Posts tagged Employees

Internships – What Your Company Needs to Know

Thinking about bringing on unpaid interns to join your company?  Be careful! The Department of Labor has strict rules regarding the conditions required for an intern to qualify to work without pay.  Generally, the activities and training completed by the intern must be solely for his or her own benefit, and the company may not derive any immediate advantage from the intern’s activities.  In addition, you may not hire unpaid interns to do work that would normally have been done by another paid employee.

If you do bring on an unpaid intern, you must adhere to the following rules:

  • Training received by the intern must be for his or her benefit.
  • Training must be general, not for the immediate advantage of the business, and it may even slow normal operations.
  • Interns can’t be used to replace paid employees.
  • Interns must be closely supervised or mentored.
  • Interns can do real work as long as they are closely supervised, are learning and aren’t necessarily creating a final product.
  • Both the intern and the business must agree that the internship will be unpaid.
  • Both parties must agree that no job is promised at the end of the internship.
  • High schools, technical schools and colleges can partner with businesses to set up compliant unpaid internships in which the student receives course credit. This lends credibility to the internship’s benefit for the student.

Make sure that you have a thorough written plan outlining the activities and training the intern will receive throughout the course of the internship, as well as the expected learning goals.  Be sure to offer internships in writing, with a full outline of internship activities, goals and conditions.

It’s advisable to consult with legal counsel when developing a formal internship program to ensure that the company is not creating liability by bringing on unpaid interns.

If an intern fails to meet all of the DOL’s criteria, they should be paid at least minimum wage and any appropriate overtime as employees. When in doubt, businesses can avoid legal problems by paying interns at least minimum wage.

 Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Cell Phones in the Workplace

Are your employees using personal cell phones in the workplace?   Many employers are frustrated with employees taking time during the workday to answer personal calls or texts.  The constant din of ringtones can diminish a professional atmosphere and is often disruptive to co-workers, clients and business partners.  Make sure your Employee Handbook includes a comprehensive personal cell phone policy.  Here are some of the items to consider in developing a workplace cell phone policy:

  • Be clear as to where personal cell phones are NOT allowed (i.e. manufacturing floor, front of store, etc.).
  • If you do allow employees to carry personal cell phones at work, be sure to clarify if phones are to be turned off or “silenced” during work hours.
  • State that employees may use personal cell phones during break or meal periods, but that such use should not interrupt customers or business operations.
  • You may choose to allow employees to “limited and reasonable” personal use of cell phones in the workplace.  If this is the case, request that employees excuse themselves to a private area so as not to disturb co-workers or business operations.  Be sure to add that determination of “limited and reasonable” is at management’s discretion.
  • Many states now have restrictions on use of cell phones in vehicles.  If your employees drive during work hours, be sure to include policies adhering to state rules regarding cell phone use in vehicles.  You may choose to go above and beyond state regulations and ban all forms of cell phone use while driving on company business.  Consider purchasing “hands free” devices for employees who may need to make business calls while traveling in vehicles.
  • If you provide company cell phones to employees, be sure to state whether or not you will allow personal use of such items.  If you do allow “limited and reasonable” personal use of company phones, be clear that ALL cell phone communications (business or personal) must adhere to other company communications standards and not be harassing, inappropriate or illegal.

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Telecommuting Tips

Telecommuting continues to gain interest and attention in the small business world.  There are many benefits to having an employee telecommute to work, either full time, or just a day or two a week.  Here are just some of the benefits of incorporating a telecommuting plan in your business:

Conserves Energy – Telecommuting conserves the energy and resources associated with a daily commute such as vehicle & road maintenance. Also reduces the materials and energy used in the office.

Maximizes the Employees Free Time – By eliminating the commute, employees have more time to devote to family and personal endeavors.

Improves Productivity/Reduces Stress – Studies suggest that people who work from home are more productive with their time, and are less stressed than those who work in a traditional environment.  Here is some of the research results:  http://psychcentral.com.

 

Decreased Turnover – Employees consider telecommuting a valuable benefit, and are reluctant to leave an employer who supports such flexibility.

Before you start having an employee work from home, be sure to address the following items:

Develop a Telecommuting Plan: Develop a thorough plan that addresses work hours, expectations and deliverables.  Make sure the plan is in writing and signed by the employee.    Also make sure to retain the right to terminate the telecommuting aspect of the position if things are not working according to plan.

 

Make Sure the Employee Is Prepared: Ensure that the employee has been provided all of the tools required to work effectively from home.  A computer, high speed connection and dedicated phone line are just some of the items to be considered.

 

Timekeeping: Consider installing timekeeping and supervisory software on the telecommuter’s computer.  This will eliminate any arguments as to how the employee is spending their day. 

Security: Make sure the employee has a secure computer and office environment that will allow you to keep your company and client information confidential. Article: Telecommuting Security Mistakes.

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 150 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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Tips for Terminations

Conducting terminations is one of the toughest jobs for any business owner.  Before you sit down with the employee, make sure you have done everything necessary to have the meeting go as smooth as possible.

 

Before conducting a termination, ask yourself:

 

·       Was the employee clearly told that they needed to improve the behavior?  Were they given the time necessary to improve the behavior?

·       Was the employee told that failure to improve may result in termination?

·       Is there documentation on all of the activities leading up to the termination? 

·       Does your Employee Handbook outline that this action may result in termination?

·       Would any other employee be terminated for the same activities?

·       Is the termination being conducted in a timely manner, as to the final incident?

·       Will a final paycheck be ready in accordance with your State’s final pay rules?

·       Will the employee be surprised by the termination?

 

If the answer is “no” to any of the above questions, reconsider the fairness of the termination.

 

When conducting a termination meeting, be sure to:

 

·       Hold the meeting in a private area

       Be sure to avoid any public humiliation for the employee

       Be brief and to the point

       Don’t allow the discharge to turn into an argument

       Have an appropriate witness, if available

       Escort the employee off company property

       Don’t discuss the discharge with other employees

       Document with sign off if possible

 

 

Jill Critchfield is a professional Human Resources Consultant.  Through her business, Pacific HR, she has provided HR services to over 100 small and mid-sized businesses in Portland, Oregon since 1999.

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