Ultimate Software's Blog https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com Thoughts on Putting People First in the Workplace Fri, 16 Nov 2018 20:30:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 An Important Discrepancy in Workplace Harassment Policies, Law https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workplace-harassment-policy/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/workplace-harassment-policy/#comments Wed, 07 Nov 2018 15:00:40 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1550 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. With […]

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harassment policyFrom time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

With the rise of the #MeToo movement, companies across industries and of every size are taking a closer look at their policies and training against harassment, of all forms, to determine whether changes need to be made. While every policy could use a refresh now and then, one sentence commonly found in harassment policies is outdated: the requirement that targets of harassment say “no.”

When the Supreme Court’s Faragher and Ellerth decisions came out in 1998, the harassment policy was born. Attorneys quickly seized onto the language in the decisions to find nuggets to use in crafting language to fit the newly created affirmative defense. One piece they added was that a target of harassment must indicate that the conduct or comments were unwelcomed. The policy now read that if an individual thought she or he was subjected to harassment, they were required to tell the harasser to stop or say that they did not appreciate the comments or conduct.

Yet, this is not what the law requires. Yes, the law requires the comments or conduct be unwelcomed to be actionable sexual harassment, but there’s no requirement that a target of harassment say or do anything.

So, why include this obligation in a harassment policy? Because it made it easier to determine whether harassment occurred. Leaders (and some HR professionals) could find that the conduct isn’t harassment because the target didn’t say stop. By not finding harassment – by over-relying on this requirement in the policy – leaders implied that the conduct was okay. This easy determination also tamped down the possibility that targets of harassment would report it because they saw that leaders wouldn’t take action. What happened? Harassment permeated our workplaces.

Determining whether conduct is welcomed should not be difficult. Did she ask to be touched? Did he ask to overhear the dirty joke? It is not a difficult determination to make, and employers often determine that the conduct itself – even if welcomed – should not happen in their workplaces. Dirty jokes, repeated requests for dates, touching, and anything else that could be considered harassment doesn’t belong in the workplace, regardless of whether the conduct is welcomed or not.

We do a disservice to our employees if we require them to do anything in our harassment policy. The policy exists to set expectations of what harassment is, and whether employers will condone harassment that creates an uncomfortable work environment. With the definitions and examples of harassment, employees learn this expectation.

Instead of requiring action, the policy should give employees options to report harassment – report it to any manager and/or human resources, call an ethics hotline, etc. – but it should not require them to report it. Encouraging reporting is all employers can really ask. Including statements like “we can’t do anything to stop harassment unless we know about it” articulates why employers need to know.

With managers, however, it’s different. Because managers are the organization, for all intents and purposes, their failure to report potential harassment creates liability for their employers. Employers should include language that directs managers to tell HR as soon as they learn or perceive that harassment is occurring or has occurred. Their failure to report harassment means an employer loses the affirmative defense the policy made possible.

Employers are responsible for providing a harassment-free workplace. The law does not place any obligations on our employees. Requiring them to take action or say “no” goes above the law and shifts the burden to employees. Instead, employers should encourage employees to talk to company leadership and share when they feel uncomfortable. Most importantly, employer should address their concerns immediately. Together, we can help put an end to harassment in the workplace.

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An Easier Way to Have a Tough Conversation https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/managers-tough-conversations/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/managers-tough-conversations/#comments Fri, 28 Sep 2018 19:28:53 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1520 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. Managers […]

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managers tough conversationsFrom time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

Managers are often in tough spots. They are required to complete projects while managing their people well. Because people are people, complete with mistakes, errors, and sometimes even naivety, employees can put managers in situations where difficult conversations have to occur. Whether it’s someone isn’t doing her job, creating problems for coworkers or customers, or not even showing up for work, these difficult conversations can cause our overworked managers anxiety. In fact, a recent Harvard Business Review article found that two-thirds of managers are uncomfortable with these conversations due to the anxiety of how the employee will react. We, in HR, can do something about that.

We can equip managers with both support and a checklist. The support means coaching them through prep work for the chat. Offer advice on what to say and how to say it. Tell them, “You’ve got this” and, “I’m here if you need me.” These words of comfort are important.

As for the checklist, here’s how to help managers prepare for those tough conversations:

  • Plan. Prepare a script. I recommend managers draft an email with some bullet points with the main message or a full script of what they need to convey to the employee. If a manager doesn’t plan, it’s possible that the conversation will veer into uncharted waters and the manager may miss the clear messaging she wanted to discuss.
  • Consult. Consult with HR, another manager, and/or the manager’s manager. Soliciting feedback about misconduct or poor performance can help improve the messaging or alter the manager’s wording to make the message even more clear, less emotional, or less harsh.
  • Take a beat. Yes, performance and discipline should be addressed as soon as possible, but a discussion should not happen in the heat of the moment or in anger. Managers need a beat to breathe, plan, and consult. It’s okay, and even preferred, when the manager’s own emotion could hinder the discussion. Just don’t let the beat last longer than one business day.
  • Schedule. This is a short, in-person meeting—usually less than 15 minutes. There should not be a long list of things the manager needs to cover. Bogging it down with other subjects reduces the importance of the poor performance or discipline part of the discussion, so these issues should be the only topic of conversation, from the manager’s perspective. Plus, if a manager adds other topics, the employee may not remember the most important points.
  • Anticipate. Usually a manager knows if an employee will cry, become defensive, and/or get angry. Ponder this when planning what could happen. Managers should have tissues ready, let HR know they’re having the conversation, or plan to have someone with them if they have concerns about the employee’s reaction. Select this person carefully—s/he should not be a coworker of the employee. It’s best if it’s someone from HR.
  • Prepare for surprise. Sometimes, a manager won’t be able to anticipate how the employee reacts. If the employee starts lodging complaints, the manager needs to know how to refocus the discussion. Managers will need to hear a complaint, but then remind the employee that they’re there to talk about a performance or discipline issue. Managers should report the complaint immediately after the meeting, so HR or upper management can take action.
  • Document. Managers can use their preparation bullet points or script to recap, adding notes on how the meeting actually went. The employee doesn’t have to sign off on the documentation, but should know of the document’s existence.

Tough conversations aren’t what most, if any, managers look forward to in their day-to-day work. However, sometimes they still need to take place. With a little preparation, and even help from HR, we can make tough conversations a bit easier for everyone.

 

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It’s Everyone’s Job to Care About Job Descriptions https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/its-everyones-job-to-care-about-job-descriptions/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/its-everyones-job-to-care-about-job-descriptions/#respond Tue, 22 May 2018 10:00:54 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1440 by Kate Bischoff From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for […]

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by Kate Bischoff

From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

job description“That’s not in my job description.”

It’s the response that irks almost every every manager on the planet. The manager then goes to her HR business partner, engages in a whole-body eye roll, and then complains about the employee’s lack of team spirit. While we’ll empathize with the manager about the employee, we may mumble to ourselves about how long it has been since the manager has actually updated the employee’s job description. Then, we get pulled in 100 other directions—all fires demanding more of our attention than job descriptions.

The job description (JD) may be the most out-of-date and inaccurate document in all of human resources. The problem is, we know it. We know that JDs are on the bottom of our priority list and only come up when we need to recruit for the position. We know that JDs help us determine market salary comparisons. We know that employees look at their JDs. We know that candidates look at JDs. We know that JDs can protect us in a disability-discrimination case.  We know that JDs provide the basis for classification analysis under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

So, why don’t we update JDs regularly? Here are four reasons we should.

JDs outline responsibilities and expectations. It’s not rocket science, but employees want to know their responsibilities and what’s expected of them. From its engagement survey from 2016, Gallup discovered that the failure to set clear responsibilities and expectations is a foundational element to employee engagement. A job description, paired with expectations, can give employees the clear direction they want and help increase their engagement.

JDs repeat what you say. Psychologists (and advertisers) tell us that something needs to be repeated seven times before the human brain acknowledges it was said. This means that telling the employee once at the beginning of her employment isn’t going to cut it. A JD offers another way to repeat what you’ve said during onboarding. As a bonus, the employee can refer to the JD without fear of asking a seemingly embarrassing question. While an employee might already be trained in XYZ job, she may not know how your company operates specifically and might have questions. A job description offers guidance, and maybe even the answer. If it’s outdated or inaccurate, she won’t get help there.

JDs fascinate candidates. While I agree with many employment-branding experts that a vacancy announcement should not be your JD, candidates want to see the JD eventually. Having a JD that is both accurate and exciting can help seal the deal with candidates. So, have updated job descriptions for candidates to review once they progress beyond the initial screen.

JDs provide protection. Courts and jurors know to look at a JD for a list of essential functions of a job. If a JD doesn’t have accurate essential functions because the job has changed over time, there may be no proof backing a manager’s claims. This puts the employer in danger of losing a disability-discrimination case. Moreover, when the U.S. Department of Labor questions whether an employee is really exempt under the FLSA, it asks for the JD. When the JD isn’t accurate, the exemption could be at risk. When a race-discrimination plaintiff alleges his co-worker is similarly situated, the court will use a comparison of the two JDs to determine whether that’s the case. If the JD isn’t accurate, the employer could be liable.

Reviewing (and adjusting) job descriptions should be an annual practice. Though, when asked by HR for updates, many managers grumble, not at all concerned about JDs and even less concerned about why potential compliance issues stemming from the document itself.

If you’re reading this now, maybe you can be the one to suggest a companywide JD review. Even if that’s not in your job description.

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Discipline vs. Performance – Spotting the Differences and Finding Solutions https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/poor-performance/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/poor-performance/#comments Wed, 04 Apr 2018 13:27:15 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1298 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. Being […]

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poor performanceFrom time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

Being able to tell misconduct apart from poor performance isn’t necessarily rocket science. But the differences often confuse managers, and that can cause missteps when they’re addressed. Managers might put someone who is late a lot on a performance improvement plan (PIP), or—as is usually the case—discipline an employee for poor performance. However, when an employee is disciplined for poor performance, he’s often left on his own to figure out what went wrong, or even left thinking he’s bound to fail. That’s not helping anyone improve.

Misconduct

Misconduct differs from poor performance. Misconduct involves intentional or negligent conduct (such as not caring enough to be on time to work), whereas poor performance is actually doing the job poorly. Being late isn’t doing the job. Lying to a manager isn’t doing the job. While it may impact the work, misconduct is separate and apart from the actual work.

Here’s a simple way to spot the difference: you may be able to train away poor performance, but you can’t train an employee to get to work on time, not lie to you, or not steal from you.

Misconduct requires discipline. Simply put, we have to discipline when employee misconduct warrants it. Managers dislike having disciplinary conversations. However, failure to discipline will result in poor morale overall and, ultimately, poor productivity and employee engagement.

Discipline for misconduct includes, in escalating order of severity: verbal warning, written warning, suspension, and termination. Except where a union has bargained otherwise, an employer gets to choose what level of discipline it will apply in a particular situation. An employee who is late four times might get a verbal warning and may get a written warning if she continues to be late. An employee who steals a truck usually gets fired. Imagine discipline issues as the concepts we learned in kindergarten—don’t hit people, clean up your messes, don’t take things that aren’t yours, tell the truth, and so on.

Poor Performance

Poor performance also looks different than misconduct. Poor performance is the inability to get a job done or done to the employer’s expectations. For performance issues, we expect that employees will get the chance to improve. Fairness also tells us that employees should get that chance.

Employers often address poor performance with a PIP, which typically has three parts: it explains why the performance is subpar; what the employee can do to improve his performance; and what tools, training, or other support the employee can expect to receive throughout the process. This is really what sets discipline apart from performance management—performance management requires the employer do something to help improve the performance.

Handling Discipline and Improving Performance

Here are just a few things managers can do to help improve performance:

  1. Coach. Managers have an opportunity to coach employees to improve performance.  Whether it is spending more time with the employee, shadowing, providing encouragement, or simply providing more hands-on training, coaching is a great way to show how to do something correctly.
  2. Assign a partner. If there is another team member who does the job well, match that individual with the employee whose performance misses the mark.  If both have a good attitude, performance will improve.
  3. Provide more training. If available, additional training on the technology used, the process, or product could improve performance.

Finally, don’t forget to check in.  Performance is not something organizations can afford to ignore.  When it is poor and improving performance, spending the extra time for a one-on-one or quick chat will go far in improving and monitoring performance.

We as HR professionals have to teach managers how to properly address an employee issue. When we treat a discipline issue as a performance issue, we take on too much. When we discipline a performance issue, we don’t give the employee the tools she needs to succeed.

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Ethics of Social Media Searching During Recruiting https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/social-media-searching-during-recruiting/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/social-media-searching-during-recruiting/#comments Thu, 02 Nov 2017 10:00:47 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1133 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. by […]

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social media searching during recruitingFrom time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. by Kate Bischoff, Employment Attorney & HR Consultant, tHRive Law & Consulting LLC These days, employers have oodles of information at their fingertips. However, when it comes to hiring, some employers are still reluctant to dive headfirst into the sea of information that includes social media searching during recruiting. I’m here to tell you, the water is calm, deep, and welcoming. In fact, pretty soon, not diving in could become a problem for organizations looking to hire the best talent. As employers, we know that someone with a violent past should not work with children or vulnerable adults. We know that an accountant candidate should not have a prior grand-larceny conviction. This is why we conduct background checks: to prevent potential harm to our customers or organizations. For some employers, though — even those who routinely administer background checks — social media searching during recruiting seems rather taboo. But in my opinion, you should gather as much information about potential candidates as you can. It’s publicly available information, and it’s perhaps the easiest way to combat hiring regret. Consider this hypothetical situation: You are hiring a Customer Experience Manager. You’ve got several great candidates with excellent resumes, but you haven’t conducted any Web searches because you’ve heard looking at social media profiles could get you into legal trouble. Soon, the hiring manager makes a decision, and you bring on Sebastian. Sebastian’s first few weeks are great, but by the end of the first month, his work ethic is rapidly deteriorating and he’s spewing negativity everywhere he goes. Suddenly, your Social Media team discovers tweets he’s published that decry the organization and complain about general ineptitude in management and customer care. Backdating his profile, it becomes obvious that he took this same socially aggressive stance at his previous employer, appearing unable to control his negativity after a difficult day at work. What do you do? There are many different paths you can take. You may be able to let Sebastian go, but his activity could be protected under the National Labor Relations Act steering you right into an NLRB charge.  You could keep him and ask that he delete his posts, but again, you could run head-first into an NLRB charge.  You could ask him why he feels this way, address his poor work ethic through a performance improvement plan, and counsel him on your social media policy.  But you could have likely prevented this issue in the first place by quickly glancing at his social media activity, which would have revealed his 140-character tirades with a previous employer, before preparing the offer letter. Using a simple search engine will usually provide all you need for social media searching during recruiting. Only the public versions of those profiles are available, but you can usually learn more about each candidate based on the information they choose to share. If you’re already using Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to source candidates, you can also use these to research candidates. And you can do it while mitigating any legal liabilities. Here are the steps to do this safely:

  1. Decide what will disqualify candidates in advance. A small typo in the cover letter may not disqualify a potential engineer, but it probably will disqualify a copyeditor applicant. It’s the same with conducting social media-based “background checks,” but it’s important to agree to disqualifying terms ahead of time.
  2. Have HR search. The main concern about reviewing social media is the potential to gather protected-class information. HR is more likely to know and work against bias than a hiring manager who has only heard the phrase but has not been aptly trained. Also, HR probably isn’t a decision maker—they simply report the information. (Quick reminder, if you have a third party do your social media searches, the Fair Credit Reporting Act applies, so tread carefully.)
  3. Wait. Do not search the profiles of every candidate. That’s way too time consuming. Wait until you’re down to your top five, three, or two candidates.
  4. Ask the candidate. I know this one is difficult, but social media is rife with mistaken identity, unknown trolls, and more. Even if you find objectionable content, give the candidate an opportunity to explain it. This provides a sense of fairness to the candidate and gives them an understanding of why you may decide to move in another direction.

Today’s social discourse is full of sensitive and objectionable opinions and activities. Wouldn’t you rather know about these issues beforehand? I certainly would.

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Firing an Employee: What to Do When it Has to be Done https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/firing-an-employee/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/firing-an-employee/#respond Tue, 18 Jul 2017 10:00:57 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=1058 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. No […]

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From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

No one really enjoys firing an employee. It’s a tough decision for any employer—who has invested time, money, and a great deal of energy—to let a person go and move on. But even if it’s not easy, it’s sometimes necessary.

I offer, then, a few pieces of advice to consider when firing an employee.

Employee Resentmentfiring an employee

Have you ever been the employee working diligently on a project, only to grow frustrated because your colleague isn’t pulling their weight? Ever see another employee engage in activities that hinder workplace productivity? We likely all have. In each of those situations, firing an employee might be the best option to ensure engagement and morale among your other employees remains positive.

Allowing misbehavers and poor performers to stay ignores accountability and everyone else. Other employees deserve everyone to be held to an equal, fair standard. Ignoring a problem because you’re afraid to let someone go is a mistake. It’s important to address a situation as soon as possible, whether through dismissal, a lateral move, or another effective action that resolves the issue.

The Opportunity to Resign

Sometimes, employers like to give employees the opportunity to resign, so the employee can say they resigned rather than being terminated. While this is empathetic of the employer, I see two flaws in doing this. For one, it’s not the truth. Employees (and employers, for that matter) should be held accountable for their actions.

Second, letting an individual resign might actually work against the now-former employee. If an employee resigns, they may be ineligible to collect unemployment or training support from unemployment agencies. I’m a big proponent of giving people the opportunity to receive unemployment when they can.

Mid-Week Terminations

Is there an “ideal” day to fire someone? I believe it’s Wednesday.

When you fire an employee on a Friday, the remaining team goes home for the weekend concerned about their jobs. They might be concerned about how they fit in at the company, or their own job security. You may have terminated a popular employee, who they will miss. The adjustment is unsettling. Dismiss someone on Monday, and those worries could impact morale for entire week (or longer).

If you act on a Wednesday, however, there are two more days for the team to ask you questions and get reassurance. By the following Monday, things have most likely settled down, and the dismissal has probably become a distant memory for many.

Dismissing an employee isn’t fun. But, on occasion, you have to do it. So, consider this advice when you have to take action. Because ignoring the situation will likely lead to bigger problems—and that’s not good for anyone.

Kate Bischoff is an energetic and enthusiastic human resources professional, employment/labor law attorney, and technology aficionado. She loves HR and wants to make companies better – not just compliant. To read more from Kate, find her HR-related posts here: http://www.ultimatesoftware.com/blog/author/katebischoff/

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Employee Handbooks: Your Ultimate Guide https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-handbook-guide/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/employee-handbook-guide/#respond Thu, 11 May 2017 10:00:58 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=997 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. Guest […]

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From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

Guest post by Kate Bischoff, Employment Lawyer & HR Consultant

Shoved deep in some desks of supervisors and employees, the employee handbook resides.  For some, the handbook has lived in this dark corner of the workplace for years without a thought or care. In other workplaces, the handbook rests right there on the desk, enjoys frequent reading, and is referenced when needed. Where does your employee handbook live?

employee handbookLawyers, like me, love handbooks (I’m not joking). Handbooks set expectations—both employer and employee expectations. Take, for example, one of the most important policies: sexual harassment. From this singular policy, employers can expect employees not to engage in sexual-harassing conduct, and employees can expect the employer to do something about it. Employees learn what the employer defines as sexual harassment and how employees can report it if they see, hear, or otherwise experience it. And, as a bonus for lawyers, we can use the policy to protect the employer if a claim is ever raised.

Employee handbooks take on all shapes and sizes. Some are true tree-killers, coming in at over 100 pages.  Others are on smartphone apps available at employee fingertips 24-7, with links to forms that an employee might need. Here are a couple of tips for all handbooks:

Make Them Readable & Accessible

Some of the best advice I ever received was “write for fourth graders.” This is especially true for handbooks. While all of your employees might be post-graduate-degree holders, a handbook with too much legalese, jargon, or seven-syllable words is not going to be understood by most.  If you write it to a fourth grader, your employees (and potential jurors) can better understand it. It’s accessible and, therefore, meaningful.

Handbooks Should Contain Only What’s Necessary

Hundred-page handbooks make my heart hurt. Employees are probably not going to read such tomes, even though they acknowledge an in-depth reading at the start of employment. Plus, with such detail, it is unlikely that the employer is doing everything it says it will do in a handbook of that size. An at-will employment statement, harassment, discrimination, retaliation, leave (and FMLA, if it applies), and some state-specific policies are the only policies employers must include. My favorite add-on policy is “use good judgment in all situations.” It pretty much covers everything else.

Use Your Handbook!

If you say you’re going to do something in your handbook, do it. Forgetting, picking and choosing, or actively working against what’s in your handbook hurts you and your people, because you show that the handbook doesn’t mean what it says. This breeds mistrust and resentment among employees. You don’t want this, even though you have the power to change the handbook at any time, with or without notice.

Talk About Your Handbooks with Employees

Employees should have a handbook available to them. They also should have a member of management, including HR, available to answer questions about what’s in there. Walk through the handbook with new employees. Hold a meeting to discuss changes when you make them.  Being open and honest about what’s in there helps create an environment of trust.

Update, Update, Update

One last thing, please update your employee handbook. Run it past your friendly neighborhood employment lawyer. Like life, employment law moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around at it once in a while, you could miss it. In all seriousness, new requirements are made all the time. Being out of compliance is easy if you don’t regularly have someone take a look.

Handbooks are creatures of culture. If your handbook sets a tone of doom and gloom, that will be reflected in your culture. Think about this when you draft, revise, and rollout a handbook.  Find the right person to work with you to make your handbook a useful tool that employees look at, value, and don’t shove into the dark recesses of their desks.

Kate Bischoff is an energetic and enthusiastic human resources professional, employment/labor law attorney, and technology aficionado. She loves HR and wants to make companies better – not just compliant. To read more from Kate, find her HR-related posts here: http://www.ultimatesoftware.com/blog/author/katebischoff/

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HR Compliance in a Legal Whiplash World https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-compliance-predictions/ https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/hr-compliance-predictions/#respond Wed, 15 Feb 2017 11:00:45 +0000 https://blog.ultimatesoftware.com/?p=873 From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work. Guest […]

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From time to time, we invite guest contributors to provide their personal perspectives about trending HCM topics. The views, opinions, and comments expressed below are solely those of the author and do not represent Ultimate Software. This post was commissioned by Ultimate Software and the author has or will receive compensation for their work.

Guest post by Kate Bischoff, Employment Lawyer & HR Consultant

HR compliance is hard. Employers are subject to so many different laws that even the most seasoned HR practitioners can innocently overlook legal changes. Last year was a particularly fast-paced year for employment law changes. We saw so many different laws and minor tweaks that one would hope 2017 would slow this down just a smidge. Don’t hold your breath, HR, because 2017 promises to be just as fast and maybe even more confusing.

Watch the Locals

With the federal government in conflict over nominees, travel bans, and religious policies, state legislatures, county commissions, and city councils are busy bees. Sick and parenting leave, minimum wages, and scheduling rules are all under consideration by local lawmakers. Even Linn County, Iowa with just over 210,000 residents upped its minimum wage and continues to study whether it’ll increase wages even further.

Employers need to know what their local lawmakers are doing. The laws being made on local levels always differ from the eventual state or federal laws that follow. We may be forced to doing some fancy HR yoga to comply with both. If you want a voice, get involved through industry-specific organizations or local chambers of commerce, or by contacting lawmakers directly. Trust me, when HR has a say in making the law, compliance is easier.

Ice Your Legal Whiplash

HR complianceLast year was a whirlwind year for employment law at the federal level. The U.S. Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, the “blacklisting” rule, and new overtime regulations among others had employers confused and working diligently to find ways to comply. Yet, it appears that only a few of the new federal laws will actually come to fruition. The fiduciary rule is now under review. The U.S. House of Representatives recently voted to repeal the “blacklisting rule.” And, the last-minute injunction imposed by a Texas federal judge remains in place on the overtime regulations. While we don’t know how the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will decide whether the salary-basis part of the new regulations is within the DOL’s discretion, it’s only natural that employers feel like they’re suffering from legal whiplash.

This feeling will likely continue. We’re almost a year away from filing a new EEO-1 pay report that the new Acting Chair of the EEOC dislikes. So, could this change? Maybe. The makeup of the ever-controversial National Labor Relations Board will change and, with it, the Board’s decisions on social media and respectful workplace policies will likely swing the other way too.  Get out your icepacks. We are likely in for a bumpy ride for awhile.

Count Your Sick Leave

For the last decade, employers have known that they need to provide some sort of paid time off (PTO) for employees. This PTO has included sick leave, vacation, and even time off to attend school conferences. But, PTO has not been a legal requirement for many employers until now. Chicago, Minneapolis, Trenton, and many others have all enacted new sick-leave ordinances with other localities considering enacting such ordinances soon. Employers have to ask themselves, Got sick leave?

The challenge with the new sick-leave laws is how to calculate the PTO. For example, in St. Paul, Minnesota, employees earn one hour of sick leave for every 30 hours worked. This calculation may be very different than the years-of-service method that determines the amount of PTO a full-time employee accrues under an employer’s policy. For HR, this means we have to be careful calculating earned PTO, and even reverse-engineer the amount of time offered to employees. Remember, employers can always pay more—even in sick leave—just never below.

Befriend an Employment Attorney

The only guarantee I can make for 2017 is that you’re going to need to know an employment law attorney. Employment attorneys are required to know the laws in their jurisdiction. The need to pay attention at city council meetings, attend hearings at state legislatures, or at the very least follow the #emplaw hashtag on Twitter to keep up are essential functions listed in our job descriptions. Meet us, let us buy you a donut or lunch, and ask us lots of questions to help keep you in compliance.

Kate Bischoff is an energetic and enthusiastic human resources professional, employment/labor law attorney, and technology aficionado. She loves HR and wants to make companies better – not just compliant. To read more from Kate, find her HR-related posts here: http://www.ultimatesoftware.com/blog/author/katebischoff/

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