Wellness: It’s more than health screenings and smoking-cessation programs

When you think of employee benefits, health care often comes to mind. But there’s so much more to overall employee well-being than just physical health.  

As an employer, what else can you offer besides health insurance to improve employee wellness? Here are three areas where employees could be struggling and what you can do to help, courtesy of our friends at BenefitsPro:

1) Financial health. Some employees spend more time stressing over their financial problems than their personal health. A high majority of employees are financially stressed, feeling like they have low pay and high work-loads. These employees don’t have financial plans and don’t know how to manage their money.

Solution: Try offering financial wellness programs to alleviate employee stress. Seminars on building emergency funds, meeting financial goals and saving for retirement will be a huge help.

2) Social health. This is another component of employee well-being. If employees don’t feel like they’re connected at work, their motivation and productivity will decrease.

Solution: Employers can facilitate company activities such as holiday parties or events that celebrate employees’ achievements. Also, a casual work environment will ensure employees are comfortable collaborating and interacting with each other. If employees make social bonds at work, they’re more likely to stay engaged and invest more in the company.

3) Emotional health. Financial worry isn’t the only stress workers are battling. Many employees are under a lot of pressure at both home and work.

Solution: If your company offers an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), remind them of all the benefits that are at their disposal. Another angle: Give people time to re-charge. Allow employees to take a mental break by working from home, having long lunches and taking vacation days. They’ll be more engaged and productive when they return.

Focusing on financial, social and emotional health will boost employees’ overall physical health.

The best part: Creating programs for your employees will boost their morale, engagement and productivity at work, and you’ll save time and money in the long run.

For more HR News, please visit: Wellness: It’s more than health screenings and smoking-cessation programs

Source: News from HR Morning

EEOC reinterprets the rules: Discrimination against homosexuals now illegal

EEOC reinterprets the rules: Discrimination against homosexuals now illegal

eeoc discrimination

Despite no laws being on the books that specifically ban employers from discriminating against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals, the EEOC has said such bias is now illegal. On what grounds? 

The EEOC reinterpreted the Civil Rights Act somewhat broadly to say that it prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against individuals because of their LGBT status.

As you know, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination “based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin” — and the EEOC now says that sexual orientation is a status protected under “sex” in the law.


In a 3-2 decision handed down in the case of an unnamed air traffic controller versus the Department of Transportation, the EEOC ruled, “Sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex.”

An example provided by the EEOC:

… assume that an employer suspends a lesbian employee for displaying a photo of her female spouse on her desk, but does not suspend a male employee for displaying a photo of his female spouse on his desk. The lesbian employee in that example can allege that her employer took an adverse action against her that the employer would not have taken had she been male.

Translation: The EEOC’s saying the employer took the lesbian worker’s sex into account by treating her differently for associating with a person of the same sex.

Passed over for promotion

The case the EEOC ruled on involved an air traffic controller at the International Airport in Miami. The worker said his supervisor made several negative comments about his sexual orientation and eventually passed him over for a promotion due to his sexual orientation.

The worker filed suit against the Department of Transportation, and the EEOC ruled he has stated a valid claim of discrimination on the basis of sex. As a result, the worker’s case will proceed.

Does it apply to private employers?

The EEOC’s ruling applies to federal employees’ claims directly. But what about private employers …  are they bound to comply with this decision? That’s a question that’s still up in the air.

Federal courts have yet to adopt the ruling — but they do give a lot of weight to federal agencies’ guidance in these areas.

As a result, despite not having more concrete language in the Civil Rights Act nor any Congress-approved changes in federal law, the safest best for employers is to assume courts will follow the EEOC’s lead in this matter.

One thing is for sure: The EEOC will be accepting charges of LGBT discrimination in the private sector and investigating them through the lens of this new ruling.

And if it feels a private sector employee is guilty, it won’t be shy about pressing charges. After all, the agency’s already made it very clear that these kinds of lawsuits are a big part of its ongoing efforts to implement the Strategic Enforcement Plan it adopted in 2012, which lists as a top enforcement priority including “coverage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals under Title VII’s sex discrimination provisions.”

Cite: Complainant v. Foxx (secretary of Department of Transportation)

For more HR News, please visit: EEOC reinterprets the rules: Discrimination against homosexuals now illegal

Source: News from HR Morning

Handling the tricky questions in FMLA intermittent leave

It’s a given: Intermittent FMLA leave is a giant thorn in the side of HR people everywhere. But not all intermittent leave requests are equal. Here’s a look at some of the most common scenarios, and how to handle them.

The FMLA allows employers some flexibility in granting different kinds of intermittent leave. Employees are entitled to take it for serious health conditions, either their own or those of immediate family members.

The law also allows use of intermittent leave for child care after the birth or placement of an adopted child, but only if the employer agrees to it. It’s the company’s call.

It’s not always simple, however.

If the mother develops complications from childbirth, or the infant is born premature and suffers from health problems, the “serious health condition” qualifier would likely kick in. As always, it pays to know the medical details before making a decision.

Eligibility’s not automatic

Companies can successfully dispute bogus employee claims to FMLA eligibility.

Consider this real-life example:

A female employee in Maine said she suffered from a chronic condition that made it difficult to make it to work on time.

After she racked up a number of late arrivals – and refused an offer to work on another shift – she was fired.

She sued, saying her tardiness should have been considered intermittent leave. Her medical condition caused her latenesses, she claimed, so each instance should have counted as a block of FMLA leave.

Problem was, she’d never been out of work for medical treatment, or on account of a flare-up of her condition.

The only time it affected her was when it was time to go to work.

Sorry, the court said. Intermittent leave is granted when an employee needs to miss work for a specific period of time, such as a doctor’s appointment or when a condition suddenly becomes incapacitating.

 That wasn’t the case here, the judge said – and giving the employee FMLA protection would simply have given the woman a blanket excuse to break company rules.

Cite: Brown v. Eastern Maine Medical Center.

Designating leave retroactively

In order to maximize workers’ using up their allotted FMLA leave, employers can sometimes classify an absence retroactively.

Example: An employee’s out on two weeks of vacation, but she spends the second week in a hospital recovering from pneumonia.

Her employer doesn’t learn of the hospital stay until she returns to work. But she tells her supervisor about it, who then informs HR. Within two days, HR contacts the woman and says, “That week you were in the hospital should be covered by the FMLA. Here’s the paperwork.”

The key here is that the company acted quickly – within two days of being notified of the qualifying leave.

The tactic’s perfectly legal, and it could make a difference in the impact FMLA leave time could have on the firm’s overall operation.

It’s also an excellent example of the key role managers play in helping companies deal with the negative effects of FMLA.

Using employees’ PTO

First, a no-no: Employers should never tell workers they can’t take FMLA leave until they’ve used up all their vacation, sick and other paid time off (PTO).

Instead, you can require employees to use their accrued PTO concurrently with their intermittent leave time. Employers can also count workers’ comp or short-term disability leave as part of their FMLA time – but in that case, employees can’t be asked to use their accrued PTO.

The transfer option

Companies can temporarily transfer an employee on intermittent leave, to minimize the effect of that person’s absence on the overall operation.

The temporary position doesn’t need to be equivalent to the original job – but the pay and benefits must remain the same.

And, of course, the employee must be given his old job – or its equivalent – when the intermittent leave period’s over.

A few restrictions: The move can’t be made if the transfer “adversely affects” the individual. Example: The new position would lengthen or increase the cost of the employee’s commute.

Such transfers need to be handled in such a way as to avoid looking like the employer is trying to discourage the employee from taking intermittent leave – or worse yet, is being punished for having done so.

Cooperation, please

Although FMLA is certainly an employee-friendly statute, employers do have some rights when it comes to scheduling intermittent leave. For instance, employees are required to consult with their employers about setting up medical treatments on a schedule that minimizes impact on operations.

Of course, the arrangement has to be approved by the healthcare provider. But if an employee fails to consult with HR before scheduling treatment, the law allows employers to require the worker to go back to the provider and discuss alternate arrangements.

Sometimes, it’s as simple as taking an employee aside and saying, “I know you’ve got to go to physical therapy. But these 10 o’clock appointments are really affecting work flow. Could you see about scheduling them for after work hours?”

The firing question

Yes, companies can fire an employee who’s on intermittent FMLA leave. Despite the fears of many employers, FMLA doesn’t confer some kind of special dispensation for workers who exercise their leave rights.

Obviously, workers can’t be fired for taking leave. But employers can lay off, discipline and terminate those employees who violate company policies or perform poorly.

When an employee on FMLA leave is terminated, the DOL decrees that the burden’s on the employer to prove the worker would have been disciplined or terminated regardless of the leave request or usage.

Reductions in force

When an employer has a valid reason for reducing its workforce, the company can lay off an employee on FMLA leave – as long as the firm can prove the person would have been let go regardless of the leave.

So companies should be prepared not only to prove the business necessity of the move, but to show an objective plan for choosing which employees would be laid off.

Misconduct or poor performance

Employees on FMLA leave – of any type – are just as responsible for following performance and behavior rules as those not on leave.

But companies that fire an employee out on FMLA will be under increased pressure to prove that the decision was based on factors other than the worker’s absence.

And courts might well pose employers a key question: Why didn’t you fire this person before he/she took leave?

That answer’s not always difficult. Many times, employers don’t realize how badly an employee was doing until they see the mess he or she has left behind.

The good news: A number of courts have upheld employers’ rights to fire employees on FMLA leave – even when the employee’s problems were first discovered when the employee went off the job.


For more HR News, please visit: Handling the tricky questions in FMLA intermittent leave

Source: News from HR Morning

IC status? It comes down to a question of ‘economic dependence,’ DOL says

There are a number of different ways for employers to determine whether an individual is a full-time employee or an independent contractor (IC), but is there one single method all companies should be using? In recent guidance, the DOL answered that question with a resounding “yes.”  

The DOL issued a 15-page Administrator’s Interpretation, which was written by DOL administrator David Weil, on how employers should distinguish between employees and contractors and classify accordingly.

Economically dependent or not?

Simply put: Employers should always use the DOL’s “economic realities” test to determine a worker’s classification. This test is designed to determine whether:

  • an employee is economically dependent on the employer, which would make him/her an employee, or
  • the person is in business for himself or herself, which makes him/her an IC.

The economic realities test includes the following six factors that employers can use on a case-by-case basis to pinpoint the correct way to classify an individual:

  1. the extent to which the work performed is an integral part of the employer’s business
  2. the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss depending on his or her managerial skill
  3. the extent of the relative investments of the employer and the worker
  4. whether the work performed requires special skills and initiative
  5. the permanency of the relationship, and
  6. the degree of control exercised or retained by the employer.

‘Most workers are employees’

The DOL’s guidance comes right on the heels of a controversial ruling about worker classification made by California’s Labor Commission. Just last month, the Commission caused quite a stir among employers everywhere when it said that Uber drivers were actually employees and not ICs.

Now it seems like the DOL feels the need to weigh in on the contractor issue.

One major takeaway for employers on the contractor issue is the DOL’s statement that “most workers are employees.” Weil elaborated on this by stating:

In sum, most workers are employees under the FLSA’s broad definitions. The very broad definition of employment under the FLSA as “to suffer or permit to work” and the Act’s intended expansive coverage for workers must be considered when applying the economic realities factors to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. The factors should not be analyzed mechanically or in a vacuum, and no single factor, including control, should be over-emphasized. Instead, each factor should be considered in light of the ultimate determination of whether the worker is really in business for him or herself (and thus is an independent contractor) or is economically dependent on the employer (and thus is its employee).

In short, the guidance serves as an important reminder to employers everywhere — through statements about how most employees are contractors — about just how important it is to be absolutely certain ICs are classified correctly and reminds them the economic realities test is the best way to make that determination.

For more HR News, please visit: IC status? It comes down to a question of ‘economic dependence,’ DOL says

Source: News from HR Morning

Abercrombie settles 7-year-old, religious discrimination case: The cost?

After suffering a defeat at the hands of the Supreme Court in the high-profile religious discrimination case brought against it by former applicant Samantha Elauf, retailer Abercrombie & Fitch has decided to settle with Elauf. 

To end the case, which began in 2008 when the EEOC filed charges on Elauf’s behalf, Abercrombie has agreed to pay $25,670 in damages to Elauf as well as $18,983 in court costs.

According to a statement released by the EEOC, the damages figure is equal to what a jury awarded her in 2011, prior to an appeal by Abercrombie.

Conflict with ‘look policy’

This all started when Elauf applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store in her hometown of Tulsa, OK. Elauf wore a headscarf or hijab as part of her Muslim faith, and she was denied hire for failing to conform to the company’s “look policy,” which banned head coverings.

Elauf filed a charge with the EEOC, which then filed a religious discrimination suit against the company on her behalf.

But Abercrombie prevailed in appeals court by claiming it didn’t have to relax its “Look Policy” because Elauf never asked it to do so — or even mentioned her religion. Abercrombie argued that Elauf needed to provide explicit, verbal notice of a conflict between the policy and her religious practice.

The EEOC then asked the Supreme Court to hear its case, which it did.

The High Court’s verdict came down earlier this summer. In an 8-1 decision, the court ruled Elauf was not required to make a specific request for a religious accommodation.

The court majority said there was enough evidence to show that Abercrombie knew she wore the head scarf as part of her religious practice and refused to hire her to avoid having to accommodate her religious practice.

So the case was remanded back to the appeals court, which was asked to reexamine the case using the High Court’s thinking: If an employer has an idea that an individual would need a religious accommodation, the employer is obligated to explore whether it could reasonably grant such an accommodation.

But before the court could take second look at the case, Abercrombie settled.

In the agency’s statement, EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said:

“We were extremely pleased with the Supreme Court ruling in our favor, which has reinforced our longstanding efforts to enforce Title VII’s prohibition against religious discrimination. We are now even more pleased to have final resolution of this case and to have Ms. Elauf receive the monetary damages awarded to her by a jury in 2011.”

For more HR News, please visit: Abercrombie settles 7-year-old, religious discrimination case: The cost?

Source: News from HR Morning

Why Your Nonexistent Talent Management Strategy Is Costing You Money and How to Fix It

Did you know that without a talent management strategy, a company with 2,000 employees is losing almost $2 million every year in preventable turnover alone? The new eBook, Why Your Nonexistent Talent Management Strategy is Costing You Money – And How to Fix It, shares the alarming hidden costs of managing employees “the way you’ve always done it.” If your organization is still relying on manual processes to save money, this eBook will show you what you may be leaving on the table and steps you can take today to turn that around. You’ll learn how a better talent management strategy can help your company achieve:

  • a 15% increase in earnings
  • more than 2x the median revenue per employee
  • 41% lower turnover rate among high performers

Click here to learn more!  

For more HR News, please visit: Why Your Nonexistent Talent Management Strategy Is Costing You Money and How to Fix It

Source: News from HR Morning

‘You can’t fire me, I’m on FMLA': Was mistake-prone worker correct?

‘You can’t fire me, I’m on FMLA': Was mistake-prone worker correct?

FMLA leave

As you know, taking FMLA leave can’t completely shield an employee from termination, especially when the person’s performance warrants him or her being fired. But the FMLA very much complicates the matter. So what do you need to be able to safely let under-performing FMLA-takers go? 

Answer: Documented evidence that the employer isn’t meeting performance standards.

A recent lawsuit in which the employer’s decision to terminate an employee on intermittent FMLA leave was upheld by a federal appeals court provides a good example of when it’s permissible — and what it takes — to safely let these kinds of workers go.

Multiple stints of FMLA

Elizabeth Burciaga sued her employer, Ravago Americas LLC for FMLA retaliation after she was terminated following several FMLA-related absences.

Burciaga was a customer service representative, who was responsible for contacting sales representatives and customers, receiving and processing orders, scheduling shipments, and resolving customer issues.

She’d been at Ravago for five years, and was considered one of Ravago’s more experienced customer service representatives.

Earlier on in her employment with Ravago, Burciaga had taken FMLA leave on two separate occasions for the birth of her children.

Then, a about year after her last leave, she requested intermittent FMLA leave to help care for her son. Her request was granted, and she took several days off on a somewhat sporadic basis to care for her son.

Ravago never expressed any concerns about Burciaga taking leave.

Mistakes crept in

During the time she was approved for intermittent leave, Burciaga began making mistakes.


  • Burciaga entered an order for 15,000 pounds of material when the customer ordered 22,500 pounds of material
  • She submitted and shipped material under the wrong customer number
  • She shipped the wrong material to a customer, and
  • She shipped the wrong material to a customer again.

A logistics coordinator was able to catch and correct some of these mistakes before customers or the company was affected. But, after being approached by Burciaga’s manager, the logistic coordinator informed him that Burciaga “habitually made shipping errors.”

Her manager then took the matter to upper management, explaining that someone with Burciaga’s experience shouldn’t be making those kinds of mistakes.

Burciaga was terminated. She was told the company couldn’t tolerate continued shipping errors because they could hurt the company’s reputation.

She then sued for FMLA retaliation.

Retaliation a form of discrimination

The court in this case said FMLA retaliation essentially amounts to discrimination — in which an employer takes an adverse action against an employee for exercising a right.

So the employer had to prove it had a nondiscriminatory reason for firing Burciaga.

After reviewing the company’s documentation, which clearly outlined the mistakes she’d made, the court sided with Ravago and dismissed Burciaga’s lawsuit.

When she balked, the court said Burciaga failed to create a “causal connection” between her FMLA leave and her firing.

Three things the employer had in its favor:

  • It had already allowed Burciaga take FMLA leave in the past with no problems
  • Not once was her FMLA leave brought up in the discussions around her work performance or termination, and
  • It had undisputed evidence that Burciaga was making mistakes that could damage the company’s reputation.

All three factors weighed heavily in the court’s ruling that no connection existed between her FMLA leave and her termination.

Case: Burciaga v. Ravago 

For more HR News, please visit: ‘You can’t fire me, I’m on FMLA’: Was mistake-prone worker correct?

Source: News from HR Morning

Someone better start working on a vaccine against workplace rudeness

It’s worse than we thought. Workplace rudeness isn’t just corrosive — it’s catching.  

Alisson Clark, writing on the University of Florida website, reports that a recent U of F study indicates that encountering rude behavior at work makes people more likely to perceive rudeness in later interactions.

The perception makes them more likely to be impolite in return, spreading rudeness like a virus, she says.

“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” Clark quotes lead author Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at UF’s Warrington College of Business Administration. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.”

The study findings were recently published in the Journal of Applied Psychology. The researchers say they’re the first  hard evidence that everyday impoliteness spreads in the workplace.

The study tracked 90 graduate students practicing negotiation with classmates. Those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner, showing that they passed along the first partner’s rudeness. The effect continued even when a week elapsed between the first and second negotiations.

Second-hand rudeness?

Rudeness directed at others can also prime our brains to detect discourtesy, Clark said.

Foulk and his co-authors, fellow doctoral student Andrew Woolum and UF management professor Amir Erez, tested how quickly 47 undergraduate students could identify which words in a list were real and which were nonsense words. Before the exercise began, participants observed one of two staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader. When the leader was rude to the latecomer, the participants identified rude words on the list as real words significantly faster than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.

The impact of secondhand rudeness didn’t stop there, however: Just like those who experience rudeness firsthand, people who witness it were more likely to be rude to others. When study participants watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer email that was neutral in tone, they were more likely to be hostile in their responses than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

“Part of the problem is that we are generally tolerant of these behaviors, but they’re actually really harmful,” Foulk said. “Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace.”

For more HR News, please visit: Someone better start working on a vaccine against workplace rudeness

Source: News from HR Morning

EEOC sues UPS for religious discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against package delivery giant United Parcel Service.  

According to papers filed in federal District Court in New York, UPS violated federal law by discriminating against applicants and employees around the country whose religious practices conflicted with its uniform and appearance policy.

UPS prohibits male employees in customer contact or supervisory positions from wearing beards or growing their hair below collar length. According to EEOC’s complaint, since at least 2004, UPS has failed to hire or promote individuals whose religious practices conflict with its appearance policy and has failed to provide religious accommodations to its appearance policy at facilities throughout the United States.

The agency offered several situations in which, it is alleged, UPS violated anti-bias law:

  • A Muslim who applied for a driver helper position in Rochester, N.Y., who wears a beard as part of his religious observance, was told he had to shave to get the position. He was also told, “God would understand” if he shaved his beard to get a job and that he could apply for a lower-paying job if he wanted to keep his beard.
    Muslims and Christians at other facilities were forced to shave their beards in violation of their religious beliefs while they waited months or years for UPS to act on their requests for religious accommodation, EEOC said.
  • Similarly, a Rastafarian part-time load supervisor in Fort Lauderdale, who does not cut his hair as part of his religious beliefs, asked for an accommodation of the appearance policy. His manager told him he did not “want any employees looking like women on (his) management team.” Rastafarians in other parts of the country were denied positions or waited years for their requests for accommodation to be granted so they could finally get the position they sought, the agency claims.

According to company information, UPS is the nation’s largest package delivery company, operating in every state in the country. The Atlanta-based company employs over 300,000 people nationwide, with additional operations around the globe.

For more HR News, please visit: EEOC sues UPS for religious discrimination

Source: News from HR Morning

In case you needed more reasons to let workers telecommute, look at this …

In case you needed more reasons to let workers telecommute, look at this …

Most HR pros understand the benefits of letting workers telecommute. The C-suite, however, has traditionally been harder to convince. Well, if more convincing is what’s needed, show your execs this … 

The folks at the Ireland-based office supply shop Needa.ie recently did some heavy fact-finding into the benefits of telecommuting and came up with some interesting stats that they’ve encapsulated into the infographic below.

But before we get to the graphic, there were a few highlights from the research we felt compelled to draw extra attention to:

  • Telecommuting is what employees want — 66% of people would work from home if given the choice.
  • To one in three, it’s better than a pay raise — 36% would select telecommuting over a pay raise.
  • It improves retention — 14% of Americans have changed jobs to shorten their commute, and 95% of employers said telecommuting has had a high impact on employee retention.
  • It reduces unscheduled absences — telecommuters are more likely to work when sick, and telecommuting makes it easier to schedule things like doctor appointments without having to take a full day off. Plus, employees can still work even when inclement weather would prevent them from reaching the office.
  • Telecommuters put in more hours — roughly 60% of the commuting time employees save is used to perform work.
  • It eliminates the need for office space — Dow Chemical and Nortel saved 30% or real estate costs by letting workers telecommute.
  • It grows revenue — Businesses that allowed workers to telecommute at least three times per month were more likely to achieve revenue growth of 10% or more annually.

Elephant in the room

What the research didn’t address, is the giant elephant in the room for American businesses: What effect the DOL’s new overtime exemption rules will have on telecommuting.

Aside from advancements in technology, what has made telecommuting so appealing is the rise of the salaried, exempt employee — for whom businesses don’t need to track actual work hours. The new FLSA rules may throw a big wrench into those works.

If employers aren’t willing to raise employees’ salaries above the $50,440 threshold employees must be paid to be considered exempt, they’ll have to adopt methods for accurately tracking workers’ hours — and that’s before we even know what the changes to the “white-collar” duties tests will be.

More findings

For more interesting findings from the research, check out this infographic:

Working-From-Home-Infographic (2)

Source: Office.Needa.ie

For more HR News, please visit: In case you needed more reasons to let workers telecommute, look at this …

Source: News from HR Morning