What Employers Must Do In 2008

Our annual Special Report: The 14 Things Employers Must Do In 2008 – is now available for free on our website.

Every year, new laws and best practices change. Here are the 14 things California employers need to do as the new year begins:

  • Military Spouse Leave
  • Minimum Wage Changes
  • Computer Professional Hourly Rate Lowered
  • Workers’ Compensation Temporary Disability Benefits
  • Notice of Earned Income Credit Rights
  • Cell Phone Usage While Driving
  • Changes to Itemized Pay Statements
  • New I-9 Form
  • New EEO-1 Form
  • New Posters/Pamphlets
  • Separate Arbitration Agreements Necessary
  • Workers’ Compensation
  • Health Care and Whistleblower Protection
  • Employees Must be able to Cash Paychecks Without Cost

Re-Connecting With Your Employees

When I received my first promotion in 1990, my fellow workers repeated the same phrase to me that we’d done with all the other ‘suits’: Don’t forget where you came from.

I found out that it’s virtually impossible to remember. Management has layers of responsibility and the need for a more ‘global’ perspective that by nature you forget where the day-to-day success of the business is predicated – on those very worker bees, of which you were one, once upon a time.

A really good way to re-connect with your employees is outlined here, in an article by Walker Lundy in the Charlotte Observer. Spend one day a month with the troops. The benefits are multitude:

  • You re-connect with the people who are most responsible for your success;
  • Your perspective changes when you work alongside the line;
  • Your employees get to know you as a colleague and not just a supervisor.

I would be very concerned about any manager working for me who did not want to do this. What are they afraid of? What weaknesses do they have that they’re reluctant to show their line employees?

I found that most employees are incredibly encouraging when the boss shows up to work with them. Employees want their boss to see their expertise, hear their concerns (and more importantly see the issues face on).

Spend a day with your employees. Re-connect, re-energize and remember where you came from.

Credit Checks on Job Candidates.


Currently, it is legal to conduct a credit check on a job candidate, except in Wisconsin.

The usual pre-employment testing criteria applies: the candidate must give their written approval, and the check should be conducted after a job offer is extended.

Although attorneys and the courts will ultimately decide the legality of such a check, employers should carefully evaluate whether or not to conduct such a check. My rule of thumb as a best practice is to always make sure all pre-job testing as a valid business reason. (A secretary does not need to lift 100-lb. boxes, for example).

Here are some guidelines to consider before implementing a credit check:

  1. Is there a business need? If an employee will be handling cash, or managing financial transactions, the answer would be yes. But if the open position is working in a warehouse, or as a telephone operator, my suggestion would be ‘no’.
  2. If you elect to conduct credit checks, you must be consistent: you can’t just single out one candidate for a credit check; all candidates applying for the selected positions must be checked.
  3. Follow the guidelines establish by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA).
  4. Notify the candidate when an adverse action is taken (such as not hiring) on the basis of such reports.
  5. You must also identify the company that provided the report, so that the accuracy and completeness of the report may be verified or contested by the candidate.

(Courtesy Tampa Bay Online, via McClatchy Newspapers.)

What Are The Biggest Workplace Complaints?


Randstad USA surveyed workers to find out what bothers them the most in their workplaces.

The answers?

1. Gossip
2. Poor time-management skills
3. Messiness
4. Potent scents
5. Loud noises (such as speakerphones and cellphones ringing)
6. Overuse of PDA’s
7. Misuse of e-mails (hitting “reply to all” instead of reply)

The good news is – all of these pet peeves can easily be managed away.

The solutions?

  1. Gossip – when you hear it, put an end to it.
  2. Poor time-management skills – this is usually a training issue. Consider sending the employee to a time management course or working with them yourself.
  3. Messiness – put in a policy in your handbook about cleaning workspaces every evening, and make sure to inspect what you expect.
  4. Potent scents – a tricky issue, one that must be dealt with in a private, one-on-one setting showing extreme sensitivity.
  5. Loud noises (such as speakerphones and cellphones ringing) – policy in the handbook should be: speaker phones only in private areas with the door closed. Cellphones are discouraged and should be used only during breaks (if they’re in their workplace, they should have their own land line).
  6. Overuse of PDA’s – policy should be same as for cellphones.
  7. Misuse of e-mails (hitting “reply to all” instead of reply) – when you see it happen, privately talk to the individual and ensure that ‘reply’ is preferable to ‘reply to all’.

From San Francisco Chronicle via Redding.com

How To Host a Company Party

Fisher & Phillips is out with their annual “Top Ten Ways To Host a Holiday Party“, written by Michael Mitchell. It’s excellent and practical advice for employers.

My recommendation is to never serve alcohol at a company party. There’s simply too many negatives that can happen – and they override the positives. From companies I’ve worked for to companies I consult with, I’ve personally seen the following:

  • A 25-year employee left a party, ran into a telephone pole, was convicted of DUI, and subsequently terminated.
  • Another long-time employee left the party (which took place at the business), and as he was driving out of the parking lot, side-swiped two cars belonging to co-workers. A lawsuit was initiated, and the employee left the company.
  • Two sexual harassment lawsuits were filed (before I started consulting for the business) stemming from too much booze at the party. (Remember, sexual harassment does not need to be on company premises – if they’re employees in a work situation – like a company party – that’s enough).

Managers can be held personally liable for incidents stemming from the party and need to take every possible precaution if alcohol is served. There’s simply no good reason to serve booze at a company party (I disagree with Mr. Mitchell in one area – I believe that at least 75% of all businesses – at least those I work with – no longer serve alcohol).

One final piece of advice if you consume alcohol at a company party: I’ve never seen a career made as the result of behavior at the party, but I’ve seen plenty of careers ended.

Cellphones in the Workplace

Using cellphones is a necessity of life in the business world. But employers need to strongly discourage employees from using cellphones while driving – because employers can be liable for road accidents caused by worker cell phone use.

Smith Barney paid a $500,000 settlement to the family of a motorcyclist killed by one of its employees making a work-related call after hours on his own personal cell phone.

What’s the solution?

As usual, prevention is the major part of the cure. Your handbook should have a policy stating that using cell phones will driving is against company policy. If an employee must make a call, he/she should pull off at a safe spot to make that call.

You can’t stop an employee from calling while driving, but if they violate a company policy, at least you can show that you tried to prevent the behavior from occurring, and this may help you if a legal action takes place.

And, a written policy provides a basis for disciplining or terminating that employee. Otherwise, the employee can always state they didn’t know such a policy existed.

Even though more states are adapting ‘hands-free’ driving policies, it’s still a wise course of action to get that policy in writing.

The End of the Company Christmas Party?


Whatever you decide to call it, the company holiday party has become nearly obsolete. Fewer and fewer businesses are having parties, whether it’s concern about the liability of alcohol, things getting out of hand, or just a need focus on business rather than play.

Now comes news that this trend might be ending. It turns out that employers who are baby boomers (age 42 and up) are less likely to throw company parties, while younger employers are more likely to have them (and more likely to issue end-of-the-year bonuses as well). The American Express Small Business Monitor issued the survey, which sampled only businesses with less than 100 employees.

Perhaps the down economy is aiding this trend as well: 59% of employers are planning on giving gifts to employees – that’s down from 70% last year.

In any case, it’s critical to strategically determine whether or not to have a party, issue bonuses, or give gifts. Employees should not have an automatic expectation of such things, but this is the time of the year to show your appreciation and acknowledgment for the contributions they made on behalf of your business.