Employee Discipline and Terminations: Objective Disciplinary System

September 14, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Objective Discipline

Developing policies for discipline and termination is a great way to prevent employee claims, especially when the policies are clearly communicated to new hires and maintained throughout the company.

Another preventative measure to take is to follow an objective, pre-determined disciplinary process when the need to discipline an employee arises. Work with your risk management, HR, and leadership teams to establish a mutually agreed upon process.

Typically, the first measure an employer or HR manager should take when beginning the discipline process is to investigate the incident or problem behavior. Depending on the severity of the situation, the employee may need to be suspended during this investigation to prevent any further misconduct or business interruption.

Once more information is gathered, schedule a meeting with the employee to discuss the issue at hand and hear their side of the story. This discussion with the employee will provide an opportunity for you to discuss the consequences they will face if the problematic behavior continues, as well as a time for you to provide written documentation of any disciplinary action that occurs immediately. Have the employee sign the documentation and give a copy to the employee for their records.

In two or three weeks, schedule another meeting with the employee to follow up on their progress.

This is the third in a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. Click here to view the first article in the series, Company Policies and the Employee Handbook. 

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Employee Discipline and Terminations: Types of Employee Claims

September 06, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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Awareness of the various types of employee claims will help your company prepare for any possible litigation.

Employees can make internal, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or Human Rights Campaign complaints, or file a lawsuit against the employer with a formal Complaint and Summons.

Discrimination: According to the EEOC, nearly 100,000 discrimination charges are filed against employers annually. During the disciplinary or termination process, an employee from a protected class can allege that he or she is being treated worse than other employees, based on a reason relating to their protected class status than other employees. Protected classes are defined by federal, state and local governments and are based on factors including: race, color, religion, national origin, age, sex, familial status, disability status, veteran status and genetic information. While some states have broadly defined protected classes, other states’ laws are very detailed, including protection for sexual orientations, marital status, and political views.

Harassment: While discrimination claims are centered on mistreatment in official company actions, harassment claims revolve around interpersonal relationships in the workplace. These claims include verbal or physical harassment.

Retaliation: Recent changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, especially regarding the Whistleblower provision, could lead to an increase in the number of employees who will claim they’ve been disciplined or terminated in retaliation for whistleblowing on the company.

Wrongful Termination: Employees can file claims if they believe they were wrongly terminated for an illegal reason or for a reason that violates the company’s policy. Some examples include breach of contract and constructive discharge.

Post-termination: Some employees file lawsuits after they’ve been terminated, claiming that the termination resulted in defamation, blacklisting or undue emotional distress.

This is the second in a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. Click here to view the first article in the series, Company Policies and the Employee Handbook. 

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Recent Overtime Law Is Officially Over

September 01, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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Following an injunction from November 2016, the Obama-era revisions to the FLSA Overtime regulations are now officially off the table. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant ruled in favor of more than 55 business groups who challenged the 2016 changes, which would’ve more than doubled the minimum annual salary required to qualify employees for overtime exemption.

Employees must still satisfy three criteria to qualify for overtime exemption:

  1. The employee must be paid on a salaried basis
  2. The employee must meet the minimum salaried threshold – which now remains at $23,660/annually
  3. The employee must meet the duties criteria as defined by the Department of Labor. Click here to view a brief overview of these exemptions.

Employers are encouraged to prepare for a salary increase eventually, as many agree the minimum threshold is outdated and needs to be increased, but experts advise it will not be to the level proposed in the 2016 bill.  To date, there are no changes planned.

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Employee Discipline and Terminations: Company Policies and the Employee Handbook

August 31, 2017 | Leave a Comment

Documenting Discipline and Terminations to Mitigate Risk as an Employer

Lawsuits are expensive and time-consuming. When employees take legal action, it can also cause emotional discomfort and tension in the workplace.

In hopes of avoiding any business interruption related to employee discipline, companies may discontinue a relationship with a troublesome employee immediately – but a snap decision can lead to more problems down the road.

This is the first in a series of blog posts on Employee Discipline and Terminations to help employers navigate the implications of employee discipline and terminations, including mitigating the risks of employee claims. 

So, what can employers and HR managers do to mitigate the risk of a disgruntled employee seeking a lawsuit? The first step is to develop policies and procedures that facilitate accurate documentation. Keeping a detailed record of disciplinary actions will create an objective narrative of the situation and help settle differences whether the claim is handled at the company level or in court.

Company policies can help prevent a claim before it happens. Employees who are treated fairly and consistently, with documents that answer their questions on harassment claims and the company code of conduct, will feel confident that the company is objective in its use of discipline policies.

The employee handbook can be a great tool for communicating these policies to employees. From topics such as medial leave and sick days to compensation and benefits, the handbook is necessary for all employees at any size company. It sets a clear precedent for new hires that begins on their first day and should discuss all aspects of the disciplinary process as a reference for employees.

Most importantly for employers, an “employment-at-will” disclaimer will grant companies the ability terminate an employee at any time for any legal reason. Keep in mind, however, that while employers with this statement can terminate an employee under this clause, it doesn’t always mean they should. If you have questions about what to include in your employee handbook, contact your Cornerstone Consultant.

For more information on employee terminations, view our webinar on the topic hosted by Cornerstone’s Director of HR Bethany Holliday, PHR, SHRM-CP.

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Updated I-9 Form Available

August 08, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has implemented a few minor changes to the I-9 form. Employers can begin using the updated form now and must use it exclusively by Sept. 18, 2017. The form’s expiration date of Aug. 31, 2019, has not changed. The new form can be accessed here.

While a couple minor adjustments were made to List C in the List of Acceptable Documents, there are no significant changes to the form and nothing has changed in regards to how the document is completed.

*Link to I-9 updated 8/10 

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Deadline Approaching for Respirable Crystalline Silica Compliance

July 27, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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Employers in general, construction, and maritime industries should be preparing for an upcoming compliance deadline issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding respirable crystalline silica.

What is respirable crystalline silica?

Silica, a mineral found in sand, concrete, stone, and other materials, is hazardous when reduced to a dust and has the potential to be inhaled. Any job functions that involve cutting, sawing, drilling, or crushing materials that contain silica is dangerous.

When silica dust particles are inhaled, they can penetrate deep into the lungs and cause di sabling and sometimes fatal diseases, including silicosis, lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder and kidney disease.

What are OSHA’s new regulations?

The rule includes two sets of standards—one for the construction industry and another for general and maritime industries.

Both dramatically reduce the permissible exposure limit (PEL) for respirable crystalline silica to 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air (50 µg/m3) as an eight-hour time-weighted average and require employers to implement specific measures to protect workers.

The required measures include engineering controls, respiratory protection, medical surveillance, hazard communication and recordkeeping. Compliance with these rules will not be an easy process for employers. In some cases, air sampling will need to be conducted.

When is the deadline?

When the rule was enacted in June 2016, employers in the construction industry were given a compliance deadline of Sept. 23, 2017. Employers in the general and maritime industries have until June 23, 2018, to meet the new standards.

Employers should be acting now to determine if they are subject to the rule. If so, organizations should become familiar with OSHA’s new requirements and begin drafting and take steps to implement a written exposure control plan.

For more information on compliance for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard for General Industry and Maritime, click here.

For more information on compliance for the Respirable Crystalline Silica Standard Construction, click here.

Posted in Blog, Commercial, OSHA, Risk management, Safety | Tagged  , , , , ,

OSHA Electronic Reporting Updates

July 27, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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OSHA announced the launch date for its secure website, which will allow certain employers to electronically submit Injury and Illness records, is next Tuesday, Aug. 1. Once the website is live, employers can begin submitting their 2016 OSHA Injury and Illness data to meet the reporting deadline of Dec. 1, 2017.

Who is required to comply with electronic reporting?  

All establishments with 250 or more employees in industries covered by the recordkeeping regulation must electronically submit to OSHA injury and illness information from OSHA Forms 300, 300A, and 301.

Establishments with 20-249 employees in certain higher hazard industries must electronically submit information from OSHA Form 300A only.

A full list of those industries can be found on the OSHA website.

OSHA defines an “establishment” as a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed.  A firm may be comprised of one or more establishments.

If you have further questions, please contact Tom Scherrer, Cornerstone’s Loss Control Consultant, or reference the OSHA website.

Posted in Blog, Commercial, OSHA, Risk management | Tagged  ,

Business Continuity Management – An Integrated Approach to Disaster Recovery

July 20, 2017 | Leave a Comment

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Business interruptions can have serious consequences. One of every four businesses forced to close because of a disaster never reopen.

We can’t control natural or man-made disasters – but we can control how we prepare for and respond to them.

Business continuity management, or the combination of business interruption insurance and business continuity planning, is the only way to prevent a disaster from having a detrimental impact on your business.

Business interruption insurance is a financial assistance to help get a company back on its feet quickly following a business interruption. Originally designed for the manufacturing industry, business interruption insurance transfers risks and provides resources that aid in recovery in all industries and get your business back up to speed as soon as possible.

To protect your business, use business continuity planning toolkits to identify vulnerabilities and create a plan to minimize their impact. Combined with business interruption insurance, your business will be protected and your team will know how to recover quickly in the event a disaster does occur.

For more information on business continuity management, view this webinar, hosted by Cornerstone’s Loss Control Consultant Tom Scherrer.

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OSHA’s Electronic Reporting Rule Postponed

July 10, 2017 | Leave a Comment

OSHA Postpone

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s electronic reporting rule was set to go into place July 1, 2017.  However, according to OSHA, the organization is not ready to accept electronic reporting of injuries and illnesses.

OSHA has proposed Dec. 1, 2017, as the new deadline.

For more information, visit the OSHA website

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STL Minimum Wage Scaling Back to $7.70

July 03, 2017 | Leave a Comment

STL Minimum Wage Scaling Back to $7.70

Missouri Governor Greitens announced Friday that he will allow a bill to become a law that reverts St. Louis minimum wage to the state minimum wage of $7.70.

The law, which will go into effect August 28 of this year, will ban local minimum wages, requiring St. Louis to stick to the standardized minimum wage requirement for Missouri.

For more information, see the full article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Posted in Blog, Legislative Alerts