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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.

When is “Harassment” NOT Harassment?

Posted by on 4:45 pm in News and Features | Comments Off on When is “Harassment” NOT Harassment?

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: 

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Ask HR: Sexual Harassment Complaint

Posted by on 4:45 pm in News and Features | Comments Off on Ask HR: Sexual Harassment Complaint

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?

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Holiday Gift Giving To Employees

Posted by on 10:55 am in News and Features | Comments Off on Holiday Gift Giving To Employees

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.  (more…)

Ask HR: How to handle seasonal lay offs.

Posted by on 10:53 am in News and Features | Comments Off on Ask HR: How to handle seasonal lay offs.

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 laws.

Educating Your Employees about Absences

Posted by on 4:33 pm in News and Features | Comments Off on Educating Your Employees about Absences

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, probation, and termination protocols. Remember—your handbook is your go-to document that supports the company in case of employee claims.

 

Step 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate!

It is imperative that a company communicates this policy to all staff yearly, not just to your HR Manager, but communicated to senior management, supervisors, and every employee. This communication may be done through a company-wide memo or employee meetings. An initial review of this policy can be done during the “on-boarding” process with any new employee you hire.

 

Clarification is your insurance policy against employee abuse of absences.

Some employers avoid telling their employee’s what their legal rights are when it comes to claiming time off for fear that their employees may try to play the system.  But employers have already informed their employees of these laws—they are found on each Labor Law poster every employer is mandated to post in their workplace! By actively reviewing your policy with all staff on an annual basis, you create a culture of awareness that will prompt your staff and employees to self-classify their absence.  If you have an employee that seems to be abusing a classification, then you, as an employer, have already established the legal grounds to invoke warnings or take disciplinary action.

 

Sequoia Personnel Services has your workplace solutions!

Our services include helping you develop company policies that are compliant with state and federal labor laws. We can provide you with handbook templates, or help you create a customized handbook specifically tailored to your company or industry. As a professional employment services provider, Sequoia has many years of experience in helping growing companies develop and implement employment policies, including those covering employee absences and providing HR services that take the stress out of disciplining employees.

 Call today to get the help you need (707) 445-9641

Ask HR: Upholding our Call-in Policy

Posted by on 4:25 pm in News and Features | Comments Off on Ask HR: Upholding our Call-in Policy

Dear HR,

One of our new hires failed to follow appropriate call-in policy before missing work.  We are aware that they had a death in the family so want to be kind and help our employee through this tough period, but how do we do that while still upholding our company policies and procedures.

 

HR Answer:

Nothing is more frustrating to employers, supervisors, and other staff than when an employee fails to show up to work!  The immediate effects are obvious – it impacts the day’s workflow, burdens co-workers, puts extra work on the supervisor to determine the cause and always, always affects the bottom line of an employer’s profits. It is easy to cast blame on the employee for not notifying the employer.  For many companies, failure to “call-in” is considered job abandonment and is grounds for immediate termination.  But in this labor market, who can afford a high rate of turnover? 

There are no California or federal law that regulates the amount of time an employer must hold a job open for an employee who neither appears for work nor calls in to explain their absence. In California, three no-call, no-show days are commonly considered job abandonment.

 

Time to Review Your “No-Call / No Show” Policy

A company handbook must identify and outline a “No-Call / No Show” policy, provide a procedure for calling in, and include a statement about the consequences of not reporting into work.  There will be times, however, when due to a family emergency, calling the company will not be an employee’s priority.  Your handbook should have a paragraph or two defining these “unforeseeable emergency no-call situations” along with a statement concerning the policy of the company on these types of situations. As stated, this was an unforeseeable family emergency, and we believe that situations such as these should always be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. 

 

Annual Review of your “No-Call / No Show” Policy

Our suggestion is, when the time seems appropriate, to privately review this policy with your employee. However,  this incident can be a reminder that it is perhaps time to review your company’s “No-Call / No Show” Policy & Procedure with all employees – no exceptions—including company policy specifically when there is a death in the family or a family emergency. When was the last time you let ALL your employees know what the procedure is for “calling in” to report an absence?  Make sure all employees, including long-time workers, staffers, and supervisors, are updated.

 

Craft a Solution that fits your Company! 

Reducing “No Call / No Show” incidents takes a combination of employee education, setting a clear reporting policy and procedure— and perhaps most critically—providing multiple pathways for employees to communicate their absence to your company.  If you need help in crafting a “No Call /No Show” policy and a procedure for reporting absences or need help implementing an orientation or updating your handbook on this topic—Call Sequoia Personnel ServicesWe’re here to help!                                                  

EMPLOYER ALERT: Paying Employees During a Power Outage

Posted by on 2:23 pm in News and Features | Comments Off on EMPLOYER ALERT: Paying Employees During a Power Outage

California residents are without power due to the PG&E’s Public Safety Power Shutoff program. 

  • As a business owner affected by these outages, do you send your employees home? 
  • Will you need to pay them during the outage if you do send them home?
  • What are your options?

You have the option to send employees home.

If you decide to send your employees home, remember that pay requirements differ for exempt and nonexempt workers:

  • Exempt Workers – You must pay exempt workers for a full day on any day they perform any work. Also, for any days where the business is shut down for the entire day, if an exempt employee performed any work during the workweek and is ready, willing, and able to work on the day you shut down, you must pay them for the full day you are shut down.
  • Nonexempt Workers – They are only entitled to be paid for the hours they spend performing work. Reporting time pay requirements for nonexempt employees does not apply even when public utilities fail to supply electricity, water, or gas, or if there is a failure in the public utilities or sewer system.

Keeping Employees Onsite at the Workplace

If you keep your employees on the premises to try and “wait out” the outage—and they do no work—

 you will still need to pay them for the time spent waiting for the power to come back on. While the law allows you to require employees to wait out the outage—but if the outage lasts many hours or days—you may want to consider sending these employees home.

Call Sequoia Personnel Services for HR compliance help!

 If you are still not clear on these pay requirements, or you have other questions concerning labor laws during extreme situations connected to natural disasters, emergencies, or weather-related incidents that affect the workplace, call Sequoia Personnel Services for HR compliance help!