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Posts by michael

When is “Harassment” NOT Harassment?

in News and Features

Understanding the definitions of a Hostile Work Environment and Workplace Harassment HARASSMENT means different things in different settings to different people. People will often say they’re being harassed when they’re actually being pestered or bothered. At work, harassment has a specific legal meaning. It is recommended that those in the workplace, especially supervisors, reserve the word “harassment” for conduct that meets the specific legal definition. Here’s the definition:  Unwelcome conduct + bad behavior based on a protected class = Harassment True conduct labeled “harassment” must be both unwelcome and based on a protected class—otherwise, the offending employee is not “harassing” in HR terms. Here are the most common types of workplace harassment: Verbal Sexual Personal Discriminatory Cyberbullying Physical Quid Pro Quo Psychological Retaliation 3rd Party Even if the offending employee is harassing, the conduct may not be necessarily unlawful. Harassment only becomes unlawful when tolerating this behavior is a condition of continued employment; or the harassment is so severe, or pervasive, that a reasonable person would find it hostile, intimidating, or abusive, and interferes with the employee’s ability to perform his/her job. HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT Many employees believe that a lousy boss, a rude co-worker, or an unpleasant workplace constitutes what is known as a hostile work environment. A bad boss contributes to a poor workplace. A lack of perks is irritating. A loud coworker is obnoxious. Feeling overworked, underpaid, and unhappy in one’s job does not constitute a hostile work environment. Treating staff and co-workers badly makes poor business sense and will drive away good employees, but it’s not illegal. For a work environment to be defined as legally hostile, it needs to go beyond minor inconveniences, casual joking, and general rudeness. A hostile workplace describes a workplace where unlawful harassment that is severe or pervasive takes place. A hostile work environment is created by a boss or coworker whose actions, communication, or behavior make doing a job impossible. For a workplace to be hostile, specific legal criteria must be met. California labor law defines harassment and a hostile work environment much the same: a hostile environment harassment generally occurs when there is severe or pervasive conduct. “A hostile work environment occurs when unwelcome comments or conduct unreasonably interferes...

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Ask HR: Sexual Harassment Complaint

in News and Features

Dear HR, We just received our first possible sexual harassment complaint. One of our female dockworkers was loading some inventory when a male employee came up and offered to help.  She declined the help, instead suggesting another co-worker (who is male) was struggling with his load and could use some help. The “helpful” employee grabbed the back of her neck, pulled her towards himself, and made direct eye contact with her while still smiling directly at her. Not only did this physical contact make her extremely uncomfortable, she felt it was uncalled for and came out of the blue, totally surprising her—she felt there was no reason to touch her. The other male coworker who was “struggling” actually watched the entire encounter; he then witnessed the other male employee looking the female worker “up and down” while making inappropriate gestures towards her while her back was turned. The female employee reported this incident to the crew leader, who in turn, reported it to me. We did interview both the female employee and the witness who confirmed the story. We have not yet confronted the offending employee. I don’t want this to escalate into a lawsuit! What should I do next? HR Answer: Make no mistake; this is an official sexual harassment complaint!  The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries [BOLI] and California labor laws define sexual harassment as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or conduct of a sexual nature (verbal, physical, or visual), that is directed toward an individual because of gender. It can also include conduct that is not sexual in nature but is gender-related. Sexual harassment also includes the harassment of the same or of the opposite sex. Sexual harassment can take many forms, including repeated sexual flirtations, advances or propositions, continued or repeated language of a sexual nature, graphic or degrading comments about an individual or his or her appearance, the display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures, or any unwelcome or abusive physical contact of a sexual nature. So far, you have started the first two steps of the investigation by – interviewing the victim and the witness and documenting the incident by taking detailed statements. You...

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Holiday Gift Giving To Employees

in News and Features

A little thoughtfulness and sensitivity go a long way to preventing HR mishaps! The holiday season is a time when business owners want to reward their employees with something a little extra.  Besides a holiday bonus, giving that “little something extra” often takes the form of parties and gifts. But beware!  Holiday gift-giving can quickly become an unintentional HR issue –so now is NOT the time to dismiss the idea of being politically correct. To avoid any potential Human Resource violations, here’s a review of some seasonal do’s and don’ts to assist you in preventing HR issues AND help you spread a little holiday cheer.  Store Gift Card [Online or Local] – The trickiest issue is to select a store that the employee is known to use. Whether the retailer is local or online, some employees will not shop at certain stores due to the company’s politics or stances on local issues. Or your employee only wants to support the “shop local” movement and does not frequent a big box store or national chain. Restaurant Gift Card – Only give one of these if you know the employee is a frequent customer of that restaurant as restaurant gift cards can have time limitation, or your employee may not like the food or be able to eat there due to dietary restrictions. Gift Basket of Goodies – These baskets are often filled with items from the company’s clients or from local shops. Downside is that some items may conflict with personal allergies, religious, or political beliefs. Keep in mind, the task of putting employee gift baskets together should not be placed on any personnel because it looks very impersonal and becomes a burden to whoever is tasked to put it together. Electronic Gift – Android or Apple? FitBits, Alexa, Google, Ring doorbells, Kindle Fires, and virtual reality glasses are very hip and cool, but you’d better know what your employee prefers and if they want to be officially registered in the digital age.  These types of gifts should be given with gift receipts to they can be exchanged or returned. Generic Gift Cash Card – Highly recommended: The best part of a prepaid gift card is that it can be...

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Ask HR: How to handle seasonal lay offs.

in News and Features

Dear HR, We are going to be laying off employees sporadically throughout the winter. We won’t be able to predict precisely when because our business is weather and road condition related. How can we be responsible employers and let our staff know?  Are there any details we need to consider? HR Answer: Giving advance notice provides employees and their families time to transition and adjust to the prospective loss of employment may be legally required.  Large employers (100+ employees) must give notice to employees at least 60 days prior to a layoff date. The notice requirement does not apply to small employers or employees involved in seasonal employment. However, to be safe, it is a best practice to comply with both Federal and state labor laws concerning employee notifications of layoffs & payroll deadlines. There are federal and state rules and regulations that govern when an employee’s check must be paid. The timelines for issuing a “final paycheck” vary based on the reason why the separation occurred.   CALIFORNIA • An employee who is fired (or laid off) is entitled to a final paycheck immediately, meaning at the time of termination or layoff.  • If an employee quits without giving advance notice, the employer must provide the final paycheck within 72 hours.  • If an employee quits and gives at least 72 hours’ notice, the employee is entitled to the final paycheck immediately, meaning on his or her last day.     Many states have steep penalty wages for paying final wages late In California and Oregon, failing to pay any part of an employee´s final wages on time causes the compensation due to the employee to continue to rack-up— at the same regular hourly rate (for eight hours per day) until the wages are paid! This penalty can be applied to up to a 30-day penalty. The penalty applies in full whenever an employee is still owed compensation after the final paycheck deadline passes. Communicate employee status changes immediately to Cardinal by calling or emailing our Hiring Team at hiring@cardinal-services.com to stay compliant with all state and Federal...

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Educating Your Employees about Absences

in News and Features

Clarifying your company policy on various time-off claims is essential! What is it … sick time, family leave, paid time off, or just a non-paid absence from work? Employees are not the only ones confused! For years California employers used attendance policies that assigned an “occurrence” for unscheduled, unapproved absences. Employees who incurred excessive amounts of  “occurrences”  received counseling, then discipline; if the absences continued, termination usually followed. This policy was characterized as a “no-fault” policy because the reason for the employee’s absence was irrelevant: it was merely a matter of the employee being absent from work so often or for so long, that termination became the only option for the employer. Then came the California paid-sick-leave law, known as the Healthy Workplaces, Healthy Families Act of 2014, which required employers to provide paid sick leave beginning on July 1, 2015. The law required employers to provide at least one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked or a minimum annual lump sum of 24 hours. Sick leave could be used for the diagnosis, care, or treatment of an existing health condition of—or preventive care for—an employee or an employee’s family member, and also for an employee who is a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. Some employers don’t note the differences until they are sure an employee may be abusing one of the classifications. Here’s a 3-step process that can help you reduce employee confusion and abuse when recording workplace absences.   Step 1: Develop a clear company policy on absences. Absences are a constant issue so employers must develop a company policy covering all the different types of absences.  When your company decides to clarify its absence and time off policies, the first rule is to review current federal family leave laws. Then be sure to check the latest information from California’s Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) department, which recently published an updated FAQ that addressed the state law.   Step 2: Record your policy in the company handbook. Publish this policy in your company handbook—don’t forget to include within this policy a list of consequences if the employee has been found to abuse any of these classifications. This list would consist of warnings,...

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