How a Progressive Discipline Policy Impacts Unemployment Cost Management

How a Progressive Discipline Policy Impacts Unemployment Cost Management

Having a progressive discipline policy in place (and following it consistently) has a significant impact on your success rate in protesting unemployment claims. A progressive discipline procedure or policy outlines exactly how unacceptable performance or conduct is addressed – all the way up to the point of termination.

We know every state has a set of laws governing the administration of unemployment, but there are general concepts that serve as best practices for managing unemployment costs.

Examples of Progressive Disciple Procedures:

  • Three strike policy
  • Point system
  • Progressive Corrective Action Process

Questions asked by the state when someone files for unemployment after being terminated:

  • Was the employee aware that their performance or conduct was unacceptable?
  • How were they made aware?
  • Were they given clear warning(s) that failure to correct the issue could result in termination?
  • Were they given adequate opportunity to correct the issue?

Helpful guidelines regarding progressive discipline policies and procedures:

  • Include your progressive discipline policy or procedure in your employee handbook.
  • Make sure to have employees acknowledge by signature that they have read and understand it.
  • Each time a warning is issued, clearly state the next step in the progressive discipline procedure should improvement not occur.
  • If a policy was violated, make specific reference to that policy (contained in the employee handbook) in the warning.
  • Outline what the expectations for improvement are.
  • Have employees sign warnings in acknowledgement showing that they are aware of what the next step will be, up to and including termination.
  • Maintain organized chronological records of all warnings.

An employer’s progressive discipline procedure should outline why (and in what format) an employee would be issued a warning for performance or conduct issues. In addition, the procedure should make clear the maximum number of warnings that are permissible before further action, including termination, will take place.

It is also important that employees are made aware of the progressive discipline procedure at the time of hire and again at the time any warnings are issued. The employee should always have a clear understanding of where they stand within the steps of the progressive discipline procedure and what the next step will be if they fail to improve. If the state determines that the employee was not aware that termination could occur because of their performance or conduct, or that they were not given adequate opportunity to improve, it becomes much less likely that they will rule in favor of the employer.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your assigned DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511 .

California Employment Law – Top Five New State Laws in 2018

California Employment Law – Top Five New State Laws in 2018

Employment Law in California is forever growing. California Governor Jerry Brown signed several significant employment bills that took effect on Jan. 1, 2018, and many employers throughout California need to update their policies and practices accordingly. Here are the top five new California employment laws.

  • A.B. 168: Salary history inquiries
    • No longer able to ask job applicants about their current or prior earnings.
    • Must provide the pay scale for a position upon an applicant’s request.
  • A.B. 450: Immigration enforcement
    • Must demand warrants and subpoenas from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents before any enforcement activities.
    • Must provide certain notices to employees and their union representatives.
  • A.B. 1008: Ban the box
    • Employers with at least five employees can’t consider a job applicant’s criminal history until a conditional employment offer is made.
    • If the employer decides to deny employment based on an applicant’s criminal history, the employer must follow certain steps before making a final decision.
  • S.B. 63: New parent leave
    • Small businesses with 20-49 employees will have to provide 12 weeks of job-protected baby bonding leave within the first year following a child’s birth, adoption or foster care placement. This includes the following available leaves:
    • California Fair Employment & Housing Act’s (FEHA) Pregnancy Disability Leave (PDL) law
    • California Family Rights Act (CFRA)
    • Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) *Federal
    • California’s New Parent Leave Act
  • S.B. 396: Gender identity and sexual orientation harassment training
    • Sexual harassment training is already required for employers with 50 or more employees. That will soon need to include training on gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation harassment.
    • Employers need to post transgender rights notice in the workplace.

Overall, this year’s legislative session seemed to continue recent California employment law trends focusing on California Equal Pay Act-related issues and immigration—as there have been new laws passed in each of these areas in the last few years.

If you have any questions, please reach out to your assigned DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.

Leading Through Change – How to Manage, React, and Work Through Change

Leading Through Change – How to Manage, React, and Work Through Change

Change isn’t easy. When a company transforms the way it does business, it’s a rollercoaster of emotions for everyone. Even when the change is needed, the transition can be difficult and frustrating if it isn’t handled properly. As a leader, not only are you preparing yourself for the transition, you have the added responsibility of effectively leading your teams through transition.

To be successful in leading through change, you must be on board with the change and own the message. After all, how can you sell and support the concept, if you don’t believe in the outcome yourself.

This can be a daunting task, so we’ve broke it down into three topics: Manage, React and Work Through.

How to Manage Change

Utilizing a change management framework can help employees transition through change effectively. It can reduce stress for you while successfully leading through change.

  • Be real – acknowledge that change is difficult.
  • Share the transition plans – talk with employees and have open discussions.
  • Check in often.
  • On a personal level, ask “How are you doing?”
  • Be visible – make yourself available.
  • Be positive and optimistic.
  • Reinforce positive turns – watch for individual movement toward new beginnings and express your appreciation.

How to React to Change

Leading through change means you’re able to react and answer the tough questions. Communicating during change is important and should be two-way. Most likely many of the questions being asked are ones you already considered and asked yourself. Below is a list of questions you should be ready to answer:

  • What is the business reason for the change?
  • What are the vision and benefits for the future?
  • What is the impact on employees?
  • What is the impact on the organization?
  • What is the approach for implementing the change?
  • How are we doing –Progress, Accomplishments, Issues?

How to Work Through Change

The transformation effort is a challenge to be embraced as a team, fueling positive change over the long haul. This is important since the transformation journey is a never-ending one for most companies today. Your day-to-day enthusiasm and positive attitude will go a long way in setting the tone for these changes. Some basic foundations of change are listed below:

  • Change happens, how you transition is a choice.
  • Everyone has some resistance to change, particularly when it is imposed on them by others.
  • Getting yourself and others to accept change is a process, not a single event.
  • Every individual experiences change in a unique way and adapts at their own pace.
  • Balance pride in the past with the need to be future focused.

May your company accomplish its goals and be successful in leading through change. We wish you and your business only the best in 2018.  If you have any questions, please reach out to your assigned DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.

He Said/She Said – Seven Steps to Investigating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

He Said/She Said – Seven Steps to Investigating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

He Said/She Said – Seven Steps to Investigating Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Sexual harassment has been at the forefront of our society the past year. As a business owner, it is important to understand how this sensitive subject can affect you and your business. Sexual harassment can occur in a variety of circumstances within the workplace. As your organization’s leader, it is important to understand how to address and resolve this matter promptly. Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
It’s also important to protect all involved parties and begin the investigation immediately. Employers have a duty to prove that they conducted a thorough and reasonable investigation of the allegation. Below are seven steps to investigating sexual harassment in the workplace:

Planning and Implementation

1. Gather Information

  • Clearly understand the sexual harassment allegation and who is involved.
  • Collect any policies, evaluate any laws and consider any internal procedures that may be implicated.
  • Set goals and timelines for resolution.

2.Consider whether to engage Legal

  • Put them on notice you are investigating a sexual harassment in the workplace complaint.
  • Don’t render any legal conclusions yourself

Understand your liability under Title VII Sexual Harassment

3.Begin Interviews

  • Identify and schedule witness interviews (Follow the evidence -wherever it leads)

Interview anyone else involved: You want the details: How, Who, What, When, Where, and Why?

Evaluate and Decide

4. Document, Document, Document.

  • Ask for any documents such as journals, notes, emails, voicemails, texts, or social media conversations that may support complaint.
  • While note taking try to write virtually every word, quote the witness, write witness name, date, location & time interview conducted.

5. When you are ready to render conclusion(s):

  • Evaluate the evidence.
  • Assess credibility and source of information, detail and timing, demeanor, omissions, prior incidents and motive.
  • Put it all together and decide if any misconduct occurred.

Report and File

6. Write a Sexual Harassment Investigation Summary Report that includes the following:

  • Overview, investigation process, summary of allegation(s) & findings, facts revealed, and analysis.
  • Include notation (and copies later) of disciplinary action.

7. Report & File Retention:

  • The physical file needs to be maintained as confidential company record and kept separately away from personal files.
  • The report should be kept in investigation file, don’t email copies to anyone outside of protocol, and don’t allow copies to be kept by anyone outside of legal or HR without special circumstances.

The best investigations are fair, thorough, objective and truthful. It’s vital to keep the investigation based on facts and not opinion. Complaints involving sexual harassment in the workplace can arise at any time and have confidence that we are here and have the expertise to guide you through this process. If you have any questions, please reach out to your assigned DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511 .

What is a PEO?

What is a PEO?

If you’re asking this question, you will be excited to know that DecisionHR has the answer to this and so much more. A PEO is a professional employer organization that takes over the administrative tasks of your workers’ compensation, payroll, employee benefits, and human resources management. Basically, a PEO will save you time and money so you can invest in what’s most important – building your business.

DecisionHR is a Professional Employer Organization (PEO) located in St. Petersburg, FL. Our job is to relieve you and your company of time-consuming employee-related administrative and processing burdens. As your partner, we will evaluate your business needs and provide as much or as little assistance that you need.

How a PEO helps you:

  • Protect your company
  • Manage the paperwork
  • Make better hires
  • Develop your people, and
  • Keep your employees productive and on the job

 

In addition, a PEO receives cheaper insurance rates for clients, leading to deep discounts not available to most small businesses. And best of all, you can save an average of 15 to 20 percent compared to managing these functions yourself.

Now that we have successfully answered the question, ‘what is a PEO’, give us a call so we can answer more of your questions and determine how to best meet your company’s—and your employee’s—needs.

Wrapping up 2017 – Updates and Reminders

Wrapping up 2017 – Updates and Reminders

It’s been a wonderful year here at DecisionHR and we want to make sure you have all the information you need to close out the year efficiently and smoothly.

We’re here to provide a quick checklist for you that details all the activities and dates you should be aware of as we wrap up 2017.

W-2 Forms

It’s critical that your information on file with DecisionHR is accurate to assist in being compliant with W-2 preparations. We appreciate your cooperation with this important matter. Please have all updates to us no later than January 3, 2018. The deadline for both paper and electronic W-2’s is Wednesday, January 31, 2018. Please also communicate to your employees that their address on file with DecisionHR is correct.

ACA 2017 reporting mandates still apply!

ACA reporting season is fast approaching, and the IRS has confirmed that employer mandates still apply. At DecisionHR we strive to empower our clients with industry-leading benefit resources. If you would like DecisionHR to handle the 1095-C / 1094-C reporting on your behalf, please contact your assigned Human Resources Business Partner at 888-828-5511. You can also take advantage of sign-up discounts offered by DecisionHR through November 30th. As always, we are grateful for your business and remain steadfast in our commitment to deliver exceptional, dependable service.

Minimum Wage Rates by State

For your reference, this compliance overview provides a list of minimum wage rates by state or jurisdiction.

Federal Court Strikes Down 2016 Overtime Rule

On August 31, 2017 a federal judge has struck down a final rule that would have increased the salary threshold for the “white collar overtime exemptions” to $47,476 per year. The rule was issued in 2016 but was never implemented because a preliminary injunction was ordered against it.

Unemployment Claims & Section 252

As of September of 2017, most states are regularly enforcing the chargeability to employers when the employer is deemed to cause the overpayment. As a reminder, this occurs when an employer provides little or no information at the initial claim level which results in a loss, but then appeals to an unemployment hearing and gives sufficient information to result in a win.

If you have any questions concerning any of these updates or reminders, please contact your DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.

Family Medical Leave Act – You Have Questions, We Have Answers

Family Medical Leave Act – You Have Questions, We Have Answers

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is among the most confusing laws in the workplace. The FMLA is a labor law requiring larger employers to provide employees unpaid leave for serious health conditions, to care for a sick family member, or to care for a newborn or adopted child. There are a lot of variables and factors to take into account when employees apply for leave under FMLA. To clear up some of the confusion, here are the most common FMLA questions asked by supervisors and managers.

What situations generally qualify an employee for FMLA leave?

According to the law, an employee can qualify for FMLA leave in the following situations:

  • Birth of a child (but it is not necessary that the leave-taker be the parent of the child)
  • Placement of a child with an employee for adoption or foster care
  • Providing care for a spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition
  • Providing care for an employee’s own serious health condition, if the condition makes the employee unable to perform the functions of the job
  • Providing care or emergency help for a spouse, son, daughter, or parent who is a member of the military service.

How much notice, and what type, does an employee have to give before taking FMLA leave?

If an employee can reasonably foresee the need to take leave 30 or more days ahead of time, then 30 days notice must be given. If 30 days notice isn’t possible, employee must give you notice as soon as “practicable,” according to the wording of the law. An employee can make a written request, but a verbal notice can be sufficient to make the employer aware of the need for leave.

An employer can ask for certification that includes the following:

  • Date the serious health condition began
  • Probable duration
  • Appropriate medical facts within the knowledge of the healthcare provider
  • In cases involving family members, description of the care for a son, daughter, parent, or spouse, with an estimate of the amount of time that the care will require.

When employees return from FMLA leave, do they have a right to the same job they held before taking the leave?

Generally, you must restore a returning employee to the position held when the leave began, or to an equivalent position. The exception to this rule is if the employee was deemed a “key employee.” The employee does not have the right to their old jobs if it could result in substantial hardship on an employer. A key employee is defined as one who is salaried and among the highest paid 10% of the company’s employees. Employers must give employees a notice of the possibility of denial when they are approved for FMLA leave.

Can I require a fitness-for-duty certification for employees returning from FMLA leave? What about fitness-for-duty medical examinations?

Yes, an employer can require that an employee obtain a certification from a healthcare provider stating the employee is fit to resume work following an FMLA leave. You can provide the employee with a list of essential job duties that a healthcare provider can address when assessing fitness for duty. Only an employee’s doctor can administer a fitness-for-duty examination for certification to return to work. You can require a certification of fitness to return to duty for intermittent absences, up to once every 30 days, if “reasonable safety concerns” exist regarding the employee’s ability to perform his or her duties.

We are here and have the expertise to guide you through the FMLA process as well as any of your HR management needs.  If you have any questions, contact your DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.

 

You’ll Never Be Too Prepared – Disaster Recovery

You’ll Never Be Too Prepared – Disaster Recovery

Would you be ready if mother nature threw a hurricane straight into your area? By the time you hear the news you’re hustling to get supplies before the store shelves are empty.

DecisionHR recommends that you have a disaster recovery plan prepared and ready for any weather disasters that may suddenly occur. We are providing a guideline below to help you establish your plan.

Know the Facts and Have a Plan

Did you know that a hurricane can pack wind speeds of over 160 mph and unleash 2.4 trillion gallons of rain within a 24-hour period. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

What Should I Do?

Before

  • Talk with your supervisor about your team’s business continuity plan, what you are expected to do and how to stay in contact
  • Have a plan for you, your family and your pets
  • Identify shelter (friend, relative, hotel/motel) where you can stay if ordered to evacuate
  • Don’t wait until the last minute. Plan to leave 24-36 hours in advance of storm landfall
  • Make a survival kit
  • Board up all windows and doors
  • Trim trees

After Watch / Warning is Issued

  • Listen to weather updates on TV or radio
  • Install your hurricane shutters or plywood. Remove anything in your yard that could become windborne
  • Fill your vehicle gas tank and an extra gas can
  • Withdraw enough cash to last for several days
  • Turn up refrigerators and freezers to maximum cold. Turn off propane cans and unplug small appliances
  • Disinfect a bathtub and fill it with water for washing dishes and flushing toilets
  • Evacuate if you are required to do so or if you do not wish to remain in your home

During

  • Identify a safe interior room with no window that’s on the lowest floor. Stay away from windows and doors
  • Expect to lose power, have flashlights within reach of your safe room
  • Never venture outside during the storm
  • Be aware of the hurricane’s “eye” and a brief period of calm may occur and will be followed by winds blowing in the opposite direction
  • Stay away from rising water and fallen power lines

After

  • Monitor local radio and TV for recovery activities
  • Stay away from loose or dangling power lines and report them to the power company
  • Contact loved ones to let them know you’re safe
  • Return to your home and venture outside ONLY after local officials tell you it’s safe to do so
  • Inspect your home for damage and take pictures of damages. If your home is unsafe or badly damaged, locate other accommodations
  • Use the telephone for emergencies only

Who should get paid:

Nonexempt (hourly) employees: Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires employers to pay nonexempt employees only for hours that the employees have actually worked. Therefore, an employer is not required to pay nonexempt employees if the employer is unable to provide work to those employees due to a natural disaster.

An exception to this general rule exists where there are employees who receive fixed salaries for fluctuating workweeks. These are nonexempt employees who have agreed to work an unspecified number of hours for a specified salary. An employer must pay these employees their full weekly salary for any week in which any work was performed.

Exempt (salary) employees:  An employer will be required to pay the employee’s full salary if the worksite is closed or unable to reopen due to inclement weather or other disasters for less than a full workweek. However, an employer may require exempt employees to use allowed leave for this time.

Exempt (salary) employee chooses to stay home because of weather: The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) considers an absence caused by transportation difficulties experienced during weather emergencies, if the employer is open for business, as an absence for personal reasons. Under this circumstance, an employer may place an exempt employee on leave without pay (or require the employee to use accrued vacation time) for the full day that he or she fails to report to work. If an employee is absent for one or more full days for personal reasons, the employee’s salaried status will not be affected if deductions are made from a salary for such absences.

However, a deduction from salary for less than a full-day’s absence is not permitted, although the employer may make a partial day time deduction from the employee’s leave bank (if there is insufficient time in the leave bank, no deduction from salary can be made).

Caution is recommended, however, in docking salaried employees’ pay. Moreover, many employers instead require employees to “make up” lost time after they return to work, which is permissible for exempt employees. This practice is not allowed for nonexempt employees, who must be paid overtime for all hours worked over 40 in a work week.

Don’t wait until last minute to prepare for a hurricane. DecisionHR executed their disaster recovery plan successfully and learned some huge lessons from recent hurricanes. You never know what may come your way. Before the chaos begins, you should establish a disaster recovery plan for you and your family. If you want more information on how to create a disaster recovery plan, contact your DecisionHR Human Resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.

 

How to Avoid The Seven Deadly Harassment Sins

How to Avoid The Seven Deadly Harassment Sins

What is the last thing you want for your business? A lawsuit! In today’s litigious and uncertain business environment, companies are subject to more and more legal restrictions and obligations each year. With that being said, it’s very important to understand how to best handle employee complaints, grievances, or allegations of misconduct. How can you reduce the likelihood of potential costly lawsuits, industrial actions and an unhappy workplace? Here are the seven deadly mistakes employers most often make (and ways to avoid them).

1. Not having appropriate policies in place:

Implementing effective policies and procedures for dealing with harassment issues is critical. Employers should ensure that their policies and procedures are comprehensive and up-to-date. Also, make sure to regularly train managers and employees on these policies and procedures.

2. Not giving proper training:

Following allegations of discrimination or harassment, most employees have had no recent training or training handling these situations. As a result, managers let problems get out of hand. Even if you’re not legally required to do so, make sure to train all managers and supervisors (and, ideally, everyone) on the procedures of how to handle  specific harassment situations.

3. Confusing harassment with bullying:

 Most employers tend to confuse harassment with bullying. Bullying is an intentional act that causes harm to others. This can include verbal or nonverbal threats, taunts, physical attacks, blackmail, or manipulation. Harassment is defined as conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates or causes fear in another person. It is unwanted behavior that often demeans or threatens another person.

4. Not taking complaints seriously:

Most managers and supervisors tend to not report a situation, take too long to report it or even prejudge the situation. By not addressing the situation immediately and thoroughly, it is much more difficult to demonstrate that the actions taken by the company (termination, disciplinary action, etc.) were justified. Also, if a complaint is not taken seriously, the employee’s personnel file won’t show recorded documentation detailing the problems.

5. Failing to properly investigate:

Managers and supervisors love to take shortcuts when it comes to these types of investigations. For instance, failing to understand and apply the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness; failing to plan an investigation methodically, or at all; and failing to engage a suitably qualified investigator. All investigations need to be taken seriously and handled with proper action.

6. Not implementing recommendations:

In any investigation, the essential phase is the implementation of the change stemming from the recommendations. It’s a common reoccurrence that many employers fail to implement. The results of any major report should serve to generate improvements to the workplace and implement strategies to support future scenarios.

7. Failing to communicate appropriately:

These situations can be very overwhelming for employers. It’s vitally important that employers do not have a quick response and jump straight into an investigation or legal action without first following the appropriate procedures. Be sure to seek advice and address potential problems early and quickly.

Workplace investigations can be a stressful undertaking for everyone involved. It is not only important to have a policy, but it is as equally as important to utilize and make all parties accountable based on each policy. Having these situations go wrong, you run the risk of creating a toxic dysfunctional workplace.  If you want more information on how to avoid these situations or need support or assistance, contact your DecisionHR human resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.

 

 

Stress is Your Worst Enemy – How You Can Overcome Work Stress.

Stress is Your Worst Enemy – How You Can Overcome Work Stress.

With 83% of U.S employees feeling work-related stress, do you find that you’re constantly drowning in projects and last minute tasks that got thrown on your desk? Does it ever seem to end? Probably not, right? If anything, it just makes you want to pull your hair out.

Between tight deadlines, long hours, and back to back meetings, it’s easy to feel drained and overwhelmed by the end of the day. As these days turn into weeks and even months of chronic stress, you will eventually harm your emotional and physical health. No wonder 40% of adults lay awake at night thinking about their everyday stressors.

DecisionHR understands that it’s hard to avoid the tension from work. Fortunately there are several ways you can manage and control work-related stress in order for you to be more productive while maintaining a well-balanced lifestyle.

No More Sleepless Nights

Just think about those sleepless nights as you would lie awake in bed, going over and over the long list of tasks that have to be completed by the end of the week. Let’s not forget about the co-worker that made a fuss during your meeting earlier that day. Then, you fight to stay awake the next day because you’re exhausted. This vicious cycle doesn’t seem to end. Doesn’t it make you want to just scream?

Say goodbye to those sleepless nights and hello to your beauty sleep. Tonight, try to get rid of the distractions before bed. The emails and text messages can wait until tomorrow. Put all electronic devices away and make sure to get a full eight hours of sleep. This will ensure that you are focused the next day to fulfill your job responsibilities efficiently and effectively.

Organize & Prioritize

Are you all work, but no play? If so, you are depriving yourself of a balanced lifestyle. Don’t worry, work can wait. Take some breaks during the day to go on a walk or to chat with some co-workers. Did you know that 10% of workers will take a 17 minute break after working for 52 consecutive minutes? Sometimes you’ve got to get away to in order for you to be more productive.

Also, don’t over commit to others or else you’ll just hurt yourself in the end. As much as you want to be a superhero, you can’t possibly squeeze everything into one day. Take a second to distinguish between what’s a priority and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to say no if it’ll be too much work for you. Listen to your mind and your body because your health comes first.

It’s About Time to Break Those Bad Habits

You’ve heard the saying, “no one is perfect.” It might sound cliché, but it’s true. The idea of perfection will only stress you out, so resist it. Instead, set goals that are attainable and focus on striving to do your best.

Perfection isn’t the only bad habit that can cause stress. The constant urge to control every situation can add to your stress level as well. Unfortunately, you cannot manipulate the outcome of every situation, especially when it comes to someone else’s behavior. Rather than stressing out over the way others act, focus on how you choose to react to the situation. Next time a co-worker acts out, take a second to think about the situation. Ask yourself if it’s really worth it to cause tension.

A little stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation or keeps you cautious of making costly mistakes, but too much of it can take over your whole life and negatively affect your overall health. It’s about time to end your stress with a little more sleep, some organization and take a second to evaluate each situation. You’ve got what it takes to control your stress level, so don’t be afraid to be the boss of your own body!