HR Laws & Policies

I’ve Got My Eye on You

Another update from the Jungle…

Nathan is a good worker when he feels motivated to work. In the beginning, he was excited because it was all so new, and he felt challenged by his job. As he gained experience, he became bored by the repetitive tasks that make up his job.

Boredom was soon replaced by a feeling of being hunted. It hit him like a ton of bricks during a weekly meeting for his work crew. As Nathan listened to his manager, Bill, droning on about the latest productivity initiative, it reminded him of living at home with his mom and dad.

His mom nagged him to eat his broccoli so that he’d stay healthy. His company’s wellness program nags him to eat well so that he doesn’t develop chronic health conditions that are expensive to treat. His dad lectured him about the joys of working hard. Bill tells him that working hard will get him noticed and promoted, right before assigning a dirty, sweaty job to Nathan.

Now, Nathan can’t look at Bill without seeing his mom or dad ranting at him to get off the couch and clean his room or mow the lawn. His voice squeaks occasionally when talking to Bill as he slides back into his teenage years. Why can’t he be left alone to do things at his own pace?

This week Nathan’s disillusionment turned into paranoia when Bill introduced the latest productivity initiative disguised as a safety tool. Warehouse employees must wear a wristband that monitors their movements to ensure they are following safety protocols. Bill says it’s just like the monitors athletes wear when they are participating in designing new video games.

Nathan looks at his shiny new wristband, feeling like he’s got no place to hide. This must be how lab rats feel when hunting cheese in a maze. He can feel the invisible eyes on him, ready to nag him into better habits, just like being at home with his mom and dad.

What are Nathan’s options?

  1. He can pretend he’s a rebel in a science fiction movie and fight the evil empire by trying to outwit the wristband monitor.
  2. He can accept the loss of privacy as a trade-off for having any job that allows him to not live with his parents.
  3. He can look for another employer that does less surveillance of employees.

Having the technology to do something doesn’t mean that implementation is a good idea. Employers who create a good corporate culture have employees who are productive without surveillance technology.

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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They Think He’s Great

Another update from the Jungle…..

Jason is the greatest asset to his company since it was founded decades ago. At least, that’s what he believes. He’s always the first to volunteer to help the team, and he smiles at even the lamest jokes told by the boss. He absolutely oozes sympathy for co-workers going through a rough patch.

The bosses also think that Jason is wonderful. At almost every staff meeting, the head honcho thanks Jason for helping out on something or other. No one ever asks his peers how they feel about Jason.

His peers agree that Jason is always the first to volunteer, especially if the boss is within sight and sound. Yet somehow, Jason never works up a sweat. At the last volunteer day, filling food baskets at the local food bank, Jason was seen chatting with the food bank’s executive director. Meanwhile, his colleagues were slinging cases of canned goods around the warehouse.

As for sympathy, Katie curls her lip at the very idea of Jason caring about others. Katie notices that Jason’s kind words feel empty and insincere, not even skin-deep. When Katie’s goldfish died, Jason stopped by her desk, looked at the dead fish, and said “Sorry, Charlie, you’re not the king of the sea anymore”.

Jason’s always making snarky comments like that. He said he liked Angela’s suggestion to implement a flex-work schedule because he could use an extra day off to improve his golf game. He bragged appreciatively about getting a gift card to Sonic drive-in after winning a trivia contest during the annual employee appreciation day.

Katie thinks Jason is a selfish pig who says whatever he needs to say to win brownie points with the boss. At today’s staff meeting, the boss enthusiastically announced a friendly contest to guess who will win the World Series. Katie couldn’t care less about baseball and declines to participate. Of course, Jason is front and center, bantering with the boss about which team to support.

What are Katie’s options?

  1. She can slap the smarmy smile off Jason’s face.
  2. She can ignore Jason and the boss as they engage in a mutual admiration society.
  3. She can focus her energies on improving her skills to move to a different department or a new employer.

Every work place has a Jason who plays the game to get promoted or avoid having to work too hard. HR can reduce the effects of these types of morale killers by creating performance metrics that rely on data rather than the subjective opinions of a manager.

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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April Fool’s. Not.

Another update from the Jungle…

April Fool’s Day was three days ago, but some idiots are still pulling pranks. Danny showed up early on Monday with nylon fishing line which he used as a tether for a stuffed mouse he bought at a pet store. The morning was punctuated with screams as he yanked his mouse across the hallway each time the elevator doors opened.

Pam, from the HR Department, confiscated Danny’s mouse and threatened to let his co-workers beat him to a pulp if he tried the same trick on Tuesday. On Tuesday, Danny showed up with whoopee cushions and plastic snakes. By lunch, Pam had collected his entire stash.

This morning, Pam was waiting for Danny in the elevator lobby. While Danny distracted her, his co-conspirators sneaked in to the break room to raid the recycling bin in the kitchen. Jim and Barbara are military veterans, and they want to create a homemade bazooka they heard about while in the service.

First, they cut the ends off aluminum soda cans and duct tape them into a long tube. Then, they poke a hole in the bottom of the last can to create a breach. A crowd of curious co-workers gathers to watch. Barbara stuffs a tennis ball down the tube. Jim produces a cigarette lighter and ignites a spark. With a whoosh and a shoomp, the tennis ball hurtles across the room and smashes a hole in the plasterboard wall. Everyone scatters as Pam runs in to the break room.

Pam knows what’s really wrong with Danny, Jim, and Barbara. They’re bored and restless. The company has been fighting a hostile takeover for months, and employees are afraid of job cuts if the takeover happens.

During the slower winter months, everyone simply waited, too cold to care.  Now, spring is here, and employees are twitchy as the takeover saga continues. Management has been very slow about updating employees on what’s happening.

What options are available for Pam?

  1. She can announce a contest to keep the April Fool’s Day practical jokes going for the entire month.
  2. She can begin playing her own practical jokes on co-workers to show that HR isn’t always the “Department of No.”
  3. She can suggest that management hold a “town hall” meeting to update employees on the hostile takeover and what it means for the employees.

Having a little fun to break the monotony and pressure is important. But sometimes hijinks are a symptom of a deeper problem, such as uncertainty due to workplace changes. HR can help by encouraging management to regularly communicate with employees to reduce the uncertainty.

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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When Crazy People Collide

Another update from the Jungle…..

Rick is a nut. Everyone knows that he’s a nut. He’s also the founder of the company. Marie is becoming a nut, trying to limit the damage he creates. She’s the HR representative for the company. Being the HR rep for a nut is a very difficult job.

Rick says he likes to “go with his gut,” leading to impulsive decisions, like changing the company’s vision statement and branding every couple of months. But his craziest decision was hiring Jack as the operations manager. Jack has no management skills and spends most of his time preening in front of the mirror in his office or chatting to the most impressionable females in the office.

Soon, Jack begins to think he actually knows how to do his job and pushes his ideas for improving productivity. His ego expands to fill the room which doesn’t leave enough space for Rick’s ego. Staff meetings are now a minefield with Rick sniping at Jack and Jack making snarky comments. As Rick and Jack compete to win every argument, co-workers compete to stay closest to the door to escape ground zero when the egomaniacs go nuclear.

The end of Jack arrives swiftly and brutally. At this morning’s staff meeting, he disagrees with Rick on the new design for the company logo. Rick is outraged because he designed the new logo. He roars that Jack is disloyal. Jack replies that Rick is crazy, causing Rick to froth at the mouth with rage. Rick leaps across the table to throttle Jack.  Jack swings a fist at Rick’s jaw, misses and sprawls on the conference room table.

Co-workers flee for their lives. Behind them in the conference room, Rick screams “you’re fired!” as Jack bellows “I quit!” Marie is the only employee remaining in the room with them. She empties a pitcher of water on them to interrupt their fight before they can break the furniture. Now, Marie is completing the termination paperwork for Jack, who is whining about the unfairness of the world and Rick’s insanity.

What should Marie do next?

  1. She should include directions to the nearest liquor store in her exit interview, so Jack can quickly drown his sorrows on his way to the unemployment line.
  2. She should consider changing careers to something less stressful, like bronco rider or high-school teacher.
  3. She should give Jack some career advice on how to disagree with the nut in charge.

Some workplace problems simply can’t be fixed by HR staff. Employees who work for a nut must decide whether to continue working for the company or to leave for greener pastures.

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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Can We Speed It Up?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Susie shuffles into the conference room and slumps into a chair. Her boss, Alan, smiles from the other end of the table. He believes that Susie is a dedicated worker because she always arrives early for staff meetings. If he only knew! Susie shows up early to get a seat in the corner away from Alan so he won’t notice her total lack of interest.

Slowly, other employees shuffle in. They know the meeting will drag on with lots of wasted time, so there’s no point to being prompt. Alan continues waiting for the stragglers while Dana tells an inane story about her recent trip to the dog groomer. Alan finally calls the staff meeting to order twenty minutes late. He raises his voice to be heard over shuffling papers and private conversations.

Susie slumps lower in her seat. Next to her, David holds his phone below the table’s edge, playing Candy Crush. Susie glances around the table at her fellow sufferers. Tim and Cary are silently laughing at the same time, proof they are texting each other again.

A couple of months ago, Susie suggested timing speakers in hopes of speeding up the meetings. Alan was cool to the idea, probably because he likes to make rambling speeches himself. The worst offender is Dana, who says “um” and “uh” constantly while shuffling her papers and saying “what else did I do”, as if anyone cares. Susie decides that if Dana is as disorganized at home, she feels sorry for the dog.

Fred’s the lucky one. He’s temporarily banned from staff meetings after suddenly lurching to his feet while Dana was speaking and shouting, “I can’t take it anymore! Shut up, already!” Now, he cruises past the glass door to smirk at his co-workers who are stuck in the business equivalent of hell.

What options does Susie have to maintain her sanity through lengthy pointless staff meetings?

  1. She can suddenly roll off her chair onto the floor, feigning death in hopes that ends the meeting.
  2. She can play Candy Crush on her cell phone.
  3. She can accept that nothing will change and learn meditation techniques that enhance patience.

There are many ways to handle internal meetings, such as staff meetings to avoid wasting time. One method used by a retired Army general while working for a major retailer was to remove the chairs from the meeting room, forcing everyone to stand and deliver. His meetings ran on time and ended promptly after 15 minutes.

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 Morning After

Another update from the Jungle…..

Karen expected her long-time boyfriend to pop the question at a special Valentine’s Day dinner. Instead, he dumped her with the dessert. Karen drove home in shock and drank a whole bottle of red wine while she tried to figure out where it all went wrong. She dug out her secret stash of dark chocolates, but some things can’t be fixed even by chocolate.

Karen awoke to a hangover and a feeling of being watched. She rolled over to find her cat observing her with lofty disdain. She briefly contemplated calling in sick, but bosses should lead by example, or so she’s been told. So she dragged herself out of bed, swallowed several aspirin, and trudged out the door to work.

At the office, Karen ran into Sherry (literally) when they rounded the same corner from opposite directions. Sherry’s hot herbal tea splashed generously over both of them. Karen snarled and pushed past Sherry, who tottered back to her cubicle to have hysterics.

Jim glanced at Sherry across the cubicle wall, thinking that he ought to do something. But he wasn’t any good helping his wife when she cried so what could he do for a co-worker? He dropped to the floor and crawled on hands and knees toward the exit.

Meanwhile, Sue vaulted a low cubicle wall to evade Karen and ran down the hall to the HR rep’s office. Teresa, the HR rep, was sitting quietly at her desk, feeling good about life, when Sue caromed off the door jamb, bounced against the bookcase, and dropped into a chair gasping for air. Teresa studies her in gathering alarm. Sue’s shin is bleeding and one shoe is missing.

Sue says Karen has finally had the big mental break with reality that her subordinates have been betting on for months. Teresa listens helplessly. Her HR training didn’t really prepare her for these sorts of emergencies.

What should Teresa, the HR rep, do next?

  1. She can hide in her office and hope the situation resolves itself.
  2. She can join Karen’s subordinates in texting alerts to each other warning when Karen leaves her office to search for victims to criticize.
  3. She can go down the hall to investigate and to assess whether Karen needs some personal leave to recover her composure.

Unfortunately, the personal dramas of employees and employers spill over to the workplace. When the soap opera involves a supervisor, the damage can spread rapidly as subordinates are sucked into the emotional morass. HR can help by taking swift action to intervene and mitigate workplace disruptions.

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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Did PTO Policies Inspire Paid Sick Leave Laws?

Another update from the Jungle…..

Last week’s story was about a sick employee who would not take time off from work because she didn’t want to burn through all her PTO days. As a result, she infected many of her co-workers spreading misery to everyone. If her company had offered paid sick leave separately from her PTO, would she have taken time off to get well rather than coming to work sick?

Years ago, employers began combining vacation and sick leave into a single category of leave called personal time off (PTO). PTO was administratively easier for employers to track in their HR and payroll systems. As an added bonus employers didn’t have to worry about violating HIPAA privacy because there was no need to verify that an employee was sick. It was easier for employees, too, since they didn’t have to fake symptoms or explain the gruesome details of their illness to justify their sick leave requests.

But PTO policies can be unnecessarily restrictive. A former employer of mine allowed only ten days of PTO a year. The practical effect was that everyone showed up sick in order to save a few days for a paid vacation. PTO restrictions didn’t apply to the owners or senior managers. Not surprisingly, morale was tanked, and turnover was astronomical.

Poorly designed PTO policies raise employer costs through poor morale and permanent recruiting efforts. Not only that, the policies seem unfair to workers. So it’s not surprising that many states are considering paid sick leave laws. Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington now require paid sick leave. Washington, D.C. and a growing number of cities also require paid sick leave.

Tennessee is unlikely to enact a paid sick leave law any time soon. However, Tennessee employers with multi-state operations need to plan how they will address these laws.

  1. They should compare the cities and states where they have operations with those that require paid sick leave and verify they are in compliance with applicable laws.
  2. They should revise their employee handbooks to address paid sick leave laws, either by creating a separate handbook for affected locations or adding jurisdiction-specific addendums.
  3. They could design a company-wide paid sick leave policy to comply with all the jurisdictions where they have operations.

Deciding whether to change a PTO policy to add more days or creating a separate paid sick leave policy depends on a number of factors, notably the company’s corporate culture and the cost of offering the revised benefits.  The worst decision would be to ignore this issue.

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 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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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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