Strategies for Stress Management

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Information provided by ERC Partner University Hospitals

Stress – the mere mention of the word often evokes images of racing heartbeat, headache or tension. Stress may be considered as any physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental unrest and that may be a factor in causing disease.  

Americans continue to struggle with high stress levels, which can have a detrimental effect on their health. According to the American Psychological Association, 75% of adults reported experiencing moderate to high levels of stress in the past month and nearly half reported that their stress has increased from 2011.  The problem is not limited to adults. Stress is a top health concern for U.S. teens, and psychologists say that if they don’t learn healthy ways to manage that stress now, it could have serious long-term health implications.
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Trends in Performance Management

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According to the 2012 ERC Performance Management Practices Survey virtually all organizations use individual performance evaluations of some kind regardless of industry or organizational size. Performance improvement plans, goal setting and individual development plans are also highly utilized by 90% of employers or greater.

The results of these evaluations are directly tied to employee compensation at 65% of these organizations. Just less than half of these organizations then link individual performance evaluation results to compensation by drawing formal connections between raises/bonuses and a certain rating level or performance evaluation score (48%). Interestingly, none of 2012’s participants report utilizing forced rankings- a slight departure from the 2010 survey results in which 10% of respondents indicated they used a forced ranking system.
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What is Discrimination?

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Discrimination in the workplace refers to when an individual or group of individuals are treated less favorably than others solely because of their race, sex, pregnancy or marital status, age, disability, religion, sexual preference, trade union activity, or other class or characteristic protected under federal or state legislation. It is illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals from protected classes in the workplace if they are current or prospective employees, such as job candidates.

Laws Covering Discrimination

There are a number of important federal laws that cover discrimination of protected individuals. Some states have additional bases on which discrimination is prohibited. Federal laws governing discrimination in the workplace for private employers in 2012 included:

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency that is responsible for enforcing these laws and handling discrimination claims. It frequently provides guidance and information about recent cases and claims to help employers enforce these laws in the workplace.

Discriminatory Employment Practices

Under these laws, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against individuals in protected classes for employment decisions related to hiring and firing; compensation; assignment or classification of employees; transfer and promotion; layoff or recall; job advertisements; recruitment; testing; use of company facilities; training programs; fringe benefits; retirement plans; disability leave; and other conditions, terms or benefits of employment.

This means that employers cannot make employment decisions based on any factor protected under law. For example, employment discrimination could occur if an employer pays equally-qualified employees different salaries based on their sex or race, excludes potential employees from the hiring process based on their religious affiliation or race, lays off an employee based on them being in a protected class, denies a promotion to an otherwise qualified employee who can perform the essential functions of the job because he or she has a disability; or states preferred characteristics which are protected under law in a job ad.

Additionally, individuals covered under this legislation are protected from four types of discriminatory practices including:

  • harassment on the basis of their protected class;
  • retaliation from their employer based on filing a charge of discrimination, participating in an investigation or opposing discriminatory practices;
  • employment decisions based on stereotypes, assumptions, or myths about the abilities, traits or performance of individuals within a certain class;
  • denying employment opportunities to a person because of marriage to or association with an individual of a particular class

Disparate Impact and Treatment

Discrimination can be manifested in either disparate treatment or disparate (otherwise known as "adverse") impact. Both types of discrimination against protected classes are prohibited under federal law.

It is unlawful for employers to use practices that have disparate impact on a protected class unless the characteristic can be deemed a “bona fide occupational qualification.” In cases of disparate impact, employers do not intentionally and explicitly have policies or practices in place that exclude or discriminate against individuals in protected classes. Policies or practices that seem neutral, however, can adversely impact a protected class. A common example of disparate impact is testing all job applicants on a particular skill or ability and disproportionately eliminating African Americans based on the results, even though this practice is not intentional.

Disparate treatment is also illegal, but differs from disparate impact in that it is intentional discrimination. With disparate treatment, an employer intentionally treats individuals of a protected class differently than other employees or job applicants to control an outcome.

Your Responsibilities As An Employer

Employers are required to post notices describing the federal laws prohibiting job discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Employers must also keep certain records, regardless of if a charge has been filed with them, including certain workforce data in the annual EEO-1 report. In addition to these obligations employers should:

  • Develop and implement a clear policy prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and retaliation against an employee making a discrimination complaint
  • Train supervisors and managers on employment discrimination
  • Refrain from asking about protected characteristics in the hiring process
  • Regularly evaluate hiring and selection practices for adverse impact
  • Conduct compensation audits to assess pay equity
  • Document objective, performance, and job-related reasons for all employment decisions

For more information about workplace discrimination, ERC members can access our HRresources or contact ERC's HR Help Desk at hrhelp@yourerc.com. Not a member? Join today and access tons of HR resources, posters, forms, information, guidance, and legal trends and updates to help keep you compliant.

 

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application. The data used in this article reflects the current laws in 2012.

Additional Links & Resources

Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices (Source: EEOC)

Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination Questions & Answers (Source: EEOC)

Guide for Employers: The Charge Handling Process (Source: EEOC)

Discrimination in the Workplace (Source: HR Hero)

Engineering Salaries Continue to Thrive

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Once again the ERC Salary Survey demonstrates the strength of the region’s Engineering industry. The 2012 Salary survey reports data on 38 separate engineering positions, with the bulk of the job titles falling into the “Professional” job classification. The strength of the industry is further reinforced by comparing median salaries among engineering positions in lower level job classifications to other job titles outside of engineering. For example, Service Installation Representatives (both junior and senior level) make up 2 of only 9 office/clerical positions with median salaries over $40,000. Similarly, at the supervisory and managerial level, the median salaries for engineering jobs all fall within the top 40%- with Engineering Manager / Chief Engineer near the very top of the list as one of only seven jobs reporting a median salary at $100,000 or above.

Despite strong local salary data trends, national employment trends suggest that the engineering field may be mixed in terms of job growth projections depending on the specific position. In particular the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook in 2012-2013 notes that in terms of job growth engineering positions based in manufacturing may struggle to keep pace with those in service industries and architectural fields. However, with an average project job growth rate from 2012-2020 of 10% and much higher for niche areas such Biomedical Engineers (62% job growth) and Environmental Engineering Technicians (24% job growth), engineering appears to be more than capable of sustaining and even improving upon these salary numbers for the foreseeable future.

Additional Resources

To purchase or view the most recent ERC Salary Survey, click here. Or, e-mail surveys@yourerc.om or call 440-684-9700.

Job Descriptions: An Essential How-To Guide

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Employers often face challenges in creating new job descriptions for positions that they do not currently employ, identifying essential job functions, and keeping job descriptions updated. For these reasons, members often request sample job descriptions from ERC and consult with us to develop or update their job descriptions.

Based on our experience and knowledge in helping organizations with job descriptions coupled with our research on job description development practices, we've developed an essential how-to guide to creating new job descriptions to equip you with tips and guidance on managing this important, but often arduous, HR responsibility.

What Sources to Use

When creating a job description for a new job, using secondary sources of job information can help you better understand a position and the typical duties a person would perform in that role. Use these cautiously, however, and validate the job description with the new position's manager before finalizing it to be sure that the job description accurately captures the true job duties. Good sources to use to develop new job descriptions include:

  • BNA Job Description Tool / Other online job description tools
  • O*Net / Job Description Writer
  • Dictionary of Occupational Job Titles
  • ERI’s position analysis tool
  • Compensation or salary survey job descriptions
  • Sample job descriptions from other organizations
  • Job postings

Who to Consult for Job Information

Job analysis should always be used to create a new job description. Interviews, questionnaires, and/or observation techniques can be used to gather information about job tasks and duties, determine the most essential functions of the job, evaluate the abilities needed to perform the work, and uncover the qualifications or background necessary to complete the job duties. Common techniques include (in order of most used):

  • Interview/meeting with supervisor of job incumbent
  • Interview with job incumbent or past incumbents (typically high or average performers)
  • Observe job incumbents working on tasks
  • Ask supervisor and/or job incumbents to complete a questionnaire (i.e. PAQ)
  • Interview with subject matter expert(s)

The job incumbent or manager should not write the job description. Rather, a trained HR professional should. You can, however, gather important information from these individuals about the job, such as:

  • Purpose of the job
  • Basic functions and duties
  • Responsibilities related to supervision (number of employees supervised)
  • Level of discretion/authority
  • People with whom the position interacts and level of interaction
  • Amount and type of physical exertion
  • Abilities (mathematical, verbal, etc.)
  • Minimum educational or technical qualifications (diplomas, degrees, certifications, etc.)
  • Minimum experience required to perform duties
  • Exposure to certain work conditions

What Information to Include in a Job Description

At a minimum, job descriptions should include the job title, key duties and responsibilities, a job purpose summary, required job knowledge or skills, requisite physical and cognitive abilities, required educational level or certification(s), minimum qualifications/ competencies, preferred qualifications/competencies, reporting relationship, indication of essential duties, "other duties as assigned," and creation/revision dates.

Information about work conditions/environment, FLSA exemption status, and location of work are also somewhat commonly included in job descriptions.

Job descriptions should not include instructions or recommendations about how to do the job, performance expectations or standards, occasional or temporary job duties that are non-essential, future job duties, and generalized statements. Job descriptions also should not contain a laundry list of job duties, but rather should reflect the position's priorities.

How to Identify Essential Functions

One of the most important things employers must do when developing job descriptions is to identify and delineate the essential functions of the job.  

An essential function must be an important task that only the person in the job can do. In other words, the duty would be a hardship for another person to handle. An essential job function is not necessarily a duty that takes up the largest percentage of an employee's time, nor can it be automatically considered an essential function across similar jobs. 

There are a number of strategies organizations use to determine essential functions, including asking the job incumbent's manager, observing employees doing tasks, conducting a thorough job analysis, and reviewing core duties and most critical job tasks.

How to Write Job Descriptions

Job descriptions should be written using clear and very specific language. Each duty or task should begin with an action verb in the present tense (i.e. supervise, create, analyze, administer, etc.) and imprecise words should be limited (i.e. assists, handles, etc.). In addition, no references to race, gender, disability, or other protected classes should be included in the document. Similarly, avoid jargon and spell out acronyms.

How Often to Update Job Descriptions

Ideally, job descriptions should be "living documents" which are evaluated annually because it's not uncommon for job descriptions to grow outdated or need minor adjustments each year. Nonetheless, the majority of employers re-look at job descriptions only when a position becomes available, when there is a change in the duties of a position, and when there is a significant change in the organization.

Be aware that if job descriptions are not updated on a regular basis, you risk running into trouble with regulatory requirements like complying with ADA, as the courts frequently revisit employers' job descriptions to determine if employees are capable of performing certain job duties and whether those duties are essential.

Job descriptions are generally regarded as legal documents, necessary for maintaining compliance with ADA, FLSA, FMLA and other employment laws in addition to aiding the recruiting and hiring process, helping managers evaluate performance and set performance criteria or goals, determining compensation or grade level, and helping to identify training needs. For these reasons and more, be sure that your job descriptions are created and written accurately and updated on a regular basis.

Additional Resources

Job Description Resources

ERC offers numerous resources to help employers create and update job descriptions through Membership including salary surveys, a job description tool, and sample job descriptions. ERC members can contact hrhelp@yourerc.com to access these resources.

Job Description Services

ERC can help create job descriptions as well as facilitate job description updates. For more information about our services, please contact hrhelp@yourerc.com.

ERC Forms Partnership with Corporate Screening Services

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ERC has partnered with Corporate Screening Services, a leading provider of pre-employment screening products and solutions, to offer its members a free Screening Program Assessment (SPA) and discounted pricing on background screening. ERC members will receive at least 5% off all background screening products.

Corporate Screening combines state-of-the-art data gathering technology with in-depth examination and analysis to verify information and mitigate the risks associated with hiring employees. With offices in Cleveland and Tampa, Corporate Screening utilizes an expanding professional staff of 80 analysts and consultants to service the needs of hiring professionals representing a full spectrum of industries, with special emphasis on the healthcare, financial, manufacturing and higher education sectors.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Corporate Screening as we believe their products and processes are tops in the industry,” said Pat Perry, President of ERC. “Background screening is a popular outsourced solution for our members and we think they will be very happy with the service and quality at Corporate Screening.”

“Corporate Screening is honored to have been selected as ERC’s background screening partner especially in such a competitive market. We share many of the same values and virtues as ERC so this an incredibly natural fit. Our team is excited to continue ERC’s tradition of providing exceptional benefit to its members,” said Greg Dubecky, President of Corporate Screening.

For more information on the discounts available to ERC members, click here.

3 Frequently Asked Questions about FLSA

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Employers usually have a number of questions about the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), which governs wage and hour rules - when and how employers are obligated to pay employees for time worked or not worked under law. Here are answers to 3 frequently asked questions about issues related to FLSA.

1. Can we dock exempt employees' pay?

Some employers seek to dock or withhold pay as a disciplinary measure for exempt employees, particularly for reasons such as absenteeism, tardiness, or performance. Under FLSA, however, employers may not reduce an exempt employee's pay for showing up late, leaving work early, or because they did not perform the quality of quantity of work expected of them. Other guidelines regarding the docking of exempt employees' pay include:

  • If your organization has a written paid sick time, paid leave, or other time off policy, it may reduce the employee's sick or paid leave account for absences due to illness, injury, or medical appointments. 
  • Once an employee's sick or paid leave account is exhausted for these absences, you must pay employees for partial day absences unless they qualify under FMLA and are using intermittent leave. 
  • If your organization does not have a sick or paid leave policy and it is implied that employees receive pay for their absences, it cannot deduct pay for full or partial day absences for exempt employees.
  • Exempt employees who are new to the organization and not yet eligible to receive holiday or vacation pay, should generally be provided with it, given these above guidelines.

There are situations where your organization has the ability to dock or reduce pay of exempt employees, such as if they did not work some days during their first or last week of employment, were absent for an entire week, or received an unpaid disciplinary suspension. Deducting pay for exempt employees is usually permissible under these circumstances, however, you can only dock pay if employees are not working (i.e. not checking email, voicemail, etc.) in these situations.

2. For what time do we need to pay non-exempt employees?

Unlike exempt employees who are paid to complete a job, non-exempt employees only need to be paid for time worked, so naturally, the issue of what constitutes "working time" for non-exempt employees is a common question and issue employers face. Job-related or required training, department or staff meetings, and time spent on work travel are all considered working time for non-exempt employees and must be paid. This even includes seminars, training, or meetings on job-related topics held after hours.

In addition, unauthorized working time may also be considered time worked. Even though an employer may not specifically authorize an employee to work, non-exempt employees must be paid for all work they complete. For example, if a non-exempt employee works at home off-the-clock on their own accord, that time must be considered hours worked even though the time was unscheduled. Additionally, if an employee starts work early or stays late, that time must also be paid. Non-exempt employees must be paid for all hours worked.

Employers are increasingly facing this issue when non-exempt employees access work at home, such as via electronic devices like a Smartphone. For example, if a non-exempt employee sends an email to another employee outside of work hours, they are entitled to be compensated for the time spent responding to that email.

3. Is this job exempt or non-exempt?

Employees exempt from both the minimum wage and overtime pay requirements not only include those that fall under the Department of Labor's  exemptions for executive, administrative, professional, outside sales, and certain computer professionals, but seasonal employees who are employed at certain seasonal amusement or recreational establishments also fall under those exempt from these provisions. Correctly classifying employees as exempt or non-exempt can be tricky given the many guidelines for exemptions.

Terming employees "hourly" or "salaried" can commonly lead to issues of misclassification. Salaried employees are not automatically "exempt" and hourly employees are not automatically "non-exempt." Also, a professional, highly-skilled, or managerial-related job tile (such as engineer, analyst, administrator, or supervisor) does not sufficiently guarantee exemption. Employers need to evaluate employees' specific job duties (regardless of how they are paid) and their job title to determine exemption status, as well as use specific tests to determine their status.

Outdated job descriptions can commonly lead to issues with FLSA compliance so it's important to regularly update them, determine their accuracy, and conduct FLSA audits or evaluations to determine if a job is exempt or not. Job descriptions should accurately depict what an employee actually currently does in the position because they are the most crucial element to deciphering a position's FLSA status according to exemption tests.

FLSA is a difficult and complex law to administer in the workplace, and as a result workplace violations are easily made. Understanding the common pitfalls faced by other employers, however, can help your organization stay compliant with the law's many provisions.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

Hiring Rates Improving In Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities Industry

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The July 2012 BLS Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey reports that hire rates for the month of May saw little change when compared to the same statistic from 2011. However, one notable exception can be found in the area of Transportation, Warehousing and Utilities. This group of sub-industries experienced a 1.1% hiring rate increase over May 2011 with a 3.7% of all hires made in May 2012 falling into this industry breakout- approximately 180,000 individuals hired throughout the month.

While this industry is traditionally paid lower than many other hourly positions, a jump in hiring could reflect an increased demand for some of these more physically demanding jobs in the private sector. Reporting hourly wage data from the second half of January 2012, the 2012 ERC Wage Survey did in fact see a modest increase in pay for a number of these positions. For example, a Warehouse Worker earned a median salary $13.68, which is up about 12% from the 2011 survey results. Other positions, such as Drivers (Heavy: $16.25 and Local: $16.80) and Fork Lift Operators ($15.00) saw slightly lower improvements in wages, but do appear to be trending consistently upwards over the past several years.

View ERC's Wage & Salary Adjustment Survey Results

The survey reports data from Northeast Ohio organizations regarding their actual and projected wage and salary adjustments.

View the Results

How to Manage FMLA Intermittent Leave: 7 Strategies

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How to Better Manage FMLA Intermittent Leave: 7 Strategies

There is probably no task more cumbersome for HR professionals than managing intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). Intermittent leave allows qualified employees to take FMLA leave in small blocks of time (such as one hour) versus one block of 12 weeks.

Although intermittent leave can benefit employees who need time off work for their own health condition or to help with another family member's serious health condition, it can create burdens and adversity for employers if it isn't managed appropriately. The following administrative strategies tend to help employers manage intermittent leave more effectively.

1. Require medical certification.

You have the right to determine that intermittent leave is medically necessary. You can require medical certification to be submitted in order to make this determination and request multiple medical opinions. Doing so gives you some control over the situation and helps you understand the frequency and duration of intermittent leave needed by the employee.

2. Ask for recertification.

Requiring employees to recertify their leave when the condition changes or according to a certain period (such as every 6 months or annually) helps keep employees honest and makes sure you stay knowledgeable about the condition's status and any changes needed for the leave.

3. Have employees use paid leave concurrently with FMLA leave.

Requiring use of concurrent paid leave, disability, etc. curbs the adverse effects of excessive absenteeism. If you don't require use of concurrent leave, you may risk an employee using more than the allotted 12 weeks of leave provided under FMLA.  

4. Use a rolling 12-month period to calculate FMLA leave.

Calculating FMLA leave on a calendar 12-month basis can lead to employees taking back-to-back leave and potentially provides 24 weeks or 6 months of FMLA to an employee. Conversely, calculating FMLA on a rolling 12-month period can prevent back-to-back leave.

5. Accommodate the employee to reduce disruptions.

You may assign an employee to an alternative position with equivalent pay and benefits to better accommodate intermittent leave. You may also work with them to establish an intermittent leave schedule that reduces the leave's disruptions to your business operations. Remember, it's completely legal to request that the employee make a reasonable effort not to disrupt your business operations.

6. Establish guidelines for call-offs.

Call-offs can disrupt business, so provide requirements that employees must call in before they are absent if they are going to be using FMLA leave. You may also request that employees provide notice of unforeseeable leave as soon as practicable.

7. Track leave and absences.

You may request recertification from health care providers when you notice a pattern of absences which could suggest that an employee is abusing intermittent leave. Also, be aware that not tracking FMLA may lead you to provide more than the required amount of leave. Make sure nothing goes uncounted, and if you don't have the time to track it, consider outsourcing FMLA.

While these strategies won't necessarily reduce the number of employees using FMLA leave, they will typically help your organization avoid the costly consequences of mismanaged intermittent FMLA leave.

Please note that by providing you with research information that may be contained in this article, ERC is not providing a qualified legal opinion. As such, research information that ERC provides to its members should not be relied upon or considered a substitute for legal advice. The information that we provide is for general employer use and not necessarily for individual application.

ADA FMLA Compliance Training

ADA & FMLA Compliance Training Course

Participants review the interrelatedness of these two laws including how they impact each other.

Train Your Employees

ERC teams with PartnerShip to provide members discounted shipping solutions

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ERC has partnered with PartnerShip® (www.PartnerShip.com/09ERC), a leading provider of shipping solutions, to offer its members discounted pricing on shipping. ERC members will save:

  • Up to 26%* on select FedEx Express® services
  • Up to 12% on select FedEx Ground® services 
  • Up to 10% on select FedEx Home Delivery® services
  • At least 70% on LTL freight shipments

PartnerShip delivers customized shipping solutions to over a hundred associations and thousands of businesses, and has been recognized as an industry leader in helping businesses reduce shipping costs since 1989. PartnerShip saves businesses money on every shipment, every time. The program is available to all ERC members with no obligations and no minimum shipping requirements.

“We’re thrilled to offer this solution to our members as it can save them a lot of time and money,” said Pat Perry, President of ERC. “The best part is that it can be utilized by organizations of any size; there is no minimum requirement and no limit to the amount you can save.”

Visit PartnerShip.com/09ERC for complete program information and to enroll in the free ERC Shipping Program. Members with existing FedEx shipping accounts can also enroll and PartnerShip will ensure they receive the lowest rates on every shipment. If you have any questions, please call PartnerShip at 800-599-2902, or email sales@PartnerShip.com. For no-obligation tradeshow shipping quotes, visit here (and be sure to mention you are with ERC).