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The information provided in this blog is intended for general information purposes only. Readers should seek the help of an HR professional for guidance on specific issues.

Handling Political & Covid-19 Workplace Discussions 

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 Tips on keeping employees’ conversations on controversial topics civil 

As employees return to the workplace, there may be heated discussions among co-workers concerning the upcoming elections, current events, or the pandemic. Due to this, arguments and outright hostilities may erupt. If tempers flare during these heated discussions, supervisors will need to know how to handle the situation. To reduce the potential for heated discussions, it is essential to have a policy in place regarding political discussions that includes consequences for violations. 

 

Communicate with all staff any mandatory safety policies that apply to your worksite 

Establish specific return to work policies and communicate clearly to all staff your new company policies and requirements for mask-wearing, social distancing, client and co-worker contact and any new cleaning/disinfecting procedures. Through communicating and clarifying company policies upfront, antagonistic discussions can be reduced.  Remind staff that many of these workplace safety requirements are state and federally mandated. Compliance is required to remain in business. 

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Employee Time-Off for Voting 

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 What Employers Need to Know About California Election Law 

Election Day is right around the corner. Employers must stay compliant with California State Law requirements concerning employee voting rights and should immediately review existing company policies and practices to ensure compliance with said laws. Employers must also be prepared to deal with employee requests for time off before election days. California maintains a website that has all the pertinent information employers and employees must understand regarding their voting system.  

https://www.sos.ca.gov/elections/

 

California Statewide Election Dates:  

  • March 3, 2020: Primary election. 
  • November 3, 2020: General election – state and federal levels. 

 

Under California Election Code Section 14000:   

  • Polls Are Open From: 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Time Off: Employees are entitled to two paid hours off for voting, only if their non-working hours are insufficient for them to cast their vote.  
  • Hours: Time off may only be taken at the beginning or end of a work shift, whichever maximizes the amount of free time for voting and minimizes time away from work, unless otherwise mutually agreed. 
  • Employee Notice to Employer:The law requires workers to notify their employers two business days before the election if they need to take time off to vote.  
  • Posting Requirement: Employers must post a notice of voting-time requirements at least 10 days before an election. Employers can satisfy this requirement by posting a copy of the Time Off to Vote notice. 

California Voter Registration  

  • Automatic Voter Registration Beginning 2016, any individuals who visited the California Department of Motor Vehicles to acquire or renew a driver’s license could automatically register to vote.  
  • Online Voter Registration: California has an online voter registration system. Residents can register to vote at: http://registertovote.ca.gov/ 

Voting in California 

  • Deadline: The deadline to register to vote is 15 days before Election Day. 
  • Voter Requirements: To vote in California, an individual must be a U.S. citizen and California resident who is 18 years or older on Election Day. The voter cannot be in a state or federal prison, on parole for the conviction of a felony and cannot be found mentally incompetent to vote by a court 
  • Conditional Voter Registration: A new safety net for Californians who miss the deadline to register to vote or update their voter registration information for an election. This is available beginning 14 days before an election and through Election Day. 
  • Early Voting: California permits no-excuse early voting, which allows citizens to cast ballots in person at a polling place before an election. Voters must contact their local county elections office for a list of polling places that allow early voting. 
  • Absentee or Voting by Mail: All voters are eligible to vote absentee in California but must use a special application.  

Voter ID Laws in California 

California voters are not required to show identification at the polling place. A voter may be asked to provide identification at the polls if it is his/her first-time voting (this requirement applies if the individual registered by mail without providing a driver’s license number, state identification number, or the last four digits of a Social Security number). Acceptable forms of identification include driver’s license, utility bills, or any document sent by a government agency. For a complete list of acceptable forms of identification, please see this list.  

 

Questions About When an Employee Gets Paid Time Off or Need to Craft a Company Policy on This Topic? 

We’re here to help! Call Sequoia Personnel Services at (707) 445-9641 for all of your HR needs or questions concerning your obligations as an employer.  

Reimbursement of Expenses for Remote Workers

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In an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many employers are permitting, or even requiring, that employees work from home. A consequence to this is that some states mandate employers to reimburse their employees for certain expenses incurred as a result of their remote employment – and California is one of those states!  

Employers are required to reimburse employees for reasonable expenses they incur for equipment and services necessary to work from home. This can include cell phone, internet and computer usage expenses. Under federal law, employers are generally obliged to reimburse expenses incurred by their employees if those expenses reduce their pay scale below minimum wage standards. 

California Labor Code requires employers to cover “all necessary expenditures or losses” that workers incur while doing their jobs. Those costs can include the purchase of office equipment and reimbursement for utilities, i.e. electricity, internet or broadband and phone service.  

California businesses must have compliant labor policies for expense reimbursements and workplace safety. Now, this needs to include policies that specifically address expenses incurred by a remote workforce. However, some of these policies may be designed to stay in effect only until staff return to the physical worksite. 

 

Reimbursements 

  • Monthly payments of $25, $40, $50, or $75 for utilities are accepted amounts, but employers may want to do some market research to justify the reimbursement amount provided. Employees who feel the amount is too low should have an avenue to appeal. 

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Back to Work – Employee Safety Concerns on Returning to Work 

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Get ready to have new policies in place and answer employee questions  

Your employees may have many questions and concerns after returning to work. It is your job, as the employer, to address these questions and concerns regarding employees’ health and safety as we face COVID-19. Below is a probable list of questions employees may ask as you reopen your business.

  • Do I have to return to work? 
  • What steps will you take to keep me safe? 
  • Will you implement social distancing between co-workers? 
  • Will you take mine and my co-worker’s temperatures daily? 
  • Will everyone be required to wear a mask and gloves? 
  • Will you provide masks and gloves? 
  • How often are you cleaning the workplace?  
  • How will you protect me from customers that might put me at risk? 
  • What if a co-worker gets sick? How will I know?  
  • What do I do if I know my co-work actively abuses safety practices at work or in their personal lives, putting me and others at risk? 
  • What happens if I get sick? Will I get paid for time off?  
  • What if someone in my family gets sick and I have to care for them? 

 

These questions may require new company policies 

While no two businesses are alike, and despite the fact that the business community has never dealt with a challenge like this, there are still guidelines and labor laws that apply to these situations. Here are the recommended steps your company can take to prepare for and welcome your returning workforce: 

 

Step 1: Gather your Management Team and discuss your COVID-19 “Return to Work” policies. Create a special section in your employee handbook called, “Public Health Emergency Work Policies as Related to COVID-19.” 

 

Step 2: Create a list of current policies that pertain to this topic, such as your companys existing sick leave, medical leave and other policies as they relate to health and time off. Many of these policies are still applicable to situations regarding COVID-19.  

 

Step 3: Review and incorporate new COVID-19 related laws from your state and county into a safety plan and policy. If you do business within Oregon please visit https://govstatus.egov.com/or-covid-19/ to review requirements for your business-type, as well as requirements based on the county level. If you conduct business within California please visit https://covid19.ca.gov/ to review requirements for your business-type, reopening plan if applicable, as well as requirements based at the county level.   

Safety practices are contingent on employer-type. Masks are mandatory if you are open to the public, but in an office, they may only be required if you cannot socially distance yourselves from co-workers. Most businesses will need to customize their safety plan and policies based on their unique work process, contact with the public, workspace, etc.  

 

Step 4: Designate someone who your employees know they can communicate with, regarding any COVID-19 related situation.  Make this person available to all staff while informing them that all communication will be considered private and confidential and is protected by privacy laws.  

 

Step 5:  Communicate your policies in multiple ways to your staff before and after they return to work.  Consider scheduling mandatory [paid] Zoom meetings concerning these updated “Return to Work” policies before employees return to the actual job site. Repeat this information to employees through additional emails, handouts, or letters. Post these special policies on your internal intranet or employee-only website as well.  

Once employees return to work, schedule onsite meetings to discuss implementation of these new policies. To further enforce them, make sure to use a face covering and practice social distancing. Failure to do so has resulted in employees contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA has been responding to these concerns aggressively.  

 

Are you ready to answer employee questions or develop new policies—overwhelmed by this looming task? Let Cardinal Services help you! Cardinal has the expertise in place to help you update your policies to address this public health emergency. Our HR Specialists are ready to help you craft new policies and procedures that are compliant with state and federal labor laws—for “normal” times and during these extraordinary challenging times. We have a dedicated webpage of COVID-related information, links and resources for employers. We’re here to help. Call us now!  800.342.4742. 

 

 

 

 

TELEWORKING: Productivity tips for working remotely.

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During this challenging time, employees are now being asked to work from home. Here’s a list of tips that can help both employers and employees be more productive when working remotely.

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Temporary Revised Requirements for Form I-9 “In-Person” Documentation

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The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that it will defer the requirements for employers to review Form I-9 documents in-person with new employees, due to the COVID-19 emergency. Here are the temporary, revised requirements:

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Benefits for California Workers Impacted by COVID-19

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Benefits for California Workers Impacted by COVID-19

https://www.labor.ca.gov/coronavirus2019/

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