Venting on social media? The NLRB has employees’ backs

9 Oct

Employees holding a Facebook discussion about their employer were protected by the NLRA.

Many consider the National Labor Relations Board to be the governing body in charge of protecting employee and employer rights. The National Labor Relations Act enacted by Congress in 1935 was designed to put into plain text the various safeguards that give employees the ability of collective bargaining and striking, and many of the activities commonly associated with labor unions.

However, the digital age has thrown a bit of a wrench in the straightforward statements originally contained in the 20th century legislation. Specifically, social media is difficult terrain for some employers to navigate in the way they're able to set policy that influences their employees' online behavior. The recent case involving a sports bar and grill clarified the extent to which social networks fall under the protection of the NLRA. It's a case that human resources managers should pay close attention to, especially when they're developing or redefining employee management policies.

The importance of Section 7 of the NRLA
There are portions of the NLRA that are used as a reference when discussing protected speech, collective bargaining and other important employee rights. Nonetheless, Section 7 of the NLRA contains language discusses "concerted activities" as they pertain to mutual aid or protection. Employees have the right to collaborate to improve working conditions. The case involving the sports bar saw this principle applied to social media.

A Facebook discussion as a concerted activity
Four employees of the sports bar and grill held a Facebook discussion about their wages. In particular, they spoke of how they believed they unfairly had to pay state taxes due to accounting errors on the part of the bar owners. The judge in the case ruled in favor of the employees, finding the Facebook discussion, which was held on one of the participant's personal pages, was protected under Section 7 of the NLRA. Despite some of the profane language used on the social network, it wasn't deemed to be defamatory.

As a result, two of the employees, who were fired by the employer for violating the company's online sharing policy, were able to reassume their positions within the company. In addition, the other two individuals who "liked" the comments made by their colleagues were also protected under the NRLA.

What does this mean for employers?
Law firm Seyfarth Shaw indicated employers need to first construct their employee policies regarding online conduct in full purview of the NRLA. In other words, employees must be allowed to discuss their wages, work environment and other work-related matters without fear of dismissal.

OSHA changing its reporting regulations

9 Oct

OSHA regulations will become more strict in 2015.

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.

Is telemedicine beneficial in the long run?

8 Oct

Seeing a doctor remotely isn't the same as visiting one in person.

Telemedicine is a new trend that many companies are taking advantage of. Because it is such a recent innovation, many business professionals are still unsure of whether it will benefit their company in terms of human capital management or not. Early adopters have so far had mixed experiences with the product.

According to the American Telemedicine Association, telemedicine is the exchange of medical information between different sites to benefit a patient's medical health status. This includes referral services, remote monitoring and medical education services. the most common practice is using telemedicine to see a doctor who lives far away remotely. The service is considered part of a company's overall health plan.

Healthcare Dive reported that employer support of telemedicine is relatively new, and the service has also been adopted at a faster pace – over half of employers plan to cover telemedicine consultations in 2015. Many are going this route because the Affordable Care Act is making it more expensive for companies to give their employees healthcare.

Schools are also becoming interested in telemedicine, the Baltimore Sun wrote. Schools in Maryland are linking with local hospital pediatricians to provide an instant examination of sore throats, skin rashes and ear infections. Parents can also sit in on the examination using a special app. The idea is that students won't have to miss school for basic doctor visits.

Pros and cons
The service may not be right for everyone, however. According to Fortune Magazine, the people employees would see won't be their own doctor, but rather a physician who has just gotten off work and wants to make some extra money by performing examinations. Doctors log into the service and then select patients from a screen. They are actually not allowed to see the patients in real life once they begin seeing them through a telemedicine service. Doctors can prescribe medication, although nurses are available to review the charts produced from a telemedicine visit to ensure an accurate diagnoses.

In a price comparison, Bloomberg Businessweek found that a regular doctor's visit would cost $100, but a visit to an online doctor costs only $40.

Some people are wary of the practice, however.

"I don't think we know how it works, the risks and benefits at the moment," says James Perrin, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The only way to diagnose strep is with a test. Best practices say you can't just throw an antibiotic at somebody [without a test first]."

Is it beneficial?
Ultimately, the major problem with telemedicine is that it is arguably not the same as seeing a doctor in real life, according to U.S. News and World Report. For one thing, computer cameras are for the most part still not at a high enough definition to be the same even as a photograph in a textbook, let alone seeing someone's throat in real life. For treating serious ailments, it may be better also to talk with someone who knows a patient's medical history thoroughly, versus someone new every time. U.S. News cited that a major problem with telemedicine is that it can lead to inadequate assessments because many non-verbal cues can "slip through the cracks," and doctors cannot feel a person's arm to see if it is stiff in a certain way.

Whether it leads to less expenses for a company in the long run, versus problems with misdiagnoses leading to further time off and insurance payments is still not clear. Many doctors appear ambivalent about the practice, although they say that it is still helpful in certain instances.

"I think there a lot of good uses for it," said rural family doctor Raymond Christensen. "I don't think you can start an IV with it. There are places where we still have to have people touching people. But it brings a higher level of care … than we've been able to provide before."

How to handle salaries

8 Oct

Employees often feel they aren't being paid enough.

Only about half of employees believe their fellow workers are being paid in a way that reflects their performance, according to a study by Towers Watson. Additionally, 4 in 10 employees are highly engaged with their work. Although Entrepreneur reported that most employees are happier in a job they find more satisfying for less pay versus a higher paying job that is not as enjoyable, the research by Towers Watson would seem to indicate most people choose work based on salary.

So, who's at fault here? Are employees putting too much of the burden on managers, or are managers not working efficiently enough at finding appropriate salaries? According to Human Resources Executive Online, it's a bit of both. Some managers are able to get away with doing poor work because they aren't properly reviewed by those in a managerial position. Other times, salaries are handled by people who are too far up the chain of command to make accurate decisions.

Employees can't all be star performers
Laura Sejen, global practice leader of rewards for Towers Watson, suggests that most employees are able to do about the same level of work in comparison with other workers doing the same job.

"Put yourself in the shoes of a manager with pay decisions to make," Sejen said in conversation with HRE Online. "On average, people tend to do their jobs well. Some do better and some do worse, but on average, most of your employees fall into what I call the 'steady Eddie' category. [As such,] it becomes difficult to have these conversations with these steady Eddies year after year, it becomes difficult to tell them their merit increase is only about 2.5 percent or 3 percent, because that's what's required to be able to give more to star performers."

Managers must be willing to tell their employees that ultimately not everyone is in a high-performing position where a greater salary would be appropriate. In a best case scenario, the largest bonuses rightly should go to the few workers who truly make a big difference for the company.

How employers can make employees feel valued
Money is a major incentive for getting workers motivated, but ultimately it is not the only tool in a employee management's toolkit. According to Entrepreneur, giving employees an opportunity to make a positive work/life balance for themselves may help inspire them to work harder when they are doing their job, as well as to rest thoroughly when they are not working.

One example of this is to allow employees to customize their work schedule. In theory, employees should be able to work however they want as long as they show up to the appropriate meetings and get work done on time. If giving them the opportunity to work early in the morning and leave early in the afternoon is appropriate, then consider doing that, as it may positively impact their job experience.

Opening up the salary process
A suggestion by HRE Online is to make salaries more transparent by showing how the numbers are generated. Additionally, professionals across different units can work together to identify true high performers and reward them accordingly.

An example cited by Sejen is that if a company only wants to reward the top 10 percent of its employees, then it should evaluate what makes an employee a "top earner," and then make this information well known. After that, it should clearly and precisely evaluate those 10 percent and ensure the number is accurate, so it doesn't grow to 20 percent or shrink to 5 percent.

"One of the best things HR can do [when it comes to payroll] is to shine [a light on the process] by measuring and making visible what is really happening," said Jim Kochanski, a senior vice president with Sibson Consulting.

Building a successful wellness program

3 Oct

Coaches may help reduce medical costs for businesses in the long run.

Workplace wellness programs are still being studied as far as whether they are effective, with some employee management teams reporting success and others saying that they haven’t seen their expenses reduced. It may be that the type of wellness program has more to do with its success or failure, so that leadership in each company must look closely at what sort of program employees would benefit from the most.

A study by RAND corporation found that about half of all businesses with 50 or more employees have wellness programs. According to the New York Times, most medium-to-large companies spend about $521 per employee on making sure workers stay healthy. Additionally, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that most companies believe their program is working effectively. What is ultimately difficult to gauge is whether this is true or not.

One of the problems with wellness programs is that it’s impossible to know whether someone would have gotten sick with – or without – something in place that encourages employees to exercise or eat right. According to the New York Times, the research may show that wellness programs do not work – or they at least cannot be proven to reduce illnesses.

Engagement a major factor in health programs
A more optimistic report comes from a study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, according to Human Resources Executive Online. The research was collected between 2007 and 2011. It looked at 13,627 UPMC employees who were enrolled in the company’s MyHealth chronic-disease management and wellness program. The study also examined 4,448 workers who were employed at another healthcare organization with a different program that did not study chronic diseases and did not help employees manage their health in the same active way as MyHealth.

The study found that MyHealth managed to reduce the annual payouts for medical costs by anywhere from $3,000 to $250 per year per individual. Those who shifted from high risk to medium or low risk saved the most money, but even those who moved from medium risk to low risk also reduced health expenses.

In an interview by HRE Online with Michael Parkinson, who conducted the study, reported that the takeaway is that engagement with each employee is crucial for a proper medical benefits program to succeed.

“[Incentives] are not a silver bullet,” Parkinson said to HRE Online. “They have to constantly evolve to reflect higher levels of engagement.”

Coaching as a way to reduce health costs
A separate article by HRE Online cited the increasing number of companies that are hiring coaches to help with their medical programs. These coaches work directly with employees on their health and help them reach attainable goals quickly. One such coach helped an employee to quit smoking in about half a year.

According to HRE Online, these coaching programs are the ultimate form of an engaged health initiative. Additionally, the programs appear to reduce the cost that employers pay out in the form of health insurance or missed working days.

“In a benchmarking call I recently had with a few employers, their perception is that face-to-face coaching is working,” said LuAnn Heinen, an NBGH vice president and wellness expert, to HRE Online.

Personalized service means that employees receive help directly for their exact medical needs, which is a better solution than programs with more generalized health goals for entire departments or companies. Each employee has his or her own health problems, which require specialized approaches that coaches can directly address.

“From our [employee] surveys, we feel people wanted more personalized advice,” said Dr. Andrew Crighton, Prudential’s chief medical officer, to HRE Online. “We needed a different model, one that included encouragement and goal setting.”

Although this is more involved than more traditional approaches, it may ultimately save money and hold greater benefits for companies in the long run.

How should employers handle harassment investigations in the workplace?

3 Oct

Harassment investigations should be handled quickly and thoroughly.

Employers have a high degree of responsibility to both prevent and respond to harassment investigations. If it's not already, it should be high on the list of priorities for employee management.

There are guidelines the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has established, and employers are expected to follow them. In reality, a harassment investigation should be addressed proactively by providing all personnel with clear indication of what is and isn't appropriate behavior at the workplace.

However, employees don't always follow the rules as intended, or there may be misinterpretations that ultimately lead to a complaint. In this case, employers should have an effective strategy in place to ensure investigations run as smoothly as possible.

Begin immediately
There's no reason to wait before conducting a harassment investigation. Supervisors, provided they're not the subject of the complaint, should notify the human resources manager as soon as possible. Since HR is usually the intermediary in these cases, the department should identify an internal investigator who can act impartially on behalf of both the claimant and the individual charged with the indiscretion, according to the American Bar Association. This person should also have a clean record and full knowledge of the company's harassment policies, as well as EEOC guidelines.

Get written documentation
According to HR Hero, it's important to ensure the investigator keeps track of all statements and reports and maintains them in case the situation escalates and moves to trial. All documentation should be verified and signed by the witnesses in the investigation. This will lend credibility to the investigation and better protect against subjectivity. At the same time, clearly document that the claimant, the individual charged with harassment and witnesses won't face any kind of retaliation.

Interview both parties
The American Bar Association suggested the investigator begins by speaking with the alleged victim. Establish a clear background by asking the five primary questions: who, what, when, where and how. It's also a good idea to maintain anonymity of both parties. The alleged harasser should be given the chance to explain the circumstance from his or her perspective as well. In the case that an employee brings a charge against a superior, it's advisable to send him or her home until the investigation culminates.

React quickly
Once the investigation concludes, make an expeditious, but accurate judgment based on the events, witness testimonies and interviews. Don't belabor the process because it may end up damaging relationships to a greater degree.

An effective anti-harassment policy should be the first step in eliminating this issue in the workplace. However, employers need to take the proper steps to enable both fair and decisive investigations.

What impact will the OFCCP’s proposed rule on wage data collection have?

2 Oct

The OFCCP is asking government contractors to supply wage data.

The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs may not be a household name, but it assumes an important role for those who do business with the federal government.

Out of the ashes of the Employment Standards Administration came the OFCCP, as well as three other independent entities that report to the Secretary of Labor. In 2009, the agency assumed responsibility for enforcing contractual agreements relating to affirmative action and equal opportunity among federal contractors.

Specifically, the OFCCP provides guidance to businesses working with the federal government to understand regulations and perform compliance evaluations and investigations to ensure contractors are complying with government policies.

However, recent proposed changes to OFCCP guidelines will likely have a significant impact on human resource planning and will require federal contractors to adjust their internal processes to comply with the new rules.

What's expected under the new Equal Pay Report requirement?
The Department of Labor's recent proposal will likely change the way many federal contractors and subcontractors operate to some extent. It requires them to submit compensation-related information to the OFCCP. However, the proposal doesn't impact everyone, Inside Counsel explained. The change would affect federal contractors and subcontractors that:

  • File Employer Information report EEO-1
  • Have more than 100 employees
  • Are under contract with the government for at least $50,000
  • Have held the contract for a duration lasting more than 30 days

The OFCCP asks for companies that meet these requirements to supply an Equal Pay Report containing three specific pieces of information. First, contractors and subcontractors need to provide the total number of employees who fall under EEO-1 job categories by race, ethnicity and sex. Second, employers need to supply total W-2 wages following the same EEO-1 standards. Finally, companies have to supply the total number of hours worked for these employees.

What are EEO-1 job categories? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission developed a very thorough list of these job groups. While there are nine distinct categories, each one has an extensive listing of defined roles that qualify. Included in the classifications are officials and managers, professionals, technicians, sales, office and clerical, craft workers, operatives, laborers and service. For further clarification, it's worth the time to look at the more specific job titles.

What's the logic behind the proposal?
According to the OFCCP, the agency will use the data for enforcement purposes. In essence, the information will provide evidence and support for allegations of pay violations and other noncompliance issues.

It's also using the opportunity to develop public reports – keeping employees' personal data confidential – that will summarize aggregate data for each industry in hopes of clarifying any pay gaps based on race and gender. From these reports, employers can review the broad metrics and proactively address any disparities in their own organizations.

What if the data gets into the wrong hands?
One of the biggest question marks for the proposed rule change is how the information will be transmitted between contractors and the OFCCP. The agency is hoping to leverage many of the existing electronic submission processes in place. For instance, human resource software that keeps track of payroll records and W-2 earnings. The OFCCP also indicated it will develop a Web portal that employers can use to communicate with the agency.

However, data security is a high priority. Contractors and subcontractors are often competitive when seeking out agreements with the government. According to the DOL, all information will be kept private to the extent that it can under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, the OFCCP said it wouldn't publicly release any information that may have negative influence on contractors that are currently active. This could be a big factor for many employers. What happens when a competitor submits a FOIA request about pay and gender disparities? If made public, this information can do a lot of damage.

As with many government projects, details will likely emerge as time passes. However, data security will likely be a key factor for many companies looking to do business with the federal government. Given the rise in cybercrime, it remains to be seen whether or not the government agencies can keep information transmitted over the Internet secure.

How should job seekers use social media to find a job and connect with a prospective employer?

1 Oct

Social networks have become a frequent go-to resource for recruiters.

Where do most job seekers begin their search for jobs? Job boards? Aggregators like Indeed? Ratings sites, such as Glassdoor? In most cases, applicants have ditched the daily newspaper's want-ads section for the far more efficient and wide ranging appeal of the Internet. However, that leaves a wide variety of options open for today's job seeker.

There's a trend that's gaining momentum that may influence employee engagement ideas. Social media has rapidly evolved from a space where friends and family connect over various geographies into an all out digital networking environment. This extends far beyond LinkedIn, although that particular social site remains the forerunner in the world of online job seeking and recruiting. In fact, employers have taken to social media profiles to gain insight into the backgrounds, interests, activities and personalities of job seekers at rapid pace.

U.S. News & World Report cited the Society for Human Resources Management 2013 report, "Social Networking Websites and Recruiting Selection," that found more than three-quarters of employers have used social media as a resource for recruiting strategies. What's more, nearly 7 in 10 use these sites to specifically target applicants based on the need for unique skills. The vast majority also use social networks as a means to strengthen their brand awareness and give job seekers a fairly direct channel to connect and contact their organization.

What are the leading social media sites?
LinkedIn is the preferred choice among employers, with 92 percent using the site. The second most popular network is Facebook, while Twitter and Google round out the top four sites.

However, this doesn't mean that a job seeker should stick with LinkedIn alone. In many ways, social networking sites are a way for applicants to build their online presence. Accordingly, they need to keep in mind how they present themselves online because the content posted on sites like Facebook and Instagram coalesce to give an employer a holistic perception. It's the responsibility of the job seeker to ensure their online "brand" is consistent across the various platforms.

Yet, one of the main draws of social networks is the fact that they level the playing field to some extent. Job seekers have a unique chance to connect with specific companies, discuss topics with industry leaders that they admire and take the initiative in reaching out to a company to build a relationship. In doing so, they have the chance to proactively initiate the recruitment process.

What is the correct protocol?
Is there social media etiquette? In a sense, each social network provides a fairly distinct way to engage prospective employers, but job seekers can begin with small steps. One of the simplest ways they can ease their way into engaging a company that interests them is to follow it. While somewhat passive, this move signals to the organization that the person has an expressed interest in what it does or the brand in general.

Another key element that many job seekers forget to address is social profile cleansing. A recent article for The New York Times tech blog went into detail about the cottage industry of profile "sweeping" service providers. Many are startups that have devised various ways to scrutinize and wipe clean Facebook and Twitter profiles that may include content that will raise the eyebrows of a recruiter. Some providers can even identify photos that may send up red flags. Without resorting to hiring a social network maid service, job seekers can take it upon themselves to be judicious in what they post as public and private on the various networks.

Get involved

From this point, the job seeker can take a more active role by liking specific pieces of content the company posts and then joining the conversation using the comments box. Linda Descano, president and CEO of Citi's Women & Co., told Fox Business that this approach helps job seekers make a positive first impression. It also shows the person is engrossed in a particular aspect of the company.

Specifically looking at the possibilities of LinkedIn, there are additional steps that job seekers can take to increase their visibility in employers' eyes. The Muse explained it's important to stay active on the platform. For example, instead of following what others in a relevant industry have written or posted, a job seeker can take the initiative and write his or her own articles. Coherent, relevant content can draw the attention of an employer looking for an individual who is not only up-to-date on industry events, but also addressing them with original ideas.

Choose networks wisely
Depending on a job seeker's skills or interests, different networks have unique strengths. For example, Pinterest is a great site to post visual content that a job seeker created. Mashable highlighted the fact that this particular platform allows people to be creative in the ways they present their resume. Although it's easy to upload the document to the Pinterest board, it's a better idea to connect various aspects of a work history or professional experiences to relevant pictures and other content.

What’s obscurely covered under the ADA?

30 Sep

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 provides guidance for employer hiring practices and policies.

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.

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