Category Archives: HR & Employment

Employee Lawsuits, what should you do

Employee lawsuits are more common than you think.   When you run a small business, it’s easy to feel like your employees are friends or even family members. But in a court of law, they are your employees — and, as their employer, you should take steps to protect yourself and your company in the event that one of them sues you.

The FLSA: Learn It, Know It, Live It

The most common type of lawsuit brought by employees is a “wage and hour” case, or a dispute over whether or not you’ve adequately compensated them for hours they’ve worked. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act addresses these issues, although each state, county, and city may have their own additional rules.

Most cases begin when “non-exempt” (or hourly, part-time) employees are treated like “exempt” (or salaried, full-time) employees. “Exempt” means exempt from the FLSA. In other words, salaried employees may work overtime without being paid extra, whereas hourly employees must receive overtime pay.

“There’s a booming industry in these types of cases, where employees are not getting paid time and a half,” says Keith Gutstein, partner at Kaufman Dolowich Voluck & Gonzo. He adds that that restaurants, hotels, gas stations, car washes, landscapers, and other cash businesses are at greatest risk.

No contract can waive an employee’s right to be protected by the FLSA. There is often an agreement to work overtime without being paid time and a half, Gutstein says, “but the fact is, it’s illegal, even though employer and employee are happy. After termination, they often realize they can go back and get all the overtime that is owed to them.” In fact, the FLSA compensates workers for up to three years of back overtime — and some states award twice that. Also, if you’re at fault, the FLSA doubles the award and requires you to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees, too.

To protect yourself, keep pristine records of employee hours and pay. Without records, an employee could claim any rate of pay and hours. Also, if the government gets wind that you pay workers in cash, it will investigate to insure that it’s collected all the tax revenue it’s due. Many times, in fact, an employee unwittingly triggers an investigation by filing for unemployment benefits.

Discrimination and Harassment

Many other employee lawsuits derive from behavior on the job, and, as such, can be tough to defend against. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects employees from discrimination if they are a member of a “protected class” based on gender, age, race, and disability. (Sexual orientation and marital status are not protected under federal law, but they are in many states.) The EEOC will even prosecute on behalf of claimants, so your employee does not even have to retain a lawyer to launch such a suit.

In order to file a discrimination or harassment complaint with the EEOC, an employee must prove four things: that she’s a member of a protected class, that she’s qualified and performing the job in a satisfactory manner, that she’s suffered an adverse action (such as lack of promotion or termination), and that the adverse action was the result of membership in a protected class.

If a court allows the suit to proceed, it doesn’t mean the employee has won, it just shifts the burden back to the employer to prove that the adverse action was based on legitimate business reasons, Gutstein explains. “You have to rely on documentation—counselings, warnings, write-ups,” he says.

Your most important tool, however, is your employee handbook, which should outline company policies about discrimination and harassment, your disciplinary process, and should make clear that there is an open door policy for reporting any and all complaints about discrimination and harassment. There also must be appropriate training around these policies.

Assuming that you have an employee handbook and such practices in place, you can fall back on the Faragher/Ellerth defense, which allows an employer to file for a case to be dismissed because there was an open-door policy for reporting discrimination and harassment that the employee did not use before filing suit.

5 best practices to avoid employee  lawsuits

Website Uses Social Media to Find Your Dream Job

Chances are you already know how difficult it is to find any job in this economy, let alone your dream job. Last month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticsrecorded 12.7 million unemployed Americans, and there aren’t any quick fixes in sight.

With millions of others looking for the same jobs, you don’t have time to scroll through hundreds of listings every day — you need to be able to optimize your search. Luckily there’s a new website that has found a way to utilize your online social circles to lead you to gainful employment: Jackalope Jobs.

Jackalope Jobs focuses on job seekers like you, helping you gain an edge on the competition by sorting through your social networks and pinpointing valuable connections. The way the site works is simple: You log in with LinkedIn, Facebook or Plaxo, and Jackalope Jobs imports all of your contacts, credentials and connections.

From the dashboard, you can search for a job and also search through your connections. You’re able to type in a job title or any keywords relevant to your search, and Jackalope Jobs will pull together listings from job boards, social media and other places in accordance with its “Jackalope Ranking” (best match according to your network and qualifications). You can also manually sort the job listings in any way you see fit — that is, by number of relevant connections, etc.

By clicking on any one job listing, you can see who among your connections could put you in touch with that particular company, and how exactly they are affiliated. You’re even able to reach out to those connections directly through the Jackalope Jobs interface, instead of needing to log on to the social network separately. Then, of course, you’re able to click through to the original listing for more information on how to apply.

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Top 10 Employee Handbook Mistakes

An employee handbook sets expectations and standards for employees.

In fact, an employee handbook is one of the best ways to protect your business from employee lawsuits and clearly communicate your company policies. The absence of a formal handbook or policy manual, or a poorly drafted one, puts you at a disadvantage to defend yourself should your business face a lawsuit.

Policies that are too specific and rigid can potentially limit an employer’s flexibility when dealing with real issues. Conversely, policies that are too general make it difficult for employers to hold employees accountable for their actions and behavior.

So how does an employer find the right balance? The first step is to be aware of the potential pitfalls. Download CalChamber’s “Top 10 Employee Handbook Mistakes” white paper and learn what your company can do to avoid them.

Download the Free White Paper

Brinker Ruling: 5 Lunchtime Takeaways for California Employers

On April 12, 2012, the California Supreme Court ruled in Brinker Restaurant Group v. Superior Court of San Diego that while employers are required to provide meal breaks to employees, they need not ensure that employees take them.

It’s a significant ruling for California employers because it clarifies the rules regarding rest and meal breaks. Equally important, it eases burdens by allowing employers to provide breaks on a schedule that meets their business needs.

For your reference, five takeaways from the Brinker decision:

1. “Early lunching” is permitted:

2. Employers must provide a second meal break after ten hours of work:

3. Employees are free to do what they want during their meal break:

4. Employers must provide both rest and meal breaks, but not in any particular order:

5. Employees must receive a rest period after 3.5 hours of work:

6. Bonus: Review your company’s meal and rest policies:

For more details click here

 The Brinker Decision Analysis and Guidance

The Social Recruiting Era: 79% of Jobs are Posted on Social Media

An Inside Look at Social Recruiting in the USA finds that LinkedIn is the most popular site for posting jobs with 77 percent of openings shared there. Twitter comes in second with 54 percent, followed by Facebook, which came in a distant third with just 25 percent. The report also found that the Northeast region is the most active in social recruiting and the Midwest is the least active region. In addition, the Northeast uses LinkedIn and Twitter most heavily while Facebook usage is heaviest in the West, including Alaska and Hawaii.

The report details findings from actual social network activity data pulled from the Bullhorn Reach user network of more than 77,500 recruiters. The goal of the report is to provide insight into which social platforms are leveraged the most to recruit candidates across various U.S. regions and industries.

Some additional interesting findings include:

 

  • 21 percent of jobs are posted to all three social networks;
  • 21 percent are not posted to social media sites at all;
  • 55 percent of U.S. jobs are posted to two or more social networks at a time; and
  • 24 percent are posted to only one network.

“While LinkedIn continues to hold its position as the most widely used social network for recruiting, the fact that a majority of jobs are posted to at least two channels reinforces the notion that social networking should never be overlooked in any candidate’s job search,” said Art Papas, president and CEO of Bullhorn. “We designed these reports to be a resource for recruiters and job seekers alike so they can determine the best ways to find talent and jobs based on their industries and geographies.”

The report also ranked the social recruiting activity among U.S. recruiters in all 50 states and determined that the top 10 most active states for posting jobs on social media include:

  1. Maine
  2. New Hampshire
  3. Mississippi
  4. Oklahoma
  5. Massachusetts
  6. Alabama
  7. Connecticut
  8. Oregon
  9. Ohio
  10. Rhode Island

While there is a wide variation of social recruiting activity across industries, the top 10 industries embracing the movement include:

  1. Restaurant
  2. Advertising/PR
  3. Nonprofit
  4. Fashion
  5. Healthcare
  6. Food service/Catering
  7. Technology
  8. Education
  9. Accounting
  10. Communications

The full report breaks down the usage of each social media network by region and by industry.

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Five Networking “Don’ts”

Networking requires s20MWctrategy, research and social grace. But as competition for jobs remains high, it’s easy to fumble.

“Remember that you have two ears and one mouth, and use them in proportion,” says Bobbi Moss, general manager at Govig & Associates, a Scottsdale, Ariz., recruiter.

Networking is about building relationships—not simply selling yourself.

“People have talked to me for only a few minutes, and then asked if they would be the right fit for a position. That’s too aggressive,” says Suki Shah, chief executive of GetHired.com, a jobs site based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Here are five networking “don’ts.”

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Business Etiquette: 5 Rules That Matter Now

The word “etiquette” gets a bad rap. For one thing, it sounds stodgy and pretentious. And rules that are socially or morally prescribed seem intrusive to our sense of individuality and freedom.

But the concept of etiquette is still essential, especially now—and particularly in business. New communication platforms, like Facebook and Linked In, have blurred the lines of appropriateness and we’re all left wondering how to navigate unchartered social territory.

Boil it down and etiquette is really all about making people feel good. It’s not about rules or telling people what to do, or not to do, it’s about ensuring some basic social comforts.

So here are a few business etiquette rules that matter now—whatever you want to call them.

1. Send a Thank You Note

I work at a paper company that manufactures stationery and I’m shocked at how infrequently people send thank you notes after interviewing with me. If you’re not sending a follow-up thank you note to Crane, you’re not sending it anywhere.

But the art of the thank you note should never die. If you have a job interview, or if you’re visiting clients or meeting new business partners—especially if you want the job, or the contract or deal—take the time to write a note. You’ll differentiate yourself by doing so and it will reflect well on your company too.

2. Know the Names

It’s just as important to know your peers or employees as it is to develop relationships with clients, vendors or management. Reach out to people in your company, regardless of their roles, and acknowledge what they do.

My great-grandfather ran a large manufacturing plant. He would take his daughter (my grandmother) through the plant; she recalled that he knew everyone’s name—his deputy, his workers, and the man who took out the trash.

We spend too much of our time these days looking up – impressing senior management. But it’s worth stepping back and acknowledging and getting to know all of the integral people who work hard to make your business run.

3. Observe the ‘Elevator Rule’

When meeting with clients or potential business partners off-site, don’t discuss your impressions of the meeting with your colleagues until the elevator has reached the bottom floor and you’re walking out of the building. That’s true even if you’re the only ones in the elevator.

Call it superstitious or call it polite—but either way, don’t risk damaging your reputation by rehashing the conversation as soon as you walk away.

4. Focus on the Face, Not the Screen

It’s hard not to be distracted these days. We have a plethora of devices to keep us occupied; emails and phone calls come through at all hours; and we all think we have to multitask to feel efficient and productive.

But that’s not true: When you’re in a meeting or listening to someone speak, turn off the phone. Don’t check your email. Pay attention and be present.

When I worked in news, everyone was attached to a BlackBerry, constantly checking the influx of alerts. But my executive producer rarely used hers—and for this reason, she stood out. She was present and was never distracted in editorial meetings or discussions with the staff. And it didn’t make her any less of a success.

5. Don’t Judge

We all have our vices—and we all have room for improvement. One of the most important parts of modern-day etiquette is not to criticize others.

You may disagree with how another person handles a specific situation, but rise above and recognize that everyone is trying their best. It’s not your duty to judge others based on what you feel is right. You are only responsible for yourself.

We live in a world where both people and businesses are concerned about brand awareness. Individuals want to stand out and be liked and accepted by their peers–both socially and professionally.

The digital landscape has made it even more difficult to know whether or not you’re crossing a line, but I think it’s simple. Etiquette is positive. It’s a way of being—not a set of rules or dos and don’ts.

So before you create that hashtag, post on someone’s Facebook page or text someone mid-meeting, remember the fundamentals: Will this make someone feel good?

And remember the elemental act of putting pen to paper and writing a note. You’ll make a lasting impression that a shout-out on Twitter or a Facebook wall mention can’t even touch.

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Benefits of a Mentor

Months after landing a job at a Minneapolis-based public-relations firm, Tameka Davis was still looking for guidance on how to excel at the company and eventually move up the ladder. So she signed up for her employer’s mentoring program.

The now-26-year-old was taken under the wing of an older co-worker for a year, and the benefits were palpable: She developed a five-year career plan, improved her networking skills and learned how to work better with clients.

“It’s just good to be able to talk to someone who has been there and can help you navigate your career,” says Ms. Davis.

A mentor can help a young worker answer tough questions about his or her career path and get perspective on the industry. The relationship may even help you eventually land a new job. But you’ll need to be careful to pick a mentor whose expertise and attitude are right for you. And it’s important to maintain proper etiquette

Some companies have formal mentoring programs that pair a young employee with a seasoned worker. “In a more formal mentoring program, you set specific objectives,” says Deb Cohen, senior vice president for knowledge development at the Society for Human Resource Management. You may be expected to set goals, such as learning about a new part of the company, and formally prepare for each meeting with your mentor.

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5 Steps To Lower Employee Turnover

Over the past year, Big Fuel has seen its revenue more than triple, to $40 million, and its head count swell, from 70 employees to 140. But with growth comes growing pains. Like many start-ups, the New York City-based social-media marketing agency had never bothered with a formal orientation program and was finding it difficult to train all these new staff members—many of whom came from disparate industries and lacked experience in social media. As a result, Big Fuel began to experience a problem it never had: employee turnover. As the churn mounted, Avi Savar, the company’s founder and chief creative officer, grew concerned that the company would lose its competitive edge when pitching clients. “It’s a matter of staying ahead of the curve,” he says. So last June, Big Fuel unveiled an onboarding process for new hires. Here’s how the system worked for one recent hire.

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Business Networking Without Looking Desperate: 5 Rules

Trying to squeeze business opportunity out of this economy is an arduous task at best. And as job numbers remain shakier than the Pacific Rim, the term “it’s who you know” is more relevant than ever for career development.

“Networking is something you should continually be doing,” says Ronn Torossian, CEO of the New York City-based 5W Public Relations firm. “It’s kind of like dating. Until you’re married, you always have to be dating. And when you’re married, you’re working on your relationship.”

That means networking can’t be something you put on a to-do list and check off once a month, and it needn’t be scheduled. “I was sitting next to this woman while having a pedicure and we started talking,” recalls Ross Ellis, CEO of Love Our Children USA, a national nonprofit working to break the cycle of violence against children and a New York City real estate agent with Halstead Property. One thing led to another, and soon Ellis had a speaking engagement for her charity: “She was a teacher and I asked her if she had a lot of bullying in her school.”

Sounds simple, but rub new contacts the wrong way and your network will shrink, not expand. Here’s how to become an expert networker, without ever being annoying, or worse, looking desperate:

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