Employee gender-identity matters must be considered in company policy and procedures

Although there are currently no federal laws that protect gender identity, more and more states are adopting gender identity laws.  Regardless, it is widely considered sex discrimination when someone is treated differently for failing to conform to sex stereotypes or for changing their sex.

This can be an uncomfortable area for employers that may be new to the types of situations that present themselves.

Consider these matters as you look at your business policies as it relates to gender identity:

  • How do you handle coworkers that feel uncomfortable around a transgender employee?
  • What about your dress code?
  • And what about the restroom situation?

Take care not to address coworker concerns by putting restrictions on the transgender employee.  Aside from the fact that ALL employees must be treated with dignity and respect, an employer’s reasoning that actions taken were to appease the general employee population won’t protect you from an unlawful discrimination claim.

One of the first stages for transgender or gender-transitioning employees is to live and work full-time in the clothes of the target gender. The company’s dress codes should be applied to gender-transitioning employees in the same way they are applied to other employees of that gender. Dress codes should not be used to prevent transgender employees from living full-time in the role consistent with their gender identity.

Although multiple-occupant gender-segregated restroom facilities are the most common, employers may want to consider a single-occupant, gender-neutral restroom, much like the “family restrooms” that are becoming common in public places.  However, be cautious of requiring the transgender employee to use a unisex bathroom if gender-specific bathrooms are available.

As always, the BCN Human Resources team is available to discuss specific situations in your workplace and help guide you with any and all employee matters.

 

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Take steps to curtail workplace gossip and the problems it causes

Gossip means different thing to different people. To some, it refers only to malicious or actionable talk about someone beyond the person’s hearing while others believe that gossip involves just untrue tales and still others think it can include truthful remarks. Another belief considers gossip to be any talk of a person’s or institution’s affairs — whether personal or professional, harmless or slanderous.

Unfortunately, gossip is rampant in most workplaces. Sometimes, it may seem as if employees have nothing better to do than gossip about each other. They talk about the company, their coworkers and their managers.

Dangers of Gossip
Some negative consequences of workplace gossip include:

  • Erosion of trust and morale
  • Lost productivity and wasted time
  • Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without clear information as to what is and isn’t fact
  • Divisiveness among employees as people take sides
  • Hurt feelings and reputations
  • Attrition due to good employees leaving the company because of an unhealthy work environment

How and when do you manage workplace gossip?

The key is to know when the gossip has gotten out of hand. You need to act if the gossip is:

  • disrupting the workplace and the business of work,
  • hurting employees’ feelings,
  • damaging interpersonal relationships, or
  • Injuring employee motivation and morale.

Gossip should be managed exactly as you would manage any other negative behavior from an employee in your workplace. Use a coaching approach, when possible, to help the employee improve his or her behavior.

But, when needed, gossip management starts with a serious talk between the employee and the manager or supervisor. If this discussion of the negative impacts of the employee’s gossip has no effect on subsequent behavior, begin the process of progressive discipline with a verbal warning, then a formal written verbal warning for the employee’s personnel file.

If you decisively deal with gossip, you will create a work culture and environment that does not support gossip.

Do you need help managing a workplace issue such as excessive gossip or other bad behavior? BCN Services can help you assess your situation and develop an action plan and set appropriate policies to avoid future problems. Contact us for assistance by calling 800-891-9911.

 

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Lisandra Quinones, Human Resource Administrator

Most interns must be paid, but federal law allows certain exceptions

The summer internship season is upon us and if you’re considering bringing an intern onboard you may be asking yourself whether or not you must pay him or her.

Generally speaking, internships in the for-profit business sector are most often viewed by the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service as employment, and therefore, the intern must receive at least minimum wage and overtime for hours worked over 40 in a workweek.

There are some exceptions to this general rule.  The Department of Labor has set forth a test with six criteria that should be considered when determining whether or not an intern should be paid:

1. The internship, even though it includes actual operation of the facilities of the employer, is similar to training given in an educational environment;

2. The internship experience is for the benefit of the intern;

3. The intern does not displace regular employees, but works under the close supervision of existing staff;

4. The employer that provides the training derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern and, on occasion, its operations may actually be impeded;

5. The intern is not necessarily entitled to a job at the conclusion of the internship; and

6. The employer and the intern understand that the intern is not entitled to wages for the time spent in the internship. (Source: DOL Fact Sheet #71)

If all of the above rules are met, under the Fair Labor Standards Act there would be no employment relationship and minimum wage and overtime regulations would not apply.

Because this exclusion does not apply in all circumstances, we encourage you to contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 for help in determining whether or not your summer intern should receive regular wages.

 

 

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Alicia Jester, Manager Benefits and Payroll

Safety workplace boosts morale, lessons on employee absences and turnover

A safe work environment can boost employee morale which, in turn, increases productivity, efficiency and profit margins.

When people are working in a good, safe environment, they feel that they can make a difference. There are fewer staff absences, less staff turnover and an improved quality of work.

In addition to costs directly related to a Workers’ Compensation claim, there are indirect costs that follow workplace injury incidents, including lost productivity that occurs when people must deal with an incident. The experience that an injured worker and co-workers have during an employer’s response can have a lasting impact on employee morale. How the investigation of an incident is handled will determine if the impact is positive or negative.

When it is determined to be a work-related accident, an investigation will be required to mitigate future injuries and assure workers that you take accidents seriously. A starting point is to implement BCN Service’s Effective Accident Investigation Program. Accidents occur when something deviates from the norm. Proper and thorough accident investigation will help identify the change leading to the incident or accident. Once the cause of the accident is identified, procedures can be established to help ensure similar accidents are not repeated and return the worksite to a productive environment.

Another positive impact on employee morale is an effective Return to Work program. Returning employees to work quickly and providing positive communication and assistance during the rehabilitation process has always been an important aspect of a successful Workers’ Compensation program. Research consistently shows that injured employees whose companies offer Return to Work programs recover faster, and are released from medical care sooner.

No matter how safe a worksite, accidents can still happen. With BCN Service’s trained professionals you can reduce accident cost and increase employee morale.

 

 

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Robert Coston, Account Executive

Though employees generally don’t understand labor law, many assume that they do

Frequently we hear employees claim that the “Labor Board” requires the employer to pay for lunches, provide paid vacations, sick days or other benefits. They also may claim that you cannot require them to work overtime hours.  Federal requirements for employers are regulated by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). These federal requirements are actually quite limited.

As an employer, the FLSA requires employers to pay their employees minimum wage (currently $7.25 per hour) and overtime at the rate of 1 1/2 times the employee’s regular rate of pay.

Under federal law employers are NOT required to provide:

  • Vacations
  • Holidays
  • Sick Pay
  • Premium pay for weekend, holiday or shift work (beyond the required time and one-half for hours worked over 40 in one week)
  • Pay raises (unless to comply with minimum wage requirements under the law)
  • Other fringe benefits, except as required under the Affordable Care Act
  • Discharge notices, reason for discharge or immediate payment of wages upon termination.
  • Lunches (paid or unpaid)
  • Breaks  (however, if you proved breaks of 20 minutes or less that time is compensable)

Additionally the FLSA does not limit the number of hours you can schedule or require an employee to work, either daily or weekly, including overtime as long as you pay time and one-half for time worked in excess of 40 hours. Note: this only applies to employees 16 years of age or older.

That said, many states, and some cities have passed or are considering legislation that will add requirements for employers. For example, many states and cities have higher minimum wage rates than the federal government. Most states have youth labor laws that limit the number of hours that minors may work. Some states require payment of final wages immediately upon termination. A few states require paid breaks and/or lunches and some states require overtime (time and one-half) for hours worked in excess of 8 hours per day rather than 40 hours per week.  Several cities and a few states have passed paid sick leave requirements.

Additionally, for those working under federal contracts, an Executive Order from the President has raised minimum wage for employees covered under those contracts.

In cases where there is a difference between federal and state laws, the law that benefits the employee will always take precedence.

There continue to be changes that may impact employers on national and state and local levels. BCN Services monitors the ever-changing scope of legal requirements for our clients and will keep you apprised of anything that impacts your business. If you have specific questions regarding employer’s requirements under federal, state or local government regulations, please contact your Partnership Manager. If you are an employer that does not currently work with us, please contact us for assistance or more information.

 

 

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Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager