HR Strategy

28

January, 2015

When Power Should Go to a Manager’s Head (or at least stay top of mind)

It may seem obvious, but all too often managers seem to forget that power disparities in the workplace can turn otherwise innocuous encounters into fodder for a sexual harassment claim.  That is how Steelcase, a Michigan-based workplace furnishings manufacturer, incurred years of legal expenses defending a claim of sexual harassment by a former sales manager.  She claimed that a regional manager twice held his hand on her shoulder for an extended duration and commented on how she owed him because he had done a lot to get her hired.  These events occurred ten months prior to her termination for poor performance, and based on the absence of any allegedly inappropriate conduct in the intervening months, the federal appellate court ultimately upheld the dismissal of her legal claim.  But the claim might never have been made were it not for the regional manager’s indiscretion in maintaining an extended hold of her shoulder, a touch that might have been received differently had it been among peers.

It’s not just physical touching that can be problematic.  Fry’s Electronics reportedly paid $3.2 million to settle a sexual harassment and retaliation claim a few years ago.  According to the EEOC’s press release (and the EEOC regularly issues a press release when it negotiates a settlement), the case revolved around encounters between an assistant store manager, a female sales associate, and the sales associate’s direct manager.  The sales associate complained to her direct manager that the assistant store manager sent her frequent, sexually charged text messages and invited her to his house to drink.  The sales associate’s direct manager was fired after he reported the complaint.
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5

January, 2015

New York State Removes Annual Wage Notice Requirement

Employers are no longer required to annually distribute a notice of wages to their employees pursuant to New York Labor Law section 195.1 (otherwise known as the New York Wage Theft Prevention Act).  The requirement to distribute this notice and obtain each employees’ acknowledgment of receipt between January and February 1 of each year was repealed, effective immediately, as part of a series of amendments to the law that were signed by Governor Cuomo in the final days before of 2014.

Employers are still required, however, to provide the written notice of wage rates to all new hires and obtain their written acknowledgment of receipt. In addition, the recent amendments to the law provide that violations of the notice requirements or other provisions of the state wage laws will result in substantially more punitive consequences for employers including:
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22

December, 2014

3 Hyper-Local Laws Employers Can’t Afford to Ignore

Hyper-local laws are the latest overarching trend in employment law, as municipal governments increasingly adopt laws applicable to private employers within their localities.  The reach of these laws includes new protected classifications, new notice obligations, and even paid leave mandates – often exceeding employer obligations under federal and state laws.  Woe to the unwary employer who is inattentive to these local legal requirements!

Currently the three hottest areas in local employment legislation are:

  • Paid sick leave,
  • “Ban-the-box” laws and
  • Pregnancy accommodation.

Are your workplace management policies in compliance?
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1

December, 2014

LIFE’S LESSONS* Winter 2014, Real Issues…Reconstituted Facts

EMPLOYMENT LIABILITY ISSUES AT THE HOLIDAY AFTER-PARTY GATHERING

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, and the headaches that result when staff fail to conduct themselves appropriately in a less formal setting. Advance planning can help minimize these situations, including a friendly reminder from senior management about expected behavior, arrangement for car service on standby to transport those who are too drunk to drive, and possibly even designating certain company representatives to be attentive at the party to inappropriate behaviors. But what happens when the official party ends? Is the company then relieved of further responsibility for the actions of its employees? Unfortunately, that is not always the case….

Antics After the ABC Co. Holiday Party

More than 200 people attended ABC Co.’s annual party. Richard, a mid-level manager, and two of his peers were still revved up when the official party ended at 11 pm. They invited some of the junior staff on their teams to meet them at Blizzard, a bar located a few blocks from the company party. The junior staff spread the word to some of their peers, and by midnight, 25 ABC Co. employees had gathered at Blizzard. Richard bought a round of drinks for the ABC Co. employees who were standing around the bar, and then joined a group of the junior staff in the corner of the room.
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10

November, 2014

LIFE’S LESSONS* Fall 2014, Real Issues…Reconstituted Facts

THREE STAGES OF PLANNING FOR A REDUCTION IN FORCE

With year-end on the horizon, businesses closely assess performance relative to their financial objectives. Workforce restructurings and staff reductions may be a knock-down effect of such assessments, to enable a business to maximize efficiencies and reduce costs. Assume ABC Co. is undergoing just such an assessment.

Bernice, the Head of Sales, plans to consolidate her teams by eliminating all district sales manager roles and designating up to three sales supervisors in each region, who will perform some local management functions in addition to their regular sales duties. Bernice’s plan will impact 10 employees, in six different states.

Lucas, the Head of Production, plans to cut 15 junior staff roles by automating and consolidating functions. In selecting among the employees whose functions are not directly impacted by automation, Lucas is considering performance, cross-training, attitude, flexibility in scheduling/overtime, and special skills.
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