California Fires and Inclement Weather

California Fires and Inclement Weather

With clients scattered all along the west coast, our hearts are heavy and our thoughts are with those who we work closely with that have been affected by the California wildfires that are still burning through the state. During times of natural disaster, organizations often face a state of emergency. With countless uncertainties stemming from these unforeseen events, it is nearly impossible to be fully prepared for a tragic event such as a fire sweeping through your region.

Particularly in regions where certain types of disaster or inclement weather is a likely reality (e.g., wildfires in the west, hurricanes in the south, blizzards in the northeast), it is important to have a few proactive steps in place to make certain that there is a balance between your employees being taken care of and operations and productivity being impacted as little as possible:

  • Formulate a plan. Revamp your organization’s Inclement Weather Policy (if you have one). No business can afford to be ambiguous when it comes to how your business operates under poor weather scenarios. Depending upon your region, think through the types of weather scenarios, document clear expectations in your Handbook, and communicate those expectations to your employees as they arise. Your Policy should also plainly state who is responsible for announcing any changes to normal business hours or possible closures.
  • Address the question of employee pay. Whether your office will have partial-day closure, or consecutive closure days, communicate to your employees how their pay will be affected. Follow your state’s laws regarding pay during closures, and outline your procedure as clearly as possible in your Handbook for both exempt and non-exempt employees.
  • Ensure that there are reliable means of communication during inclement weather for informing employees if they should return to work or stay home. Some organizations set up phone trees, email, or even use social media to keep their employees up-to-date. Also, just because your business isn’t physically open doesn’t mean it is shut down. You may consider training your staff to use Skype and Google Docs (the Cloud) to ensure your business is still maintaining productive standards while the weather rages.

As we lead into the Thanksgiving holiday next week, our thoughts are with all of our friends and colleagues and their families who have been impacted by the horrific events in California. Our warmest wishes for your safety and health are with you all.

Unintentional, Perceived Discrimination

For months, Frank had been the epitome of a problematic employee; attendance issues, sub-par performance, and behavioral issues that have resulted in frustrated coworkers. Frank’s supervisor administered a record of discussion, addressing all three of these concerns with the hopes of rehabilitation and significant changes. Shortly after the disciplinary action, Frank underwent shoulder surgery and took a job-protected leave of absence for 8 weeks, returning to work with a reasonable accommodation as his recovery warranted short-term disability.

Upon his return, the areas addressed in his record of discussion began again and a written warning was quickly delivered. Frank’s supervisor mentioned in his written warning “after returning from an FMLA leave of absence, Frank has been absent on 4 occasions in a 2-week period.” Shortly after this second disciplinary document was administered, Frank got into a verbal altercation with a co-worker in front of customers who filed a complaint with management and Frank was promptly terminated for the incident. A few weeks later, the company received notice from the state that Frank had filed a wrongful termination suit, claiming that he was being discriminated against because of his job-protected leave of absence and subsequent disability.

A common situation that arises with employees who are out on a medical leave of absence, or who are protected under ADA due to a disability, is the issue of disciplinary action. How can you effectively apply performance or conduct standards to your employees, while not violating ADA regulations?

An employee with a disability is still required to meet the same production and performance standards as a non-disabled employee in the same position, and an employer may hold the employee to the same performance and conduct standards as they do to all other employees. In most situations, the employee’s disability will not be a relevant factor in reviewing conduct or performance violations. The ADA does not protect employees from the consequences of violating conduct rules, even when such conduct is caused by the disability.

What you have to make certain of however, is whenever administering disciplinary action, you make it very clear that the discipline and the disability or leave of absence are entirely unrelated. Frank’s supervisor made the mistake of mentioning his leave in his write up, which opened a can of worms with regards to the perception of discrimination.

Navigating the world of leave and disability management can be a headache with so many laws and regulations to adhere to and form your policies around. HRCentral specializes in alleviating this stress from organizations, allowing you to focus your resources on your employees and customers. Contact us today to discuss how we can help you implement a program that is streamlined, compliant, and beneficial for both your company and your employees.

Calling in Sick

Cindy was recently promoted to department manager and today was the final push on a huge project for her team.  Though her department only had 5 employees, she was looking forward to finalizing this project and showing the VP what she and her team could do.  Shortly after getting into the office she received a text message from Amy notifying Cindy that she couldn’t make it into the office today due to a cold.  Cindy’s heart sank, she was relying on Amy to help finish up this major project.

As a manager, have you come across this situation?  What have you done when a critical employee calls in sick right when you need them the most?  For many managers, a tangle of emotions and scenarios start playing in your head.  Emotions from feeling betrayed and angry to scenarios where you start believing your employee is a slacker and faking sick.

Cindy finished the project but only by working late into the night.  The next day Amy came into the office all bright and cheerful with no signs of being sick.  Cindy still frustrated at Amy for missing an important day at the office ignored Amy all morning.  After lunch Amy poked her head into Cindy’s office to check in, Cindy just glared at her and angrily stated, “How could you not be here yesterday when I needed you the most?”

Almost every day managers have to step up and take the high road.  We have to make sure we are not making assumptions or taking things personally.  As in the case of Cindy, she took Amy’s absence very personally and started thinking of Amy as a troubled employee.  You can be sure that next time Amy calls in sick, Cindy is going to be even more upset.

If you are dealing with an employee calling in sick on an important day or has a history of calling in sick, take a step back and try to look at it from a rational point of view.  Before addressing a potential absent employee problem, ensure you have the complete picture.  Review how much unscheduled time off they have taken over the last few months; is it really out of the ordinary or is your perception warped by your feelings?  With flu and cold season coming, you also have to consider cutting down on the spread of illness by not allowing sick employees in the office.

Even if you believe an employee is abusing the sick leave policy, seek advice prior to taking any action (including talking with the employee).  When dealing with an employee taking a lot of sick leave, take care you do not to violate any legal rights the employee has, and ensure you are viewing the situation objectively.

Nuts-and-Bolts: ADA – What NOT to Do

In our last Nuts-and-Bolts post, we discussed the proposed rules that the EEOC recently published that pertain to the application of the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) to wellness programs that employers offer their employees.

It is important that employers and managers stay abreast of the constantly changing and evolving rules and regulations that apply to leave management and administration to ensure compliance. A very important aspect of leave administration is what you as an employer are permitted to say, and more importantly, what you are not permitted to say when dealing with a disability-related leave of absence.  (more…)