Red Hot Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘employee’


October 15th, 2014


Last month we talked about the prevalence of prescription drugs use and their abuse in the workplace.  So, what can you do to keep your business, and your employees safe?  What signs might indicate the potential for drug misuse? 

The indicators listed below are “warning signs” of drug and/or alcohol abuse and may be observed by supervisors:

Moods:  Is an employee unusually…

  • Depressed
  • Anxious
  • Irritable
  • Suspicious
  • Complaining about others
  • Emotionally unsteady (e.g., outbursts of crying)
  • Moody (his/her mood changes after lunch or break)

Behaviors:  Do you notice that one of your employees is more…

  • Withdrawn or improperly talkative
  • Argumentative
  • Egotistical / Has exaggerated sense of self-importance
  • Violent / displaying violent behavior

Absenteeism:  Are any of your employees experiencing…

  • An acceleration of absenteeism and tardiness, especially Mondays, Friday, before and after holidays
  • Frequent unreported absences, later explained as “emergencies”
  • Unusually high incidence of colds, flu, upset stomach, headaches
  • Frequent use of unscheduled vacation time
  • Leaving work area more than necessary (e.g., frequent trips to water fountain and bathroom)
  • Unexplained disappearances from the job with difficulty in locating employee
  • Requesting to leave work early for various reasons

Accidents:  You have an employee…

  • Taking of needless risks
  • Disregarding the safety of others
  • With a higher than average accident rate on and off the job

Work Patterns:  One of your employees is experiencing…

  • Inconsistency in quality of work
  • High and low periods of productivity
  • Poor judgment/more mistakes than usual and general carelessness
  • Lapses in concentration
  • Difficulty in recalling instructions
  • Difficulty in remembering own mistakes
  • Using more time to complete work/missing deadlines
  • Increased difficulty in handling complex situations


Relationship to Others on the Job:  One of your employees is…

  • Paranoid
  • Avoiding and withdrawing from peers
  • Receiving complaints from co-workers
  • Borrowing money from fellow employees
  • Complaining of problems at home such as separation, divorce and child discipline problems

Any one of these signs, alone or combined, could be a signal to a number of concerns, not necessarily substance abuse related.  However, if any signs are combined with other signs of impairment, you have cause for concern.  Some signs of impairment may include, but not be limited to:


Still, even with a number of signs, there may be other issues, such as illness, or a recent family situation, which are causing many of the above signs and symptoms.  You must be careful not to judge too quickly.  While you want to take care of your business, you do not want to falsely accuse anyone.

Next month, we’ll discuss what steps to follow if you do notice an employee exhibiting many of the symptoms above.  Remember, if you possibly have a current situation, and cannot wait for next month’s article on how to follow through on the warning signs, give one of our HR Coaches at Red and Associates a phone call.  We’ll be happy to walk through the situation with you and see how we can help.


Salary Compensation for non-exempt Employees

October 1st, 2014


While in a meeting last week, our client brought up a question regarding salary compensation for one of his non-exempt positions.  He had originally hired an employee to work for him on a temporary, trial basis so he could determine whether or not the individual was capable of performing the job.  While the individual was classified as a temporary employee, our client paid her $11.00 per hour.  He eventually decided that the individual was capable of performing the functions of the position and offered her a permanent position, which pays a monthly salary of $2,000.  However, our client stated that by definition, the position is a non-exempt (paid hourly) position.

Several weeks ago, on a Wednesday afternoon, the employee left work early in the afternoon.  It was the first of the month, and there was a lot of work she had not yet completed for the monthly reports that were due on the second.  She also did not show up to work the following Thursday and, although she claims to have called in to report her absence, our client was unable to find any record proving that she did.

While the employee was out of the office on Thursday, our client had to access her email inbox as he needed some valuable information for a project he was working on.  While viewing her email inbox, he found some valuable information he wasn’t even looking for.  He learned that the employee had been applying for other jobs, using company equipment and time to do so.

When she came to work on Friday, our client terminated her employment.  The employee was paid for the 6 hours she worked on the 1st in addition to her time worked between the 15th and 31st of the previous month.  Upon arriving home, the employee called our client stating that she should be paid for the entire first pay period of the current month since she was a salaried employee and not just the 6 hours she actually worked on the 1st.

Our client was not sure how to respond and asked for our clarification on what payment the employee truly was entitled to as a non-exempt, salaried employee.

Under federal law, when it comes to paying a non-exempt employee, employers must ensure that the employee is paid for all time worked, including time and one-half for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek, regardless of whether the employee is paid a salary or an hourly wage rate.

In this case, if our client had not been paying the employee overtime on all hours worked over 40 in a workweek, he may have inadvertently made her an exempt employee.  This is why we always caution our clients to pay non-exempt employees on an hourly basis instead of on a salary basis.

The law does not require employers to pay any non-exempt employee for time that he/she did not work. However, if the employee is exempt, she should be paid for a full 8 hours on the 1st instead of just the 6).  While our client had not been specifically tracking the employee’s hours worked per week, he was certain she has never been entitled to overtime as she worked approximately 6 hours per day, 5 days per week.

Our client confirmed that the terminated employee was indeed paid for all hours she worked, specifically the 6 hours that she worked on the 1st.  So, unless the employee had any accrued but unused paid time off for which she should have been paid for or if she is in fact exempt, we told our client that he does not owe the terminated employee any additional funds.

We also suggested before a replacement is hired, the position be moved to hourly pay and not salaried so there would be no confusion about the non-exempt status of the job.


Terminations & Employee Loyalties

September 24th, 2014


It is never easy to terminate an employee.  No matter how egregious their actions might be, firing someone is by far one of the hardest jobs of management.  You hired them with the best intentions.  You saw something in them that made you want to take the chance and offer them the job.  You wanted them to succeed.  They have not.  You must now admit defeat – not only to yourself and that employee, but to the rest of your employees as well.

It isn’t too hard to announce that Susie, who never was popular with the employees and was the center of many complaints, has left the company.  It is much harder when the employee in question, let’s call him Joe, was extremely popular with his coworkers.  What can you say to justify your decision?  Shouldn’t you be able to let them know the facts behind your decision to terminate Joe?  Why do you have to come out as the bad guy when it was Joe who was hurting the company?

Because you are the boss.

At red, we often must counsel our clients to take a deep breath (and often more than just one) when we discuss a potential termination with them.  The “Joe” employee is always the hardest.  Often, poorly performing employees don’t show their colors in front of their peers.  It might be that Joe is able to hide his substandard performance from everyone in the department because his job is hard to monitor by anyone at his level.  It could be Joe is involved in something that is in violation of federal or state laws.  Often, the “Joe” is someone who is very good at buttering up to his peers, shifting most of his work to them; he might think he is being a great delegator but in reality he is a terrible employee.

When the decision is made to say good-bye to Joe, the employer is also faced with how to tell the rest of the employees that Joe is no longer part of the company.  If Joe has been an extremely poor employee – whether he broke law, didn’t live up to expectations, or was a poor influence on others – it is a real challenge on what you can say and what you need to keep confidential.

It is always the best advice to ‘take the high road’ and not say a word.  You are the boss, your employees trust you to make decisions based on what is best for the company…at least they should.

And that is one of the hardest parts of being the boss.  Popular Joe – fired.  Boss – not so popular any more.  No matter if the reasons were very serious or if Joe was a negative force in the workplace, employees will always question why a popular guy like Joe is let go.  In the best possible worlds, employees know that the manager makes these type of decisions based on hard facts and long nights of deep thought.  Sadly, such a perfect world doesn’t exist.

The watercooler will be buzzing – until you, the boss, walk in.  Morale might take a real dip for a while.  After all, if you let Joe go ‘who knows who will be next?’  Sometimes, loyalty to the terminated employee trumps loyalty to the employer and others might choose to follow Joe out the door.  It is a very human response to want to call an employee meeting, lay out your case and let them know exactly what Joe did (or didn’t do) that forced your hand.  DON’T DO IT!

Instead, remember that one of management’s first priorities is to protect the reputation of the company and all who work within its walls.  This means that you should have a policy in place that clearly states what happens at termination and that the privacy of the individual is to be respected at all times.  Therefore, reasons for termination will be strictly confidential unless there are legal reasons where other communications might be necessary.  It also means that when Joe’s leaving is announced, management is very careful to say that “while Joe is no longer part of our company, we all wish him well in his future endeavors.”  Finally, it is extremely important that management commit to much more face time with Joe’s work group for the following few weeks to reassure them that the company supports them and is focused on their success.

If the work team wants to meet Joe after work to commiserate, you should not say anything (even though you will probably be hurt by their perceived ‘disloyalty’).  Remember, most friendships forged in the workplace have a way of dying out once that person is no longer part of the work team.  One or two venting parties shouldn’t be enough to worsen morale if you have taken the steps to keep it confidential and professional at work and have made extra effort in being physically present for your employees.

If you have a history of being a respectful and caring manager, Joe’s leaving should only be a brief bump in the road.  No termination is easy, but often they are necessary.  It’s hard and it’s emotional.

However, we are always amazed at how quickly employees can adjust to a “world without Joe” if the employer follows these steps and keeps his team focused on creating an even better workplace in the future.

Where Did You Go Wrong?

August 13th, 2014


You’ve made a list of what you need to make you happy; you’ve met many who might meet at least some of your expectations.  After a few dates, you narrow your choices.  Finally, after spending time getting to know each other—asking questions and meeting the family—you pop the question.  You’re elated when the answer is “Yes!”

After a few weeks the euphoria goes away; and, by the second month you both recognize it just won’t work. You call it off.

Divorces are expensive…just like turnover.

No one likes to admit it wasn’t a good fit, whether we’re talking personal relationships or employer-employee relationships.  What can you do next time to increase the odds for a happily ever after?

No one likes to admit they made a mistake.  When the employee leaves in the first year of employment, many factors need to be considered before placing blame.

According to a survey reported on by the Society for Human Resources Management, unrealistic job expectations about the job and/or the organization is a major reason why as many as one-quarter of new hires leave within their first year of employment with a company.  These results represent a broad cross-section of industries.

Among the 2,046 responses received, the reasons given for new hires leaving were:

· Unrealistic expectations of the job and organization – 47.9%

· Failure to grasp how things get done around the organization – 38.7%

· Poor communications with supervisor – 33.1%

· Failure to develop a sense of belonging and purpose – 26.4%

· Inadequate technical skills – 22.7%

· Not understanding the link between the job and organizational goals – 20.9%

· Failure to connect with “key” employees – 17.8%

· Inability to quickly establish trust and credibility – 12.9%

· Poor people skills – 12.9%

From these results, it appears that many employers may not be sharing enough information, or possibly not the most realistic information, during the hiring and orientation processes.  Therefore, it may be difficult for either the supervisor or the new employee to determine if the job is a good fit.  The employee may begin their new job already at a disadvantage and may not get a chance to succeed.

In the effort to recruit the best employees, many businesses may not realize that the “full story” about the company and/or the job is not being presented to, or possibly not being fully comprehended by, the candidate. Supervisors need to be aware of providing accurate, complete information to candidate during the interview process, and carrying that forward to the new hire orientation once a new employee is hired.

If you need any assistance in reviewing your hiring and orientation processes to ensure they are accurately relaying information about your company, give Red a call!  As one of our value-added services, we’ll work with you to review your hiring and orientation processes to be certain the most beneficial , as well as realistic, information about your business is being given.

A realistic job preview in the beginning can save a lot of headaches and heartaches down the road!



Pay Compression

May 1st, 2014



We have received several calls from clients who are concerned about their current salary structures.  Some of these business owners had instituted pay freezes at their companies over the past couple of years due to the declining economy.  Now, however, business is picking back up and they are beginning to hire more people in order to keep up with demand.  While recruiting, several of our clients have learned that some of their starting wages are now not too much less than what many of their long term employees are currently earning.  This type of situation is referred to as “pay compression.”

Pay compression is a concern for business owners because it can cause morale issues, employee turnover and inequitable pay.  When employers pay new hires at rates comparable to their longer-serving employees, they aren’t paying their more senior employees competitively enough. If longer-serving employees have reached the maximum in the pay range for their position, employers may unintentionally be creating a glass ceiling for such employees. If this glass ceiling affects mostly older workers or women, this can potentially lead to charges of age-based or sex-based wage discrimination.

If you determine that pay compression has occurred at your company, there are some steps you can take to try and resolve and/or understand the issue.

Assess the current situationAre you underpaying longer term employees? Overpaying new hires? Or, has the comparable market for particular positions made a significant jump large enough to cause the compression?

Consider skill requirementsEven though seniority may be considered when reviewing salaries for longer term employees, you will also want to review the skill set of the employees when making comparisons.  For example, you may have a current employee with 10 years experience; however, a new employee may have 20 years experience and/or a much broader skill set.

Reassess current market analyses and salary surveys, and make any necessary salary adjustmentsIf a large amount of changes are needed, or a large increase is needed for a particular positions, and you cannot make the changes immediately due to budgeting concerns, determine a plan to implement the changes over time.  Communicate these plans with your employees so they know you are considering their best interests.

Review your current compensation system to prevent future compression from happeningYou should be able to determine if the compression occurred because of outside environmental factors or other factors that may be within your company’s control to correct.

After reviewing this information, if you have any questions about a particular compensation issue at your company, please give us a call.  We are happy to assist you!

Independent Contractors

April 29th, 2014


We don’t know about Santa, but we do know that many employers often misclassify employees as independent contractors thus avoiding payroll taxes and other compliance requirements.

This issue has come under increased scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and the consequences of misclassification are serious.  If an employer is found to have misclassified workers as independent contractors, the employer can be assessed for income taxes that were not withheld, unemployment taxes (FUTA), and both the employee and employer’s share of FICA.

The IRS is now making available to employers a version of an amnesty program.  This new program will enable many employers to resolve past worker classification issues and achieve certainty under the tax law at a low cost by voluntarily reclassifying workers.

The program will allow employers the opportunity to get into compliance by making a minimal payment covering past payroll tax obligations rather than waiting for an IRS audit. This is part of a larger “Fresh Start” initiative at the IRS to help taxpayers and businesses address their tax responsibilities.

The new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) is designed to increase tax compliance and reduce the burden for employers by providing greater certainty for employers, workers, and the government.  Under the program, eligible employers can obtain substantial relief from federal payroll taxes they may have owed for the past, if they prospectively treat workers as employees.

The VCSP is available to many businesses, tax-exempt organizations, and government entities that currently erroneously treat their workers or a class or group of workers as nonemployees or independent contractors, and now want to correctly treat these workers as employees.

To be eligible, an employer must:

  • Consistently have treated the workers in the past as nonemployees, contractors
  • Have filed all required Forms 1099 for the workers for the previous three years,
  • Not currently be under audit by the IRS, the Department of Labor, or a state agency  concerning the classification of these workers.

Interested employers can apply for the program by filing Form 8952, Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, at least 60 days before they want to begin treating the workers as employees.

Hiring Tips

April 24th, 2014


Many employers spend more time researching a new car purchase than they do searching for a new employee.  They’ll visit car lots on weekends, spend hours on the web, and even more time asking peers and friends for input.  They’ll compare price and service agreements, safety ratings and accessories.  After much agony and soul searching, they make their purchase.  However, when faced with filling a position in their business, they’ll quickly put together a simple want ad and then sit back and cross their fingers that the perfect employee will see the ad and make the call.  No need for us to tell you that the new car will probably be around a lot longer than the rushed new hire!

When you have a job opening, do you always know exactly where to look for that perfect new employee?  If you answered “yes”, that is great; you are one step ahead of the majority! 

Normally, a company does not have one recruitment source with an endless stream of perfect job applicants clamoring at their doorstep. 

With a tightening labor market  and ever changing demographics, businesses need to remain open to new recruitment options.  Here are some different avenues for you to consider: 

► Existing applicantsKeep a database of qualified applicants who have applied for positions with your company, but were not hired.  You never know when these qualified applicants may be the perfect match for a new opening.  Do you try to keep in touch with applicants or do they get lost in a file cabinet?  Keep in mind that an applicant who you may not hire now may turn into a great new employee sometime in the future.

► Current employeesAlways post all job openings within your organization.  An opportunity for advancement or having the chance to try their talents at a different job is a great morale boost for your employees.  Plus, you never know what hidden talents your employees may possess.

► Friends and families of employees within your company.  Remember you have a whole slew of recruiters at your disposal. You never know who your employees have in their network of friends and family.  Do you have an Employee Referral Program?

► General mediaIn addition to running a classified ad, have you also considered advertising through a different source in the newspaper?  How about a general article about your company?  Do you have any unique employee events, are some of your employees involved as volunteers in community groups?  Spotlighting these types of activities could help you promote your company as a great place to work.


► The internetMost businesses today have websites.  If you are not already doing so, you should take full advantage of your site to advertise current job openings and highlight your company’s employee benefits.

► Trade and lifestyle publications.  Look beyond your local newspaper for different classified advertising options.

► SchoolsDo you offer internships or school to work programs? Do your employees make career presentations?  Do you have a program that allows local students to “job shadow” different positions?  Do you work with the career development office at local schools?

► Job FairsAs the job markets tighten, job fairs are becoming more numerous and more popular.  Be creative with your booth and think of ways to create a lasting impression.  Also, be sure to follow up with everyone who filled out a job application or gave you a resume.

► Open HouseAn open house provides you with an opportunity to “show off” your business.  Provide tours of the company.  Ask employees to be involved in providing positive testimonials about working for your company.

► Partnerships with other businesses. An applicant who may not be good for you may be perfect for the business down the street.  Through networking, find out what jobs other companies in your area may be looking to fill.

► CustomersYour customers could make your best employees.  Who is more passionate about your products and/or services than someone who buys from you?

Employee Personnel Files

April 21st, 2014


During a recent on-site visit to a client, one of our HR coaches overheard an employee telling their supervisor that it was taking longer to fill out his new hire paperwork than it did to buy his house.  He was amazed at all of the information he needed to complete before he could begin his first day of work.  The supervisor nodded her head to commiserate, knowing that the amount of papers in that employee’s file would only grow in volume as his years on the job increased.

Properly maintained employee personnel files are important.  Employees’ personnel files should contain information related to hiring, compensation, benefits, performance appraisals, training, discipline and termination. Employee files, when done correctly, are your organization’s best defense against any possible charges of unfair labor practices and thus, should be a priority.

At hire, documents such as resumes, academic transcripts, applications, letters of reference, offer letters, hire notices, job-related test results, emergency contacts, payroll information, signed job descriptions and signed acknowledgements of company policies and procedures should be retained in the personnel file.  As the employment relationship continues, performance appraisals, disciplinary action notices, changes to the benefit plans, personal/employment information changes, on-going training materials and compensation information should be retained in the personnel file.

And finally, resignation letters, termination notices, benefit cancellation notices and exit interview notes should be retained upon an employee’s separation from your company.


Although most employee documents can be filed in the personnel file, there are several things that cannot.   Records identifying an employees’ race, nationality, or ethnic background or any information related to an employee’s medical condition must be kept in separate, confidential files.

Why the division?  Documentation is separated to protect the company against any potential charges of discrimination.  For example, one may have a current employee who is interested in applying for a position within another department.  The department manager asks for this employee’s file so he can review his performance review.  The file contained information regarding a work-related injury sustained by the employee.  This information, while accidentally stumbled upon, gave the supervisor pause as he did not want an injured employee working for him.

The information found in his file prevented the employee from receiving the promotion even though it did not reflect on his current ability to do the work entailed.  If word got back to the employee that the decision was made because of something being in his file that should not have been, he could hold the organization liable for discriminatory treatment.

Such division of information should remain even after an employee leaves your company to prevent similar situations in regards to reference verifications or potential re-hire situations.

How to Check References

April 15th, 2014


Reference checks should generally be completed once the number of candidates has been narrowed down through completing a preliminary application review and conducting interviews.  You should also ensure you have a signed waiver form applicants that gives you permission to conduct reference checks.  Additionally, caution should be taken when contacting anyone at an applicant’s current employer.  Current employers should not be contacted without the explicit consent of the applicant.  Many businesses agree not to contact a current employer until after a conditional job offer has been extended to the job candidate.

When completing reference checks, you may choose to obtain information either by phone or in writing via fax or mail.  Many companies do not give information over the phone.  Instead they choose to limit their liability by requesting a signed waiver and reference form be sent to them.  However, phone references can generally be more helpful given that you may be able to tune in to verbal cues such as an enthusiastic voice or, conversely, hesitancy when answering questions.

When establishing a policy for conducting reference checks, it is a good idea to decide how many references will be completed for each candidate.  For management positions, you may want to check 2-3 reference; however, for an entry-level position, 1-2 references may be enough.  Just be certain to establish consistency among job groups.

What to Ask

Basic facts to check may include:

Dates employed              Equipment used to perform work

Position(s) held               Responsibilities typically performed

Salary earned                Reason for leaving the company

Eligibility for rehire

Depending on the level of position you are hiring for, you may also want to inquire about:

Dependability                 Ability to learn from mistakes

Work ethic                    Willingness to assume responsibility

Interpersonal qualities    Eagerness to learn new skills

Leadership skills             Response to pressure or deadlines

Accuracy                        Overall strengths and weaknesses


To assist you with your reference checking, Red and Associates offers the following forms as part of our services: the Reference and Background Investigation Consent Form, the Reference Check Form by Phone, and the Reference Check Form by Fax or MailSee your HR eBook for the appropriate forms.  If you need any additional support regarding conducting reference checks, call an HR Coach.  We are here to help!

Employee hears hiring news on facebook

April 10th, 2014


While scanning her Facebook  newsfeed a few weeks ago, one of our staff members came upon a real life HR drama being played out on Social Media.  An acquaintance’s status had just been changed to announce the exciting news that her husband had been chosen for a promotion.  Obviously, this was wonderful news that she wanted to share with her closest friends.

It seems, however, that among her 457 Facebook friends, there were a few that probably shouldn’t have heard the news from her.  The first three comments to her  status were full of congratulations and best wishes.  The fourth comment read: “Wow.  So HE got the job.  Nice someone told the rest of us who applied that we didn’t get the job before it got blabbed all over Facebook.”  Ouch.

In this instant notification age we live in, news spreads unbelievably fast.  It is the right and ethical thing to contact applicants who did not get the position.  Under no circumstances should they have to find out that they lost out on a dream by reading someone’s Facebook page.  Hiring managers need to let new hires know that it needs to remain confidential until everyone who needs to be notified is informed of the decision.  Then, and only then, should they feel free to spread the word of their new job.

Does this mean that hiring managers need to get the word out immediately after the chosen applicant says yes?  YES!!!!  Applicant Tracking Systems have made the notification process much easier and less time consuming.  If you don’t have such a system, be sure you have the time set aside to send emails/make phone calls the same day you make the hire.  Don’t wait for the news to spread on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.  Everyone knew where her husband worked and it suffered a ‘virtual black eye’ when it became apparent the hiring manager didn’t take the time to let everyone know who got—and didn’t get—the job.