Monday October 22, 2018
 

Sick daze: Help employees shoo the flu out of the workplace

If you didn’t know it before, consider yourself warned. Flu season’s upon us! 

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza activity increases in October and November, peaks between December and February, and can last as late as May.

Now’s the time to start preaching prevention so your department stays healthy.

5 stay-healthy strategies

Here are some flu-season tips, courtesy of TotalWellness Founder and CEO Alan Kohll:

1. Educate staff. Granted, people should know the basics, but reminding employees about how to avoid the flu keeps it fresh in their mind. The CDC website offers best practices, as well as flyers and posters you can hang or distribute in the workplace.

2. Focus on germ-filled areas. Research shows the dirtiest places in the office include the breakroom sink’s faucet handles, microwave door handles, keyboards and refrigerator door handles. You may want to have these areas cleaned more often than usual during the winter or leave hand sanitizers around these areas.

3. Review PTO/sick time policies. In addition to going over these policies, it’s important to remind workers to stay home when they have even an inkling of flu-like symptoms. Toughing it out could have disastrous consequences for the rest of the office. You may also want to consider expanding telecommuting options. After all, work-at-home options will limit the chances of a semi-sick employee spreading something to others through the entire office.

4. Have a contingency plan in place. It’s critical to be prepared to keep business operations running smoothly in the event key employees are out sick or the office is severely short-staffed.

5. Make it easy for staff to get vaccinated. From hosting an on-site flu-shot clinic to participating in a voucher program that allows staffers to get vaccinated at a local pharmacy, there are plenty of ways to help. Plus, websites like fluzone.com make it easy for workers to find a nearby flu shot location.

One practice to avoid this flu season: making flu shots mandatory. Doing so could run afoul of a number of federal regs (Title VII, ADA) and get you in trouble with agencies like the EEOC.

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When medical marijuana laws and drug policies collide: Court says …

With every state saying something different about medical marijuana, it gets tricky for employers who want to maintain a completely drug-free workplace. 

And in Noffsinger v. SSC Niantic Operating Co., an employer went to court over rejecting a job applicant who was legally using medical marijuana.

Zero-tolerance drug policy

Katelin Noffsinger was a candidate for a job at the nursing home SSC Niantic operated. She easily passed through the interview process and was offered the job, contingent on passing a drug screening. The company had a zero-tolerance drug policy.

Before taking the test, Noffsinger disclosed she had PTSD from a car accident, and took medical marijuana in the evenings to treat it. But after she tested positive, SSC Niantic rescinded the offer.

Noffsinger filed a suit against the company, citing Connecticut’s medical marijuana law, which has a statute preventing discrimination against a candidate solely due to their status as a medical marijuana patient.

SSC Niantic argued under federal law, medical marijuana wasn’t legal. That, combined with its zero-tolerance drug policy, should be enough for the company to rescind the job offer.

‘Tension’ between laws not enough

But a court disagreed with the company. It noted the “mere fact of tension between federal and state law” wasn’t enough to refuse to hire medical marijuana users outright.

It went on to say employers have the right to prohibit the use of illegal drugs in the workplace, but Noffsinger’s case didn’t involve marijuana use on company property.

This case demonstrates the potential pitfalls of zero-tolerance policies for companies in states with legalized medical marijuana. In these states, employers can’t rely on federal laws to defend their policies. It’s a good idea to get drug policies updated and in line with state laws as soon as possible.

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EEOC releases sexual harassment stats one year after #MeToo

sexual harassment

It’s been a year since countless stories of workplace sexual harassment started making headlines, and new data suggests the number of harassment complaints and lawsuits won’t be declining any time soon. 

To mark the anniversary of #MeToo, the EEOC released its preliminary findings to examine the effect of the movement. And while many HR experts predicted sexual harassment claims would rise, the Commission’s numbers now back this up.

EEOC suits up 50%

Overall, the EEOC’s data shows a massive increase in sexual harassment claims, as well as pro-employee rulings. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  • In the past year, sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased by 12%. This is the first time this number has gone up in five years.
  • The number of lawsuits the EEOC filed increased by 50%.
  • Successful, EEOC-run mediation proceedings went up 43%.
  • As far as monetary awards go, The Commission recovered roughly $70 million for harassment victims in the last year, an amount that increased by 22%.
  • Visits to the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website went up more than 100%.

Waiting on new guidance

It’s clear from the EEOC’s data that the issue of sexual harassment isn’t going away. To encourage employers to keep improving anti-harassment efforts, the Commission is working on new guidance on the topic, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

But while we’re waiting on that guidance, employment law attorneys Jennifer Sandberg and Joseph Shelton of the firm Fisher Phillips suggest employers take the following preemptive steps in the meantime:

  1. Update policies. Many courts have demonstrated recently they want to see employers shouldering more of the responsibility in addressing sexual harassment. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy that: defines sexual harassment, provides examples, contains reporting methods and guarantees no retaliation.
  2. Distribute policies. Your sexual harassment policy is only helpful if employees know what it says. Many employers distribute the policy to new hires and have them sign it, which is a good start, but not enough. That policy will be quickly forgotten by new employees who are overwhelmed with information. A good way to communicate the policy is by leading regular meetings and having upper management send out reminder emails every now and then.
  3. Train your managers. One misstep by a manager could get the company into a lot of trouble, so it’s important to have regular training sessions on how to respond to allegations. Some common mistakes are a supervisor brushing off an employee’s inappropriate behavior as a personality quirk, or placing the blame on the victim for going along with the harassment for so long.
  4. Investigate allegations immediately. Any reports of sexual harassment should be made a top priority. Delaying an investigation will send the message that the allegations aren’t important, which won’t help you in court. It’s crucial to start interviewing all involved parties right away, document the entire investigation and separate the accuser and the accused.
  5. Enforce policies consistently. After discovering harassment allegations are true, it’s essential for employers to follow through. If the policy calls for termination — no matter who the accused is — you need to terminate. A court will not take kindly to employers giving certain high-ranking employees special treatment.

 

 

 

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EEOC releases sexual harassment stats one year after #MeToo

sexual harassment

It’s been a year since countless stories of workplace sexual harassment started making headlines, and new data suggests the number of harassment complaints and lawsuits won’t be declining any time soon. 

To mark the anniversary of #MeToo, the EEOC released its preliminary findings to examine the effect of the movement. And while many HR experts predicted sexual harassment claims would rise, the Commission’s numbers now back this up.

EEOC suits up 50%

Overall, the EEOC’s data shows a massive increase in sexual harassment claims, as well as pro-employee rulings. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  • In the past year, sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased by 12%. This is the first time this number has gone up in five years.
  • The number of lawsuits the EEOC filed increased by 50%.
  • Successful, EEOC-run mediation proceedings went up 43%.
  • As far as monetary awards go, The Commission recovered roughly $70 million for harassment victims in the last year, an amount that increased by 22%.
  • Visits to the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website went up more than 100%.

Waiting on new guidance

It’s clear from the EEOC’s data that the issue of sexual harassment isn’t going away. To encourage employers to keep improving anti-harassment efforts, the Commission is working on new guidance on the topic, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

But while we’re waiting on that guidance, employment law attorneys Jennifer Sandberg and Joseph Shelton of the firm Fisher Phillips suggest employers take the following preemptive steps in the meantime:

  1. Update policies. Many courts have demonstrated recently they want to see employers shouldering more of the responsibility in addressing sexual harassment. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy that: defines sexual harassment, provides examples, contains reporting methods and guarantees no retaliation.
  2. Distribute policies. Your sexual harassment policy is only helpful if employees know what it says. Many employers distribute the policy to new hires and have them sign it, which is a good start, but not enough. That policy will be quickly forgotten by new employees who are overwhelmed with information. A good way to communicate the policy is by leading regular meetings and having upper management send out reminder emails every now and then.
  3. Train your managers. One misstep by a manager could get the company into a lot of trouble, so it’s important to have regular training sessions on how to respond to allegations. Some common mistakes are a supervisor brushing off an employee’s inappropriate behavior as a personality quirk, or placing the blame on the victim for going along with the harassment for so long.
  4. Investigate allegations immediately. Any reports of sexual harassment should be made a top priority. Delaying an investigation will send the message that the allegations aren’t important, which won’t help you in court. It’s crucial to start interviewing all involved parties right away, document the entire investigation and separate the accuser and the accused.
  5. Enforce policies consistently. After discovering harassment allegations are true, it’s essential for employers to follow through. If the policy calls for termination — no matter who the accused is — you need to terminate. A court will not take kindly to employers giving certain high-ranking employees special treatment.

 

 

 

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EEOC releases sexual harassment stats one year after #MeToo

sexual harassment

It’s been a year since countless stories of workplace sexual harassment started making headlines, and new data suggests the number of harassment complaints and lawsuits won’t be declining any time soon. 

To mark the anniversary of #MeToo, the EEOC released its preliminary findings to examine the effect of the movement. And while many HR experts predicted sexual harassment claims would rise, the Commission’s numbers now back this up.

EEOC suits up 50%

Overall, the EEOC’s data shows a massive increase in sexual harassment claims, as well as pro-employee rulings. Here’s a breakdown of the numbers:

  • In the past year, sexual harassment charges filed with the EEOC increased by 12%. This is the first time this number has gone up in five years.
  • The number of lawsuits the EEOC filed increased by 50%.
  • Successful, EEOC-run mediation proceedings went up 43%.
  • As far as monetary awards go, The Commission recovered roughly $70 million for harassment victims in the last year, an amount that increased by 22%.
  • Visits to the sexual harassment page of the EEOC’s website went up more than 100%.

Waiting on new guidance

It’s clear from the EEOC’s data that the issue of sexual harassment isn’t going away. To encourage employers to keep improving anti-harassment efforts, the Commission is working on new guidance on the topic, which hasn’t been updated in 20 years.

But while we’re waiting on that guidance, employment law attorneys Jennifer Sandberg and Joseph Shelton of the firm Fisher Phillips suggest employers take the following preemptive steps in the meantime:

  1. Update policies. Many courts have demonstrated recently they want to see employers shouldering more of the responsibility in addressing sexual harassment. This includes having a zero-tolerance policy that: defines sexual harassment, provides examples, contains reporting methods and guarantees no retaliation.
  2. Distribute policies. Your sexual harassment policy is only helpful if employees know what it says. Many employers distribute the policy to new hires and have them sign it, which is a good start, but not enough. That policy will be quickly forgotten by new employees who are overwhelmed with information. A good way to communicate the policy is by leading regular meetings and having upper management send out reminder emails every now and then.
  3. Train your managers. One misstep by a manager could get the company into a lot of trouble, so it’s important to have regular training sessions on how to respond to allegations. Some common mistakes are a supervisor brushing off an employee’s inappropriate behavior as a personality quirk, or placing the blame on the victim for going along with the harassment for so long.
  4. Investigate allegations immediately. Any reports of sexual harassment should be made a top priority. Delaying an investigation will send the message that the allegations aren’t important, which won’t help you in court. It’s crucial to start interviewing all involved parties right away, document the entire investigation and separate the accuser and the accused.
  5. Enforce policies consistently. After discovering harassment allegations are true, it’s essential for employers to follow through. If the policy calls for termination — no matter who the accused is — you need to terminate. A court will not take kindly to employers giving certain high-ranking employees special treatment.

 

 

 

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Big-time talent acquisition on a small budget: 5 proven steps

No one needs to tell you that talent acquisition is hard work. And despite a hyper-pressurized job market, no one’s cutting you any slack, either. 

But even with mounting competition and limited resources, every HR pro can still land great talent.

Here are five essential talent acquisition tactics that don’t require a big budget, straight from the business and HR gurus at SHRM and FitSmallBusiness.

Check your reputation

Before you set out on your candidate search, it’s crucial to examine your company’s image from an outside perspective. Google your business name and see what people are saying.

If there’s not much out there, you’ll need to address that. Start by asking trusted employees to leave good reviews on sites like Glassdoor.

Another way you can manage your reputation is through social media. Make it easy for candidates to find you online through their social networks.

Make the workplace attractive

Once your internet presence is sparkling, you’ll want the physical workplace to match.

Even if things look great, there could be areas that need attention. Ask your employees for their thoughts on how you can improve the workplace. Little things like snacks in the breakroom or moving furniture around can make a big difference.

It’s also worth examining your benefits and compensation to make sure you’re on par with the industry standard. A visually pleasing workplace is important, but the best pay and benefits you can offer will attract great candidates by itself.

Streamline application process

It all begins with the job post. But before you write it, have a clear image of who you want in this role. Remember: A lot of skills can be learned, but traits like reliability and work ethic can’t be.

When writing the job posting, it’s important to strike a balance between being detailed and brief. You want candidates to understand what the job is, but you don’t want them to skip the post because it’s too wordy.

The same goes for the online application process. One out of five job seekers will abandon the application if it takes longer than 20 minutes to fill out. Make the process as quick and painless as possible.

Interview thoughtfully

After sorting through all the applications and getting rid of the obvious nos, the question of who to interview becomes tricky. You don’t want to waste your time, but some candidates can end up surprising you.

A great solution is to have brief phone interviews before inviting candidates in. You should keep it to about 15 minutes and just focus on basic information like work history. This will help eliminate some contenders.

It’s important to remember to treat candidates like you would a customer during this process. Keep in communication with them, and be kind and attentive. Regardless of whether they receive an offer, you want them leaving with a positive impression of the company.

Always think ahead

Remember to keep turnover top of mind and plan accordingly. Did you have promising candidates who didn’t quite make the cut? It’s always a good idea to hang on to their information in case of unexpected openings.

As you know, the search for great candidates never ends, so it’s important to keep that pipeline full. Another great place to look is your internal talent – the next open position could be filled by someone already working for you.

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9 ways NOT to conduct a performance review

The end of the year will be here before you know it, and with it — for many — comes the annual performance review. 

And while every good manager wants the review to be useful for the employee, many performance evaluations can get a little off track.

Strangest reviews

Evil HR Lady Suzanne Lucas took to LinkedIn and Facebook to ask people for their stories about performance reviews gone wrong.

Here are some of the wildest responses she received:

  • One employee was criticized for causing too much drama. The drama that was being referred to? Reporting and investigating employees’ discrimination and harassment claims.
  • Someone was written up for typing a period on a fax where a comma should’ve been.
  • A boss felt the need to criticize a worker’s thumbtack placement. He then drew her a diagram of how to correctly place one.
  • While driving into work an employee was involved in a car accident. They called from the ER to let their team know what was going on, and the next week they were written up for “allowing personal drama to interfere with responsibilities.”
  • An employee was told he was “too direct” in his communications. When he asked the manager to clarify, they couldn’t.
  • At her performance review, an employee was told her number of mistakes doubled in the past year. And it had … from one to two.
  • One manager spent the majority of the review talking about her husband.
  • An employee’s review was conducted by a manager who had only been there for four months. When the employee asked if he had consulted her previous managers, he said that after four months he knew her well enough to do the review on his own.
  • A manager complained an employee wasn’t catching on to a task she was never trained for.

 

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3 ways to help an employee going through a rough patch

With busy days and never ending to-do lists, it makes sense to be focused solely on your own productivity. 

But when other employees are struggling with their workloads, it can end up negatively impacting you and the workplace.

Lending a hand

When it comes to reaching out to someone going through a hard time, there are ways to show you care without overstepping.

Here’s what Inc.com contributor Art Markman says you should do:

1. Address what you’ve observed. The first step is letting the employee know you’ve noticed they’ve been a little off their game lately. Maybe they seem more frustrated or stressed than usual. Find a good time to pull them aside and have a chat over coffee.

The employee may not want to open up to you about their problems, but that’s OK. By brining this up, you let the employee know you’re there to talk if they want to.

2. Validate how they’ve been feeling. A lot of employees try to hide when they’re struggling because they don’t want people to question their ability. It’s possible they’re questioning their own capabilities as well.

Speak openly about times you’ve had issues staying focused or getting your work done. It’s important to let the person know they’re not alone in their struggle.

3. Make a plan. When the employee does open up, you can make the conversation productive. Help them come up with a plan.

If the person is overwhelmed by a big project, try to break it down into more manageable parts and help them come up with a list of things they can accomplish day by day. Making a solid plan will help the employee refocus.

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ACLU sues Facebook for discriminatory job ads

Facebook is in hot water once again — this time, for job ads targeting exclusively men for roles such as police officers, truck drivers and sports store clerks. The ACLU lodged a complaint against the social media giant — as well as 10 employers that used Facebook to post ads — on behalf of three female job hunters and the Communications Workers of America.

Civil rights violation?

The complaint was filed with the EEOC and accuses Facebook of enabling discriminatory job postings.

Specifically, companies used Facebook’s ad targeting features to exclude female candidates, and young and older men. Enhanced Roofing and Remodeling made its help wanted ad appear only to men 23 to 50 years old. The City of Greensboro, NC published an ad looking for police officers, but only men ages 25 to 35 could see it.

But the ACLU is more focused on Facebook than these employers — after all, the social media giant is the one that allowed ads to be marketed and delivered in this way.

“This type of targeting is as illegal now as it was in 1964 when the Civil Rights Act was passed,” a spokesperson for the ACLU said. “It also essentially acts as a recruiter connecting employers with prospective employees. In this context, it should be legally accountable for both creating and delivering these discriminatory ad campaigns.”

This case is currently pending.

Employer takeaway

Facebook’s legal trouble emphasizes to employers how risky it is to target candidates based on any protected factors, such as gender or age.

Even if you don’t target candidates in this way, it’s smart to review the language of your job postings. What does it say about experience levels? Does it say anything about preferring recent college grads? Wrongly worded job posts could be considered discriminatory.

 

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Staying compliant during natural disasters: Pay, leave questions answered

The arrival of Hurricane Florence — and the dreaded aftermath — has a lot of employers wondering about HR challenges that come along with natural disasters.

FLSA and FMLA compliance is a big concern at times like this, and employment lawyer Kara Maciel answered some common questions HR pros have when disaster strikes.

Wage and hour concerns

If our company closes due to the storm or damage afterwards, do we have to pay employees for that time?

According to the FLSA, nonexempt employees only have to be paid for time actually worked. So, while the worksite is closed due to a natural disaster, these employees don’t have to be paid.

Exempt employees are a different story. These workers have a fixed weekly salary, and must be paid this full salary if any work was performed during the week. So, if the company closes Wednesday due to the storm, exempt employees would still receive their normal paychecks, even though they only worked Monday and Tuesday.

Note: Employers can require workers to use available leave during this time.

If the worksite is open, but employees can’t come in due to the weather, is it legal to dock exempt employees’ salaries?

The DOL says when employees have transportation issues in severe weather, the absence can be counted as personal time. Employers can place these employees on temporary leave without pay until they return. However, if a salaried employee only misses a few hours of work, their pay cannot be docked.

Note: Before docking anyone’s pay, it’s best to seek legal counsel. There are also other options, such as allowing the employees to “make up” the time they missed.

FMLA issues

Can employees affected by the hurricane take FMLA leave?

Workers may use FMLA leave if they suffer a serious health condition as a result of the natural disaster. An employee can also use this time to care for an affected family member.

One example of an FMLA-qualifying condition resulting from the hurricane is medical equipment not operating due to power outages.

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