Red Hot Thoughts

EPLI for Employers

September 22nd, 2014

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Suzie worked for Dr. Jones for twelve years.  Dr. Jones thought the world of her.  Suzie was never sick and always volunteered to work late when a patient situation demanded it.  She brought treats to the staff meetings and, most importantly, she never rocked the boat.  Dr. Jones often wished he had ten Suzies working for him.  Not anymore.

The position for head assistant came open nine months ago.  Suzie, because of her length of service and impeccable work record, believed she was a shoe-in for the job.  She was so busy planning what she would do with her pay increase she barely heard the doctor when he announced that Megan, someone he had just hired last year, was getting the promotion. Megan???  How could that be?  Granted, she had more credentials than Suzie and had more experience in management, but how could a thirty year old girl get the job over a much more mature woman like Suzie?  Suzie was angry, very angry.

It didn’t take long for the whole staff to understand just how upset she was.  She began coming to work late and calling in sick.  She was abrupt and rude with the patients, so much so that Dr. Jones was getting calls from several of them complaining about her behavior.  He tried to reason with her, but Suzie was convinced that Megan got the job because she was younger and prettier than her.  She wouldn’t listen to any of the factors that came into his decision because she knew she was right.  Over the course of the next few weeks, her attitude became so poisonous that the doctor finally had to have a serious talk with her.  She could either go back to being the Suzie he knew or she would have to find a job elsewhere.

The next day, Suzie left a voicemail saying she could no longer work with Dr. Jones and his staff.  While they all missed the ‘old Suzie’ they were all relieved that she had made the choice to move on.  In just five short weeks, however, this relief turned to disbelief when Dr. Jones received a certified letter stating that he was being sued for age discrimination.  Having never been sued before, Dr. Jones was at a loss as to what he needed to do.  Thankfully, his next patient, Sam Smith (who was also his Property and Casualty insurance broker) reminded him that at last year’s renewal he was finally able to talk the good doctor into an Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI) policy.  For years, Dr. Jones had refused to consider the coverage, feeling it was too much money for a practice with only ten employees.  He understood the need for Malpractice insurance, but not EPLI.  His employees were good people, they would never sue him.

Thankfully, he finally listened to Sam.  While such situations are never easy, at least Sam had provided him with a safety net.   Dr. Jones was lucky.  Many small and mid-sized business owners would not be as lucky, however, if this were to happen to them.  While a majority of large businesses have EPLI, smaller companies often do not.  Citing the same reasons as Dr. Jones did for many years, they feel it is too expensive or their exposure to such employee risks is minimal.

In fact, smaller companies (those with 15 – 250 employees) are sued by employees more frequently than larger organizations.  Experts cite the lack of a Human Resources professional on staff in smaller companies, along with little attention paid to risk management or training and the more ‘trusting’ culture usually found in small businesses.  The vast majority of federal and state employment laws and regulations apply to companies with as few as ten employees and, like the IRS, the government doesn’t care if the employer was aware of the law or not – if they are found out of compliance, they will face the consequences.

In 2009, federal age discrimination suits resulted in $72.1 million in fines; in 2012, the fines amounted to over $91 million.  Federal lawsuits for disability discrimination, under the Americans with Disabilities as Amended Act (ADAAA), awarded $67.8 million in 2009; in 2012, they were $103.4 million.  The numbers of complaints continue to raise exponentially, as do the monetary awards when these suits go to court.  Employees can file charges with no cost to themselves and, if the matter does get all the way to court, employees win the lawsuit over 70% of the time.  Juries usually side with employees, not employers, no matter how strong the employer’s case may be. As Baby Boomers enter their sixties and seventies, age discrimination suits will continue to multiply.  With the complexities of the ADAAA requirements along with the expanding definition of who is protected under anti-discrimination laws, the employer is more exposed to employment lawsuits and fines than ever before.  An EPLI policy, together with professional HR advice and support and a strong risk management program, can better protect employers and their companies.

The chance of being sued by a disgruntled employee is 1000% higher than a fire.  A fire can set a company back and cause some pain for the short term, but thankfully most have adequate coverage to get the business back on its feet quickly.  However, if there is not an adequate EPLI policy in place, an employment lawsuit can bankrupt not only the business but the individual owners and directors as well.  EPLI policies vary in cost and coverage, so even if you currently have a policy in place we urge you to contact your insurance broker to review the policy and assure that it covers your future and current needs.  If you don’t have EPLI, today is the day to make that important phone call.

On page four, we have a sample of the questions you will be asked when filling out an application for EPLI.

 

As part of the enrollment process to obtain Employment Practices Liability Insurance, the employer is asked to complete a checklist identifying the HR policies and procedures currently in place.  Along with answering questions such as the number of last year’s terminations, the total employee count, and the breakdown of those making under and over $50,000 per year, the employer must also complete the questions below.  The more YES boxes checked, the lesser the exposure to employee suits and government fines, which can lower the premium.  What is your risk score?

1. Is Human Resources personnel consulted prior to terminations?   Yes____   No___

2. Does the employer have written guidelines, policies, or procedures related to the following:

  • Employment at will    Yes____   No___
  • Discrimination    Yes____   No___
  • Sexual and other workplace harassment   Yes____   No___
  • Equal Employment Opportunity    Yes____   No___
  • Disabled Employees and Reasonable Accommodations   Yes____   No___
  • Reporting and Investigating and Resolving Employee Complaints    Yes____   No___

3. Are employees required to acknowledge receipt of the above guidelines, policies and procedures   Yes____   No___

4. Has employment counsel reviewed the above guidelines, policies and procedures    Yes____   No___

5. Does the employer

  • Utilize employment applications   Yes____   No___
  • Document employee performance   Yes____   No___
  • Conduct human resources training for management employees   Yes____   No___

3. Does the employer have written policies outlining employee conduct when dealing with customers, clients, or other third parties?   Yes____   No___

4. Does the employer conduct pre-employment criminal and credit background checks?   Yes____   No___

If you need assistance in changing your NO answers to YES, please give us a call.  We’d love to help you improve your score!

 

 

Rehiring Laid Off Employees

September 18th, 2014

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We had a client call the other day with exciting news….business activity had increased and he needed to hire a few employees to keep up with the new demand.  Six months ago, when business was more scarce, he had to lay off ten employees, all of whom he would love to re-hire when/if he had the opportunity.  At the time of the layoff, he had expressed that he had hoped the downturn would be temporary, but with no recall policy in place, he was confident that none of the employees had an expectation of being rehired.  However, he now had the opportunity to re-hire some of them and wanted to know how to go about the process.  How did he choose who to contact to see if they wanted to return the company?  With no formal recall policy in place, he was having a difficult time deciding what to do.

We asked him to consider the following:  When he laid off these individuals, was it by seniority or by their work performance?  If he laid off employees based upon seniority, he may use seniority as a factor in determining who to contact first.  If he laid people off based upon skills and qualifications, he may want to review what types of skills are needed for the  new positions and contact only those employees who have the necessary qualifications.  If, by chance, he determined that two employees possessed  equal skills, he could then look at their seniority to decide whom to contact first.

We also reminded him to keep in mind the following when bringing these individuals back into the workforce:

1. Clearly communicate re-hire terms of employment.  Are the employees returning at their last rate of pay?  Will benefits be reinstated without the customary waiting period?  Will the work schedule be the same as before the layoff occurred?

1. Ensure all necessary employee paperwork is accurately completed/up-dated including re-verifying the form I-9.

2. Facilitate a refresher course on safety or other applicable training.  Depending on the nature of the job, or if there have been any changes to the job description since the employee left, you will want to ensure the employee receives the necessary training and is notified of any updates.

With those recommendations, we congratulated our client on the recent upswing in his business and wished him well in his future endeavors.

Terminating Older Workers

September 15th, 2014

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As a small business owner, you may have employees who have been working for you since you first opened your doors – employees who have been loyal and worked long and hard to help your company get where it is today.  While there are many employers who recognize the various advantages of retaining older workers in their organizations and the many older workers who are very effective, there are times when these employees are no longer meeting the requirements of their job.  Yet there is always the concern that in doing so, you may be opening your company up to an age discrimination claim.

Under the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), employers with 20 or more employees, (including state & local governments, labor organizations, and employment agencies) cannot discriminate against workers and job applicants who are at least forty years of age or older when it comes to employment decisions in such areas as hiring, compensation/benefits, promotion and discharge. Certain states have also passed their own age discrimination laws which may impose a different cutoff age and/or cover more workers.  That said, whenever an employee is not meeting the performance expectations of their job, he/she can be let go, and regardless of whether or not they belong to a protected class of workers, as long as you have the necessary documentation in place.

Should you find yourself needing to let an older worker go, it may be helpful for you to review the following activities which should be enforced in any fair and equitable workplace:

  • Accurate and up-to-date job descriptions should be created and maintained for all positions within your company. Ideally the job descriptions should be reviewed and signed annually by all employees.
  • Your employee handbook should contain a policy against discrimination which should not only define the different types of forbidden discrimination but also inform employees who they should report their discrimination complaints to and how those complaints will be handled. Ideally, the employee handbook should be reviewed and signed annually by all employees.
  • Annual performance reviews should be conducted on all employees.  We recommend supervisors track employee performance throughout the year in a Critical Incident Log so when the time comes to complete the reviews; they have a resource to refer to so as to ensure the review is comprehensive and objective.  Employees and supervisors alike should sign any performance documentation that is shared and the documentation should be filed in the employee’s personnel file
  • Any supervisor who believes that a worker’s productivity has been declining should keep very detailed records about the issues.  If any coaching or verbal warnings occur, the supervisor should document the incident (s) and share them with the employee.  The supervisor should obtain the employee’s signature as proof that the information has been shared with the employee.
  • Make sure any feedback that is given is job-related and does not mention age or any other protected characteristic as a potential reason for the poor performance.
  • If your organization has a detailed disciplinary process in place, ensure that you follow it before proceeding with a termination.  If an employee was to bring an age discrimination claim against your company, you will want to prove that the individual, regardless of his/her age or any other protected characteristic, was treated the same as all other employees.
  • If an individual belongs to a protected class and you are unsure if you have adequate documentation on file, we would encourage you to run the case by a lawyer who specializes in employment law before proceeding with a  termination.

 

Post Bonus Boss Blues

September 10th, 2014

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Is thanking your boss now considered ‘brown nosing’?  A client recently lamented that of the 80 employees who received a Holiday Bonus this year, only two told him thank you.  That’s right, only two.  And no one bothered with an actual written thank you note.  He was upset, feeling that his employees were either unaware of the voluntary sacrifice he made to provide them with a monetary bonus during tough times or they were all ingrates who felt they were entitled to a yearly bonus as part of their compensation.

He wasn’t alone.  Many business owners and managers reported that this has happened to them as well – but this year it seemed even more pronounced.  What is going on; and, is there anything that can be (or should be) done before next December to avoid the bad post-bonus boss blues?

Google ‘thanking boss for Christmas Bonus’ and you’ll be amazed at how some bloggers regard thank you notes (and even a verbal ‘thank you’) as being disingenuous or, as one blogger put it:  Brown-Nosing.  It seems that some are under the impression that showing gratitude to someone who signs the checks is really just a way to further ingratiate oneself with the boss.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  However, if the company’s culture is one of little positive feedback one can see how these feelings can surface.  On the other hand, if management is often heard giving verbal positive feedback, chances are the employees will follow the example set by leadership and respond in kind!

There is also the belief that thanking someone who gave you a token of THEIR thanks is not necessary.  A Thank You for a Thank You could result in a continual volley of thanks.  In our humble opinion, why is that so bad?  Unless it gets to the point of one-ups-man-ship, acknowledging someone’s belief that you have done something that warrants recognition can only reassure the giver that they were correct in their assumption of your good work.

Another reason that few employees thank management for their end of year bonus is that it is viewed as just part of their pay.  There is nothing they feel they do (or don’t do) that has a direct correlation on what the bonus amount will be.  It is either the same every year – the infamous Christmas Turkey – or it is seen vary on the whim of the owner.  If the owner wants to share the good fortunes of the company in one year, no matter what happens the following year the employees will likely expect the same reward.  It is not that they are selfish, nor that they are ungrateful.  They have just never been told HOW these bonuses are arrived at…and what impacts the amount from year to year.  If it is truly a bonus based on an individual’s performance, then it should be directly tied to the numbers that reflect that person’s contribution.  If it is a bonus based on an owner’s desire to share profits

with the employees, it should be communicated as such.  If it is to say thank you for all of your work this year, then it is management’s job to let the employee know just how that hard work affected the company.  To just put a check in an envelope with a note saying ‘Happy Holidays’ will lead an employee to believe that it is an envelope that will be found under the Tree every year…no matter what.

 

This leads to another issue that can cause holiday bonuses to backfire.  Some managers look at bonus time as an opportunity to play Santa Claus:  who was naughty this year and who was nice?  Because this manager uses no objective measurements, she can pick and choose who gets how much based on ‘likeability’.  What this manager needs to understand is that her employees don’t keep bonus amounts secret.  When Harry gets a $250 bonus, and John (who has the same position one cubicle over) gets a $400 bonus, why is she surprised when Harry’s work quality takes a dive in January?  Don’t look for Harry to write a thank you note; expect Harry to be underperforming for the next quarter – at least.

 

Holiday bonuses can be a wonderful way to celebrate good fortune with employees, or simply to thank them for their dedication in tough economic times.  It is human nature to be disappointed when a gift is not acknowledged.  However, as we pointed out to our disappointed client, not getting a thank you is not a reason to quit holiday bonuses.  It is time, however, to assess WHY these bonuses are given and HOW to better communicate these reasons to the receiver.  Maybe next year he won’t have to suffer the Post Bonus Boss Blues!

Safety in the workplace

September 8th, 2014

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Everyone recognizes the importance of a safe workplace.  At the same time, many are aware of the associated costs which are necessary to maintain the welfare of employees and the work environment.   However, your company’s safety budget does not need to be compromised in order to maintain a safe work environment. 

Remember…lower accident rates, fewer attendance issues, and lower workers’ compensation costs may outweigh investments made in your safety programs.  Plus, many low cost/no cost safety tools are available.  Here are some recommendations that may be effective for your workplace and employees:

  • When formal, outside training is needed, send only one person from your workplace to save on registration costs.  Unless individual certification is necessary, i.e. CPR cards, send someone from the group who would be capable of returning and training the others.  Ensure the individual is aware he/she will be responsible for training the others.
  • Use experienced employees as trainers.  Most safety topics are repetitive and covered on a regular basis.  Instead of hiring an outside trainer, use an employee who has mastered a topic and can train others. The individual will most likely appreciate the experience gained and the opportunity to have more responsibility.  The individual will most likely appreciate the experience gained and the opportunity to have more responsibility.
  • Revisit your hiring process.  We have many clients who have reduced their accident rate just by having a more systematic hiring process.  Of course, we all know there are many other reasons to check references and have pre-employment drug screening.  However, these steps may also assist you in making better hiring decisions which could lead to a safer workplace.
  • Consider web-based training.  You may be able to utilize webinars for training at a much lower cost than having to bring a trainer in house, or sending an employee to a seminar/class.
  • Make use of community resources.  For example, you may consider your community’s health department or your local fire department.  Many times the fire department will offer fire extinguisher training, and the local Red Cross may have first aid training.
  • Access the federal OSHA and your state’s own safety websites.   Training materials and resources are often times available on a variety of topics.
  • Contact your workers’ compensation carrier.  Many programs have in-house experts who may be able to offer training assistance.

While building an effective safety program may take some time and energy, as these examples illustrate, the program does not have to cost a company a considerable amount of money to be effective.

No Raises This Year?

September 4th, 2014

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Many business owners and managers are facing budget cuts that they haven’t experienced in many years.  With health care costs and other benefits increasing and revenue either flat or decreasing, many clients have told us that they will be freezing wages at least through mid-year.  While they fully understand the necessity of this measure, they are also concerned on how this decision will affect their employees.  What will be their response?  What about their morale and will it have an adverse effect on their performance?  No one likes to be the bearer of bad news…so what can be done to soften the blow?  Are there some low cost morale boosters that can be implemented in your business during these challenging times?

This year, many businesses will not be increasing their payroll budgets.  Not because they don’t want to provide their employees with their annual raises, but because the current economic conditions have given them no options.  While management studies have shown time and time again that pay is not the prime motivator, any business owner knows that NOT giving a raise (especially if one has been given regularly in the past) can definitely be a de-motivator if the business does not take extra steps to soften the blow.  Small gestures, little to no cost ‘actions of gratitude’, can have a significant impact on employee morale and productivity.

Here are some ‘actions of gratitude’ we have either put into practice at Red, or have been warmly welcomed at one of our clients’ companies:

  • Remember to smile and laugh at work…these expressions go a long way in setting a great mood and tone in the workplace.
  • Say “thank you” and “please”.  These are three of the most potent words a manager can use.  They go a long way in letting your employees now you value and respect them.
  • Openly communicate with employees.  Share as much as possible about your business plans and goals with your employees.  Now more than ever, sharing information with them will strengthen bonds and make employees feel like they are part of a team.  They’ll work harder at helping you achieve your aspirations, keeping focused on building the future instead of on fear of layoffs.
  • Have themed dress days or, if your business normally has a more formal environment, casual dress days.  Wearing something that is not part of the usual 9-5 attire can be a great stress breaker.
  • Offer flexible scheduling if possible.  If you can, offer telecommuting or flexible hours (i.e., 10am-7pm instead of 8am-5pm).  Would a 4 day/10 hours a day schedule work for your business?  If you have a business structure that allows some or all of these flexible schedules, offering them may increase employee motivation and productivity.
  • Would your work environment make a happy home for a cat or dog (or some other type of animal such as a bird or hamster)?  Our furry friends can help tremendously with lowering stress….just be sure to check for employee allergies.
  • Check with appropriate vendors to see if they are willing to offer discounts to your employees.  If possible, offer to do the same for their employees.
  • Fill your employee break-room with lots of games, decks of cards and puzzles.  We have one client who has a pool table available for employees to use.
  • If you can squeeze it into your budget, offer employees the option to apply for an emergency short term, interest-free loan.  Specify an amount that employees may borrow if they find themselves needing extra cash quickly.  As an example, someone in your business might need help paying that high winter heating bill.  Employees can repay the amount over time through payroll deductions.
  • Have lunch brought in for employees….not necessarily for meeting sales or productivity goals…but as an ‘action of gratitude’.

We all know employees are always an important part of making our businesses successful.  We hope we have provided some ideas you can utilize to improve office morale during these challenging times.

Intimate Partner Violence and the Workplace

September 3rd, 2014

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Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) affects more than just life at home; it also effects the workplace. IPV is not a one-time incident, or even necessarily physical; it refers to a pattern of behavior in which one person is exploited and controlled. It is a fundamental power imbalance within a relationship resulting in a lack of freedom and options for victims.
Many of us have been affected by IPV. Some of us are survivors. Some of us grew up in families with IPV, or have had friends or partners who did. Some of it happens at home, behind drawn curtains and locked doors– but it doesn’t stay there. Survivors, even during nine to five when they are at work and their abuser is somewhere else, are dealing with a tremendous burden. It’s worth discussing the role of workplaces in responding to IPV.

The Numbers

35-56% – The number of battered women who are harassed at work in person by their abusive partner.

74% – The amount of battered women who were harassed by their partner while at work.

1 million – The amount of women that are stalked each year in the United States. A quarter of those  report missing work because of the stalking.

$700 million – An estimate of the cost of lost productivity due to domestic violence every year.

8 million   – An estimate of paid workdays lost due to domestic violence each year. [1]

At Work

Enduring IPV while maintaining employment is challenging. Usually IPV does not result in workplace violence (but when it does, it can be lethal). More often, violence at home impedes with the ability of victims to work. For example, an abuser may disable a vehicle, refuse to cooperate with childcare arrangements, or harass at the workplace.

Surviving IPV is a 24-hour job: it is emotionally and physically draining, which can affect work performance. If a victim is leaving the relationship, moving, or involved with the courts, there may be appointments during work hours.

A supportive work environment would afford flexibility for appointments related to IPV– and in some areas, it’s law. In Washington State (where our YWCA is located), employers are prohibited from firing or demoting employees from taking time off related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking.
Beyond those legal protections, the workplace uniquely supports victims of IPV. It provides an independent source of reliable income (and income means options) and support from coworkers. Employee assistance programs often provide resources and help for survivors.

Many corporations and businesses are doing more: they are writing policy and creating practices that makes supporting survivors of IPV a priority. And…they are finding it’s good business.

Healthy employees are creative and productive employees.

Making A Difference

According to the Corporate Alliance To End Partner Violence (CAEPV) [2], every workplace has a role in responding to intimate partner violence. The Alliance suggests establishing a committee that is representative of all stakeholders– from the CEO to the front lines– and developing a policy that addresses IPV. While you are the expert on your workplace, you don’t have to be the expert on violence. Your local shelter or advocacy program (you do have one!) would be happy to provide technical assistance on the dynamics of violence.

A complete policy would include training staff in the three Rs.

Recognize.
Be aware of what IPV looks and sounds like in perpetrators and victims, and that most partner violence is not physical.

Respond.
Change in behavior or performance at work due to intimate partner violence might be a management issue. Managers ought to know how to have these discussions in a supportive way.

Refer.
What supportive resources are available internally? How about shelters or advocacy programs in your community?

Want to get started? The CAEPV website has a sample policy and descriptions of policies of its corporate partners.

Rehiring After a Layoff

August 27th, 2014

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Some of our clients who have conducted layoffs over the past few months are optimistic that what they once believed was a difficult permanent decision might now be only temporary. While they might not be rehiring in the next few months, they believe that they might be able to rehire some of the employees they were forced to lay off by early fall.

While this is great news, these employers must not forget to consider the potential legal issues when rehiring laid off employees.  For companies who used solely subjective criteria such as performance evaluations, rehiring of former employees needs to be completed with care in order to avoid potential discrimination concerns.  Sometimes the rehiring process can be just as complicated as the layoffs.

Employers, employees, and those who were laid off during the downturn are all eagerly anticipating a return to the ’good times’.  We have worked with many clients during these extremely difficult times as they have worked to trim their payroll costs in order to remain viable.  The layoff process is a very had one, with management investing long hours in careful deliberation on where and how to reduce their expenses all the while trying to balance their fiduciary responsibilities with the needs of their customers and their employees.

On the other hand, when times improve and it’s time to ramp back up, re-hiring employees should be a breeze.  Not so fast!  Consider this scenario:  Because business has increased over the summer of 2009, you are looking to fill three job openings on the retail floor beginning August 15th.  In February of 2009, you laid off five workers who held jobs in that same position.  Two of the salespeople were women, the other three were male.  If you choose to re-hire the three  males, how can you prove that your decision was reasonable?  What was your decision process—and was it objective?  Remember, discrimination law applies to hires…and RE-hires as well.

Employers who conducted layoffs by seniority need to be cautious when bringing employees back as well to ensure seniority is considered when asking employees to return.  Let’s say the employer knows the most senior separated employee had some attendance issues that were never properly addressed prior to the layoff.  The employer needs to understand that the attendance issue cannot be a factor in deciding not to re-hire this employee if it was communicated that separations and potential rehires were being carried out based upon seniority ONLY. The time to work with the employee on poor work habits should have happened long before the layoffs began.  By keeping someone with performance issues on the job, management caused problems for the company obviously at the time the employee was allowed to get away with such behavior.  The problem, however, is compounded when management is forced to re-hire this employee because of the factors they used when determining the layoff.  For this employee, as with all rehires, management should provide policy reminders on attendance and all other company rules and reestablish work performance expectations upon return to the workplace.

Another subject to consider when rehiring laid off employees is the eligibility of benefits such as health insurance upon rehire as well as how leave accruals, etc., are managed.  Employers must  carefully review their policies and plan documents prior to contacting any former employees to ensure they have the answers to these questions. If any policy is not clearly defined, the company will want to comply with any past practices, or, if they need to create a new policy to address the issue, the company will want to be sure it is a practice they can follow consistently in future instances which may be similar.

Of course, many rehiring decisions may depend on former employees’ availability. Depending on how long it has been since layoffs occurred, employees may have found other employment or moved out of the area. All offers of rehire should be documented, and if the former employee chooses to not return, the reason given should be noted.

Re-hiring can be an exciting time.  It means the future is looking much brighter.  When the re-hires are done thoughtfully, with a system in place to address discrimination concerns and a re-commitment to performance expectations, it can be a time of renewal for both the company and all of its employees.

Screening Applicants

August 25th, 2014

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There has been a lot in the news lately about applicant screening practices and what is considered “best practice” versus what can land an employer in the middle of a discrimination claim.  Education requirements, credit checks, genetic testing, and social media screening have all been called into question recently.  Despite the negative publicity, thorough background screening is an integral part of making a good hiring decision and is even required in some industries.

While there are some pitfalls to be avoided, below are some suggestions on how to complete thorough checks while being mindful of the laws and privacy of those individuals who apply at your company.

Contact Professional References. While some companies may have a policy against providing any information other than a previous employee’s employment dates and job title, many supervisors/past employers will provide you with their feedback on a previous employee’s performance.  We recommend you inquire about an applicant’s strengths and weaknesses, why the individual left the company and if they are re-hirable.

Perform a Comprehensive Criminal Record Check. This check should include searches in the counties/states where an applicant has lived, worked and attended school as well as a check of the national criminal database.  Merely checking your county or state records is not sufficient as people can move frequently.

Run a Credit History Check. While some state laws limit the use of credit checks in hiring decisions, if the position requires access to large amounts of cash or sensitive information, they are generally allowed.  An individual who has been irresponsible with his/her own finances may have the potential to be irresponsible with yours.

Implement Job-Related Assessments. There are a variety of computer-based tests, everything from bank teller skills tests to personality/profile assessments.  These tests, if created and used correctly, can give an employer insight into a person’s skills and fit for a position.

Use Social Media Outlets Wisely. While conducting social media checks can open an employer up to potential discrimination claims, it comes down to what an employer does with the information they find on a social media site.  For example, merely Googling an applicant’s name to see what pops up is not illegal.  Taking any information you might find on the internet at face value and using it as the deciding factor in hire could land you in hot water.  Remember, not everything you find on the internet is the truth!  Do your due diligence!!!!

Gen X as Managers

August 20th, 2014

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For decades, members of Generation X have had to battle the label of ‘slacker’.  They were portrayed in teen movies of the 80’s and early 90’s as unfocused, lazy and grungy.  Ads depicted them as more concerned about the next party than about getting a job. As those born between the mid-sixties and mid-seventies, they followed on the heels of the largest generation in US history, the Boomers.  While the Boomers were graduating from college, working their way up the corporate ladder, and garnering the complete attention of media and advertisers, the much smaller Gen X was developing its own unique culture.  And, in no way can this culture be defined as ‘slacker.’  The typical Gen X employee is now in their late thirties and many are now successful managers and entrepreneurs.  What motivates this generation—and how can we keep the best and the brightest from moving on.

Gen X, once termed the ‘slacker generation’, is evolving into anything but in the workplace.  Granted, they don’t view work quite the way the Boomer generation does.  In fact, these differences can cause much tension and lost productivity if both generations don’t understand what makes the other tick.  Born between 1965 and 1977, more and more managers are part of the Gen X demographic.  To make the most of their talents and keep them motivated, older managers and leaders need to focus on what they need to succeed.

It is important to remember that this generation has grown up with technology.  Computers have always been an integral part of their lives.  Rapid change is not seen as a threat to this group; they have readily adapted to each new technology as it came along.  Because of this, however, they rely more on technology than older workers to help solve issues in the workplace.  Instead of asking, “Who can help us solve this problem” the Gen Xer will often ask “What software is out there to get us out of this situation?”

That’s not to say that the Gen X manager isn’t people oriented.  This generation was the first to introduce the lexicon “Soccer Mom” into the mainstream political discourse.  Their parents were the first purchasers of the Suburban, used to transport their children from the soccer field to the hockey rink on a daily basis.  The Gen X manager is a team oriented leader who understands that everyone has a role on the team.  They also like to win.  The company that keeps the Gen X manager motivated and focused will provide that manager with clear objectives and goals along with an objective way to keep score (i.e. key performance indicators, benchmarks, etc.).

They need to be passionate about the mission and understand how they and their subordinates fit in the long range goals of the organization.  One thing most Gen X managers aren’t passionate about is seniority based promotions and pay structures.  More traditional occupations, such as Public Accounting and Law, must take a fresh look at how to keep their best and brightest from moving on.  This generation, much like the Millennials we wrote about in last month’s newsletter; don’t have the patience to work themselves up the ranks.  They need to be rewarded for performance, not longevity.  Because they are so used to dealing with rapid change it often seems like their own lives are on fast-forward.  “Paying their dues” is something they see as totally irrelevant in today’s workplace.

Since the first Gen Xer was born in 1965, society has gone through changes beyond just technology.  Women bosses aren’t a novelty like they were when the Boomer generation entered the workplace.  Businesses are much more diverse and the Gen X managers are much more at home dealing with different work styles and cultures than the generations that proceeded them.  They are at the forefront of the work/life balance movement.  It is not that they aren’t committed to their work; it is just that they are even more committed to their total life experience.

There are many strengths and skills that a Gen X manager can bring to the workplace.  What must your company do to develop them as productive leaders for your future?