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3 Surprising Effects of Corporate Philanthropy and Volunteering

By | Company Growth, Employee Morale, Newsletter, Recruiting | No Comments

What do you really get when your company gives back? Warm feelings and potential tax breaks aside, your corporate giving program could also have three unintended effects: making it easier to recruit (and retain) workers, improving employee attitudes, and boosting the bottom line.

How corporate philanthropy resonates with the generations

In 2016, Fortune magazine published a survey of more than 2,000 workers that looked at the impact a company’s charitable gifts had on the workforce. The results: approximately two-thirds of millennials indicated charity matters to them personally. Specially, respondents noted it could impact their decision regarding where to work.

  • 18-34 years old: 66% would prefer to work for a company that gave to charity
  • 35-44 years old: 59% would prefer to work for a company that gave to charity
  • 45-64 years old: 47% would prefer to work for a company that gave to charity

Research by Cone Communications went a step further, indicating that 76% of millennials would also be willing to take a pay cut to work for a responsible company engaged in philanthropy.

Corporate gifts and employee engagement

Aside from hiring do-gooders, researchers at the University of Notre Dame learned that employee attitude and emotional engagement can also be affected by corporate philanthropy. The manner in which the “gift” was given, however, was equally as important. Specifically, they found:

  • Higher levels of corporate giving were linked to better employee attitude.
  • Company-wide charitable endeavors had a greater positive effect than individual employee-selected charitable activities.
  • Hands-on activities/volunteer opportunities in which employees worked directly with the charity showed a stronger positive attitude correlation when the company also gave to the charity.
Giving back to a community gives back to a company’s bottom line

Additionally, companies that actively give back to their communities have the potential to see those dollars impact their bottom line. Research by Michael E. Porter and Mark R. Kramer titled “The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy” explains it like this: when a company gives to a nonprofit organization, that nonprofit is better able to extend its reach to more recipients in need. Individual recipients can then shift their own focus to meeting other needs and goals — and the community as a whole benefits.

Similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if a person is lacking food, he or she becomes micro-focused on obtaining nourishment, whether through legal channels or by theft or other means. However, when that person’s food needs are met and are no longer the most pressing concern, that person can focus instead on other responsibilities, like work or family. This in turn improves the economic growth in a specific geographic location, enhances education because of the ability for students to focus on school work, and the company who made the initial donation may even see some of its charitable dollars retuned in the form of revenue.

Getting the word out: broadcasting charitable gifts

For all the good coming from corporate giving programs, there is one caution: over-publicizing charitable gifts and activities. While companies gain goodwill and enhance their reputations through philanthropic efforts, touting these too loudly can have the opposite effect and result in public cynicism. Tobacco giant Philip Morris found this out the hard way. After spending $75 million on charitable contributions in 1999, the company then spent another $100 million in advertising to publicize its good deeds. End result: all that expensive talk acted to negate much of the good it had done.

Our advice: involve employees in your corporate philanthropy, from selecting charities to pitching in to help. Don’t be afraid to talk about what you’re doing to spread the word; sometimes people just need to be aware of the need, which may inspire other companies to pitch in or find another organization to donate towards. Just be sure your message is more focused on the charity than tooting your own company’s horn.

Corporate Philanthropy

With the help of corporate philanthropy, non-profit organizations can help broaden their reach to meet basic needs. When that happens, education improves, crime and unemployment rates decrease, and the economic growth stimulates that geographic location.

Stopping Harassment in the Workplace

By | Articles, Corrective Action, Discrimination, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter | No Comments

U.S. businesses and government agencies paid out more than $482 million to resolve work-related discrimination and harassment claims in 2016, a number that the EEOC indicates is on the rise. As an employer, it’s essential to have policies in place to prevent workplace discrimination, but where do you start? Here’s what you need to know…

Steps to prevent discrimination and harassment in your workplace
  1. Set a zero-tolerance policy. Here’s a sample policy:

“It is our company’s policy to maintain a workplace free from harassment and any other form of discrimination based on gender, race, religion, color, national origin, age, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, ethnic background, citizenship, military service, genetic information, or any other class related to discrimination. Accordingly, our company has zero tolerance for harassment in any form or other such unlawful discrimination. Anyone in violation of this policy will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

  1. Train managers and staff about the zero-tolerance policy. Although your anti-discrimination policy may be included in the employee handbook, employees most likely skimmed over that section. Become proactive by providing official employee and manager anti-discrimination trainings. Trainings should cover all protected classes (preferably over several different trainings), including gender, race, religion, color, national origin, age (40+), pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, ethnic background, citizenship, military service, and genetic information. Send out follow-up messages via email to help remind employees of the company’s stance on any protected classification.
  2. Create a complaint process. Have an internal system for reporting complaints of discrimination. This could be as simple as reminding employees about which person in the company internally fields complaints and the acceptable form of complaints for your company (text, email, discussed in person but then documented afterwards, etc.). Encourage employees to always report any inappropriate behavior or remarks. Any scoffs or mistreatment towards those who report inappropriate remarks must also be subject to disciplinary action for retaliation. NOTE: Be sure to have a method for complaints to be submitted anonymously, in the event an employee is not comfortable discussing the situation in person. Although follow-up with the complainant will not be possible from anonymous tippers, you’ll at least be making the situation more reportable.
  3. Investigate immediately. The HR manager or person responsible for fielding and responding to inappropriate remarks must be trained to take all complaints seriously and to investigate immediately.
  4. Provide disciplinary action for violators. If this is a first-ever situation for your company, remember that you’re setting a precedence. If you let the violator easily off the hook, you’re setting your company up for a lawsuit.
  5. Document everything. Managers need to document the initial complaint, the process for the investigation, what was discovered during the investigation, and what disciplinary action was implemented. If an issue ever escalates to a lawsuit, this will be critical evidence to counter any “he-said, she-said.”
Costs beyond discrimination lawsuits

While workplace discrimination can quickly add up to large settlements (and more, if legal fees are included), it also has costs that go beyond lawsuits. Workplace Answers indicates that discrimination may impact turnover, employee productivity, and employee dissatisfaction. The effect is felt by more than just the victim and extends to others in the workplace. Recruitment efforts may also be stifled: a study found that 58% of employees who witnessed harassment would “discourage potential employees from joining the company.”

If, as a business owner, you’ve opted to turn a blind eye toward inappropriate remarks and behaviors, you’re placing your business at risk. You may also be harming your most valuable resource: your employees. Workplaces need to ensure complaints are taken seriously and acted upon immediately to remedy the problem, all of which can spare a company from heightened issues that have gone unresolved (just ask Uber). In addition to supervisor-employee relationships, harassment may also come from co-workers and even non-employees. Complying with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 means the workplace must protect workers from all forms of discrimination.

At, our experts provide compliance assistance to clients to help prevent employment-related lawsuits. This includes ongoing regulation review, policy development and guidance, employee handbook updates, manager training, and new-hire onboarding to ensure all regulations and requirements that affect a business are met. We do this in addition to the more traditional HR outsourcing services.

For more information, please contact our HR experts at or request a free demo of our services today.

Prevent harassment lawsuit

Facts and figures about workplace harassment:

  • 75% of U.S. workers have been affected by discrimination or harassment as victim or witness
  • 29.4% of discrimination suits filed in the U.S. in 2016 were sexual in nature
  • 97,000+ charges of discrimination were resolved by the EEOC in 2016
  • $125,000: the average cost for a small business to defend a discrimination suit
  • $160 million: highest settlement paid for a discrimination case in 2013
  • 11.7% chance that a U.S. small/medium businesses will face a discrimination lawsuit


When Data Breaches Happen: Ways to Protect Your Small Business

By | Newsletter, Risk Management | No Comments

Last week’s data breach at Equifax comes on the heels of countless other data breaches at big and small businesses alike. But are data breaches now an inevitable part of doing business?

No, not if your business ensures it’s taking the necessary steps to keep all sensitive data safe.

How a data breach can affect employee information

Last year, for example, when a data breach hit HR outsourcing firm ADP and compromised the personal data of employees from more than a dozen of ADP’s clients, we provided a list of actions businesses could take to keep their employees safe. Some of the tips are simple: changing passwords regularly and requiring complexity is something employees can do to help prevent access to their personal information. Also on the list was ensuring security audits were frequently performed by an outside resource.

We did, however, forget to include something from our list: install all patches ASAP, which may have been the cause of the Equifax breach. Why did we miss the suggestion? Because companies in the business services industry should already be taking care of this for their customers. At, we ensure all of our clients’ employee data is encrypted. We take care of the updates and patches ourselves — these are done on OUR end and they’re not dependent upon any client action. is also SSAE 16 SOC 1 Type 2 certified, meaning we have been audited by an independent firm to verify our systems and controls are secured. We have electively pursued the SSAE 16 third-party audit to ensure our client information is protected. This thorough audit also identifies inefficiencies or areas for improvement, in the event something has been overlooked. (For more information about the SSAE 16 audit, please visit It’s just another step in ensuring security isn’t compromised.

Steps all businesses should take to protect sensitive data

There are, however, measures we ask our HR clients to take, too. Watch for scams. Create strong passwords. And call us whenever you have a concern.

No one ever wants to be the victim of identity theft. You can find more details about keeping employee data safe in the following articles.

Security Breach

Your business can help prevent a data breach by changing passwords regularly, requiring login complexity, conducting audits, downloading patches, and doing business with companies that take data security seriously.

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Back to School, Back to Safety: Safety Tips for Kids

By | Newsletter, Risk Management | No Comments

Now that children (and parents) are back in the routine of going to school, it’s important to spend a few minutes reviewing safety tips for kids and parents, to ensure every child stays safe.

Safety Tips for Commuting: Kids Crossing!

Whether you’re driving to/from work, or driving as part of your work responsibilities, be aware of children out and about first thing in the morning, as well as in the afternoons/evenings. Busy sports, dance, and other programs will have children coming and going from school throughout the afternoon and evening. Morning and evening sun may make it difficult to see, so take a few minutes to be extra cautious and follow these tips:

  • Watch for pedestrians
  • Take school zones seriously; slow down even when school zone lights aren’t flashing
  • Never make lane changes in school zones
  • Watch for crossing guards and obey their signals
  • Leave plenty of room at crosswalks; never block them
  • Obey speed limits
  • Never text and drive
  • Never pass a school bus when the stop signal is posted and the lights are flashing
Safety Rules That Kids Should Follow

Whether your children walk, ride their bicycles, or take the bus to school, it’s extremely important that they take proper safety precautions. Go with your child and teach them the proper way to get on and off the bus, and/or how to safely cross the street.

  1. School Bus Stops: Make sure your child stands six feet away from the curb while waiting for the bus. If your child needs to cross the street in front of the bus, ensure he or she walks on the side of the road until they’re 10 feet ahead of the bus and looks both ways before crossing. Let them know they should always be able to see the bus driver, and the bus driver should always be able to see them.
  1. Training at Crosswalks: Teach children to do the following: stand six feet away from the road at a crosswalk and wait until traffic comes to a complete stop. Look both ways. If using a bike or scooter, dismount and walk the bike or scooter across the crosswalk. The most important safety consideration is ensuring children remain visible to drivers and make eye contact with them. Be sure children understand that they should always use street signals at crosswalks, where available.

Safety tips for kids can help adults, too. Talking about safety helps children and employees be more cognizant of their behaviors. Even simple reminders could help prevent an unnecessary accident. For more tips with staying safe, please email me directly at

School Safety

Whether or not you have children in school, it’s important to review safety tips to help prevent any unnecessary accidents.

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New Overtime Law Rejected

By | General HR, Newsletter, Overtime, Payroll | No Comments

A district court recently rejected the Department of Labor’s (DOL)’s new overtime law that would have resulted in a higher income threshold for exemption status. Had this law passed, any employee falling under the new salary level of $47,476 would have qualified for overtime wages, regardless of their job duties. For now, however, the existing salary threshold remains intact of $23,600, meaning employees whose job duties, functions, or tasks *satisfy exemption status AND make more than $23,660 are NOT required by law to be paid overtime for hours worked in excess of 40 per week.

The “Final Rule” was challenged late last year prior to its implementation and was put on hold until the district court could review the case. The court’s September 2017 review resulted in the issuance of its own “final rule” on the overtime law, rejecting the case in its entirety.

Why was the DOL “Final Rule” rejected?

First, we need to explain the background of the “Final Rule.” The Secretary of Labor was initially tasked to “modernize and streamline the existing overtime regulations for executive, administrative, and professional employees.” After receiving more than 293,000 comments on the proposed rule, the DOL decided to raise the minimum salary level for exempt employees to the 40th percentile of earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census Region of the nation (the South), which was $47,476. Had the law been implemented, any employee making less than $47,476 per year would have been eligible for overtime payment if he or she worked more than 40 hours in a week, regardless of job duties. Additionally, the new overtime law created an automatic system to adjust the minimum salary level every three years based on inflation.

Per the FLSA, the focal point of exemption status should be an employee’s job duties, functions, or tasks, with the salary amount acting as a secondary point of consideration. However, the significant increase to the minimum salary amount for exempt employees bumped the focal point of exemption status to salary amount, making an employee’s job duties, functions, or tasks irrelevant if an employee fell below that minimum salary level. (In fact, had the “Final Rule” passed, an estimated 42 million workers would have instantly become non-exempt, even though their job duties had not changed.) This was the basis for rejecting the new overtime law.

Will the minimum salary amount for exempt employees be adjusted still?

This is the question on most employers’ minds – and the answer is, possibly. The DOL published a Request for Information on July 26, 2017, asking for the public’s input to create a revised proposal. The request asks for some complex information, including questions “related to the salary level test, the duties test, varying cost-of-living across different parts of the U.S., inclusion of non-discretionary bonuses and incentive payments to satisfy a portion of the salary level, the salary test for highly compensated employees, and automatic updating of the salary level tests.” Employers have until September 25, 2017, to submit their feedback.

What does the DOL “Final Rule” rejection mean for employers right now?
  1. Employers whose businesses adhere to the federal guidelines rather than some stricter state or local guidelines (such as New York and California) do not need to increase minimum salary amounts for exempt employees yet. As always, be sure to check state and local laws that may have higher standards than the federal level.
  2. If you adjusted employee wages last year in anticipation of the increased minimum salary threshold, you surely helped with retention and morale but cannot legally recoup those additional wages that have already been paid. In fact, employers seriously considering any return to previously-held salary amounts may want to first discuss possible ramifications with their HR consultant.
  3. If you recently reviewed your employees’ exempt vs. nonexempt status and made adjustments to be compliant with the FLSA, we commend you for being proactive. Although the process can be time consuming, cleaning up misclassified employees can protect your company from unnecessary penalties and litigation.
  4. If you have yet to review your workforce’s classifications, focus first on the employee’s job duties, functions, or tasks to determine exemption status. If you need assistance with classifying employees as exempt or nonexempt, please contact your HR consultant.
  5. Provide feedback to the DOL if you want to voice your opinion on the matter. But do it before September 25, 2017!

*For more information about what specific job duties qualify for exemption status, please contact us.

Judge Rejects Proposed Overtime Law

The DOL’s overtime law to bump an exempt employee’s minimum salary to $47,476 was rejected in court. Here are five things employers should know because of this ruling.

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Is the ACA Still in Effect? Current Status of Legislation on Small Business Health Insurance

By | Benefits, Health Reform Updates, Newsletter | No Comments

First there was the Affordable Care Act (ACA), then there was the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The question now: which one is in effect and how does it impact small business health insurance that employers are providing? In other words, should businesses comply with the ACA or the AHCA?

Here’s the short answer: the ACA is still in effect. In July of 2017, legislation was introduced to repeal and replace the ACA with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). After the measure was defeated, the Senate stepped away from healthcare and has yet to determine when it will re-address the topic in the future.

The IRS recently released four letters (2017-0010, 2017-0011, 2017-0013, and 2017-0017) confirming that all obligations and subsequent penalties for a qualified employer’s lack of ACA compliance are still in effect. Although there may be more efforts in the future to repeal/replace or simply amend components to the ACA, employers should continue with all current compliance requirements of the ACA.

Healthcare and ACA: Employer Requirements

Employers with 50+ employees must provide affordable health insurance coverage for their full-time employees (30+ hours/week) that includes the minimum essential health benefits. To comply, employers must track and report hours to the IRS and provide documentation regarding their health insurance plan and participants. Qualified employers that don’t provide both of those elements are subject to penalties. See this refresher of all Obamacare requirements.

Status of the ACA’s Individual Mandate

Because the ACA has not been repealed and replaced, it also means that the individual mandate is still in effect: every person in the U.S. is required to have some sort of major medical insurance or face a tax penalty.

Effect of the Executive Order to minimize the ACA’s impact on businesses and individuals

According to IRS letter 2017-0017, the executive order requesting that agencies minimize the impact of the ACA on individuals and businesses has not changed requirements for coverage or any other aspect of the ACA. Individuals and businesses must still comply with the mandate and adhere to the ACA requirements.

Details about ACA and small business health insurance

For questions about business compliance requirements regarding employer-provided health insurance or the ACA, please see Are You Obamacare Compliant?. To learn more about small business health insurance plans that bring down costs while increasing benefits, please contact our HR experts at

ACA regulations

ACA or AHCA: what should business owners do to be in compliance with healthcare legislation?

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Minimum Wage Increases – July 1, 2017

By | General HR, Newsletter, Payroll | No Comments

Although the federal minimum wage of $7.25/hr has not changed since 2009, several states, cities, and counties will have minimum wage increases as of July 1, 2017.

States with Increasing Minimum Wage as of July 1, 2017

States whose minimum wage rates will increase as of July 1, 2017 include:

  • Maryland: $9.25/hr (Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have separate rate increases set to occur as of October 1, 2017 – see chart for details)
  • Oregon: $10.25/hr (Portland goes to $11.25/hr and nonurban counties go to $10.00/hr)
  • Washington DC: $12.50/hr

Several other cities and counties will also see minimum wage increases as of July 1, 2017. Please see the chart below for details.

States that Pay the Federal Minimum Wage

States whose minimum wage rates do not exceed the federal minimum rate of $7.25/hr include:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Indiana
  • Iowa (with the exception of several counties; see chart for details)
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • New Mexico (with the exception of several cities/counties; see chart for details)
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

Local laws and ordinances may be different than the outlined information. If an employee works in an area with a higher minimum wage than the federal standard, the higher rate should be paid.

Minimum Wage for Tipped Employees

Federal minimum wage for tipped employees is $2.13/hr, provided that this hourly rate combined with tips equals at least the federal minimum wage. Several states have specific laws in regards to tipped employees found here.

Youth Minimum Wage

Workers under the age of 20 can be paid a minimum wage of $4.25/hr for the first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment when their work does not displace another worker. After 90 days, the teen must receive at least the federal minimum rate of $7.25/hr.

For questions about minimum wage or help with other wage and/or compliance matters, please contact our certified HR experts at

Drug Testing – Where Do I Start?

By | Articles, Drug Testing, Health & Wellness, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance | No Comments

You’ve seen a few hints of potential drug abuse at your worksite and are suddenly chilled by thoughts of everything you’ve tried to avoid since hiring your first employee. You certainly don’t want other employees to think this is acceptable behavior, and the last thing you want is for the employee to injure himself (or even worse, somebody else) – but what do you do? Here’s the quick how-to plan for both reasonable suspicion testing, as well as setting up a random drug testing policy.

Reasonable Suspicion Drug Testing

1. Know the Signs
Although you are not expected to be an expert at diagnosing somebody who is impaired from drugs or alcohol, there are several signs that, when paired together, may indicate something more than a bad day. The most common signs of drug or alcohol impairment include: mood changes; slurred speech; difficulty walking; altered appearance; clumsiness; loss of concentration; performance problems; watery or red eyes; argumentative, uncooperative, or accusatory behaviors; and dilated pupils.

2. Get a Second Witness
Ask another manager (without explaining your suspicions) to observe the employee to provide you with a second opinion. If both you and your second witness have reasonable suspicion that the employee is impaired, pull the employee off the job immediately. If the behaviors are severe or the job is safety-sensitive, don’t wait to find your second witness before pulling the employee off the job.

3. Document Everything!
Being as objective as possible, write down all behaviors and performance issues you’ve observed. Do not include any thoughts and opinions as to why the performance problems are the way they are – simply the specific details of what you observed. These details may include employee actions and interactions, smells, when and where everything occurred, what the employee was doing, any witnesses, and so on. (If you’d like to use our user-friendly form to document your observations, please contact us.)

4. Get the Employee Tested
Perhaps this doesn’t need to be said, but never send an employee to a testing facility alone if you have reason to believe he/she is drug or alcohol-impaired. Either you or another manager should drive the employee to the testing facility, or have someone come to your worksite to test the employee. For more information on reasonable suspicion drug testing vendors and pricing, please contact our HR experts.

Setting up a Random Drug Testing Policy

Many employers choose to set up a random drug testing policy to discourage drug abuse from the get-go, which will hopefully eliminate any for-suspicion incidents. Here’s how to quickly get that set up:

  1. Create a random drug testing policy.
  2. Hold a meeting with employees where the policy is discussed; be sure they sign an acknowledgment form before returning to work.
  3. Have new employees sign off on the policy upon hire.
  4. Conduct random testing (at random times) to enforce the policy and deter drug abuse.

As part of our services, clients already have steps 1-3 taken care of through the drug-free workplace policy provided in your handbook and the acknowledgment form that employees sign once they are hired. If you are not yet a client and would like to get a policy set up, or you are interested in setting up random drug testing, please contact us and our experts will take care of everything. We can even conduct the random testing for you and have it deducted from your company payroll rather than billing you separately.

Don’t wait for the avoidable incident – contact us today.

(Reposted from our archives)

Reasonable suspicion drug testing and random drug testing both need to be carefully planned before acting on any whims.
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How One Comment Created a Hostile Work Environment

By | Discrimination, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter | No Comments

In a recent court decision of Lashawna C. v. Perez, the EEOC reminds employers that sometimes only one insensitive comment is all it takes to create a hostile work environment and religious harassment – even if that comment was intended to be a joke.

What happened?
A supervisor from within the Department of Labor was exchanging emails with a (Jewish) subordinate regarding the subordinate’s work hours and schedule. During the exchange, the Complainant stated that government employees generally work shorter hours than private sector employees, and she was “working like a civilian.” In response, the supervisor said the following:

Wow … then I must be a damn fool … cause I’ve been working like a Hebrew slave the last 9 years and don’t have enough time to take off … at least somebody got it right.

In explaining his comment to the EEOC, the supervisor said that he used the term “Hebrew slave” in his email to her because this was a “common term that’s used to reflect individuals who work with little means to produce great things.”

While the DOL insisted that this single comment was not severe enough to constitute harassment because he applied the term to himself rather than to the subordinate, the EEOC disagreed based on the following grounds:

The Commission has found that under certain circumstances a single or limited number of epithets or slurs may constitute harassment under Title VII. In this case, the Supervisor (S1) made the comment in an email to Complainant, and S1 knew that Complainant is Jewish. Although S1 only made such a comment once, the comment packed a painful, potent punch. Specifically, S1’s comment made light of the long and painful history of Jewish persecution and genocide…

The fact that S1 may have intended his comment to be a joke or a cliché does not soften the offense any more here than it would if he had uttered an equally offensive racial slur. We determine that a reasonable person in Complainant’s circumstances would find that S1’s comment was severe enough to create a hostile work environment based on her religion.

As a result, the Labor Department was ordered to pay $10,000 to the Complainant and $10,980 to her lawyer, all of which was taxpayer money.

Take Home For Employers
While this ruling does not reflect the language of the relevant statute which bans harassment when it is sufficiently pervasive as to affect “terms” or “conditions of employment,” it provides an important “teachable moment” for employers. Specifically, managers and supervisors should be trained on what is and is not appropriate to say to subordinates, and should always attempt to err on the side of sensitivity.

For more information about what may or may not constitute a hostile work environment, or to request assistance with employee trainings, please contact our HR experts.

Source: ePlace Solutions, Inc. (with amends)