Workplace Dress Codes: Setting Expectations

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As temperatures rise and the office starts to feel sparse with employees out on summer vacations, you may notice another physical change around the office- in how employees are dressed. While many organizations are already operating with relatively casual dress codes, summertime clothing choices can sometimes push the limits of those policies.

Endless Variations

The EEOC guidelines suggest that when establishing dress code guidelines, the standards remain the same within each job category. There are several notable exceptions to this rule and include accommodation requests from employees based on disability, religion, or national origin. These exceptions apply, even in cases where uniforms are worn, unless it would cause “undue hardship” for the employer.
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5-Step Checklist to Protect Against Sexual Harassment Liability

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5-Step Checklist to Protect Against Sexual Harassment Liability

Sexual harassment lawsuits continue to make up a large percentage of cases filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and many of the recent cases filed against employers. In addition, digital sexual harassment has become a more common form of sexual harassment through texting, email, and other electronic forms of communication.

Given these trends and that most sexual harassment lawsuits can extremely costly for employers, it's important to thoroughly understand the issue of sexual harassment and follow specific guidelines to stay compliant.
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FMLA Intermittent Leave: 3 Ways to Manage It

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intermittent leave what does intermittent leave mean intermittent fmla

Intermittent FMLA leave can be extremely challenging for employers to manage. Fortunately, there are opportunities in the FMLA process which allow you to carefully manage this type of leave more effectively. Here are 3 ways to manage intermittent FMLA leave’s major challenges.

1. Obtain a complete medical certification from the employee.

Employers have the right to ask that a request for FMLA leave is supported with a fully completed certification issued by a health care provider within 15 days after providing the employee with a written notice designating the leave as FMLA and explaining their rights and responsibilities. Certification is critical for intermittent leave, as the condition may sometimes not be a serious health condition. Certification for intermittent leave must include a statement of medical necessity of leave and the likely duration and frequency in episodes.
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Captain America Comes to NEO: 5 Ways to Help Employees Battle the Traffic

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Captain America has come to Northeast Ohio, and the filming has likely already resulted in a ton of traffic headaches for your workforce and organization...tardiness, lost productivity, frustration, and the list goes on. With traffic at a standstill in Northeast Ohio due to the temporary closing of the Shoreway over the next two weeks, some local organizations are allowing affected employees a bit more flexibility than normal.

Your HR department can also join some these employers in the spirit of the filming here in our region and use its "superpowers" to help your affected employees avoid traffic. Here are some suggestions:
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Beyond FMLA: Other Leaves of Absence

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Approximately 76% of Northeast Ohio organizations provide benefits under the FMLA, with larger organizations (those over 100 employees), offering benefits with an unsurprisingly much higher frequency. These numbers put the region just slightly below the national sample reported by the 2013-2014 Policies & Benefits Survey - by about 5%.

In addition to exploring a number of questions related to FMLA administration and processes, this same survey also looks at how organizations manage leaves of absence that may not fall within FMLA. In fact, a strong majority of participating organizations provide their employees with at least one other type of leave of absence other than FMLA at both the local (68%) and national (74%) levels.
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The Ultimate Summer Workplace Checklist

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Sweet summertime is right around the corner. Bring on the company picnics, vacation schedules, and little league games!

The HR department is presented with plenty of opportunities and challenges when it comes to the summertime workplace. It can be hard at times to keep employees attention and focus when the sunshine is calling their name.

Here’s the ultimate summer workplace list for organizations working to make their workplace great:

1. Solidify Holiday Schedule

There are 3 national holidays U.S. employers recognize during the summer, Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day. Make sure your employees know what days they will have off due to the holidays, especially the 4th of July. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, be sure to clarify and communicate to employees what day the office will be closed. Also be sure to communicate that to customers as well.

2. Manage Vacation Schedules

Summer is the ideal time for many people to take a vacation. Unfortunately for the HR department and management team, that means many employees wanting to schedule time off at the same time. This can lead to a shortage of workers or disappointed employees if not handled properly. Require employees to schedule time off in advance, receive approval for time off, coordinate with the their coworkers and implement a fair system specifying criteria of the process and spell out whatever limits your organization may have around taking vacation.

3. Implement a Summer Dress Code

With the weather being warmer, it may be beneficial to implement and communicate a summer dress code throughout the organization.

Be sure to effectively communicate the new summer dress code, preferably in writing. Clarify what summer attire is and what it isn’t. Determine what is allowed in terms of apparel and shoes while providing examples (i.e. sleeveless tops, open-toed shoes, flip flops, shorts, capris, etc.) It may also be beneficial to let employees know to be mindful of their daily agendas and not dress inappropriately when meeting with customers or pitching an idea to corporate, depending on policy.

Also apply your dress code uniformly to all employees, and not to a specific gender or demographic.

4. Plan a Company Outing

Summer is an ideal time to organize a company outing or picnic to show appreciation. Hosting a company outing not only shows appreciation for employees but recognizes their efforts and gives them a time to interact and bond with one another outside of the office.

Many organizations host outings at a local attraction, golf course or park.

If the budget is right, it may be nice to include spouses, significant others, or children too.

5. Wellness Program

The summertime weather also allows for more creative outdoor activities and programs to support and promote wellness throughout the organization. Try setting up a bike-to-work program, walking program, fitness activity, or pick-up game.

In addition, the summer is a great time to emphasize nutrition and healthy eating habits with the increased availability of fruits and vegetables. Several organizations have begun to provide fresh produce whenever possible to their workforce.

6. Flexible Scheduling

Many families tend to need more flexibility in the summer. Kids are out of school with little league games and sick babysitters.

Great workplaces tend to provide a bit more flexibility, such as opportunities to leave early on Fridays, revised or shorter work schedules, compressed work weeks, and longer holiday weekends.

Flexibility options allow employees extra time with their families and help them achieve better work/life balance over the summer.

7. Address Attendance Issues

Having a more flexible schedule may lead to a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. Attendance can become more of an issue in the summertime when employees may call off, take unapproved time off, or be tardy/leave work early more often.

Make sure to have an attendance policy that is clearly communicated to employees and enforce the policy consistently.

Being flexible to employees’ needs to keep attendance issues to a minimum and keep in mind that results are what counts the most at work.

8. Take Advantage of Slow-Time Opportunities

Depending on the industry, summer time can be less busy and employees have a more relaxed workload. This is the perfect time to implement development initiatives that may have been pushed to the side the rest of the year in preference of other obligations.

Training, development, programs, and other HR projects are perfect opportunities to take advantage of in the summer months.

9. Have More Fun

The summer is a great time to have more fun at work, relax, build relationships between team members, and focus on collaboration and team-building.

Team-building activities, contests, socials, and philanthropic events help employees build camaraderie and foster open communication.

Consider setting up a volunteering day in which employees spend the morning or afternoon, as a team, helping out at a local nonprofit organization.

Planting and tending to a garden throughout the summer is another fun (and delicious) activity for the workplace.

10. Mid-Year Meeting

Encourage management to have a mid-year meeting with each of their employees to talk about their progress towards their goals and their performance thus far into the year.

Employees should not be surprised by the feedback they receive or the results of their end of year performance review.

Take steps to change performance now with employees who are not performing up to standard. Conversely, with great performers, let them know they are doing a great job and encourage them to keep up the good work.

It may also be beneficial to hold a company-wide mid-year staff meeting to bring everyone up-to-date on the year’s progress, where things are thriving, where things are falling short, and to boost morale.

Paid Summer Holidays in Northeast Ohio Consistent with National Numbers

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With Memorial Day unofficially kicking off “summertime” in Northeast Ohio for 2013, vacations, time-off and holidays for the upcoming summer months are top of mind for employees and employers alike. While official paid-time-off and vacation policies have a different look and feel based on each employer’s organizational culture, paid holidays are more consistent across the board.

In 2012 the ERC Paid Holiday Survey found that on average, most employers were planning to offer between 9 and 10 paid holidays to their workforce in 2013, an average that has remained steady for a number of years. The range of total holidays offered also remains fairly consistent from past years with one employer reporting as few as 3 and one reporting as many as 16 days.

As the chart below demonstrates, the region is very much in line with the national standards in terms of which holidays employers choose to offer to their employees as paid holidays. All three major “summer” holidays are nearly universally part of this holiday time-off plan.


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ADA Compliance: How Much Is Enough?

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The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. But how much accommodation is enough? When does an accommodation become unreasonable? How reasonable is reasonable?

Reasonable Accommodations Defined

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), reasonable accommodations are any effective changes or adjustments to a job or work environment that allow a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job.
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The Smart Guide to Managing Smartphones in the Workplace

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Smartphones and mobile devices have become critical business communication tools in the workplace, making it essential for organizations to establish policies. This guide summarizes important things to consider in managing legal risks of smartphone use outside of work, providing smartphones to employees, creating smartphone policies, and allowing smartphone use at work.

Smartphone Use Outside of Work & FLSA Compliance

Increasingly, non-exempt/hourly employees may use smartphones and mobile devices after hours for work, which creates challenges for complying with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). In fact, a 2013 employment lawsuit involving policemen in Chicago seeking overtime pay for "off-duty" time using their Blackberrys clearly illustrates this risk.
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Internet and Email Use in the Workplace

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Internet and email use has unquestionably become a necessary part of conducting business for the vast majority of organizations and their employees. According to the bi-annual ERC Policies & Benefits Survey, the percent of organizations with employees accessing the internet has remained fairly constant since 2008, at about 96% of non-union employees. The largest variation in this accessibility is found, unsurprisingly, among non-union maintenance and production workers, where access may vary according to specific job duties or departments at about 30% of organizations.

With such a large proportion of the workforce accessing the internet at their place of work, a heated debate over the pros and cons of internet and email use for personal purposes while at work has naturally evolved. Regardless of which side of the debate you fall on or what fits best into your organizational culture, clear policies around internet and email use are key- so let’s take a look at what organizations are doing in Northeast Ohio and across the country to effectively manage this 21st century workplace challenge.
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