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Monthly Archives

January 2012


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

With so many employers taken by surprise, the NLRB extended its poster requirement to January 31. As of January 31, 2012, most private sector employers are required to post a notice advising employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act. As a practical matter, the Board’s jurisdiction is very broad and covers the great majority of non-government employers with a workplace in the United States, including non-profits, employee-owned businesses, labor organizations, non-union businesses, and businesses in states with “Right to Work” laws. The notice should be posted in a conspicuous place, where other notifications of workplace rights and employer rules and policies are posted. Employers also should publish a link to the notice on an internal or external website if other personnel policies or workplace notices are posted there. You can get the poster, read a FAQ and learn more by going to https://www.nlrb.gov/poster.

This poster is an invitation for disgruntled employees to organize and otherwise complain about work conditions. The only defense is good personnel practices and readily available legal help if you need it. HR That Works Members should watch or listen to the recorded Webinars we did on NRLA requirements. You are also encouraged to you post your literature on the wall. Let employees know the company vision, mission, goals and values. Share employee success stories. Remember, the workforce needs a drama. You have a choice of who will write the script.

If you aim to start things off right with your employees in 2012, make sure to watch the upcoming Webinar with Don Phin on January 4, 2012 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific. You can register for the Webinar by clicking here.

Here is the poster language that employers should be concerned with:

Under the NLRA, you have the right to:

  • Organize a union to negotiate with your employer concerning your wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.
  • Form, join or assist a union.
  • Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with your employer setting your wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.
  • Discuss your wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with your co-workers or a union.
  • Take action with one or more co-workers to improve your working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with your employer or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.
  • Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.
  • Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union.

Under the NLRA, it is illegal for your employer to:

  • Prohibit you from talking about or soliciting for a union during non-work time, such as before or after work or during break times; or from distributing union literature during non-work time, in non-work areas, such as parking lots or break rooms.
  • Question you about your union support or activities in a manner that discourages you from engaging in that activity.
  • Fire, demote, or transfer you, or reduce your hours or change your shift, or otherwise take adverse action against you, or threaten to take any of these actions, because you join or support a union, or because you engage in concerted activity for mutual aid and protection, or because you choose not to engage in any such activity.
  • Threaten to close your workplace if workers choose a union to represent them.
  • Promise or grant promotions, pay raises, or other benefits to discourage or encourage union support.
  • Prohibit you from wearing union hats, buttons, t-shirts, and pins in the workplace except under special circumstances.
  • Spy on or videotape peaceful union activities and gatherings or pretend to do so.

Under the NLRA, it is illegal for a union or for the union that represents you in bargaining with your employer to:

  • Threaten or coerce you in order to gain your support for the union.
  • Refuse to process a grievance because you have criticized union officials or because you are not a member of the union.
  • Use or maintain discriminatory standards or procedures in making job referrals from a hiring hall.
  • Cause or attempt to cause an employer to discriminate against you because of your union-related activity.
  • Take adverse action against you because you have not joined or do not support the union.

If you and your co-workers select a union to act as your collective bargaining representative, your employer and the union are required to bargain in good faith in a genuine effort to reach a written, binding agreement setting your terms and conditions of employment. The union is required to fairly represent you in bargaining and enforcing the agreement.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

In this tight economy, many employers are reluctant to make any new hires. This is a big mistake. The first thing to consider is who it is that you should get “off the bus.” Our test has always been this: If the employee quit today, would you be relieved or upset? If the answer is “relieved,” then do what you have to do: Let this employee go or put them on some type of performance plan that guarantees their success or departure. One of the problems with trying to resurrect poor employees is that they tend to look for job security by filing claims, hoarding knowledge, or other conduct which will make their staying on board even more costly. In our experience, when you let these people go you really learn the truth about them.

Now that you’ve “culled the herd,” don’t replace them immediately with the same level of employee. Instead, take away the lowest value work of the existing team and hire an entry-level employee who you can groom in your way of doing business. How much $10, $15, or $20 an hour work can you take away from the existing team? Do they want it taken away from them or not? Instead of hiring an entry-level employee, many companies outsource administrative tasks to consultants and other third parties.

Taking this approach will increase workforce productivity and revenue per employee. You’ll also be able to give existing employees a raise because they’re adding more value to your organization.

Remember, when recruiting entry-level employees, provide them with a career map so they can see the opportunity in your business. HR That Works has sample “career ladders” to consider.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

The EEOC received a record 99,947 charges of discrimination in fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30 — the highest number of charges in the agency’s 46-year history. EEOC staff also delivered more than $364.6 million in monetary benefits for victims of workplace discrimination. This is also the highest level obtained in the Commission’s history. The fiscal year ended with 78,136 pending charges — a decrease of 8,202 charges, or 10%. In previous years, the pending inventory had increased as staffing declined 30% between fiscal years 2000 and 2008. Comprehensive enforcement and litigation statistics for fiscal 2011 will be available in early 2012.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

This summer, New York City enacted the most “progressive” statute on religious accommodation in the workplace. Follow these guidelines, and you’ll be “safe” in any jurisdiction.

According to the new law, the term “reasonable accommodation” means, “such accommodation that can be made that shall not cause undue hardship in the conduct of the covered entity’s business. The covered entity shall have the burden of proving undue hardship. In making a determination of undue hardship … the factors which might be considered include but shall not be limited to:

(a) the nature and cost of the accommodation;
(b) the overall financial resources of the facility or the facilities involved in the provision of the reasonable accommodation; the number of persons employed at such facility; the effect on expenses and resources, or the impact otherwise of such accommodation upon the operation of the facility;
(c) the overall financial resources of the covered entity; the overall size of the business of a covered entity with respect to the number of its employees, the number, type, and location of its facilities; and
(d) the type of operation or operations of the covered entity, including the composition, structure, and functions of the workforce of such entity; the geographic separateness, administrative, or fiscal relationship of the facility or facilities in question to the covered entity.

“In making a determination of undue hardship with respect to claims for reasonable accommodation to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance … the definition of ‘undue hardship’ set forth in paragraph (b) of such subdivision shall apply.

“(b) ‘Reasonable accommodation,’ as used in this subdivision, shall mean such accommodation to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice as shall not cause undue hardship in the conduct of the employer’s business. The employer shall have the burden of proof to show such hardship.

“‘Undue hardship,’ as used in this subdivision shall mean an accommodation requiring significant expense or difficulty (including a significant interference with the safe or efficient operation of the workplace or a violation of a bona fide seniority system). Factors to be considered in determining whether the accommodation constitutes an undue economic hardship shall include, but not be limited to:

(i) the identifiable cost of the accommodation, including the costs of loss of productivity and of retaining or hiring employees or transferring employees from one facility to another, in relation to the size and operating cost of the employer;
(ii) the number of individuals who will need the particular accommodation to a sincerely held religious observance or practice; and
(iii) for an employer with multiple facilities, the degree to which the geographic separateness or administrative or fiscal relationship of the facilities will make the accommodation more difficult or expensive.

“Provided, however, an accommodation shall be considered to constitute an undue hardship, for purposes of this subdivision, if it will result in the inability of an employee who is seeking a religious accommodation to perform the essential functions of the position in which he or she is employed.”

This language should seem familiar because it matches that of disability accommodation. Of course, the definition of “reasonable accommodation” under the ADA is litigated on a case-by-case (Don’t you just love the uncertainty of it all!). To learn more, go to http://www.nyc.gov/html/cchr/home.html.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

According to a SHRM article, the EEOC has filed disability lawsuits against:

  • Ford Motor Company for failure to allow an employee with a gastrointestinal condition to telecommute.
  • Kohl’s Department Stores for refusing to accommodate a diabetic employee’s request for a regular schedule.
  • SITA for rescinding a job offer when it found that an applicant who needed surgery for cancer asked to delay her start date.
  • The Scooter Store for refusing to accommodate an employee’s request for a temporary leave of absence due to a knee injury and then firing him.

Here’s the point: The EEOC is on the warpath when it comes to disability accommodation. Go through the process. Take a checklist approach. Treat your people the way you would want to be treated. Get professional help if you need it. The HR That Works Hotline is a good place to a start for Members as is the Job Accommodation Network: http://askjan.org/.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

Many employers, including Boeing (which the National Labor Relations Board blocked from moving to an aircraft assembly facility in Charleston, South Carolina), have been upset with the NLRB for the past few years. In this newsletter and our Webinars, we’ve discussed the Board’s efforts to make unionization far easier, as well as to expand the National Labor Relations Act to social media postings. The NLRB has not had a full complement of five board members for five years. When Craig Becker’s term expires this year, the Board won’t have enough board members to rule on labor disputes. Republican lawmakers will surely try to block any nominations President Obama appoints to the Board. Many employers feel that the NLRB is trying to do through administrative pressure what Congress would not do through legislation.

Expect the Board and Administration to push right up to Election Day.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

At a recent HR presentation for CEOs, three of the 15 executives present reported that an employee had embezzled from them or engaged in other financially destructive activity during the past few months. We’re getting similar questions on Hotline calls from Members. Here’s the reality: If you don’t have significant checks and balances around your money, you’re conducting a social experiment and making your business easy prey for the desperate, greedy and villainous.

In one of these cases, a new HR director told the payroll company that she was given a substantial raise only days after joining the company, the payroll company never questioned it, and she made off with thousands of dollars. As the Russian proverb states, “Trust, but verify.”


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

In light of the discussion about change and enduring wisdom, here’s what I consider the wisdom available to HR managers:

  • Great HR practices generate a competitive advantage, whether you have five or 5,000 employees.
  • The “tipping point” in human resources is the hiring process, which has a greater impact on productivity, teamwork, constant improvement, profitability, and compliance than any other factor.
  • According to the HR That Works Cost Calculator, there’s at least a 10% cost or variance of payroll in your human resource practices. For example, if you have a $1 million payroll, your cost or variance is at least $100,000. You’ll need to bring in, at a minimum, $400,000 to put that $100,000 back to the bottom line.
  • The greatest risks in employment practices are uninsurable. Despite all the noise of the legal community, poor hires, high turnover, and lack of productivity left on the table every day have the greatest impact to the bottom line. Every company should cap its employment practices liabilities by purchasing Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI).
  • You need to find HR exciting to be any good at it — even if it’s only one of three hats you’re wearing.


By Your Employee Matters | No Comments

The past is gone. Poof. No mas! The challenge is that most of us are deeply rooted in the past and find a great deal of comfort in it – whether it was good or bad. We hear ourselves saying to both loved ones and people in the workplace, “When I was young…”

It’s frightening to go through today’s rapid change. As Buckminister Fuller stated, we’re going through a period of “accelerating acceleration” in which things are happening faster and faster — at a faster rate. Today’s rate of change is generating a significant amount of dislocation, uncertainty, and fear — and that doesn’t feel good.

For the first time in generations, we’re looking to those younger than us for advice — primarily in technology. We’re living in a technological age. It’s not just about production and information, but how technology affects every aspect of our lives.

What are you or your company doing to drive past this fear of change? Have you set out to learn from younger workers? Have you invited them to educate and enlighten you on today’s technologies? Will you and your company embrace the need for this invitation or will lose out to competitors who do?

Change makes us uncertain about what we can contribute and how this contribution can create job security and personal growth. If we can’t do things the “old school” way, then what are we going to do? For example, many employees somehow feel affronted when their company decides to offshore everything, from data management to customer service. What’s left for us to do?

How do we drive past this fear? How do we choose not to play victim to the great change? Fundamentalist religion has blossomed worldwide as one answer. In a sense, we’ve decided to prohibit change. I’ve seen bosses and employees take a fundamentalist view about their work too, doing everything they can to block, sabotage, and resist change. The problem is that when we look backward hoping for a sense of security, we can turn into pillars of salt. Although we might not die physically, we’ve surrendered in our minds. Now all you have to look forward to is retirement — and it can’t come fast enough.

I remember speaking to a top executive at a billion-dollar organization about an opportunity in her business. Her entire conversation was about the lack of support she received from other corporate departments and the retirement she’s looking forward to with her husband. When I asked, “what’s your edge?” she didn’t have one. I can tell you that her department will be going in only one direction — and it’s not one that will please shareholders.

It’s very difficult to break up a relationship with another person, especially when this person is the “former me.” The past provides a false sense of strength in the familiar.

I was speaking with a 63-year-old human resource executive who was laid off from a major corporation and then hired by one of my business partners to help implement our program. This man called our customer support service because he didn’t know how to download and open a Word document. Two days later, he called me to ask a question he could have easily found the answer to on the HRThatWorks web site. When I began to try to show him where he could get the information, he cut me off and told me that he didn’t “like all this new technology” and wasn’t very interested in using it. He actually asked me if I could send him a three-ring binder with the materials from the web site!

The role of Wisdom within all of this change is to understand and communicate what is continuous or cyclical. For example, long-term investors warned novice dot-com and real estate investors about the rule that cuts across investing: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” If these novices listened to the wisdom of the Warren Buffets, they wouldn’t be in a financial mess today. We need to listen to the wisdom that things will always change. Then we have to project our will firmly into the future. We must be open and invite new ideas. We have only begun our life’s story — and many exciting chapters lie ahead.

Here are some steps you can take to reach this goal:

  1. Identify those things that you wish could have remained the same. You might wish there were no cell phones or electric cars, then recognize the past is over with, give it its proper funeral, and run like heck to embrace what has replaced it.
  2. Invite an Innovation and Wisdom Dialogue among your workforce. What timeless lessons and cutting-edge technologies can be shared? How can we allow the people in our organization whose strength is wisdom to utilize this ability? How do we empower those whose strength is technology to make full use of those abilities?
  3. Realize that if you don’t embrace change, you will — or should be — be let go. I’ve seen too many employers face paralysis in letting employees go because they were once productive in the old way of doing things.

We need to force the hand of change. You can create your own game plan for embracing change and moving forward, have your managers do it for you, or start planning an early and unfulfilling retirement. The choice is yours!


By Life and Health | No Comments

Self-employed individuals who work from home usually don’t think about purchasing Disability insurance. However, the few individuals who do consider it receive positive feedback about the idea from an insurance agent. Those who have researched this type of coverage usually find that policies are expensive. In addition to this, not all Disability insurance companies are willing to work with self-employed individuals. Many policies aren’t enough to replace regular income. There are a few important things to know in order to get the coverage needed at a good price.

How Much Insurance Is Needed? The purpose of Disability insurance is to replace regular income for a long period of time. The disability might last a few years. However, disability income might be needed until retirement age. Although disability policies for self-employed individuals rarely replace gross income, they can replace a considerable portion of it. To get a better idea of how much to aim for in a policy, consider how much is paid each year in taxes. That amount should be deducted from gross revenue and expenses. It’s best to find a policy that allows this amount of compensation. If there are licenses or other business expenses that must be paid to keep current in the event of a disability, it’s best to add a Business Operating Expenses policy to the LTD coverage. BOE policies are limited, so it’s important to speak with an agent to understand exactly what they cover.

How Much Coverage Costs. Disability coverage can be costly. In most cases, a good policy’s monthly premium is slightly more than 10% of gross monthly income. Keep in mind that smaller premiums mean less coverage. There are ways to save a little money without skimping on coverage. First, consider buying a policy for a set number of years instead of the full term between current and retirement age. Another way to lower costs is to extend the benefit waiting period. Settling for a smaller payout is another option. The most optimal option is to buy into a group policy. Individuals who belong to a professional organization should contact an agent or the organization to see if there are group policies offered. Agents might also know of other resources available to some individuals.

How Qualification Is Determined. Since a LTD policy replaces income, it’s important to prove income. To do this, copies of tax returns from the past five years are often required. Insurance agents might also make a home visit to analyze a work area. Their goal is to ensure that individuals are truly earning a living the way they say they are. If agents suspect that work performed at home is part-time or irregular, there may be issues with qualification. Obtaining the proper licenses for the type of work chosen is very beneficial. For example, an accountant should have the proper licenses for practicing accounting and running a business. Keeping the working area properly separated from the living area of the home also helps. Freelance workers and other independent workers who don’t have licenses face the biggest qualification challenges. Written contracts, proof of a steady income and tax returns are the best tools for such individuals to prove qualification.

The Most Important Policy Details. Be sure to ask an agent if the policy replaces income from all types of work or a only current profession. Some policies are set up to encourage workers who lose the ability to do one task to do another similar task. However, some policies pay disability benefits to a worker who can’t do their specific job anymore even if they qualify for a different type of job. This usually becomes an issue if the alternate job choice pays significantly less than the current position. If the disability policy pays more than an alternate form of work would, it’s best to keep the policy. Most policies have a waiting period between 60 and 90 days. Some waiting periods restart if an insured individual attempts to work during that time. Be sure to understand the terms of the policy thoroughly. Contact one of our agents with any questions.