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Compliance fails! What startups consistently overlook

By | Articles, Company Growth, General HR, Risk Management | No Comments

If you’ve ever started a business, you already know that from the day you hire your first employee, you’re under scrutiny. With just one person on your payroll, you immediately agree to abide by a whole slew of government regulations pertaining to employee management, any of which can be accidentally violated.

When compliance violations occur, it’s not usually because you’re trying to shun responsibilities. There are just so many regulations to contend with that it’s easy to miss something.

Compliance violations: real stories of harassment, discrimination, Fair Credit Reporting and more

I’ll give you some examples of what I mean, starting with an easy one: Uber. We’ve all heard about the HR nightmare there (sexual harassment and so much more), which could have easily been stopped before it ever started. Uber handed off the problem to a person on the startup’s HR team, who was anything but an expert on how to handle the situation. End result: loss of top management, total corporate shakeup, bad press, loss of customers, lawsuits and more. It’s the screw up that keeps on giving. Incidentally, a separate incident surrounding whether drivers were really contractors or if they should have been classified as employees could have also been avoided that way.

Startups don’t get to have all the fun though. Abercrombie & Fitch lost a lawsuit after a manager denied an applicant a position because of the applicant’s headscarf. McDonald’s had the same fate when one of its managers cancelled and refused to reschedule an interview with a deaf applicant who required an interpreter. These were violations of separate rules: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the ADA, respectively. Any company with at least 15 employees has to comply with both of these.

There’s more. Earlier this year, a company in Texas was found to be in violation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act when it tried to lump a disclosure, authorization, and a liability waiver into one. Why? This “efficiency” didn’t comply with the law. You need a total of one (1) employee to be liable here.

A few years back, Convergys lost a suit because of a scheduling problem. Actually it’s a little more complex than that: the job applicant said he would be unable to work the Jewish Sabbath so the recruiter ended the interview, explaining that working Saturdays was a must. The EEOC disagreed, saying the company was large enough to provide an alternative work schedule. (Read the full article here.)

Health matters can also be a concern. An office manager in Pennsylvania who had been missing work due to medical problems ultimately received a poor performance review from a supervisor who noted she needed to “improve her overall health and cut down on the days she misses due to illness” and “start taking better care of [her]self.” After the supervisor terminated her because her work performance had not improved, it was deemed the supervisor was in violation of the FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act), which also applies to any business with 50+ employees.

I’m leaving a lot out here. We could talk about retaliation, one of the top employment discrimination claims; age discrimination, which is on the rise and that companies are at risk of violating the moment you reach 20 employees (Texas Roadhouse paid out $12 million in 2017 because of it); pregnancy accommodations (ask UPS how that worked out), which you need to make with just 15 employees; and so many more.

Why ignoring startup regulations in HR could cripple your success

Oftentimes, compliance issues aren’t directly the fault of the employer. The actions can frequently be traced back to an uninformed manager or other representative of the business. But all of these incidents add up to one thing: there are big, expensive risks for small businesses today when they are managing employees. Complying with regulations, however, isn’t just a legal requirement; it’s also essential to success. Finding a solution that protects your business can make all the difference in the world.

Compliance management is, in my opinion, one of the most valuable services a PEO can offer. Your PEO will tell you when you’ve reached a new regulation threshold, how legislation will affect you, and do everything in its power to make sure you’re not violating any employment laws, even as your company is growing. And since it’s handling other HR aspects of your business, you don’t find out too late — any new regulation thresholds you hit will be applied to the work the PEO is already doing for you. So if ACA reporting requirements change and the PEO is handling your payroll, those changes will be reflected immediately, not after you get around to opening the email someone sent you three weeks ago about the topic.

All in all, having a PEO manage your compliance is going to be one of the smartest and safest moves your business makes.

Startup Business - Compliance Fails

It seems like a pretty simple concept — you comply with the rules and survive. But complying with each new batch of regulations that crops up gets more difficult when your business is growing.

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Request a free quote today from Stratus.hr and learn how affordable it is to have our team manage your compliance.









Can Employees be Fired for Discussing Pay Rates?

By | Corrective Action, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Termination | No Comments

Most people would consider sharing their pay information as taboo. But if an employee were to discuss their pay rate or salary level with fellow coworkers, could they be fired? The short answer: no. Here’s why.

The NLRA protects an employee’s right to discuss wage information

In 1935, Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) to protect the rights of workers. Although many companies believe the NLRA only applies to companies with unions, the NLRA actually protects all employees that work for any business entity.

According to the NLRA, employers cannot limit employees’ concerted activities (or, in other words, the ability for employees to discuss their work conditions with others) for the purpose of “collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” While a little ambiguous at first, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which enforces the NLRA, has ruled in several cases to clearly define the discussion of wages as “protected, concerted activity.” For example:

  • 1980: The NLRB ruled that employers could not prohibit employees from discussing wages with non-employees because it substantially interfered with their organization efforts. (Texas Instruments v. International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, AFL-CIO)
  • 1989: The NLRB ruled that an employee who came across confidential pay information – who then copied it and distributed it to fellow employees – was protected because the employer had violated the NLRA by prohibiting employees from discussing wage rates. (Brookshire Grocery v. Mark Moise)
  • 2003: A company was found in violation of the NLRA when it refused to rehire two men because, as former employees, they had discussed their wages with coworkers (Custom Cut, Inc. v Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, United Brotherhood of Carpenters & Joiners of America)
  • 2011: An employer fired a worker for discussing merit pay increases after specifically prohibiting employees from discussing the increases, which was in violation of the NLRA. (Ambriola, Co. v. Unnamed Charging Party)

Although the NLRA does allow employees to freely discuss their work conditions such as pay, benefits, and workplace safety, it doesn’t protect malicious or reckless behavior. So, for example, if an employee were to post confidential trade secrets on social media, which is in violation of company policy, the worker would justly face disciplinary action pending an investigation.

Employers should periodically review their employee handbooks to ensure they are up-to-date and do not have language that could be interpreted as a violation of the NLRA. Please contact your Status.hr Rep at HR@stratus.hr for more information about employee rights and/or to receive a professional review of your handbook .

sharing pay information is legal

An employer may be at risk just for getting upset about employees sharing wage information!
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What to Do with an Overly Chatty Employee

By | Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance | No Comments

Socializing at work helps build relationships and leads to higher job satisfaction. But what do you do when an overly chatty employee keeps coworkers from being productive?

With an increase in open work environments, there are now fewer barriers between coworkers in today’s work spaces than those of just 10 years ago. Although these workplaces may be great for collaboration, they also have their negative downsides that often point to distractions. According to Mark Gorkin of Columbia, Md., here are several suggestions to help combat a productivity-killing chatterbox at work:

1. Find time to have a one-on-one conversation about the problem with the talkative employee in a non-threatening way. (A group discussion may miss the target if the employee has no idea they’re creating any negative effects.)

  • Start by creating a safe environment and sharing all of the positive attributes and contributions the employee has, including their ability to talk with anyone.
  • Then explain the problem and use examples (in a non-accusatory way) and invite them to talk with you about the concerns of their chattiness.
  • Be kind but candid; you need to deliver the message clearly and directly, with specific details about the outcome you want to achieve.

2. Try to identify the root cause behind the excessive chatter. Is the employee stressed? Do they show signs of anxiety? Are they bored and need more work to do? Any of these can cause a person to become more talkative.

3. Talk to employees that have complained or been within earshot of the chatty employee to help discover other areas of concern. You may discover that the talkative employee is doing more than killing productivity if they’re sharing destructive gossip that is hurting morale. If this is the case, employees may need coaching on how to say “no” to an inappropriate conversation and how to stand up for themselves in an appropriate, assertive way. You may also need to incorporate corrective action in your one-on-one meeting with the chatty employee.

If your workplace has available space, you may want to offer private work spaces for employees to temporarily work when needing to focus on a project or simply want to be distraction-free. Another option for employees to be away from workplace distractions is to offer telecommuting, at least on a part-time basis.

Helping clients deal with difficult employees is part of our Stratus.hr services. For more tips or information, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Chatty Employee - what to do

If your workplace has an overly talkative employee, here are steps to address the problem.
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Does the White House have an HR person?

By | Corrective Action, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Retention, Termination, Turnover | No Comments

Every morning I listen to the news. And every morning I wonder why the White House doesn’t have an HR team to prevent them from doing things like firing people over Twitter or telling someone who’s planning to retire at the end of the week to take a hike two days before earning their pension.

If you’re not in HR, it’s pretty easy to overlook a key responsibility of Human Resources: prevention. HR is supposed to prevent people on your team from doing or saying really stupid things that could land the company in hot water. That’s unfortunate for the White House because a really great HR person would have told them the following won’t fly …

1. Firing via Twitter or any other social media.
We’ve been cautioned for more than a decade now that employees shouldn’t quit over text message or social media. But the same goes for employers. Terminating through social media (or any other media) won’t result in a lawsuit, but the action resonates through all employees, eats at morale, and drives off new recruits. It speaks volumes about your culture and kills your employer brand — not to mention that ugly tweet is now part of the public record.
HR advice: Keep your cool and talk one-on-one with employees, no matter how angry you are. Your HR professional will guide you on how to communicate with an employee you’re terminating, including procedures for written warnings and why documenting everything is necessary.

2. Terminating just hours before retirement.
I’ll admit that it’s possible a situation may arise that forces you to fire an employee shortly before they reach retirement or become fully vested in their 401(K). Most HR experts, however, would prefer you take alternative disciplinary action so the employee can still collect benefits that he or she earned during their years of service. Aside from being the humane thing to do, retirement benefits are a key driver for employees when considering jobs.
HR advice: Unless a law has been broken, allow an employee who is close to retirement to remain on the job until they reach retirement, even if that means placing him or her in a “mentoring” position of reduced authority. Firing an employee just days before earning their vested benefits may also lead to litigation.

3. Ignoring onboarding.
We all make mistakes — both employees and employers. But when a new member of your team lasts less than two weeks before it becomes painfully obvious that they’re not working out, you may want to review your onboarding process. Proper onboarding ensures employees know from day one what is expected of them.
HR advice: Have employees complete all legally-required paperwork electronically so they can be ready to work on day one. This will give both of you a jump start and provide you with digital records of an employee’s acceptance of company policies. Here are several other onboarding tips to implement, both before and on the employee’s first day.

4. Overlooking high turnover.
Some industries, such as restaurants and hotels, are known to have high turnover rates (Compensation Force estimates around 29%), perhaps because little education is required and demands are high. However, the White House’s high-ranking staffers currently have a 43% turnover rate. When you notice a significant increase in turnover at your company, it’s time to dissect the numbers.
HR advice: Watch your turnover rate for key indicators about your workplace. Are your benefits competitive? Is the salary in line? Is there a management problem that’s driving away key employees? Are you hiring people who aren’t right for the job? Your HR professional can help you come up with ways to identify the problem and help you develop a budget-friendly solution to retain key employees.

5. Failing to delegate.
Relinquishing control is a problem all business leaders have to face eventually. Although your instinct may be to quickly post employee concerns via social media, it’s best to discuss your concerns with the employee’s manager and let them determine the best approach.
HR advice: Instead of trying to do everything yourself, let your managers manage.

6. Not following protocol or policy.
Be sure your company’s policies are clearly stated in the employee handbook and include disciplinary action that will result from policy violations. That way your team’s actions won’t contradict your words, and you have consistency from manager to manager.
HR advice: Don’t expect informal policy reminders to work. Have your HR pro update your employee handbook, provide regular trainings on policies, and ensure employees have easy access to the handbook so the temptation to go rogue and use private email or inappropriately discuss confidential information never happens.

7. Ignoring job vacancies.
While running lean and mean is admirable from a budget perspective, it could ultimately cost you more due to high turnover rates, low productivity, a crumbling culture, and simple errors. (See this cost of turnover chart for more details.)
HR advice: Stay on top of your job vacancies to avoid being short-handed. Automate the hiring process with an applicant tracking system to quickly fill available positions with the most qualified candidates.

An effective HR expert can prevent a lot of headaches, hassle, and employment lawsuits, which ultimately saves any business time and money. But you don’t have to be a big operation (like the White House) to get this kind of expertise. Small businesses can outsource HR and get all of the same protections that large corporations and government entities (should) have, which evens the playing field to where every business can succeed. Learn more today by requesting a free demo.

White House HR

Looking at recent reports from the White House, I’m starting to wonder if their HR team is on extended leave or so overloaded with other jobs that they can’t actually advise on HR issues at the moment.
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5 Ways You’re Losing as an Employer

By | Articles, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Performance, Retention, Turnover | No Comments

There’s a phenomenon that many HR nerds refer to as the employee lifecycle, and if it’s something you’re not managing, you may be losing out as an employer.

The employee lifecycle refers to the various stages of relationship that an employee has with their employer. Human resources plays a key role in every aspect of the employee lifecycle. Here’s what I mean.

  1. Recruiting

Recruiting efforts can have a lasting impact on the entire company, which also affects the company’s future performance. Consider a prospective employee with incredible talent who doesn’t get the right impression of your business from day one. Without a second thought, they may easily turn to other prospective job options. How do you combat this?

  • Show that you’re up-to-date with technology by offering an applicant tracking system, allowing employees to apply online for vacant positions and maintaining communication through all stages of the application process.
  • Provide interviewer training for your managers to maintain consistency and reduce risks.
  • Be competitive with overall compensation packages.
  1. Onboarding

Did you know that 20% of employees depart in the first 45 days of employment? Studies have shown that proper onboarding can reduce turnover. Here’s where to start:

  • Provide digital paperwork so that new employees can complete all new hire paperwork before ever coming to work, allowing their first day on the job to be productive.
  • Ensure your employee handbook is up-to-date so that policies are never a question.
  • Make all employer information and benefit details easily accessible.
  • Train managers on proper onboarding techniques to ensure consistency and reduce risks.
  • Have all the necessary tools ready for the new employee on day one, such as email, computer and phone.
  • Follow these other onboarding tips.
  1. Career development and training.

Employee retention is closely tied to an employee’s satisfaction with the workplace and their individual role. Now settled in, employees are looking to take on more responsibilities to help the business succeed. Here are some tips to make this become reality:

  • Communicate your expectations and how employees are doing with regular one-on-one meetings, performance reviews, goal setting, and so on.
  • Develop employees with trainings and opportunities to position them for future growth.
  • Ensure all staff members are aware of internal job opportunities to encourage growth from within.
  • Maintain employee information in a cloud-based system for management to quickly review details needed for advancement decisions.
  1. Employee engagement, employee recognition and employee relations.

Even if you’ve trained and taught your employees everything they need to know to be successful, they also need to feel valued. Now you need to keep motivation high and cultivate a workplace where respect is paramount, information is easy to obtain, and employees understand how essential they are to the success of the business. How do you do this?

  • Create team building opportunities to help employees engage with each other.
  • Implement employee recognition programs to sustain momentum.
  • Determine how the workplace is doing through employee surveys.
  • Conduct stay interviews.
  • Investigate and document workplace violations and conflicts to ensure resolutions conform with policy.
  1. Termination

There’s an inherent risk associated with employment termination, whether it’s employee- or employer-initiated. The best way to protect yourself and the employee is to maintain positive relationships whenever possible and have policies in place before a split occurs. Emotions, regardless of a positive or less-than-desirable split, naturally run high for everyone involved. Mitigating risks to the employer is the number one goal during this stage. Here’s how:

  • Provide answers regarding benefits, final paycheck, retirement policies and more in a respectful and courteous manner. It’s not uncommon for a former employee to return to a workplace, even years later.
  • Develop termination policies and procedures to help reduce risks.
  • Disseminate and complete paperwork pertaining to departure.
  • Provide timely final pay and other due compensation.
  • Conduct exit interviews.

Not all small businesses are capable of taking on each stage of the employee lifecycle, which is just one of the reasons it’s a good idea to work with a full-service HR outsourcing firm or PEO like Stratus.hr. You’ll access employee management technology, essential human resource services, affordable and competitive benefits plans, risk management assistance, digital HR tools, and more. Request a free demo today for more information.

5 ways losing as employer

Whether you have an in-house HR team or you outsource your HR, you should be turning to these professionals to ensure you’re optimizing each stage of the employee lifecycle to help you win each phase of employment.

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IRS Releases 2018 W-4 and Withholding Calculator

By | Newsletter, Payroll | No Comments

The IRS recently released the 2018 W-4 with an accompanying Withholding Calculator. Although the IRS issues an updated Form W-4 annually, this year’s release was later than anticipated due to modifications that needed to be made in conjunction with the tax reform bill passed in December of 2017.

Employees are encouraged to use the Withholding Calculator to ensure they have the proper amount of taxes being withheld from each paycheck, particularly due to major changes made to tax law. “Withholding issues can be complicated, and the Calculator is designed to help employees make changes based on their personal financial situation,” said David Kautter, Acting IRS Commissioner. “Taking a few minutes can help taxpayers ensure they don’t have too little – or too much – withheld from their paycheck.”

Who should verify W-4 withholdings?

According to the IRS, those who are particularly encouraged to check their withholding amounts include:

  • Two-income families.
  • People with two or more jobs at the same time or who only work for part of the year.
  • People with children who claim credits such as the Child Tax Credit.
  • People who itemized deductions in 2017.
  • People with high incomes and more complex tax returns.
What information do I need for the Withholding Calculator?

Although the Calculator does not ask for sensitive information such as name, Social Security number, address or bank account numbers, it will ask you to estimate:

  • Tax filing information
  • Values of 2018 income
  • Tax deductions
  • Number of children that will be claimed for applicable tax credits

The more accurate the information is, the better the Calculator will predict your anticipated income tax for 2018, along with their recommended withholding amounts. (As a reminder, withholding changes do not affect 2017 tax returns.)

How do I make changes to my withholdings?

If modifications need to be made to income tax withholdings, employees should complete a new Form W-4 and submit it to their Stratus.hr payroll rep. Remember: Stratus.hr employees can easily make adjustments to their W-4 via Stratus.hr Mobile at any time to avoid the hassle of paperwork.

For questions about the new IRS tax withholdings, please visit irs.gov or contact your Stratus.hr payroll rep.

2018 W-4

Employees should check to make sure they have the proper amount of taxes being withheld from their paychecks, particularly with all the changes from tax reform. Changes can be made to their 2018 W-4 via Stratus.hr Mobile.

Unlimited PTO: How One Company Transitioned from an Accrued Plan

By | Benefits, Employee Morale, General HR, Newsletter, Performance, Retention | No Comments
Interview with Jeremy Sabin, Vice President of Human Capital, Vivint Solar

Unlimited PTO is a lucrative benefit that more and more businesses are wanting to offer. But how do you make the transition when you’ve been offering an accrued PTO plan? We asked Jeremy Sabin, VP of Human Capital for Vivint Solar, how his company did it.

How long have you had your unlimited PTO plan in place?
We implemented our unlimited PTO policy in April of 2015 for salaried employees.

Why did you transition from an accrual-based plan to an unlimited PTO plan?
Our culture was already very flexible, and we felt an open PTO policy fit our style. Managers weren’t requiring employees to enter PTO time or approving it. When these employees left, the company would pay out “unused PTO” that had actually been taken already. Overall, it has been a great benefit that is administratively easier and much more cost-effective for us to offer.

How did you handle the transition from an accrual plan to an unlimited PTO plan?
We froze all PTO accruals at the day of transition and then explained that if an employee were to choose to leave the company, they would be paid out for the balance of that accrued PTO when they left.

Did you give employees advanced notice about the implementation of an unlimited PTO policy?
Yes, we gave employees about 3 weeks’ notice of the policy changing.

Have you experienced any abuse from your unlimited PTO policy?
We’ve had very few issues over the years. Really, it comes down to the manager and whether they’ve had open, honest dialogue with employees. If deliverables haven’t been met, the manager sits down with the employee to discuss performance. Managers can always say no when they receive requests for time off if there’s a real need. If they’re concerned that an employee is taking too much time off but is still meeting deliverables, then the manager isn’t giving them enough to do. As long as we have sharp managers, we have no issues with abuse.

Is your unlimited PTO policy available immediately upon hire?
It’s available day one. Some candidates have pre-negotiated trips coming up that they tell us about in advance, and it’s no problem. We explain that they may need to be available if something comes up, but we can usually manage to work around what needs to be done.

Do you have any non-exempt workers that have unlimited PTO?
No, our unlimited PTO benefit is only available to exempt employees. Timekeeping laws in several key states pose challenges to opening this up to hourly employees.

What advice to you have for companies considering an unlimited PTO policy?
Train your managers well. If you have a manager that is very inexperienced, it could create problems rolling out a policy like this. Sometimes candidates can be skeptical with this policy; they may think you provide “unlimited PTO” so that you can say no whenever you want. Recruiters have to be well trained to explain the policy and how it works, and you have to build a culture where employees feel like they CAN take time. If it feels like they haven’t taken enough time off, managers should encourage them to take a vacation. We’ve actually noticed that, overall, employees have taken less time off on this policy than on our accrued policy. Give employees time to plan, consider all the possible “what-ifs,” and train your managers.

Any other thoughts about businesses considering an unlimited PTO policy?
On a general basis, that which we fear the most for worst-case scenarios hardly ever comes to pass. Don’t be afraid to take risks because of the potential consequences. Expect the worst, plan for it to happen. But being prepared will make you pleasantly surprised when the worst doesn’t happen.

For more information or details on how to transition your company from an accrued-based plan to an unlimited PTO policy, please see Unlimited PTO: Right for Small Businesses? or contact us at HR@stratus.hr.

Unlimited PTO - interview

Considering an unlimited PTO policy? Learn how this company made the transition.
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Unlimited PTO – Right for Small Businesses?

By | Benefits, Employee Morale, General HR, Performance, Retention | No Comments

When you think about unlimited PTO, large corporations that employ thousands of workers may come to mind. But what if you’re a small business owner looking to offer unlimited PTO to enhance your benefits package. Is it really a viable option?

Reasons why companies offer unlimited PTO

If you’ve considered offering unlimited PTO, you’re probably well aware of the advantages. Beyond enhancing your benefits package to attract employees, unlimited PTO:

  • Frees up internal resources to track PTO use;
  • Relieves the expectation to pay out unused PTO after an employee quits;
  • Demonstrates trust in staff that they’ll get their work done without being micromanaged;
  • Eliminates mass time-off conflicts when PTO accruals max out at year-end and employees are rushing to utilize expiring PTO; and
  • Prevents germs from being spread when employees are sick, as they’re less likely to come into work when they don’t have to use an accrued day-off.

With so many advantages, why doesn’t every company make the move?

Concerns of offering unlimited PTO

Most companies that currently offer unlimited PTO say that employees use about the same amount of PTO when it’s unlimited versus when it’s accrued. So what keeps small businesses from adopting the benefit?

  • Many employers are concerned about being taken advantage of;
  • Some employees do better having defined limits rather than saying it’s unlimited;
  • Some positions and/or companies can’t handle an unmanned position for too long; or
  • It may create extra pressure on supervisors to more closely manage performance and ensure employees aren’t abusing the unlimited PTO policy.

At the end of day, if your PTO accrual plan isn’t broken, there’s really no need to change it. But if your company culture might be right for offering unlimited PTO, here’s how you make it work.

How to make your unlimited PTO plan work

To ensure your unlimited PTO plan is successful, you still have to do some administrative work to set expectations, such as:

  • Create a defined policy. Just because your PTO is unlimited doesn’t mean it’s unmanaged or that employees always get time off whenever they want it. For a sample policy, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.
  • Implement restrictions. You may need to establish guidelines for your company’s busiest times and require employees to provide managers with advance notice. They may need to find somebody to cover for them while they’re gone and/or be available for work calls and emails, depending on their job duties.
  • Consider who it includes. Because of complexities surrounding state and federal wage and hour laws, you may want to only offer unlimited PTO to exempt employees.
  • Regularly check with managers. To ensure the unlimited PTO policy is not a problem, shifts will need to be consistently covered and productivity measures will have to be met. This means managers may need additional training on productivity metrics and be able to candidly and tactfully address potential abusers.
  • Communicate. Both managers and coworkers need to know when an employee is out of the office. This can be as simple as sending out advance notice to coworkers and entering days off in a calendar that everyone in the company can access.
  • Encourage employees to use it. Managers should encourage taking time off from work and set the example by leaving themselves. Talk with employees about their upcoming vacations; be excited for them! If an employee’s workload prevents them from taking time off, managers need to reevaluate their load.

If you haven’t yet implemented flexible work arrangements such as working remotely or allowing employees to start early or work late, you may want to start there first. If you’re seriously considering moving to an unlimited PTO plan, learn how one company made the transition from an accrued PTO plan.

Unlimited PTO

Most companies that have implemented an unlimited PTO policy have had a positive experience, even if it means employees may occasionally need to be accessible while on vacation.
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Fair Workweek Rules – What Employers Need to Know

By | Articles, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Retention, Turnover | No Comments

Predictive scheduling, or Fair Workweek Rules, seem to be the latest trend in workplace regulations to protect hourly workers. When San Francisco first enacted these laws in 2015, the intent was to provide more advance notice regarding work schedules and to ensure schedules were fair. For employers, however, these laws have signaled greater fines and penalties. With several more cities and two states now following suit, what exactly are the rules? Are they really necessary? And will they soon be coming to a city near you?

What are the Fair Workweek Rules?

There are four primary rules consistently found among the Fair Workweek regulations:

  1. Two-weeks’ notice: Schedules must be made available to employees for a minimum of two weeks in advance.
  2. Minimal changes: If the scheduler must make changes within that minimum two-week notice window, they must be documented and have good reason. Employers may also need to pay premiums to employees for any schedule changes made within that window if it’s for anything outside of filling in for a sick employee.
  3. No “clopenings” allowed: Employers cannot enact the practice of “clopening,” which is scheduling employees to work closing shifts and then having them return hours later to open the business. Employees must be allowed a rest period (11 hours) between the end of one shift and the start of another. If an employee must return prior to the rest period ending, the employer must pay a premium.
  4. Maintain records: scheduling records now must be retained for three years, including original hours, schedule changes, time off requests, shift swap or change requests, shift cancellations, and more.
Fair Workweek Rules

Whether or not you are currently impacted, ask your timekeeping solution about their implemented adaptations to comply with the Fair Workweek Rules, such as flagging potential violations and allowing employees to easily trade shifts.

Who is affected by the Fair Workweek Rules?

The Fair Workweek rules are primarily aimed at large employers in the retail and restaurant sectors and have already been enacted in San Francisco, San Jose, Emeryville, Seattle, New York City, Oregon, Washington DC, and New Hampshire. If your business is not in one of those industries or areas, you may still need to prepare since these regulations are likely to drive changes to other businesses that employ blue-collar workers nationwide.

Are the Fair Workweek laws necessary?

At first glance, these laws seem a little extreme to employers. However, the working class that these laws are trying to protect are typically those with the lowest incomes (see statistics here).  Many of them work more than one part-time job and/or are caretakers that have to juggle multiple schedules. Because these employees tend to experience greater work-family conflict and related stress due to their irregular shift times, these laws are to help employers consider the implications before mandating any last-second schedule changes.

What should employers do about the Fair Workweek Rules if they aren’t currently affected?

Rather than wait to be acted upon (and be penalized for violations), employers should start today by adopting the principles within these rules:

  • Provide employees with two weeks’ notice of their schedules.
  • Try to make very few schedule changes within the two-week window.
  • Avoid scheduling employees for any “clopening” shifts.
  • Consider allowing employees to choose their own schedules and/or request their input:
    • Would they prefer to have the same, more or less hours?
    • Which nights would they be available as back-up to come in if customer demands require additional working staff?
  • Provide incentives for employees who were needed to clock in when they weren’t otherwise scheduled.

Adopting employee-friendly practices that include employee feedback will not only help employees feel valued, it will also create loyalty and help reduce turnover. Your proactive efforts may also improve manager relations with employees, particularly when it comes to dealing with scheduling problems. For more information about this or any other workplace regulation, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

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Dealing with a Bully Boss

By | Corrective Action, Employee Morale, General HR, Manager Training, Newsletter, Performance, Recruiting, Retention, Termination, Turnover | No Comments

Scenario: a once highly-competent employee was promoted to manager, but their lack of people skills has created more of an authoritarian bully boss. Because they’ve built rapport with their years of service to the company, and because they have significant knowledge and expertise, it’s become a delicate situation for upper management to even want to acknowledge there’s a problem. What do you do?

Employers: How to Deal with a Bully Boss

What are the risks of retaining a bully boss? Beyond motivation and morale concerns, a bad manager may create issues such as poor productivity, stifled recruiting efforts, difficulty retaining key talent, legal issues, and even public backlash. Consider the lessons learned from Uber’s HR nightmare, which stemmed from upper management not listening to employee complaints.

With a number of things at risk, take a step back to observe whether you actually have a bully boss employed as a manager. Is the team sufficiently producing results? Have you noticed a drop in morale? Are good employees quitting or getting fired? Are incompetent employees still employed when they should have been fired? Have you received employee complaints? Any combination of these factors could point to a manager problem.

Next, it’s time to gather feedback from employees. Find out about their interactions and feelings toward the manager. If there is any apprehension about giving candid feedback directly, allow employees to provide their thoughts anonymously. You may want to contact your HR rep for help with setting up a 360-degree manager effectiveness evaluation.

Finally, have a candid conversation with the manager about the issues brought to light by employees. Develop a performance improvement plan that documents specific areas needing improvement and include a description of performance issues and consequences for any repeated misbehavior. Allow the manager to be part of the collaborative improvement process. Solutions may include manager training, communication skills training, personality sensitivity training, role realignment (where available), and so on. Consider providing a points-based assessment completed by employees working under the manager to regularly provide feedback about the manager’s performance.

Employees: How to Deal with a Bully Boss

In an ideal work environment, your manager and/or HR department would be a comfortable place to disclose any feelings of being bullied. If, however, your manager and/or HR is the bully, try implementing some of these self-defense strategies.

1. Treat the situation as a work project.
Be cognitively aware of how you behave at work and stay unemotional. More than ever, be sure your outward appearance (hair and clothes) is calm and tasteful. Maintain a positive attitude and be determined to not react poorly.

2. Stay social and avoid isolation.
Make a conscious effort to keep up personal relationships with other coworkers. If you need to interact with the bully, try to be around others of “importance” that will make you less likely to be bullied. If you’re being pursued, never enter a bathroom or other area of isolation.

3. Use excuses or distractions.
In the event of an uncomfortable encounter with the bully, make an excuse and say you’re late for an appointment or need to use the restroom. You could also pick up a file or note with a customer’s phone number that needs to be called as a form of distraction.

4. Control what you say.
Avoid talking to coworkers about your situation in a way that could be perceived as gossip. Write down the interactions that have you concerned and discuss with a close confidant outside of work to hear their perspective. If they concur that this is a bully situation, and you haven’t yet done this, take your concerns to another member of HR or upper management.

As an HR company, we advise employers to take employee complaints seriously and to immediately investigate any incidents of wrong-doing. For more tips and information, please contact our HR experts at HR@stratus.hr.

Bully Boss

Here are some questions to ask when deciphering between an employee’s “dirty laundry” versus truly having a manager problem.
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