Stopping Gossip In The Workplace

What can an employer do about gossip?

Supervisors need to regularly communicate with their employees about what’s going on in the workplace. Make sure everyone knows what’s going on in the workplace – future plans, etc. Employees need to feel part of the process of the company – especially in small businesses – and if they don’t, they’ll make it up in the form of speculation and “gossip.” The attention and communication will work wonders in stopping the gossip.

Incorporate into your Employee Handbook a policy that discourages employees from spreading of gossip and rumors. For example:

  • Do not participate in spreading gossip and rumors, and do not tolerate it from others. Rumor and gossip sabotages the team’s ability to work together effectively. It is disrespectful, nonproductive, and a selfishly motivated act that impedes employees from performing their jobs. If you hear about an issue that pertains directly to you, verify the accuracy of the information by asking the supervisor or the coworker involved, rather than simply passing on the information.

Tell the rumormonger that you’re aware of his/her behavior. Describe how his/her behavior results in others not trusting them because no one wants to be the subject of the “gossip.” For some, this single statement will be a realization that will result in immediate change. You should also describe the impact the employee’s behavior has on the workplace and that his/her continued participation in the spreading of rumors and gossip is a violation of the company policy.

Incorporate the impact the employee’s behavior has had on the workplace in his/her performance evaluations.

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Your Job Application May Be Cause for Age Discrimination

Among the myriad of problems a business owner faces is compliance with the numerous federal and state laws pertaining to discrimination.

While experts and consultants see these issues as relatively simple and inexpensive to correct – the fact remains that business owners are either to overwhelmed to manage them; too ignorant to know; or – worse – to callous to even care.

Even the simplest thing can cause major problems. Take your Application For Employment form, for example.

I’m stunned at the number of applications which ask the applicant’s age. This is illegal in the United States.

(You can ask if the applicant meets a minimum age requirement if the position requires a minimum age; and you can certainly ask if an applicant can provide proof of authorization to work in the United States – but proof should only be provided after a job offer is made. And in neither situation should you ask for proof of age during the application process).

Yet it continues to happen. Over and over again.

Age discrimination is illegal. And one of the easiest ways to fix this problem is to get an up-to-date employment application from a reputable attorney or consultant.

Courtesy Kansascity.com and the Miami Herald.

401(k) Fees – The Employers Choice

A great deal has been said about forcing financial institutions to disclose their hidden fees and expenses for 401(k) Retirement Plans.

But businesses – small businesses especially – tend to select a 401(k) provider for their company based on the monthly fee (only $100 per month!) or because the owner’s best friend is a money manager and can do ‘it all’ inexpensively.

It’s not the cost of maintaining the program – it’s the hidden costs – especially expense fees – that are rarely if ever disclosed.

Demand from your third party administrator or money manager what those expenses are – they are costing you and your employees a reduced return on their investment.

And that means you are costing your employees and yourself – your retirement.

Courtesy Wall Street Journal.

Onboarding a New Employee

Employee turnover is a major reason why businesses don’t succeed. There is an enormous cost to replace a new employee – from recruiting costs to selection and the lost productivity.

A recent SHRM survey showed that 46% of new hires are gone within the first 18 months of employment.

With these statistics, it’s surprising that more effort isn’t put into onboarding – the process of completely indoctorinating a new employee into the company. That doesn’t just mean what they will do – it means understanding and being integrated into the company’s culture. And it’s not just a one-day or one-week process – it’s an on-going, long-term process.

Some very good onboarding tips from Mike Russell and Maureen Moriarity.

On Handbooks And Amateurs

Time and time again, we write about the need to have a professional develop your employee handbook.

And once again, another instance of a poorly developed handbook costing a business.

In this instance, a court allowed an employee to pursue an FMLA claim, even though that employee was ineligible.

The reason? Not all of the FMLA provisions were included in the company’s handbook, nor the correspondence the company sent the employee.

How easy (and less expensive) it would have been to simply have a professional or labor attorney update their handbook.

Ironically, when I read that article from Fisher & Phillips LLP, I subsequently read another article of theirs – directed at educators – identifying the top five mistakes made by independent schools.

Mistake #3? Using an outdated faculty or employee handbook!

Thanks to Fisher & Phillips.

Don’t Borrow Another Company’s Handbook!

Many small businesses will ‘borrow’ someone else’s employee handbook in order to save some money.

The problem is that without expert advice, your company could be providing benefits and promises that are not necessary.

For example, FMLA leave is required for businesses that have 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius. If you have fewer than 50 employees, you need not comply with the FMLA.

UNLESS – your company handbook says so. A 7th Circuit Court ruling illustrates the issue:

According to the federal appellate court, statements in the employee handbook and two letters received by the employee that promised him 12 weeks of FMLA leave may have been sufficient to create an enforceable contract under Indiana law.

Alternatively, the court held that the worker may be able to prove his claim for promissory estoppel because he relied to his detriment on the company’s promises. Peters v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., No. 06-4290, Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (July 14, 2008).

Courtesy Ogletree Deakins.

Immigration Raids Continue In The Workplace

After hearing for months how ICE will be stepping up enforcement of undocumented workers, word comes from Mississippi that the largest ever raid has taken place in the workplace – 595 Howard Industries workers were arrested last month.

It remains unknown if company executives will be arrested.

The fines against employers are increasing, the enforcement has dramatically elevated, and now it’s time to make sure you’re compliant with all I-9 and related requirements.

If it can happen to a large company like Howard Industries, it can happen to you.

Thanks to Barker Olmsted & Barnier.