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How to Help Underperforming Employees

There are a lot of reasons why an employee or a team may be underperforming, and sometimes it takes a little digging to get at the root of the problem. Under-performance could be due to a skill gap, unclear expectations, or a lack of incentive to perform. It could be due to obstacles in your organization that prevent people from completing their assignments or getting their work done on time. There could be a combination of factors that would need to be addressed before employees could routinely do their best work.  Consequently, while your performance management process should have some consistency to avoid any discrimination, it also needs to be complex enough to account for a mul

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We received credible reports from several employees and witnesses concerning sexual harassment by a manager. I feel confident in proceeding with termination, but we have not interviewed the accused manager. Should we get “his side of the story” before terminating?

Yes, you’re on safer ground terminating the accused employee if you interview him as part of your investigation – and do the same for other employees accused of harassment. In this case, you might not learn anything that would change your mind about the termination, but it’s still a possibility. More importantly, if the terminated employee were to challenge your decision, you would be able to show that he wasn’t treated any differently than other accused employees.  If you were to skip the interview with him, while typically interviewing other employees who have been accused of harassment or misconduct, he could claim that your decision in his case was discriminatory. A cons

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Four Ways to Show Employees That You Appreciate Them

Saying thanks and showing appreciation shouldn’t be limited to special occasions. Here are four ways to create a culture of appreciation in your workplace: Involve your employees in the big decisions and strategic planning of the organizationSolicit their ideas about the direction you’re headed. Discuss the future of the company with them, along with their place within it. Consider what they have to say and give them credit for their input. By doing all this, you show your employees that they’re important to you and to the success of the organization.  Invest in your employeesOffer opportunities for advancement. If promotions aren’t possible, then help employees up-level

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We have an employee who is joining the Army Reserves. What are our responsibilities as their employer?

In short, your responsibilities are to not discriminate because of their service and to offer them their job back after military-related absences.  The rights of applicants and employees who serve in the uniformed military services are protected by the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA). Under this act, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate in hiring, reemployment, retention, promotion, pay, or any benefit of employment due to a person’s military service or intent to apply for military service.  You should allow the employee to take unpaid leave to attend deployments, scheduled drills, and annual training. When the employee returns, they s

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How to Handle: Misconduct Allegations Against a Former Employee

An employee who recently quit made several allegations about the general manager, including an instance of sexual harassment. How should we respond to these complaints since the employee no longer works here? Even though the employee has left the organization, I recommend conducting an investigation into the allegations and taking disciplinary action against the alleged harasser if appropriate. Failing to look into these concerns can invite risk, especially if there are later complaints against the same individual. When an employee resigns, it's not uncommon for them to share an assortment of complaints on their way out the door. You should sift through and determine whether any of them

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We’ve seen an uptick in complaints from employees. Is this cause for concern?

The mere fact that you’re getting more complaints than normal isn’t necessarily something to worry about. The increase in complaints could be a sign that there are now more issues that require your attention, or it could be a sign that your employees are—for some reason—feeling safer speaking to you about their concerns.  In and of themselves, complaints can be a good thing because they inform you about matters that may have escaped your notice and they indicate that your employees trust you to resolve those matters. The last thing you want is for employees to keep their concerns to themselves or vent about them to their colleagues (or the entire internet). You can’t solve

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We received a wage garnishment for child support that the employee doesn’t want us to follow. What should we do?

Valid wage garnishments need to be followed regardless of the affected employee’s feelings on the matter. In this case, you should go ahead and follow the instructions from the garnishing agency, withholding and sending them the specified amounts. The instructions should tell you what kind of notice you need to provide to the employee and provide a contact number if you have questions about remitting the payments. You may want to have a separate conversation with the employee so you can explain your legal obligations and why you cannot refuse to withhold the required amounts. If the employee wishes to get the garnishment discontinued or altered, you can refer the employee to the garnishin

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A New Approach to Service Awards

Many of us know that employee recognition and workplace culture have become critical components in retention, especially given the ongoing challenge of a tight labor market. To that end, perhaps you’ve designed a dynamic performance management and goal setting system for your employees. Or maybe you offer some great benefits for a flexible work/life balance. And we all know scheduling fun events – holiday parties, summer picnics, social outings – can go a long way to create a welcoming and positive workplace. Among all these efforts, though, sometimes employers lose sight of a long-standing piece of employee recognition: service awards. Length-of-service awards, also called achieve

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What is an employee’s regular rate of pay? Is it just what they make per hour of work?

Not exactly. An employee’s “regular rate of pay” is the amount used to calculate their overtime rate for a given time period. You might think of it as an average, of sorts. An employee’s regular rate is determined by adding up the amount paid for their work, as well as earnings from non-discretionary bonuses (such as those tied to performance or retention), then dividing that amount by the total hours worked.    For example, let’s say Anna earns $10/hour for inside sales work and $15/hour for bookkeeping work. This week, she worked 24 hours in inside sales and 20 hours as a bookkeeper. She also received $50 in commissions that are attributable to this workweek. H

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HR Tip of the Month

The importance of documenting performance problems as they occur cannot be overstated. Although this requires meeting with the employee and discussing the issue, which will almost certainly be uncomfortable, it’s your best defense to a wrongful termination claim should the employee feel litigious after termination. Too many employers rely on the concept of employment at-will to protect them, when the reach of this concept is actually quite limited. The problem is that if an employer has little to no documentation and relies on at-will employment—and the theory that legally no reason is required—the terminated employee, their attorney, and possibly a jury of their peers will fill the

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