Month: January 2018

You Make Me Sick!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Sue likes her job except at this time of year. First, she had to listen to coworkers talk about their snow and ice adventures. Now she’s listening to many of them cough, sneeze and wheeze all day. Flu season seems worse than last year based on the disgusting noises she’s hearing in cubicle world.

In the next cubicle is Patty who has the flu although she claims it’s just a head cold. Sue’s pretty sure that Patty showed up at work while she had a fever because three coworkers quickly succumbed to the crud after getting too close to Patty.

Now coworkers run away when Patty lurches into sight. Sue can’t escape because they share a cubicle wall. She wipes down her cubicle hourly but that’s not enough. Sue’s heard less gross noises from her cat, Pixel, when he’s coughing up a hair ball.

She complained to Meg, the HR rep, who stopped by to suggest that Patty might be better off at home in bed. Patty croaked that she didn’t want to waste all her PTO days because her husband has promised her a really nice vacation this year. If she uses all her PTO, she won’t have any days left for her vacation.

Meanwhile, their supervisor, Wesley, sits in his office up the hall doing whatever bosses do all day. He can close his door, thinks Sue resentfully, and tune out their suffering. Wesley is young, and he is fixated on not screwing up his future promotional chances. So he blindly enforces the rules on attendance arguing that he has no power to change them.

The company policy sets out a limited number of PTO days a year and doesn’t allow any carry-over. The owner discourages working remotely because he’s afraid staff will goof off. Sue and others grumble quietly because they doubt the company will revise its PTO policy.

What can Meg, the HR rep, do to help the grossed-out employees?

  1. She can set up a sterilization chamber at the entrance and require all workers to hose themselves with disinfectant before entering the office.
  2. She can ramp up recruitment efforts to replace employees who leave voluntarily for better benefits or involuntarily with the EMT’s.
  3. She can suggest that the company revise its PTO policy to allow extra days during seasonal events like flu season.

Employers face a dilemma. They need to balance productivity and staffing requirements against the losses caused by sick employees who show up to work. Adapting leave policies or allowing employees to work remotely are two options.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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What’s Your Classification?

Another update from the Jungle…..

At this time of year, as we all think about income taxes and payroll withholding, the perennial issue arises. When is a worker an employee (IRS Form W-2) and when is a worker an independent contractor (IRS Form 1099)?

For decades the answer was straightforward: look at “control”. When a company controls what, when, where and how a worker performs assigned tasks, the worker is an employee. By contrast, independent contractors are given a task and a deadline, and they control how, where, and when they complete the task.

Then life got complicated. In 2015 the Dept. of Labor (DOL) proposed raising the salary level of the overtime rule to $913 per week. Employees with weekly wages below that amount would be entitled to overtime pay if they worked more than 40 hours in a work week. It meant that more employees would be eligible for overtime pay.

At the same time, the DOL adopted the “economic reality” test. If the economic reality was that a worker was financially dependent on the company, then the worker was a W-2 employee. The practical effect of the test was to eliminate the classification of “independent contractor”.

To understand why the DOL took these actions, it helps to understand the philosophical approach of regulatory authorities. Regulatory authorities, including the IRS and DOL, recognize that someone will always find a way to game the system. (Remember the tax shelters that allowed some people to claim they had no taxable income?) So the regulators try to deter gaming by creating tediously detailed regulations that everyone complains are strangling businesses and the economy. (Of course, we eventually learn how to game new rules and complain when they change again.)

In 2015, the DOL wanted to deter perceived abuse of the “exempt” status in the overtime rule, and it wanted to ensure that more individuals would be covered by an employer’s group health plan as contemplated by the Affordable Care Act. To meet these objectives, the DOL proposed raising the salary limit and adopted the “economic reality” test.

The economic reality test was withdrawn, and we’re back where we started with the “control” test. The proposed overtime rule was also withdrawn, and the DOL is considering raising the salary limit but by a lesser amount.

However, it’s still critical to properly classify workers because the consequences of getting it wrong can be financially catastrophic. DOL civil penalties start at over $1,000 per employee per violation. The IRS can assess civil penalties and require a company to restate years of tax filings. Misclassified workers can sue for lost wages and benefits. It’s a triple whammy that few companies could financially survive.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Want To Know What I Think?

Another update from the Jungle…

Sam always gets excited in January. Well, maybe not excited, but he briefly becomes animated and shakes off the fog in which he usually works. Sam gets excited about completing the annual employee satisfaction survey.

His company does their annual employee satisfaction survey in January. They used to do the survey in November but eventually concluded that the timing was awful. By November, employees had completed annual open enrollment in the group health plan and had received their annual performance reviews.

The survey became a forum for complaining bitterly about the rising cost of the health plan’s payroll deductions. Employees who didn’t receive pay raises complained bitterly of biased bosses, lousy working conditions and a lack of parking spaces. So the CEO made an executive decision to move the survey to January.

Sam doesn’t care when the employee satisfaction survey is administered because it’s all a game to him. Outwardly conforming, inside he’s a subversive weasel. He does an informal survey of his co-workers to find out what they are most disgruntled about and then advocates for what they hate in the survey.

Last year, Sam said that the CEO’s latest management fad initiative was the most brilliant change the company had ever tried. Sam’s co-workers hated the initiative which eventually flopped due to foot-dragging. The year before, Sam voted in favor of a company picnic knowing his co-workers weren’t enthusiastic and then was “sick” the day of the picnic.

Sam wasn’t always a devious weasel. Once upon a time, he was happy to give his honest opinion to anyone crazy enough to ask him. Then a former boss oh-so-coincidentally repeated verbatim all the unflattering survey comments during a staff meeting. Sam stopped believing that the survey is anonymous.

How should HR respond to employee distrust of the survey?

  1. HR can suggest that the company stop administering employee satisfaction surveys since the survey could make employees feel like lab rats in an experiment.
  2. HR can continue the status quo and set up a department-wide betting pool about the survey results.
  3. HR can suggest outsourcing the survey to a third party vendor so that no one at the company sees raw data and anonymity is preserved.

Employers are increasing the number of surveys administered each year in the hopes of improving employee engagement. While surveys can be helpful, it’s critical that employers promote trust between management and employees by (1) guaranteeing anonymity in the survey response and (2) making objective, positive changes based on the survey results.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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What’s Her Excuse This Time?

Another update from the Jungle…

Linda shows up late at least twice a week. She always has a story to explain why she can’t get to work on time. The kids got up late, missed the bus, and she had to drive them to school. The parakeet was sick. The dog escaped from the backyard, and Linda chased him for half an hour before catching him.

Linda’s manager, Jack, is fed up with the excuses. Before Christmas, he uncorked some colorful language to suggest that Linda should set her alarm an hour earlier so that she could get her act together to get herself to work on time.

Jack told Becky, the HR manager, that if this were a sports league, Linda would be traded to a bush league team if he could find one stupid enough to take her. He wants to fire Linda in hopes it will improve the morale of his department. Becky sighs inwardly and reminds him of the progressive discipline policy.

It’s January, that non-festive season of arctic cold, snow, sleet, ice and general misery. Last night, the latest North Pole blast arrived from Canada and dumped several inches of snow on the town. Jack made it to work because he’s got four-wheel drive and he’s a former Marine who refuses to surrender to anything unless directly ordered to do so.

He arrives at work a few minutes late and begins checking on the status of his subordinates. Cindy left him a voicemail saying her hilly street is impassable. Since she never misses a day, Jack believes her. Rob’s message says he’ll be there as soon as the tow truck pulls his pickup truck out of the ditch. The next voicemail is from Linda. She can’t get to work because school is closed and she doesn’t have a sitter for her kids.

Jack slams down the phone and digs out the already-prepared termination paperwork. He signs and dates the form and then marches down the hall to Becky’s office.

What should Becky do next?

  1. She can suggest that Jack go work out at the on-site gym for a couple of hours until he gets over his anger.
  2. She can process the termination because she’s tired of dealing with the saga of Linda and Jack.
  3. She can point out that Linda actually has a “good” excuse this time and should be given one more chance.

At this time of year, the weather can interrupt the best intentions of employees.  As a result, the weather should be included as a factor when deciding if termination of employment is appropriate.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Nobody Understands Me

Another update from the Jungle…..

Susie returns from her holiday break feeling wonderful. Her sister hosted Christmas dinner so Susie avoided days of frantic cleaning at home. Then she got extra sleep because last week her kids were staying with her ex and wrecking his new girlfriend’s place. Life is good.

She pulls into the parking lot at work mentally reviewing all she has to accomplish today. She parks in her usual slot and reaches for her bag on the rider’s seat. As she grabs the door handle, she freezes. She spots danger ahead!

It’s Miranda, a morose co-worker whose life resembles the most depressing country music song ever. Miranda rehashed her D-I-V-O-R-C-E so many times unkind co-workers suggested that her husband bailed in self-defense.  Another time, Miranda’s dog ate some chocolate and made an emergency visit to the vet’s office. Miranda wandered around the office hysterically predicting that her dog would die and then complained about the vet bills.

Susie works in a different section of the company and made the mistake of being polite to Miranda several months ago when they met in the break room. Susie is an optimist who is friendly to everyone, at least the first time she meets them.

Unfortunately, Miranda was starved for an audience and latched on to Susie. Before Susie had poured a cup of coffee, Miranda had launched into a dramatic account of the elder abuse inflicted on her mother at the nursing home. Susie’s suggestion that speaking politely to the nursing home staff might be better than screaming was summarily rejected by Miranda.

That’s how it’s gone ever since. Miranda’s sister is a self-centered person who refuses to help with their mother. Miranda’s daughter has a nose ring, orange hair, and a worthless boyfriend. Miranda tragically soldiers on, despite the world being against her.

What options does Susie have to avoid talking to Miranda this morning?

  1. She can stay in her car and leave a voicemail message for her boss saying she is too sick to come to work.
  2. She can sneak into the office and hide from Miranda like all the other employees.
  3. She can boldly but politely excuse herself if Miranda tries to talk to her.

Some employees are morose because they are temporarily overwhelmed by the problems in their lives.  These employees may be directed to the company’s employee assistance program (EAP) by their manager or HR. However, some employees appear to enjoy chaotic lives and don’t want to change. In these cases, damage control is necessary to avoid tanking the morale of their co-workers.

If your company is struggling with HR issues, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you create HR policies that are appropriate for your company’s size and then serve as a resource to your staff as the policies are implemented.

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Join the HR Compliance Jungle today. Click here!

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