What’s trending in human resources approaches, policies and good management practices.

Michigan voted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana. Now what?

On Nov. 6, 2018, Michigan residents voted to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use, the first state in the Midwest to do so. What does this mean for employers? Generally, they have the right to maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance policy against drug and alcohol use. But that may change over time as courts weigh in on varying laws in state and federal jurisdictions.

 

The new law allows individuals age 21 and older to purchase, possess and use marijuana and marijuana-infused edibles. Adults can grow up to 12 marijuana plants (keeping a maximum of 10 ounces) for their own consumption.

Although the referendum calls for the law to take effect 10 days after election results are certified, marijuana is not expected to be available commercially for quite some time. The state puts regulations and licensing in place and local municipalities decide whether to allow such businesses in their communities.

Michigan police agencies must also consider how law enforcement procedures will change with the new law. A number of Michigan universities have also released policy statements regarding marijuana use on campus.

Weed in the workplace: What Michigan employers can do

In a recent blog posting, experts at the Varnum Law Firm state that ” The MRTMA does not restrict a private employer’s right to maintain and enforce a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol policy.”

In other words, employees can still be fired (or not hired) for a positive drug test. Employers may continue to perform pre-employment and random drug tests on employees and maintain zero-tolerance policies. This new referendum will not protect job applicants or employees who test positive for marijuana use.

But keep in mind that prospective employees may still file a discrimination claim if their employment offer is rescinded. In a Connecticut case, for example, a prospective employee using medical marijuana for PTSD treatment filed a discrimination case using the premise of a state law that prohibits employers from discriminating on that basis. The plaintiff won a summary judgment in that case.

Individual Michigan employers must consider whether to maintain zero-tolerance drug policies or create more tolerant guidelines. Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure pre-employment drug-testing policies and employee handbook reflect the times. A policy needs to be in place making it crystal clear that employees are prohibited from being impaired by marijuana while on the job, legal or not.

We recommend that employers focus on prohibiting employees from being impaired due to alcohol/marijuana use while working instead of focusing on marijuana use in and of itself. By focusing on impairment instead of use, employers will minimize the likelihood of conflicting with state “lawful use” laws.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law

For employers with federal contracts or with employees licensed through federal agencies, there is no gray area. Marijuana is an illegal substance under federal law and, thus, a zero-tolerance drug policy will apply. For employers facing significant safety and health risks, drug testing is imperative.

Employers not facing significant safety and health risks from impaired employees may decide drug testing risks outweigh potential benefits. In states where recreational marijuana is already legal, a growing number of companies are asking the lab to test for all drugs except marijuana. For example, in Nevada, where marijuana was legalized in 2017, the number of companies asking that marijuana be included in workplace drug testing dropped from 95 percent in 2016 to 91 percent in 2017.

More information here: Listen to an interview on WDET with updates about the new law.

Do you need help considering the marijuana issue in your workplace policies? The specialists at BCN Services are happy to help you craft or revise a policy. We can help with everything from developing policies and handbooks, to handling safety training, payroll and HR reporting. Contact BCN Services at 1-800-891-9911 or contact us electronically.

Photo Credit: Photo by Roberto Valdivia on Unsplash

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Be aware of voter leave laws, talk with staff before Tuesday

With voter turnout expected to be higher than ever at the polls for 2018 mid-term elections on November 6, some employers may wonder about their obligation to employees.

While there is no federal law mandating time off for voting, nearly half of U.S. states provide a voter leave law (either paid or unpaid).

Employers in states with paid voter leave laws (Illinois and Minnesota, for example) should familiarize themselves with the leave law before employees request time off to vote. Some of these laws have specific details related to requesting of time and how much time must be paid.

Other states (such as Michigan and Indiana) don’t require employers to give time off, however, it is a best practice to encourage employees to make time to vote. Employers may want to consider adding a policy addressing time off for voting, depending upon their specific situation.

If you are an employer that operates in more than one state, experts suggest that you either maintain one policy that complies with all state laws or implement a general policy that denotes local laws will prevail.

Regardless of the laws in your state, managers can take a proactive role by talking to their staff before Tuesday. To maximize office coverage, find out if some employees can vote on the way in to work, some on the way home from work and, depending on logistics, maybe some during an extended lunch period. Advanced planning can be key in making your employees’ work day smoother both in and out of the office.

Not sure of the laws in your state(s)? Would you like assistance in creating a voter leave announcement or a policy for your employee handbook? Contact your HR experts at BCN Services to discuss your individual situation.

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Sue Kester, HR Manager

Is it legal for employees to record in the workplace? It depends.

There have been a number of high profile news stories lately regarding audio or video recordings in the workplace, including recently released conversations from former White House special assistant Omarosa Manigualt Newman and a viral video of conditions at a Popeyes Chicken franchise in the metro Detroit area.

As an employer, this may have left you wondering if it is legal for your employees to record conversations with their supervisors or other coworkers. It depends on a few factors:

  • What is the law in your state? Most states, including Michigan, only require the consent of one party in a conversation to legally record. In other words, an employee may legally record a conversation they are a party to without giving the employer notice. This is known as “One-Party Consent.” There are 12 states, which require either “All-Party Consent” or “Two-Party Consent” to record a conversation, meaning that everyone involved in the conversation or phone call must give consent before any recording begins.
  • Does your company have a policy for workplace recordings? Many employers have company policies prohibiting the recording of conversations with managers, co-workers or customers. These policies are permissible as long as they are not overbroad and do not violate an employee’s rights under the National Labor Relations Act for protected concerted activities such as documenting unsafe working conditions or federal and state whistleblowing laws.
  • Does the recording contain private information? Even in a One-Party-Consent state, the disclosure of confidential information, such as information covered under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, may violate common law privacy rights.

Most employees have easy access to a recording device through a smartphone, so there are a few steps employers should take to minimize legal exposure:

  1. Train supervisors and managers who may need to have tough conversations with employees in performance reviews, disciplinary actions or terminations so that they are cautious in what they say and stick to the facts of the situation.
  2. Develop a workplace recording policy if you don’t yet have one and include it in your employee handbook. It should define legitimate business reasons for the policy (for example, protection of proprietary information) and should not allow an employee to reasonably interpret the policy as prohibiting them from protected activity under the NLRA.

Do you need more information about this topic or help developing a handbook policy regarding workplace recording? BCN Services can assist you with this or with a supervisory training program. For more information, contact us at 1-800-891-9911.

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Alicia Freeman, Operations Manager

Many Young Adults Are Making Smart Financial Moves

slavik_9-20-18 img 1Millennials are optimistic about retirement, according to a recent report from Charles Schwab. Specifically, 76 percent of surveyed young adults said that they believe they will have a better financial future than their parents, and the average Gen-Y respondent expects to retire at age 60. The latter is a somewhat ambitious goal considering that it would mean exiting the workforce five years earlier than the traditional age of retirement, even as many financial experts are now recommending waiting until age 70.

Delaying retirement, if possible, can be a smart decision since it will help ensure that you receive the maximum Social Security benefit and also provide a few more working years (income) to pad your nest egg. While postponing retirement could therefore put many Millennials on a firmer financial standing in old age, one reason why some of the respondents in the Schwab poll might still be able to achieve a comfortable retirement as early as age 60 is because these young adults are already making wise financial moves. For example, 64 percent of surveyed Millennials said that they will often hold off on a discretionary purchase and instead set the money aside for retirement.

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Nearly half of Gen-Y respondents also said that they do additional work to boost their savings, and around one in three reported that they limit their vacations and traveling in order to set more money aside. Similarly, a new Bankrate poll found that Millennials were a lot more likely than other generations to say that they are saving more for retirement today than they were a year ago, and a recent Principal Financial study even found that some young adults are regularly setting aside at least 90 percent of the maximum the IRS will allow to be placed in a 401(k), IRA, and other tax-advantaged savings vehicle each year.

Since only around 9 percent of 401(k) plan participants are estimated to have annual contributions that come within 10 percent of the deferral limit, these “super savers” are likely to be well ahead of the vast majority of Americans in terms of retirement readiness. Jerry Patterson, a senior vice president at Principal Financial, added that “There is no better advice I can give anyone than save more, earlier. These super savers are making sacrifices today that should help set them up to have the freedom to do the things they want in the future.”

 

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Copyright @ 2018 Slavic Investments (http://blog.slavic401k.com/many-young-adults-are-making-smart-financial-moves)Republished with permission.

Would you marry me? Would you hire me? Tips for finding staff with leadership and other key skills

Would you consider marrying someone you have never met before, but looks good on paper? I’m guessing most people would not accept a marriage proposal from someone they have not previous met, even if that person looked great on paper. A job offer is similar in that it can be a potentially life-changing event that needs careful deliberation.

Job interviews provide an opportunity for the employer to assess how well an applicant’s skills align with the company’s needs. Job interviews allow applicants a time to get better acquainted with a prospective company and co-workers.

Traditionally, interviews usually consist of an employer asking applicants about their skills and experience to see if they would be a good fit for the job. Interviews can range from in-person or over the phone, to one-on-one or in group settings. According to a recent Global Recruiting Trends 2018 report, traditional interviewing methods rank especially bad for assessing soft skills and weaknesses.

Learn to assess soft skills and find good team members

These soft skills, such as leadership, relationship building, communications, adaptability, strategic thinking and work ethic, take up to 25 percent of the skills required to do the job and to be a great teammate. Unfortunately, these skills are arguably the most difficult to assess. You can test for soft skills using such tools as a 20-minute survey, which can provide a more objective measure of a person’s traits.

Using interview questions to determine soft skills is another method, but can be difficult, as most candidates prepare for interviews and put on their best front. This makes it difficult to assess soft skills. Also, interviewers sometimes contribute to the assessment problem by how they ask questions. For example, asking, “Are you a team player?” sets the applicant up for answering with a simple “Yes”, which doesn’t offer additional information about their skill set. Below are a few examples of interview questions that can be used to better help assess important soft skills:

Leadership

  • Tell me about a time when your team was in a difficult position and you took the lead.
  • What would you do if your team members disagreed with your instructions?

Teamwork

  • Tell me about a time you dealt with a team member who constantly opposed your ideas.

Communication

  • Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult co-worker.

Adaptability

  • How would you prioritize multiple tasks with the same deadline?

Strategic Thinking

  • Tell me about a time you had to make a decision with incomplete information.
  • If you spotted a mistake in a report but your manager wasn’t available, what would you do?

Work Ethic

  • Tell me about a time you faced an ethical dilemma at work. What steps would you take if you discovered your supervisor was breaking the company’s code of conduct?

The experts at BCN Services are available to help you and your supervisory team develop good interviewing techniques. Contact us for assistance.

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Thom Moore, Partnership Manager

Consider this: Who is your trusted business partner?

Who comes to your mind when you hear the words “Trusted Business Partner”? Many would quickly respond with my “CPA, banker, lawyer, or partner.” These individuals have absolutely earned the title.

You hear about this term often now, because people are working hard to earn this moniker as they realize the impact it has on their business relationships and their clients’ business successes. Typically, these relationships fall into three categories:

  • Transactional: These individuals get things done for you on your terms. You call upon these individuals as needed, and they complete the tasks requested. Few questions are asked of, or leadership and ideas expected from, these individuals.
  • Consultants: These are the individuals you can count on for quality tasks, but who also have demonstrated a solid level of expertise that you need and rely upon. Their expertise gives you confidence which helps you weigh decisions and select the best direction for your business.
  • Trusted Business Partner: These individuals have earned your trust, have strong expertise and are proactive in helping you anticipate your needs and sharing their well-thought-out opinions and guidance. They are knowledgeable about your business goals, focused on helping you achieve them, and are long-term thinkers when considering the impact of change in your organization. They listen, ask insightful questions, and are creative in looking at the status quo and recommending change. These are their strengths. Their opinions, expertise and thought leadership is highly regarded by your managers and executives.

Trusted business partners can help you evolve your business

Trusted business partners can bring you new ideas, offer expanded and new solutions and evolve your business etc. Your Human Resources Partnership Manager (HRPM) at BCN Services is an individual who you can trust to fill this role. Your HRPM understands the value of your time and the impact your employees have on your overall business success.

Get started by communicating your immediate, short/long-term goals and business plans with your HRPM. Keep this communication frequent. Have conversations about trends they are seeing, best practices they suggest and ask for recommendations on changes to your organization.

These regular conversations and their knowledge of your business plan will fuel contributions to help you achieve your goals. Being considered a client’s trusted business partner takes time to achieve, diligence to maintain and enthusiasm to continue but the impact can be irreplaceable. This earned honor is one we take seriously every day at BCN Services. Contact us to assist in moving your business to the next level.

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Corey Decker, Sales Manager

Is hugging in the workplace considered appropriate?

When is it appropriate to hug a colleague or a client? Do you enthusiastically open your arms and move in for a hug, assuming it is alright? Do you wait awkwardly for a colleague or customer to initiate it? Some people are determined huggers and other definitely don’t want to be touched.

Personal interactions in the workplace have taken on a new focus based on recent workplace harassment allegations. First and foremost: Always treat your colleagues and clients with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated, or have your close friends and family treated.

The following are some tips from “Poised for Success” author Jacqueline Whitmore that can help you decide if or when such an action is appropriate.

Pay close attention to body language.
Another person’s body language will tell you whether he or she is willing to accept a hug or not. Pay attention to the person’s stance, body movement, and facial expression. Are the feet pointed toward you or away? Is the person leaning in, or distancing him or herself? Follow your gut feeling about what this person wants and, if there is any doubt, do the following.

Ask permission.
If you want to hug someone and you think it’s welcome, but you aren’t positive, just ask the person “May I give you a hug?” That question indicates both affection and respect for the other person’s feelings and will likely be appreciated.

The only down side to this is that some people may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable saying “no.” So if you’re getting a negative or uncertain vibe before asking, don’t even ask the question. If a person seems uncertain after you ask, distance yourself from the situation either by stepping away or moving on to another subject.

Consider the balance of power — always.
A boss hugging an employee is a very different matter from two business associates hugging at the conclusion of a meeting. Managers should be extremely cautious about hugging.  Because of your status in the office, you may be perceived as using your power to disrespect another person’s boundaries or personal space. A subordinate may feel obligated to reciprocate, even if they feel uncomfortable. For a manager, the safe bet is to not hug an employee under any circumstance.

Consider the occasion.
If you haven’t seen a colleague in a long time, or you’ve just gone through a powerful training or other experience together, or you’re at a celebration, then hugging might be appropriate. The same may apply if the person in question has just had a piece of very good, or very bad, news or is struggling to deal with a difficult situation. If you routinely see this person and nothing our-of-the-ordinary has occurred, then a hug probably isn’t warranted.

Keep it short.
A hug can go from natural to awkward if you keep it going for too long. So make your hugs brief. A duration of no more than three seconds is acceptable.

Most importantly: Err on the side of not hugging.
If you’re not sure whether a hug would be welcome and you don’t think it’s a good idea to ask, then don’t hug. You’ll almost never offend someone with a handshake.

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Lisandra Garrow, Partnership Manager

Office lottery pools can be great fun … as long as rules are followed

As big-game lotteries more frequently have hundreds of millions of dollars in the weekly pot, office lottery pools are becoming commonplace. They can be great fun as employees build camaraderie and add excitement to the work day. Chipping in a few dollars buys a short-term fantasy of winning big with your coworkers. But there are pitfalls to consider before the pool is established and considering what would happen if the pool wins.

Employees should check with Human Resources or Executive staff member to be sure they are agreeable to the use of company email and company time for a pool. Also, if the pool organizers need advice with such an agreement, they may wish to consult with an attorney.

If there’s not too much disruption to the workday, most employers agree that this is a good way to build team spirit and stir up excitement.

When organizing the pool, consider that not everyone will want to play, for a variety of reasons. Their religion may frown upon gambling, they may already be in a pool among family or friends, they may not have the financial freedom to participate, or they may just want to buy their own tickets individually. Be sensitive to these reasons.

When forming a lottery pool, have a trusted, designated person lead the pool. That person, or persons, will be responsible for collecting pool funds and tracking contributions as they come in. There should be rules set for how the money is collected and how tickets will be bought and any winnings distributed. A simple agreement can cover how this would be handled and there are free templates available online. Once an agreement has been written, that can be used as a master template for all pools going forward.

Here are some additional tips for starting the pool and in creating the agreement:

  1. Designate the leader for the pool. That person will oversee collecting the money from individuals and tracking contributions as they come in. If you’re the leader, have an open spreadsheet on your desktop or smart phone to document who contributed. You want to assure participants that their money and any tickets purchased will be kept in a safe place.
  2. As the leader, establish the rules for the game. Write these rules into a written agreement for players to sign as they contribute the funds. The agreement should include:
    1. When the tickets will be bought and for which game and drawing date.
    2. If there are small winnings, how will the winnings be distributed? Will they roll over to the next drawing if there is no big winner, or will the smaller winnings be divided up and distributed. There needs to be 100 percent agreement on this.
    3. If a large jackpot is won, how will the money be taken? Will it be taken in a lump sum or taken in annuities over a defined number of years according to the game rules? Will it be collected by each individual in the game or would there be a trust established? The leader, or any other person in the pool should never agree to taking the winning wholly by themselves, then distributing the money. There are tax implications that can be avoided.
    4. How would media coverage work in the case of a large win? Would you be interviewed as a team or take the winnings individually and try to avoid any media coverage?
    5. To ease an employer’s fears, would employees agree to stay in their positions until sufficient notice can be given and other remaining staff members be trained to take over the winners’ responsibilities?
    6. The agreement should state how the if the numbers will be “easy picks” or some/all selected by the leader and/or participants.
  3. If the leader is buying individual tickets for themselves, they should disclose it. They should be sure to copy the tickets purchased for the pool and distribute copies to each participant before the drawing.

In the amazing event that the office lottery pool hits it big, you’ll want it to be a positive event since everyone’s lives will most likely change, hopefully for the better. It would be unfortunate if the winnings were hung up in court for years because simple rules were not followed. The odds are certainly against this happening, but the fun is real and can be enjoyed by many.

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Frank Lewandowski, Benefits Program Manager

Employers walk a fine line when personal life interferes with work

Because employees spend so much time together, it is sometimes difficult to keep their personal and work lives separate. It isn’t uncommon for co-workers to become friends and to spend time together outside of work. These relationships sometimes invite gossip and workplace drama, so what can an employer do when personal relationships affect the performance and culture within a company?

Here are a few examples of situations that may prompt concern or cause employees to focus on things other than their work tasks:

  • Jim and Betty, coworkers, have dated in the past and then parted amicably. However, now that Jim is dating another co-worker, things don’t seem quite so agreeable between them.
  • Amy and Cara became friends at work and decided to move in together to share expenses. Their personal squabbles about dishes in the sink, overnight guests and splitting expenses are affecting the workplace as colleagues are asked for opinions and are taking sides.
  • Jessica called in sick for her shift on Wednesday, but posted pictures from a concert on Facebook. Her coworker, Robin, saw the post and let Jessica’s supervisor know about it. Now Jessica’s supervisor isn’t sure what action she can take.

What can an employer do in these situations?

Action needed only if workplace performance is involved

First of all, an employer needs to make sure action is taken only on matters that pertain to workplace performance. In the first case, the employer may want to evaluate Jim’s ability as a manager and have Betty report to someone else within the company, if their relationship is becoming a problem or conflict of interest. Gossip itself can be actionable if it becomes harassment.

Another thing to consider is involving a third party in coaching counseling and discipline. Even when addressing performance only, it can be hard for a manager or supervisor to completely separate from workplace gossip and personal feelings.

Another way to help facilitate a change in the workplace environment is to let employees know when their hard work is appreciated and offer incentives for good performance. An encouraging and uplifting policy may remove the focus from the gossip and drama to something more meaningful. This may also be a good time to evaluate the employee goal-setting process and give the employees something to focus on, other than each other. Also, create workplace policies that discourage gossip.

Educate employees about a healthy environment

Educate employees on how harmful workplace drama can be, and confront employees that appear to be “stirring the pot” or creating an uncomfortable work environment for others.

Workplace friendships and other connections are unavoidable, but drama and gossip is not a necessary part of running a business. By encouraging professional behavior and minimizing conflicts of interest, employees are better able to blend their personal and work lives.

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Kari Stanley, Human Resources Customer Care Supervisor

Still Room For Improvement In Americans’ Saving Habits

Saving For RetirementMany financial advisers recommend carrying 3-6 months’ worth of expenses in an emergency fund, but only 39 percent of Americans would be able to cover an unexpected $1,000 outlay with their short-term savings, according to a recent Bankrate survey. Another new poll conducted by Bankrate similarly found that only around half (58 percent) of consumers currently have more emergency savings than what they owe in credit card debt. At the same time, 12 percent of respondents reported having no credit card debt but no savings either.

That agrees with an earlier study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which asked U.S. adults to list their biggest barriers to retirement saving and found that one of most frequent responses was “I prioritize(d) paying down debt.” As for generational differences, Millennials in the Bankrate survey as expected are more likely to have greater credit card debt than savings, but these young adults also appear determined to improve their financial standing. In fact, 61 percent of Gen-Y respondents said that boosting their emergency fund is a top financial priority, including 63 percent of younger Millennials (18-27).

Such statistics are encouraging because the earlier a person can learn the importance of setting money aside for the future the better. Further, having an adequate emergency fund helps decrease the likelihood of being forced to dip into one’s retirement savings early. That is especially important since many Americans are at risk of retiring broke, according to a new report from GoBankingRates. Specifically, 42 percent of surveyed U.S. adults said that they currently have less than $10,000 set aside for retirement, including 14 percent of respondents with absolutely no long-term savings.

On the bright side, those figures are marked improvements from prior surveys, and the percentage of Americans with large savings account balances has grown. Moreover, 57 percent of surveyed Millennials said that they have less than $10,000 in retirement savings, down from 71 percent in 2017, and the percentage of Gen-Y respondents with $300,000 or more set aside has increased from 5 percent to 9 percent. For those whose savings are still lacking, the report’s authors suggest reviewing your spending to see what nonessential expenses can be cut and increasing 401(k) contributions with each pay raise.

 

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Copyright @ 2018 Slavic Investments (http://blog.slavic401k.com/still-room-for-improvement-in-americans-saving-habits)Republished with permission.