A Diverse Work Force

This month, as 2014 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at some of the most important blog topics we have covered both in case you missed them, and to help you prepare for 2015!

Closeup of business people standing with hands togetherAccording to the DOL, “Although the term is often used to refer to differences among individuals such as ethnicity, gender, age and religion, diversity actually encompasses the infinite range of individuals’ unique attributes and experiences.” Dimensions of diversity can also include physical abilities/qualities, race, sexual orientation, educational background, geographic location, income, marital status, military experience, parental status, work experience, job classification, and so much more.

Many of the attributes that make a workforce diverse are covered by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in regards to fair employment practices and procedures. The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older) disability or genetic information. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by the EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). The laws apply to all types of work situations including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits.

While equal opportunity employment focuses on employment practices, the concept of diversity in the work place is much broader and extends to the work environment. In the context of the workplace, valuing diversity means creating a workplace that respects and includes differences, recognizing the unique contributions that individuals make. Workplace diversity values everyone’s differences. It is about learning from each other regardless of our cultural background, and bringing those differences and experiences to broaden our knowledge. Managing diversity focuses on maximizing the ability of all employees to contribute to organizational goals. Affirmative action focuses on specific groups because of historical discrimination, such as people of color and women. Affirmative action emphasizes legal necessity and social responsibility; managing diversity emphasizes business necessity. In short, while managing diversity is also concerned with underrepresentation of women and people of color in the workforce, it is much more inclusive and acknowledges that diversity must work for everyone.

Do you believe in the golden rule: treat others as you want to be treated? This assumes that how you want to be treated is how others want to be treated. But what if we consider the diversity in different cultures, etc.? What does respect look like? It may not be the same for everyone. While making eye contact may be the respectful thing to do in one culture, it may be a sign of disrespect in another.

Maybe instead of using the golden rule, we should use the platinum rule which states: “treat others as they want to be treated.” But how do we know what different groups or individuals need? Having a workplace culture of inclusivity allows for those questions to be asked and answered in a respectful atmosphere.

Many people think that “fairness” means “treating everyone the same.” How well does treating everyone the same work for a diverse staff? For example, when employees have limited English language skills or reading proficiency, even though that limit might not affect their ability to do their jobs, transmitting important information through complicated memos might not be an effective way of communicating with them. While distributing such memos to all staff is “treating everyone the same,” this approach may not communicate essential information to everyone. A staff member who missed out on essential information might feel that the communication process was “unfair.” A process that takes account of the diverse levels of English language and reading proficiency among the staff might include taking extra time to be sure that information in an important memorandum is understood. Such efforts on the part of supervisors and managers should be supported and rewarded as good management practices for working with a diverse staff. (University of California at Berkeley)

As this suggests, workplace diversity can provide tremendous benefits in terms of improved morale, outside-the-box thinking, greater teamwork, and an atmosphere of mutual understanding and respect.

How Well Do You Manage Diversity?

  • Do you test your assumptions before acting on them?
  • Do you believe there is only one right way of doing things, or that there are a number of valid ways that accomplish the same goal? Do you convey that to staff?
  • Do you have honest relationships with each staff member you supervise? Are you comfortable with each of them? Do you know what motivates them, what their goals are, how they like to be recognized?
  • Are you able to give negative feedback to someone who is culturally different from you?
  • When you hire a new employee, do you not only explain job responsibilities and expectations clearly, but orient the person to the department culture and unwritten rules?
  • Do you rigorously examine your existing policies, practices, and procedures to ensure that they do not differentially impact different groups? When they do, do you change them?
  • Are you willing to listen to constructive feedback from your staff about ways to improve the work environment? Do you implement staff suggestions and acknowledge their contribution?
  • Do you take immediate action with people you supervise when they behave in ways that show disrespect for others in the workplace, such as inappropriate jokes and offensive terms?
  • Do you have a good understanding of isms such as racism and sexism and how they manifest themselves in the workplace?
  • Do you ensure that assignments and opportunities for advancement are accessible to everyone?

If you were able to answer yes to more than half the questions, you are on the right track to managing diversity well. (University of California, San Francisco)

If you have questions or concerns regarding either Diversity or the laws and regulations in regards to affirmative action or the EEOC, please contact our HR/Client Service Reps at 770-339-0000.

Employee Relations

This month, as 2014 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at some of the most important blog topics we have covered both in case you missed them, and to help you prepare for 2015!

More than a quarter of Americans say they are being and/or have been bullied at work (27% according to a recent survey by the Workplace Bullying Institute). Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal discrimination; yet there are no formal laws against bullying specifically, at this time. In an article written for Time magazine, by Martha C. White (3/10/14), it is estimated that “Men make up about 2/3 of bullies, and their targets are women 57% of the time. Although women make up only 31% of bullies, their targets are overwhelmingly – more than 2/3 of the time – other women. With bullying by a boss being the most common kind of workplace bullying, making up more than half of all instances.” More than 68% of bullies hold managerial or supervisory positions, and high stress professions like health care, law, and commissioned sales work are more susceptible to bullying.

So what constitutes workplace bullying?

  • Verbal abuse oral or written – yelling at, using foul language directed at, insulting or putting someone down.
  • Offensive behaviors which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating.
  • Work interference or sabotage that prevents work from getting done.
  • Consistently talking over a particular person at meetings.
  • Falsely accusing someone of errors that a person didn’t actually make, stealing credit for their work, or blaming others for their own shortcomings.
  • Hostile staring or nonverbal intimidation.
  • Unjustly discounting a person’s thoughts or feelings in front of others.
  • Using the “silent” treatment, or purposely failing to follow up with a specific person.
  • Making up rules for specific people; making unreasonable work demands.
  • Disregarding and discrediting satisfactory work despite evidence or constantly picking out their mistakes and bringing them up to others.
  • Harshly and constantly criticizing a person.
  • Starting, or failing to stop, a destructive rumor, gossip, or lies about a person.
  • Encouraging people to turn against a person being tormented.
  • Singling out and isolating one person from other co-workers, either socially or physically.
  • Publicly directing gross and undignified behavior at the victim, or playing mean pranks.
  • Yelling, screaming, or throwing tantrums in front of others to humiliate someone.

In essence, workplace bullying is more than mere incivility or rudeness, it is the repeated health-harming mistreatment of a co-worker or employee which is severe enough to compromise the victim’s health, jeopardize his job, and strain his relationships with others. Bullying can trigger many stress related health problems including hypertension, auto-immune disorders, depression, anxiety, migraines, and post-traumatic stress disorder for the individual. For a company it can mean decreased morale and trust in management, and increased employee absenteeism and turnover.

Bullying doesn’t usually involve physical violence; however, researchers are starting to draw correlations between targets of bullying and incidents of workplace violence. When the bully is fed up and may not be able to take anymore, there is a higher likelihood of retaliation through violence. An estimated 1.7 million employees are injured each year because of workplace assaults, with 28% of all violent crime in the US occurring in the workplace (these are not all the result of bullying).

Currently there are no workplace anti-bullying laws in the United States; however, more than 25 states have proposed variations of the Healthy Workplace Bill, prohibiting workplace harassment not based on a protected class. Many times employers react to laws with internal policies, and that is just what they should do as an employer – before a law even needs be passed. Fifty six percent of companies, according to SHRM, already have an anti-bullying policy as part of their employee handbook, with the responses to bullying including termination, suspension, or anger-management training. An anti-bullying policy needs to:

  • Define bullying
  • Provide a statement as to the purpose of the policy
  • Provide examples of such behavior
  • Have a reporting procedure for victims
  • Define actions/consequences for bullying

If you find yourself regularly feeling intimidated and dread going to work, you may be the victim of workplace bullying. When you find yourself the victim of bullying:

  • Document the date, time and details of the incident
  • Note if another employee witnessed the incident
  • Seek help from Management and/or Human Resources
  • If applicable, document the bully’s impact on business results and success
  • If in an email, maintain a hard copy of the trail of emails

As a client of HR Strategies, we are here to aid you in the creation of all policies, including Anti-Harassment or Bullying, and answer any questions or concerns you or your worksite employees may have.

Contact Us Today or Give us a Call at 770-339-0000

The Affordable Care Act

This month, as 2014 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at some of the most important blog topics we have covered both in case you missed them, and to help you prepare for 2015!

The Internal Revenue Service has recently released the maximum fine amounts for those persons who forego health care coverage.The-Health-Care-Reform-and-Medicare-resized-600.jpg

Individuals earning below the tax filing threshold of $10,150 will not pay a penalty. Others earning above $10,150 will pay based on earnings over the tax threshold of $10,150.

For taxes filed for the year 2014:

  • Individuals earning between $10,150 and $19650, there is a flat penalty fee of $95 per adult (47.50 per child under 18). Thus, a single adult making $19,000 would pay $95 (1×95); a family of two adults at $19,000 would pay $190 (2×95); and a family of one adult and one child at $19,000 would pay $142.50 (95+47.50). The maximum penalty per family with a household income below $19,650 is $285.
  • Individuals earning above $19,650, will be required to pay a penalty equal to 1% of their annual income. For example, a single adult employee earning $40,000 per year would be required to pay $400 (40,000×1%). Whereas, a family of six with two adults each making $50,000, the total income would be $100,000. Therefore the family would pay $1,000 (100,000×1%).

The maximum penalty for 2014 is $2,448 per individual annually, which is 1% of a yearly income of $244.800. Earnings above that for individuals are capped at the individual maximum penalty.

The maximum family penalty issued by the IRS was $12,240 for a five-member family, and will only impact households with a combined yearly income of $1.2 million or more.

*Remember these penalty rates are only for the year 2014, and will increase in 2015 and beyond. The 2015 penalties will be the greater of $325 per person or 2% of total income. 2016 Rates will rise further to the greater of $695 per person or 2.5% of total income. The years following 2016, the penalty rates will be adjusted according to inflation.

Call HR Strategies today for assistance! 770-339-0000 or visit our website at www.hr-strategies.com.

Rising Wage & Hour Case Filings

This month, as 2014 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at some of the most important blog topics we have covered both in case you missed them, and to help you prepare for 2015!

The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 has long been responsible for setting the minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour), guaranteeing overtime wages, and establishing record keeping practices and regulations. Attorneys have been flocking to wage and hour law suits in staggering numbers over the past 6 years due to the financial incentive they bring; they are easier to prove than discrimination cases and almost guarantee a win for the Attorney, as any violation no matter how small will result in a reasonable attorney’s fee award. As recently demonstrated in a case in which an employee was awarded $6,000+ in unpaid overtime wages, and the attorney was awarded $125,000+ in fees and costs.

Since 2000, there has been a 438% rise in the number of cases filed. The most common have been sighting an employer for not paying all hours worked and for the misclassification of employees as exempt from overtime. The number of cases filed each year is speculated to spike even higher with the proposed changes coming to the FLSA in the form of a raise in the minimum wage, along with updating the regulations regarding who qualifies for overtime protection.

You may not be able to ward off all wage and hour claims, but you can take preemptive steps to safeguard your company. Reviewing your current employee classifications (Exempt, Non-Exempt, 1099), updating any time and attendance policies and practices, and making sure that your record keeping is in line with the current FLSA regulations, will lessen your exposure to a wage and hour claim. HR Strategies can help you reduce your risk and vulnerabilities to a FLSA regulations lawsuit, along with the many other Federal, State, Local and Professional Regulatory changes.  Call us today to relieve your stress of whether or not you are in compliance; and give yourself the ability to focus on the aspects of your company for which you went into business, while we handle the behind the scenes issue of compliance. G

Give us a call today at 770-339-0000

FLSA Lawsuits Continue To Rise

This month, as 2014 comes to a close, we are taking a look back at some of the most important blog topics we have covered both in case you missed them, and to help you prepare for 2015!

FLSA ChartFrom April 1, 2013 to March 31, 2014 a record number (8,126) of FLSA cases have been filed across the country.  This represents nearly a 5 percent increase from the year before, and the seventh straight year of increases.  In fact, the number of cases filed has risen 438% since the year 2000. Astonishingly enough, these numbers only capture half of the picture as they represent only the federal cases, and not any wage and hour lawsuits filed within the individual state courts. Unfortunately for business owners, the number of cases being filed is expected to continue to rise with the speculation of raising the minimum wage and tightening the regulations on white collar overtime exemptions. HR Strategies can help you reduce your risk and vulnerabilities to a FLSA regulations lawsuit, along with the many other Federal, State, Local and Professional Regulatory changes.  Call us today to relieve your stress of whether or not you are in compliance; and give yourself the ability to focus on the aspects of your company for which you went into business, while we handle the behind the scenes issue of compliance.


The Ups and Downs of Rounding Hours Worked

overtimeDo you round employees’ hours worked? If you choose to round, do so cautiously to reduce the risk of a wage and hour claim. Employee time must be rounded up and down uniformly (e.g. don’t always round down). Structure rounding to ensure employees are paid fully for all hours actually worked and overtime is calculated properly.

Need help?

Call one of our HR Professionals at 770-339-0000 to review your rounding practices.

How Well Do You Know Georgia’s Child Labor Laws?

The Georgia DOL has many resources for employers doing business in the state of Georgia. As an HR Outsourcing firm, it’s our business to keep our clients in compliance with all of these state regulations (as well as on both the local and federal levels). Are you a Georgia employer? When was the last time you looked over the Georgia Laws and Rules Regulating the Employment of Children? Follow this link to read more before hiring high schoolers this summer.

Georgia DOL Laws and Rules Regulating the Employment of Children


Call HR Strategies today with more questions! 770.339.0000

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