Policies and Practices

Coronavirus: The ‘Messy Middle’

Here we are in the ‘messy middle’ – you have survived the shock of the coronavirus and have accepted that we do not know when or how it will go away. Now you need to decide what to do about short-term and mid-term issues. A vaccine will not be a quick fix since it is estimated to take two full years to vaccinate the US once approved and we do not know how many will get vaccinated or how effective any vaccine will be yet.
Whether you closed your office completely or not at all, you need to pay attention to your office and employee needs in this difficult time for everyone.
If you closed your office in full or in part, you may be struggling with planning the return. I am seeing lots of organizations planning for a return Jan 4, 2021 – often after planning for earlier dates. They and others also have multiple employees who want to come in some days each week now. What will you allow, how will you manage it?
A late June Gensler survey showed 44% of employees want to return full time and another 26% want to be there the majority of the week. A separate study in late August puts that total at 83%. At the same time, you will have employees fearful of coming into the office whenever you return. You must think now about what you will plan for and allow.
Human Fatigue
Many people are dealing with anxiety and fatigue from the changes to their lives during the pandemic. This includes founders, leaders, and managers in small businesses.
Here are some ways to help your staff and yourself cope:

Talk to people about how they are, instead of discussing […]

By |September 10th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Policies and Practices, productivity, Small Biz, SMB|Comments Off on Coronavirus: The ‘Messy Middle’

More Re-Opening Issues

As you plan to re-open your offices or bringing more people in, employees may be concerned about returning. If you already have a telework plan, does it need any changes now? If you do not, now is the time to develop one. While most employees want to work in the office at least part-time, nearly a third are interested in full-time remote work. You need to assess what you want to offer in advance and make that clear early. As soon as you have a basic policy on telework, communicate it. Do the same with your re-opening plan.
There are also some legal issues to be aware of in your preparation and in talking with your staff.
FFCRA
You may remember the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, passed in March. If you have not thought much about it, now is the time. The considerations under FFCRA run until the end of the year. More employees may be asking for added time off as you re-open your office or reduce telework options.
FFCRA covers all small employers (under 500 employees.) If an employee is unable to work or telework, it provides options for paid leave.
Sick Leave:
Up to two weeks (80 hours) at an employee’s regular rate of pay to a max of $511 per day and $5110 in total over the two-week period where the employee:
1) is quarantined and/or is experiencing Covid19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis, or
At a rate of 2/3 regular pay up to a maximum of $340 per day
2) because of a bona fide need to care for an individual subject to quarantine, or
3) care for a child, under 18, whose school or childcare provider is closed due to Covid19
Up to an additional 10 weeks […]

By |June 29th, 2020|Business planning, Communications, Policies and Practices, Small Biz|Comments Off on More Re-Opening Issues

Finally! New Overtime Rules

When new overtime rules were announced in 2016, a court injunction put them on hold. Since then new rules have been proposed and undergone public comment and are now final.

First the good news, the new level is $684 weekly which equals $35, 568 annually.

Why this number? It is set to the 20 percentile for full time salaried workers in the lowest wage Census region (the South). Given the current pay rates and very low unemployment in Northern Virginia, you are likely to be paying significantly more for workers.

What Should You Do Now?

The first step is to educate yourself. The US Department of Labor has a wide range of resources explaining the new rules and what has and has not changed. You can find the new rule at New overtime rules

Their Small Entity Guide Compliance Guide (PDF)

A Fact Sheet on How Positions become Exempt from overtime rules
Exemption Rewuirements

Remember, salary alone is not enough to make a position exempt from overtime rules, the work duties of the position must be analyzed.

You may also want to research local wages, employment statistics, and other labor force information at Labor Market Data

 

Second, assess exactly what the impact is in your organization.

Who is newly eligible to be exempt from overtime pay?  Who is borderline to the new rate?
What are your options for each affected person?
How many hours does each person currently work over 40 on average?  What are the reasons for overtime work?
What are the costs associated with the possible changes you are considering?
What does your culture imply you should do? What other impacts on your culture will this change lead to?

Once you have a plan in place, you need to begin communicating with your employees. […]

By |October 8th, 2019|Compensation, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on Finally! New Overtime Rules

What You Need to Know on Federal HR Laws

Many entrepreneurs and founders fear legal risks from human resources/labor laws. Common sense goes a long way in mitigating risks.  However, you do need to understand the basics. Here is a discussion of the most important federal laws for you to plan for and comply with.  Resources to understand these, as well as required posters, are listed at the end.

Laws that Apply with your First Employee

1. Wages and Overtime

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is a federal law that establishes minimum wage and overtime requirements among other aspects. This law is probably the most difficult for many small employers as even employment lawyers, human resource professionals, and other advisors argue over some of its definitions. Written during the Depression, it governs what jobs must be paid overtime (often called non-exempt) and which may be exempt from those rules.

FLSA guide – Job Status and Exemptions

Small employers tend to try to make as many jobs as possible exempt in hopes of reducing overtime costs and that can get you in trouble.

While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, a majority of states have higher rates as do some cities and counties. There are also special rules for jobs such as some tipped workers.

State and local wage and hour laws also govern requirements for paid or unpaid breaks, child labor, and tipped workers.

2. Immigration laws

Immigration laws, including the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), the Immigration Act of 1990 and the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA), are designed in part to ensure that employers only hire candidates who are eligible to work in the U.S.

Employers must verify candidate eligibility through documentation ( I-9 forms) […]

By |January 8th, 2019|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on What You Need to Know on Federal HR Laws

Avoid These Hiring Errors

Recently I wrote a post for ClearedJobs.net on the myths and mistakes too many employers make. These errors are not confined to those in the cleared world, many organizations of all sizes and focus make most of them.

From erroneous ideas to problems identified in recent studies, take a look at this article and check out your organization’s practices. A tight labor market is tough enough without adding unforced errors to your hiring process.

Hiring Myths and Mistakes

By |January 1st, 2019|hiring, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on Avoid These Hiring Errors

It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

From Ailes to Weinstein, across the military, and in far too many organizations, sexual harassment is a significant problem. And no, your small business is not exempt!

Such harassment is sadly, maddeningly common. You have seen the recent news, the social media storm over #MeToo. So first some basic facts:

Sexual harassment is not about sex, it is about power.
Whether it is verbal or physical, it is abuse and a form of violence.
Women are the most common targets, but men are also sexually harassed.

Such harassment represents a real threat to your organization now and in the future. It directly impacts productivity and morale. It erodes trust. It increases turnover. And it can result in both legal and reputation risks.

What Do You Do?

The first step is to create a workplace culture that encourages trust and respect.

This will support many good things beyond dealing with harassment issues. And it does make identifying and dealing with harassment easier. You need policies, practices, and leadership to create trust and respect within the work place. A good basic policy of how you expect everyone to respect and work with each other, your clients or customers, vendors, and others you work with is a good start. Be clear about your intent. State how the policy works in everyday activities.

The harder step is to live up to what you expect others to do. Plus you must communicate your policy and intent regularly. And you must take action when anyone, in any role, does not fulfill the policy and your expectations.

Second, you must be very clear that you will not tolerate any harassment or discriminatory behavior.

When you reach 15 employees, you have legal requirements related to equal opportunity which […]

By |October 29th, 2017|Communications, culture, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on It Can’t Happen Here….Sexual Harassment

SPRING PREPARATION #1

Have you updated the I-9 form you need to use to ensure all employees are eligible to work in the USA? If not, the new form became effective in January:    I-9 form

It is also smart to take a look at your federally required posters. While updated versions are available from several sources, you do not need to spend that money as you can just download these directly.

Not sure which posters you may need? Start with the ‘e-laws’ help section which asks about the number of employees you have and what sort of business you are in to help show the posters you may need. http://webapps.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm

Here are the most commonly required posters for small organizations, check for others if you have more than 49 employees.

Equal Opportunity
https://www.dol.gov/ofccp/regs/compliance/posters/pdf/eeopost.pdf

Fair Labor Standards Act
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/minwageP.pdf

Occupational Health and Safety
https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3165.pdf

Military Service Rights (USERRA)
https://www.dol.gov/vets/programs/userra/USERRA_Federal.pdf

Polygraph (yes, really even if you do not have anything to do with such tests)
https://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/posters/eppac.pdf

 

State Posters

VA
http://www.vec.virginia.gov/employers/Required-Posters-for-Virginia-Employers

MD
https://www.dllr.state.md.us/oeope/poster.shtml

DC
https://does.dc.gov/sites/default/files/dc/sites/does/page_content/attachments/EMPLOYEE%20INFORMATION%20AND%20EMPLOYER%20POSTING%20REQUIREMENTS.pdf

 

You can put a copy of these posters onto a bulletin board or hang them on a clipboard.  Hang them where employees can see them,  use your kitchen or break room or other space open to all employees.   Keep it simple.

By |March 3rd, 2017|Communications, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on SPRING PREPARATION #1

New Overtime Tips

The salary level test for the Fair Labor Standards Act is rising on December 1 to $913 per week ($47,476 annually.) The duties test and salary basis test are unchanged. This means you must take action by December 1 to review the impact on your organization and make any needed adjustments. Many small organizations do not understand or comply with the duties tests –  this can present significant legal and financial risks if an employee or ex-employee reports you to the state wages and hours agency or seeks out an employment attorney. You may have seen legal ads for failure to pay overtime cases on TV in fact.

I did a webinar for the Alexandria SBDC on the new overtime rules – both the webinar and the annotated slides are available free. The webinar or slides can guide your thinking and action planning so that you are ready.

The New Overtime Law Webinar

The annotated slides

Guidance from the US Department of Labor  –  https://www.dol.gov/WHD/overtime/final2016/

It is smart to get started now on assessing the impact of the new salary level on your organization, as well as reviewing your compliance with existing duties test rules.  This process includes assessing what makes the most sense in terms of your desired or existing culture and extensive communications.  Ideas for these areas are included in the webinar and slides.

By |August 8th, 2016|Compensation, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on New Overtime Tips

Lessons from Biltmore

Recently, on vacation, I visited the Biltmore Estate and saw a staff which was what any organization would want. Each person I came in contact with was positive, helpful, and focused on what they could do to make my visit enjoyable. It made the day a real pleasure.  I spent money I might not have and got experiences I really enjoyed.  I even tweeted about Biltmore and its great staff.

If you want this for your organization, you need to focus on setting the conditions for people to succeed in their work. No matter how small you are now, these aspects are critical:

Hiring the right people
Training each person in their current role and developing them for the future
Providing an environment that supports everyone there
Managing effectively and consistently

Too often these seem like climbing Mt. Everest – more effort and cost than you can sustain. But, in fact, investing in your people leads to higher financial returns and lower long-term costs. For years the management gurus have pointed to the difference in how Walmart and Costco pay and treat their employees. Costco spends more on pay, benefits, and training but has higher profits. Now Walmart has begun to raise pay and benefits to attract and retain better employees to enhance the company’s future growth and profitability.

Take a look at your organization and assess your current practices. What could you do to improve these and help grow your future success? Each small step forward can make a real difference.

Help is available in other articles on this website, the SBA has an extensive online training program, and your local SBDC can assist you. The real issue for most of us is to take the first […]

By |June 7th, 2016|culture, Policies and Practices, values|Comments Off on Lessons from Biltmore

March 2016 News You Can Use

Many of my clients have some form of ‘respectful workplace’ policy or practice to guide employees on discrimination, harassment, and violence in the workplace. Whether you have such a policy or not, you may want to decide what you want to do about guns in the workplace if you are a Virginia employer.

While Virginia allows both open and concealed carry and makes many restrictions on carrying guns limited, employers can prohibit guns in their workplace. You cannot prevent them generally from being locked in cars in parking areas though. As you consider a new policy or statement in your employee handbook, consider adding other potential weapons to it.

A sample statement:

Organization name X strictly prohibits the possession, use, and/ or sale of all types of weapons on work premises or while engaged in company business off premises except where expressly authorized by X and permitted by state and local laws. This policy applies to all employees, including those who have a valid permit to carry a firearm. Weapons include but are not limited to all types of guns, explosives, and knives or other edged weapons.

Further you may want to consider whether you need a plan, employee guidance, and training related to ‘active shooter’ issues. There are very good resources listed and linked on this Homeland Security page:
https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

Many local police departments will assist in assessing vulnerabilities and provide resources to support your planning and training.

NEW: Virginia Safety Poster Requirement

The Virginia Department of Labor and Industry has updated their job safety and health protection poster. This is now effective and you need this new poster. Additionally there are new accident reporting information. All fatalities, injuries, or illnesses that result in patient hospitalization, amputation, or loss of an […]

By |March 13th, 2016|Business planning, Policies and Practices|Comments Off on March 2016 News You Can Use