The Global Human Resources Outsourcing (GHRO) team provides HR consulting services in the areas of employee/labor relations, so we thought we’d share some valuable information on the subject.
Recent headline stories:
- The EEOC has filed suit against the Texas Roadhouse national restaurant chain, claiming the company discriminates against older workers by denying them “front of the house” hourly positions, steering them instead into kitchen jobs or refusing to hire them. The EEOC has documented cases in which hiring managers are alleged to have said to older applicants:
- “You seem older to be applying for this job.”
- “Do you think you would fit in?”
- “There are younger people here who can grow with the company.”
- The former director of community relations for the NBA franchise Golden State Warriors is claiming in a lawsuit that star guard Monta Ellis engaged in a months-long sexual harassment campaign, sending her numerous sexually suggestive texts including a picture of his genitalia. Erika Smith, a four-year employee, also claims the team’s owners and general manager purposely attempted to protect their “franchise” player by “sweeping (the allegations) under the rug,” a claim she said was revealed to her by Ellis when he allegedly said G.M. Larry Riley promised to “cover up” the allegations.
Age discrimination, sexual harassment…these are all-too common headline-making employee lawsuits that can generally be avoided if the proper policies and procedures are in place and in force. If you’ve ever been through an employee lawsuit, you know just how expensive, difficult and often unpredictable they can be. But there are far more time and cost-effective solutions available. Isn’t it better to prevent the lawsuit than manage it?
Here are seven things that may help you avoid employee lawsuits:
1. Treat Employees with Respect.
2. Communicate with Your Employees: Do not let complaints fester. Deal with them right away.
3. Implement an Effective Unlawful Discrimination and Harassment Policy.
4. Document, Document, Document: The importance of good record keeping cannot be overstated.
5. Conduct Honest Employee Evaluations on a Regular Basis.
6. Do Not Retaliate: Recent cases have lowered the burden for plaintiffs to prove their retaliation claims.
7. Take Action and Investigate Complaints Promptly.
Employee Relations can be a tricky business, particularly in California. GHRO Group has more than 50 years of experience dealing with “difficult” cases, and we can handle even the most sensitive challenges, including responding to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Department of Fair Employment Housing (DFEH) claims.
Don’t wait until it’s too late.
The recent settlement in the National Labor Relations Board’s wrongful termination complaint against American Medical Response of Connecticut heralds positive news for employee free speech on Facebook. The news is decidedly less positive for employers trying to enforce social-networking and computer-use policies.
In the complaint, the board alleged that American Medical Response violated federal labor law when it discharged a former ambulance service employee. The employee had posted negative comments about her supervisor on her own Facebook profile. The complaint alleged that American Medical Response’s employee handbook posed excessive rules regarding blogging, internet posting, and employee communications. The complaint also alleged the company had illegally withheld union representation from the employee.
As part of the settlement, the company agreed to several changes. First, it agreed to rewrite its social-networking and computer-use policies to remove the ban on employees discussing wages, hours, or working conditions with each other. Second, it agreed to grant future employee requests for union representation.
This case makes history as the board’s first complaint against an employer for firing a worker over critical Facebook comments.
“Employment law.” If those words sent a shiver down your spine, you’re not alone. You have so much to think about to keep your business running at its best, the last thing you want bogging you down is employment law! Employment law is complicated, confusing, and ever-changing—and unfortunately, it’s critical to you and your employees that it be followed to the letter. To help you out, GHRO has compiled a list of five common workplace violations you’ll want to look out for.
1. Unpaid or Incorrect Overtime Pay
According to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), all work over the employee’s regular 40-hour workweek must be paid at time and a half. Note, California’s overtime laws are based not only on a 40-hour workweek, but also an 8-hour workday (except for certain employees on a modified work schedule, such as a 4/10). Any work performed in excess of eight hours in one workday is considered overtime, paid at time and a half, as well as the first eight hours worked on the seventh day of work in any one workweek. Similarly, work performed in excess of 12 hours in one workday shall be paid at double-time, as well as any work performed beyond eight hours on the seventh day of work in any one workweek.
Compensatory time may be granted instead of overtime wages, but it must be paid at the same rate: 150 percent.
Pitfall: If your business requires overtime to be preapproved, even if a non-exempt employee works “unauthorized” overtime, it must still be reported.
2. Minimum Wage Violations
As of July 24, 2009, federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. Many states have their own minimum wage laws; current minimum wage in California is $8 an hour. If a discrepancy exists between federal and state rates, the higher rate prevails. Under certain circumstances, minimum wage exceptions apply to special job groups, including tipped employees, full-time students, and disabled workers.
3. Unpaid Vacation Time
Employers are not legally required to pay employees for vacation time; however, if employers choose to provide paid vacation time, any accrued vacation time becomes part of an employee’s compensation package. That means accrued time must be paid out when an employee separates from the employer, whether through resignation or termination.
4. “Use It or Lose It” Vacation Time Policies
Some employers have adopted a “use it or lose it” vacation time policy, where if employees don’t use all of their accrued vacation during the calendar year, they will lose that time once the new year starts. In some states, “use it or lose it” vacation policies are unlawful.
5. Unpaid Compensable Time
Paid work time extends to more than just an employee’s job duties. If an employee spends time changing into a uniform, performing stock inventories, or setting up and cleaning a work area, that time is compensable. An employee is also entitled to wages for extra hours worked, such as working through lunch break, even if the employer didn’t require it.
Employment law has so many fine details, it’s tough to remember them all and implement them just right. One mistake can mean disaster! If employment law is getting you down, the Human Resources specialists at GHRO can help. Our professional staff stays on top of federal, state, and local employment regulations so you don’t have to! We’ll teach you the best way to adapt employment regulations to your business goals. Visit our website today to see how GHRO’s services can work with your business.
While many of us have feared—or even faced—an end to company parties as we know them, the holiday party is not dead yet.
In the face of layoffs and cutbacks, 2009 marked a rough year for the holiday party, with many businesses canceling their celebrations. Some canceled because of legitimate budget concerns, while others canceled because of fear of appearances. Is it the best idea to throw a party when so many people are out of a job? The City of Costa Mesa didn’t think so. Even though the city’s annual picnic was totally funded by employee contributions, it was considered distasteful to celebrate with large layoffs pending. The picnic was canceled. What was not considered, however, was the positive effect a holiday party could have on employee morale.
They may be less extravagant and boisterous than in previous years, but despite the tough economic times, there’s spirit to be gained from holiday celebrations. It’s these tougher times, when everyone is feeling stressed, that parties become most important for morale. Holiday parties provide a way for companies to acknowledge their employees’ dedication. Parties also gather employees together out of the office to celebrate their camaraderie. In Costa Mesa’s case, a holiday party would have shown the remaining employees how much their hard work means—and would have provided a welcomed reprieve from office woes.
These hidden benefits of holiday parties may explain why some employers are fighting so hard to keep them. A nationwide recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management showed that 61 percent of employers are planning a holiday party for 2010, the same figure as in 2009. Caterers say that after a two-year slump, their number of holiday events has returned to normal, but the revenue earned from those events has drastically decreased. This suggests holiday events have grown smaller and more modest, but they’re still happening. Maybe the answer isn’t canceling parties, but scaling back so the nonmonetary benefits can still be enjoyed.
Holiday parties extend well beyond a night of fun and laughter—their benefits can help employees feel good about themselves, each other, and the work they do. Parties need not be extravagant to be effective; especially in these troubled economic times, even modest holiday parties can boost employee morale. So the 2010 holiday party is not dead, but in fact, is making a recovery. That’s good news when employees need to feel the holiday spirit the most.
Our society is becoming so inundated with tasks and work-related duties that unhappiness at the office is encroaching on employee health. We all know that having happy workers limits turn-over and the higher the job satisfaction, the more likely employees are to put forth their best effort. By creating a fun and home-like working atmosphere, you’ll make work fun, enjoyable, and ease stress at the same time!
Google was voted the number one company to work for in 2007. It’s no surprise considering life at the search engine giant is very relaxed and stress free; employee benefits abound. While some companies stress time lines and attire, Google emphasizes recreating the home experience at work. Employees can do laundry, work out at the gym, receive a massage and learn a new language. Feeling a little under the weather? Visit Google’s on-site doctor. Buying a hybrid? Google will give you $5,000 towards the purchase price. Expecting a child? They’ll reimburse you up to $500 in take-out food. If you ask any employee what they do at Google they’ll typically respond a personal embodiment of the company’s mission statement- “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” This kind of motivation by employees is rarely seen, but envied by most.
Google’s goal, as often recited by employees, is ambitious (to say the least). Thankfully, Google just happened to find the right people to take it on. By creating a comfortable work environment, employees are not burdened with stress. Instead, employees are motivated to collectively achieve a similar goal; indexing information and making it useful. Google wouldn’t be the tech giant it is today without its bevy of happy employees. The appeal of a work environment that mimics their homes stimulates productivity and increases employee moral, making Google one of the most sought-after employers in the world.
Even if you don’t have the resources of a Silicon Valley titan, you can easily follow Google’s ideology, making your employees happy too. The first step may just be rethinking how you see your company. Simply making the mission statement more accessible and personal will help employees insert more of themselves in to their work and ease stress levels. Extend the home experience to work and rethink the office; would you want to live in it? If you wouldn’t mind spending an evening or weekend at the office because it’s hospitable and welcoming, you’re on the right track. Make the office a place your employees love to be, rather than the place they dread to go.
Employees need to come first in a company, as they are the heart and soul of your business. Creating a comfortable work environment that mimics a home eases stress, raises morale and increases productivity. Even simple changes can greatly affect employee health and happiness in a positive way, which will certainly lead to long-term growth for your business.
Through GHRO’s recent coordination of legal efforts, our customer received two additional summary judgments in their favor. Lawsuits happen everyday. GHRO knows how to protect, document and do the HR job correctly so that you don’t have to worry about not being prepared when you have to go to court.
by admin on Jan.21, 2010, under Abritration, candidates, disciplinary action, discipline in the workplace, Dispute Resolution, due process, employee discipline, Employee Free Choice Act, Employee Lawsuits, employee relations, employment, GHRO, Human Resources, National Labor Relations Board, progessive discipline policy, progressive discipline, Uncategorized, Workers Comp, workplace due process
Our notoriously litigious society has made it a continuous challenge for employers to defend themselves from “sue-happy” employees. It has become far too easy for employees to sue their employers and as a result many employers are increasingly apprehensive about taking the necessary steps to address disciplinary actions.
HR managers are typically the “progressive discipline gurus” of a company, but let’s not overlook one major detail. Line managers need to be just as proficient in progressive discipline procedures since they are the key discipline agents. In essence, line managers should be viewed as an extension of HR management when dealing with disciplinary actions. There are a few fundamental elements of workplace due process that can improve the employer confidence in taking the appropriate disciplinary actions when needed.
First, in an appropriate, safe atmosphere the employee needs to be informed of what the problem is and what efforts can be taken to rectify the situation. Second, the employee needs to be given the opportunity to fix the problem within a reasonable time line. Lastly, the employee needs to be aware of the consequences if he or she does not show noticeable improvement. These disciplinary actions appear to be reasonable and logical, however, this is far easier said than done, which is why we have progressive discipline procedures.
The strategies of progressive discipline, shifts the sole responsibility for improvement away from the company and toward its employees (where it rightfully belongs). The way to do this is by meeting the employee half way to show equitable accountability for improvement.
How can employers meet employees half way? Well, for starters, there must be a progressive discipline policy in place that provides a clear systematic uniform approach to informing an employee of his or her unsatisfactory performance and/or conduct.
Progressive discipline counters the notion of at-will employment. The concept that employees may quit their jobs at anytime and employers may fire employees at anytime for any reason is a mere delusion of at-will employment even during the so-called “probationary” period. In my humble opinion, having a probationary period is a moot point since employers must still show cause for the termination if they are being sued during that time period.
Well-documented written warnings showing the employer’s intent of meeting the employee half way is the responsible way an employer can demonstrate their use of greater due process. Integrating a progressive discipline system will improve the confidence and skills of line managers to properly address situations that require disciplinary actions.
by admin on Aug.12, 2009, under Employee Free Choice Act, Employee Lawsuits, employee relations, employment, GHRO, HR, Human Resources, National Labor Relations Board, Obama Administration, Unions, Workers Comp
In keeping with the fighting spirit which seems to dominate Washington D.C. these days I would like to provide you with the latest on what I would call the Federal Government’s 1 – 2 punch. Whether these punches will be jabs, hooks, or knock outs will all depend upon the final bills signed by the President this fall. It will of course also vary depending upon your business, however, one thing is certain, they will cost you more.
The three areas I would like to discuss are Nationalized Healthcare, the Employee Free Choice Act and Worker’s Compensation rates and changes. To read the rest of this article please click here gov-1-2-punch
If you have ever been a witness at trial or gone through a deposition you know how unpleasant an employee lawsuit can be. Having done this myself I can assure you there is a better way.
1. Dispute Resolution Process and/or
While arbitration may be under attack by the courts and the current presidential administration, there is still time to implement both of the solutions listed above.
To read this complete story please click here how-to-prevent-those-nasty-employee-lawsuits.