How Do You “Deal With It”?

In the February edition of the SHRM HR Magazine, (Yes, I know it’s March but I am a bit behind on my reading. Aren’t we all?), I read an article about dealing with difficult employees that I found to be quite interesting. I know that this topic isn’t new, but I liked the fact that they included stories by HR people who attained positive results by changing the way they interacted with and thought of the difficult employee. Let’s be honest here, no matter how much we wish for problem employees to change, nothing will change until we dig into the reasons why they act the way they do. In the article, the HR representatives took the time to talk to the difficult employees, respectfully and honestly, in order to get to the core of the problem. And then they took it one step further by working with the employee to find a way to make things better. Sometimes the only way to make things better is to find a way to help the employee move on, but this doesn’t happen as often as you might think. In most instances, once the difficult employee has been heard, they become much easier to deal with.

This same approach can be used in workplace investigations. When the investigator takes on the problem with the attitude that they will get to the core of the issue, and find a resolution that best works for everyone, the investigation itself becomes a much calmer process. As a general rule, the best way to diffuse an irate person is the more upset and loud they get, the quieter and more calm you remain.

The key here is wrapped up in the last section of the article. Stay calm and show respect. Remember, employees have a choice in their actions. And sometimes those actions result in discipline. When administering that discipline, showing respect for the employee can diffuse an otherwise combative situation and leave a dignified way out for all parties.

This is a short article, but worth the read. How Do You Deal With Difficult Employees?

Will There Be Over 90,000 Discrimination Charges Filed In 2017?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently released the 2016 statistics for discrimination and harassment cases filed for the year, showing an increase for the second consecutive year. Discrimination charges were filed in 91,503 cases (29% being sex based claims).  The interesting point here is that the agency responded to over 585,000 calls and more than 160,000 inquiries in field offices. So how did the 745,000 complaints only turn onto 91,503 cases? Well, there were most certainly those complaints that did not meet the legal definition of discrimination or harassment. And then there were the ones that were dismissed due to the fact that the employer met the legal requirement of conducting a prompt and impartial investigation, and took appropriate action to ensure the improper behavior ceased. If one of your employees contacted the EEOC, would your company be one of the dismissed complaints or one of the over 90,000 per year that results in a legal claim?

Many employers still do not understand that when a complaint is received, conducting a proper investigation is your first and best defense. Historically over 50% of claims received by the EEOC are dismissed strictly on the basis of the employer having taken appropriate action.   Let’s face it, even if your company did not violate the law, the cost comes in proving that fact. Once the EEOC receives a complaint, if the employer did not investigate the situation properly, the claim progresses toward litigation. And litigation is very costly. Not just in fees, but in company morale, reputation and employee time. This is why you so often hear of companies settling the claims monetarily while insisting that they were not at fault.

In my blog post next week, I will review what happens once the EEOC receives a claim from an employee, and begin examining the process of an employer responding to a claim. We will look at the process when the employer conducted an investigation, and when they did not.

If you have specific points you would like covered or questions you would like answered, please add them in the comment session, and I will do my best to address them.

EEOC to Focus on “Holistic Prevention Programs” to Prevent Harassment.

With the release of the EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) for 2017 – 2021, it is time to take a look at your Complaint, Investigation and Prevention processes and procedures. The SEP outlines the EEOC’s principal areas of focus for the next four years. According to the plan, the EEOC will increase efforts to ensure that employers implement processes that will serve as a deterrent to violations. Will your current processes meet that requirement?

In short, the EEOC wants to see that employers are taking steps to prevent harassment and discrimination, which most frequently are based on sex, race, disability, age, and national origin.

To assess your prevention program, ask the following 7 questions:

  1. How often are your employees being trained?
  2. Is your training current and relevant?
  3. Are your managers actively looking for signs of harassment and discrimination in the workplace?
  4. Are employees encouraged to bring their concerns forth, and provided a safe and comfortable means of doing so?
  5. Does the company have a standard business processes in place that will allow immediate response to complaints in order to determine if an investigation is necessary?
  6. Is your investigation process compliant, consistent and unbiased?
  7. Does your process include a plan for returning to work after an investigation without judgment or retaliation?

I am hopeful that you are taking a sigh of relief right now because your processes are buttoned up. But if not, it’s time to add this to your priority list. And remember, InvestiPro can help.      www.GoInvestiPro.com

 

You can review the entire EEOC Strategic Enforcement Plan at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/plan/sep-2017.cfm, or read a simple overview provided by Fox Rothschild.

Can Your Company Afford $22,500 in Lost Productivity…Per Employee?

Over the weekend, I came across an interesting article in the Harvard Business Review titled, Why We Fail to Report Sexual Harassment. The article addressed the fact that despite employer efforts to train staff and investigate complaints, the majority of employees affected by harassment, whether victims or bystanders, do not report the incidents.  That fact did not surprise me. Nor did the fact that 75% of the women they interviewed stated that they had at some point been sexually harassed at work. What did get my attention was this:

Researchers estimate that sexual harassment costs organizations $22,500 a year in lost productivity for each employee affected.”

Let’s look at an example. In this case, there is a company with corporate headquarters in the front half of the building and manufacturing in the back. At the entrance to a testing section in a back area that is predominantly male, there is a poster of a seductively posed woman, with very little clothing. Managers rarely have a need to enter this small area and have failed to notice or decided that this is not harmful. What they do not realize is that there is a female working in shipping that enters that area daily and she is quite uncomfortable. One day she asked the Lead in the testing area to take it down. He responded by laughing and making a loud comment that “The boys need a reason to come to work, but if you would give us a picture of you to look at, we’ll take the other one down.”

Based on the findings of the study, this employee is likely to experience stress each day when she needs to go into that room, become sick more often and miss work, lose interest in doing her job well in order to progress with the company, and spend additional time each day doing other things to keep her mind off of work. Yes, over a year that could easily amount to $22, 500 in lost productivity.

However, this is not where it stops. If this employee is experiencing that type of harassment, she will likely talk about it with 2-3 other employees who then are likely to feel uncomfortable as well. And then we need to consider the employee from Quality Control that goes into the work are daily. And the fill-in tester that works in the room at least once per week. And the Accounting Clerk that goes into that area to check serial numbers. That’s six additional employees – with a total productivity loss of $155,500 per year. And this does not take into account the cost of replacing these employees when they decide to leave.

When you look at the monetary effect of harassment in the workplace, it becomes very clear that companies need to take a more active role in preventing harassment from happening. Here are a few ideas.

  1. Make sure managers are walking around and interacting with all of their direct and indirect reports on a regular basis.
  2. Establish and communicate clear rules against posting of pictures, sending improper emails, or using unacceptable language in the workplace.
  3. Enforce the rules at all levels.
  4. Investigate – Not just when a complaint arises, but anytime there are signs of harassment in the workplace.

Remember, the law holds employers accountable when they knew, or should have known, that harassment was taking place.

When it’s time to investigate, www.GoInvestiPro.com!

3 real calls from EEs looking to file claims

I am often asked, “Are employers really still finding reasons to fire employees in order to avoid taking the steps of conducting an investigation?” The answer is, yes! It’s unfortunate, but it is still happening.  InvestiPro received the following three calls from employees who were looking to file a claim against the company that just terminated them. As you know InvestiPro is an online platform for employer use, but employee calls still come in.

Call #1 – I was just fired after having a problem with my boss. They wouldn’t give me a reason and when I asked to see my personnel file, there was nothing in there. Can you help me?

Call #2 – I need to find someone to help me. I have been in my job for a long time and this new girl told HR that I was doing things that I wasn’t doing. The just called me in and fired me for no reason. I didn’t do nothing.

Call #3 – Can you help me report my employer for firing me? I only worked there for a few weeks and my manager was a jerk. He was always in my face, telling me to get a better attitude.  He even called me stupid. I could tell he was talking about me to other employees. Then I called in sick with a headache and they fired me.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that I am pro-employee, and I completely understand that there are times when termination is warranted. I just know that these situations can often be put to rest, and REDUCE THE POTENTIAL FOR LITIGATION, simply by conducting a prompt and impartial investigation. With over 25 years of employee relations experience, I have seen that positive results can come out of implementing an investigation process as a standard business process used to reduce the chaos and hold every employee accountable at the same level. When employees see that a respectful investigation process will be used every time there is a complaint, two things happen. The first is that employees are much less likely to provide a false claim. And the second is that the investigation becomes a way of doing business, leaving employees feeling respected and valued. This essentially removes the fear and drama out of the process. The company receives a complaint, investigates what happened, takes appropriate action or not depending on the findings, and everyone gets back to work. If you take away only one fact from this blog, make it this:

The EEOC historically dismisses over 50% of harassment and discrimination claims based simply on the employer conducting a prompt and impartial investigation.

Is McDonalds Corp. a co-employer of franchise employees?

Independent franchise owners need to watch for the court decision on this as it could have wide spread implications. As explained in this article published yesterday by SHRM,  15 Employees filed sexual harassment claims in which McDonalds Corp. was named a co-employer. Needless to say, the outcome of this will have a serious impact on the franchiser/franchisee relationship, and how business agreements are set up moving forward. Not just for McDonalds and the restaurant industry, but all franchise relationships. That being said, whether or not the franchiser (McDonalds in this case) is found to be held liable as a co-employer, this does not relive the independent franchisees of their responsibility to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into these complaints. Investigating complaints is not just the law, it is the right thing to do. Failing to investigate is costly. Taking retaliatory action may entitle the victim to punitive damages, at the discretion of a jury. This is where the high dollar settlements come into play. This is easy to prevent folks. Complaint = Investigation. Every time!

Not sure how to conduct a proper investigation, check out www.investipro.com.

InvestiPro mentioned in Top 5 HR Tech Conference Moments

Not only did Steve Boese, Conference Chairman, vote for InvestiPro as the Next Great HR Technology Company last week at the HR Technology Conference in Chicago, he included us in his Top 5 Moments at the Conference. https://t.co/yIloNDhS2O

Discovering the Next Great HR Technology Company

While HR Tech, and plenty of other shows, have done startup tech company demonstrations and competitions in the past, this year at HR Tech we decided to introduce a new spin on the concept.  Borrowing from the format of the popular TV series “The Voice”, we paired up and coming HR technology companies with their own expert ‘coaches’, (Trish McFarlane, Ben Eubanks, Madeline Laurano, Kyle Lagunas), who not only ‘found’ and nominated these companies for participation in the event, but also collaborated and coached them on their presentations and delivery for the event itself.

 

At the session, ably hosted by Jason Averbook, each of the 8 participating companies, (InvestiPro, ClickBoarding, Chemistry Group, LifeWorks, Clinch, HighGround, RolePoint, and Qwalify), had 5 minutes to talk about their solution, and show it off a little, followed by about 2 minutes to answer a question or two from one of our expert coaches. After 8 fast-paced demonstrations and discussions, the audience got to vote for who they thought would be ‘The Next Great Technology Company’ – a vote won by LifeWorks in what was an extremely tight race.

The Top 10 Investigation Challenges: Part 10 – Getting back to work.

Whew….the investigation is over and now we can all get back to work, right? Often it is not that easy. In most companies, employees are well aware of what goes on in the workplace. Even in the largest companies, employees talk about what is happening in their department or building. Pretending that an investigation never happened will cause employees to wonder. And more often than not, the imagination is worse than the truth. Addressing the situation and communicating the expectations for moving forward can help put an end to the distractions that could otherwise go on for weeks. Here are a few tips to help everyone in the company return to work post-investigation.

Within a day or two:

  • Set a meeting or plan to address the situation with all staff within a few days or a week after the conclusion of the investigation.
  • Confirm the fact that there was an investigation, and that appropriate steps have been taken and the matter has been resolved.
  • Inform employees that although you can understand their curiosity and concern, the company will show respect for all parties involved by putting this behind them and not discussing it any further. Convey the expectation that employees will do the same and gossip, negative remarks and discussions of personal information will not be tolerated during work hours.
  • Provide means by which employees can share their work related concerns by meeting with their manager or Human Resources.
  • And close by reminding employees of resources that are available to them if they need to talk this through via the company Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or counseling benefits offered through their health plan or local social services.

Three to four weeks later:

  • Post-investigation is the right time to review the company policy and make any revisions that are needed to promote a zero tolerance workplace and comply with the laws. Managers who were involved in the investigation should be allowed to provide insight, and the final revision should be reviewed by an attorney.
  • Provide all staff training, review the laws, distribute and review the company policy, and have each employee sign an acknowledgement that they attended training and understand their rights and responsibilities. Managers should attend this meeting to show that they are united in the enforcement of the zero tolerance policy.
  • At the end of the meeting, either as one group or after breaking into separate departments, allow for open discussion on how the laws and the policy apply in your workplace. Provide examples of courteous respectful behaviors, and those that are not allowed (being careful not to use examples that are too close to the recent investigation). And ask employees for suggestions on how to promote better behaviors within the workplace.
  • Schedule and conduct Supervisor/Manager unlawful harassment training, even if it was conducted in the recent past, to remind the management team how important this is to the company.

Three months later:

During an investigation employees may take sides, restrict communication, and become uptight and leery of those they work with.  If relationships are left to rebuild on their own, it can impact business for a period of months or more. Employers must take an active role in helping employees to rebuild trust in their co-workers and managers, so they can feel comfortable again and even enjoy their daily work.  It is usually most effective to begin the rebuilding process within three to four months of an investigation, allowing for a cooling off period when raw emotions can heal.

  •  A good first step is to host a company lunch or barbecue. During this time, implement games or activities that promote teamwork, positive reinforcements and laughter. When employees laugh together, they let their guard down.
  • Institute a spot award program to recognize teamwork, kind/respectful behaviors, and providing a helpful hand to others.
  • Spend time, either one-on-one or in groups, talking about growth and learning opportunities in the company to increase engagement.
  • And finally, actively manage employees by using your performance review and progressive discipline processes to recognize and build on good behaviors, and control the wrong behaviors BEFORE they get out of hand.

I hope this information is helpful to you. But remember, if you need to investigate…….GoInvestiPro.com! Simplifying the way employers conduct investigations.

 

The Top 10 Investigation Challenges: Part 9, Getting the budget and buy-in from the Executive Team.

What if an employee informed you that he is constantly being asked to spend “personal time” with a manger from another department? You know you have to conduct an investigation, right? But before you begin, you must receive cooperation from your boss, be it the General Manager, VP of your division or the CEO. You also have to get a budget approved, which can be expensive depending on what resources you may need.  This may not sound like one of the more difficult investigation challenges since the law requires this investigation. But in reality, many executives are still of the thought that it is better to sweep these issues under the rug in order to avoid creating more liability by making a mountain out of a molehill. What they need from you is a little education and a few hard facts. Here are a couple Continue reading