Why Health Care Reform Is Necessary

It’s a deliberately provocative title. And this is not an article about which reform is best for our country.

But…

The Department of Labor just came out with their statistics regarding benefits paid by employers.

The cost of medical benefits to private employers has doubled in the past 10 years.

In March 1999, employers paid an average of $1.03 per employee per hour for medical benefits (about 5.4% of total compensation)

In March 2009, employers paid an average of $2.00 per employee per hour for medical (about 7.3% of total comp).

And based on my work with small and medium-sized businesses, the quality of those benefits has declined dramatically in the past 10 years (along with huge increases in deductibles, co-pays, etc.).

Twice the cost with half the benefits. All underwritten by private businesses.

Something must be done.

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Nevada Expands Parental Leave Requirements

Effective August 15, Nevada has expanded its parental leave entitlements for employees who wish to attend or participate in school activities of their children.

AB 243 allows parents, guardians and custodians of children in private or public schools up to 4 hours of unpaid leave per school year for each child.

The law requires employers who have 50 or more employees to grant that unpaid leave.

More detailed information from Rick Roskelley of Littler Mendelson.

Management & Leadership Trends 2nd Half 2009

Last week, I gave a presentation in Las Vegas on what I perceive to be the significant trends for managers and leaders during the last half of this year – check it out!

Can You Prevent Employees From Leaving?

We live in a free society, and all businesses (except Montana and limited other exceptions) must abide by the ‘at-will’ employment concept – employees can leave at any time for any reason.

Many employers ask us what they can do from preventing valued or critical employees from leaving (and taking their clients or proprietary information with them). The answer is – not much, unless you have a really good employment attorney.

Let’s review the basic components (adapted from a terrific article by Joseph Shelton of Fisher & Phillips LLP)

Non-Compete Agreements

A non-compete provision prohibits a departing employee from competing with the former employer after termination. Most states highly restrict their use.

Non-solicitation

Non-solicitation provisions allow an employee to work for a competitive business, but prohibit the solicitation of specific customers. The employee is free to compete and is free to work in whatever territory he or she desires, so long as the employee does not solicit business from a specific group of customers.

Non-recruitment

A non-recruitment (or no-raid) clause is designed to protect your employees from being hired away by former employees. Non-recruitment covenants restrict departing employees from trying to take others with them.

Non-disclosure

A confidentiality (or non-disclosure) provision usually limits the employee’s ability to disclose information learned about customers, suppliers, or the employer’s operations. While non-disclosure agreements often include the term “trade secrets,” most states have a trade-secrets statute that prohibits misappropriation of such information even without a contract.

Return of property

A return of property agreement typically states that the employee must return all company property and all documents related to the company upon termination of employment. While all employers expect their employees to return company property upon termination of employment, there is oftentimes a dispute as to what is company property and what is the employee’s property.

For example, many employees may claim that their rolodex or list of business prospects is their “property,” despite the fact that such information was assembled on company time and with company resources. A return of property agreement may help an employer avoid such disputes by defining via contract what the company considers to be its property rather than the employee’s.

Bottom Line: These agreements are highly legal in nature and should only be implemented with the input and agreement from a qualified employment attorney.

California Labor Complaints – 2008

The California Department of Fair Employment & Housing released its statistics for 2008 last month, and there are some ominous signs that all employers should know:

  1. Complaints to the DFEH increased by more than 15% in 2008 (3,000 more complaints);
  2. Disability claims were most frequently filed, followed by retaliation, sexual harassment and age discrimination;
  3. In fact, disability claims comprised more than 36% of all claims;
  4. Prosecutions of employers increased by 28 percent.

California also has a disproportionate ratio of total employee complaints – one out of every 5 complaints in the country is from California.

Time to get your house in order!

And a good analysis of these statistics is found from Christopher Olmstead of Barker Olmsted & Barnier.

Even More Questions To Ask Your Boss

The most important component of management is the ability to communicate.

But communication goes both ways. A manager can’t inherently know what an employee wants. Good managers ask – and good employees proactively manage up by asking what their boss wants.

In April 2008, we wrote about great questions to ask your boss, and it remains the most visited article in the history of this blog.

Here are some more questions, courtesy of Caroline Ceniza-Levine via CareerBuilder.com:

  1. How will we gauge my success in three, six or 12 months?
  2. How do you prefer to communicate and how often?
  3. What does my career path look like at this company?
  4. What areas do I need to develop to advance my career?
  5. What’s our top priority?
  6. Let me see if I understand this correctly … am I missing anything?
  7. What are my strengths?
  8. What can I do to help you?
  9. I’m working on X, Y and Z — do you think I can handle this task?

Workplace Investigations – Who’s Telling The Truth?

One of the most difficult things we must determine in conducting a workplace investigation is, ‘who’s lying and who’s telling the truth?’

In interviews, I always have an associate taking notes and acting as another observer.

In one investigation last year, I was interviewing an employee who accused another of sexual harassment. Significant harassment. After the interview, I told my associate that the accuser was in my opinion, completely empathetic and totally believable. My associate looked at me and said, “Are you crazy? She’s lying through her teeth!”

As it turned out, my associate was right. (It’s always good to have a female associate present when conducting an interview of a female – they can always tell!)

He said/she said scenarios are very difficult. The most an investigator can do is assess both sides and write up a report without a recommendation but with a slant on what we believe.

Louis DiLorenzo of Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC has written an article in Business Management Daily with which I completely agree – regardless of the obstacle of he said/she said, the investigation must go on.