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Given COVID-19, if an employee is out of the office due to sickness, can we ask them about their symptoms?

Yes, but there’s a right way to do it and a wrong way to do it. In most circumstances, employers shouldn’t ask about an employee’s symptoms, as that could be construed as a disability-related inquiry. Under the circumstances, however—and in line with an employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace—we recommend asking specifically about the symptoms of COVID-19 and making it clear that this is the extent of the information you’re looking for. Here’s a suggested communication: “Thank you for staying home while sick. In the interest of keeping all employees as safe as possible, we’d like to know if you are having any of the symptoms of COVID-19. Are you experien

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COVID-19 and Your Workplace

The last month has been interesting, dramatic, and stressful as the country has taken small and large measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. Employers nationwide are struggling with how to deal with these changes. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions as well as links to several resources that employers may find helpful. What am I obligated to do, legally?There aren’t any universal employer responsibilities that crop up as soon as something is declared a pandemic. That said, pay attention to federal, state, and local authorities to see if they are rolling out benefits or prohibitions that you need to be aware of. For instance, Colorado passed an emergency paid sick leave

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We have had someone request an accommodation for a disability. Can you explain undue hardship?

Under the ADA, an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, so long as doing so does not create an undue hardship on the organization. Many state laws also use this standard with respect to accommodations for disability, pregnancy, and lactation, so it’s useful to understand. The basic definition is an action that creates a significant difficulty or expense.The cost of an accommodation could be an undue hardship on the employer, but so could an accommodation’s duration or disruption. An accommodation that would fundamentally alter the nature or operation of the business would be an undue hardship, even if the cost was negligible. But if co

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Building a Learning Culture

As we head into a new decade, there are many exciting opportunities and challenges for U.S. employers.  Among those are the ways companies build the skills and knowledge of their workforce.  What used to be called “training and development” has evolved into a front-and-center business strategy in order to remain competitive in a global market and provide the heightened service level expected from customers.  No matter the size of the organization, it’s important then that all company leaders set aside time to define and sustain their learning culture. An important first step is to make sure the company is clear on its reasons to build a learning culture.  Are yo

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Can we discipline employees for complaining about the company on social media?

Probably not. Depending on what they said, and who responded to it, their speech may be protected under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act. Section 7 protects concerted activity by employees that relates to the terms on conditions of their employment. Concerted means “in concert,” so two or more employees must be involved, but this is easily achieved on social media if a co-worker even just “likes” the post. Terms and conditions could include pay, hours, work environment, treatment from managers, benefits, or violations of labor and employment laws. We understand that this sort of social media activity by employees can be frustrating. One way to reduce the likelihood t

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We have an employee who generally performs well, but at times behaves immaturely. When she gets upset, she slams things and stomps around the office. She also often says “That’s not my job” when asked to help with something. She’s younger and this is her first job. Is there a best way to address this behavior without it sounding personal? I know I can’t tell her to “grow up,” but I also can’t allow this immature behavior to continue.

Yes, I would suggest you give the employee a verbal warning concerning her unprofessional behavior. While you could, in fact, tell her to “grow up,” that may not be the most useful advice. You can tell her that slamming and stomping are not acceptable behaviors in a professional setting, and that you would appreciate it if she addressed frustrations with her direct supervisor or with you. You should also remind her that you’re on the same team and helping the team is part of everyone’s job description. You might also let her know that you’re there to support her, that you want her to succeed, and that while first jobs can be especially stressful, she’s not alone.  After

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What sort of questions should we ask and avoid asking during a job interview?

The questions you ask in a job interview should all be job-related and nondiscriminatory. You should avoid questions that are not job-related or that cause an applicant to tell you about their inclusion in a protected class. For example, if the position requires someone to lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day, you should ask the applicant whether they can lift 25 pounds repeatedly throughout the day. You should not ask whether they have back pain or any other physical issues that might prevent them from lifting 25 pounds throughout the day. The latter question would be discriminatory. Protected classes include race, national origin, citizenship status, religious affiliation, disa

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We’ve had a few employees come into work sick. Can we send them home or, in the future, tell them not to come in to work if they are sick?

Yes. Generally, you can send sick employees home early when they are visibly ill or there is objective concern for the spread of a contagious virus. We recommend you inform the employee, as well as your other employees, of your expectations for when employees should or should not come to work due to common contagious illnesses. Many employers choose to send employees home only in severe circumstances (e.g., a highly contagious illness) as the cold and flu seasons could mean that many employees are sick or recovering at the same time, and employees may not need to stay home when fighting, for example, a minor cold. Keep in mind that it is important that everyone have a clear understanding

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We have an employee who generally performs well, but at times behaves immaturely. When she gets upset, she slams things and stomps around the office. She also often says “That’s not my job” when asked to help with something. She’s younger and this is her first job. Is there a best way to address this behavior without it sounding personal? I know I can’t tell her to “grow up,” but I also can’t allow this immature behavior to continue.

Yes, I would suggest you give the employee a verbal warning concerning her unprofessional behavior. While you could, in fact, tell her to “grow up,” that may not be the most useful advice. You can tell her that slamming and stomping are not acceptable behaviors in a professional setting, and that you would appreciate it if she addressed frustrations with her direct supervisor or with you. You should also remind her that you’re on the same team and helping the team is part of everyone’s job description. You might also let her know that you’re there to support her, that you want her to succeed, and that while first jobs can be especially stressful, she’s not alone.  Af

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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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