Employees

Emerging from the Cocoon

Who could have imagined in January how much would change this year?  We’re in our seventh month of the covid pandemic which has killed over 180,000 Americans.  Our workplaces are splitting between those who can work from home (generally higher paid) and those who can’t.  

Employers and employees are working through the financial strains caused by the economic fallout from the pandemic.  At the same time, there is a renewed focus on issues of diversity and racial equality as we struggle with the demographic changes in our country.  Overlaying all of these challenges is the most polarizing political election in decades.

It’s time to emerge from our cocoon and accept that we’re not going back to our old routine.  The new “normal” routine is that many people will be working from home permanently.  The new normal also means acknowledging and adapting to the demands for racial equality, gender equality, and sexual orientation protections.

HR policies need to be adapted to the new normal and Q4 is a great time to take a look at what should change.

Paid sick leave

Employers with less than 50 employees were introduced to an FMLA-lite model of paid leave for covid-related illnesses.   Employers with 51 – 499 employees adapted to a two-track FMLA model with unpaid leave for traditional FMLA and paid leave for covid-related illnesses.  Now employers need to prepare for the day when all employers are required to offer paid sick leave for any illness.  Several bills are currently pending in Congress and it’s a safe bet that at least one of them will become law.

Staffing

Despite the economic slowdown, some companies may now be understaffed as employees (mostly women) have cut back on hours or quit to devote more time to looking after their children who are learning remotely.  To avoid the talent drain, companies may need to offer modified work schedules and job-sharing.  Another option is to hire more workers from the pool of talented people who are currently unemployed.

Demands for equality

Meeting the minimum legal requirements of Title VII may not be sufficient to keep up with the demographic changes in the workforce.  America is becoming more blended and brown. LGBTQ individuals are now protected under Title VII.  HR managers should urge employers to adapt their corporate culture to become a more inclusive workplace or risk losing out in the race for top talent.

Our new normal will temporarily feature a short-tempered, disillusioned workforce that is struggling fear of covid and financial stresses. Layoffs, terminations and business closures will continue until the economy fully recovers.   

But longer term, our new normal will require adapting HR practices in the workplace.  Q4 is a great time to create a strategy for living in the new normal so that your company can start 2021 ahead of the competition.

If your company is struggling with the new “normal”, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor can help you.  We can create or update HR policies that adapt to the new normal and then serve as a resource after the policies are implemented.

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What Exactly Are You?

Another update from the Jungle….

Otis feels a bit frazzled lately.  His lawn care business has to speed up preparations for the busy summer season even though it’s only February.  A mild winter fooled Mother Nature into starting spring much too early.  Now his customers look at their scruffy flower beds and patchy lawns and fear being lawn-shamed by the neighbors. Otis’ phone is ringing non-stop.     

Otis isn’t ready for the upsurge in business. His year-round employees, Jose, Angel and Miguel, can’t handle all the appointments. Between customer calls, Otis is speed-dialing his usual summer helpers.  His summer crew is a motley bunch, including college students, a massage therapist and a former professional soccer player with more tattoos than a career felon.

Otis always treated his summer workers as independent contractors or 1099 workers. As 1099’s, these workers are self-employed and responsible for all employment taxes.  Many of his summer workers prefer this arrangement because they are running businesses of their own and besides, they like getting more money now.

Now as Otis begins calling his summer helpers, he hits an unexpected snag with Matt.  Matt is the son of a friend, originally hired as a favor for Matt’s dad.  Matt doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up so he is an average worker.   He livens up the place, though, practicing his Spanish with Miguel, flirting with the massage therapist despite her obvious lack of interest, and staging drag races with the mowers. 

But Matt is lukewarm when Otis calls about returning for another summer.  Matt says that he met a girl in a bar who is a pre-law student and she said Otis is breaking the law by not paying him as an employee.  Matt says that he wants to be treated as an employee because he wants overtime pay, health benefits and lots of paid leave.    

What options are available to Otis?

  1. He can let Matt ferment like the compost heap behind the equipment shed and move to the next name on the summer hire list.
  2. He can ignore the issue on the grounds that his company is too small to be noticed by the IRS or the state’s labor department.
  3. He can rummage through the IRS website looking for information on how to tell the difference between a W-2 and a 1099 worker which will take up time that he doesn’t really have at the moment. 

There is no bright line test dividing 1099 from W-2 workers; it depends on the total circumstances. Basically, the more control a company has over how and when the work is done, the more likely the worker is a W-2 employee.

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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Halloween Horror

Another update from the Jungle…..

Louise strolled into the office on Thursday morning humming quietly to herself.   She was looking forward to seeing the Halloween costumes that her team would wear.   She tried to imagine how some of them would top their everyday attire.

Jake dresses in black and changes his hair color  each month.   His current orange mop makes him look like a black post with a pumpkin stuck on top.  Bill wears ratty old clothes that even Goodwill would throw in the rag pile. 

Her new sales manager, Emma, is a self-identified witch who dresses in gauzy flowing outfits.   Since taking over sales, revenue is up, customer complaints are down, and there are no past due accounts.  Louise has heard rumors that the owners of slow paying clients develop extremely painful rashes, but she’s not asking any questions.   

The office was quiet when Louise arrived.  As she walked past Jake’s work area, a sticky note caught her eye. The note said, “Pay up by Friday or the pig gets it!”  Louise stared at the note, aghast. Was one of her employee’s being blackmailed?

She needed to fortify herself with a double espresso from the coffee shop next door.  As she waited to be served she remembered that she hadn’t locked the office door.  So she hurried back to the office.

As she walked through the door, she heard Emma sobbing noisily and saw her cradling a box.  Emma thrust the box at Louise, tearfully babbling about a murder with poison. Louise looked in the box.  It was a dead rat.  “Eek”, squealed Louise falling back a pace. 

Louise inched away from Emma until she could turn and dash to her office.  She needed more than a double espresso.  She needed a slug of the single malt whiskey left over from a client event while she thought about what she had seen.  Had one of Emma’s potions gone hideously wrong?  Was another witch using dark arts against Emma?   Would company sales nosedive while Emma mourned a dead rat?

That was the start of an internal investigation which left Louise dazed at how much happened in her company without her knowing about it.    Jake and Bill had a lucrative side business playing poker.  At a recent poker night hosted by Jake, Bill stole a stuffed pig sitting next to Jake’s computer.  After a series of Instagram posts showing the stuffed pig suspended over a Crockpot of steaming liquids, Bill left the ransom note at Jake’s desk.

The investigation also revealed that the dead rat was Emma’s beloved Patches. Emma had brought her dead rat to work while she waited for her vet’s office to open. The necropsy (animal autopsy) revealed that Patches died due to a weak heart; he hadn’t been murdered with poison. 

Sometimes HR isn’t as scary as it seems at first glance.  Happy Halloween!

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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Lunch with Leeann

Another update from the Jungle…..

Brenda made a hideous mistake today.  She agreed to have lunch with Laura, forgetting that Laura would invite Leeann.   

Leeann is a controller.  She isn’t bossy or pushy, but somehow everything moves at her pace. She shows up late for work most days, usually with a long explanation. The cat got sick. The dog got loose and she had to search the neighborhood for him.  The kids were sick.   Instead of telling her to get her lazy butt out of bed an hour earlier each workday, their idiot boss just shrugs.

Today, as usual, Leeann wandered around the office chatting about how much work she had to do.  Five minutes before they were to leave for lunch, Leeann remembered that she needed to return an important phone call.  It will only take a minute, Leeann assured them. Fifteen minutes later, Leeann was finally ready to go after a stop at the restroom. 

As they finally headed out the door, Leeann offered to drive because she needed to run an errand on the way back from lunch.  She dug into her giant, squishy purse for several minutes trying to find her car keys.  Brenda slid into the back seat feeling light-headed from rage, despair and hunger.

Leeann stared out the windshield and sighed. Then she dug through the console for her sunglasses. After another sigh and a seat adjustment, she finally backed out of the parking space.  Leeann paused at the exit to debate with Laura about where to go for lunch. 

Brenda lost patience and said loudly from the back seat, “Just pick one. I’m starving”.  Brenda’s stomach was growling so loud that the noise was audible to a passing pedestrian. 

After lunch, the trip back to the office detoured to a drugstore so that Leeann could drop off a medication for a refill.  As they waited in the drive-through lane that snaked around two sides of the drugstore, Brenda considered her options.

What options are available to Brenda?

  1. She can lean out the car window and scream, “Help! I’m being kidnapped!”     
  2. She can leap out of the car and call Uber or Lyft to take her back to the office.       
  3. She can make a mental note to never, ever have lunch with Leeann again. 

Every office has a Leeann.  To limit the productivity and morale hits caused by your office’s Leeann, set clear performance metrics.  Then apply a combination of coaching and progressive discipline until she either hits the required metrics or doesn’t.

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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You can also follow me at HerSavvy.com. My column appears the 3rd Tuesday of each month.

Freedom from Rules

Another update from the Jungle…..

Linda opened her business one year ago when she was fed up with all the petty rules and employee bickering at her last job.  Her friends Julie and Rhonda joined her.  They agreed that their new business would be a happy place where workers were free to be creative and enjoy coming to work. That was the last time they agreed on anything.

Their infectious optimism enticed customers to try their products.  Soon they were overwhelmed with customers, but lacked the organizational structure to keep up. The storefront was in shambles and their workshop was littered with half-finished orders. 

After the usual 90-hour week, Rhonda skipped a day to catch up on her sleep. Since she neglected to tell the others, their shop was closed when a customer arrived to pick up her order.  When Linda returned to the office after making a delivery, the fuming customer taught her a few new words.  As soon as the offended customer left, Linda left a scathing voicemail on Rhonda’s phone, using some of the words she had just learned from the customer.

Two hours later, Rhonda galloped into the office. She screamed at Linda that she had been working non-stop for months and couldn’t take it anymore and wished she had never left her old job to work with such an ungrateful witch. Julie bounced out of the workshop to say that Linda’s rotten inability to set priorities was the cause of their problems.

Then Julie noticed that one of the customers was recording their fight with her cell phone.  Julie chased the customer around the store trying to grab her phone. The customer fled out the door with Julie still chasing her.  Rhonda collapsed onto the floor sobbing hysterically.

When Julie returned, the store was empty of customers. Linda announced that she was tired of not knowing where the other two were or what they were doing. 

What options are available to Linda?

  1. She can close the business and go live in a hut in the Rocky Mountains to get in touch with her feelings.   
  2. She can ditch her friends and start over with her worst enemy because, at least then, she would know what she’s getting. 
  3. She can adopt some basic HR policies to ensure the business can grow without imploding.

Most new business owners want to avoid written rules because they dislike bureaucratic boondoggles. They quickly learn that there is a huge difference between bogging down in bureaucratic rules and creating a framework of HR rules to allow the business to grow effectively.

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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He Can’t Quit. He’s Fired!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Gene is mad as heck and he no longer cares who knows it. He slouches through the office emitting a fog of discontent as toxic as a radiation leak.  Gene has always been hot-headed and stubborn, so it took a couple of weeks before his co-workers realized something is different this time.

Gene’s attitude cratered a couple of weeks ago when he had another run-in with his manager, Eric.  Eric is almost as hot-headed and stubborn as Gene and they’ve clashed endlessly. If they would each take a moment to think before speaking, their differing skills would make them a great team. At least, that’s what the HR manager, Jan, believes. 

She’s spent so much time counseling them and resolving their bickering that she’s sick of both of them.  Of course, an HR manager can never admit that, so Jan continues smiling through gritted teeth.  But she’s on constant alert for the next explosion. 

The explosion duly comes at this morning’s staff meeting. Eric announces a new project and asks for suggestions on how to most efficiently complete the project.  At first, no one says a word as they try to decide if Eric is actually interested in their suggestions or just following a technique learned in his recent manager training. 

Gene looks at his co-workers, looks at Eric, and then launches into his suggestions for completing the new project.  As he talks, Eric’s jaw clenches and he takes a deep breath, preparatory to blasting Gene’s suggestions into orbit.    

Before Eric runs out of breath, Gene jumps up, knocking his chair into Dean’s elbow, causing Dean to spill his coffee. Dean leaps to his feet cursing fluently and swatting ineffectually at the coffee splotches on his slacks.

Gene bellows, “You’ve insulted me for the last time. I quit!”  He rips off his security ID badge and hurls it onto the table where it skitters into a water bottle knocking it over before bouncing up to ricochet off a light fixture.  Bodies lunge in all directions to avoid the ID badge and the water shower.   Gene stalks out the door of the conference room.

Eric bolts from the conference room straight into Jan’s office.  He glares at her, chest heaving and announces that he wants to fire Gene before the SOB can quit. 

What options are available to Jan?

  1. She can suggest that Eric and Gene settle their differences in the octagon ring like a couple of UFC fighters.   
  2. She can rejoice knowing that she’ll be free of their petty bickering because, one way or another, Gene is leaving.         
  3. She can begin the termination process and then meet with Gene to explain the consequences of a voluntary resignation. 

When co-workers can’t get along, larger companies may be able to transfer one of the feuding pair to another department.  Small employers often need to decide which employee is most valuable to the company and then terminate the other person’s employment.

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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The Thief of Ideas

Another update from the Jungle…..

Helen sat in her boss’ office stoically waiting for him to wind down from his latest temper tantrum.  As she waited, she reflected on the fact that Henry wasn’t such a bad boss when he was in his right mind.

Unfortunately, Henry was frequently not in his right mind.  He ran his company as if he was the dictator of a tiny oppressed country, but few of his employees were willing to be oppressed.  They complained incessantly to Helen, the HR manager.  She was hired because Henry knew he had a problem even if he wouldn’t admit that he caused the problem.

It’s the only company Helen’s ever worked for that required her to sign an employment contract agreeing to stay for at least one year in exchange for a giant bonus.  Before the ink dried on her signature, Helen realized it would be difficult to earn that bonus. 

She has been trying to fix employee morale. Her first suggestion, a tuition reimbursement plan, caused Henry to erupt like a Yellowstone geyser.  Why should he pay for his employees to get educated? He had built the company with hard work (and unacknowledged luck) and his employees should be willing to work as hard as him. 

A day later, Henry told Helen that he wanted her to create a program to reimburse tuition because he had big expansion plans and he needed his staff to keep up. But he insisted that employees must agree to stay until they had worked sufficient hours to generate profits equivalent to the reimbursed amount. He wanted to recoup his investment.  Henry’s switcheroo left Helen feeling dazed and confused. 

That’s how it’s gone for six months.  Helen proposes an idea; Henry shoots it down. More often than not, a few days later he adopts her idea after adding his unique twist.  Helen feels exhausted trying to manage him while maintaining her own sanity.  She is beginning to wonder if the big bonus is worth putting up with Henry’s negative energy field.

What options are available to Helen?

  1. She can occasionally demonstrate her softball batting skills by wapping Henry with her laptop when he gets too obnoxious.   
  2. She can do as little as possible for the next six months, collect her bonus and then wave goodbye to Henry.     
  3. She can use his contrariness to her advantage, suggesting changes in a way that allows Henry to believe the changes are his idea.

Bullies like Henry refuse to accept any idea unless they are convinced the idea was originally their own. Handling these types of co-workers and supervisors requires emotional maturity and the strength to refuse to be bullied.

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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Heck, No, You Can’t Go!

Another update from the Jungle…..

Fred was looking forward to a brilliant career. He’s young, educated and ambitious. His ambition has already helped him overcome the handicap of his parents naming him Rolex Fredericksburg, in honor of the city where he was conceived and his father’s favorite watch brand.  He graduated from college with honors and immediately landed a great job.

Of course, his brilliant career depends on getting past the Condor-sized buzzard he works for.  Randall seemed like a nice guy when Fred interviewed with him.  Randall rambled on at length about the training opportunities offered by the organization and how the organization believes in promoting from within. He bragged about his subordinates who have gone on to amazing careers.

Fred saw his brilliant future shimmering before him and immediately accepted Randall’s job offer.  He volunteered for special projects to gain experience and applied for every training course he could find.  Randall was overjoyed to have such an ambitious young man working for him and shoveled more projects on to Fred. 

Last week, Fred found another opportunity for advancement.  Of course, it would mean a temporary reassignment for two years to a distant office, but the additional experience and skills could ignite the trajectory of Fred’s career.  This morning, Fred meets with Randall to present his proposal.

Fred says he’ll return after two years and he’ll lead workshops to train others on what he learns during the two year reassignment. Randall stares blankly at him, then at the one page proposal. No, he says, evading Fred’s eyes, he can’t sign off on the proposal. Fred is much too valuable to the team to be lost for two years. Besides, there’s no guarantee, aside from Fred’s promise, that he will return to Randall’s department.

Fred glares stonily at Randall. His honesty and integrity are being questioned by the idiot who hired him less than a year ago.  His initial impulse is to jump up, run around the corner of the desk, and knock Randall into orbit.  Instead he excuses himself and walks out.

What options are available to Fred?

  1. He can slap the taste out of Randall’s mouth and tell HR he was temporarily insane with disappointment.
  2. He can begin a surreptitious campaign to push Randall into early retirement in order to clear the hurdle in his career path.
  3. He can quit at the first opportunity and pursue a brilliant career elsewhere.

In today’s tight labor market, employers who fail or refuse to invest in the development of their employees are likely to lose their best people to competitors who are willing to make the investment.   

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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I’ve Got My Eye on You

 Another update from the Jungle…..

Jayne accepted the first job offer after college because she was worried about making her student loan payments. She also wanted to prove to her parents that she could take care of herself.  In hindsight, Jayne wondered if living at home was really so bad because her new employer is insane.unnamed-5

During the endless rounds of interviews employees gushed about the joys of working for the company and its founder, Wesley, but Jayne was an English minor in college and she can read subtext. She quickly picked up on the jokes about timed bathroom breaks and monitored phone calls.

One young woman sheepishly admitted that she was busted for her negative comments on her personal Facebook page.  All the employees in that interview session laughed when Jayne said that she had heard that employees couldn’t be forced to provide access to their personal social media accounts to their employers. They assured Jayne that it was no big deal.unnamed-1

Jayne was young and desperate so she took the job despite feeling uncomfortable.  At orientation, she was required to sign a confidentiality agreement that allows the company to search her personal belongings at any time to ensure that confidential information is not stolen.     

Jayne’s discomfort zoomed into paranoia after she updated her LinkedIn profile with a description of her new job.  The next day, Rhoda, the HR Director, told Jayne that she had violated the company’s social media policy which covers postings on LinkedIn.

unnamedThe policy requires employees to include a statement that Wesley is a brilliant and inspiring boss and the employee is privileged to work for and learn from him.   Rhoda also told Jayne to change her head shot because it didn’t show her as a happy, loyal employee.  Jayne asked how she could show loyalty in a photograph. Rhoda shrugged. Jayne returned to her cubicle, a blob of raging paranoia.

What options are available to Jayne?

  1. She can stroll around the office humming the lyrics of a Buffalo Springfield song, “paranoia strikes deep/into your life it will creep”.
  2. She can embrace her paranoia and flit around the office in a Star Trek uniform talking to her co-workers about Klingons.
  3. She can hide in her cubicle pretending to work while she searches for a new job.

Most employers have social media policies setting parameters on what employees canunnamed-4 post and reserving the right to monitor employees’ social media for violations of the policy.  However, the more restrictive and intrusive these policies are the more likely that they will be found to have violated federal and state laws.

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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Exit Strategy

Another update from the Jungle…..

Millie is employed because her mom is friends with Janice, owner of the company.  Millie’s mom begged Janice to hire Millie and promised that Janice wouldn’t regret it. Janice agrees.

Millie learns of her new job when her mom tells her, that starting bright and early the following Monday, she will be working for Janice, but Millie doesn’t want a job. She wants to be an actress beloved by millions.

Late Monday morning, Millie floats into the office to find her new co-workers hard at work.  Janice takes Millie on a quick tour of the office, introducing her to everyone and explains basics, like the schedule and benefits. 

Millie perks up when she hears about the benefits. She says she needs to leave early the next day to go to an audition. She enthusiastically describes the play and how she expects this show will be her big break into professional acting.  She asks if she can give a provisional resignation now in case she has to pack for Broadway on short notice.

Recovering her composure, Janice explains that until the big break arrives, Millie may want to learn a few things about her current job.  Millie is uninterested in the job, but she soon realizes that Janice’s company can teach her plenty of new stuff that she can use to advance her career in the theatre.

A few weeks later, a couple of Millie’s co-workers discreetly approach Janice. They have been following Millie’s social media posts so that they can keep up with her acting career. They believe Millie is contacting prospects and clients of Janice’s company to invite them to support her career. 

Janice drops everything to take a quick spin through various social media platforms looking at Millie’s posts.  What she sees convinces Janice that it’s time to dump Millie at the curb.  In her haste to fire Millie, Janice forgets to protect her company’s data.

Within days, Janice realizes that Millie is still accessing her company’s systems.  Millie’s social media shows that she is using Janice’s documents and processes to build a rival business while waiting for her big break in the theatre.

What steps should Janice take next to protect her company?

  1. She can become Millie’s patron, underwriting her acting career as a way to obtain some return on her investment in Millie.
  2. She can call Millie’s mom to complain that Millie is a rotten kid.
  3. She can create a checklist of all company systems that need to be updated to terminate Millie’s access.

 Most employers have well-developed on-boarding processes, but pay less attention to their termination process.  A termination process can protect company resources from misuse by former employees.

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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