Landrum Human Resource Companies Blog


National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Posting Requirement
November 17, 2011

National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) Posting Requirement  

by Jim Guttmann, SPHR

Wouldn’t you agree that certain topics often generate strong feelings and differences of opinion when mentioned? For instance, I’m sure most of you realize that public expressions of beliefs on politics or religion can sometimes create discord.  Another topic that some might put in that same category is any discussion of unions.  As a result, many of us often avoid discussing these topics when in the workplace or at family re-unions, etc.

On the subject of unions, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently issued a final rule that will require most private-sector employers to notify workers of their rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA). Under this new rule now scheduled to go into effect on January 31, 2012, most private-sector employers will be required to post a “notice of employee rights” where workplace notices are normally displayed (including company internet or intranet sites, as applicable). The notice applies to all businesses subject to NLRA but excludes agricultural, railroad and airline employers and the U.S. Postal Service. The notification requirement also does not apply to small employers that conduct less than $50,000 worth of business across state lines.

 The notice explains that under the NLRA employees have the right to: 

1. Organize a union to negotiate with the company concerning wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.

2. Form, join or assist a union.

3. Bargain collectively through representatives of employees’ own choosing for a contract with the company setting wages, benefits, hours, and other working conditions.

4. Discuss wages and benefits and other terms and conditions of employment or union organizing with co-workers or a union.

5. Take action with one or more co-workers to improve working conditions by, among other means, raising work-related complaints directly with the company or with a government agency, and seeking help from a union.

6. Strike and picket, depending on the purpose or means of the strike or the picketing.

7. Choose not to do any of these activities, including joining or remaining a member of a union. 

Those employers subject to this law risk an unfair labor practice charge and could face legal action from the NLRB if they fail to comply with the notification rule.  For more information, please refer to:   https://www.nlrb.gov/poster

Having broached this highly sensitive matter, I would like to offer my perspective from experiences on both sides of this issue; 1) as a former employee in a labor union’s administrative department, 2) as a former company representative during union avoidance campaigns, union negotiations and during union grievance processes,  and 3) as a private sector non-union employee. My experiences have ranged from instances in which the company and union worked in a very collaborative manner to situations in which matters were very contentious and difficult between the company and union.

Here’s what I believe experts on both sides of the issue would likely agree represents a work environment in which unions often become very appealing to employees: 

1.  A work environment in which employees are not treated in a fair and consistent manner by their boss and the company offers no true avenue whereby issues and concerns can be properly addressed.  The lines of communication between employees and their management are poor. Employees perceive that having a union will offer that voice that they don’t now have.

2.  A work environment in which employees do not receive competitive wages and benefits and/or the company does not comply with federal regulations concerning wage and hour laws, safety, non-discrimination and harassment avoidance etc. Employees perceive that having a union will hold the company accountable in offering suitable pay, benefits and working conditions. 

As the new NLRB rule regarding posting notices goes into effect next year, many employers should assess how they are doing with respect to their work environments and whether the new posting requirement will draw significant interest from their employees.  Here’s what is suggested that you review as part of your self-assessment: 

1. Benefits ( meeting industry standards for your area)

2. Wages (that are fair and competitive)

3. HR Policies (that comply with employment laws)

4. Culture (whereby all employees are treated fairly and consistently)

5. Trained supervisors (who know how to create/maintain a healthy work environment)

6. Safe work environment (in which employee safety is a top priority) 

Since compliance with the new law cannot be avoided for most employers, it would be prudent for companies to start a self-assessment process now (if they have not already done so) rather than putting off thought/discussion of a topic that they may find uncomfortable.  
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Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



You’re Leaving the Company – But What’s Your Legacy?

October 19, 2011

You’re Leaving the Company – But What’s Your Legacy?

by Jim Guttmann, SPHR

     Let your imagination run rampant for a moment as we explore a very common situation in today’s world. As an employee of Backward Thinking, Inc., you hold a position of Operations Director in which you are responsible for supervising a staff of 20 employees. You’ve been with Backward Thinking for 20 years now, having built an outstanding reputation and remarkable track record of achievement with the Company. You really enjoy your role there and without a doubt you are a vital member of the management team. But, as you approach the later part of your working career you’ve been privately considering a new adventure in life; the pursuit of a dream of owning your own company that makes banana bread. You didn’t want to share that dream with anyone else at work for fear of repercussions from Backward Thinking management if they knew you had any thoughts of possibly leaving your job. After all, who thinks anyone would ever leave Backward Thinking?

     Suddenly, a perfect opportunity for starting this business comes up and it just happens to be where the rest of your family lives. It’s an offer you can’t refuse. After carefully thinking this decision over, you deliver a bombshell to everyone at work that you will be leaving in a couple of months. I realize that it may be hard to believe, but your staff and management team who have put their faith and trust in you over the years are not exactly thrilled with the news. They are left wondering who could possibly fill your shoes, especially on such short notice. As you consider their feelings on the matter and how company operations will be hindered for the near term, you start to feel a bit conflicted. You start thinking about your legacy and what kind of thoughts and feelings that co-workers will have about you in years to come. You get a sinking feeling because the last impression they will have of you is that of an individual leaving them without someone being there to carry on the mission for which you’ve laid such a solid foundation. Your legacy is ruined!

     Okay, it’s really no time to panic because you wake up in a cold sweat quickly realizing that you were only experiencing a bad dream. In truth, you work for Forward Thinking, Inc.. Like the name implies, Forward Thinking is a very forward thinking company and has developed an effective Succession Plan. Several years ago, Forward Thinking realized the value in having such a plan because:

1.    Management realized that survival of the organization depends on having the right people in the right places at the right times to do the right things and get the right results.

2.   Management understood that, in a downsizing period, great care must be taken to identify promising candidates early and actively cultivate their development and retention.

3.   Management realized that in the absence of a formal succession plan, job incumbents tend to identify and groom successors who are remarkably like themselves in appearance, background and values. Formal succession plans promote more opportunity for diversity which makes the company stronger.

     And as baby-boomers continue to retire en masse from executive suites, managerial offices, and specialized or technical jobs, the question of who will take their places becomes ever more pressing. This loss of valuable institutional memory has made it apparent that organizations can’t afford to be without a strong succession program. According to William J. Rothwell in his book, “Effective Succession Planning – Ensuring Leadership Continuity and Building Talent from Within,” the biggest benefits that organizations experience from formal succession planning programs are:

1.   It will take less time and expense to fill vacancies because the talent has already been identified and prepared.

2.  People development efforts have been aligned with the organization’s strategic objectives so that the right people will be available at the right times and in the right places to meet the right objectives.

3.  The organization is prepared to deal with sudden, catastrophic losses of key people.

Back to ideal world of Forward Thinking, Inc., you feel far more at ease about departing from the company fully knowing that your position has been turned over to a very capable, trained and developed individual who will keep the company headed in the right direction. Part of your legacy is that you were a key contributor in the development program of your successor, and the legacy of your outstanding service to Forward Thinking remains intact!
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Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



It’s Better to Be Safe than Sorry

July 13, 2011

It’s Better to Be Safe than Sorry
By Jim Guttmann, SPHR

Unless you’ve been living in another country (or perhaps on another planet), you would know that the subject of immigration reform is a hot and evolving topic in the United States. For employers, the Department of Homeland Security is very serious about making sure that companies don’t hire individuals who are ineligible to work here. In fact, The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office has announced their intent to ramp up audits of employers this year by establishing an “Employment Compliance Inspection Center.” This new center will add up to 20 forensic auditors to review the completion of I-9 forms by employers. If they should find undocumented workers (or just I-9 forms that have been improperly completed), employers can be subject to significant fines and even run the risk of having their doors shut. On this issue, it is better for employers to be safe than sorry. Click here for additional information about the Department of Homeland Security’s Enforcement Actions:

Now various states are getting into the act by becoming more directly involved in the I-9 verification process. There is a significant movement in many states throughout the country (including Florida) to use the “E-Verify” program. E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. By using E-Verify to determine the employment eligibility of their employees, companies become part of the solution in addressing the problem of undocumented workers. At the present time, there are a total of 17 states that require the use of E-Verify in some manner.

In June of 2004, Landrum elected to voluntarily participate in the pilot program for E-Verify. Being fully engaged in the process for seven years now, one could say that Landrum has been on the right side of history on this issue. E-Verify has proven to be a very effective process (e.g. in determining if there are problems with individuals here on work visas or finding that there is a discrepancy with a person’s social security records). However, for this process to work as it should, the I-9 form must be properly completed at time of hire and immediately run through E-Verify (no later than the first 3 days of the individual’s employment). Taking this process seriously and doing it the right way gives our clients some peace of mind during these challenging times.

As new legislation continues to occur on the immigration reform issue in the months and years ahead, you can be assured that Landrum will keep you fully abreast on these matters. And by being proactive in this matter of compliance with the law, Landrum strongly believes that our clients feel like we do – It’s Better to Be Safe than Sorry!
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Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



Use a Forklift Next Time!
July 1, 2011, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Human Resources, Notes from Jim | Tags: ,

July 1, 2011

Use a Forklift Next Time!
By Jim Guttmann, SPHR

Just over 10 years ago, an injury occurred to a facilities maintenance employee at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. This was during a time that I was working for a federal contractor there as an HR Manager. The injured employee had slipped and fallen in the process of pulling up a sign. When filling out the injury report, the form naturally called for a “corrective action” to indicate how the injury could have been prevented. The manager completing the initial report wrote that the employee should use a forklift next time to assist in uprooting the sign (rather than running the risk of injuring himself by over-straining when pulling it up).

However, as an HR Manager responsible for reviewing the circumstances surrounding this claim, I did a quick follow-up with the employee. The employee immediately explained that the sign in question was one of those little two prong metal signs that you stick in the grass. You know, like the ones that politicians often place all over the neighborhood before elections.

Upon hearing this (and having a good chuckle), it was obvious to me that the manager had not even bothered to speak to his injured employee. If you imagine using a forklift to uproot a little metal sign, you have to admit – that’s pretty comical! The reason that I am re-visiting this amusing account from over a decade ago is to ask you a question. Why would you think it is important for managers to quickly take special interest in how an injured employee is doing? Well, here’s the answer. Engaging the employee soon after an incident can prove very valuable from two standpoints – although the ultimate reason for doing so may represent two opposite ends of the spectrum from an employee relations standpoint.

1. If the employee is truly injured, your quick response and involvement shows the company cares about the well being of the employee. I believe that good employers would want their employees to feel that way – and not that their employer is mad at the employee for having an injury. If it is a serious injury, you want to maintain a good relationship so as to get the employee back to work as soon as possible. It’s been found that the sooner that you can get the injured employee back to work, the less your exposure on the workers compensation claim will be in the long run. And the less likely they will sue the company over being injured at work.

Also, you can engage the employee in properly determining why the injury happened in the first place (while it is still fresh in his or her mind) so that it is not repeated by the employee or his or her co-workers. Injured workers can be very helpful in that regard and they don’t want others to go through the same experience that they did. Participating in an after-the-fact analysis of what lead up to the injury makes the employee feel a little better too – since at least something good is coming out of the unfortunate incident.

2. If the employee is faking the injury or initially represents that the injury is more serious than it really is, your personal involvement will often cause the employee to “get well” very quickly. In fact, as the manager, be interested enough to ask the employee to show you the “boo-boo” or where it hurts. In instances where there is some “tomfoolery” going on, the employee probably won’t want to risk his or her job by being suspected of fraud. As this plays out, you still come over as the compassionate employer while the employee quickly realizes that he is not going to be able to “lay-out” on this one! If you don’t take an interest in finding out what’s really happening, the employee could unfairly take advantage of the company.

In summary, when looking to control workers comp claims cost and maintain good employee relations, managers can play a key role in this effort by quickly engaging the injured employee as soon as possible after an incident occurs. After all, all accidents are preventable and your role as manager is to help in this effort whether a forklift is needed or not!

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Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



Don’t forget this because it’s really important!

June 14, 2011

Don’t forget this because it’s really important!
By Jim Guttmann, SPHR

When I was 19 years old, I used to take my mother to work in the morning before attending classes at Pensacola Junior College (now Pensacola State College). On the drive one day, it seems that my mother was giving me a discourse on doing well in school, taking care of chores around the house and blah, blah, blah. During this 10-15 minute lecture, my thoughts drifted off to other things which seemed far more interesting to me at the time. When arriving at my Mom’s workplace, I snapped out of my day dream just in time to hear “….and don’t forget this because it’s really important”. Of course, I had to confess to Mom that I really hadn’t heard one word that she had said throughout the whole time. Most surprising to me was that she took it very well. It was a relief to her to know that I really was interested in listening to her “sometimes”. She wanted me to pick her up from work at the end of the day because my father wouldn’t be able to. That was pretty important to know.

Recalling this now amusing incident from 40 years ago, it got me thinking about documentation of substandard employee performance or poor behavior. Occasionally, I’ll sometimes hear from managers who express that they would like to terminate a subordinate’s employment after speaking with the employee “numerous times”. After all, listening to someone whine must clearly communicate that it’s really important; someone should pay attention; and actually do something about it. Yeah, right! When I explain that just repeatedly talking to someone is not necessarily effective in addressing poor job performance or behavior, I’ll sometimes get various excuses for why taking the next step by way of a formal written warning is not the way to go. Some of my favorites excuses for not putting it in writing are “that would be playing head games with him” or “it would just make matters worse” or “we’re all professionals here and don’t need to be written up”. By the way, I don’t think any of those excuses are very valid. And there are a bunch of HR Professionals, Employment Law Attorneys and EEOC investigators that would agree with me. In fact, the “problem employee” may actually be thinking one of the following:

•   Guess he rolled out of the wrong side the bed again this morning.

•   No big deal….he gets on everybody’s case every now and then.

•   He just needs to fuss occasionally to show everyone that he’s still in charge.

•   He will never do anything more than whine with me. I’m too important here.

•   I’m tired of his complaints and don’t pay any attention to him anymore.

•   Must not be that important. I never get written up about it.

•   And….blah, blah, blah!

Like me, I hope you understand and appreciate the psychology involved with formal written warnings. More often than not, something that is received in writing carries far more weight to it than just the spoken word. Written warnings convey a higher sense of importance and seriousness; afford an opportunity for the employee to fully read and understand the issue; understand what the consequences will be in the future if improvement does not take place and creates a lasting record that the matter was indeed discussed. Like an official ceremony, even the act of the manager, employee and witness signing the disciplinary document adds to its impact and significance.

Contrary to what some managers may believe, written warnings often have a long term positive result. It’s not just done in cases where you want to get rid of the employee. In fact, I’ve even seen employees receive a final written warning and then turn their job performance completely around. Putting it in writing did give these employees a true chance to improve and they got the message and are still working for the company in a positive and productive way. Without that written letter, who knows what would have happen? In my view, in cases of ongoing performance/behavioral issues, it doesn’t seem fair to dismiss a long term employee without first providing a clearly written final warning letter. That letter could explain that “failure to improve may result in more severe disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment. This is your final warning so please let that guide your actions accordingly”.

In summary, when you have ongoing performance or behavioral problems with an employee, don’t just fuss with the employee about it and necessarily think that things will change one day. To be more effective, treat the employee fairly by putting those concerns in writing in a formal way. And don’t forget this because it’s really important!

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As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator MBTI).


You Will Be Hearing From My Lawyer!

May 25, 2011

You Will Be Hearing From My Lawyer!
By Jim Guttmann, SPHR

It probably wouldn’t surprise you to hear that as a Human Resources Manager, I sometimes deal with irate employees or upset former employees. During our conversations some may even say, “I’ve had it! You will be hearing from my lawyer!” For many folks hearing those words, it may elicit feelings of anger or maybe terror. The thought of hearing from an attorney can be a bit daunting or threatening. After all, aren’t these individuals the ones that go around “slapping” folks with subpoenas? Sounds scary to me!

All kidding aside, oddly enough the first thought that enters my mind when I hear those words is “family.” You see, that’s because I have so many family members that are attorneys (e.g. my brother, a couple of cousins in town and several nieces and nephews in various parts of the country). This fact of having so many family members in the profession either provides “bragging rights” or becomes an opportunity to hear a lot of lawyer jokes, depending on the individual’s point of view. From all my experiences with attorneys (family members or otherwise), I really haven’t had any scary experiences except a few that I had with my older brother when we were boys. And that was just the usual stuff like being electrocuted, having spears thrown at me and being suffocated!

Yes, from my experiences I’ve found attorneys to usually be very nice people with two other main characteristics. The first is that they are often very bright. They have an ability to grasp issues quickly and demonstrate outstanding analytical skills. More importantly, my experience has been that they are very respectful of others — even those who have differing views and opinions from their own. Maybe that hasn’t been everyone’s experience but I haven’t personally encountered a rude attorney yet.

Going back to the situation of the irate employee, my response to the individual is to recognize his or her right to seek legal advice. For the individual, that validates a feeling of entitlement that he or she has anyway. I also provide some information as to what he or she might need to share with the attorney. In fact, these are matters that a good attorney would ask. The attorney may want to know if the company has an internal complaint procedure for resolution of issues and, if so, how that procedure works. At Landrum, we have an Open Door procedure that works quite well for our clients and their employees. In an effective open door process, individuals have a right to bring forward any legitimate complaint or concern and know that they will be heard, treated fairly and will not face retaliation for coming forward. We try to work through disagreements to find solutions that our clients and their employees understand and “can live with.” Without a doubt, having an individual take advantage of the company’s internal complaint procedure saves time and expense for everyone in the long run. Here is a sample procedure:

Open Door Procedure

1. First, discuss the problem or complaint with your immediate supervisor.

2. If not successful at the first step, you may discuss the problem with your department head.

3. Third, you may contact the Human Resources Director. The company will make every effort to resolve the situation, but we have to be made aware of the problem to be able to assist you.

4. Finally, if you are not satisfied with the answer you receive in the third step; please submit your problem or complaint in writing, within three days of notification of the decision at the third step, to the President who will advise you of a final decision.

Note:
If you feel uncomfortable discussing a problem or complaint within your department, you may skip the first two steps and proceed with step three, contacting the Human Resources Director. Employees who bring forth complaints in good faith will be protected against retaliation. Of course, you are always free to contact human resources regarding any problem that you have, even if it is personal in nature.

In summary, when managers are faced with a comment from an employee who feels a need to consult with an attorney, just work with it. Acknowledge the individual’s right to do so but also express that there is an internal process that your company uses for resolutions of complaints. It may turn out that the attorney could actually help in the matter and the results won’t be scary after all.

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Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



Falling “In Love” With Your Boss

May 18, 2011

Falling “In Love” With Your Boss
By Jim Guttmann, SPHR

Let your imagination run rampant for a moment as we have a little fun. As an employee of Good Grief, Inc., you have fallen madly “in love” with your boss and you’re living together in a romantic relationship. I realize that it may be hard to believe, but your co-workers are not exactly enthralled with this idea. As an employee, you do only what’s minimally required – just enough to get by. After all, what boss is going to fire his/her sweetheart? On the other hand, your co-workers are a highly self-motivated and dedicated group of professionals. As time goes on there is a promotional opportunity within the department. Get this… Even though you are clearly the least qualified of those that apply from within the department, you get the job! This really aggravates your co-workers of both genders, who head out en masse to file charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for “sexual harassment” or “hostile work environment” against Good Grief.

You can relax, now. Remember this is only a hypothetical scenario, but let’s keep imagining about what happens next. EEOC listens to their complaints about unacceptable favoritism afforded to you merely because of your romantic relationship with the boss. The employees, however, are not going to be very happy about what the EEOC may have to say. The group hears that EEOC and the federal and state courts have pretty uniformly held that an employer is not liable under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, if an employee receives preferential treatment because of a consensual office romance with a supervisor. Under the circumstances described, the relationship is voluntary; consensual; there is no submission to sexual advances or sexual favors in return for employment benefits; and no evidence exists that a relationship between employee and supervisor is a term and condition of employment. The EEOC has declared that Title VII does not prohibit isolated instances of preferential treatment based on consensual romantic relationships. To the contrary they have said, “An isolated instance of favoritism to a ‘paramour’ (or a spouse, or a friend) may be unfair, but it does not discriminate against women or men in violation of Title VII, since both are disadvantaged for reasons other than their genders”.

So, can we conclude that office romance between employee and supervisor is “no big deal?” Well, it may certainly be a big deal to the staff who resent the favoritism shown by the supervisor. It would be difficult to measure the degree of disruption the relationship causes in the workplace.

Beyond that, however, what if the nature of the romantic relationship changes? It may become an entirely different matter with EEOC if one party or the other breaks off the relationship. If the employee becomes the “jilted” party, will he or she possibly then maintain that the relationship was never consensual and that sexual advances or sexual favors were expected in return for employment benefits? Or if the supervisor is the jilted one, will he or she take some kind of retaliatory action in the future that will put the company at risk? Under either of these two scenarios, there is a distinct possibility of a claim of “quid pro quo” (a Latin term meaning “this for that”) sexual harassment. Quid pro quo harassment occurs when employment decisions or expectations (hiring, promotions, salary increases, shift or work assignments, performance standards, termination, etc.) are based on an employee’s submission to or rejection of sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other behavior of a sexual nature.

This whole situation can get even worse. What if Good Grief’s culture develops such that multiple romantic relationships of this kind occur in the workplace and employees suspect that entering into a romantic relationship with the boss becomes a way to get ahead? This creates a potential for employees not involved in a workplace romance to establish that there is hostile work environment discrimination based upon gender-based favoritism bestowed on those who were romantically linked with a supervisor.

In summary, today’s “fling” can be tomorrow’s “filing” and the evil cousin of office romance has the potential to develop into a sexual harassment lawsuit. Office romances can represent a slippery slope. If they should occur in your workplace, it is highly recommended that you seek the advice of a human resources professional or legal counsel to reduce the likelihood of litigation arising from workplace relationships. Doing so will in all likelihood prevent your company from experiencing the grief of Good Grief!

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Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



The Power From Within
May 10, 2011, 10:24 am
Filed under: Human Resources, Notes from Jim | Tags: ,

May 10, 2011

The Power From Within
By Jim Guttmann, SPHR

In today’s world it seems that many of us have a lot of reasons to be pessimistic. After all, we just have to turn on the T.V. and hear world, national and local news that may cause us to feel despondent. Additionally, some of us may also bear the burden of personal loss due to loved ones that have passed away, broken relationships, financial problems, work issues, etc. You can easily find good people who carry those burdens on a daily basis because they often wear what appears to be a continuous frown on their faces. Perhaps unknowingly, these individuals may not realize that the look on their faces does not appear very welcoming to others.

When these same individuals find themselves in positions where customer service is an integral part of the job, it is a cause of concern for an employer. To help these good folks out, what suggestions can we offer that will bring them out of this funk? One suggestion is to use a “special power” found within each of us. In fact, in my view, it is one of the most powerful resources that we all share as human beings. It doesn’t cost anything and you don’t have to hold a special status in life to access it. It is a smile! What’s fascinating about a smile is the profound affect that it has from two standpoints:

1. When you smile, interesting things will happen within you. Not everyone realizes it but facial expressions do not merely signal what one feels. They actually contribute to that feeling! It has been measured by numerous research studies that subjects instructed to force smiles onto their faces reported feeling happier than their non-grinning counterparts did. Although the smiling subjects in the research knew that they were “acting” the part, their bodies didn’t; and so their bodies responded accordingly. So, you can start to feel better and improve your mood by simply smiling!

2. When you smile, interesting things happen to others around you. For instance, have you noticed that smiling may break an “invisible” barrier between you and others, even strangers? Try it! When you smile at someone, almost inevitably, an individual will smile back at you. In a 2002 study performed in Sweden, researchers confirmed what many of us intuitively know. Subjects who were shown pictures found it easy to frown at a frowning face and smile at a smiling face. When asked to respond in the opposite manner to the expressions displayed in the image, individuals had a more difficult time doing so. It wasn’t as easy to frown when faced with a person smiling at you! From the standpoint of customer relations and other areas of your life, that has huge implications, doesn’t it?

In fact, on numerous occasions, I’ve been in meetings in which a person’s smile
served to diffused what otherwise would have been a tense situation. For me personally, when I see a smile on someone’s face it sends some subtle messages. That person:

Genuinely likes herself or himself
Lives in the present moment and is at peace with current surroundings
Finds me interesting and likeable
Welcomes me to join him or her in that same state of mind

In “The Definitive Book of Body Language “ authors Alan and Barbara Pease explain that people have a hard-wired “mirroring” instinct. We mirror the expressions that we see on other people’s faces when we meet them. Because of the effects that smiles have on us this can have a very powerful effect on your everyday interactions. Studies have shown that when you smile during an encounter with someone else, your encounter will run more smoothly and be likely to have a more positive outcome.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling blue, draw upon these lyrics from an old Nat King Cole song and find that power from within. Smile! You will feel better for doing it and others around you, including customers, will be smiling too!

Smile
Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile

( “Smile” is a song, originally used as an instrumental theme in the soundtrack for the 1936 Charlie Chaplin movie Modern Times. Chaplin composed the music. While some believe the words were written by John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons. Recorded in 1954 by Nat King Cole. [Wikipedia] )

____________________________________________________________________________________

Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



EEOC’s Final Regulations for Americans with Disabilities
April 19, 2011, 9:48 am
Filed under: Human Resources, Notes from Jim | Tags: ,

April 19, 2011

EEOC’s Final Regulations for Americans with Disabilities
by Jim Guttmann, SPHR

In our July 26th blog, Yvonne Nellums, Landrum Professional’s Human Resources Director explained how the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) and the ADA amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) have served to change how people with disabilities are viewed and treated.

Yvonne also explained that these acts ensure that those with genuine disabilities are not deprived of their rights to employment, public accommodations, telecommunications, and public transportation and services and that the meaning of “disability” is not so narrowly construed as to exclude individuals that the law was originally intended to protect.

Okay, so it took 20 years for legislators to get it right and finally come up with laws that completely explain what is required of all parties involved. Let’s celebrate! Well, not so fast! With any law that is passed, it is almost inevitable that there are practical questions that arise as to how it is going to really work in the real world. Yes, there is a need for practical guidance on what to do and how to do it so that employers can have some degree of confidence that they are truly in compliance with the laws.

Enter the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC is the agency charged with enforcing federal laws (e.g. ADA and ADAAA) that prohibit job discrimination. When the ADA amendments Act of 2008 was passed, it also included a requirement that the EEOC enact new regulations consistent with the purpose and goals of the ADAAA.

In 2009, the EEOC published proposed rules and invited public comment. In March of this year, the EEOC’s final regulations were approved by a bi-partisan vote and were published in the Federal Register. Here is a Fact Sheet on the EEOC’s Final Regulations Implementing the ADAAA.

So, with all this clarity, what should a supervisor do when dealing with an employee who may have a disability or is viewed to have a disability at work. My advice to you is that you should immediately contact a human resources professional or legal counsel for guidance. Why? Because this is a matter that can be very complicated because the circumstances of any given situation have to be considered on its own merit. There are no “one size fits all” guidelines that can be applied to every specific situation. However, here are some overall tips that may help keep you from running afoul with this updated law:

1. Don’t be too quick in determining that an employee’s condition would not be covered by this law. The ADAAA significantly expanded the definition of “disability”.

2. Don’t only look at an individual’s medical condition in making an employment decision unless the employee’s medical condition really does prevent him or her from effectively performing the job or clearly threatens him or her co-workers’ health and safety.

3. Before making any reasonable accommodations, request documentation from a qualified medical professional unless the disability is obvious or for some other reason you don’t question it.

4. Engage in what the EEOC refers to as an “interactive process”. This means simply sitting down with the employee and discussing reasonable accommodation options and brainstorming, if necessary. Through this process, you may find an inexpensive and simple accommodation or the employee may admit that no accommodation is possible.

5. When exploring reasonable accommodation options, follow the EEOC’s recommended priority: (1) Can employee be accommodated in his/her current job? (2) If not, consider transferring him/her to a position similar to the old job (3) If not possible, consider transfer to a different position (4) If not possible, place on medical leave (giving full rights under FMLA as applicable) and (5) Only if all four options are not possible, should you consider terminating an employee.

6. Don’t make accommodations that you don’t have to make. You’re not required to create a job, displace another employee, promote the disabled employee or eliminate essential functions as reasonable accommodations. On the other hand, being flexible in providing personal equipment may be the easier and less expensive solution.

7. Understand the difference between “light duty” and reasonable accommodation. Light duty is intended to keep the employee involved in the workplace while recuperating from injury, usually a workers compensation injury. Employers can put a limit on the amount of light duty they will allow or change the conditions associated with it. Reasonable accommodation differs in that it involves changes to a job so that a person with a disability can perform its essential functions. Reasonable accommodations are mandated by law and an employer does not have the right to impose a time limit or establish a maximum number of reasonable accommodations that it will make. The duty to accommodate may last as long as the employee is in the workplace, and if conditions change over time, it may require adjustments to those conditions.

In summary, when an employee is faced with a truly disabling condition, the employer should explore all possible avenues for accommodating the employee, provided that the employee can still perform the essential functions of the job. Due to the complexity of these situations in terms of (1) what’s recognized as a disability and (2) what constitutes a reasonable accommodation for an employer, we strongly encourage you to seek the advice of a Human Resources Professional or Legal Counsel.

Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).



15 Qualities of Successful Teamwork

What are the Qualities of Great Teams?
by Jim Guttmann, SPHR


In my view, during the course of our working careers we derive a lot of satisfaction from three primary areas. I believe that these are the things that get us out of the bed in the morning and excited about coming to work:
1. First of all, it is what we are able to accomplish on an individual basis in terms of personal growth and development.

2. Another major satisfier can be those occasions when we have been a mentor to others, which helps those folks become the best that they can be.

3. Finally, there are instances in which we are part of highly successful teams that achieve great things.

When thinking about great team work, several examples stand out in my mind. Of course it’s easy to see the obvious ones in the sports world where players understood their roles, put their personal egos aside and worked together unselfishly toward winning a championship.

On a more personal basis, the Little League softball team that I once coached years ago had young boys and girls who would pick each other up with shouts of encouragement. It was fun to watch the development of each player and how their “baby steps” contributed to the overall success of the team. As one would expect, the smiles on the faces of their parents were priceless!

Another time I was part of a project team that worked long hours together to achieve an important goal. In fact, it required an Engineer to occasionally drop everything to help an HR Manager pass out forms and then, in turn, for the HR Manager to assist the Facilities Manager with inventory, etc. You get the idea. There wasn’t such a thing as “that’s not my job.” Members of this project team each had an “attitude”. The attitude was that each team mate will do whatever it takes so that the project is completed in a superior manner and ahead of schedule – thereby exceeding customer expectations. That was yet another priceless moment!

Not surprisingly, I’ve found some common qualities of these great teams. I’d like to share with you my list of qualities of highly successful and enjoyable teams. Each team member….

Is encouraged to provide input into the team’s focus and direction.

Feels comfortable discussing most anything with other members of the team – even when they don’t necessarily see “eye to eye” on all issues.

Fully trusts the other team members.

Will take up any problem with a team mate directly, rather than cause disruption within the team by talking to others about it.

Will not openly make derogatory comments about another team mate or contribute to a rumor mill.

Fully supports a final decision made regarding the team’s direction, even in instances when he/she didn’t initially advocate it.

Feels appreciated for what he/she contributes to the team’s success and is respected by other team members.

Recognizes that diversity in thought, skills and abilities brings value to the overall team.

Recognizes that personal goals shouldn’t take precedence over team goals – especially when some of the personal goals don’t clearly contribute to overall team success.

Is quick to give credit to other team members whose contributions are “behind the scenes” and will never improperly take credit for what others have done.

Recognizes that everyone’s contribution is important and matters – not just the ones that stand out as stars of the team.

Constantly strives to improve so as to make an even stronger contribution to the success of the team.

Will willingly “chip in” and help another member of the team when needed.

Has a good sense of humor; can laugh at oneself and our “shared humanity”. Does not take himself or herself too seriously.

Relishes in the success of other team members – recognizing that when one succeeds, all succeed. After all, everyone’s positive contribution makes the team look good!

Now that I’ve shared my list of qualities of great teams, do you think that I’ve left any off the list? If so, please send us your thoughts or tell us about your great team experiences. We would love to hear from you!

One of the ways we’ve seen that can take your team from “good” to “great” is using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) as a means to explore ways in which teams can better communicate, share information, make good decisions and, of course, work better together. If you’re interested in discussing how MBTI can help you and your team, click here.

Jim Guttmann, SPHR

As a Landrum Professional Human Resources Manager, Jim is certified as a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) and has over 20 years of HR generalist experience for a large government contractor and Fortune 500 Company. He holds a Masters in Business Administration from Florida State University and is an active member of the Greater Pensacola Chapter of the Society for Human Resources Management (GPCSHRM), previously serving as their Vice President of Information Services and Chairman of the Workplace Diversity Committee. Jim is also certified as a County Mediator and in the administration of the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).




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