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Earlier today we Tweeted how even working to age 70 won’t pay for retirement.  We know that saving for retirement is important to you.  Accumulating the savings you’ll need is a big goal.  Your retirement plan is not only a convenient way for you to build up your savings, but also offers tax benefits that can help your account grow. Unfortunately, many people do not have the information they need to make the most of their retirement plan. 

Pre-Tax Savings:
One of the most important features of your retirement plan is the ability to save and accumulate earnings on a tax deferred basis.  Rather than paying taxes on your contributions and earnings now, you can delay paying taxes until you withdraw the money so you can have more money working for you. 

Automatic Salary Deferrals:
Your plan makes it easy for you to save for retirement by deducting your contribution from your paycheck each pay period and automatically investing your contributions according to your investment elections. 

Investment Menu:
Retirement plans can access mutual funds and share classes that are not available on a retail or individual level.  As a result, your options may be better and your fees lower than if you were investing outside of your plan. 

Will I get there?
How much will you need when you retire?  The answer may surprise you.  Get started today! 

If you want this much each year in retirement:

You’ll need this much in your retirement account when you retire:

$30,000

$468,662

$40,000

$624,883

$50,000

$781,104

$75,000

$1,171,656

$100,000

$1,562,207

*Assumes 4% return during a 25 year retirement 

If you would like more information about enrolling in your retirement plan, contact Prestige at info@prestigeemployee.com

On what is unofficially the last Summer Friday, a little HR humor to make you smile…

The Keys to Success

1.   Never walk down the hall without a document in your hands. People with documents in their hands look like hardworking employees heading for important meetings. People with nothing in their hands look like they’re heading for the cafeteria. People with the newspaper in their hands look like they’re heading for the bathroom. Above all, make sure you carry loads of stuff home with you at night, thus generating the false impression that you work longer hours than you do.

2.   Use computers to look busy. Any time you use a computer, it looks like work to the casual observer. You can send and receive personal e-mail, calculate your finances and generally have a blast without doing anything remotely related to work. These aren’t exactly the societal benefits that everybody from the computer revolution expected but they’re not bad either. When you get caught by your boss –and you will get caught–your best defense is to claim you’re teaching yourself to use the new software, thus saving valuable training dollars. You’re not a loafer, you’re a self-starter. Offer to show your boss what you learned. That will make your boss scurry away like a frightened salamander.

3.   Messy desk. Top management can get away with a clean desk. For the rest of us, it looks like you’re not working hard enough. Build huge piles of documents around your workspace. To the casual observer, last year’s work looks the same as today’s work; it’s volume that counts. Pile them high and wide. If you know somebody is coming to your cubicle, bury the document you’ll need halfway down in an existing stack and rummage for it when he/she arrives.

4.   Voice mail. Never answer your phone if you have voice mail. People don’t call you just because they want to give you something for nothing – they call because they want you to DO work for THEM.

That’s no way to live. Screen all your calls through voice mail. If somebody leaves a voice mail message for you and it sounds like impending work, respond during the lunch hour. That way, you’re regarded as hardworking and conscientious even though you’re being a devious weasel. If you diligently employ the method of screening incoming calls and then returning calls when nobody is there, this will greatly increase the odds that they will give up or look for a solution that doesn’t involve you.

The sweetest voice mail message you can ever hear is “Ignore my last message. I took care of it.” If your voice mailbox has a limit on the number of messages it can hold, make sure you reach that limit frequently. One way to do that is to never erase any incoming messages. If that takes too long, send yourself a few messages. Your callers will hear a recorded message that says, “Sorry, this mailbox is full” a sure sign that you are a hardworking employee in high demand.

Next Monday we observe Labor Day.  This federal holiday originated as a day to pay tribute to the contributions of the American worker.  Unfortunately, there is little to celebrate this Labor Day for the 8.3% of Americans that are currently unemployed. 

While the economic climate is bad now, it could get even worse.  Just last week, the Congressional Budget Office released its updated budget and economic forecast, which projects a bleak economic outlook if Congress fails to address automatic spending cuts and allows a tax hike on all Americans set to take effect on January 1, 2013. 

Federal debt held by the public could reach its highest level since 1950, and another recession could cause unemployment to soar above 9 percent by the end of 2013. 

The American people are rightfully disheartened, and it is time our government step up and ensure we do not slip off the fiscal cliff.

There are many topics for manager and supervisor training but, according to HR Advisor, these six are the keys for keeping your company out of court.  Train on them first. 

1. Wage/Hour/FLSA
Why it’s a challenge:  Supervisors and managers think they know the rules, but the rules are more complex than they think they are. 

Typical manager/supervisor blunders: 

“I won’t pay for unauthorized overtime.”
In most cases you must pay for all hours worked even if you forbid workers to work.  You can discipline them for disobeying, but you have to pay them. 

“Yeah, they grab the phone now and again when they’re home.”
If non-exempt workers are spending more than a de minimus amount of time answering business phone calls after work hours, they probably need to be paid. 

“I’m not recalculating overtime just because I gave a little bonus at the end of the month.”
Overtime must be paid on the “regular rate” which includes many bonuses and other payments.  If the bonuses are awarded after pay for the period has been made, you must recalculate and pay the additional amount. 

2. Hiring
Why it’s a problem:  Most managers are uncomfortable, unprepared, and untrained in interviewing.  They end up having a chat rather than an interview.  They are likely to ask: 

Do you plan to start a family soon?
When did you graduate from high school?
What sort of accent is that?
We usually hire young guys right out of college for that job. 

All of these questions and many more are forbidden as they set the company up for a charge of discrimination.  Managers may say, “Oh, I was just making conversation,” but courts will assume you asked the question for a reason, and what reason could there be other than discriminating? 

3. Retaliation
Why it’s a challenge:  Unfortunately, it’s natural for managers to feel upset when someone complains about their department or their management style.  So they are likely to think: 

He’s not getting away with going above my head—we’ll see about this.
I think she won’t get that raise and promotion after all. 

And there’s a special problem with retaliation—juries really don’t like it.  It seems so unfair for the big corporation to single out one employee or to be “out to get” an employee. In court, you’ll have to overcome that sympathy vote, and it’s not easy. 

Of course, maybe whatever negative action you took against the employee was deserved and it’s “just a coincidence” that it happened two days after the employee filed a complaint. Unfortunately, even the least competent opposing attorney can fairly easily turn that coincidence into a convincing case. 

4. Appraisals
Why it’s a problem:  Appraisals are a problem because managers and supervisors are uncomfortable giving bad news or criticism, so they fail to clearly describe performance failures. 

For example, they may say “satisfactory” when performance is anything but, secure in the knowledge that at their company “satisfactory” is a low mark.  But it won’t seem low to a jury (“Just what did your signature mean here where you wrote ‘satisfactory’?”) 

Work to clarify your performance appraisal system for managers and supervisors and, for sure, make sure that they are honest in their appraisals of individuals who are not performing up to standard.  Those are the people who are likely to sue. 

5. Documentation
Why it’s a problem:  Documentation a pain, it’s not an immediate issue, managers don’t know what to write, and no one’s checking to see whether it gets done. 

When documentation shows a clear record of poor performance or poor behavior, and shows that an employee had ample opportunity to improve, companies can mount a strong defense to a lawsuit for discrimination or wrongful discharge, for example. 

However, when documentation is scant, sloppy, or—worst case—nonexistent, defending yourself is nearly impossible.  Unfortunately, juries expect that companies will be organized and orderly in the way that they conduct business.  They assume that if there was something important to write down the manager would have written it. 

Documentation that is written at the time of the event, and that is business-like (that is, signed, dated, formal) will be accepted.  Documentation written after the fact, undated, unsigned, and messy will not. 

Bad Documentation
And then there’s another kind of documentation—bad documentation, or “smoking gun.”  For example: e-mail that says, 

“He’s too old for this job; get me someone younger.”
 “She’s just going to get pregnant on us, hire the guy instead.”
Or maybe not smoking gun level, but still potentially dangerous: A margin note on a resume, written just as a reminder, “Heavy black woman.” 

Plaintiffs’ attorneys slaver when they see this kind of documentation. 

What to do? Train, train, train.  Give managers examples of what documentation should look like. 

6. Firing
Why it’s a problem:  It’s often done in haste, without thinking the ramifications through.  It’s what most gets employees in a suing frame of mind. 

Common mistakes: 

Person fired for an offense for which there is poor or no documentation
Company executives give conflicting reasons for the termination
There is retaliation or a perception of retaliation, especially when the terminated employee has recently performed a protected act like making a wage and hour complaint or an EEOC complaint.
Person fired in a demeaning way in public.
Person fired for an offense that others have not been fired for, especially if the person terminated is a member of a protected class. 

Again, managers and supervisors have to be trained.  Probably the best training to give is this simple:  If you are contemplating a termination, go to HR to discuss it before taking action.  Yes, like most things in HR, the key to success is manager/supervisor training.  But who has the budget and time to organize a full-blown training program? 

Good news from Prestige… all of these topics (and many others) are available to clients at no additional cost through theUniversityofPrestige.  For more information, contact Prestige.

A little levity on a summer Friday…

e-mail one
Attention: Human Resources

Joe Smith, my assistant programmer, can always be found
hard at work in his cubicle. Joe works independently, without
wasting company time talking to colleagues. Joe never
thinks twice about assisting fellow employees, and he always
finishes given assignments on time. Often Joe takes extended
measures to complete his work, sometimes skipping
coffee breaks. Joe is an individual who has absolutely no
vanity in spite of his high accomplishments and profound
knowledge in his field. I firmly believe that Joe can be
classed as a high-calibre employee, the type which cannot be
dispensed with. Consequently, I duly recommend that Joe be
promoted to executive management, and a proposal will be
executed as soon as possible.
Regards,
Project Leader

e-mail two
Attention: Human Resources

Joe Smith was reading over my shoulder while I wrote the report sent to you earlier today. Kindly read only the odd numbered lines [1, 3, 5, etc.] for my true assessment of his ability.
Regards,
Project Leader

It is hard to believe, but summer is almost over and parents and guardians will soon be preparing to send their children back to school.  According to the Department of Labor, an estimated 90.7 percent of families with children under the age of 18 have at least one employed parent, and 62.2 percent of married-couple families with children have two employed parents. 

Working parents and guardians often struggle with achieving a balance between being there for their children and providing for them, and must balance work requirements with attendance at school functions such as parent-teacher conferences, class parties, meetings, volunteer activities, assemblies and other extracurricular activities.

And, although no federal law specifically requires an employer to allow leave for a child’s school activities, there may be legal pitfalls, and employers should watch out for proactive steps they should take as schools come back into session.

First, check your state’s laws. California, for example, requires some employers to allow parents and guardians up to 40 hours off work per calendar year to attend school activities for kids in licensed day care facilities and in grades K-12.  And, while most states are not so generous, employers should check before they say ‘no’ to a leave request for school-related activities.

Other states that require employers to provide leave for parents and guardians to attend their children’s school-related activities include Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas and Vermont, as well as the District of Columbia.

These laws vary as to which employers and employees are covered as well as to the specific school activities for which leave must be provided and how much leave must be granted. Several of the statutes require that an employee provide a certain amount of notice prior to taking the leave.

None of the statutes require that the leave be paid.  Several statutes provide that the leave shall not affect the employee’s entitlement to accrual of benefits or seniority. Several also provide specifically that an employer may not discharge or otherwise discriminate against employees for exercising their right to take leave.

Arkansas, Tennesseeand Utahhave laws that encourage private employers to provide for educational leave, but do not mandate any specific leave provisions or provide penalties for failure to grant leave.

For state-specific resources, contact Prestige

Sometimes it seems that there are literally thousands of ways to go wrong managing people, but there seem to be five critical errors that cause most of the problems.  Focusing on those five, instead of attempting to train managers and supervisors on everything, is the way to get the greatest results. 

1. Conducting Unlawful Pre-employment Inquiries

Inappropriate questions can be a source for claims of discrimination.  To the extent possible, standardize the application and interview process.  Make sure that all applicants for a particular position are asked fundamentally the same questions.  Keep questions objective and focused on the job requirements and the skills necessary to perform the requirements. 

2. Delivering “Dishonest” Evaluations

Too many managers and supervisors would rather be nice than honest.  As a result, many legitimate actions taken against an employee based on lack of performance can be questioned on the basis of the nice reviews.  Avoid putting off the inevitable.  Do not overinflate performance evaluations or make promises that you cannot keep.  If you set standards and they were not met, say so, and rely on documentation and objective criteria whenever possible. 

3. Making Rash Disciplinary Decisions

Before disciplining an employee, evaluate the circumstances to avoid (or defend, if necessary) claims of discrimination and wrongful discharge.  Review company policy and confirm that the employee received a copy of the policy.  Conduct a thorough investigation and allow the employee an opportunity to give his or her version of the facts.  Make sure similarly-situated employees were treated the same. 

4. Committing Termination Errors /Omissions

Terminations are tough for everyone involved, and it’s easy to make mistakes in the interest of getting through the uncomfortable process as quickly as possible.  We suggest you conduct a thorough review before discharging an employee.  Tell the worker in person, using prepared notes, and keep it brief (10 to 15 minutes).  Clarify the logistics of leaving and severance, but don’t make promises you can’t keep. 

5. Making Uninformed Responses to Medical Requests

Few management tasks are more challenging than dealing with employee medical problems—the Bermuda triangle of FMLA,ADA, and workers’ compensation. The time to avoid the legal pitfalls is when you are first aware of the situation.  Assess the employee’s rights under each statute separately.  Generally, managers should contact HR when employees are going to miss work for reasons that might involve “the triangle.”

 

If you have any questions, or would like more information on this or any other HR-related topic, contact Prestige.

From HR Daily Advisor and CareerBuilder we bring you the following:

Half (51 percent) of workers reported that they swear in the office, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey.  The majority of those (95 percent) said they do so in front of their coworkers, while 51 percent cuss in front of the boss.

However, workers seem to clean up their language in front of senior leaders.  Only 13 percent use expletives in front of senior leaders and even less, only 7 percent swear in front of their clients.

While swearing seems to be prevalent in the workplace, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s accepted.  Most employers (81 percent) believe that swearing brings the employee’s professionalism into question.  Others are concerned with the lack of control (71 percent) and lack of maturity (68 percent) demonstrated, while 54 percent said swearing at work makes an employee appear less intelligent.

But employers can’t be too heavy handed.  Twenty-five percent of employers admitted to swearing at their employees.  Roughly the same amount (28 percent) of workers said they have sworn at other coworkers.

The following are a few other highlights from the survey:

Gender: Overall, the survey found that men are more likely to swear at work—54 percent compared to 47 percent of women.

Location: Among top markets in theUnited States, workers in theDistrict of Columbia were the most likely to report that they swear at work—62 percent.

Age: Young employees (ages 18–24) were the least likely to swear at work (42 percent), while employees (ages 35–44) are the most likely (58 percent).

Here’s a little HR humor for this summer Friday…

The boss called one of his employees into the office.

“Rob,” he said, “you’ve been with the company for a year.  You started off in the mail room, one week later you were promoted to a sales position, and one month after that you were promoted to district manager of the sales department.  Just four short months later, you were promoted to vice-president.  Now, it’s time for me to retire, and I want you to take over the company.

What do you say to that?”

“Thanks,” said the employee.

“Thanks?” the boss replied.  “Is that all you can say?”

“I suppose not,” the employee said.

“Thanks, Dad.”

In a recent post we addressed the importance of job descriptions.  Today we take a look at how, when hiring, to stay in compliance with The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which bars job ads from indicating age preference. 

Words to Avoid

The ADEA has some really specific language that outlines prohibited employment practices, stating: 

It shall be unlawful for an employer, labor organization, or employment agency to print or publish, or cause to be printed or published, any notice of advertisement relating to employment indicating any preference, limitation, specification, or discrimination based on age.  

Addition regulatory guidance from the EEOC explains that help wanted advertisements may not contain terms or phrases that limit or even deter the employment of older individuals.  Certain words, according to the EEOC, indicate age preference in violation of the ADEA unless an exception applies.  Examples include “young”, “college student”, “recent college graduate”, “boy” and “girl”.  However, this list is not comprehensive; other words of a similar nature should also be avoided. It’s very important to remember that your job posting should only indicate the qualifications required to do the job – usually being of a certain age group is not a prerequisite. 

Even with online application forms, be careful.  It’s probably best to avoid questions that even indicate the applicant’s age, for example. The EEOC tells us that the ADEA does not specifically prohibit inquiries about applicants’ age or date of birth; however, because such inquiries may deter older workers from applying for employment or indicate possible age discrimination, inquiries will be closely scrutinized. 

Questions to Avoid

What can you legally ask during an interview?  When formulating interview questions to avoid discrimination claims, first create a list of questions to ask the applicant, and consider whether it directly relates to the job description and essential tasks of the position.  In other words, will the question help you find qualified applicants who want to work?  If not, you probably don’t need to ask it. 

Some sample questions to avoid while interviewing: 

We’re a younger company and we don’t have many employees here in your age group. Will that bother you? 

Will you be comfortable being supervised by someone younger in the department?  

What year did you graduate from high school/college?  

How old are you?  

How much longer do you plan to work before retiring?  

When were you born?

 

However, you do need to evaluate applicants and ensure they’re legally able to work for you, so you may ask: 

Are you over age 18?  

What are your long-term goals professionally?

 

These options are more neutral and still determine what you need to know.  If you are unsure what is and is not acceptable, or if you have any questions, contact Prestige.