Employers: Be Pro-Active Against Harassment

Ishield-707769_1280t’s probably impossible for your company to eliminate any chance of harassment, but there are precautions you can take to help win a lawsuit filed by an employee.

Above all, you must have a sound company policy against harassment, which includes discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age or disability.

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Nine Ways to Avoid Wrongful Discharge

1428640_93151908An ex-employee’s wrongful discharge action against an employer is more likely today.  That’s because laws and court decisions, protecting employees and expanding on employees’ rights, have increased.

So, what are the employer, manager and supervisor to do?

Begin by understanding the concept of wrongful discharge.  Wrongful as in illegal and unfair.  And discharge, as in termination.  So the ex-employee, in filing a legal action against an employer and claiming wrongful discharge is asserting the termination violates a legal right or a legal protection, or violates an employer’s promise or commitment, or violates the unwritten provision in the contract of employment that the employer and the employee will deal fairly with each other.

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Allowing Employees Time Off to Vote

Almost every state prohibits employers from firing or disciplining employees for taking time off to vote, but noelections-536656_1280t all require that the time off be paid.

In general, if the only way an employee can go to the polls is if the time is paid, employers must allow it.  State laws vary with respect to how much, if any, time must be given to employees to allow them to take leave for voting.  For more information about your state, click this link, provided by the National Federation of Business.

More than half of U.S. states mandate that employees must be allowed time off to vote if there isn’t sufficient time outside of working hours.  Some states do specify that the time off can be limited (two to three hours) and allow employers to control when staff members take off.  For example, the time may be limited to the beginning or end of shifts.

Make sure that the issue of voting is also spelled out clearly in your company handbook.  In advance of upcoming elections, post your company’s policy on common area billboards.

Disciplining Employees: Give Yourself Options

1335487_37656685Disciplining an employee isn’t limited to the traditional three choices:  verbal warning, written warning, and firing.  When you must deal with a difficult employee, you need to give yourself the flexibility of these six choices:

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The Employer’s Role in Documenting Workers Eligibility to Work (Form I-9)

pen-543858_1280The employer’s role in documenting alien workers is a balancing act.

Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), you must verify through examination of certain documents that employees are authorized to work in the U.S.  At the same time, you must avoid unfair employment practices.

By law, you must complete an I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form for each new hire and keep the forms on file.  Former employees’ forms must be kept for three years from the hiring date or one year after termination, whichever is later.

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New California Employer Anti-Bullying Training Required January 2015

california-43750_1280On September 9, 2014, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a new bill requiring California employers to provide anti-bullying training to all supervisors/managers.  This new bill, AB-2053, goes into effect on January 1, 2015.

Current California law requires all employers with 50 or more employees to provide at least two hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisors/managers every two years.  Under the new bill, these same employers must “include prevention of abusive conduct as a component of the training.”

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Paying for Off-Hours Education, Training, Counseling, or Other Activities

studying-699485_1280If your company sends its employees off for education, training, counseling, or psychological testing on their own time, you may have to pay them.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) generally requires employers to pay non-exempt employees for all the hours they work.  (On the other hand, exempt employees are generally salaried staff members compensated based on their total job responsibilities, not the number of hours they work.)

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What’s Reasonable for Disability Accommodation?

wheelchair-749985_1280Employers must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws sometimes wonder how far they have to go to accommodate a disabled applicant or employee.

The ADA defines accommodation as any change in the work or work environment which enables a disabled employee to perform the essential functions of a job.  Accommodations can range from improving physical or structural obstacles to easing rigid work schedules.

The federal law (and similar state laws protecting qualified disabled applicants and employees) requires private employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for the qualified disabled applicants and employees. (Similar state laws often apply the same or similar requirements to all, or nearly all, employers.)

The key questions for employers often are: What makes an accommodation reasonable? And what kinds of accommodations are reasonable?

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Before a Mass Layoff Review the WARN Act

car-44144_1280If your business must layoff a large number of employees, you might have to comply with a little-known federal law that requires giving advance notice.

Under the Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act (WARN), employers who are covered must give 60-days’ notice of a plant closing or mass layoff. This notice must be given both to employees and to state and local governments.  Failing to comply can result in civil penalties and employees can sue for as much as 60 days’ pay and benefits, plus attorneys’ fees.

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Employee Gives Two Week Notice – Can We Accept the Resignation Effective Immediately?

1323680_17996870Suppose an employee gives his or her resignation, effective in three weeks, but you decide to accept the resignation effective immediately instead.  Should the employee be paid through the date of intended resignation? You are not required to pay the employee through the intended resignation date unless your business requires a notice of resignation.  If you simply “request” a certain amount of notice, federal law doesn’t require you to pay the employee if you ask him or her to leave before the end of the notice period, although most employers do. But be careful. Continue reading