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How a manager investigates a sexual harassment complaint may determine the outcome of the lawsuit, if there is one.  Here are nine key points to remember when one of your employees comes to you with charges of harassment: 

  1. Take every complaint seriously.
  2. Contact Prestige immediately to review company policies. 
  3. Remember: You’re not a judge or jury.  The manager’s job is to collect the facts. 
  4. Keep your investigation confidential. 
  5. As you investigate, document everything: memos, conversations, reports, etc. 
  6. Evaluate yourself: Do you have any bias about the complaint? 
  7. Don’t take the easy way out.  Some managers solve harassment problems by transferring the person who made the complaint.  This doesn’t serve the accused or the victim, and can lead to serious legal trouble. 
  8. Do the follow-up: Make sure the harassment has stopped, and that the employee who complained is comfortable in the workplace. 
  9. Schedule Sexual Harassment & Discrimination training for all your employees (Prestige offers this, and other training programs, in-person and via live web cast).

 If you have questions concerning this, or any other Human Resource issues, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

According to the US Department of Labor, the average employed adult spends 7.5 hours a day on the job. Over time, that adds up to a significant chunk of your life, so (as many people know from experience) an unhappy work situation can make the rest of your life pretty miserable as well.

 

For that reason, you’ll want to avoid working for a miserable company. But how can you spot a bad company to work for? By doing your research and looking for the following seven warning signs during the hiring process. Of course, one or two of these signs aren’t necessarily cause for alarm, but more than a couple should set off alarm bells.

1. Communication with you is unprofessional or disrespectful.

Your treatment during the hiring process is a clue as to how you’ll be treated as an employee. Once you’ve started a dialogue with a hiring manager or recruiter, you should expect to be treated with courtesy and respect. For example, your questions about the hiring timeline and your application status should be answered forthrightly. If that isn’t the case — if emails and phone calls consistently go unreturned, or if interviews are canceled at the last minute without apology — you may want to take your business elsewhere.

2. The recruiters and hiring managers actively distrust you.

Just as you don’t want to make a bad career move, employers don’t want to make a bad hire — so expect a background check and reference check. And if your job will involve working with sensitive information or company finances, expect a bit more scrutiny. But these checks should all be carried out in a nonaccusatory manner. Companies that don’t trust candidates probably don’t trust employees either — and an environment of distrust is no place to spend nearly eight hours a day.

3. The workplace seems unhappy.

You shouldn’t take a job without paying a visit to where you’ll be working. Note the attitudes and interactions of the workers there as well as the overall environment — including employee common areas. Warning signs include unclean or unsafe-looking workspaces, angry-looking posters (such as “ALL EMPLOYEES MUST WEAR BADGES!”) and disgruntled faces on employees. If a visit to the office is depressing, you won’t want to work there for several hours a day.

4. The company has a bad reputation.

The Internet makes it easy to find out what former and current employees have to say about a company. Doing your research into this aspect of an employer — as well as into its financial situation — should be part of how you prepare for a job interview. Several Web sites provide forums where employees can rate companies, but also reach out to networking contacts to get their insights into any prospective employer.

5. You don’t think you’ll get along with your boss or colleagues.

Having a boss you click with can really make a difference in your on-the-job happiness. Be sure to discuss work styles and communication styles with the hiring manager to make sure they’re at least compatible with yours. But trust your instincts. If you actively dislike the manager after the first interview or two, you might not want to take the job.

6. The job’s duties are unclear, or your interviewers can’t define what success in the role will look like.

After you’ve interviewed with one or two people, you should have a clear idea of how your job performance will be measured and what your key objectives will be in your first few months on the job. Walking into a situation where different people give you different answers about job duties, or where there are no clear goals for you to work toward, can lead to a confusing and ultimately disastrous job situation.

7. They want to hire you right away, without any interviewing or reference checks.

This happens for good reason sometimes — for instance, in seasonal jobs that don’t require a lot of experience. But in many cases, desperation on the employer’s part is a danger sign.

In the hiring process, recruiters and managers often rely (at least a little bit) on their “gut” when making decisions about candidates. Trust your gut, too. If it doesn’t feel right, do a bit more research before accepting a job offer.

 

This article was written by Charles Purdy, Monster Senior Editor, and appeared online (http://career-services.monster.com/yahooarticle/bad-company-signs#WT.mc_n=yta_fpt_article_bad-company-signs) on June 13, 2012

From our good friends at TALX…

With the current version of the Form I-9 set to expire August 31st of this year, it is worth noting that USCIS’s I-9 Central website recently issued clarification regarding the question of whether a new I-9 should be completed if an employer completes the wrong version of the form.  ICE has always taken the position that such an error is a technical violation and the employer may correct the form with a notation that the wrong form was used, and providing a date and initials in the notation.  I-9 Central had previously stated that employers must complete a new form, in essence taking a position in direct opposition to ICE policy.  I-9 Central and ICE have recently reconciled their guidance on this issue, so that the “official” stance is now in agreement.  Employers need not complete a new Form I-9 for this technical violation — acknowledgment of the error with a note at the top of the form will suffice.

Theft equals misconduct because it illustrates a willful or deliberate act within the employee’s control that violates company rules and regulations. Theft is dishonest and may be considered criminal, and an action of theft may lead to an employee’s immediate discharge, pending any investigation.

When assessing the case of “alleged” theft, employers must tread carefully. A wronged employee – either one who is innocent or one whose theft cannot be proven – may file charges against the employer with a number of agencies, including the police. An allegation which prompts an employee’s termination where misconduct is not supported can result in the employee filing a discrimination charge with the state or federal agency. Employers should also be mindful that branding an employee a “thief” could result in a civil action such as defamation.

Often an employee suspected of theft can be discharged for violation of policies dealing with cash handling or safeguarding of company property. These cases are generally easier to make than actual theft and can also result in a finding of misconduct and denial of benefits. 

Steps to insuring a proper investigation of theft:

1. Begin the investigation immediately upon notification of the theft (waiting too long allows the “trail” to become cold). Report the theft to your local police or sheriff.

2. Immediately suspend the employee suspected of theft.

3. Work with your security department to ensure a joint effort (a same sex management person should be present during any interrogation by security of any employee).

4. Questioning of employee should either be taped or reduced to writing. Any written statement taken from the employee should be signed and dated.

5. Allow the employee in question to fully explain the circumstances, e.g., was given permission to take the item; has a receipt proving payment for the item.

6. Ascertain exact dollar amount of loss. If amount is insignificant (taking of a candy bar), or was a necessity at the time, (gloves for the cold), while you can certainly discharge the individual you may not prevail at the unemployment insurance hearing. 

Things to bring with you for an unemployment insurance hearing on theft:

• Company policies on theft, cash handling and safeguarding company property

• Signed acknowledgment by employee of company policy/handbook

• Any prior warnings of a similar nature

• Witnesses to the theft including security investigators

• All evidence obtained during the investigation (sales receipts, video surveillance, statements from witnesses, etc.)

 

If you have questions about how to proceed on a specific case, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

Before we all head out for the three-day weekend that signifies the unofficial start of summer, let us take a moment to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could enjoy our freedom.

Take a break from the picnics and barbeques to celebrate what others so selflessly defended for our sake.

Recall the words Abraham Lincoln delivered inGettysburg, “that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Do not forget that freedom continues to come at the highest price, and that we are still involved in many conflicts around the world.

Never take our freedom for granted.

Discharges for poor (or unsatisfactory) performance will usually not disqualify a claimant from unemployment benefits.  Most states define poor performance as the inability to meet company standards. The employer must prove misconduct (deliberate or willful violations of the employer’s rules or standards) to disqualify a claimant from benefits.  Confusion occurs when poor performance is erroneously used to explain all or most separations. Intentional violations of company rules or standards should usually be reported as misconduct. 

The key issue is willfulness.  If the employee has the skills, physical and mental abilities to do the job and has shown ability to perform in the past but now chooses not to, that is usually misconduct resulting in a denial of benefits.  On the other hand, if he never demonstrated full capability or if previously adequate capabilities have diminished through no fault of the employee, it will likely not be misconduct.

The Base Year basis of determining claim charging provides employers with a 90-day minimum introductory period whether or not your company has a introductory period.  Employees discharged for any reason during that period will generally not result in any unemployment claim charges to your account.   Poor performers should be weeded out during or at the end of their first 90-days of employment in order to limit your unemployment liability on a claim.

Keep in mind the following:

  • Using the correct terminology is key when protesting an unemployment claim.
  • Do not use the terms: poor performance, inability to meet standards, or inefficiency if discharged for a willful or deliberate violation of rules/standards.
  • Look to the cause of the “poor performance” in determining whether or not a discharge is for misconduct. For example, poor productivity caused by documented failure to follow instructions; excessive personal phone calls (after warnings); or lateness/absenteeism (within the employee’s control) may be misconduct.
  • Be descriptive when reporting a discharge to Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.  Provide complete details with documentation.
  • If a new employee does not meet company standards because of poor performance, termination should occur as quickly as possible. This will minimize company exposure in an unemployment claim.

 If you have questions concerning these unemployment issues, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

First impressions are crucial – especially the first impression a new hire gets of your company.  Studies show that a negative perception of your company during the first 60-90 days of employment can lead new personnel to look for a new job within the year.  Here’s how to put your best foot forward: 

  • Start before the new person does.  Stay in touch after he or she has accepted the position to answer questions or help in other ways.  And make sure that the new person’s work space is ready for the first day of work.
  • Designate a mentor or partner to show the new person around, make introductions, and begin training. 
  • Begin with the basics.  People become productive sooner if they are firmly grounded in the basic knowledge they need to understand their job.  Focus on the why, when, where, and how of the position before expecting them to handle assignments.  Don’t drown them with too much information. 
  • Give the new person some responsibility for his or her own orientation.  Offer opportunities for self-directed learning, under appropriate supervision. 
  • Keep the new person’s family in mind.  A new job means adjustments for the whole family, especially if they’ve relocated.  Do what you can to ease the transition and help them feel comfortable in the community.

 If you have questions concerning this, or any other Human Resource issues, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

Verbal Warnings       

  • May prompt employees to modify or stop conduct that violates rules or policies.  
  • Sufficient for minor or isolated violations of rules.

 Written Warnings         

  • Can serve to remind employees of the consequences of continuing to violate your company’s rules or standards of conduct.
  • Progressive warnings may ultimately place an employee on notice that further infractions may result in suspension or dismissal. 
  • Using warnings reasonably and consistently is essential to providing the paper trail or documentation necessary for defending your company’s interest against unwarranted claims and frivolous litigation.

 CONSULTATION

  • Prestige can provide advice on composing appropriate written warnings.
  • Prestige can help you understand how a possible dismissal might be viewed under unemployment law.

 

If you have questions concerning these unemployment issues, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

Firings may cause employees to cry, become defensive or even turn violent.  Others may even distort what happens during your firing meeting to justify a lawsuit against you.  To protect yourself legally, have someone else with you during the firing so no one can question what you say.  Write a memo after the meeting summarizing what happened and have the witness sign it.  Here are five other ways to defuse fired employees’ justification for a lawsuit down the line: 

1.  KEEP YOUR COOL. 

Avoid heightening an already-emotional situation.  Don’t spring the news suddenly or berate the employee in front of others.

2.  AVOID SURPRISES. 

Employees should never be completely surprised by a termination.  Give them regular feedback on performance and suggest ways for them to improve.  At the very least, poor performance reviews prove to a court that you had valid reasons for firing someone.

3.  WATCH WHAT YOU SAY. 

On the day you fire someone, he or she will remember whatever you say in the worst possible light.  While you should always avoid making discriminatory statements, be especially cautious during a termination meeting.

4.  DON’T BE TOO KIND. 

You may feel compassion for the person you must fire, but don’t express your feelings in the wrong way.  If the employee’s performance is substandard, don’t offer compliments on any aspect oh his performance.  Doing so might make you feel better, but it will only give the employee cause to question and challenge your reasons for terminating him.  And your off-handed compliments could turn up against you in a wrongful termination suit.

5. KEEP QUIET. 

Don’t discuss your reasons for the termination with other employees.  It’s enough to say, “Jamie will not be working with us anymore.”  Some managers have spoken too freely about the reasons for a departed employee’s termination, only to find themselves in court defending a defamation-of-character suit.

 

If you have questions concerning this, or any other Human Resource issues, contact Prestige Employee Administrators, Inc.

“Think before you speak” is always a good policy — and at work it’s even more important. Saying the wrong thing to your boss can do serious damage to your career — and some of the things bosses don’t like to hear may surprise you. We checked in with some managers and came up with this list of nine phrases they strongly dislike — and we’ll tell you what you should say instead: 

1. “I need a raise.”

Never enter salary negotiations talking about what you need — because of rising costs or a new expense, for instance. Your employer doesn’t care about your financial problems. However, management probably does want to reward success and keep high-performing employees satisfied. A raise request should always be supported by evidence of what you’ve achieved for the company — along with information about what people with your responsibilities typically earn.

2. “That just isn’t possible.”

Always speak to your boss in terms of what can be done. For instance, rather than saying “We can’t get this done by Friday,” say “We could definitely get this done by Monday, or if we brought in some freelance help, we could meet the Friday deadline.” When you talk to your boss, think in terms of solving problems for her, not in terms of putting problems on her plate.

3. “I can’t stand working with ____.”

Complaining about a coworker’s personality usually reflects more poorly on you than on the coworker. Don’t make these kinds of conflicts your boss’s problem. Of course, management is interested in problems that jeopardize the company’s ability to function. If you have to speak to HR about a problem such as a colleague’s threatening, illegal or unethical behavior, keep your tone professional and the focus on work — not personal issues.

4. “I partied too hard last night — I’m so hung over!”

Buck up and get through the day with some ibuprofen, extra undereye concealer and coffee. But don’t share the sordid details of your night on the town with your boss. Even if you have a friendly relationship, he’s just as likely to react with (unspoken) disdain as sympathy. Maintaining a solid veneer of professionalism will pay off when it’s time to discuss promotions.

5. “But I emailed you about that last week.”

Alerting your boss to a problem via email doesn’t absolve you of all responsibility for it. Bosses hate the “out of my outbox, out of my mind” attitude. Keep tabs on all critical issues you know about — and keep checking in until you hear a firm “You don’t need to worry about that anymore.”

6. “It’s not my fault.”

Are you a whiny 8-year-old or a take-charge professional?  Assume responsibility and take steps to fix a problem that you did, in fact, create. And if you are being wrongly blamed for a problem, saying “Let’s get to the bottom of this” or “What can we do to make it right?” is much more effective than saying “It’s not my fault.”

7. “I don’t know.”

If your boss asks you a question you can’t answer, the correct response is not “I don’t know.” It’s “I’ll find out right away.”

8. “But we’ve always done it this way.”

You may find yourself with a new boss who wants to try new things — and the best way to present yourself as a workplace relic is to meet change with a “we do it this way because this is the way we do it” attitude. When a brainstorming session takes place, be part of it and stay open to new ideas. If you have concerns about a new idea’s feasibility, say “I think for this to work, we will have to…” Don’t kill new ideas with negativity.

9. “Let me set you up with…”

Avoid the urge to play matchmaker for your single boss. The potential risk far outweighs any potential benefit. In modern workplaces, hierarchical structures are often less rigid, and bosses will often end up in semisocial situations with their direct reports. Smart workers will draw the line at “oversharing” — definitely something to keep in mind if you’re connecting to your company’s managers on social networks like Facebook.

The aboveareer advice from Monster.com was posted online (http://career-services.monster.com/yahooarticle/things-not-to-say-to-your-boss#WT.mc_n=yta_fpt_article_9_things_not_to_say_to_boss) on March 28, 2012