The Do’s and Don’ts When Onboarding New Hires

Yes, hiring new employees is a complex process.  Yes, you have spent a good amount of time and money to find smart and innovative talent to add to your team.  Yes, you have set high goals and expectations for your new employees to meet.  Yes, you know that employee retention begins on the first day of the job.  Yes, you know the best retention tool you have is the employee’s overall relationship with his or her manager.  And yes, you know how powerful first impressions are.  Unfortunately, many employers know all of those facts yet stop short of completing a proper onboarding process to allow new employees to seamlessly integrate into their companies.

As a business owner, you have a lot at stake in how you welcome and orient your new employee.  Here are the do’s and don’ts when onboarding new employees:

Do’s:

  • Create a written draft of your orientation and onboard plan detailing how new employees can be efficiently and seamlessly onboarded. What will their first day look like?  Who will they meet with and what topic will they discuss?  How will you teach them what their responsibilities are?  Who will they directly work with?  How will they learn your internal company systems?
  • Group new hires together. If possible, try to schedule new hires on the same or similar start dates so they can be educated together.  Not only will this save you time, but it will give your new hires a friendly face or two with whom to learn together.  This also presents a great opportunity for people from different departments or teams to meet and it will build cross-functional relationships in your company.
  • Send an email out to everyone in the company a couple of days before the employee’s start date so they are prepared to welcome the new hire.
  • Prior to their start date, inform new hires of what they should bring on the first day, i.e., two forms of ID, a computer, etc. Let your new hires know not only the office address, but if there is a specific place they are to park or if your office is close to a subway stop to add less stress to their commute on the first day.  Don’t forget to confirm their start date, start time, work dress code, and exactly where to go.
  • Introduce new employees to their team members and assign each a mentor. A mentor can help new employees integrate into their new workplaces and interested, friendly coworkers will increase employee retention and satisfaction from the first day on the job.
  • Schedule lunches throughout the first week for the new hire to meet with different coworkers. The new hire’s direct supervisor and mentor should also attend these lunches.  You want to provide the new hire with the opportunity to meet many coworkers from the company so they feel welcomed and part of the new workplace.
  • Create an employee playbook that provides a simple overview of your company. Include your values, mission, perks and policies.  It is also a good idea to include who your stakeholders or customers are, what success looks like for your organization, a description of your company’s culture, and who your team members are (including pictures and  a fun fact about each teammate).
  • Develop a list of FAQ’s. Compile the 5 to 10 questions every new hire asks you within the first six months and provide detailed answers.  You should review this list of questions during the onboarding process.  Not only will this save you time but it will allow your new hires to answer their own questions without seeking out your guidance as often.
  • Set up attainable 30, 60 and 90 day goals. By providing a few easily achievable goals new hires will find immediate success and will be re-energized about their decision to join your company.

Don’ts

  • Forget the new hire’s start date and leave them at reception for a half-hour while the reception staff figures out what to do with them or who is expecting them. It is important to welcome new hires in a supportive, informed way.  Reception staff should be prepared to greet the new employee. Remember, welcoming new hires at reception is the first impression you get to make.
  • Leave the new employee in the noisy lobby to fill out paperwork and read and sign off on a 100 page employee manual for an hour. Instead, send the manual and paperwork to the new employee ahead of time.  Build in a little bit of time during the first day for HR to answer any questions they may have.  But remember, the first day is your last chance to make a positive impression on your new employee.  Don’t waste that first day by having the new employee fill out paperwork and only meet with HR.
  • Fail to assign or set up the new employee’s workstation. There is no better way to completely turn off an employee than scrambling to organize a work area, set up an email address, phone system, or computer for the new employee.  A desk or office is the new employee’s “home” at your company, so setting it up before hand and even personalizing it with a nameplate lets new hires know you care about them.  Employers may also include a welcome gift – such as a mug with the company’s logo on it or a stack of business cards.
  • Only show the new hire where their work area is. Give new hires a tour of the office and be sure to include where the kitchen, break room, supply closets, and restrooms are located.  There is nothing worse than having a new hire aimlessly wander around the office looking for supplies or the kitchen and not having the confidence to simply ask.
  • Assign a new hire to another employee who has a major, career-impacting deadline in a couple of days. Or worse, schedule the new hire to start their new job while their manager is on vacation or out of the office. Remember, new hires have needs and require guidance.  A manager who shows they have the time commitment to onboard and mentor a new employee will ensure a long, fruitful relationship.
  • Give the new employee busy work that is not related to their core job description because their supervisor is busy. New employees want to feel productive and immediately valued.  Let new employees make a contribution to their team on the first day.
  • Forget to check in with new hires on a regular basis over the first 90 days of their employment. Remember the 30, 60 and 90 day goals you set out for your new hire to achieve?  If you don’t check in regularly with them how will you know if they have met your expectations?  Schedule either a formal or informal meeting, even a meal with the person to check in.  This is also an opportunity for you to get feedback on the onboarding process as a whole.  It is critical for employers to use feedback from new hires to improve their onboarding process and to increase employee retention and overall morale.  Have new employees tell you what they liked best and how the orientation process could be improved, made faster, easier or more engaging.  Not only will you receive valuable feedback, but you will establish the clear message that your company values that new employee’s input and you expect them to speak their mind to better improve the organization.

Remember, you are onboarding a person, not onboarding the role.  It’s easy to skimp on the orientation process by thinking “they’re smart, they’ll figure it out.”  Failing to think of the onboarding process as an opportunity to inspire new employees increases the chance you will make a bad first impression on new hires.  Follow these do’s and don’ts when onboarding new employees and you will increase productivity and employee retention.



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Skip the Drama: 10 Tips To Terminating Employees With Minimal Risk

It does not matter how successful your business is or how great of a boss you are, eventually you will need to terminate employees. Terminating employees is one of the most difficult tasks for a business owner. More than ever it is crucial that business owners take the correct steps to terminate employees so as to avoid any drama. Social media and employer rating sites such as Glassdoor provide frustrated and angry ex-employees with ample outlets to air grievances online.

A business can minimize its risks and any drama that could lead to potential lawsuits by taking precautions and implementing termination policies that protect the company. The following are 10 tips on how to terminate an employee without negative consequences:

Implement a termination policy personalized to your business: Don’t just use any policy manual you find on Google. First, include a disclaimer up front in the policy manual that explains the employee handbook is not a contract of employment. This will ensure that none of the provisions in the handbook may constitute a binding commitment that the company or you could breach. Second, realize that in an “at-will” employment state, which New York is, the at-will relationship is a very useful defense in an action brought for wrongful termination. It is a good idea to reinforce throughout the handbook that an at-will relationship exists. There are many ways this can be done. For example, include (1) a statement that preserves your right to change the conditions of the at-will employment; (2) a provision affirming that each party has a right to terminate the employment at will, with or without notice; and (3) a policy that an at-will relationship exists unless provided for otherwise in a written, formal employment contract that is signed by the designated officer and the employee.

Have employees annually reaffirm their written acknowledgement that they have received the handbook: A written and executed acknowledgment can protect against potential lawsuits where the employee acknowledges and affirms receipt of the employee handbook; where:
The handbook clearly states an at-will employment relationship exists;
There are no promises of advancement or tenure made;
The handbook states the amount of accumulated paid time off;
The handbook provides employees the opportunity to affirm they have not been subject to discrimination or harassment;

Employees should be instructed not to sign the acknowledgement receipt unless he/she has read and understood the handbook.

Ensure everything is documented: By taking the time to maintain proper, detailed and consistent documentation employers can overcome claims of wrongful termination, discrimination, claims of defamation and wage and hour liability. Be sure to document verbal and written warnings and the employee’s receipt of the warning and discipline. Employers should also conduct and retain performance reviews on regular basis. It is important to ensure all reviews are accurate and if need be, reflect an employee’s lacking performance, if that review is to be the basis of future termination.

Standardize your termination process: Employers must ensure they appear nondiscriminatory and neutral when terminating employees. It is important for employers to recognize that your vulnerability to a potential lawsuit will greatly increase if the employee fits into one of the following categories:
Is over the age of 40;
Has been injured on the job or filed a workers’ compensation claim;
Is disabled in any way;
Has been involved in a sexual harassment dispute;
Has the ability to claim any discrimination based on national origin, religion, sexual preference, ethnicity or other grounds;
Is a minority or a woman with any conceivable discrimination claim;
The employee has been a whistle-blower;

Employers must be careful to be consistent and impose the same standards to all employees. Hence, any termination documentation must be objective and supported by observed and recorded behaviors instead of character judgments. An employer’s reasons for termination should be consistent and not result in firing one employee while only giving a warning to another employee for the same behavior.

Spend as much time deciding to fire someone as you did to hire them: Before terminating an employee’s employment, review the employee’s file, speak to their direct supervisor to get their thoughts, and ensure you have provided the employee with an opportunity to perform and improve at their job. It may be late on a Friday afternoon and you are angry at the employee, but taking the time to think about your decision may prevent an unwanted lawsuit.

Firing an employee for cause: If an employer fires an employee for cause, i.e., an act of insubordination, it may seem like an easy decision, however, employers should still take precautions even in the most extreme cases. Of course, if there is a safety concern you may ask the employee to immediately leave the premise. Still employers must document what happened and should include descriptions of behaviors and refrain from making judgments. As well, if you are firing an employee for cause, you should consider the employee’s protected status and how it relates to their position. For example, if you fire a woman from a department that is made up of 12 women, the woman’s protected status does not present the same risk that would exist if she were only 1 of 2 women in the department.

Always be truthful: Do not provide an untruthful reason for why you are firing the employee. For instance, if the employee was a poor performer but that was not well-documented in the employee’s file, you should not tell the employee you are firing him/her to downsize the business. If you plan on re-filling that position, it is not a layoff or downsizing. It might be easier to lie than to tell the employee he was a poor performer and unreliable. But it is easier for a jury to think that your lie was really an excuse for discrimination.

Figure out the finances: Before entering a meeting to fire an employee, you should figure out how much money the employee is owed. Employers must realize that the employee will go home upset and may soon seek out an employment lawyer because the ex-employee has financial responsibilities. For example, feeding a family. Your lack of preparedness and respect by not knowing the amount the employee is owed for expenses, time off, or other issues may lead to expensive lawsuits. It is also a good idea to have someone from your HR department explain any benefits the ex-employee might be entitled to.

Hold a proper termination meeting: If the employee to be fired is of a senior level, members of the C-suite or managers should be present in the room. If the employee is a lower-level employee, then generally the individual’s manager and HR should be present. Although most managers dread delivering the bad news, the employee’s manager should lead the conversation and let HR manage the paperwork and logistics. The meeting should be kept short, no more than 15 minutes, and the conversation should be straight to the point. You don’t need to be a boss who needs to use the termination meeting as an opportunity to win the argument. You have already won because you are firing the person. There is no reason to show any extensive evidence to support your reasons for firing the employee, you have done your job.

Remember they are just as human as you are: Finally, you should think about how you would like to be treated if you were the one being fired. Amidst all the careful communications and detailed recordkeeping that is required to avoid risk, do not forget that treating people with compassion, respect, dignity and sensitivity is the right thing to do. Offer the employee the option to clean out their office right after the meeting or arrange a time during non-business hours for them to come in, if possible. Any person tasked with firing an employee should remember this: you will have a job tomorrow, but the person you are firing will not. Employers who show respect and act with dignity throughout the process are more likely to avoid the drama and potential lawsuits that may accompany firing an employee.



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New York Legislation Update: Sexual Harassment

As part of the nationwide push to respond to the #MeToo movement and the amplified dialogue around sexual harassment in the workplace, both New York State and New York City are gearing up to implement workplace anti-sexual harassment measures.

New York’s 2019 Budget Contains Anti-Sexual Harassment Measures in the Workplace

A state budget agreement recently approved for the 2019 fiscal year includes a number of workplace anti-sexual harassment directives aimed at both government and private employers.  Among other things, these measures will:

  • Prohibit mandatory arbitration clauses included in claims for sexual harassment in the workplace: As part of the budget, the New York Civil Practice Law and Rules (“CPLR”) will be amended to void any section in an employment-related agreement entered into after the effective date of the law that requires the parties to submit sexual harassment claims to mandatory binding arbitration.  The purpose of amending the CPLR to void such agreements is to remove all insulation of sexual harassment claims from any independent court review.  The amendments to the CPLR prohibiting mandatory arbitration clauses for sexual harassment claims are set to take effect on July 11, 2018.
  • Prohibit nondisclosure clauses in sexual harassment settlements or agreements unless the complainant prefers the condition of confidentiality: This provision of the budget will amend the CPLR and New York State’s General Obligations Law to bar the use of nondisclosure clauses or agreements in any resolution or settlement of a sexual claim, unless the complainant requests and agrees to the terms of the nondisclosure clause terms.  The amendments will invalidate any such provision that aims to prevent the disclosure of the facts or circumstances that lie behind the sexual harassment claim.  If the complainant prefers to include any nondisclosure language in a settlement or agreement, the language must be provided to all parties included in the agreement.  The complainant will have 21 days to consider the agreement containing the nondisclosure clause and an additional 7 day revocation period to rescind his or her signature after signing.  The prohibitions on the use of nondisclosure clauses in settlements or agreements relating to claims of sexual harassment will take effect on July 11, 2018.
  • Provide a model sexual harassment training and prevention program: The law will require New York employers to distribute written anti-harassment policies and to conduct annual anti-harassment training for all employees.  The New York State Division of Human Rights and The New York State Department of Labor will work together to create a model sexual harassment training and prevention program and a model written policy.  New York employers may either adopt the model policy or create their own policy that meets or exceeds the standards of the model policy.  These requirements will be effective as of October 9, 2018.
  • Implement workplace anti-sexual harassment measure for public employers and state contractors: The budget includes anti-sexual harassment directives that specifically target public employers and state contractors.  Any state employee found culpable of committing sexual harassment will be required to reimburse any public entity or state agency-funded damages for award payments within 90 days of the award payout by the State.  Further, any bid for a state contract must include language avowing that the bidding entity has enacted a written policy on workplace sexual harassment and that all of its employees receive annual training on sexual harassment prevention.  Absent a signed statement providing the reasons why the entity cannot meet those requirements, a bid that does not include such language shall not be considered.  The budget provisions for workplace anti-sexual harassment for public employers and state contractors are proposed to take effect on January 1, 2019.
  • Extend liability for employers to sexual harassment against “non-employees”: The budget also amends the New York State Executive Law to broaden liability under the New York State Human Rights Law to permit sexual harassment claims by “non-employees” in their workplace.  Under the amendment, an employer may be held liable to a consultant, vendor, contractor, subcontractor, or other person providing services under a contract in the employer’s workplace with regards to sexual harassment where the employer, its supervisors or agents knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to take appropriate and immediate corrective action.  When reviewing such cases, the deciding party will take into account the employer’s control over the conduct of the harasser.  These protections for non-employee harassment are now in effect.

The above budget provisions were signed into law as part of the 2019 New York State budget on April 12, 2018.

New York City Proposes Legislation Requiring Mandatory Sexual Harassment Training and an Expansion of Employers Covered under the New York State Human Rights Law.

On April 11, 2018, the New York City Council passed, as part of an 11 bill package, a bill that would require all businesses in New York City that employ at least 15 people to conduct training to prevent workplace sexual harassment.

The bill provides that the annual sexual harassment training would be effective as of September, 2018 and requires that the training includes, but need not be limited to, the following:

  • A description of sexual harassment that includes practical examples;
  • An explanation that sexual harassment constitutes unlawful discrimination under local, state and federal law;
  • A description of the internal complaint process employees may use if they are sexually harassed in the workplace;
  • A description of the complaint process that includes contact information under local, state and federal law;
  • A statement describing the importance of bystander intervention so as to alert employees as to what to do if they witness an incident of sexual harassment; and
  • A statement that the employer explicitly prohibits retaliation with examples of what constitutes retaliation.

Additionally, employers subject to the law would be required to provide managerial and supervisory personnel with additional annual workplace sexual harassment training that details their duties and responsibilities in preventing such conduct and the appropriate manner in which to handle complaints from employees.  Employers will also be compelled to maintain records of compliance with the law.  Employers who fail to maintain records of compliance are subject to potential civil penalties up to $500 for a first-time violation, and up to $2,000 for each additional violation.

The training must be “interactive” in nature, but is not required to be live.  The NYC Commission on Human Rights will be developing publicly available online training modules, which employers may use to satisfy the requirement of the law.

The legislation also includes a bill that requires all employers in New York City to post an anti-sexual harassment responsibilities and rights poster in the workplace to be provided by the New York City Human Rights Commission.  Also, an information sheet on sexual harassment must be distributed to every employee at the time of hire.  Civil penalties will be enforced against employers that fail to comply with the notification or posting requirements.

The bill awaits the signature of Mayor DeBlasio.  If enacted, it will go into effect on April 1, 2019.  By that time, New York employers will have already been implementing the requirements of the similar state law regarding sexual harassment training (discussed above) for several months.  Employers in New York City will need to be aware of, and fully compliant with, the requirement of both the state law and city law.

 

Article Prepared By:

Lisa Skruck, SilvermanAcampora LLP



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Let’s Get Legal: Guidelines for Summer Intern Compensation

As the beginning of summer nears, college students start applying for summer internship programs.  It is now time for employers and businesses to review their internship program policies.  College students rely on summer internships to gain valuable professional experience and in exchange, companies provide unpaid internships as an opportunity to let students learn from behind the scene and get a foothold into a new industry.  But is an unpaid internship legal?

Employers must ensure when creating an internship program without providing compensation that they comply with local, state and federal laws governing whether participants of their unpaid internship programs are interns or employee.  Here’s how you may determine if your business’ unpaid internship program is legal.

As of January 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) announced its switch from the old six factor test to the new primary beneficiary test to determine if an intern for a private sector for profit business considered an employee under the FLSA.  The primary beneficiary test includes seven flexible elements that will be applied to each case individually.  The seven elements of the primary beneficiary test include:

  1. Whether the intern and employer clearly understand there is no expectation of compensation. If there is any promise of compensation, whether express or implied, it suggests that the intern is an employee.
  2. The degree to which the internship program provides training as would be comparable to that which would be provided in an educational environment, including hand-on and clinical training provided by educational institutions.
  3. If the internship is connected to the intern’s formal education institution by receiving academic credits or the integration of coursework.
  4. If the employer accommodates the intern’s academic commitment by following the academic calendar.
  5. Whether the length of the internship program is limited to a period in which the program provides the intern with beneficial learning.
  6. The extent to which the work the intern performs complements rather than displaces the work paid employees perform, while affording significant educational benefits to the intern.
  7. If both the employer and intern understand that the internship program will be conducted without leading to a job offer once duration of the internship has expired.

How are these elements applied? Under what circumstances under the FLSA will the internship not be compliant, if it doesn’t meet all factors? If it does meet some, but not all?

New York has enacted separate criteria in addition to the federal standards to determine whether an intern working for a for-profit business is subject to the New York State Minimum Wage Act and Wage Orders.  Generally, an intern will only be considered exempt from the requirements of Minimum Wage Act and Orders if the intern is not in an employment relationship.  Under New York labor standards an employment relationship does not exist if all of the following criteria are met:

  1. Although the training includes actual operation at the employer’s facilities, the training the intern receives must be similar to training provided in an educational program (e.g., the program builds on a classroom or academic experience, not the employer’s operations; the intern is not performing routine work of the business on a regular basis and the business does not depend upon the work of the intern).
  2. The training must be for the benefit of the intern and any benefit to the employer must be merely incidental.
  3. The work the intern perform does not displace regular employees and the intern work under close supervision (e.g., intern’s job shadow an employee to learn certain functions, under the constant supervision of regular employees). It should be noted that interns will be viewed as employees if the business would need to hire more staff or require existing employees to work more hours to do the interns’ work.
  4. The activities of interns do not provide an immediate advantage to the employer and on occasion, the employer’s operations may actually be impeded.
  5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job once the internship has ended and the intern is free to accept a job elsewhere in the same field.
  6. Interns must be notified in writing, prior to the start date of the internship, that they will not receive any compensation and are not considered employees for minimum wage purposes.
  7. All clinical training is performed at the direction and under the supervision of people who are experienced and knowledgeable of the activity.
  8. Interns cannot receive employee benefits including, but not limited to, health and dental insurance, retirement or pension credit, and free or discounted goods and/or services from the employer.
  9. The training is general and will prepare interns to work in any similar business. The program may not be specifically designed for a job with the employer that offers the program.
  10. The employer’s screening process for accepting interns into its program is not the same as for employment and does not appear to be for that purpose. The screening may only use criteria relevant for admission to an independent education program.
  11. Any postings, solicitations, or advertisements for the internship must clearly discuss training or education, instead of employment, although an employer may indicate a qualified graduate may be considered for employment.

Essentially, if employers still want to proceed with an unpaid internship program, they must make sure the program includes a strong educational component.  Employers must understand that merely being associated with a university or other institution of education does not make an unpaid internship legally sound.

Here are some key tips employers must consider if they choose to offer an unpaid internship program:

  1. Create a formal internship program that includes scheduled start and end dates.
  2. Institute a method to maintain a record of the hours worked.
  3. Be certain the internship program is not merely a substitute for paid, regular employees or as a trial period.
  4. Include in all posting, advertisements or solicitations that applicants eligible for college credit are preferred.
  5. Provide an offer letter in writing to the intern stating the internhip is unpaid and that a job is not guaranteed.

Be sure to review and update your company’s policies regarding unpaid internship programs to be certainly they comply with federal and state standards.

 

Article Prepared By:

Haley Trust, SilvermanAcampora



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Mixing Business With Pleasure: Dating Policies in the Workplace

In this day and age, every company should enact a workplace dating policy, or review or update its current policy.  In the absence of a dating policy or when there is an unclear policy, an office relationship can have harmful effects.  For instance, if the couple’s relationship acrimoniously ends, employers may face legal consequences including charges of sexual harassment.  Employers need to understand that maintaining a harmonious and productive work environment is vital to a company’s profitability and success.  Hence, it is essential that employers enact or revise their company’s dating policies.

Based on the amount of time most people spend at work, it is likely a couple would meet at work.  The workplace is a unique environment that provides a pre-selected pool of people who share one important area of common ground:  the workplace.  It is also likely that coworkers will date because they see each other every day and live within a reasonable distance from their office and each other.

There are various consequences that stem from workplace romances.  Aside from the legal consequences that may arise out of dating in the workplace, interoffice relationships also include other potential pitfalls prompting employers to ban coworkers from dating.  Employers may fear:

  • Favoritism: This is a risk if one partner in the relationship is in a supervisory position or otherwise has the ability to grant favors for the other.
  • Productivity losses: These may arise if there is too much time spent on personal pursuits rather than work.  Office relationships may also create gossip and become a distraction for other employees.
  • Retaliatory behavior: If the relationship ends badly, the ex-couple may not choose to work amicably with each other.  Further, if the animosity escalates and one former partner has the ability to give negative reviews, demote, or terminate the other, the company may face potential lawsuits.
  • Security issues: It is possible that a personal romantic dispute may become violent.
  • Reputation damage: If a relationship between a supervisor and a subordinate is discovered, this could not only damage the both of their reputations, but could lead to loss of confidence from shareholders or clients.
  • Turnover: As a result of relationship problems, there is a greater chance that one or both of the partners will choose to leave the company to remedy the situation.  Moreover, this is also a concern when the relationship is going well because a partner may feel their options are limited at the company because of the relationship.

However, a complete ban on any workplace romantic involvement carries its own consequences.  Many people meet at work before they initiate a romantic relationship.  Enacting a total prohibition on inter-company dating can decrease morale and possibly result in the loss of employees who wish to date coworkers but cannot.  Practically speaking, this type of dating policy is incredibly difficult to enforce and this type of policy is seen as onerous, overreaching and intrusive.

Employers should enact a dating policy that will reduce potential legal liability.  Short of banning all workplace dating, an employer may limit the prohibition to only those relationships in which one romantic partner has a role of authority over the other or where one partner must directly report to the other partner.  This type of policy will minimize the risks associated with interoffice dating.

A common stipulation included in a workplace dating policy is to simply discourage workplace romances.  This alone may be enough to avoid some of the issues inherent in interoffice dating, but it stops short of being a complete prohibition.

Employers may also choose to prohibit employees from dating coworkers in the same department as each other.  Essentially, each partner in the relationship would not work directly with one another.

Another option in a dating policy may include a notification or disclosure of a relationship policy.  This policy would require the couple to report whenever they enter into a consensual relationship.  This type of policy will also help protect the company from later charges that the relationship was not consensual and constituted sexual harassment.  After disclosure, employers can take steps to minimize the problems associated with dating in the workplace.  For instance, employers may have couples sign acknowledgments stating they will act professionally and not act like a couple at work.  Employers can also outline the consequences of breaking the rules required of couples in the workplace.  Additionally the couple would be required to notify the employer when the relationship ends.  Since a notification and disclosure policy may seem intrusive, the manager or supervisor to whom the employees are reporting the relationship to must be required to not disclose any information provided by the couple to protect their privacy.

Whatever type of dating policy your company implements, that policy must be drafted clearly and communicated to all employees, supervisors and managers.  Moreover, it is important for such dating policy to be enforced fairly and consistently – not in a way that discriminates.  For instance, if the dating policy requires that one of the partners must leave the company if a relationship is discovered, it cannot always be the woman who is forced to leave.

Employers should also training their managers and supervisors on how to enforce the dating policy.  Enacting a formal policy does not require that a manager must write someone up every time he finds out about a casual date.  However, that manager must act immediately if productivity is affected, if there are complaints from other employees, or if conflict and gossip relating to the relationship is tearing a department apart.

Employers must realize that enacting a dating policy is not merely drafting the terms of the policy to be included in a handbook.  Absent communication to employees regarding the standards they are expected to follow and adequate training of managers and supervisors on how to enforce the policy, a dating policy merely included in your handbook is not adequate or sufficient.  Employers must follow through with all aspects of implementing a dating policy to maintain a productive and healthy workplace environment.

 

Article Prepared By:

Rita DeStefano, Director, HR Consulting

 



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No More Mr. Negative: How To Handle A Toxic Employee In The Workplace

An employee’s attitude can cause more disruption to a work environment than you thought.  The problem simply isn’t a matter of ability; rather it is a matter of attitude.  An employee’s aggressive or dysfunctional attitude can manifest itself in everything from quiet disobedience to outright insubordination.  It is important for an employer to maintain a positive and healthy work environment to ensure your company is productive and thriving.  As a business owner you must be able to address employees with attitude problems to preserve the work environment.

Here are some valuable tips on managing employee attitude issues:

  1. View the situation strictly as a BEHAVIORAL problem.  Instead of engaging in a debate about the employee’s dysfunctional or aggressive ATTITUDE it is best to view the situation merely as a BEHAVIORAL problem.

Employers should document the employee’s BEHAVIOR.  Be sure to record any specific verbal or physical actions or behaviors that distress you, damage productivity, negatively impact workplace morale, or reflect poorly on your business.  Also remember to write down nonverbal behaviors including if the employee rolls their eyes, clenches their fists, or stares into space.

  1. Pinpoint the issue to the particular problem. It will help to identify the exact type of behavior the employee’s attitude has caused.  Take a look at this list of examples to help you determine the specific issue:
  • Aggressiveness
  • Carelessness
  • Complaining
  • Insensitive to others
  • Excessive competitiveness
  • Disruptive or explosive conduct
  • Laziness
  • Inattention to work
  • Impoliteness or rudeness
  • Excessive socializing
  • Pessimistic/cynical outlook/negative posture
  1. Document the frequency of the employee’s transgressions and how they affect colleagues’ performance, the workplace environment or work flow. Be sure to list all justified business reasons as to why the behavior must cease.
  2. Speak with the employee, one-on-one. Make sure this meeting is in private and takes place when no one is around.  Explain that you wish to discuss the employee’s behavior.  Highlight situations where the employee handled themselves appropriately AND situations where their attitude caused them to behave negatively affecting those around them to be uncomfortable and ultimately having a negative impact on the company.
  3. Do not feel bad about being direct. Make known to the employee the behaviors you won’t tolerate.  It is important to clearly explain to the employee that their behavior must stop.  It is a good idea to then follow up with a description of the behavior preferred in the workplace.  For example, you might want to explain that the employee needs to be courteous, helpful and cooperative.
  4. Let the employee have an opportunity to respond. Your employee may want the chance to explain why they had a behavioral problem.  Be sure to stick to the issue and not get “smoke screened” to discussing other subjects or other people.  Stay on the subject.  The employee may not be aware what he or she is doing or may not realize how it affects the workplace environment.  Alternatively the employer may realize an employee’s actions are an indication of a more serious problem.
  5. Help the employee improve. Give the employee tips to fix their problem.  Or if the employee’s issues are caused by a problem in the workplace try to resolve that issue.
  6. Be sure to document the meeting and put the document to file. Also be sure to monitor the employee’s behavior going forward and depending on the severity, the employee should know that if no improvement is seen, “further action will be taken up to and including termination of employment.”

Bad attitudes always translate to bad behavior which ultimately affects the culture of your organization.

DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.  TAKE ACTION.

 

Article Prepared By:

Keith Frank, SilvermanAcampora LLP



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Active Shooter Response: What’s Your Emergency Plan Of Action?

In this day and age, violence can occur in any type of work environment, including the workplace.  An emergency action plan should be implemented to prepare response protocols that can be activated in a crisis situation.  A response plan targeted at workplace violence is recommended because unlike other natural disasters or hazards, workplace violence involves a thinking, mobile and dangerous human being.  Not only are there safety reasons for businesses to develop and adopt emergency action plans, but there are sound business reasons to implement these plans.  Studies have shown that up to 40% of businesses affected by a human-caused or natural disaster event never reopen.  A sound emergency action plan that is communicated to all employees and tailored towards your business specifically can save lives and your business.

Employers should take into consideration that an active shooter is usually going to have one thing in mind: cause as many casualties as he/she can until stopped.  Active shooters will generally not negotiate because his or her agenda is one thing, to cause casualties.  Once confronted by someone who can stop them, most active shooters will commit suicide.  A typical active shooter scenario is over in ten to fifteen minutes.

Historically, clients and/or customers constitute almost half of the active shooters in the workplace.  These people usually know the layout of the building, where employees are likely to be located, such as a conference room or break room, and they are aware of the planned escape routes.  Thus, your emergency action plan must be tailored to each specific work location and to employee needs and evacuation routes.

The emergency action plan needs to be communicated to employees with training on what to do, how to report an incident, whom to report to, and what red flags to be aware of throughout their daily work environment.  Employees should be encouraged to report a situation that may seem out of the ordinary or out of place.  Employers should develop a code that will notify all employees of a situation developing without alerting the shooter.  This code should be communicated to all employees during training, it should be simple to use, and sound like a routine communication in the work place.  The code simply could be asking “Alice, please call Reception” or “Alice, please report to Conference Room 3”, so long as no employee is named Alice or there is no Conference Room 3.

Employers should develop the following response policies once the code has been announced:

Run:  If employees are able to evacuate depending upon the situation they must leave all personal items behind and be vigilant to watch for any danger along the evacuation route (remember that the shooter may be familiar with the routes already set in place and could be waiting for evacuating employees at the exit point).  Employees should leave their cell phones in their pocket and keep their hands visible at all times so law enforcement may see evacuating employees are not hiding anything or holding a weapon.

Hide:  Employees choosing to hide must turn off or silence their cell phones and stay quiet.  If an employee chooses to text friends or family to have them alert the authorities, the employee should have a code word previously set up to let them know there is a legitimate emergency and that they should not call the employee back.  Hiding places must be inconspicuous, out of the active shooter’s view, and provide physical protection if shots are fired in the employee’s direction (e.g., locating a bathroom and locking the door, staying as low to the floor as possible and remaining quiet and motionless).  Employees should try to blockade the door with heavy furniture to prevent the shooter from entering the hiding place.

Fight:  Employees should remain calm, try to dial 911 and alert police to the shooter’s location, or if they cannot speak, simply leave the line open and allow the 911 dispatcher to listen.  Employees should only take action against the shooter when they believe their lives are in imminent danger.  Employees may attempt to incapacitate or disrupt the shooter by throwing items and improvising weapons, yelling, acting as aggressively as possible against the shooter, or commit themselves to defensive physical actions.  Employees should remember that anything and everything can become a weapon in this type of situation.  They should not worry about any possible harm to the shooter.

An emergency action plan must include a law enforcement response.  This portion of the plan should instruct employees to remain calm and follow officers’ instructions.  Law enforcement officers have only one thing in mind when responding to an active shooter situation, to stop the violence.  Employees must put down any items they are holding because if a law enforcement officer sees someone clutching a cell phone (a potential triggering device) or clutching a large bag, they will treat that person as a potential threat or suspicious person because the officer does not know what the shooter looks like or if the shooter is acting alone.  Employees should keep their hands visable at all times and avoid making quick movements toward the officers.  If an officer sees someone running towards them, they must make a split-second decision to determine whether or not those people are trying to harm them, and they may guess wrong, leading to unnecessary casualties.  Once the shooter is stopped or has been apprehended, law enforcement will then begin to provide aid and help victims.  Employees should notify a representative of the business once he or she has evacuated the premises.

The most important thing that employers can do is be proactive when combating workplace violence.  This includes having an emergency action plan in place and communicating that plan and training employees on what to do if the unimaginable happens.  Although an emergency action plan may not stop violence from intruding on your work environment, it will surely increase the odds and provide your employees with a better chance of surviving an active shooter situation.

 

Article Prepared By:

Haley Trust, SilvermanAcampora



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Businesses Beware! The Dangers of Providing Employment References

Employers must understand that providing references can lead to serious problems, including lawsuits for retaliation or improper interference with the former employee’s opportunity to secure a job, as well as for negligence for failure to provide information that a prospective employer needs to avoid serious harm.

It is important to establish a detailed procedure so that careless or casual responses to reference inquiries do not lead to disastrous litigation. A crucial first step is to designate who is authorized to respond to reference requests, so that replies will be consistent and in compliance with company regulations. It must be well known that only those designated may provide references, and that any questions (to an employee’s former supervisor, for example) must be referred to those designated to respond.

The safest course of action is to provide just basic information when a reference request is received.  Until recently that information included dates of employment, job title and salary.  Now, however, with some cities (including New York) and states passing legislation making inquiries about salary history unlawful, employers would be smart to omit that information entirely. That protects them from being dragged into litigation if an applicant believes his or her rights were violated because of improper gathering of wage information.

Employers acting in a consistent manner, and in good faith, meaning that any comments can be supported by objective evidence and without intent to malign with untruthful, harmful statements,  and who provide information that is clearly  job related, should be able to avoid suffering damages as a result of a law suit.  Obtaining a release and waiver from the former employee before providing a reference yields even stronger protection.

But employers must be aware that providing unjustified ‘rosy’ references which can mislead a prospective employer can also result in litigation, especially where an omission or misdirection exposes the new employer or its employees or customers to potential harm. Covering up embezzlement, child abuse, or other egregious behavior is just as negligent as providing false and malicious information.

A well thought out consistently applied process, appropriately documented with relevant and truthful information, especially where a release has been obtained, should provide an employer the protection it needs to defend itself in litigation resulting from reference responses.

 

Article Prepared By:

 

Rita DeStefano, Director, HR Consulting

 

 

 



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SEMINAR: 2018 Wage and Hour Crash Course: What You Must Know

Wed, April 11, 2018

8:30am-10:30am

Hauppauge Business Center (Adelphi University)

55 Kennedy Drive, Hauppauge, NY

In 2018, wage and hour violations are more prevalent than ever before. These complex laws are difficult to navigate and violations can be very costly, not only to your bottom line, but also to your reputation.

 

 

In this wage and hour workshop, we will explore:

* Critical details you must know about protecting your company from wage & hour lawsuits and DOL audits

* What time you must pay employees for and what time you must not * How to ensure correct job classifications (exempt, non-exempt, independent contractors)

* Most common wage violations and useful tip

* Wage and hour rules for each classifications to avoid them

Click Here to Register

Presenters:

Brian Shenker, Employment Law Attorney, SilvermanAcampora LLP

Mary Simmons, Director HR Consulting, Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl, Associates, Inc.



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SilvermanAcampora Appoints Jim Black To Partner

This week SilvermanAcampora, LLP proudly announces that Jim Black has been elected to Partner of the Firm. Jim has served as counsel to the Firm for almost three years as well as General Counsel to their client, Overseas Military Sales.  He specializes in guiding clients through the legal and procedural minefields that exist when doing business with local, state, and federal governments. Jim’s wealth of experience includes creating export compliance protocols and managing multimillion dollar bid/proposal processes.

Jim guides clients from the initial steps of government requests for information through proposal drafting, to the final contract negotiation and award. With over 25 years of experience, Jim’s gregarious personality and unique achievements as an attorney have enabled him to provide exemplary service to SilvermanAcampora’s clients. Jim is a prime reflection of the Firm’s core philosophy– Character Is Everything©.



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