Creating A Climate For Effective Teamwork

March 29, 2009

The economic times are challenging every business. With this in mind, every organization needs to have its’ employees working together. By their very nature, teams are fragile organizations, subject to eroding forces of competition, selfishness, pride and so on. Supervisors must combat these forces and create a climate in which teamwork and cooperation can thrive. Here are a few suggestions to keep your team working together.

Facilitate communication between team members, post results, evaluate team performance, and set the ground rules for the team. Keep the following in mind.

1. Were clear and recognizable goals clearly established.

2. Determine objectively if the goals are achievable.

3. Establish the criteria necessary to determine whether or not the goals were achieved.

4. Make sure team members are working together to help everyone reach their goal. Admittedly, in some environments this may be a little tougher.

5. Ask yourself whether the team members gained a greater sense of spirit by working together.  If not, why not?

You also may need to improve the effectiveness of the team. Encourage them to debate the merits and drawbacks of opposing ideas and help to ensure that the team members listen to each other. At the same time make sure that they understand that criticism is a valuable tool and not a personal attack. They should think in a positive manner and not from a negative perspective.

Remember, team members will always look to management for guidance. In that reagrd, every manager must set the example. If you falter, they will see it and become easily discouraged.

As a final note, we have “Self Assessment” questionaires available. You can take it yourself and determine whether or not you need improvement in this area as a team leader. We also have “Team Assessment” questionaires available that can be passed out to your individual team members for them to assess the team from their individual perspective.

Would you like to get a set? Send your request by mail with a self-addressed stamped envelope! Yep, I am making you work a little and postage is going up–again! We a have a team building seminar available. It’s one hour. Let me know if you might be interested when you send your request in.

The Answer is …

March 26, 2009

The judge “flushed” her case down the …!!! The gender argument just did not work. With that arguement out of the way, there was no place else for her to “go!” Oh well.

Company Toilets Spark Discrimination Suit!

March 23, 2009

Well, I have heard it all! Employees often grumble about the conditions of their office buildings or workspaces. But here’s a case where those complaints turned into a lawsuit.

An employee sued over the state of her company’s bathrooms. Here’s what happened.

The employer provided single-occupancy unisex facilities. The woman complained that the bathroom she had access to was frequently dirty and “sometimes occupied when she wanted to use it.”

She repeatedly made complaints and wanted the company to install “gender-segregated restrooms,” but the company basically did nothing. They ignored her (duhhh!).

The employee filed a claim for “gender bias,” saying the lavatory’s condition created an uncomfortable situation for “female employees” (I guess the guys were either not lifting the seat or not putting it down!!).

The company argued that her complaint wasn’t severe enough to create an adverse employment action or a hostile work environment. Moreover, men were just as affected as women by the bathroom situation (I guess there were guys who would rather sit than stand?? Hell, I don’t know!).

Who won??????   Give me some opinions!! Did the court throw it out? Did the employee win??

Hey, this was just something on the “lighter side!”

Two Articles-E-Verify Program/New EEOC 2008 Statistics

March 16, 2009

The Web-based E-Verify program is currently voluntary and allows employers to check the legal status of employees by matching the name and Social Security number against databases maintained by the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The program has come under scrunity because it has been plagued by serious problems that include misidentifying U.S. citizens as not authorized for employment. In 2007, for example, the DHS commissioned an independent study which concluded that “the database used for verification is still not sufficiently up to date to meet the requirements for accurate verification.” The error rate was nearly 10 percent for foreigh-born U.S. citizens.

Federal Contractor requirements to use E-Verify which was originally scheduled to go into effect in March has been delayed. The Obama Administration plans to delay the rule until May 21, 2009 to “see what needs to be done to increase the capacity for the E-Verify system.” As currently adopted, the rule applies to contracts if the company is providing work on a federal contract only. The threshold is $100,000, but if the contract is to “furnish supplies or services for performance of a prime contract or subcontract,” it is $3,000.


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced that discrimination claims rose 44% last year. This represnted the highest increase in 44 years. A record 95,402 claims were filed. That was 15% more than 2007. Out of the claims filed, 25% were for age discrimination and 34% of the overall claims increase were for retaliation.

The drastic increase is clearly based  on the economic times. Employers have to be careful about their selection process when, and if, layoffs become necessary. I have already handled a number of age related claims through mediation this year and toward the end of 2008. Some of these individuals worked for the employer for a substantial number of years. Logically, the amount of money a long term employee is making is significantly higher than that of an employee with less senority. Business decisions are normally made based on finances and therefore reducing payroll costs is always at the top of the list.

Employers need to consider all factors prior to making the final decision on layoffs. Keeping the best employees is fine. Just make sure that when the layoff list is reviewed, the individuals being laid off are not all of the older workers above the age of forty. There should be a balanced percentage equal to the workforce. This may be difficult to do, but it will offer a certain amount of protection should the need arise.

Work Sharing In Lieu Of Lay offs? It May Be The Answer!

March 9, 2009

The Employment Development Department offers a work sharing unemployment insurance program. This program allows for the payment of Work Sharing Unemployment Insurance benefits to individuals whose wages and hours have been reduced. The program is considered a temporary and practical alternative ro layoffs. As an example, an employer with 100 employees finds it necessary to lay off 20 employees. However, rather than lay off these employees, the employer participates in the Work Sharing program. The employer gets to keep all 100 employees on the payroll but reduces the workweek from 5 days to 4 days, thereby achieving the same desired 20% reduction in payroll.  All 100 employees continue to earn wages for four days and also be eligible for Worksharing benefits for the fifth (nonworking) day. The employer gets to retain all of the trained staff and can always go back to a full week when business improves.

The employee benefits as well. As an example, an employee who normally works a five-day workweek and is paid $200. If this employee’s workweek is reduced to four days, the employee’s weekly wages would be $160. This is a 20% reduction in wages and hours. The work Sharing benefits for this employee are 20% of the Unemployment Insurance benefits the employee would receive if the employee would receive if the employee were totally unemployed. If the employee’s weekly benefit is $91.00, the employee would qualify for $18.00 in Work Sharing benefits. This results in a reduction in gross wages of only $22.00 for that week ($160 + $18=$178).

Any employer may participate who has a reduction in production, services, or other conditions that cause the employer to seek an alternative to layoffs may participate in the Work Sharing program. The specific requirements are simple. A minimum of two employees, comprising at least 10% of the employer’s regular work force or a unit of the work force, must be affected by a reduction in wages and hours worked. Second, the reduction in wages and hours worked also must be at least 10%.

To  participate in the program the employer needs to contact the EDD and and complete a  “Work Sharing Application.” All work sharing plans are approved for a six-month period. For further information call 916-464-3300.

COBRA Subsidy and Unemployment Benefits-Two Parts Of The Stimulus Package!

March 2, 2009

President Obama intends to make changes that will definitely impact the work environment. The recent stimulus package does include benefits that employers and employees should know about. A COBRA subsidy is one of them, and an extention of unemployment benefits is another!

In a nutshell, certain employees affected by “involuntary termination” (which includes layoffs) between September 1, 2008 and January 10, 2010, will be eligible to receive a 65% on COBRA premiums. Hold on, let me finish! The 65% premium subsidy will be paid directly to “employers” in the form of a payroll tax credit.

Employees who lose their jobs due to “foreign” competition will also be eligible for the subsidy if their former employer has applied for relief under the Trade Act of 2002. The subsidy is available until the former employee becomes eligible for another employer-sponsored health plan or for a period of nine months-whichever comes first. Employees who earned more than $145,000 (or $250,000 for couples) per year are not eligible for the subsidy.

Workers will be able to sign up for the subsidy beginning March 1, 2009. COBRA notices, which employers are required to provide departing employees, will need to include information about the new subsidy. Within the next 30 days, the U.S. Department of Labor plans to draft a model notice. I will keep you posted on this and have a copy for you as it becomes available.

The stimulus package, as noted above, also extends for nine months a program that provides former employees with an additional seven weeks of unemployment insurance benefits, and increases weekly unemployment checks by $25.00 (federal involvment in funding unemployment benefits will end after March 10, 2010). In addition, workers will not owe federal income tax on the first $2,400 of unemployment insurance funds they received.

We have received calls from concerned employers asking about the depleted EDD funds and how that will impact their former employees. Really, don’t be concerned! They will collect their benefits and now that the California budget has been agreed upon plus the monies promised to some of the “needy” states by the federal government they will be fine. The real impact will be on the employer’s reserve accounts. It could take a few years to get the unemployment tax rates on the decline.