Tis the season of the office holiday party. Sounds like, fun right? But there are risks. One act of bad behavior can turn into a legal mess. As the office holiday party season kicks off, here are some tips on how both employers and employees can avoid liability while still enjoying some holiday cheer.
Tip 1: Don’t serve alcohol
Having an alcohol-free event is the best way to minimize risk for employers. Court records are filled with examples of people sexually harassing co-workers or making inappropriate comments at parties where alcohol is involved.
And even if the party goes off without an issue, perhaps the biggest concern is that an employee will drive home under the influence and hurt or even kill someone. As the host, your company may be found liable because alcohol was served at the party.
Tip 2: Managers should lead by example
Emphasize to management that they must lead by example. When it comes to behavior at an office party – people will follow examples – good or bad.
Tip 3: Hold the party at an offsite location
If problems do arise, it is better that they occur away from the business premises. Depending on the state, liability will generally be on the restaurant or event venue rather than the company. However, it is not unusual for an employer to be named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit if an intoxicated employee leaves any company-sponsored event and injures himself or herself or another person as a result. See tip number 1.
Tip 4: Invite spouses, significant others or families
Aside from excessive drinking, the next most common issue is sexual harassment. Employees are still bound by workplace policies, even at after-hours parties. A family-friendly environment will limit this kind of risk.
Tip 5: Arrange alternative transportation
After reading Tip 1 above, if you still decide to serve alcohol, anticipate the need for alternative transportation for all employees and guests. Make special transportation arrangements in advance of the party. Encourage all employees and guests to make use of the alternative transportation if they consume any alcohol.
Bonus Tip: Did we mention, don’t serve alcohol?
Last night, a federal district court in Texas granted a preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the U.S. Department of Labor from implementing and enforcing its recently revised regulations on the white collar exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
As you know, the overtime rule was scheduled to take effect Dec. 1 and would have raised the salary threshold from $23,660 to $47,476.
Employers should note that this is only a temporary injunction, not a permanent one. The injunction simply prevents the regulations from going into effect on December 1. There will be a decision issued at a later date on the actual merits of the case, so changes in the FLSA salary threshold for exemption may be back. However, the judge wouldn’t have granted the preliminary injunction unless, among other things, he thought the states showed a substantial likelihood of succeeding on their claims.
What may be likely is the change will eventually go through – but maybe with a lower number or a small business limitation or exemption created by the Trump Administration and the new Congress.
As Servant HR has worked through the ramifications with many of you, some of you did make some decisions. If your decisions included salary increases to employees in order to maintain their exempt status and HAVE BEEN COMMUNICATED, you may wish to leave that in place as it would be difficult to take that back. We cannot assume that the overtime rule will be permanently barred.
However, if there are exempt employees who were going to be reclassified to nonexempt that have not been or wage increases had not been promised yet, you may want to postpone those decisions and give the litigation a chance to play out.
Servant HR will continue to advise you as implementation becomes more clear.
While we have already reached out to many of you, if you have specific questions about your situation or wish to undo something you already have communicated to us, please contact us directly.
And HAPPY THANKSGIVING a little early!!
Did you know most hiring managers decide whether they are going to hire someone in the first 3 minutes of an interview? And that is not enough time to conduct an effective interview. In fact, ineffective job interviews often lead to bad hires and that is a costly proposition when you factor in training costs, wages, and lost productivity when you have to do it all over again.
In order to improve your odds, you need to be prepared. Conducting a structured interview requires time and forethought. Some studies suggest businesses spend at least one hour preparing for an hour-long interview. It’s well worth the investment.
Here are the Top Ten tips for conducting more effective job interviews – and hiring the right person.
1. Have a current, accurate and enticing job description.
Job descriptions should identify the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that are critical for the candidate to succeed at the job. What critical need does the company have, and how will the candidate fulfill that need? Make sure to also identify the personality traits required for the specific job. Once you’ve performed the job analysis, develop the interview questions based upon the determined criteria.
2. Create a structured interview process.
Structured interviews help ensure all candidates are treated similarly, and research has indicated they are more effective than unstructured job interviews. To create a structured interview:
- Ask every candidate the same interview questions, and plan follow-up questions to likely responses.
- Evaluate candidates using an objective and thorough rating scale.
- Provide training to all interviewers to enable them to conduct interviews using a consistent method and tangible tools to evaluate candidates so they aren’t relying solely on instinct.
3. Ask behavioral questions.
Asking hypothetical or open-ended questions like “how would you deal with an angry coworker?” or “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” encourages candidates to frame their responses according to what they think the interviewer wants to hear. This is not the best method.
Behavioral interview questions are designed so candidates describe things they actually did in a previous situation and the outcome of their actions. Ask questions like “Tell me about a project you helped initiate. What was your role? What were the results?” and ”Tell me about a time you made an unpopular decision. What were the reactions? How did you respond?”
4. Contact references.
References are a valuable tool for attaining a more complete impression of a candidate. References can verify information, provide feedback on the candidates’ past job performance and accomplishments, and give insight into whether they’ll fit with your company’s culture. They can also verify the accuracy of the examples given in responses to the behavioral questions posed during the interview. When considering a candidate, it’s also prudent to examine their resume to find colleagues who are in your business network and contact them as well.
5. Use the interview to describe the job position.
Interviews are opportunities for managers to give candidates a realistic impression of the job position and the company culture. Some managers are tempted to oversell the company in job interviews, which can ultimately lead to employee dissatisfaction in the long run. Answer questions thoughtfully and candidly and let your natural enthusiasm for the company show, and you’ll help the candidate make an informed decision.
6. Hire for attitude.
At least one study found that 89% of the time new hires failed, it was for attitudinal reasons, not lack of skill. Hire for characteristics that align with the company’s values as well as technical skills. Be proactive about recruiting people who will be good for your team. High performers are a good source of referrals.
7. Don’t take chances.
Sometimes employees can hire candidates with obvious deficiencies, in hopes they will change. There will always be some compromises made, but if a candidate has a track record of burning bridges, missing deadlines, or quitting multiple jobs within a few weeks – their past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.
8.Silence Can Be Golden.
Try pausing and counting to 5 after an answer to a question you want to know more about. Let them fill in the silence and reveal more.
9. One more interview.
If you have doubts, conduct one more interview. A bad hire is too costly to the company to forgo the additional interview. And if you find you’re deciding between a pool of average candidates, continue the process until you find someone who fits.
10. Look on social media.
Is the candidate on social media such as Twitter or Facebook? What do they comment on? What do they do with their free time? Who are they are linked to on LinkedIn? Social media channels can give a good look into whether someone will fit your culture.
By taking the time to sufficiently prepare for an interview and asking the right questions, companies can improve their chances of hiring the candidate who is best for the job. If you need help developing an effective interview process which produces consistently great results, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
UPDATE 10/01/16: The House approved a six-month delay in overtime rule implementation, trying to defer legislation that would have gone into effect on Dec. 1. The Republican-backed Regulatory Relief for Small Businesses, Schools and Nonprofits Act, or HR 6094, would postpone the implementation of new Department of Labor rules that would shift the threshold for determining overtime pay until June 1, 2017.
The House approved the bill with a 246 to 177 vote. The bill has moved to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain future. President Obama has reportedly threatened to veto the bill. If you have questions, please contact us
As many of you have heard from us at Servant HR and other sources for months, the Obama Administration has finally come down with new regulations that establish a new wage minimum for your salaried/exempt employees. Employers must be in compliance by December 1, 2016 so if you haven’t already analyzed your situation, now is the time. The odds of this being overturned are virtually non-existent regardless of the 2016 election outcome.
Snapshot of the New Regulations
These regulations update the minimum salary level required for an employee to qualify under any of the common exemptions. Currently, that salary level stands at $23,660 per year ($455 per week). The new regulations raise the minimum salary level to $47,476 ($913 per week).
What This Means to Employers and Employees
As an employer, if you have employees who are classified as exempt under the current FLSA regulations “duties test” but who make less than the new wage base, you will need to make some changes. Employers essentially have three choices to be in compliance with the new regulations:
- Keep the employee’s exemption status intact by increasing the employee’s pay to at or above the new minimum threshold
- Change the employee’s exemption status to salary/nonexempt, and while still paying a salary, begin paying overtime for all hours worked over 40 hours in a given workweek
- Change the employee’s exemption status to hourly/nonexempt, and only pay for hours worked and begin paying overtime for all hours worked over 40 hours in a given workweek
How to Prepare for the Upcoming Changes
These changes require a lot of planning on the part of all affected employers. Here are some ways to get prepared for the coming regulations changes:
- Confirm employees currently treated as exempt truly meet the “duties test” to establish a list of affected employees
- Which FLSA Exemption applies?
- Is there a Department of Labor Fact Sheet that can support your decision?
- Analyze affected employees.
- Which employees currently are classified as exempt under the duties test, but have salaries below the new threshold?
- Gather all relevant data points, such as:
- How many hours per week do these employees currently work?
- How much overtime would need to be paid if the employee changed status to nonexempt? How much would that cost?
- How much would it cost to increase salary levels to meet the new thresholds?
- Will there be a need to hire additional staff (perhaps in lieu of paying overtime)?
- Are there systems in place now to accurately calculate hours worked (including all overtime) for all affected employees? If no, what would it cost to put such systems in place?
- If salaries are increased, what impact will this have on the overall organizational salary structure? Will salary bands need updating? Will upper levels in the organizational hierarchy also need pay increases to stay in alignment with their relative level within the organization?
- Put together a clear process for decision making.
- Reach agreement on what changes must be made.
- Establish consensus on timing of changes.
- Plan for the transition process
- Determine exactly what changes will be needed within the payroll system to either change these employees to nonexempt (and pay overtime) or change their salary levels. Create a plan to accomplish either task, depending on which is chosen for a given individual.
- If any employees will be moving to nonexempt status, create systems for time tracking and create training on how to use those systems and to keep them accurate.
- Consider whether updates will be needed to your overtime policy and start drafting these now.
- Start making assessments for individuals and groups to determine the best course of action.
- Consider to also take this opportunity to do a job analysis and update job descriptions accordingly to reflect the true duties of the job. This will allow a more accurate comparison against the guidelines in the future.
- Create a systemic process for review of employee exemption status to ensure that employees are always classified correctly going forward, especially since the salary basis will undoubtedly be changing periodically in the future—employee salaries will need to comply to keep the exemption in place.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate to minimize the disruption these changes may cause.
How prepared is your organization for these coming changes?
This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.
I was recently asked to speak to a group of business owners about “World Class Job Descriptions.” Servant HR clients have a love-hate relationship with job descriptions – some love them, some hate them and some just view job descriptions as a necessary evil. While job descriptions are not mandatory for our clients, it is important to understand why job descriptions are necessary and the role they play in keeping you out of trouble.
1. Simplify recruiting communication
First, job descriptions are an easy way to explain job requirements to applicants. You want to attract and hire competent employees, and to do so, they must understand the key requirements of the job. A well written job description can make the recruitment process flow much more smoothly.
2. Clarify expectations with employees
Second, job descriptions are a great tool for communicating expectations to employees. The job description spells out what is expected of the employee and provides the direction to achieve successful job performance. You can utilize the job description when it comes time for performance reviews and/or determining compensation for a given position. You can also use them as road maps for career planning and training.
3. Ensure compliance with governmental regulations
Third, job descriptions are key to ensuring your legal compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). You may be faced with a situation in which an employee requests an accommodation in order to perform his or her job. Your job description is firm documentation of what constitutes the position and the requirements for it. This will be important in determining what are “essential functions” and potential reasonable accommodations. Your job descriptions also assist with FLSA compliance. By spelling out the FLSA status of a position (exempt v. non-exempt) you set the parameters for work hours, pay type and overtime.
4. Position to defent agains faulty unemployment claims
Finally, having job descriptions on file can be the difference between winning or losing (and paying!) unemployment claims. In today’s workplace, it is imperative to have written job descriptions for each position in your organization. In terms of unemployment claims, it is not uncommon to have an employer speak to the requirements of the job and then the employee claims they never knew of those requirements. The State Department of Workforce development tends to be ‘employee friendly’ and is less likely to deny benefits to someone who proves they were never given a job description. By creating them, you are giving yourself more leverage against faulty claims.
There are plenty of tools that help create the foundation of job descriptions without too much difficulty. It is a great starting point where an employer can then make them specific to their workplace and culture.
If you don’t have world class job descriptions or have concerns that yours won’t pass the test, we’d be happy to chat with you about your options.