Posts tagged HR Consulting

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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What Can I Ask in an Interview?

Worried about what questions you can ask in an interview?  As a general rule, interview questions should directly relate to qualifications for the job, and in almost all instances, the following topics should be avoided in an interview:

 

o Age – is irrelevant unless you are concerned about child labor violations under

the Fair Labor Standards Act, in which case you can ask for proof that he/she

is old enough to work.

o Arrest record – do not ask at all – you may ask about convictions, but even

then it would have to be relevant to the position in order to lead to immediate

rejection.

o Association with present employees – this information is not relevant to an

applicant’s ability to perform successfully in a particular job, and the tendency

to either encourage or prohibit the employment of friends or relatives of

existing employees may create an adverse impact on members of protected

classes.

o Bankruptcy and credit affairs – never ask about bankruptcy since it is illegal

to discriminate on this basis under the Federal Bankruptcy Law – all credit

inquiries must comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

o Citizenship – unless required by law or regulation, you may not ask applicants

if they are U.S. citizens since it is considered discriminatory under the

Immigration Reform and Control Act. You may ask if candidates are

authorized to work in the United States.

o Disability – the Americans with Disabilities Act makes it illegal to ask

questions about an applicant’s disability or perceived disability – it is crucial to

focus on the job, not on the disability.

o Driver’s license – avoid asking about it unless the job requires one since it

could statistically screen out females, minorities and/or individuals with

disabilities.

o Education – relevant if it is directly related to successful job performance – if

not, avoid it because it could potentially screen out minorities.

o Emergency contact information – unnecessary at the application stage 

o English language skills – only ask if it is a requirement of the job (i.e. an

English teacher) – otherwise it could be construed as national origin

discrimination.

o Height and weight – can be discriminatory against females, Hispanics, and/or

Asians – it is important to focus on what the job requires, not the person’s

physical characteristics.

o Marital status/name changes/spouse/children – any questions relating to

these issues may be construed as discriminatory, especially against women – –

none are job-related. 

o Organization or club membership – this might reveal protected class

information and it is irrelevant (i.e. Knights of Columbus, NAACP or

Diabetes Association)

o Race, color, religion, sex, or national originEEOC guidelines prohibit

asking questions that may reveal this information; rejected applicants could

have grounds for a discrimination suit if any of these questions were part of

the application process.

o Union affiliation – could be considered an unfair labor practice under the

National Labor Relations Act if the applicant claims he or she was not hired

because of the union affiliation.

o Veteran status/military records – general questions about a person’s

background in the military should only be asked if based on business necessity

or job-related reasons. If requested, such information should include a

statement that general or dishonorable discharge will not be an absolute bar to

employment but that other factors will be taken into consideration.

o Weekend work/shift changesunless required for the job, the applicant

should not have to state whether or not they can work on the weekends – this

could screen out applicants who cannot work on some weekend days because

of their religious beliefs.

 

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.  Information about Pacific HR services can be found at www.pacifichr.com.

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HR Checklist

Use this handy HR Checklist to identify your current human resources needs. Great for any new business, or for a review of your current HR procedures.  This HR Checklist can also be found at www.pacifichr.com

 

Employee Handbook   ____
Handbook is complete, current and in compliance with State & Federal regulations

 

Employee Files  ____
Complete employee files for all current employees. Terminated employee files are kept on site. Information regarding medical conditions, FMLA and workers’ compensation are kept separate from employee files.

 

I-9 Forms  ____
Federal I-9 form on file for all employees, separate from employee files, in accordance with federal guidelines.

 

State & Federal Postings  ____
Required postings up to date and are posted in an area accessible to all employees.

 

Job Descriptions  ____
Job Descriptions are completed and up to date for all key positions

 

Payroll  ____
Payroll is processed accurately and without incident. Records are retained in accordance with state law.

 

FMLA  ____
Procedures are in place to ensure compliance with FMLA regulations.

 

COBRA  ____
Procedures are in place to ensure compliance with COBRA regulations.

 

Hiring Process  ____
Hiring process is organized to ensure compliance with federal discrimination laws and record retention requirements

 

Termination Process  ____
Termination process is organized to limit wrongful discharge liabilities. Final checks are issued in accordance with state law.

 

Disciplinary Process  ____
Disciplinary Process is designed to ensure fair and equitable disciplinary action.

 

Unemployment Claims  ____
Unemployment claims are managed to minimize unemployment tax liability.

 

Performance Evaluations  ____
Performance evaluations are performed annually for all positions.

 

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.  Information about Pacific HR services can be found at www.pacifichr.com.

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Hiring Your 1st Employee

Are you ready to hire your first employee?  Here are a few items to consider before you hire:

 

What do you need?  Think carefully about the tasks that will be assigned to the new employee. Many new business owners are tempted to hire friends or family members, and fail to consider to true needs of the business.   The result is often a traumatic experience for both owner and employee, and a painful termination.   Make sure that you have a clearly defined job description and then seek out a person with the correct skill set. 

 

What type of employee? Will the new hire be an Employee or Contractor?  Employees & Contractors carry different responsibilities and liability for the business owner.  Misclassification can result in fines and confusion over the role the person will play in your business. Consult a professional prior to the hire to make sure you have your new person in the correct category. 

 

Are you ready?  Before you hire, be ready for your new employee by setting up a relationship with a payroll company and have new hire paperwork in place (such as W-4 & I-9 forms).  Put together a written Offer Letter outlining the position title, hours, start date, pay and any additional requirements so that both the employee & owner clearly understand position details.   

 

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.  Information about Pacific HR services can be found at www.pacifichr.com.

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Employee Handbook – Top Ten Reasons To Update Now

A clear and thorough Employee Handbook is an important tool for any business.   Here is a list of 10 reasons to get your Employee Handbook up to date:

  1. Document Policies & Procedures: An Employee Handbook is a great place to get all of your company policies & procedures in one place.  Going through the Employee Handbook creation process will help identify and correct gaps in current polices.
  2. Communicate with Employees:   Employees can’t be expected to follow rules unless you clearly communicate your company policies.  A well written Handbook gives employees a one-stop resource for researching company policies, workplace expectations and corporate culture.
  3. State At-Will Rights: Your At-Will status as an employer could be jeopardized if you don’t clearly outline your rights with clear and accurate At-Will statement.
  4. Explain Employee Benefits: Give employees a resource for looking up benefit details and qualification criteria. 
  5. Promote Your Culture: An Employee Handbook is a great way to set a tone with new employees as to your business culture and ethical standards.   
  6. Support your Supervisors: Supervisors will find a thorough Employee Handbook an invaluable asset in guiding employees through company policies.
  7. Present a Professional Image:  A well written Employee Handbook improves your professional image to employees and candidates.
  8. Protect Your Business: A copy of your Employee Handbook is one of the first things an investigatory agency will ask when researching a claim.  What will you say if you don’t have a Handbook, or if it is out of date or incomplete?
  9. Complying with Certain Laws: Some employment laws, such as the Family Medical Leave Act require that employers include an FMLA policy in their Employee Handbook.  Failing to meet this requirement could jeopardize the employer’s rights under the act.
  10. Save Time: A complete and accurate Employee Handbook will free up time for you and your supervisors.  The Handbook is a resource for an employee’s questions and will minimize questions posed to management on company policies. 

In short, an up-to-date Employee Handbook is an invaluable resource for any business.  Take a look at your Handbook today and take steps to make sure it is accurate, thorough and complete.

 

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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