipts of $323,000 or more, $7.25 for gross receipts under $323,000 (effective January 1)
Oregon$14.00 metro area (effective July 1), $12.75 urban counties (effective July 1), $12.00 rural counties (effective July 1)  
Rhode Island$11.50 (effective January 1)
South Dakota$9.45 (effective January 1)
Vermont$11.75 (effective January 1)
Virginia$9.50 (effective May 1)
Washington$13.69 (effective January 1)
5 Tips to Protect Your Company from Wrongful Termination Lawsuits

Most jobs are considered to be “at will” employment, but employees may still be able to sue an employer if the reason for termination is determined to be illegal. Unfortunately, termination is something that nearly every workplace must deal with, so it’s important that this matter be handled with delicacy and professionalism. The following are a few tips that can keep a workplace safe from wrongful termination lawsuits.

1. Communicate Regarding Expectations

Letting employees know what’s expected from day one can help to prevent performance issues and protect an employer if an employee is fired for failing to meet expectations. Of course, regular feedback should be given so that employees know whether or not they’re meeting expectations. If an employee is consistently warned about performance issues, it should be no surprise when termination follows.

2. Keep Great Documentation

Even if an employee is alerted to issues with performance, tardiness, or behavior, it can be difficult to prove that this feedback was given if there’s no documentation. Keeping great records can not only help to protect an employer from wrongful termination, it can also improve transparency and communication regarding ongoing issues. This can in turn improve consistency and organization, preventing problems from several angles.

3. Be Compassionate During Terminations

Being fired has been identified as one of the most stressful things that can happen in a person’s life. When the time comes to terminate someone, no matter what the reasons for the termination, being compassionate can help to ease the inherent tension in the situation. How an employee feels during and after the termination can be a big factor in whether or not the employee feels the need to pursue legal action.

4. Purchase Liability Insurance

Liability insurance is an added expense for the business, but may help to save dollars if an employee sues the company for wrongful termination. Not all liability insurance is the same, however. It may be prudent to make sure the option still exists to defend against a lawsuit and avoid a settlement, even if liability insurance is available to help pay settlements when they are found to be the best course of action.

5. Help Employees with Next Steps

Employees that find new jobs very quickly after termination usually don’t sue for wrongful termination. For this reason, it can be beneficial to assist employees with next steps as part of the termination process. Providing a reference or helping with networking, especially in cases where an employee was let go because of downsizing, can help the employee to move forward fast and prevent stress-inducing downtime.

Termination can be difficult for both employers and employees, so following certain guidelines can ease stress of the situation and prevent the hard feelings that sometimes lead to wrongful termination lawsuits. By detailing expectations and establishing a consistent chain of events that happens prior to termination, employers can protect themselves from liability. Employees may also feel more secure knowing what to expect and seeing that other employees are held accountable.

30 employee handbook do’s and don’ts from the NLRB

To help employers craft handbooks that don’t violate the National Labor Relations Act, the National Labor Relations Board has issued a compilation of rules it has found to be illegal — and rewritten them to illustrate how they can comply with the law.

It was issued as a memorandum by NLRB General Counsel Richard F. Griffin, Jr. to “help employers to review their handbooks and other rules, and conform them, if necessary, to ensure they are lawful.”

Specifically, the memorandum points out employer policies found to violate and conform to Section 7 of the NLRA.

The main area of concern

Section 7 mandates that employees be allowed to participate in “concerted activity” to help improve the terms and conditions of their work.

The NLRB has made it abundantly clear recently that it’s on the lookout for rules that:

  • explicitly restrict protected concerted activity, and/or
  • could be construed to restrict protected Section 7 activity.

One thing the memorandum makes very clear: extremely subtle variations in language could be the difference between having a legal policy in the NLRB’s eyes and having one that’s viewed as violating the NLRA.

What to say, what not to say

Here are many of the dos and don’ts highlighted by the memorandum, separated by topic:

Rules regarding confidentiality

  • Illegal: “Do not discuss ‘customer or employee information’ outside of work, including ‘phone numbers [and] addresses.’” The NLRB said, in addition to the overbroad reference to “employee information,” the blanket ban on discussing employee contact info, without regard for how employees obtain that info, is facially illegal.
  • Illegal: “Never publish or disclose [the Employer’s] or another’s confidential or other proprietary information. Never publish or report on conversations that are meant to be private or internal to [the Employer].” The NLRB said a broad reference to “another’s” information, without clarification, would reasonably be interpreted to include other employees’ wages and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Illegal: Prohibiting employees from “disclosing … details about the [Employer].” The NLRB said this is a broad restriction that failed to clarify that it doesn’t restrict Section 7 activity.
  • Legal: “No unauthorized disclosure of ‘business “secrets” or other confidential information.’”
  • Legal: “Misuse or unauthorized disclosure of confidential information not otherwise available to persons or firms outside [Employer] is cause for disciplinary action, including termination.”
  • Legal: “Do not disclose confidential financial data, or other non-public proprietary company information. Do not share confidential information regarding business partners, vendors or customers.”

The NLRB said the last three rules above were legal because: “1) they do not reference information regarding employees or employee terms and conditions of employment, 2) although they use the general term “confidential,” they do not define it in an overbroad manner, and 3) they do not otherwise contain language that would reasonably be construed to prohibit Section 7 communications.”

Rules regarding conduct toward the company and supervisors

  • Illegal: “Be respectful to the company, other employees, customers, partners, and competitors.”
  • Illegal: “Do ‘not make fun of, denigrate, or defame your co-workers, customers, franchisees, suppliers, the Company, or our competitors.’”
  • Illegal: “Be respectful of others and the Company.”
  • Illegal: “No defamatory, libelous, slanderous or discriminatory comments about [the Company], its customers and/or competitors, its employees or management.’”

The NLRB said the rules above were unlawfully overbroad because: “employees reasonably would construe them to ban protected criticism or protests regarding their supervisors, management, or the employer in general.”

  • Illegal: “Disrespectful conduct or insubordination, including, but not limited to, refusing to follow orders from a supervisor or a designated representative.”
  • Illegal: “‘Chronic resistance to proper work-related orders or discipline, even though not overt insubordination’ will result in discipline.”

The NLRB said the rules above, while banning “insubordination,” also ban “conduct that does not rise to the level of insubordination, which reasonably would be understood as including protected concerted activity.”

  • Illegal: “Refrain from any action that would harm persons or property or cause damage to the Company’s business or reputation.”
  • Illegal: “It is important that employees practice caution and discretion when posting content [on social media] that could affect [the Employer’s] business operation or reputation.”
  • Illegal: “Do not make ‘statements “that damage the company or the company’s reputation or that disrupt or damage the company’s business relationships.”‘”
  • Illegal: “Never engage in behavior that would undermine the reputation of [the Employer], your peers or yourself.”

The NLRB said the rules above “were unlawfully overbroad because they reasonably would be read to require employees to refrain from criticizing the employer in public.

  • Legal: “No ‘rudeness or unprofessional behavior toward a customer, or anyone in contact with’ the company.”
  • Legal: “Employees will not be discourteous or disrespectful to a customer or any member of the public while in the course and scope of [company] business.”

The NLRB said the rules above are legal because they wouldn’t lead an employee to believe they restrict criticism of the company.

  • Legal: “Each employee is expected to work in a cooperative manner with management/supervision, coworkers, customers and vendors.” The NLRB says employees would reasonably understand that this states the employer’s legitimate expectation that employees work together in an atmosphere of civility.
  • Legal: “Each employee is expected to abide by Company policies and to cooperate fully in any investigation that the Company may undertake.” The NLRB said this rule is legal because “employees would reasonably interpret it to apply to employer investigations of workplace misconduct rather than investigations of unfair labor practices or preparations for arbitration.”
  • Legal: “‘Being insubordinate, threatening, intimidating, disrespectful or assaulting a manager/supervisor, coworker, customer or vendor will result in’ discipline.” The NLRB said: “Although a ban on being  disrespectful’ to management, by itself, would ordinarily be found to unlawfully chill Section 7 criticism of the employer, the term here is contained in a larger provision that is clearly focused on serious misconduct, like insubordination, threats, and assault. Viewed in that context, we concluded that employees would not reasonably believe this rule to ban protected criticism.”

Rules regarding conduct between employees

  • Illegal: “‘Don’t pick fights’ online.”
  • Illegal: “Do not make ‘insulting, embarrassing, hurtful or abusive comments about other company employees online,’ and ‘avoid the use of offensive, derogatory, or prejudicial comments.’”
  • Illegal: “Show proper consideration for others’ privacy and for topics that may be considered objectionable or inflammatory, such as politics and religion.”
  • Illegal: “Do not send ‘unwanted, offensive, or inappropriate’ e-mails.”

The NLRB said the rules above were unlawfully overbroad because employees would reasonably construe them to restrict protected discussions with their co-workers.

  • Legal: “[No] ‘Making inappropriate gestures, including visual staring.’”
  • Legal: “Any logos or graphics worn by employees ‘must not reflect any form of violent, discriminatory, abusive, offensive, demeaning, or otherwise unprofessional message.’”
  • Legal: “[No] ‘Threatening, intimidating, coercing, or otherwise interfering with the job performance of fellow employees or visitors.’”
  • Legal: “No ‘harassment of employees, patients or facility visitors.’”
  • Legal: “No ‘use of racial slurs, derogatory comments, or insults.’”

The NLRB said the rules above were legal because: “when an employer’s professionalism rule simply requires employees to be respectful to customers or competitors, or directs employees not to engage in unprofessional conduct, and does not mention the company or its management, employees would not reasonably believe that such a rule prohibits Section 7-protected criticism of the company.

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