HR's Most Important Questions Get Answered in HR Training Boot Camp Webinar
Workplace violence: What you can do for a co-worker in danger
Implied Job Accommodation Request Can Slip by Untrained Boss
By Patrick Dorrian
Nov. 14 — Companies must train front-line managers to be on the lookout for signs that an employee might need a job accommodation because workers who want help when a medical issue hinders their job performance don’t always clearly ask for it.
Employers Need Policies to Address Employee Overtime Via Latest Technology
By Genevieve Douglas Smartphones and other devices have made it easier than ever for employees to perform work anywhere, anytime, but such activity also can make employers liable for unpaid overtime, warned management attorney Melissa Fleischer, the founder of the HR Learning Center. Employers must make sure to address employees' work after hours via email, texts, and instant messaging to avoid liability under the Fair Labor Standards Act, Fleischer told BNA March 4. “Being in the 21st century where we can instantly respond to emails, IM's, text messages, etc., is amazing, but it has its downsides as well,” she said. “One of these is with regard to the wage and hour laws because now employees always seem to be on the clock.” According to Fleischer, employers are required to pay employees for after hours work that is conducted virtually. She recommended that employers implement policies prohibiting employees from working overtime without written consent from their managers, and those policies should clearly specify that responding to email or texts after hours constitutes overtime work. However, Fleischer said that employers are in a tough situation, because if an employee disregards this policy and responds to emails after hours, the employer cannot discipline the employee by refusing to pay him or her the overtime incurred. “Once the employer is aware that the employee has performed the work, the employer must compensate the employee for such work even if it was done in violation of the employer's policies,” she said.
Several Cases Involving Smartphones
“The legal peril for employers is when they do not compensate employees for this after-hours work,” Fleischer said. There have been an increasing number of cases that have been brought as class actions in which employees have alleged that they are entitled to back overtime that was not paid to them as a result of their responding to emails and text messages after hours, she said. Those cases include: • a case against T-Mobile where employees alleged they were required to use smartphones to respond to customer concerns and complaints after hours; • a case brought by employees of CB Richard Ellis who alleged they were issued and required to carry Blackberry smartphones to keep in touch during hours they were off; and • a recent case by a sergeant with the Chicago Police Department who alleged that he and other police officers were required to use their Blackberry smartphones to perform work off-duty. Fleischer said beyond a policy prohibiting overtime by nonexempt workers, one of the best practices for employers is to not issue smartphones or other technologies to such workers. Human resources can best help employers avoid FLSA litigation by providing training to employees so they understand that using virtual correspondence for work outside of business hours is in violation of the employer's policies, she said, even if it is done on their own phones. By Genevieve Douglas Copyright 2013, The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. Reproduced with permission from Human ResourcesReport, 31 HRR 247 (March 14, 2013). Copyright 2013 by The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (800-372-1033) <http://www.bna.com>
Psychiatric Disabilities in the Workplace
The number of workers who are disclosing that they have psychiatric disabilities is on the rise, and human resource managers must be prepared to understand the legal obligations when hiring them, accommodating for their particular needs and addressing potential performance problems, experts say.
The National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md., estimates that one in five people will experience a psychiatric disability in their lifetime, and one in four Americans currently knows someone who has a psychiatric disability. In addition, most employers have at least one employee with a psychiatric disability.
Melissa Fleischer, president and founder of HR Learning Center in Rye, N.Y., says HR managers should understand their legal obligations regarding such employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as their state fair-employment laws, which includes providing "reasonable" accommodations for an employee's particular psychiatric disability.
Some Warning Signs of Workplace Violence
By Donna Fuscaldo(Fox Small Business Center)
Workplace violence ranks as one of the top four causes of on-the-job injuries, according to the Labor Department, which puts a financial and emotional toll on many businesses. While it’s impossible to predict whenan incident may happen, there are some warning signs to be aware of and ways small business owners can mitigate the risk.
The size of a business doesn’t predict if or when violence will happen. But for small businesses, the impact can be devastating. Since “reputation is everything,” just one incident of workplace violence can destroy a business’s standing in the community and thus the business, says Melissa Fleischer, president of HR Learning Center, a human resources training center. What’s more, the company may have to contend with lawsuits and legal fees as well as the costs for increased security, lost productivity and wages, which could be irreparable to the business, she said.
“Many times the workplace violence comes from outside your organization and can happen either when strangers come into the workplace and engage in violence or when domestic violence from one of your employee’s family members spills out into your workplace,” said Fleischer. “All of these factors combine to make small businesses likely targets for workplace violence.”
Complying with the FMLA