The SESCO Report – November 2007


SESCO's Tips for Separating Employees

Unfortunately, one of the most common issues we assist our clients with is the termination or separation of employees. Based upon this daily experience, we provide the following staff recommendations to let employees go with as much dignity as possible as well as to avoid disruption.

? Conduct the termination meeting in a neutral location so the employee doesn't feel cornered and attacked.

? Schedule the meeting early in the week and at the end of the day. Giving the employee the news on a Monday, for example, prevents him/her from plotting revenge over the weekend and allows the company to start immediate outplacement services.

? Explain why the employee is being let go and answer any questions he/she may have about benefits, pay, etc. Be sure to stress that the decision to terminate
is nothing personal.

? Offer outplacement services. Doing so focuses the employee's attention on the future and discourages brooding about the past.

? Inform the employee that he/she may use the company's grievance procedure for any final work-related complaints.

? Allow the employee to collect his/her personal belongings after hours, during lunchtime, or over a weekend (with a management employee present, of course) when fewer colleagues are around.

? Collect company belongings from the employee during this time also; or at least behind closed doors, out of the sight of others.

? If it's necessary to supervise the employee as he/she packs up personal effects and/or as he/she leaves the premises, be subtle about it. Avoid hovering over the employee as he/she packs up or taking the employee by the arm as he/she walks out.

? If the separation is a surprise or if there isn't ample documentation or you feel the employee will file a discrimination charge or sue, consider establishing a severance agreement and release wherein the employee voluntarily resigns for a sum of money that normally he or she would not be receiving.

? If the employee's behavior pre-termination causes you to fear that he/she poses a risk to other employees, yourself, or the company, put these defensive strategies to work.

? Conduct the termination with a third party present. If necessary, make sure security is nearby.

? Place physical obstructions, such as a desk, between you and the employee when delivering the termination news.

? Sit closer to the door. Never place a volatile employee between you and the exit.

? Be prepared to get the employee off the premises as quickly as possible. This means having in hand his/her final paycheck, information on benefits, and the like, plus a number to call if he/she has questions. This may also mean not allowing the employee to clean out his/her workspace. Instead, have a supervisor do it, then ship the employee's personal belongings to his/her residence.

? Beef up security post-termination. Because most employers do not have a security team, consider calling your local law enforcement to alert them that there may be a problem. Many times they will place an officer in the area or even in your parking lot while the termination is being conducted.

These are general staff recommendation and as always, SESCO clients should contact us to review difficult or challenging separations to reduce as much liability and risk as possible.

- Bill Ford


How to Reduce Your Workers' Comp Premiums

You can significantly reduce the cost of your workers' compensation premiums by following a program of accident prevention, better claims management and prevention of fraud and abuse. Specifically, you should:

1. Design specific accident-prevention programs for your organization. There are many "free" samples online as well as can be customized by SESCO.

2. Investigate all accidents. You can't design an accident-prevention program unless you know what causes the accidents. Keep records of all accidents, not just the ones resulting in claims.

3. Report accidents promptly. The sooner you file an accident report, the sooner your employee will be evaluated, treated and cleared to return to work. Delays lead employees to contact lawyers.

4. Stay in touch with injured employees and their doctors. Follow the progress of each employee's recovery. That will help you design an appropriate return-to-work plan. Follow the claim's progress to spot errors or fraud.

5. Use return-to-work/light-duty programs. If an employee is injured too severely to return to regular work, have a transitional or light-duty alternative available.

6. Know your insurance system. Find out if you are in the lowest classification for your type of business. The classification should be based on your principal line of business, not on a particularly hazardous job. Shop for the best rate.

- Phil Richards


Interviewing Do's and Don'ts

Job interviews present a minefield of legal problems ? second only to terminations. One wrong interviewing question could spark an EEOC charge or discrimination law suit. That's why you should never "wing it" during interviews. Always establish a list of interviewing questions, preferably behavioral based interviewing questions, to ensure that the questions are not only legal, but result in questions that provide answers to help you make the best possible hiring decision. Many times, interviewing questions will be customized to specific job responsibilities.

Because managers usually land organizations in trouble, managers should be fully trained on interviewing processes to include the do's and don'ts. SESCO provides this training.

To avoid the appearance of discrimination and wrongdoing during interviews, do not ask the following questions:

1. Are you married? Divorced?
2. Do you have a car to get to work?
3. How old are you?
4. Do you have children? If so, how many and how old are they?
5. Do you own or rent your home?
6. What church do you attend?
7. Do you have any debts?
8. Do you belong to any social or policial groups?
9. How much and what kinds of insurance do you have?

The following questions could result in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit:

10. Do you suffer from a illness or disability?
11. Have you ever had or been treated for any of these conditions or diseases? (followed by a checklist)
12. Have you been hospitalized? What for?
13. Have you ever been treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist?
14. Have you had a major illness recently?
15. How many days of work did you miss last year because of illness?
16. Do you have any disabilities or impairments that might affect your performance in this job?
17. Are you taking any prescription drugs?
18. Have you ever been treated for drug addiction or alcoholism?

Many companies ask female applicants questions they don't ask males. Not smart. Here are some questions to avoid with female applicants:

19. Do you plan to get married?
20. Do you intend to start a family?
21. What are your day care plans?
22. Are you comfortable supervising men?
23. What would you do if your husband were transferred?
24. Do you think you could perform the job as well as a man?
25. Are you likely to take time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)?

In summary, most of these questions are obvious but it's amazing what questions can be asked during an interview where there is little or no structure. Contact SESCO to develop a screening and hiring system for your organization to include training of managers on behavioral interviewing techniques.

- Stephanie Peters

Employee's Poor Personal Hygiene Puts You In A Difficult Situation

Telling a person they have bad breath or body odor is difficult to do. Just having to tell them at all is difficult enough. That's why so many managers avoid this employee problem.

Anyone who lands in this difficult situation can use these best practices to address an employee's personal hygiene problem tactfully and effectively, and minimize the employee's embarrassment.

? Quietly and discreetly call the employee away from his/her workstation because if co-workers complained about the hygiene problem, they'll know exactly why you're pulling the employee into the meeting.

? Hold the meeting before the employee goes home for the day because there's no sense in telling him/her first thing in the morning, causing him/her to feel self conscious all day, especially if the employee can't go home to shower and change clothes, for example.

? Think about how you would want to be told about this problem. Role-play with a colleague or supervisor to practice.

? Empathize. Acknowledge that you understand this is difficult for the employee to hear, but you would be neglecting your duties as a manager to ignore it.

? Stick to the topic of work. Tell the employee about the negative effects on the work environment (e.g., lack of teamwork because co-workers avoid him/her). Don't try to guess why the employee has this problem.

? Don't give off the scent that the employee is guilty of wrongdoing or this is a disciplinary session. But be clear that the employee needs to take care of the problem.

? Give the employee a chance to respond, if he/she wants to. The employee may tell you the odor is a result of a medical, cultural, or religious issue. Showing you're willing to help is better than standing ground on a "change or else" demand. Suggest that the employee visit a doctor or dentist, if they tell you that they already practice good hygiene habits. But if the employee denies there's a problem at all, you may have to get him/her to face facts, for example, by telling the employee that co-workers spray air freshener after he/she comes around.

? Set goals, a timeline, and consequences for not reaching those goals. You may require the employee to show immediate improvement, but a better tactic is to expect the employee to show he/she is taking steps toward improvement, such as by making a doctor's appointment. Follow through with the consequences if the employee fails to improve.

? Recognize that the employee might be embarrassed or upset, and end the conversation abruptly. If that does happen, just follow up with the employee in a few days to check whether he/she got the message and has taken steps toward improvement.

A manager's job is difficult enough without these disruptive situations; an employee's poor hygiene, resistance to change, or tardiness, among others cropping up on a daily basis. More often than not, managers dodge or mismanage these situations because they are uncomfortable to handle. And sometimes they blow up. Avoid this by using tact and not avoiding the issue. Finally, consider dress and hygiene policy development.

- Jamie Hasty

SESCO's Human Resource Compliance Manual

The SESCO staff has authored a custom, industry-specific compliance manual for its clients. It is well over 200 pages and contains sample policies, forms and SESCO staff recommendations. It is a complete human resource management compliance guide and is an excellent reference manual for your HR and Management Team. Buy this manual at the special price of $99.00.

Industries include Funeral Service, Healthcare, Auto and Tire.

SESCO Client Inquiry — Staff Response

Question: Do I have to pay for employees required to commute to another location?

Answer: The relevant regulation is the Portal-to-Portal Act. An employee who travels from home before this regular workday and returns to his home at the end of the workday is engaged in ordinary home to work travel which is a normal incident of employment. This is true whether the employee works at a fixed location or at different job sites. Normal travel between home and work at the beginning and end of the workday is not worktime and is not paid.

However, the Wage and Hour Division has ruled that extraordinary commuting time may be compensated. The travel time would be extraordinary if it is beyond the normal commuting area of the employer's establishment. It is up to the employer and the employee to determine what will be considered the normal commuting area and what travel will be considered extraordinary.