The SESCO Report – December 2007


Dress Code Dilemmas: Minor Problems or Lawsuits Waiting to Happen?

An employee showing up to work wearing a baseball cap, in violation of your company's dress code, is one thing. It's easy enough to tell the hat-wearing employee, "Don't do it again," expect a little resistance,and then compliance. An employee wearing a headscarf due to a religious observance when any type of head covering is prohibited is entirely another dress code dilemma. Not as easy is telling a headscarf-wearing employee to remove it without risking a potential religious discrimination lawsuit.

Take Alamo Rent-A-Car, for example. The company previously allowed a Muslim employee to wear a headscarf at work. The company found a happy medium between her religious beliefs and its dress code by requiring her to wear one that had its logo because she interacted with the public as a customer sales representative.

However, following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the company refused to allow the employee to observe the religious requirement at all by demanding her to remove the headscarf when assisting customers. The company fired her when she refused to comply. With the EEOC's help, the employee sued the company for religious discrimination. Earlier this year, a jury awarded her over $287,000 for her claim.

Public Image Concerns
If your organization is concerned with the effect on public image an employee's religious requirement might have, you may compromise by asking the employee to pin the company logo to the item in question, or to wear the religious garb in a particular color scheme. UPS, for example, accommodates a variety of religious beliefs by offering brown turbans, longer shorts, culottes, and headscarves. It is possible to make modifications to dress standards without affecting public image.

To help determine whether an employee's request for a dress code exception is legitimate, or whether your denial of the request is reasonable, take the following steps.

? Do discuss with the employee their need for an accommodation. Ask for additional information if you're unfamiliar with the beliefs or practices of the employee's religion. Just because you've never heard of or seen it doesn't mean it isn't valid.

? Don't worry about co-worker reactions. Fearing other employees will also ask for exceptions to the rules is not a valid reason for denying the employee's request.

? Don't act on customer preferences; it is not a defense for discriminating against an employee. So, explain to a customer who doesn't want to be assisted by an employee wearing a yarmulke, for example, that your organization's policy is to hire and retain individuals with the right qualifications regardless of religion, race, national origin, etc. Then, assure the customer that your company expects no less thansatisfactory performance from employees, so the assistance the customer receives from the yarmulke-wearing employee will be just as good as help from any other employee.

? Do handle dress code accommodation requests on a case-by-case basis. You must not only be consistent in denying accommodations and enforcing the dress code, but also flexible about exploring possible accommodations. Train managers to recognize the need to make exceptions for religious reasons and what poses an undue hardship. And ensure your company has developed an effective dress code policy.


Performance Evaluations: How To Keep Subjectivity In Check

Research by Personnel Decisions International, a Minneapolis-based consulting firm, is the latest data to confirm that subjectivity plays a part in a majority of performance assessments. More than six (6) out of 10 times, employees who reported to two bosses were given an "outstanding" rating by one (1) and a lower rating by the other.

Such discrepancies in performance analysis are often the result of performance areas not being adequately defined so they can be rated consistently.

Take the following example. The behavior being assessed is dependability. One manager thinks of it in terms of always being on time for work, which the employee always is, so he rates her as "outstanding" in that category. The other manager thinks of dependability in terms of completing assignments on time. Since the employee handed in a few assignments late, he rates her as "average." Both are reasonable definitions of dependability. But without a shared definition known by both managers and the employee, you get conflicting assessments.

That's why it's crucial that your organization's performance appraisal system requires managers to define both the job performance areas being assessed and the level of performance to achieve a specificrating. Such an undertaking might sound time consuming. Well, frankly, it is. But it's time well spent as managing employee performance is the manager's primary goal.

SESCO recommends criteria-based job descriptions which include a performance appraisal format built-in the job description. Look at the "How to Write Job Descriptions" and fill in.


Conducting A Wage And Salary Survey

Once each year, a wage survey should be conducted to ascertain whether or not your wages are competitive with similar organizations and industries in the labor market. Adjustments should be made, if necessary, to insure that wages are equal to or better than competing businesses or industries in the area.

When general wage adjustments are required due to changes in the cost of living and in area wage levels in the labor market, these adjustments may be made in either of two ways, depending upon the circumstances existing at the time:

a. Increasing (or decreasing) the wage range of each job grade by the appropriate percentage but making no across-the-board adjustments to employees' wages.

b. Increasing (or decreasing) the wage range of each job grade by the appropriate percentage and reflect this change immediately to the employee. The employee would continue through the established progression as previously established, which now reflects the new changes.

Collecting Wage Survey Data
The organizations you choose for your wage survey will have a bearing on the outcome of your Wage and Salary Program. If the organizations lack significance to the purpose and design of your program, yoursurvey will likewise reflect lack of significance. Actually in conducting a wage survey almost any conclusion can be proven by carefully selecting the organizations to be examined. If the results of your survey are to be valid, you should select your "comparing organizations" with consideration to the following questions:

? Is the organization within your labor market area?
? Do employees live reasonably near this labor market area?
? Have any of your own employees left to go to these competing companies or vice versa?
? Are the organization's operations comparable to yours?
? Are there enough jobs in common to make the survey reasonable?
? Is the organization a competitor?
? Is there any size differences in these organizations that would have an impact such as annual revenue and/or number of employees?
? Does the organization you're soliciting have a Wage and Salary Program?
? Can the organization be relied upon for supplying accurate data?

In making wage comparisons, key jobs should be selected from each grade of your pay structure. These key jobs should also be of the type which are usually found in organizations you choose to survey. The value of the survey data depends on how carefully these jobs were selected and how well they match up. Generally it is necessary to write clear job descriptions and contact the organizations to be surveyed to make detailed comparisons.

All wages and salaries of any organizations are predominantly determined by two factors. First, the going price in the labor market area. Second, your ability to pay. Accordingly, you adjust the wage survey by apercentage to reflect your desired position in the market. For example if you are using a market value analysis form of job evaluation and you want to value your jobs at 2% higher than the average in the market,you would have a modification factor of 102%. The adjusted rate would then be the basis of the going market rate for your wage program.

SESCO conducts wage/benefit surveys for clients as well as assists in developing and updating compensation programs.

The Basic Tenets of Leadership

? Managing is a "people" job. If it were not for people — your employees, customers and clients — you would not have a business. Issue — Employees make your business what it is. What priority do you personally give them?

? Managing is what you do with people, not to them. Issue — Are you a controller or a coach?

? If it's to be, it begins with me. Issue — It's up to you to be a good role model of the behavior you expect of employees.

? The best business is common sense. Issue — The most important tool of management is common sense. The best ideas are the simplest ideas. Don't fall prey to the fad-of-the month.

? Always ask: What do your customers value, and how do you know that they value it? Issue — Have you asked them? Are you working to keep your organization focused on activities that directly support the things that your customers value? Employees and organizations pursue activities that make no contribution to what their clients value.

? You get what you reward. Issue — Employees are eager to do the things that bring them rewards. What are you rewarding your employees to do?

? Remember: It's not personal, it's business. Issue — Don't mix your emotions with business decisions. Assure employees that decisions are made for business reasons and not personal considerations.

? If you don't like the way things are today, be patient. Issue — Recognize that business is in a state of constant change; be prepared for it and prepare your employees to adjust when the time comes.

? Make work fun. Issue — When you make your workplace a fun place to be, the result is energized employees.

A Special Message to our SESCO Clients!

During this season, mend a quarrel, search out a forgotten friend, dismiss a suspicion and replace it with trust, forget an old grudge, write a letter to someone who misses you, keep a promise, fight for aprinciple, encourage a youth who has lost faith, examine your demands on others and reduce them, express your gratitude, overcome an old fear, take a few minutes to appreciate the beauty of nature, tellsomeone you love them, tell them again, and again, and again.

May the coming year's challenges be both exciting and rewarding....leaving you comfortable in the faith that passes all understanding.

Happy Holidays!
From the Management and Staff of SESCO Management Consultants