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Complications with ACA

9 Oct

The Affordable Care Act will become more important to companies with over 100 employees because January 1, 2015 is the deadline for those businesses to begin offering health insurance to its workers. According to MSN News, the exact requirement is that at least 70 percent of full-time staffers must be offered health insurance by 2015. Additionally, the insurance plan must not exceed over 9.5 percent of employees' annual salaries.

According to Andy Birol, a small-business consultant, companies shouldn't overthink their policies to the extent it inhibits them from making other business decisions. He terms his strategy for ACA as "fish or cut bait," meaning to either get into the game or get out of it – to make a decision quickly and stick to it.

Some companies are actually reducing their headcount of full-time employees to avoid paying the for insurance coverage.

More complications to complying with ACA
There are some additional challenges to the ACA that many people in the human resource planning field are not aware of, but a recent article by HR Morning pinpoints some of the most salient points to be concerned about when it comes to this important matter.

For one thing, adding a wellness program is a great way to get employees healthy and focused on getting into good shape. However, giving incentives to those who sign up for it can be a problem, along with adding penalties for people who smoke or are overweight. For example, the ACA maximum reduction or penalty is 30 percent, according to HR Morning. For smokers, it rises to 50 percent. Anything more than that is a violation.

Another problem is with "grandfathered" programs, which are old enough to become exempt from major health care rules. However, if a grandfathered program changes enough than it will no longer be protected under the same status.

The government has put out a list of information about this on a special ACA website.

Waiting periods are another complex issue. Health care plans cannot make employees wait more than 90 days for coverage to begin, but many covered employees are facing longer waiting periods, putting their employers in jeopardy of facing ACA penalties.

How affordable is the insurance?
Some employees are turning down ACA insurance because they can't afford it. According to Tara Wicker, the HR director for a chain of grocery stores, many of her employees choosing against insurance because they can't pay the premiums. People who want to keep their workers insured and healthy may want to look carefully for an affordable plan that compromises between what employees and employers can both afford.

Other people believe that employees should be allowed to have no insurance if that's what they want.

"The employer is responsible for offering the insurance, not responsible for ensuring that employees actually enroll," said Tony Novak, a benefits consultant.

The official rules are that if the employer offers minimal coverage, there is no penalty if employees don't take it. Jon Robitaille, who works for a grocery store, says that he signed up for the insurance plan because he felt it was mandated, but said he would have preferred to spend the money on vacations instead.

Other complications include the fact that workers must work for 30 hours a week in order to be eligible for a plan, and maybe people who work more than one job have trouble meeting the requirements even if they work more than 30 hours when both jobs are combined.

Smaller businesses won't have to worry about the ACA rules until 2016. That's when companies with between 50 and 99 employees must begin providing health insurance. Those with less than 50 don't have to comply with the rules.

OSHA changing its reporting regulations

9 Oct

OSHA has released new rules that will make compliance reporting more of a challenge for employers. According to Human Resources Executive Online, OSHA's latest regulations will require employee management teams to report work-related fatalities within 8 hours and hospitalized work-related injuries within 24 hours. Additionally, everyone will have to comply with OSHA reporting guidelines, including companies that do not have to keep injury and illness records, which hadn't needed to make reports in the past.

Previously, injuries were only reported when three or more employees became wounded in the same accident, which made reporting far less common. Additionally, amputations are now considered to include the loss of even small parts of the body, such as the tip of a finger. An additional 25 new industries must also begin keeping records. This new list includes lessors of real estate and liquor stores.

According to Environmental and Energy Law Monitor, posting on JD Supra, the laws go into effect on January 1, 2015. The theory behind the new regulations is that OSHA will begin conducting more inspections of companies where people are injured on the job. Before, only those with injuries affecting three or more people would become targeted for inspections, now employers that regularly report injuries of only one person or more will face additional OSHA inspections.

OSHA to post its data online
OSHA is now planning to report accident data online, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The idea behind the online releases, which are already posted to OSHA's website, is that companies will be embarrassed by their track records of injuries and begin to emphasize safety as a major concern.

"We believe that the possibility of public reporting of serious injuries will encourage—or, in the behavioral economics term, nudge—employers to take steps to prevent injuries so they're not seen as unsafe places to work," said David Michaels, the head of OSHA, to Bloomberg Businessweek. "After all, if you had a choice of applying for a job at a place where a worker had just lost a hand, versus one where no amputation has occurred, which would you choose?"

Some companies are opposed to OSHA's plan, alleging that posting the reports online will only make things more difficult for businesses to find employees without helping workers to operate in safe places.

"OSHA simply cannot demonstrate that this proposed rule will result in fewer injuries and illnesses," Geoffrey Burr, vice president of government affairs for the Associated Builders & Contractors, said in a statement sent to OSHA earlier in 2014.

What’s obscurely covered under the ADA?

30 Sep

In human resources departments across the U.S., people are working diligently to comply with federal, state and municipal regulations with regard to recruiting, hiring and employee policies. However, it can be a difficult task keeping up with every law and amendment, ensuring the business is free from legal liability for noncompliance. All the same, ignorance of the law is never a defense for human resources managers and business owners. They need to understand how the various kinds of legislation impact the way they operate on a daily basis, especially laws that pertain to civil rights.

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a landmark ruling that has changed the way companies accommodate individuals who have a disability or what other people perceive as a disability. The U.S. Department of Justice explained the disability can either be "a physical or mental impairment that limits one or more major life activities."

Under the ADA, there are several titles that provide guidance for employers, government agencies and programs, public transportation and building operators and telecommunications services.

Some of the provisions of the law, such as providing disabled individuals with equal access to employment and benefits, are fairly straightforward. At the same time, an employer can't ask about a job seeker's disability prior to making an employment offer. These concepts fall in line with many of the pillars of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, there can be a gray area when it comes to what qualifies as a major life activity.

Who is most misinterpreted as a covered person?
The ADA doesn't go into the greatest detail about what qualifies as an impairment, which lends to some confusion about what employers should look for. The American Cancer Society listed several of the major life activities. These include:

  • Caring for oneself
  • Seeing
  • Hearing
  • Standing
  • Speaking
  • Breathing
  • Learning
  • Reading
  • Concentrating
  • Communicating

However, this list isn't exhaustive, and the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 has expanded the definition to some extent. Now, many of the primary bodily functions are covered by the ADA, including issues relating to cell growth, as well as the excretory, nervous, respiratory, endocrine, immune and reproductive systems, the CSA wrote. As a result, many individuals who have some form of cancer are protected under the ADA, even when the disease goes into remission.

One of the most important caveats to the law is that the employee must be able to perform their essential job functions in spite of his or her disability. While an employer can't refuse to hire an individual because he or she isn't able to complete ancillary tasks, HR managers are well within their legal rights to pass over an individual who doesn't fulfill fundamental requirements for a position.

What can employers do when they're not sure about a diagnosed condition?
Recently, employers have faced the difficulty of interpreting those dealing with obesity as disabled persons. Becker's Hospital Review highlighted a 2011 case in Texas during which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that morbid obesity was a bona fide disability. Prior to the ADAAA in 2008, the EEOC suggested obesity would rarely qualify as an impairment, but the agency has changed course on the matter specifically when there's a physiological cause for the condition.

The Texas case involved a 600-pound forklift operator who required a seatbelt extension to securely operate the machinery. The employer declined to accommodate the request and terminated his employment because he wasn't able to perform his essential job function. The company had an opportunity to provide reasonable accommodation but decided to face litigation and lost the argument.

In this case – and others like it – it's advisable for an employer to seek out the guidance of the disabled employee's medical professional. Especially with the case of a morbidly obese worker, it's important for a company to understand the underlying physiological causes of the condition before assessing their options for recourse.

What happens when an employer can't provide reasonable accommodation?
There are a few reasons why a business doesn't necessarily have to honor the request for accommodation. Organizations with fewer than 15 employees aren't required to follow ADA regulations relating to employment, the Department of Labor explained.

At the same time, when a request would cause undue hardship, the employer doesn't have to honor it. The enterprise would have to prove that, due to its size or organizational structure, the expense of accommodating a disabled worker would substantially hinder its operations.

Therefore, should an employer move to fire? What are the alternatives? One of the common misconceptions about reasonable accommodation is that it is overly expensive. The DOL indicated the majority, or two-thirds, of requests require less than $500 on the part of the employer to address the situation.

Otherwise, the responsibility resides with the employer to judge whether it's more reasonable to fire the current worker and recruit another employee in the event that the company can't accommodate a disabled staff member.

Does anyone really care about performance evaluations?

30 Sep

Avoid a Dysfunctional Performance ReviewWhy do manager’s consistently tell human resources that they dread writing and delivering performance evaluations? This is a question that human resource professionals struggle with every time they hear it. Most studies conducted by professional human resource organizations have proven that companies that provide regular feedback to their employees have higher retention rates and see greater improvement in overall performance than those that rely on annual evaluations. So, why do human resource professionals consistently need to prove this fact to their management teams? Why  are managers so fearful?

Perhaps it’s what occurs during the annual performance evaluation meeting with the employee? Let’s look at a typical scenario. The manager delivers the annual feedback; the employee is “surprised” because he or she hasn’t heard any of that feedback all year long and now the employee “challenges” their manager on the evaluation claiming his or her evaluation isn’t “fair.” Aha, there’s the dreaded confrontation associated with the review. Here it is. Face-to-face confrontation. Why would the manager fear this confrontation? Perhaps, it’s the fact that manager is suddenly put into a defensive position? Could it be that the manager failed to provide regular feedback to the employee throughout the year and has no choice but to deal with it now? Is that fair? How would that manager feel if this was done to her? Maybe this has happened to the manager before, and now the manager believes it’s perfectly acceptable to do the same thing to her direct reports? Maybe it’s a new manager who believes he knows what he is doing, but really doesn’t have a clue? Did ego come into play at all? There could be a lot of reasons.

In any case, employees need guidance. They need regular feedback. Whether that feedback is positive or negative, employees need and want to hear it. The manager needs to “manage” and learn to deal with it. How do managers expect to receive positive behavior from their employees without any reinforcement from the manager on the feedback of their behavior? How does an employee know what is expected of him or whether or not he needs to improve upon a certain behavior if he has not been given any direction throughout the year? You can clearly see how these disconnects occur.

Aside from the myriad of legal issues that often arise from continued performance feedback “avoidance,” its helpful (and necessary) for managers to educate themselves on how to deliver feedback. A lot of this is common sense. So, why do many managers feel it’s the responsibility of human resources to educate them on why employee performance feedback is so important? Why do managers tell human resource professionals, “I haven’t received any training on it so I didn’t know I should be doing it”? Why do managers feel they do not have accountability for this aspect of their management function? Like any other skill, performance feedback training needs to be cultivated. Since each and every person and situation is different, it’s impossible for the human resource professional to facilitate definitive training needed to cover every situation. It’s up to human resources to guide and counsel their management teams. What that means is that human resources should be relied upon to guide and counsel management on decisions that affect their people and the overall business. Unless it is a first-time manager, human resources can help to provide the education needed to get the manager up to speed and on the right path. There must be accountability on management’s part to take ownership of their direct reports by providing regular feedback to them, then seek human resource guidance and counsel on issues where the desired outcome of an employee’s performance has not or cannot be achieved through the development plans that the manager has set forth for the employee to follow to get that performance back on track.

Visit www.sagehrms.com to see all of the available solutions to help you manage the total employment lifecycle process.

Will “ban the box” work?

22 Sep

First of all, what is the box? Traditionally, it was a question on job applications that asked job seekers to divulge whether they've been convicted of a crime. Human resources managers should be familiar with the "ban the box" movement, its impact on employee management and activities with regard to both grassroots organizations and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The National Employment Law Project, a public policy research group, released a resource guide in July 2014 that explains how many individuals are affected by criminal histories during the job application process. In 2011, there is an estimated 65 million U.S. job seekers with records that would show up when an employer ran a criminal background check. At the same time, 92 percent of employers in an EEOC survey indicated they perform these background checks on all or a portion of the job seekers who apply for positions within their companies. Without question, the impact of criminal history is far reaching. Yet, the main goal in scrutinizing applicants in this manner is to mitigate risk in the workplace, the EEOC explained. For instance, employers want to avoid incidents involving fraud, theft and violence.

As of September 2014, there are 13 states that have comprehensive "ban the box" policies, while nearly 70 cities have implemented the change in hiring policy. According to the EEOC, a criminal record is not a protected status under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which seeks to prevent and penalize discrimination based on gender, race, religion and national origin. This may be part of the reason why a growing number of states, municipalities and counties are banning the box on job applications, meaning employers can directly ask about past criminal conduct.

What does it mean for employers?
Human resources managers and business owners need to understand the regulations established by their state and local governments. For example, legislation in Colorado only impacts public employers, and they need to be able to clearly identify a link between a conviction and the job the applicant is seeking. If there's no connection, then the employer can't use the conviction as a screening mechanism. In addition, arrests and expunged criminal records should be ignored during the hiring process as well. Meanwhile, the Illinois statute applies to private and public employers with 15 or more employees, but there are few other stipulations, meaning there aren't limits on screening based on time or record. In both states, however, business owners can't conduct a criminal background search until the person is provided a conditional offer of employment, and, in Illinois, until the applicant reaches the interview stage.

The EEOC also advocates for judicious hiring policies in order to give applicants with a criminal history a fair chance at employment. In other words, it's recommended that employers weigh the degree of seriousness of past criminality, conduct since the offense and whether the behavior would prevent the individual from performing the sought-after role.

Employers should also keep disparate treatment discrimination in mind during the hiring process, the EEOC wrote. In reality, African American and Hispanic people in the U.S. are arrested at much higher rates than their white counterparts. As a result, many employers – often unintentionally – have workforces that are not representative of the applicant community, which is indirectly due to the racial backgrounds of job seekers. Human resources software can help employers identify this kind of inequality, allowing them to put fair hiring policies in place.

What does it mean for convicted criminals?
While arrests don't necessarily equate with wrongdoing, convictions usually provide solid proof of misconduct, the EEOC explained. However, different states have specific policies with the way employers can use criminal history to screen applicants. Much like business owners must educate themselves, convicted criminals must also be aware of the legislation in their particular region as it pertains to their employment opportunities. For instance, the Minnesota regulations prohibit employers from using misdemeanors that included no jail time as the basis for evaluating a job seeker.

However, it's not a bad idea for job seekers with a conviction record to be prepared to answer questions about their criminal history during the job interview. Depending on the company and industry, the employer may be forthright in asking for an explanation of past behaviors and whether it will affect the person's job performance.

What industries are exempt from this?
Not everyone is expected to abide by the "ban the box" legislation. There are federal mandates that explicitly limit access to certain jobs based on a specific criminal conviction within the past 10 years, such as an airport security screener. Other industries that have their own hiring policies include federal law enforcement, child care workers in national government positions, banking, insurance, defense contractors and some health care positions.

Why are there still so many huge employment law settlements?

15 Sep

Employment lawsuit settlements can result in heavy financial penalties. Payments run the gamut between tens of thousands of dollars to upwards of $100 million. Each organization should realize effective human resources planning involves providing staff with access to employment law training. In doing so, businesses can avoid financially damaging lawsuits that can have a lasting impact on a company's viability.

The biggest payouts tend to grab the biggest headlines, especially when they involve household-name corporations. Still, there have been more than 10 employment law settlement lawsuits brought against various companies since August 28, 2014, raising a number of questions.

Haven't employers learned the rules yet?
For instance, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently brought a lawsuit against a Popeye's Chicken franchise owner in Texas, JD Supra explained. The franchisee of the fried chicken chain consented to pay $25,000 for allegedly discriminating against an applicant on the basis of a disability. In this case, the job seeker was HIV-positive and explained his condition during an interview, after which he was told he couldn't be hired due to his medical situation. JD Supra explained the Food and Drug Administration doesn't list HIV as a restricted condition under its Food Code.

In another case, the EEOC brought a lawsuit against four farms in Hawaii owned by the California-based company Global Horizons on the grounds that they discriminated against 500 Thai workers. Retaliation charges were also raised. The $2.4-million settlement came about as result of several violations, including delayed payment for work performed, lack of food and water, and unsuitable living conditions.

Is lack of training to blame or lack of followup on the training?
Considering the heavy cost of violating labor laws, it would seem that most companies would go out of their way to ensure their staff, especially those in charge of hiring or dismissal, understand the rules. In the Popeye's Chicken case, for instance, EEOC trial attorney Joel Clark explained the Americans with Disabilities Act aims to prevent employers from making hasty decisions, especially when considering an applicant for a position. When companies unknowingly violate the law, the penalties are generally less harsh than those that actively ignore the rules, which is likely a contributing factor for why Global Horizons was forced to pay millions of dollars in fines.

In response to the ADA violation, Popeye's initiated training for all employees in a managerial position, including supervisors and human resources staff. Materials provided by the EEOC seek to give workers a deeper understanding of what's expected of them when they hire workers. Similarly, farm labor contractors at the Global Horizons facilities will have to communicate compliance policies to all staff, while corporate trainers will be responsible for educating on Title VII procedures.

From these cases, the problem seems to be a lack of preparation on the part of employers in providing their managers in charge of hiring and employee policies with requisite training. The Society of Human Resources Management also explained federal training isn't mandatory for all employers across the board, and some states have unique requirements that business owners need to understand. Most companies are required to post notices in public spaces that clearly state federal workplace policies, but it then becomes the employees' responsibility to understand their rights. At the same time, there are certain jobs in the public sector related to safety that demand Occupational Safety & Health Administration training. However, the rules aren't entirely uniform, leaving some employers at risk of violating them.

What's the trend now?
An infographic developed by the human resources news site HR.BLR.com explores the various priorities that businesses are focusing on to ensure their managerial staff are informed of compliance standards. The No. 1 topic is sexual harassment training, while discrimination education is second on employers' lists. The focus on these points aligns with many of the trends in EEOC lawsuits, which heavily reflect discrimination and harassment issues in the workplace.

Another way employers can prepare leaders to handle employment law regulations is through EEOC annual executive leadership conferences. While employees must pay for admittance to these meetings, they specifically address the requirements most companies have in keeping their senior-level staff up to date with compliance standards before a lawsuit occurs. The EEOC also provides free training sessions on a limited basis.

What should companies do about Affirmative Action plans?

11 Sep

In a variety of industries, human resources managers are responsible for developing a management tool to ensure they're meeting requirements for Affirmative Action plans. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Human Resources website, the main reason that an employer establishes an affirmative action plan is to prevent discrimination on the grounds of gender, race and ethnicity in the workplace. Business owners often achieve this goal by using human resources solutions that allow them to run a detailed analysis of the talent pool and existing workforce to see if there's any discrepancy in proportions, which may reflect discriminatory hiring practices. 

Affirmative Action plans are comprised of detailed policies, practices and procedures that companies establish ahead of recruitment processes. In essence, these strategies are designed to give all applicants an equal opportunity to access employment, as well as provide uniform payment regardless of race and gender.

However, there are those who would argue the U.S. has entered a post-racial era in which bias and prejudice don't play as much of a role in workplace decisions as in previous decades.

Are they still needed?
Much has changed since the concept of affirmative action first entered the national lexicon. The Heritage Foundation wrote that former President John F. Kennedy was the first to use the phrase in 1961 as he explained the reach Executive Order 10925 would have on the American workforce. The idea bled into the threads of the civil rights movements during the early '60s, culminating with the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This piece of legislation made discriminatory practices in the workplace illegal.

As of 2011, African American employees made up roughly 11.6 percent of the total labor force, which includes individuals employed or seeking work, the U.S. Department of Labor wrote. This figure reflects a gradual increase in representation of African Americans in the U.S. workforce, up from 10.9 percent in 1991.

On the other hand, unemployment rates among African Americans is significantly higher compared to their white counterparts. Respectively, the difference was 15.8 percent and 7.9 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, Hispanic Americans hovered in the middle with an 11.5 percent jobless rate.

At the same time, the recent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri over the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a member of the police department called attention to the realities in many workplaces. The Ferguson Police Department is comprised of mainly white officers, while the town has a large African American community. According to HR Unlimited Inc., the police department is 0.6 percent African American, which signals a need for affirmative action planning. However, the Ferguson case isn't necessarily reflective of all workplaces, and each employer must look at diversity statistics to get a fuller understanding of whether an affirmative action plan is required.

Are they effective?
Using the example of police departments, HR Unlimited Inc. cited the fact that organizations with affirmative action plans have been able to foster more representative payrolls. Between 1983 and 1992, those with a plan in place see minority officers composing upwards of 20 percent of officers in local departments.

In addition, Forbes highlighted the fact that the gender pay gap is beginning to shrink. Citing a PayScale study, there's less than a 2 percent disparity in pay among male and female millennial workers, which is one of the largest generations to enter the labor market. Both men and women exhibit a lack of enthusiasm for how much they're getting paid, according to a 2013 Gallup poll. Just 24 percent of women and 32 percent of men are satisfied by their paychecks, leaving the majority of employees unhappy with their current remuneration.

Equal payment is just one aspect of affirmative action plans, but it can play a significant role in job satisfaction and the perception of fair treatment. When individuals performing the same work are compensated differently, staff may begin to question hiring practices, especially among people of different genders or ethnic backgrounds. Still, there's no guarantee an affirmative action plan will work as intended.

Can they have a negative impact on workers?
While affirmative action plans aim to level the playing field among applicants and employees, not everyone will look at them the same way. In fact, human resources news source theHRDIRECTOR explained employees who were viewed as beneficiaries of the action plans were stigmatized as less fit for the job. They can also be seen more as competition than as colleagues, resulting in lower performance scores on employee peer evaluations. What's more, other members of the workforce may believe a minority worker was hired solely on the basis of the company meeting a quota for diversity.

Any effective affirmative action plan must take stereotypes and stigmas into consideration when it's implemented. Human resources managers must take employee engagement seriously when new hires are brought on board as a result of an action plan. While businesses have made progress toward equal opportunity, disparities still exist that may raise the need for an affirmative action policy.

HR executives fear additional federal regulations

11 Aug

A recent study by Littler Mendelson showed that although those in charge of human resource management remain concerned about the Affordable Care Act, their biggest fear has now become increased regulations by the federal government.

According to HR Morning, some of these fears might be due to the added regulations this year having to do with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), along with increased monitoring of employee/contractor misclassification.

In a separate survey by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. reported by Business Insurance, the same fears of regulation cropped up, although 63 percent of respondents were also concerned about the rising cost of health care benefits programs.

How to deal with the FMLA
The fears that a government agent will perform an audit of a company's compliance with FMLA rules are well-founded, according to HR Benefits Alert. The federal government has recently grown much more nit-picky about what it considers a violation of the FMLA.

However, companies can prepare themselves by knowing in advance what the feds have begun looking for in particular. Typically, what happens is a company will mistakenly do something it believes is unrelated to the FMLA, and the federal government, upon auditing the company, will find a connection. In one case, a company would fire employees who did not fill out their medical histories in a timely way. However, the medical histories included questions that were not considered permissible to ask in accordance with FMLA rules.

In another case, a company failed to provide someone with notification of her FMLA rights after asking for leave to take care of a very ill child. Additionally, the company fired the woman for taking too much time off, even though this leave was permissible under FMLA. In a separate example, a company fulfilled an FMLA request to take leave, then failed to return the employee to his job because he wasn't told he needed to complete a fitness-for-duty medical exam in order to come back to work.

Finally, one company failed to allow an FMLA request to pass because the worker was standing in loco parentis, meaning she was acting in the place of a parent. When a woman was fired for taking time off to take care of her niece, she was acting in place of a parent, but her FMLA request was denied.

It is likely the above companies did not intentionally try to game the rules, but even simple oversights can cause costly lawsuits. It is always more effective to pay attention to a company's employee management system to ensure compliance and prevent problems before they happen. Whatever human resource solution a company uses, it must ensure these are compliant with the most recent interpretations of the federal law.

Telecommuting now a part of reasonable accommodation

8 Aug

A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has recently expanded the number of companies that must offer telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation to employees who otherwise wouldn't be able to work from the office, according to Talent Management.

A suit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission against Ford Motor Company, argued that in the case of workers who are otherwise able to work from home in a fully-functional capacity but who cannot work at the office much of the time because of medical or other conditions, companies should allow those employees to work from home as part of the government's ruling on reasonable accommodation.

According to the ruling, "the 'workplace' is anywhere that an employee can perform her job duties," Talent Management reported.

Working from home as an option
Those in a position for recruiting should keep in mind that telecommuting may become much more prevalent now, and making the option available for everyone may be a good idea. A study by Staples indicated that 65 percent of employers who permitted their employees to work from home reported their employees were happier. Thirty-three percent also reported there were fewer cases of absenteeism.

"Not only does telecommuting lead to a happier workforce, it's also a critical benefit to have from a recruiting standpoint," said Paul Mullen, vice president of technology solutions for Staples Advantage. "Employers who are flexible and support their staff with the tools they need to telecommute have a definite recruiting advantage."

Setting up a telecommuting system for the office could mean integrating more employee self-service programs in the workplace, as well as using technology such as cloud-based computing software to allow easy access to work wherever a person may be doing business.

Managing whistleblowers in the company

23 Jul

Whistleblowing is a serious concern for many businesses and finding a way to manage any occurrences can be difficult. According to Simply-Communicate, one of the best ways a business can protect itself from whistleblowers is by building the best company culture possible.

A report from the National Business Ethics (NBE) Survey, 45 percent of employees in 2011 admitted to viewing misconduct at work. From those who saw misconduct, 65 percent of respondents said they reported the bad behavior they witnessed. The report also found that 1 in 5 employees who reported misconduct felt they went through some form of retaliation.

With 42 percent of respondents saying their workplace environment has weak ethical culture, businesses have to find ways to improve corporate culture.

What exactly is a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are oftentimes known as employees who complain about company misconduct for reasons connected to health or safety violations, shareholder fraud or financial mismanagement, legal site Nolo Press reported. Typically, employees who don't engage with the initial complaint are titled protected whistleblowers, which are protected by several state and federal laws.

Daniel Goleman, an author, psychologist and journalist, explained the most common reaction to whistleblowing is a worker getting dropped from the company through either transfers or being fired, Simply-Communicate reported. Goleman added that for government and private industry workers, 80 percent of whistleblowers "suffer immensely."

"The paradox of this is that the whistleblower is actually highly loyal to the organization," said Goleman, according to the source. "He/she is not blowing the whistle because they want to get someone, but because they feel the basic mission, the higher ideal is getting violated and they can't live with that. Their own ethics drive them to tell the truth. The organization, paradoxically feels betrayed, angry and retaliates."

How retaliating can harm business operations
When companies retaliate against whistleblowers, retention rates are severely damaged and top performers will realize how quickly businesses can turn their backs on workers, the source reported. The NBE survey also found that 7 out of 10 employees who suffered retaliation planned to quit their job within five years.

Businesses should always keep the anonymity of the whistleblower to avoid any sort of retaliation claim, the New Hampshire Business Review reported. When companies are oblivious to the whistleblower, the less likely any lawsuit can be instigated.

Instead, companies should keep open and clear communication between the worker and not push the idea too much to keep the report confidential. According to the source, businesses should let the employee know both parties remaining quiet about the situation will be best for everyone and that the complaint is being addressed.

Whistleblowers often notify the government because they believe their first report didn't receive enough attention and to protect themselves from any sort of retaliation. According to the source, businesses shouldn't keep employees from contacting the government when they are making a report as it could be reported in a claims case.

"All of these people feel they are loyal and that they are doing what they should be doing," said Jim Lukaszewski, a crisis communication consultant, according to Simply-Communicate. "They believe they are saving the company from further damage. However, from the standpoint of management, they are considered to be disgruntled employees."

Companies have a responsibility to avoid retaliation and to resolve the issues with the initial report.

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