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The SESCO Report – February 2008

Conducting an Employment Law Audit: Peace of Mind is Priceless

Federal and state employment law is ever-changing and employers' policies and practices must change with the laws if you hope to avoid expensive litigation and fines. One of the best ways to avoid employee lawsuits and fines is to ensure that your human resource management systems and practices are audited annually.

Most SESCO clients receive an annual Human Resource Management Assessment to not only determine compliance to federal and state employment regulations, but also to ensure practices and procedures are to prevent misunderstandings and alleged wrong doing.

According to a recent survey, the following steps have been taken by Human Resource Managers:

? Eighty-six percent (86%) have created custom human resource policy manuals.
? Sixty-three percent (63%) have instituted training programs for supervisors and managers on employment practices and regulations.
? Fifty-seven percent (57%) have instituted employee complaint procedures.

However, most have not had an outside, third party conduct a thorough Human Resource Management Assessment to determine compliance and effectiveness of HR systems.

SESCO's Human Resource Management Assessment is a systematic review of all aspects of human resources within the organization and is conducted utilizing the following process:

Step 1

The SESCO consultant assesses compliance requirements based upon your industry that you operate, number of employees, states in which there are employees and other factors. We must first determine which federal and state regulations apply as well as industry-specific concerns that must be considered.

Once the SESCO consultant determines which federal and state laws apply, a systematic review of all systems take place to determine compliance to regulations such as the Fair Labor Standards Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Uniformed Services and Reemployment Act, COBRA, OSHA, Title VII (anti-discrimination), Immigration, and state laws such as smoking regulations, payment of earned vacation or PTO upon separation, state unemployment, safety regulations and all others that apply.

Step 2

SESCO consultants will systematically review the following systems and procedures:

? Hiring practices to include items such as:
- interview questions/screening process
- background/reference checking
- application and other screening forms
- advertisements and applicant sourcing efforts
- assessments and testing of applicants to determine skills, personality and other job-related factors

? Compensation practices to include:
- internal equity/EEO-fairness
- cost to overall revenue/budget
- performance management
- job descriptions: effectiveness and thoroughness for screening and hiring, performance management, compliance to EEO and ADA regulations

? Policies and procedures to include:
- review of all memos
- bulletin board postings
- employee handbook to not only determine that all written communications are legal, but also are employee-sensitive and proactive

? Active/Inactive and medical personnel files to determine:
- if required information is contained and completed appropriately
- if recommended documentation is contained and appropriately developed to — defend discrimination charges
- if medical information is contained in medical files as required by ADA
- if maintenance of personnel files is appropriate and all record retention requirements are adhered

? Interview with human resource representative and/or managers throughout the organization to gain an understanding of issues such as:
- turnover/reasons
- recruitment and retention challenges
- performance management/coaching efforts
- training and development programs
- orientation systems for new employees
- strategic planning/goal setting
- training and development of managers and supervisors

All employers should conduct an annual Human Resource Management Assessment and if your organization has not, contact SESCO to plan and schedule your audit to determine your compliance posture as well as the effectiveness of your human resource management systems.

Peace of mind in knowing your systems are compliant and effective is truly priceless.

Workplace Etiquette

When you hear the word "etiquette" you might think of dining etiquette or social party do's and don'ts. However, in today's workplace, incivilities not only drain employee morale, but also reach deep into employer pockets. Employment "manners" are fast becoming a critical part of everyday workplace life.

Case 1: After a workplace misunderstanding, an employee claimed her co-worker shot hostile facial expressions her way and made certain she overheard his offensive remarks. Plus, when speaking with her, he was rude and offensive. Eventually, she sued and the courts said that the co-worker's behavior was pervasive enough to "create an objectively hostile" working environment and that the employee "subjectively perceived the treatment to be abusive." Bottom line is you cannot ignore rude behavior just because there is nothing outwardly "sexual" about it. General rudeness can in fact be used to support a claim of a hostile working environment.

Case 2: A twenty (20) year employee claimed that she was terminated because of her age and was subjected to a hostile working environment. She contended that her supervisor instigated arguments among saleswomen and repeatedly told employees that he wanted young women on the sales floor. Eventually, the employee sued and won as the court stated the manager's comments did create a hostile working environment. Bottom line, if supervisors and managers are rude, employees could see this as a green light for a lawsuit.

Case 3:
An employee was injured on the job and was out on workers' comp for eight (8) weeks. When she returned, she claimed her manager called her a "baby" and was mean to her, culminating with him telling her he could no longer stand to work in the same place as she. Soon after, the employee resigned.

A few months later, the employee filed a lawsuit claiming that she was forced to resign in retaliation for filing a workers' comp claim. Although the court agreed that the manager's comments were offensive, they weren't severe enough to make a reasonable person resign. Bottom line, even though the company won, they spent thousands of dollars in defending their actions of a manager for being rude.

Besides legal problems presented, a recent survey of 775 employees, who were victims of rudeness, revealed that:

Fifty-three percent (53%) lost working time worrying about rudeness,
Forty-six percent (46%) contemplated changing jobs to avoid the rudeness,
Thirty-seven percent (37%) felt that their commitment to the employer was not appreciated.

Amid today's fierce retention battle and fight for good employees, it is critical that managers and supervisors be trained on effective leadership skills to include "workplace etiquette."

SESCO tips include:

E-mail Essentials

E-mails can be misconstrued, so be concise and to the point. Many times a phone call is more appropriate rather than an e-mail to ensure clarification.

Avoid sending any negative or critical comments on e-mails. Resolve issues in person not through e-mail.

Always avoid personal or confidential e-mails. There is no such thing as a private or confidential e-mail. Before you send an e-mail, consider what might happen if the message is intercepted and read by someone else.

Voice Mail Musts

Always be specific and brief when leaving voice messages.

Never leave a voice mail that contains confidential or sensitive information.

Don't use voice mail as a way of avoiding people or problems.

Don't put voice mail on speaker phone when checking your messages, unless you are alone in a private office.

Telephone Tips

Always organize your thoughts before dialing.

Always return phone calls before you go home.

Never put a caller on hold, especially a customer/client.

Always answer the phone within three (3) rings.

Focus on the caller by giving the person your complete attention, don't talk to employees in the room or use your computer while on the phone.

Leadership Basics

1. Keep the skid chains on your tongue, always say less than you think.

2. Make promises sparingly, but keep them faithfully, no matter what the cost.

3. Never let an opportunity pass to say a kind and encouraging word about someone.

4. Be interested in others. Recognize everyone as a person of importance.

5. Preserve an open mind in all debatable questions. Discuss, don't argue.

6. Say nothing of another unless it is something good.

7. Always respect the feelings of others; criticize helpfully, never spitefully.

8. Do your work, be patient and keep a pleasant disposition.

9. Pay no attention to ill-natured remarks; simply live so nobody will believe them.

10. Teach, don't preach.

- Author, Dr. J.W.R. Lawson, Sr. ? Founder of SESCO

SESCO Client Inquiry ? Staff Response

Question: What is a part-time employee?

Answer: There is no set number of hours an employee must work to be considered part-time. Part-time employees typically work fewer hours than a full-time employee on a continuing basis. It is the company that sets the threshold for the number of hours an employee has to work to be considered full-time, and any schedule that falls below that schedule in number of hours would be considered part-time. Some common definitions of a part-time schedule include less than 40 hours per week or 32 hours per week; other companies have defined a part-time schedule with even fewer hours. Part-time employees may or may not be eligible for benefits ? this is a decision for each company to make.

Leadership Quotes

"Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it." - Marian Anderson

"Leadership is action, not position." - Unknown

SESCO Management Consultants Launches New Website

SESCO is proud to announce that we have updated our web site which provides several new client tools continuing SESCO's total approach to professional human resource management. New service options on SESCO's web site include:

Applicant Skills and Testing
Personality Assessments
On-line Employee and Management Training Modules
SESCO Personnel Forms and Publications
Federal and State Posters
Training Videos and CD's
Background Checks
Search field allowing easy navigation of the site

Please visit our new, secure website at and access these new tools assisting you in managing your most valued asset ? your employees.

We are very interested in receiving your candid feedback as we want to ensure that we provide user friendly and valuable tools to our valued clients throughout the country. Feel free to contact Bill Ford directly at 423-764-4127 with any suggestions for website improvement or additional services you may be interested.