Love Contracts

Even though businesses frown on workplace romance, let’s face it: most of us have three ways of meeting people: through our friends, at a bar, or at work. And since we spend at least one-third of our lives at work, the chances are there that a romance will develop.

In most states, an employer cannot prevent employees from dating. (However, most states permit employers from halting a romance between a supervisor and direct report).

And remember – 50% of all sexual harassment cases start when the relationship was consensual.

So how to mitigate the issue?

One way is through a so-called love contract, in which both parties acknowledge their relationship is voluntary and consensual. Although it’s questionable whether these contracts are enforceable, it seems desireable for an employer to get something in writing.

Here’s an excellent article about love contracts by Ann Margaret Pointer of Fisher & Phillips LLP.

Hiring Someone Just Like You

Most managers do a poor job of hiring. With the average employee turnover rate around 20-30% annually, that percentage is almost entirely a reflection on poor hiring practices.

Many managers are looking for someone just like themselves in terms of mannerisms, appearance, culture and skill sets.

David G. Javitch, Ph.D, writing in Entrepreneur magazine, calls this hiring practice “mirror-hiring”.

In truth, you want to hire to your weaknesses, and not your natural strengths. An honest assessment of your strengths and weaknesses combined with your desire to bring in people who have a different skill set can only help you and your team.

via entrepreneur.com via MSNBC

Wellness Programs Benefits for Small Businesses

You don’t need an expensive wellness plan to develop a healthier workforce.

Think about what’s in your breakroom: bagels, donuts, chips, and sodas?

How about fresh fruit and other low-fat snacks?

The American Heart Association offers a free walking program for employers.

What are the benefits?

  • increased employee morale
  • lower absenteeism and
  • potentially reduced health-care costs

Find out what your employees would like – if you deliver on their needs, the benefits will ultimately be both yours and theirs.

Via Chicago Tribune.

Workplace Bullying

Workplace Bullying, as noted here before, is a serious problem.

Jennifer Starace, client services manager for Business Resource Solutions, has now labeled the problem an “epidemic” in the workplace.

The best advice is to make sure your managers are looking out for this behavior and eliminating it the moment it occurs.

Unfortunately, 72% of all workplace bullies are managers!

If you’ve got turnover problems, or morale issues, one of the best techniques to specifically identify those problems is a 360 degree survey.

Via The Huntsville Times.

Theft in the Workplace?

It’s happening, according to the Spherion Workplace Snapshot Survey.

About 1 in 5 employees admit to stealing – normally office supplies – from their employer.

What are they stealing?

  • 66% pencils, pens , rulers.
  • 57% paper, Post-it notes, file folders
  • 11% calculators, staplers, tape dispensers
  • 8% laptops, PDAs or cell phones.

Thanks to Spherion and the St. Petersburg Times.

Employers Who Monitor Text Messages

Well, it’s a confusing ruling. But essentially, an employer currently does not have the right to review an employee’s text messages.

An Ontario, CA police officer was given a pager, paid for and provided by the Ontario Police Department. The officer apparently used the pager to text personal – and sexual – messages to his wife (who also worked for the police department). The wireless provider, at the request of the police chief, provided those messages to the police department.

Oops.

The 9th Court of Appeal ruled that text messages are private, even when the employer provides and pays for those messages. (The Ontario PD even had a policy prohibiting personal use of the pagers).

For now – consult your employment attorney and don’t monitor your employees text messages.

Courtesy Information Week and the Los Angeles Times.

Pre-Employment Testing: Can You Do It?

Lots of business use tests prior to hiring a new employee. These can be skills tests such as math; aptitude (which are frequently done for sales positions); or personal instincts). Done properly, these tests can greatly reduce turnover and improve chances for a successful hire.

But there is a significant downside, if these tests are done improperly, not employment-related, or have the possibility of generating a pattern of discrimination. The classic example of the latter is Federal Express, which in 2007 reached a $55 million settlement as a result of a lawsuit that alleged FedEx used a ‘basic skills test’ for promotions. 86% of white employees passed the test, compared to 47% of blacks and 62% for latinos.

Make sure you use the following guidelines when evaluating or considering pre-employment testing:

  1. Know when to administer the test (pre-job offer or post-job offer)
  2. Make sure the company you use to conduct the testing has validity – they have proof that the test is non-discriminatory
  3. Make sure the test is employment related for the position (for example, you don’t want to administer a math aptitude test for a dockworker).

Finally, make sure to review your program frequently with your HR Department or employment attorney.

Courtesy law.com and Baker Hostetler

Creating an Internship Program

Both businesses and students benefit from internships.

For the student, an internship allows them to learn about a potential career from a ‘real-world’ perspective and perhaps earn some money after classes or during the summer.

For businesses, however, the potential benefits are much greater: besides getting part-time workers at an affordable cost, businesses can benefit from the enthusiasm and new ideas of a college student. And if that student has a positive experience with your company, they are more likely to end up as a full-time employee of yours down the line.

The California Chamber of Commerce recently published an article that tends to focus on the fact that internships should be paid. (It’s difficult to establish all of the criteria needed to provide an unpaid internship).

And the most important thing to remember is that if an intern is paid, they are an employee – subject to workers’ compensation and all of the federal and state protections from harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.

Managing Employees Who Have Body Art

The popularity of tattoos in the “Y Generation” is certain: studies show that up to 40% of people under the age of 30 have body art.

But as this generation enters the workplace, visible tattoos can create issues in the office. According to this report via McClatchy Tribune, more and more people realize that visible body art creates a stigma – for employers and clients alike. And those employees are taking steps to cover their art during working hours.

That’s good news – but employers need to take the lead if they believe that tattoos (or excessive piercings, for that matter) are not good for business. Well-written policies should be created mandating what is expected of employees.

Some employers might say, “I don’t have that problem now – why deal with it?” The answer is because you don’t want to create a policy after your receptionist shows up on Monday morning with twelve rings in her nose, or your sales rep comes back after a weekend in Cabo with a snake tattoo on his face.

Get in front of this issue – like all issues – before it happens.