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* Jeffry D. Proul, Registered Representative of LifeMark Securities Corp., 400 West Metro Financial Center, Rochester, NY 14623 (585) 424-5672 Member NASD/SIPC Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc. is not affiliated with LifeMark Securities Corp. CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: Communications are Confidential Information of LifeMark Securities Corp. and may also be privileged.

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Can We Legally Send A Sick Employee Home

By |March 6th, 2019|

Question:
If an employee comes to work sick, can we legally send them home?

Answer from Laura, SHRM-CP:

Yes. You can absolutely send a sick employee home, but you’ll want to make sure you’re doing so consistently for visibly-ill employees. In fact, I would recommend having a policy to that effect and clearly communicating that policy to your employees. That way sick employees know what is expected of them and can save themselves the trip to work.

Be aware, however, that some states require reporting time pay, so if you send a non-exempt employee home before their shift starts, or before it’s over, you may still owe them a few hours of pay. And exempt employees in all states must be paid for a full day of work, even if sent home early due to illness, if any work at all was performed that day, including work from home.

Many employers find it advantageous to offer paid sick leave so that employees who are under the weather don’t have to worry about receiving a smaller paycheck and are less likely to come in and spread their germs. They can focus on getting rest and feeling better so they can return to work healthy and productive.

Laura has 7 years of HR experience, spanning public- and private-sector work in the education, transit, and insurance industries. After completing a B.A. in Asian Studies from Knox College, she received her M.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from University of New Haven along with graduate-level certificates in Human Resources Management and Psychology of Conflict Management. Laura enjoys fencing, baking, cross-stitching, and spending time with her husband and two cats.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

HR March Tip of the Month

By |March 5th, 2019|

Spring Cleaning
With year-end and first-of-the-year goals out of the way and a lull between holidays, there’s no better time to do some organizational spring cleaning. As many experts in tidying up and clearing clutter will tell you, a clean space with room for movement (both physical and psychological) will boost productivity and just make people feel better.

You may be low on time, or you might feel ready to embrace some serious reorganization. Depending on the number of hours available, consider mixing and matching the following spring-cleaning options, from quickest to most comprehensive.

  • Do a walk-through of the workplace to ensure that pathways are clear and free of tripping or falling hazards. This may mean finding storage for unused furniture, breaking down boxes, or finding a system to organize supplies.
  • Set aside 30 to 90 minutes for employees to tidy up their work areas. Ask them to recycle or shred documents they no longer need, give their filing cabinet or desk drawers a once-over, clean up unruly cables, and wipe everything down.
  • Take an inventory of things that need to be fixed and start tackling it from most to least important. This might include a broken lock on a bathroom door, dirty walls, carpet stains, broken office chairs, fraying uniforms, mismatched name tags, or malfunctioning computer equipment.
  • Clean up personnel files. Often in the day-to-day rush, a document will just get stuffed into the middle of a file. Take time to go through and file documents in the right places, whether that’s a specific section of the file a document is already in or a different file entirely. A little maintenance on a regular basis can go a long way, especially if you receive an unexpected request for documentation, whether from a former employee, an attorney, or the state or federal Department of Labor.

The Phenomenon of Employees “Ghosting” Their Employers

By |March 4th, 2019|

Have you heard about the phenomenon of employees “ghosting” their employers? In this month’s edition of the HR Advisor Newsletter, we look at this unfortunate phenomenon, why it’s happening, and what employers can do to prevent it. We also have some spring-cleaning tips for the office and a reminder about OSHA reporting. As always, thank you for reading!

When Employment Is Impersonal, Courtesy Goes Out the Door

In December, The Washington Post reported on an odd, eyebrow-raising phenomenon in the working world: employees are “ghosting” their employers. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, ghosting is an unfortunately common practice in the dating scene. It occurs when someone breaks off a relationship without warning or notice and then ceases all communication. In the business scene, it’s a catchier, hipper name for job abandonment. Instead of giving the courtesy of a two-week notice—or any notice for that matter—employees just vanish without a word, silently moving on to their next endeavor.

These employees feel comfortable abandoning their jobs because they believe ghosting their employers won’t come back to haunt them. And they may be right. With the unemployment rate being remarkably low and the demand for skills remarkably high, workers often have the upper hand, so much so there’s sometimes little incentive for them to depart cordially. They’re not worried about a bad reference, and it’s nothing to them if their former employer now scrambles to find coverage.

While ghosting is one way that employees quit their jobs, another is when a worker takes pains to publicize their disapproval, usually online, enumerating grievance after grievance to any interested parties. Would-be employees—arguably the most interested party—only need to search a prospective employer’s name on the internet to see what the current and former employees have to say about its working conditions.

Even if most employees still leave their jobs with adequate notice and common courtesy, the fact is that workers are quitting their jobs in record numbers. With so many workers jumping from job to job—eager for better compensation, career growth, improved cultural fit, or just something different—and with the demand for work greater than the supply of unemployed workers, employers are searching for effective ways to keep talented people in their organizations and encourage positive brand messaging from their employees.

The Upside and Downside of the Employment Relationship
As we discussed in September, the best way for employers to attract and retain happy, hard-working people is to be useful to their employees, providing things such as skill and career development, coaching, meaningful work, praise and appreciation, community, and monetary rewards for organizational success (see the article linked below to learn more). These benefits are important because the employment relationship is fundamentally about usefulness. The more useful an employer can be to its employees, the more it can satisfy their wants and needs, the stronger the incentive will be for employees to stay.

But this basis of the employment relationship is also why employers and employees don’t always get along. And it is why some employees vanish without a word or—worse—with a diatribe against their employer. When people have personal connections, they’re motivated to work through their conflicting interests with respect, care, and a willingness to compromise. But if their relationship is about nothing but utility, if the other’s momentary usefulness is all that matters, then there’s no incentive to be courteous and understanding when conflicts arise or when one party ceases to be of use. The relationship can be discarded as you would discard a dead battery, bent key, or some other now-useless thing.

What’s more, some employees are going to leave no matter what an employer can offer. If retaining employees isn’t always possible, employers can still endeavor to make the departures smooth and cordial so as to minimize turnover expenses and encourage former employees to speak well of the organization.

The Role of HR
When retaining employees isn’t possible or desirable, HR still has an important role. Here are a few ways to respectfully say “goodbye” when the time comes:

1. Address poor employee performance early. When an employee isn’t getting their job done or otherwise meeting expectations, the easy answer is often to terminate their employment. However, immediate termination, particularly with no warning or attempts by the employer to correct the performance, sends the employee away with a chip on their shoulder and leaves the employer without adequate coverage. If the employee is feeling particularly retaliatory, they may launch into a public tirade online or file an unlawful termination claim. As an alternative to immediate termination, you can put the employee on a performance improvement plan. If successful, it would further both your interests and the employee’s; and, if not, it would at least show a good faith attempt to give the employee a chance to improve, reducing liability if termination becomes necessary.

2. Solicit employee feedback. As you may know, most employees in the United States are either unengaged or actively disengaged. Disengaged employees are more likely to complain about their jobs or their bosses or other work-related matters, but probably not to their employers. Some of their complaints might be legitimate and worth addressing, but if they’re only talking to each other or to people outside the company, employers can’t do anything to resolve the specific problems, and the negativity only begets more negativity. The solution: collaborate with employees to identify and address problems in the workplace. You can solicit direct feedback through surveys, stay interviews, exit interviews, and regular check-ins between managers and subordinates. Employees will only be willing to share the concerns, however, if they believe it’s safe to do so and they trust that their employer will at least attempt, in good faith, to address their concerns.

3. Say goodbye with style. It can be sad, and an extra challenge, when good employees take jobs elsewhere. But it can also be a cause for celebration, and both the departing and remaining employees will appreciate a nice send-off, even if it’s just through a company-wide email. When you celebrate the bittersweet successes of your employees, you show you really care about their professional development and them as individuals. They move on with good will and with a good impression of their time at your organization.

It’s wonderful if employers can motivate good employees to stay with their organization, but that’s not always realistic. Since some employees—both the good and not-so-good performers—will inevitably leave the organization, it serves the interest of employers to make these terminations as smooth and respectful as possible. That reduces the chances of disengaged employees ghosting their employers or loudly announcing their displeasure to prospective customers, to job candidates, or to anyone else who will listen.

Learn More
Worried About Retention? The Best Way to Keep Employees Is to Be Useful to Them – September 2018

How should employee files be organized?

By |February 27th, 2019|

Question:
How should employee files be organized?

Answer from Angela, PHR:

First, it is important that you maintain several separate files that will contain different types of employee information. I have outlined below the organization system that we recommend as a quick reference of “what goes where.” Each section described below should be kept separately for each individual employee.

Here is the organization system that we recommend:

  • I-9 file: Keep all Form I-9s in a separate master file or three-ring binder;
  • Medical file: This file should contain everything related to an employee’s medical history, including health insurance enrollment forms. It’s important to separate this file because you cannot legally base personnel decisions, such as who gets promoted and who doesn’t, on an individual’s medical history. In addition, various privacy laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) require that you keep confidential employee medical records separate from basic personnel files. The retention period will depend on the type of record.
  • Personnel file: This file should contain items that were a factor in the employee’s hiring and employment in addition to items that will have any impact on their employment in the future. This includes performance reviews and corrective action records.
  • Payroll records file: This file should contain the employee’s W-4 and any other payroll-related documents containing the employee’s SSN or other protected information, including garnishments.
  • Injury file: Keep a file for any employee who is injured while on the job. This file should contain workers’ compensation claim records and injury reports, and any additional medical records pertaining to the injury. It’s okay to start this file only if an employee suffers an injury on the job.
    These files should be kept in a secure location that is only accessible to those in the HR function or with a legitimate need to review the information—for instance, in locked cabinets in a locked HR office. This information can be stored electronically if that makes more sense for your business. Just ensure that it’s backed up to prevent data loss, and well-secured.

There are specific requirements for storing I-9s electronically, which are probably good standards for any kind of electronic data storage. If you’d like more information about that, search for I-9 storage in the HR Support Center.

Angela has extensive experience in HR, conflict management and employee relations. She spent several years working as a high volume (and full cycle) recruiter for a large multi-channel retailer. Angela earned her B.A. in English Literature and Criminology from the University of South Florida and also holds a paralegal certification from Saint Petersburg College. Angela also is certified to investigate Federal sector EEO claims of discrimination.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Federal Law Alert | OSHA Electronic Reporting

By |February 25th, 2019|

 OSHA Electronic Reporting of Form 300A Data Due March 2
All OSHA-covered employers (those not on this list) with 250 or more employees, and those in certain high-risk industries with 20-249 employees, must electronically report their Calendar Year 2018 Form 300A data by March 2, 2019. Reporting must be done through the online Injury Tracking Application (ITA).

Discipline Employees Not Turning In Timesheets?

By |February 14th, 2019|

Question:
Can we discipline employees who don’t turn in their timesheets?

Answer from Kate, SHRM-CP:

Yes, provided that the discipline doesn’t involve withholding, reducing, or delaying pay, as employers are required to pay for actual hours worked regardless of whether employees have fulfilled their timekeeping duties. In fact, we recommend using a progressive disciplinary process when an employee fails to complete their paperwork on time, as this is considered a failure to perform an important job duty. It’s really the only legal and effective method we have found to address a lack of timekeeping paperwork once timesheet procedures have been thoroughly explained and where the problem persists.

Disciplinary measures may include a verbal warning, written warning, disciplinary suspension, or termination of employment. Oftentimes, however, employees only need a gentle reminder to get back in the habit of turning in their timesheets.

Kate has several years of experience working in customer service and quickly moved into HR. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Kate loves to explore the country with her husband and friends. .

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support Center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

California Law Alert | Reporting Time Pay

By |February 13th, 2019|

California Law Alert
February 12th, 2019

Employees Who Are Required to Call in Before a Shift Must Receive Reporting Time Pay
Last week, a California Appeals Court ruled that requiring an employee call in two hours before a shift to see if they are needed must result in the employee receiving reporting time pay.

Reporting time pay is compensation that is required by California Wage Order 7 when a non-exempt employee reports to work but is either immediately sent home or given a shorter shift than originally scheduled. Prior to this case, “reporting to work” was understood to mean that the employee physically shows up at the workplace. The court last week, however, determined that an employee calling in to see if they need to show up for their shift also counts as reporting to work.

According to Wage Order 7, employees who report in for work (physically or, now, via phone) must be paid for half their usual or scheduled day’s work, but no less than two hours and no more than four hours. These hours should be paid at their regular rate of pay.

The court made it clear that not every instance of an employee checking their schedule would trigger reporting time pay. In this case, employees were required to call in just two hours in advance and subject to discipline if they didn’t; the court felt this clearly warranted pay. A different result may have been reached had employees been told to call in 12 hours in advance or to check a schedule posted online. Unfortunately, the court didn’t draw a line for employers.

In the words of the court, “on-call shifts burden employees, who cannot take other jobs, go to school, or make social plans during on-call shifts—but who nonetheless receive no compensation . . . unless they ultimately are called in to work. This is precisely the kind of abuse that reporting time pay was designed to discourage.”

We recommend that employers who have employees call in to verify shifts on the day-of either change their scheduling practices to eliminate the need to call in or budget for reporting time pay.

Questions?
Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]
Fax: (916) 496-8754

Legal Disclaimer: The HR Support Center is not engaged in the practice of law. The content in this article should not be construed as legal advice, and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you have legal questions concerning your situation or the information you have obtained, you should consult with a licensed attorney. The HR Support center cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

Minimum Salary For Exempt Employees

By |February 4th, 2019|

Did You Know?

As you may recall, a new minimum salary for exempt employees almost took effect in December of 2016. The minimum salary of $23,660 per year was set to increase to $47,476 per year, but a last-minute ruling from a federal judge put that all on hold. While the Department of Labor (DOL) would likely have fought for their new rule under a Democratic administration, the Trump administration took over just a few months later, and the new rule was effectively laid to rest. Due to the nature of the court system, however, the earlier increase isn’t completely dead. If the DOL does not create another new rule before Trump leaves office, the $47,476 minimum could come roaring back to life.

Knowing that the 2016 rule could rise again and that $23,660 (set in 2004) is no longer a reasonable number, the DOL under President Trump has been taking steps – albeit slow ones – to come up with a less drastic rule. Pre-rulemaking has been underway for a year and half, and in March we expect to see the actual proposed rule published for public comment.

Given the rate of inflation since 2004 and the number the current Secretary of Labor suggested during his confirmation hearings, we anticipate that the proposed rule will include a minimum salary for exempt employees between $30,000 and $35,000 annually. If a new rule is made, it’s unlikely that it would take effect before spring of 2020, and employers will almost certainly have at least six months’ notice to make the necessary changes.

Vital Signs Insurance Services, Inc.
PO Box 6360
Folsom, CA 95630
Phone: (916) 496-8750
Email: [email protected]

Copyright ©2019 All Rights Reserved – Terms and Legal Conditions.Legal Disclaimer: This message does not and is not intended to contain legal advice, and its contents do not constitute the practice of law or provision of legal counsel. The publisher cannot be held legally accountable for actions related to its receipt.

OSHA 300A Forms Must Be Posted by February 1

By |February 2nd, 2019|

Reminder: OSHA 300A Forms Must Be Posted by February 1 and New Final Rule Released

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates that all employers who are required to maintain the OSHA 300 Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses post a summary of the previous year’s log between February 1st and April 30th each year, even if no incidents occurred in the preceding calendar year. The summary (OSHA Form 300A) must be certified by a company executive and posted in a conspicuous location where notices to employees are customarily posted.

All employers who had more than ten employees at any point during the last calendar year are covered by this requirement unless they qualify as part of an exempt low-risk industry. A full list of the industries exempt from OSHA routine record-keeping requirements (including posting Form 300A) can be found in the Guides section of the HR Support Center by searching “partially exempt industries.” It’s called “OSHA Fact Sheet: Reporting and Record-keeping Rule and Partially Exempt Industries List.”

The OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (Form 300), Summary (Form 300A) and Instructions can be found in the Forms section of the HR Support Center by searching for “OSHA Form 300.” It’s called “OSHA Form 300, 300A, 301, and Instructions.”

Electronic submission requirements:
OSHA-covered employers with 250 or more employees, and those in certain high-risk industries with 20-249 employees, must electronically report their Calendar Year 2018 Form 300A data by March 2, 2019. Reporting must be done through the online Injury Tracking Application (ITA).

All affected employers must submit injury and illness data in the ITA online portal, even if the employer is covered by a State Plan that has not completed adoption of their own state rule.

Additional information, covered-employer criteria, FAQs, and the Injury Tracking Application can be found on OSHA’s site, here.

New Final Rule Regarding Electronic Submission of Form 300 and Form 301
OSHA recently published a Final Rule to amend its record-keeping regulations to remove the requirement to electronically submit information from the OSHA Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and OSHA Form 301 (Injury and Illness Incident Report) for establishments with 250 or more employees that are required to routinely keep injury and illness records. These requirements were never enforced but are now officially off the books.

There’s a Loneliness Epidemic in the Workplace

By |February 1st, 2019|

There’s a Loneliness Epidemic in the Workplace – Here’s How Employers Can Help

Right now, in workplaces across the country, people are going about their jobs, seemingly content, but deep down feeling the ache of loneliness. They aren’t necessarily working alone or all by themselves with no one to talk to. They may be chatting amicably with customers on the phone or in person. Or they may work from home, but are in frequent communication with their coworkers through digital channels. Whatever the case, these lonely workers feel isolated and unnoticed.

Given all the means that people have at their disposal to connect with each other in the workplace – face-to-face meetings, email, social media, messaging apps – one might have expected loneliness in the workplace to be diminishing. Unfortunately, the number of communication channels hasn’t helped. Although technology may have increased the quantity of connections people have in the workplace, it hasn’t improved the quality of those connections.

Why It Matters at Work
The rate of American adults who report suffering from loneliness has doubled since the 1980s – it’s now at about 40%. Vivek Murphy, who served as Surgeon General from 2014 to 2017, has called loneliness an epidemic, and the negative health effects of loneliness explain why: it can lead to reduced life expectancy, limited performance and creativity, and impaired reasoning. According to Harvard Business Review, lonelier workers “perform more poorly, quit more often, and feel less satisfied with their jobs.” They report fewer promotions, more job switching, and lower job satisfaction.

To make matters worse, lonely employees are sometimes perceived to be less approachable, less committed, and less trustworthy. In turn, these perceived qualities obstruct communication, collaboration, and teamwork. A person’s loneliness can lead to misperceptions and misjudgments that ripple through a workplace – it’s a classic downward spiral.

But there is some good news! According to Gallup, people who have a best friend at work “are seven times as likely to be engaged in their jobs, are better at engaging customers, produce higher quality work, have higher well-being, and are less likely to get injured on the job.” In contrast, “those without a best friend in the workplace have just a 1 in 12 chance of being engaged.” Gallup found that the single best predictor of higher well-being and engagement was “not what people are doing – but who they are with.” The takeaway for employers: “small increases in social cohesiveness lead to large gains in production.”

What Employers Can Do
Employers can’t take away the loneliness employees feel or make friends for them, but they can have a positive impact by helping to make it easier for lonely employees to be noticed and find friends at work. Here are four things employers can do:

  1. Realize that people in your organization may be lonely. Loneliness doesn’t always manifest itself in ways that you’re likely to notice amid the hustle and bustle of your daily activities. You can, however, get a sense for whether loneliness is an issue by observing whether some (or many) employees seldom socialize with others or don’t seem to have close friends at work. Remember, though, that not everyone socializes the same way, and not everyone may want a friend at work. As an employer it’s not your job to ensure that everyone has a work buddy, but you should provide an environment where building friendships is possible.
  2. Make room for friendships to grow. Friendships take time and energy to develop and maintain, and employees will only be able to make friends if they have time and energy to do so. If they’re overwhelmed with responsibilities from the start of the work day until its end, they won’t be able to make meaningful connections at work. Step one for many employers will be to ensure that work is not taking place at such a break-neck pace that employees barely have time to get a cup of coffee, let alone have a meaningful conversation with a coworker. This is a good practice not only because helping employees foster friendships is the right thing to do, but also because it will reduce turnover and increase engagement. Breaks have also been shown, time and again, to increase overall productivity.Setting aside break areas away from where people need to focus on work can be helpful, as can encouraging a culture in which employees know it’s fine, within limits, to socialize with one another during the work day. You can also look for ways to bring people from different teams together, such as multi-team lunches or as part of multi-team collaborations; employees might find that there are people on other teams with whom they feel a real connection.
  3. Create traditions for people to get to know one another. These are especially important for new employees who don’t yet know anyone. Obviously, you will introduce new employees to the team, but do so over a span of time and make sure there are follow-up opportunities for people to build on these initial introductions. Sending new employees to lunch or happy hour with just two or three others is a great way to help them make some quick connections that are deeper than a handshake and exchange of job titles.Mentorship programs, monthly social events, and group volunteer efforts are other ways to get people talking outside their typical work environment. But these opportunities need to arise often enough that employees can get beyond small talk and start to feel like they actually know one another.
  4. Offer an employee assistance program. Feelings of loneliness often go hand-in-hand with depression, anxiety, and stress. Creating space to make friends at work won’t necessarily solve these deeper issues, but you may be able to provide resources to help employees improve their mental state overall. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) give employees access to expert, confidential assistance for a range of issues such as mental health conditions, substance abuse, relationship troubles, and financial problems. These services are provided through an EAP Provider, which connects employees with the appropriate resources and professionals.

The workplace can be a lonely place, and when it is, people and productivity can suffer. By raising awareness about workplace loneliness and taking steps to create an environment in which people can easily make friends, employers can help bring the benefits of friendship to their employees and to themselves.