The SESCO Report – October 2007


The Most Common Employee Handbook Mistakes

SESCO has been long recognized as one of the leaders in employee handbook and policy manual development. In fact, SESCO has been authors since 1960 to include How to Develop an Employee Handbook and How to Develop a Personnel Policy Manual ? both in their Sixth Edition.

SESCO reviews and develops employee handbooks for clients and trade association members and advises on not only legal issues but also makes recommendations on how the employee handbook can be a more complete, proactive communications program as the employee handbook is the cornerstone of the employer-employee relationship.

Some of the more common mistakes found by SESCO consultants in employee handbooks include:

1. Adopting or copying an employee handbook from another company, printing one off the Internet or buying a CD-ROM. States are ever adopting specific employment laws and employee handbooks must be customized to not only their industry and culture but also need to reflect state and local employment regulations.

2. Include too much detail on procedures which confuses employees and provides commentary for lawyers. Stick to policies in the employee handbook and develop a separate procedures manual for managers.

3. Using the term "probationary". The term "probationary period" erodes the "at-will" status provided by most states. The term should be changed to "introductory period" or "orientation period".

4. Being too specific especially in discipline policies such as breaking "this rule" will result in "this discipline." Always keep your options open by "entering into disciplinary action up to and including termination based upon our progressive discipline practices."

5. Being inconsistent with other company documents such as memos previously communicated or other inconsistent communications through managers.

6. Not having a complete receipt page including an at-will disclaimer.

7. Not including ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and other required policies in the employee handbook.

8. Failing to customize multi-state employer's policies to specific state laws and attempting to use a generic handbook for all.

9. Failing to update the manual on a regular basis ? SESCO clients receive free handbook reviews at least on an annual basis.

10. Establishing policies that are not realistic or making promises through policy which can't be enforced. Do not establish a policy and communicate it to employees in a reactive or defensive mode.

Please call SESCO for a free copy of our Employee Handbook Development Checklist or to request a review of your current employee manual.

Thank You and Welcome New SESCO Clients

Sanderson Farms
Christian Children's Fund
Tennessee Primary Care Association
Lifespan Health
Independent Hardee's Franchise Association
Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association


Employees Do Not Have to Request Family and Medical Leave to be Eligible

When counseling clients on the application of Family and Medical Leave, one of the most common mistakes or misconceptions we hear from clients, "The employee did not request Family and Medical Leave."

An employee does not have to specifically request Family and Medical Leave to be eligible. If an employee is absent due to illness, an accident, workers' compensation or other unknown reasons and the organization decides to take action such as a verbal, written warning or even separation, there could be cause for concern.

Any time an employee is absent, it behooves managers to ask the question of the employee so as to determine whether or not the absence qualifies for Family and Medical Leave. It is the employer's responsibility to apply and implement the Family and Medical Leave Act ? it's not the employee's responsibility.

For example, when an employee told his boss that he needed to leave to deal with a "family emergency", the employer refused to grant him the time off. Subsequently, the employee sued under the Family and Medical Leave, and the court decided with him saying his designation of "family emergency" was enough to put the company on notice for Family and Medical Leave.

If there is ever a question whether or not a leave is FMLA-qualifying, always request the employee to take SESCO's "Certification of Family and Medical Leave" form to his or her physician to determine if the leave is qualifying. Take no chances. You can always rescind Family and Medical Leave and count it against an employee's attendance if the leave does not qualify.

Based upon SESCO's application of the Family and Medical Leave in assisting clients, the top five FMLA challenges for clients include:

1. Tracking intermittent leave.
2. Vague certification notes from physicians.
3. Productivity loss due to absences.
4. Unsure about legitimacy of leave request, particularly leave request to care for another family member's medical needs.
5. Morale problems with staff asked to cover or fill in for those on Family and Medical Leave.

SESCO has authored a complete compliance guide as well as provides forms to assist in the management of the Family and Medical Leave Act. Contact us to order these systems.


Conducting Background Checks

Would you spend a few pennies to secure a $50,000 investment? A silly question? But, how many times do we allow our first impressions to make our final decision on hiring a new employee? Unless we confirm the pre-employment interview, we are making ourselves vulnerable. During the interviewing process, we want to be impressed. We are usually in the "buying" mood. We need talent, assistance, and help. As a result, we want to be sold and it's easy to hire in hopes of success.

We wouldn't make a $50,000 capital expenditure for new equipment without checking past performance with someone rather than the salesperson. Yet, we may quickly obligate $50,000 of organization funds without so much as a telephone call to a past employer, conduct a background check, or other skills testing or personality assessments.

As you approach the interview process, here are six points worth bearing in mind:

1. Develop a system of behavioral interviewing questions and a committee interviewing process.
2. Know exactly what behaviors and skills the position requires.
3. Speak with the former supervisor of the applicant if possible.
4. Conduct formal background checks with approval from the applicant (driving, criminal, credit, etc.)
5. Conduct skills and personality tests and assessments to confirm job match.
6. Be patient and don't commit without doing your homework.

SESCO provides assistance in recruiting and screening to include behavioral-based interviewing systems and training, personality assessments and skills assessments.

Calculating the True Impact of Turnover

Everyone knows that there is a "cost" to turnover. To assist you in calculating the cost of losing one of your employees, use the following formula.

Annual wage x Gross-up for benefits (1.30) = Total wage x Turnover cost (.25) = Cost per employee x Number of ex employees = Total turnover cost

Here's an example:

Store manager's annual salary ($67, 480) x Gross-up for benefits (1.30) = Total wage ($87,724) x Turnover cost (.25) = Cost per manager ($21,931) x Number of ex-managers (10) = Total turnover cost ($219,310).

SESCO Client Feedback

"SESCO helped us better understand the laws and how to better deal with personnel problems. We were treated with great respect from the time of our first phone conversation and we were well informed of the employment process." — Bailey Courier Service

Leadership Quotes

"Leadership is a matter of having people look at you and gain confidence, seeing how you react. If you're in control, they're in control." — Tom Landry

SESCO Client Inquiry — Staff Response

Question: What are the legal issues related to background checks?

Answer: Conducting background checks is an important part of the selection process. Negligent hiring has become a common legal claim against employers who have made hiring decisions without making a diligent effort to check a person's work and personal history. It is particularly important to conduct a background check on individuals who are dealing with the public or who are in positions of trust, such as jobs which involve entering customers' homes or working with children. One of the most important parts of doing a background check is to obtain a release from the applicant. This is especially important when a credit check will be performed. The Fair Credit Reporting Act imposes specific notification guidelines on employers. To avoid getting yourself in trouble with the law for unfair hiring practices, allow only trained human resources personnel or an outside agency to conduct background checks. Anyone performing background checks should be familiar with the Bankruptcy Act, Equal Employment Opportunity laws and the Fair Credit Reporting Act.