Counties across the state and across the country are reopening as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread. With most states operating under staggered reopening guidelines, many counties have met the guidelines to enter into “Phase 1” and “Phase 2” of the reopening process. Mask mandates are becoming more prevalent with businesses adhering to state and federal government regulations and OSHA and CDC guidelines.
As an employer, business operations are a top priority, but the safety and health of your employees should be right up there as well. How do you balance both? How do you reopen your organization and focus on business operations, but ensure that your employees are kept safe and just as important, feel safe when reentering the workforce?
Ensure Compliance with New Regulations and Orders – Most if not all states have some level of executive orders in place. Intended to provide additional regulations surrounding federal standards and expectations on maintaining safe working conditions, make certain that you are in compliance with your state’s specific rules and that health standards are met and maintained.
Prepare the Workplace – Based on those regulations and orders, ensure that the workplace is set up according to standards. Ensure that measures have been taken to meet social distancing rules, enforce rules regarding facial coverings, and identify best practices for maintaining disinfecting routines and identifying and eliminating any risks for possible exposure.
Communicate!! – With many employees still working remotely, there is a prevalent and understandable concern with returning to the workplace as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the country. Communicate with your employees. Listen to their concerns and communicate to them what your organization is doing to ensure the safest possible working environment. Communicate new policies and practices, along with expectations of all employees.
What if They Refuse? – A problem many employers are running into, what if an employee refuses to return to work based on executive orders or concerns for their health? The nitty gritty is that a fear of returning to work is not a protected reason to continue to telecommute. You can reasonably require an employee to return, so long that you are meeting guidelines regarding workplace safety. However, as in many situations in which accommodations are requested, work with the employee to see if a temporary and mutually beneficial compromise can be met that works for everyone. This may include a part time work from home arrangement, or a work location that is more isolated from others.
The impact the new coronavirus has had on organizations is staggering. Transitioning back to work is a process that should be as smooth as possible, but keep in mind that every industry, every employee, every case is different. There is still so much gray area regarding employees returning to work and managing leaves under the FFCRA. No one situation is the same nor should they be treated as such. As we slowly start resuming (somewhat) normal activities, feel free to contact us for advice and counsel regarding implementing policies and practices that are tailored for your organization and culture.
The past year, the past decade, has proven to be monumental in updates and changes to employment and labor law. Most recently, improvements in pay equity, the #MeToo movement, modifications to EEO law, and long-awaited implementations to sick and medical leave laws have created positive changes for employees and employers alike.
What do we now have to look for and anticipate in the upcoming year? Here is a short list of what the start of this new decade hold for us as employers in this rapidly changing employment world (particularly at the Federal level, and for those employers on the West coast):
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) Final Overtime Ruling – Effective January 1, 2020, the new salary threshold for exempt employees has been raised from $455 a week to $684 a week (or $35,568 annually).
- Tip Sharing Rules – Again on the docket, towards the end of 2019, the DOL announced a new, proposed rule that would make it easier for employees to engage in “tip pooling”, a practice in which employees who receive minimum wage and customarily receive tips share those tips with “back of house” employees (e.g., cooks, dishwashers, etc.) who are not usually tipped.
- California Assembly Bill 5 – Effective January 1, 2020, this new law will require companies to reclassify some of their independent contractors as employees. To maintain current classifications, independent contractors must meet a new set of established criteria. Additionally, certain professions are commonly exempt from this change, including physicians, lawyers, real estate agents, and engineers. This change will require employers to provide paid time off, overtime compensation, health benefits, etc.
- Oregon’s Employer Accommodation for Pregnancy Act – Oregon’s Fair Employment Practices Act will be expanded on January 1, 2020 to provide reasonable accommodations to pregnant employees who are employed at organizations with 6 or more employees. Reasonable accommodations may include changes to schedules, equipment, working assignments, etc. While already prohibited from pregnancy discrimination, employers are additionally prohibited from denying employment opportunities or taking adverse employment actions, failing or refusing to make reasonable accommodations, requiring an applicant or employee to accept an unnecessary accommodation, or requiring an employee to take family or any other leave if a reasonable accommodation can be made.
- Washington’s Paid Family and Medical Leave – Starting January 1, 2020, employees in Washington will be entitled to take up to 18 weeks of paid family and medical leave each year. Washington state is the fifth state in the U.S. to implement such legislation.
HRCentral will keep our clients and colleagues updated on final rulings to pending legislation that will directly affect their organizations and employees. Please contact us with any questions regarding these updates, or to make any necessary updates to your employment policies and documentation.
A new decade! What an opportunity to approach goals and intentions with a fresh outlook. A clean slate, a chance to really focus on making changes in countless facets of our lives. When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, we all start out with genuinely good intentions, but how many New Year’s resolutions have already faded away, even in the first week of the new year?
One of the primary reasons we are inclined to set new goals and start the year fresh in the first place is because we want to change a bad habit, start a new habit, or simply want to do something different. The majority of us set personal goals for improvement around this time of year, but how can you be your very best self in the workplace? What changes do you want to make to start this new decade off on the right foot?
When setting personal resolutions for yourself, consider applying one (or more) of these resolutions towards your professional goals for 2020:
- Stagnation– It happens to be best of us. There are times when we get bored, but when it extends to a pattern of being content to be bored, that is an issue. If you are uninspired and unmotivated to perform, make it a point to challenge yourself to try new things, learn new tasks, and do what you can to keep busy and out of the slump that results in a lack of productivity.
- Gossiping and Complaining – Enough is enough. Whining about small and insignificant things, engaging in office drama, and participating in talking behind someone’s back is not only unprofessional, but incredibly unproductive. Make it a resolution to not partake in office gossip and be the bigger person, simply walk away from toxic conversations whether that be gossiping about a fellow coworker or complaining about simple policy changes. Keep the negativity at bay.
- Being Critical of Others – The same concept that applies to office gossip applies to criticizing others. As a manager, constructive criticism is sometimes necessary, but make it a point to keep unnecessary criticism to a minimum. If you are not a supervisor, it really isn’t your place to criticize the work of others. Having constructive conversations with colleagues is one thing; picking on and pointing out mistakes just for the sake of making yourself feel better is a bad workplace habit that we should all strive to break or avoid.
- Poor Time Management – It is a habit that is far too easy to fall into. Mindlessly scrolling down social media news feeds when there is a lull in the work day. Procrastinating on a work project that isn’t “that” time sensitive. Focus on making the most out of every minute. When you really strive to find balance in your work duties, you’ll find that you won’t reach a point of burn out as a result of pushing everything off to the last minute, at which point you’re overwhelmed and overworked.
Take advantage of this fresh start to the new year, this new decade, and say goodbye to bad habits that may be hindering your chances at success and happiness in the workplace. Good workplace habits ensure productivity and can improve your professional image and reputation. Remember, you can develop good workplace routines at any time, not just at the start of new decade, a new year, a new week, or a new month. Always strive to do better, and be better.
Ahh November! That special month out of the year when we reflect on those people and things we are most grateful for. A time for being present and mindful, and appreciating the good. Mixing things up a bit from our regular HR-themed blog posts, I would like to take a moment to reflect on something I am personally thankful for: my amazing team at HRCentral.
For over 8 years I have been fortunate to call HRCentral my home away from home, all thanks to our fearless leader, David Noland. CEO of our company for nearly a decade, David is the epitome of what it means to be a great manager. Especially in the human resources field, we hear many “worst case scenarios” of examples of bad management, and provide extensive trainings on how to be a good manager and what not to do. David certainly practices what he preaches!
His unyielding trust, encouragement of my professional development, providing fair and constructive feedback, and always being there when I need any assistance has helped me grow in my knowledge and confidence in this position and field. I can truly say I would not be where I am today without his support and guidance, and I am so thankful that I can call David not only my leader, but my friend.
As we continue this month, lets all take the time to reflect on what we are personally thankful for, both in our personal and professional lives. Follow along in our next post as we discuss how to appropriately show your appreciation and gratitude in the workplace, whether you’re a manager or an employee, during this special time of the year.
Christina Varga, PHR
VP HR Specialist – HRCentral Corporation
Even though we have roughly two and a half months left of 2019, adequately preparing for changes that are bound to hit your organization in advance can save you a lot of hassle as the end of the year starts to creep up on us. As we all work on tying up lose ends and prepare to close the door on 2019, it is time to look ahead to a new year (a new decade!) and determine what we can do to ensure that 2020 begins in the most efficient and productive manner possible:
- Review Internal Policies and Procedures – Both HR and Management can participate in this annual review of what policies are outdated and need a refresh, and what procedures need some tweaking to match the culture and processes of the organization. Take stock of the last year and determine what worked and what didn’t, and plan to collaborate on how to effectively renew and implement these processes.
- Review HR-Related Documents and Systems – Predominantly the role of HR, similarly to how you would review internal policies and procedures, take a look at forms and documents and HR systems (e.g. leave administration and tracking, EEO tracking and reporting, vacation scheduling, etc.) and see what tweaks can be made to ensure everything is working as seamlessly and proficiently as possibly, both for the employee and for HR and management on the back end.
- Review Operational Functions – A task that generally requires the buy in from management and possibly from your employees (such as receiving feedback from a focus group), review operational functions and performance to determine what, if anything, needs to be modified to make certain your clients and customers receive the best service possible, and that everything runs smoothly behind the scenes.
- Prepare for Goal Setting – As we complete our goals from the past year, take a look ahead and honestly think about what you want to accomplish in 2020. With a fresh start and a chance to work with a clean slate, be proactive in your goal setting preparation and being brainstorming your personal and professional objectives and what you need to do to get there.
In addition to all of these preemptive approaches to the new year, there are a number of employment and labor law changes that will hit at the federal and state level. Follow along in our next post as we address some of these changes (including the long overdue update to the exempt salary threshold) and provide you with tips on a smooth transition and implementation process.
Contact us today for assistance in any of these categories. HRCentral specializes in helping organizations streamline and update processes, policies, and procedures to ensure maximum benefit to the employee and employer.