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Get the latest news and views on the NCHRA HR West Blog. Our goal, as always, is to connect Bay Area HR professionals with valuable practice resources and best practices information, news and views in an effort to support training, legal and legislative developments, quality service providers, and HR professionals--helping them to form career-long networks and partnerships.

 

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Federal courts split over sexual orientation discrimination

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Monday, July 10, 2017
Updated: Monday, July 10, 2017

By Diane Buisman, Vigilant

A recent string of federal appeals court cases regarding sexual orientation discrimination has shone a light on an area of open interpretation under federal law. Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, individuals are protected from discrimination based on sex, but the law doesn’t explicitly encompass protection based on sexual orientation. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has long interpreted Title VII’s protection to extend to individuals based on their sexual orientation, rationalizing that being discriminated against for failing to conform to traditional gender roles is a form of sex-based discrimination.

Continue reading this article on the new HR West Blog.

 

Tags:  discrimination  EEOC  employee  employment laws  workplace 

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Workplace Vampires: The Disengaged Employee

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Thursday, April 6, 2017
Updated: Wednesday, April 5, 2017

This video from HR West 2017 speaker Kevin Sheridan explores a third category of employee engagement: The Actively Disengaged.

Did you know? Thirteen percent of the workforce is actively disengaged - they are workplace vampires.

Discover the successful solution that can transform these "workplace terrorists" into productive and "actively engaged" members of your team in Sheridan's 2 minute (highly informative) video:

Tags:  company culture  employee  employee engagement  Engagement  HR Management  Managing Employees  millennial-retention  workplace performance 

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Judge blocks rule increasing salary for workers exempt from overtime

Posted By Editor, Thursday, December 15, 2016

Contributed by Karen Davis - Senior Employment Attorney, Vigilant.
Vigilant is a sponsor of

Judge blocks rule increasing salary for workers exempt from overtime 

A federal district court has temporarily blocked a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) regulation that would have taken effect on December 1, 2016, and raised the minimum salary for workers who are exempt from overtime. The ruling applies nationwide. The judge’s action buys more time for the parties to argue whether the rule should be permanently placed on hold. We don’t know yet how long that will take, but it’s reasonable to expect it will occur after the change in administration on January 20, 2017. The incoming Trump administration could voluntarily withdraw from defending the lawsuit, and thus leave the existing salary levels in place. This is still speculation at this point, though.

Here’s why the court decided to temporarily block the implementation of the DOL’s regulation. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) states that “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity” is exempt from overtime. Congress focused purely on workers’ duties, and didn’t establish a minimum salary. The DOL came up with the idea of a minimum salary for these exempt “white collar” workers. That salary is currently $455 per week and was scheduled to rise to $913 per week on December 1, 2016. (See our
5/18/16 Alert when the DOL published its new rules.) The court said the DOL exceeded its authority by establishing a salary that was so high that it overrode the “duties” test for the overtime exemption (State of Nevada v. U.S. Dept. of Labor, ED Tex, Nov. 22, 2016).

If an employer has already announced salary increases to employees who otherwise would have lost their exemption from overtime on December 1, 2016, the employer needs to decide how to proceed. If the increases were rolled into performance reviews, merit increases, or promotions, any reduction could create employee relations challenges. Any employer that communicated the increases purely as a legal compliance issue may be in a better position to explain why it won’t be implementing them. However, because workers may have been relying on any announced increases in planning their personal budgets, employers should proceed with caution. Also, keep in mind that any wage reductions cannot be done retroactively; employees must receive the full wage that was in effect at the time they performed the work. Stay tuned to see what happens with these overtime rules. We don’t know for certain what the court’s final ruling will ultimately be, or whether the new administration will continue to defend the lawsuit.

Karen Davis is an employment law attorney with significant experience providing advice and counsel to employers. She works with companies of all sizes, as a staff attorney for an employers' association. Connect with Karen Davis on Linkedin.

 

Tags:  DOL  employee  employment law  HR West 2017  minimum wage  Vigilant 

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Legalizing Marijuana: What's an Employer to do?

Posted By Editor, Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Contributed by Becky Barton

These days it’s difficult to avoid the election mania covered by the various media outlets. Given the major spotlight on the presidential race, you may not know that the potential decriminalization of marijuana will be on the ballot in several states.

California, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada will all weigh in on legalized marijuana for recreational use (also known as “adult use” and “non-medical use”) where it is currently approved for medical use only. Another 3 states (Arkansas, Florida, and North Dakota) will decide on the future of cannabis for medical use in their states.

Supporters of the ballot measures see this as a boon to the states’ economies via increased taxes and job growth for cannabusiness people. We have seen 25 states and the District of Columbia legalize marijuana in some fashion, making a continued trend of legalization highly likely.

So what does this mean for business owners and employers? Marijuana remains illegal under federal law and the state-by-state variations make this particularly confusing. For example, within the subset of those states approved for recreational use, the amount an individual can personally carry varies.  As an employer, particularly a multi-state employer, these variations can be an administrative and enforcement nightmare.

Or do they? After all, alcohol is a mind and behavior altering substance that’s been legal for over 80 years and we seem to manage that in the workplace, right? Wouldn’t this be treated similarly? Well, it depends. Many laws clearly state that employers don't have to accommodate medical marijuana use during work hours or on company property while other states require reasonable accommodations for workers with disabilities (specifically as it relates to drug testing and adverse action).

The key is to know what is required by the states in which you operate, create an employment policy that complies with state law and enforce it consistently amongst employees of similar work groups.

The Bottom Line: Work with an HR consultant or an employment law attorney to navigate these unchartered waters. They should be watching how these new laws are interpreted by the courts and have your back should your policy need updating.

 

Becky Barton is the founder of People415, a San Francisco-based Human Resource Consultancy Firm helping companies navigate every stage of their growth.

Tags:  behavior  company culture  employee  employee communication  employee health and wellness  employee relations  Employee Training  employee wellness  healthcare expenditures  hr  HR Communication  HR law  HR Legislation  Human resources management. HR Leadership  law  leadership  management  marijuana  Policies  workforce 

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Top 5 Ways for Organizations to Handle Negative Employee Feedback

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, April 7, 2016

97% believe that negative feedback from employees can be useful.


Waggl, a digital platform that offers companies a simple way to surface and distill real-time actionable feedback, recently designed an ongoing research project called The Voice of the Workplace. Waggl goes beyond the traditional survey by offering an extremely easy way to listen to many voices at once within an organization for the purpose of making it better. Its real-time listening platform creates a transparent, authentic two-way dialogue that gives people a voice, distills insights, and unites organizations through purpose.

This latest Voice of the Workplace survey was sent out through the Northern California Human Resources Association (NCHRA), InsiderHub, and Executive Networks over a two-week period (March 8 to 23, 2016). The three organizations helped comprise an external audience of some 500 business leaders, HR leaders and consultants. The survey participants were first asked whether or not they agreed with the following two key statements: 

1) “Providing an open forum for employees to offer candid feedback is essential for organizational improvement,” and

2) “Negative feedback from employees can be useful to help an organization improve.” 

An overwhelming 96% responded positively to the first statement, and 97% to the second.  The responses were fairly consistent across various sizes of organization, job titles, and geographic regions.

There was a unanimous agreement that negative feedback from employees can be useful. Over the years, Waggl has seen many instances of companies that have either ignored or attempted to eradicate negative feedback, usually with less than optimal results. 

The data from this also poll indicates that attitudes are shifting, with business and HR leaders alike becoming more open to candid feedback, and more receptive about how to work with it to make their organizations stronger.

The Voice of the Workplace also included a second, open-ended, question in this particular survey: “What is the most constructive way for organizations to handle negative feedback from employees?” 

Here are the top five answers that were crowdsourced with over 3,000 votes on Waggl:

1.  “Provide a response to those giving feedback to indicate that it was heard and understood; then describe action to be taken -- this may include no action, but providing feedback indicates that the input was carefully considered. Further information may clarify the situation about which negative feedback occurred. Responses must be respectful, and not defensive.

2.  “Listen, understand the real issue, probe into further information if needed to fully understand, and then address the feedback directly, honestly, and in a timely manner. Then ask if that helps or if there is further negative feedback.

3.  “Acknowledge and address openly and honestly - be transparent whenever possible - communicate, communicate, communicate.”

4.  “Ask employees to elaborate. Individual or small group. Be honest and transparent. Assume your employees are intelligent and honest people. The dialogue may be uncomfortable, but necessary to fill understandings of issues.

5.  “Acknowledge receipt of the feedback and try to understand its root cause. Be transparent about what the feedback was and what if anything can be done to address/ respond to it.

In the open-ended responses, a clear pattern emerged in which the participants advocated acknowledging the feedback in a transparent way---rather than hiding from it. They also sought to clarify and better understand the root cause, as well as take timely action to address the issues. 

 

Strong organizations “ACT” on feedback (A.C.T. Acknowledge, Clarify, and Take action).  They understand that to be the best possible version of their organization, they need to look to the wisdom in their own system, their own people. In some cases, the action taken might be explaining to employees why the decisions were made, which can be very powerful in building trust and alignment within an organization.

 

Waggl is typically used within organizations to collect and distill anonymous, real-time feedback from employees.  The platform provides a variety of templates for users to cultivate feedback, in only a few clicks.  Results are available immediately to administrators and participants in the form of easily digestible infographics.  Unlike traditional survey and polling platforms, Waggl creates a virtual dialogue with participants by asking open-ended questions where favorite responses can be ‘voted up.’  It’s fast and easy to share through multiple channels, and adds a fun, gamified aspect to the process of collecting feedback as shown below.

Tags:  employee  employee engagement  employee relations  employee wellness  HR  human resources  human resources management  NCHRA  stress management  Waggl  workplace 

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