WEBINAR: Remote Work Policies and Considerations

Tuesday, July 12, 2022
8:30a – 9:30a

DIY HR Store

The workplace has changed dramatically and companies need to be prepared for the ripple effect of having remote workers. You need to create policies to address a variety of issues and understand how the remote workforce changes compliance requirements for you.

  • Understand the effect the pandemic has had on the workplace.
  • Learn the differences between the myths and reality of remote workers.
  • Review the various policy details you need to consider.
  • Discover the HR compliance issues with remote workers.
  • You will receive an email by July 11th with a link to join the webinar.

Presenter: C.J. Westrick, SPHR, HR Consultant and Founder of HR Jungle LLC
C.J. has been involved in human resources management and consulting since 1990 and founded HR Jungle LLC in 2006. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and has maintained her SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) national certification since 2002.

DIY HR Store

Employee Blackmail

“I have an employee asking for more pay but her role and performance do not justify it. However, she is the only person who knows how to do what she does so I feel like I have to give in. Is there another choice?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Too many companies have that one employee who seems to have all the company history or all the knowledge about a needed process or something else that is vital to the company. When this happens, it means you allowed that employee to have a certain amount of power over your company.

When an employee has this power and chooses to use it as an ultimatum, it’s a form of blackmail. You either do what they “ask” or they’ll leave with all that information in their brain. Granted, it’s not really legal blackmail but it certainly feels like it if you’re the one who is dealing with this problem. There are really only a few ways to deal with this:

  • Give in to the employee’s demands but realize this is a short-term solution. What you’re really doing is buying time. Immediately start thinking about how you can start backing up the information they have. As a rule, companies never keep this employee around for more than a year after the ultimatum was issued.

  • Create a cross-training program throughout the company on all processes. Develop a program where at least one more employee will learn each of these processes but consider switching the pairs around periodically. Be specific on how often they will train together and what types of training they should focus on each time. Make sure the backup person uses that knowledge at least monthly so they don’t forget what they learned.

  • Document your processes. We have seen founders and managers do a “brain dump” that records their thought processes on a variety of subjects. Consider video recordings when the process is on the computer. Use whatever you can to ensure the company is the ultimate holder of all information considered vital.

The best way is to never let yourself get into this position. Review your personnel and processes and decide where you are lacking information the company should have. The value of your company increases when you can show no one employee is vital to the company’s future success.

If you find yourself being blackmailed, remove the emotion and think through the problem logically. What can you do to bridge the gap? What outside resources might be available to you to help if this person suddenly leaves? How can you avoid this problem in the future? If this is vital information for your company, you should spend as much time protecting it as you do any other proprietary information.

Classifying Employees as Exempt vs. Non-Exempt

Tuesday, June 7, 2022
8:30a – 9:30a

DIY HR Store

Many companies struggle with understanding who can and can’t be a salaried, exempt employee. Classifying positions is a company decision, not an employee choice. This webinar is designed to help you better understand the classification differences, the categories as defined by the Federal Department of Labor, and the risks of misclassifying your employees.

Join us to:

  • Understand the terminology of salaried versus exempt.
  • Learn the differences between exempt and non-exempt.
  • Discover details about the exempt categories.
  • Recognize the risks you have when misclassifying.
  • You will receive an email by June 6th with a link to join the webinar.

Presenter: C.J. Westrick, SPHR, HR Consultant and Founder of HR Jungle LLC
C.J. has been involved in human resources management and consulting since 1990 and founded HR Jungle LLC in 2006. She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and has maintained her SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) national certification since 2002.

DIY HR Store

Retirement Plan Deadline

“I keep hearing about a state retirement plan but don’t know if I want to use that or start a 401(k) for my employees. Am I being forced to do something?”

Your HR Survival Tip

California’s state plan for retirement savings is called CalSavers. If you have five or more employees (counting owners), you are required to register with the state by 6/30/2022 to either let them know you already have a retirement plan or are signing up for CalSavers. The CalSavers rollout started two years ago for larger companies. This is the final deadline and affects companies with 5-50 employees.

CalSavers is intended to be simple for both the employer and employee. Once you’ve uploaded your employee list onto the CalSavers website and set up your payroll for the deductions, you have minimal work to do to maintain it and there are no fees charged to the company. The website (CalSavers.com) is extremely helpful and includes live or recorded video training and a lot of other details to make the plan and process very easy to understand.

Employees are added as they are hired and they must complete an opt-out form if they don’t want to participate. The plan starts with a 5% after-tax contribution of your employee’s gross wages and increases it by 1% each year until it reaches 8% but the employee can choose to do something else. The plan actually creates an individual IRA for each participant so it is portable if an employee leaves your company.

If you have or will be implementing a 401(k) or similar plan before 6/30/2022, you don’t have to do anything but register that information on the CalSavers website. The most notable difference between CalSavers and 401(k) plans is the ability of a 401(k) to offer contribution matches and deduct contributions on a pre-tax basis.

While CalSavers is required for companies of 5 or more employees, smaller companies should inform their employees about the opportunity it presents. Individual employees can sign up on their own to start saving. The expectation by California is young employees earning lower wages will have saved at least 50% more toward their retirement than without this plan. It’s a good thought.

Employee Moves

“I have two employees who want to move out-of-state to live while working remotely for me. What things should I consider?”

Your HR Survival Tip

The movement of employees really became a movement during the pandemic. Employees only look at the work they do to determine whether they can be remote… and remote means anywhere to them. However, as an employer, you have to look at the bigger picture to determine which employees can be remote, if any.

Whether hiring someone from out-of-state or just having an employee move outside of your area, you have legal responsibilities.

  • You must register as an employer in that state so you are paying into their unemployment pool and so payroll taxes are being sent to the correct state. This is free but can take a few weeks, depending on the state.

  • Once you receive your state identification number for that new state, you need to set it up in your payroll system so payroll taxes are submitted correctly for you and the employee.

  • You need to make sure your workers’ compensation insurance will cover the employee in that state. Some carriers have limitations on where they provide coverage.

  • You need to confirm the state or local employment laws to ensure you are following them. Employment laws are based on the state where the employee lives/works, not where your business is located.

  • You will need to obtain the appropriate new hire and termination forms and posters for that state and locale.

  • Your group health insurance’s HMO may not be available elsewhere, which means you could be paying PPO premiums.

  • Employee Handbooks need to be adapted to include differences between state and local policies. For example, California has a generous pregnancy disability law that other states don’t have and only about 14 states offer a state disability program to help employees supplement their time off.

  • Understand U.S. banks will not send payroll money to a foreign bank so your employee must have a U.S. residence and bank.

While it can be nice to hire from all over the U.S. and not have to worry about an office, failure to set up your business to accommodate each state’s or locality’s requirements will result in extra costs and problems. Don’t hire from outside California or your local area until you have checked the requirements and timing needed to do it right.

Cringe-Worthy Proposed Laws

Every year there are bills proposed by our legislature that make employers want to cringe. Sadly, this year is no different and some of the proposed laws will also encourage a scream or two:

AB2932 will require employers to now have 32-hour workweeks, instead of 40 hours… AND force you to pay the employee the same weekly amount. So you’ll be paying higher wages, higher workers’ compensation, and overtime after 32 hours.

SB1044 allows employees to leave work or refuse to show up based on their own subjective feelings of it being unsafe or a state of emergency or an emergency condition. This bill doesn’t even have Cal/OSHA make this determination instead of the employee. Also, if the company assigns someone else to those job duties, the employee could claim they’ve been replaced and file a PAGA claim.

AB2182 returns for a second attempt at passing. This bill will add “family responsibilities” as a new protected class for any employees with children under 18 years of age or for employees who provide care to anyone in their household or any widely-defined family member (even those who don’t live with the employee). This would require an interactive process, protected leaves of absence, and possible accommodations, similar to those needed for disabilities, etc.

SB1162 will require pay data reports (from companies of 100+ employees) to be public so anyone can look up what a company is paying professional and administrative employees. We imagine pay equity lawsuits will then follow.

AB2188 promotes marijuana use as a protected class within California’s discrimination laws, prohibits pre-employment drug testing, and would prohibit urine and hair tests for marijuana. This will severely limit employers from maintaining a safe working environment when using vehicles or equipment are part of the employee’s job.

Better Hiring Practices

“I’ve hired several employees lately but am not overjoyed with those I’ve hired. What am I doing wrong?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Hiring an employee can be a bit challenging and hiring remote employees even more so. The difficulty of finding great employees, plus the differences between onsite versus remote employees, indicates it’s time to review your hiring practices.

Be clear with expectations — We often find companies can’t tell someone how they will spend the full 40 hours each week and are rarely clear about their true expectations. Ideally, you have a job description for each position that outlines the work responsibilities and which skills are needed to perform the job successfully. Given the onsite, remote, and hybrid environment, you also need to be very clear about where and when you expect this person to work. Too many people like the remote and hybrid positions because they think they can work on their own schedule rather than yours. The California wage and hour laws regarding meal and rest breaks and overtime apply to all non-exempt (hourly) employees, regardless of where they work, so they need to follow your policies. Be sure they aren’t accepting an onsite position with the hopes of it transitioning to a remote position.

Confirm the candidate’s skills — Don’t assume what you see on resumes will result in a match of the skills you need. Ask detailed questions about what the candidate has done and make sure they can repeat that success for you. Even remote employees should be tested in similar ways you test onsite employees so don’t ignore steps in your process just because it’s easier than figuring out a way to do it differently. When hiring remote or hybrid employees, make sure they have a home office that is ergonomic and distraction-free, and find ways to ask about self-motivation and initiative since you won’t be there to make sure they’re working.

Compare perks — Your office may have a bagel day, monthly birthday cake, happy hour, etc. In addition, the office staff is more noticeable to the management team and may find it easier to get those promotions and raises. What are you doing for those remote employees? Think of ways to gain their loyalty and for them to build a similar camaraderie with their coworkers.

Sell candidates on your company — You work hard to get and keep your customers. You should work just as hard to get the right employees. Create a marketing package for candidates that includes information about your company and what perks and benefits you offer and their cost, if any. You need to impress candidates as much as you want them to impress you.

While there are differences in hiring onsite versus remote employees, there are also many similarities. When hiring is tough or has been disappointing, review your practices to improve your process. Smaller companies have the ability to hire faster while still moving through all the steps. Use what you have to make hiring a fabulous process for both your team and the candidates.

Proximity Factor

“I’m finding it harder to conduct performance reviews after first being remote and now with a hybrid work environment. It’s difficult to know what they’re doing when not in my presence.”

Your HR Survival Tip

Managing a remote work environment has challenged companies over the past two years. New and different challenges are being noted with the hybrid work environment that incorporates both remote and on-site workers.

The thought behind the proximity factor is whether you must actually be seen working to get credit for the work by your company’s management team. A bias based on proximity may appear when choosing which employees get certain projects or when not encouraging remote employees to be more interactive. Other considerations include:

  • Employees with well-established careers found they really enjoyed working remotely. However, those employees just starting out in their careers felt they must be easily visible to management to further their careers. Plus, younger generations want to work next to the older generations due to the mentoring and training opportunities.

  • Many managers prefer to work in the office at least half the time… and want their direct reports there with them. Trust may be missing for managers who do not believe their remote staff is as productive as their on-site staff.

  • Loyalty and workplace friendships help retention and companies need to consider developing more team projects so work relationships, near and far, thrive.

It’s easier than ever for employees to choose the work/life balance they want. While you might have been hoping for an easy solution to the complexities of remote and hybrid environments, no one has found it yet. Mostly, companies are trying a lot of different things to see what works best for their workforce and business. Consider regular discussions with your management team about the remote and hybrid issues other companies are having and take note of possible solutions you might try. As always, training managers how to work better with remote and hybrid employees, how to better track their production, and how to encourage open communication will help you avoid biases and retain employees.

Recency Factor

“I’ve been conducting annual performance reviews for about five years but, overall, I don’t feel they are very effective. My managers add very few comments. How can we improve them?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Most employees want feedback on their performance and some will even ask for it. The result is often an annual performance review that rarely makes the employee or manager feel good. There are several reasons for this but the recency factor is an obvious one.

Annual reviews require managers to make usable notes throughout the year about an employee’s performance. Too few companies have trained or even thought about training managers to document performance in a way that doesn’t take a lot of time but is useful for anything performance-related. So, when a review is due, the manager is trying to think about how the employee has done over the past year. Unfortunately, without those notes, all they can usually remember is the last 3-4 months… the recency factor. The employee ends up getting judged or reviewed only on their recent behavior.

If you aren’t going to learn how to properly document performance, you need to find another solution for conducting fair reviews. One of the easiest is to create a one-page, simple review form that is used quarterly. This type of review takes much less time to complete, it accommodates the recency factor, and allows you to provide positive and negative feedback more frequently. Plus, both the manager and employee seem to feel better about the process when using them.

A good performance review process takes time and effort to develop. However, before putting in that effort, decide what you want as an outcome. If it’s just to provide frequent feedback so you can keep employees on track, the simple quarterly review can achieve that with less effort. If you want to use the reviews as a training tool, then the review process can be worth the effort of developing one that works toward that result. Decide what you want, then create the proper tool that will get you there.

Alternative Workweek Schedules

“I’m planning on scheduling my employees for 4 10-hour days, starting next week. If I give them a week’s notice, is that enough time?”

Your HR Survival Tip

Since our normal workweek is five 8-hour days, using a schedule of four 10-hour days is called an Alternative Workweek Schedule (AWS). California has provided detailed guidance on how to implement an Alternative Workweek legally but, unlike other scheduling, an AWS is not entirely up to the employer.

Don’t forget California is the one state with overtime after 8 hours in a day. There is a process involved for an AWS and, if you don’t follow the process, you may be in violation of California wage and hour law regarding overtime pay. Most details are in your industry’s IWC Order (Industrial Welfare Commission), that you should have posted next to your employment law poster.

Timing and hours may differ based on industry, which is why it’s important to review the IWC for the group of employees involved. Using IWC Order No. 4, we are able to have workdays of up to 10 hours without overtime, 10 to 12 hours as overtime, and more than 12 hours at double time. Below are the basics about the IWC #4 process:

  • The company creates a proposal citing the employees (group, unit, or department) affected by the AWS and all the details about it. A basic proposal includes the number of work hours and workdays and other features but it can be more complicated. Remember a longer day may also require more meal and rest breaks.

  • Present the proposal to the affected group at least 14 days prior to their voting on it. This gives them time to talk about the proposal and ask questions.

  • The proposal must be adopted in a secret ballot election with at least a 2/3 approval vote of the affected employees before the new schedule begins. If you don’t get 2/3 to vote in favor of the proposal, you must maintain your regular 8-hour days or, possibly, create a different proposal.

  • If the proposal is approved, you may not implement the new schedule for at least 30 days from the voting date.

  • Within 30 days of the approval, you must notify in writing the state’s Office of Policy, Research and Legislation. This becomes a public document and protects you from later claims of unpaid overtime.

  • The employees may be able to choose to repeal this AWS by another 2/3 vote to stop.

This is not a slam dunk situation… you are basically making a sales pitch and asking employees to give up overtime pay in exchange for three days off each week. The above process is a very simplistic description so please review the requirements or ask someone knowledgeable to set up your AWS for you to ensure it is compliant.