Archive for October 2011

Be Proactive: Promote Healthy Habits in the Workplace

The dreadful cold and flu season is here once again. This time of year sparks new challenges for employers attempting to avoid absenteeism and lower productivity levels. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year due to the seasonal flu. It cost employers more than $10 billion in hospital costs and outpatient care and $76.7 million in absenteeism-related costs and other indirect expenses every year.

 

Symptoms of Flu

The Flu is easily spread from person to person through coughing, sneezing or even a small nasal drip. It is difficult to predict who will end up sick with the flu or when it might occur, however the symptoms are detectable. Symptoms including fever, chills, sore throat, coughing, headache, running nose, tiredness and body aches. In some cases diarrhea, vomiting and other neurological problems have also been reported. Many people recover from the flu any where from just a few days to a couple of weeks; however there are some individuals that might develop further complications such as pneumonia, sinus or ear infections which can sometimes become life-threatening.

Proactive Workplace Solutions

  • Display notices within the office to promote proactive cold and flu prevention. The CDC has some great posters on cough etiquette techniques to limit the spread of germs Cover your cough posters.  Other great reminders include washing hands frequently, routinely cleaning and disinfecting work stations and common areas and avoid sharing food or utensils.
  •  Provide hand sanitizer in common areas of the workplace, including near entrances and exists of the office. Sanitizer can be a useful alternative when washing hands may not be a convenient option.
  • Inform employees about the benefits of getting a seasonal flu vaccine. Provide information on local clinics and allow individuals some time off to get vaccinated or offer on site flu shots if possible.
  • Promote personal hygiene by having tissues and disinfectants available for use, no-touch trash cans and disposable towels to clean work surfaces.
  •  Ensure heating and ventilation systems are properly maintained and work at optimal levels to allow circulation of fresh air within the workplace.
  •  Encourage employees who have flu-like symptoms to take time off of work until they are better, to reduce spreading the virus to other employees.
  •  Establish communication protocols to identify and communicate when an employee will be out of the office and their availability to return to work.
  •  Encourage employees to live a healthy lifestyle by providing access to health related resources. View relevant health related tools and resources at  www.corporatewellness.com/.
  •  Incorporate a contingency plan that includes workplace solutions in case of an unexpected surge in absenteeism.

Delay of NLRB Poster Requirement

UPDATE: The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) poster requirement was postponed due to a pending lawsuit challenging the legality of the new rule.

On April 17th 2012, the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia placed a temporary hold on the implementation of the NLRB poster requirement, which was slated for launch on April 30, 2012. The delay will remain in effect until the court resolves the pending appeal in NAM V NLRB. In NAM V. NLRB, the trial court affirmed the right of the NLRB to require both unionized and non-unionized employers to post the notice.

The Court of Appeal’s decision to review the case comes just days after the U.S District Court of South Carolina ruled that the NLRB lacks the authority to mandate the posting requirement because it is outside of the Board’s jurisdiction. Employers are not required to post the NLRB notice regarding employee rights to unionize under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) until further notice.

According to the NLRB, the intent behind implementing the poster requirement is to increase interest in union activity among employees. This new regulation presents an opportunity for employers to inform employees about their rights and strengthen their resolution process so that employees feel comfortable approaching management without third party involvement. Employers can publicly display the notice in areas visible to all employees, regardless of whether the workplace is unionized or union-free. Additionally, employers may distribute the notice through electronic channels including email, intranet postings, and internet message boards.

The notice can be posted in English and in any other languages spoken proficiently by 20% of the employee population (if employees are not fluent in English). The NLRB provides translations of the notice in the appropriate languages via the NLRB website. Copies of the notice are available online at http://www.nlrb.gov/ and at the NLRB’s regional offices. The NLRB Rule considers failure to comply with this federal statue as an “unfair labor practice” and if reported, may lead to an investigation by the NLRB.

The agriculture, railroad, and airline industries  are exempt from compliance because employers of these industries are not within the jurisdiction of the NLRB. Likewise, certain small businesses also are not required to post the notice depending on the annual gross revene of  the business.

Below is a list of industries that fall in the jurisdiction of the NRLB based on the annual  gross revene of the business.

Industry

Annual  Gross Revene Amount at which Employers Become Responsible for Compliance

Amusement industry

$500,000

Apartment houses, condominiums, cooperatives

$500,000

Art museums, cultural centers, libraries

$1 million

Cemeteries

$500,000

Colleges, universities, other private schools

$1 million

Communications (radio, TV, cable, telephone, telegraph)

$100,000

Day care centers

$250,000

Gaming industry

$500,000

Nursing homes, visiting nurses associations

$100,000

Hospitals, blood banks, other health care facilities including doctors’ and dentists’ offices)

$250,000

Hotels and motels

$500,000

Instrumentalities of interstate commerce

$50,000

Law firms; legal service organizations

$250,000

Newspapers (with interstate contacts)

$200,000

Nonprofit charitable institutions

Depends on the entity’s substantive purpose.

Office buildings; shopping centers

$100,000

Private clubs

$500,000

Public utilities

$250,000 or nonretail standard.

Restaurants

$500,000

Social services organizations

$250,000

Symphony orchestras

$1 million

Taxicabs

$500,000

Transit systems

$250,000

Best Practices

  • Although a record of compliance is not mandatory, it is a Best Practice solution for employers to document when, where, and how the notice was posted along with a digital photograph.
  •  Employers can also request employees to sign documentation verifying the receipt of notification.
  •  Employers can discuss the notice with management to develop a strategy on how to respond to employee questions and comments about unionization.
  •  Employers can implement an open door policy to improve communication between management and employees.

Employee Rights under NLRB Rule

  • Right to form, join, or assist labor organizations.
  • Right to self-organization.
  • Right to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.
  • Right to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining.
  • Right to mutual aid or protection.

Employer Rights under NLRB Rule

  • Right to express feelings about Unions with employees during designated times.
  • Right to keep Union organizers off company property and forbid Union activities during paid working time.
  • Right to prohibit Unions from using e-mail to organize employees, if all personal use of e-mail is also prohibited.
  • Right to hire permanent replacements for employees who are on strike over economic issues.
 Click to download posters

Employee Rights under NLRB Rule (Size 11x 17):  http://www.nlrb.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1562/employee_rights_nlra.pdf

Employee Rights under NLRB Rule (Size 8.5 x 11): http://www.nlrb.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1562/employee_rights_nlra_8_5x11.pdf

Importance of Conducting a Human Resource Audit

Human Resource (HR) Audit is a comprehensive examination of organization’s current HR policies, systems, and procedures to evaluate compliance with employment regulations and identify areas for improvement. A well executed HR Audit will reveal gap areas that can potentially lead to costly legal disputes and governmental fines. It is advisable to conduct an HR audit once every year. Additionally, conducting an HR Audit after a significant change in the organization (such as reconstruction, expansion, or deduction in force), will help to identify the right practices and highlight functions in need of modification.

Types of HR Audit

  • Legal Compliance Audit: This audit ensures compliance with all applicable federal, state, and local laws and reviews whether the current HR policies and systems meet the legal requirements.
  • Comparative Audit: This audit involves comparing the current procedures of the organization with other organizations in the market that have proved to be successful in practice, in order to gain a competitive advantage.
  • Strategic Audit: This audit involves evaluating the SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) analysis of the HR processes to ensure that they are in alignment with the organization’s strategic plan.
  • Function-Specific: This audit focuses on specific functions in HR such as Training, Compensation and Recruitment and helps to measure their effectiveness in relation to long-term business goals.

The HR Audit Process Model

Process Model

 

Areas of Focus for HR Audit

  • DocumentationReview of hiring practices often uncovers inadequate documentation, such as a missing or incomplete I-9 Forms. Employers can be fined between $100 and $1,000 for each failure to accurately complete an I-9 Form. Fines for these violations can easily add up, with reported cases of repayment totaling over $100,000.
  • Personnel FilesA review of personnel files often reveals inadequate documentation of performance (e.g., informal, vague and/or inconsistent disciplinary warnings). Performance evaluations may be ambiguous, inaccurate or outdated. Personal health information is often found in personnel files, despite medical privacy laws requiring such data to be kept separate. Accurate and detailed records are essential for employers to defend any type of employee claim, particularly unemployment compensation or wrongful termination claims.
  • Attendance PoliciesControlling excessive absenteeism is a big concern for most employers. However, the complexity of family and medical leave laws, with sometimes conflicting state and federal protections, has made many formerly acceptable absence control policies unacceptable. Absences affect workers’ compensation, family and medical leave, disability accommodations and pregnancy laws. Companies often have policies that either do not comply with relevant laws and regulations or grant employees more protections than required.
  • FLSA ClassificationAlmost every company has job positions that are misclassified as exempt from overtime eligibility. The complexity of wage and hour laws and regulations makes it easy to err in classifying a job as exempt, thereby exposing the company to liability to for past overtime.
  • Time RecordsEmployers typically require nonexempt employees to punch a time clock or fill out time sheets reflecting their time worked each week. The records generated by these systems typically are the employer’s primary means of defense against wage and hour claims, so it is essential that timekeeping policies and practices by clearly communicated and consistently administered.