Employee “Bill of Rights”

January 27, 2014

Employers should have a stated goal to create a framework that ultimately increases the working relationship between their employees and supervisors. Ultimately it will improve productivity but more importantly it may well create a more harmonious work environment. It is a little known fact that there are state and federal guidelines that all employers are required to follow. Let’s put those aside for the moment and concentrate on what I believe is a more common sense approach toward creating a proper working environment for your employees. The list below does not have to be all inclusive. You might want to create your own but in either case just keep in mind that your employees are your greatest asset. Don’t sell them short!

1. Respect-is it really so difficult? Everyone deserves it in the work environment. Watch your tone, attitude, and body language!
2. Listening – listen to your employees. You might learn something.
3. Job description – everyone has a right to know exactly what their job description is. For the most part, people should have clear roles and responsibilities. These need to be in the form of a document that they can access at any time
4. Promotion – people need to know what their next opportunity is, what it looks like, and what responsibilities and skills it may entail.
5. Annual review – every employee must get a formal review at least once a year where they have a more formal opportunity to discuss and understand their responsibilities. Less formal meeting quarterly are very good as well. Discuss both the positives and the negatives.
6. Payment – Be paid on time and in an amount previously negotiated. Do not nickel and dime them especially, when those wages are commission based.
7. Not be in “solitary” – No matter what people tell you, nobody, and I mean nobody likes to work in isolation, without anyone to communicate with, share ideas, sound-board or even just to gripe with. When people work in isolation their morale get’s low, anxiety increases and productivity degrades. The harder and more complex the task, the more prone people are to the negative effects of social isolation. Make it a point to always pair people off on any task or job and look for cases of isolation.
8. Take vacation – employees need time off or they will take unscheduled time off. Give them some vacation time. They need the time away. Make sure they take it.
9. Sick days – have at least 2 or 3. Everybody gets sick from time to time. Don’t get hung up trying to decide if they are really sick. If they feel or think they need the day off and have the time let them have it. When it is gone it’s gone. If they choose to use it unwisely that’s their call.
10. Quit – when they resign let them do so without negativity, hassles, payment delays or other problems. We never like to see an employee leave but when they do we need to make the process as respectful and efficient as possible. The true mark of a company is not in how they say “hello” but how they say “good-bye”
11. Terminations-when the relationship ends by termination, do so in a respectful manner.
12. Do not forget numbers 1-11.

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“Pissed-off Employees!” Do You Have Any?

January 20, 2014

It has been said that the definition of a “plaintiff” is a “pissed-off employee”. The more you communicate with your employees, the more you walk and talk the hallways, and the more your relationships with your employees are valued within the bounds of existing law, the more successful your business will be and the more likely it is that you can avoid employment disputes. Valuing, being responsive to, and maintaining your inter-personal relationships with your employees, customers, clients, vendors, and business partners will still prove to be the most important precursor to a successful bottom line.

What should you as an employer take away from this blog post? The rapid explosion of social media, and its impact on the workplace, will never take away from the value of true inter-personal relationships. As great as today’s advances are, it doesn’t always have to be about apps, status updates, and mass communication from behind a keyboard. It also doesn’t mean that we need to give into technology at the expense of our interpersonal relationships, and the face-to-face communications that still must take place.

Individually, we are no different than we are professionally. We spend so much time connecting to someone who is not in front of us, that it’s easy to ignore what is right in front of us. We are so worried about tomorrow and next week, that the happy, meaningful and productive parts of today go unnoticed. We are so obsessed with typing to the world in words and pictures about where we are and what we’re doing, that we’re not at all focused on precisely where we are, what we’re doing, and who we’re doing it with, or for. To me, we are successful – professionally and individually – through the relationships right in front of us.

So maybe for this 2014, we can find even an hour to put down the BlackBerry and iPhone, get to that e-mail or text in a little while, and keep the terrific picture we were about to post solely in our own heads for now. Enjoy the moment right in front of us, as it will always be about those relationships.I greatly appreciate the time you took to read my blog last year, and I hope that I have provided you with some useful, informative, and perhaps occasionally entertaining insights on the interaction between you and your employees. I look forward to continuing that effort in 2014.

Note: As a reminder, my weekly Podcast is up and running. We have done three Podcast and we are starting to get calls already! They are posted every Saturday on http://www.pottsandassociates.com. We take calls for taping every third Saturday so mark your calendars (the next taping will actually be on February 15th, 2014). If you would like to call in and ask a question or simply make a comment, the number is 855-4 J POTTS or 855-457-6887 or you can email your question to Listenup@jameswilliampottsllc.com and we will answer it on the air.


Two New Changes: State & Federal Issues

January 13, 2014

New $10,000 Wage & Hour Fine Against Employers

As if employers didn’t have enough to contend with regarding allegations by employees that their employer retaliated against them for complaining about their wages. Now, the California Legislatures have done it again. AB 263 amends Labor Code section 98.6, which protects employees who assert their rights under the Labor Code. The current law only protected the employee from discharge and discrimination. The new added protection now gives them the opportunity to receive $10,000 if an employer takes ANY adverse action against them for complaining.

The issue that will have to be defended over and over again (in my opinion) is what exactly is defined as “adverse action.” Furthermore, it will open the door to complaints based upon incorrect or false assertions as to any action taken by the employer that the employee may perceive as adverse.

The best advice we can offer is to make sure you stay focused and keep your emotions under control when employees challenge you regarding their pay, breaks, lunches or overtime issues.

Workplace Rights Poster

Remember the requirement that employers had to post the “Workplace Rights Poster” regarding Union organizing? Well, we finally have a decision that is at least favorable for employers. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) announced last week that it will not seek Supreme Court review of the two Court of Appeals decisions invaliding the NLRB’s 2011 posting rule requiring private sector employees covered by the National Labor Relations Act to post a 11×17” poster outlining employees’ rights under the Act. In both of the Court of Appeals decisions, National Association of Manufacturers v. NLRB, 717 F.3d 947 (DC Cir. 2013), and Chamber of Commerce v. NLRB, 721 F.3d 152 (4th Cir. 2013), the appellate courts held that the NLRB exceeded its jurisdiction when it promulgated the posting rule and invalidated it. Most expected the NLRB to seek an appeal to the United States Supreme Court on those decisions. The time for doing so expired on January 2, 2013. Yesterday, the NLRB announced that it would no longer be pursing the matter with an announcement on its website.

The NLRB may have given up this particular battle. However, we believe that the Board will continue to try to find new and imaginative ways to expand unionization, make it easier for employees to organize, and expand its reach into the non-union workplace through rulemaking and other creative measures. These activities will lead to further court battles, as employers’ groups test the scope of the NLRB’s authority and jurisdiction and challenge its broad pro-union interpretations of the National Labor Relations Act. Union and non-union employers would be wise to continue to monitor the activities of the NLRB through at least the rest of the Obama administration in order to understand where the NLRB is looking to make its presence felt in both sectors.


Should You Fire Your “Star” Employee?

January 6, 2014

Every once in a blue moon, we will get a call whereby the “star” of the organization has been discovered to be a sexual harasser, or an embezzler, or someone who otherwise has no business being employed. On these calls, we get the feeling that the employer would love nothing more than for us to ask for more documentation, or a few more warnings, or say the whole matter is overblown — anything but “you need to consider firing this person.”

Has that ever happened to you? Your highest-performing salesperson — or maybe is credibly accused of sexually harassment, or you discover that your most trusted employee has engaged in some behavior that warrants his or her termination. As the employer, you go through different stages of guilt, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Especially denial. I understand, it’s hard to find out that someone you thought was “top notched” is actually a “flake”. You wish you were wrong, but as the evidence pours in, you can’t hang onto that fantasy any more. Then you start thinking, is it really that bad? Then you begin to think; “That sales assistant probably asked for it! I’ve certainly made plenty of mistakes in my life. Who am I to judge?

Give me a break! Get a hold of yourself and “ante up.”

Here are some reasons why you have to toughen up, no matter how great you thought your employee was:

1. Most obviously, because sexual harassment, embezzlement, racism, falsification, violent or immoral behavior, internet hoaxes, and all that stuff is wrong. It violates your company policies (or certainly ought to), which were adopted for a good reason — to allow your employees to have a civil and peaceful, if not harmonious, workplace, to preserve the company’s financial integrity, and to protect the company’s reputation.

2. Failure to take action with “the elite” can lead to discrimination claims from the rank and file. Let’s say this week you find out that your “star” employee (who, by the way, is white) has hit on 50 women, but you look the other way because he’s been outstanding the performance of his job (probably sales). Next week you find out that the low performer, (who is coincidently black), has been sexually harassing the receptionist. Whose head will roll? CORRECT ANSWER: Nobody’s, if you ignored what the white “star” was doing. If you fire the black employee but don’t do anything to the “star”, then you could be liable for race discrimination. On the other hand, if you do nothing out of fear of race discrimination, you have employees who are victims of sexual harassment. (See Reason No. 1.)Firing the top salesperson, or key person, or your creative genius, is the only way for you to mitigate all of these problems.

3. This is the United States of America. Enforcing your rules only against the 99 percent and not the 1 percent makes you (and your company) look very bad. The same behavioral standards should apply to everybody, at all levels of the company. If you must be elitist, impose higher standards on your higher-level people, not lower ones.

4. Enforcing your rules only against the 99 percent and not the 1 percent causes everyone, at all levels, to lose respect for your company’s “system.” This is a very big deal. If enough employees notice that the rules apply to them but not to the super-high-up or the super-talented, the employees will become cynical about your grievance procedure, your open-door policy, your EEO policy, your no-harassment policy, your whistleblowing policy, and all of those other policies that you worked so hard to develop to make your company an open, fair, and fine place to work.

Let’s be realistic. You know that if employees stop coming to you with their concerns, they will go . . . elsewhere.
Of course, all of the above implies that you have already conducted a thorough investigation and determined that the “star” is, more likely than not, guilty of the misconduct. If you have good reason to believe that the allegations are false, that’s a different story. But in determining what happened, do your best not to let the accused party’s “star” status sway you in either direction.

In summary: Even if it breaks your heart to do it (and it will), be sure to treat your most-beloved employees who commit misconduct the same way you treat your average employees who commit similar misconduct. As time goes by, you’ll know you did the right thing. Be FAIR, FIRM and CONSISTENT!