Dumbing Down EEOC Guidelines

Who understands the legal jargon issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission pertaining to pregnancy, disability, equality, and diversity? Lawyers, that’s who! So here’s a little breakdown for the “normal” people who actually have to abide by these rules and regulations.

  • When it comes to pregnancy disability leave, the EEOC has issued guidance twice in 2015. It all boils down to this, “If an employee has a pregnancy-related impairment that hinders her ability to perform a job, the employer must attempt to see if it can provide a reasonable accommodation that would allow the employee to continue to perform her job.”
  •  [tweetthis]Don’t take employment actions against a worker for any pregnancy-related reason.[/tweetthis] In fact, be very careful with any employment actions taken against a pregnant worker that is NOT taken against a peer employee to that pregnancy worker – protect yourself and be thorough and fair and make employment decisions across the board. Don’t open yourself up to potential lawsuits or discrimination claims!
  • Don’t make excuses for your decisions based on “inconvenience” or “cost to the employer.” The EEOC has already made it clear these decisions won’t fly.
  • Unless you can prove BEYOND THE SHADOW OF A DOUBT that an employment action against a pregnant worker will cause an undue hardship (note the above bullet point – cost and inconvenience to the employer do not hold weight with the EEOC), don’t do it.

Essentially, the problem with the EEOC guidelines is that they are usually long-winded, wordy, and readers lose interest after the first ambiguous paragraph or two. By dumbing down the EEOC guidelines into reasonable, concise language, we hope to help our readers, clients, consultants, and business owners by allowing the puzzle work to be cut out, and the core of the message to be loud and clear. Not to mention the fact that the guidance attempts to combine regulations for two separate laws – The Pregnancy Discrimination Act and Americans with Disability Act (as if one or the other wasn’t confusing enough all on its own). We are here to help YOU, and no question is a “dumb” question in our book. Let us help you figure it out and teach you how to protect your business from unnecessary litigation, lawsuits, and EEOC claims.

Taking Stock & Shaking Up Those “Bored At Work” Employees!

[tweetthis]“Work is making a living out of being bored.” – Karl Lagerfeld[/tweetthis]

How true is this statement for you? How about for your co-workers? What can managers do to shift this feeling of work being something you HAVE to do rather than something that you can ENJOY doing? Taking stock and shaking things up is easier said than done, and changing the way we think about things is much more difficult than changing our actions. On a recent episode of Shark Tank, ABC’s hit show about inventors and investors backing those ideas financially, one entrepreneur presented his idea for the “Squatty Potty.” As one of the investors noted, it is challenging to shift the mindset of people when it comes to how and where they use the toilet. Similarly, it is difficult for many people to change how they view work and their attitude towards it. But alas, there is hope! If you’re bored at work, you can change it!

It is the employer’s responsibility to create an environment that welcomes new ideas, change, and forward thinking. Recently, a successful European beverage company was looking to make changes in order to encourage employee motivation and increase accountability and communication among employees. To shake things up in your organization, follow these simple steps! Let us know how it transforms your workplace.

1. BE TRANSPARENT – This goes for all levels from the CEO to the mail clerk. Be honest, be clear, and be open.

2. TONE DOWN THE CONVENTIONAL APPROACH – While recognizing the necessity in paying bills and such, encourage business innovation when it comes to things such as dress code, meetings, collaborative efforts, etc. Let creativity shine whenever possible!

3. BE A RISK TAKER – Encourage rules to be followed, but also allow for them to be challenged.

4. GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY – If someone needs help, lend a hand. If your officemate broke their desk chair, help them fix it or find a second-hand option. Be thrifty, be smart, and don’t be afraid to roll your sleeves up. Having an attitude of “that’s their problem” will only create tension and destroy the office dynamic.

5. INDIVIDUALITY – This is key. Everyone brings something different to the table. Recognize that, appreciate it, and inspire it.

6. TRUST YOUR EMPLOYEES – To an extent, the trust we give to our co-workers and employees to produce an exemplary solution is what fosters growth and teamwork.

Digital Native vs. Digital Legacy: They are no immigrants!

After my initial Digital Natives blog, I got a lot of feedback from friends and family and readers about the term and who falls under which heading! (Thanks for reading!!) My favorite piece of feedback came from my cousin who wasn’t a big fan of the term Digital Immigrant – which is the official term for those who don’t fall under the ‘digital native’ heading. Defining himself as a Digital Legacy, I started to really break down the meaning of that phrase and why it may be a better indication of the skillset he represents.

[tweetthis]Why you may want to add Digital Legacies to your job descriptions.[/tweetthis]

Digital Native vs. Digital Legacy

So what is a “Digital Legacy”? I would define a Digital Legacy as someone who is more focused on single tasks (rather than preferring tons of tasks and ideas thrown at them all at once like a Digital Native might) and sequential thinking. More of a planner than a creative thinker, and more “book smart” than “tech smart” like their younger counterparts the Digital Natives. Are you still with me?

Having not grown up with Internet and computers in your home does not mean skills can’t be learned. In fact, for those that didn’t grow up with this ‘advantage’ there is an expectation to not only learn, but also fully understand the technology that is being used. By observing and adopting new technology over and over again, as the Internet and computers have developed, these legacies may be a host of information and background that natives may be lacking. Knowing the back end of how technology works gives legacies a leg up on natives who just know how to use the front-end. For example, there was a time when working on cars was not just a hobby or a career, but a necessity in car ownership. For those who grew up changing their own oil or changing spark plugs – or even replacing major components, they have a better understanding of the inner workings of their car, which makes it easier to diagnose the “weird sound” it suddenly started making.

Personally, I will admit, I take my car for granted and haven’t spent a ton of time learning how it works (– beyond put gas in it and keep up on the required maintenance which involves simply taking the car to Jiffy Lube or the dealership!) In fact, as a digital native, I would say I probably take technology for granted as well. I can work with most computer software and systems pretty easily – it’s not a foreign concept, but the minute an error message pops up – Forget it! I’ll even admit, in my personal life, when things go wrong on my computer, more often than not, I’m turning to a Digital Legacy to help me trouble shoot! Granted, not everyone who grew up with technology would identify themselves as a digital native, nor everyone who grew up before that time period consider themselves a digital immigrant/legacy, and we could hope that people operate with a certain level of self-awareness about this topic. Yes – I realize that may be asking a lot! So that’s why it’s important to really consider your screening tactics when hiring an individual where technology is truly critical! Nonetheless, to avoid the issue of discrimination as discussed in my previous blog, you may want to include Digital Legacies – with their depths of information – to your job descriptions. (I’d also recommend Digital Legacy over Digital Immigrant, because to me, it sounds a lot less abrasive!)

Social Media in the Workplace: Who’s Using It?

With all of this talk of digital natives and digital legacies, let’s take a look now at who is actually using social media in the workplace.

[tweetthis]Like it or not, your employees are checking Facebook at work.[/tweetthis] They may even be taking photos and posting to Instagram of that awesome potluck the CEO threw for the entire administrative team last week. #yummy! #thanksboss!

But what does social media really mean for your business? Are you utilizing the tools of social media to change the face of your company? Is your newsletter changing with the times, or is it still a 3-sided page that gets mailed out to the masses? Newsletters are great for dumping large chunks of information on your clients and colleagues. But social media allows you to piecemeal that information out in little tidbits, bite size morsels if you will. As we’ve discussed before on this blog, it’s important to grasp that millennials are a new creature entirely. Give them 140 characters and they’ll come up with something poignant and life-changing (or at least they will think it is so). But hand them a printout of 4-5 meaty articles in a company newsletter, and you’ll be lucky if they even read the first and last sentence of each paragraph (cut to freshman English in college when the assigned reading was almost as boring as the Sunday newspaper that your dad read at the breakfast table).

So in this digital age, social media begs companies to cut to the chase and get to the point. Your audience’s attention span is dwindling with each new generation that enters the workforce. These kids are all about instant gratification, technology at their fingertips, and short snappy snippets of information. So let’s give the people what they want!

1. Use social media for recruitment (check out our Social Media & Recruitment blog here: https://peoplescapehr.com/2015/06/)

2. Check out your online reviews – you may not be using social media but I guarantee your customers are!

3. Improve communication with your employees – think blog, Twitter, hashtags, and collaborate with your employees outside of the box.

4. Brands are necessary. Is your company recognizable? The more you use social media, the more presence you will have amongst your colleagues and potential talent pool.

Like renowned author and business speaker Erik Qualman says, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

7 Things Great Employers Do

How do you get your workforce engaged in the work they are doing? This is a question that comes up quite a bit, as employers are attempting to get their employees involved, productive, and enthusiastic about their work. There are 7 things great employers do that creates a “feel good” approach to getting your employees engaged and creating a work culture that others will envy!

[tweetthis]There are 7 things great employers do that creates a work culture others will envy![/tweetthis]

1. Start with your leaders – Choose involved, creative leaders who want to make a difference and get others excited about your business.

2. Build a strong HR team – HR influences managers to make business decisions – use the HR team to create positive changes throughout your organization.

3. Get down to the basics – Tell employees what is expected of them. Don’t think that employees will connect with an abstract mission or vision if they don’t know what they’re supposed to be doing day-to-day. Be clear and direct.

4. Don’t use the economy as an excuse – Make changes, give (realistic) hope to the employees, be upfront with them. This will go a long way in reassuring employees that your business is around for the long haul!

5. Hold your managers accountable, but trust them too! – Be supportive of your managers, but also make sure that you are holding them accountable and keeping your standards high for your management team as well as their employees.

6. Have a straightforward approach to performance management – Fairness is key in performance management – keep the same standards across the board and treat everyone equally. Streamline your processes so that everyone in the company goes through the same performance management evaluations.

7. Don’t manage to the metric – Yes, utilize tools at your disposal for gauging employee engagement. But do NOT make the actual engagement less important than the measuring of it.

Call Me Cait: Examining Diversity in the Workplace

If you haven’t heard of Caitlyn Jenner, I’d like to know where you’ve been hiding so I can join you! With the premiere of the new TV show Call Me Cait just around the corner on the E! network, and the much publicized news of Caitlyn Jenner’s entrance into the world exploding all over social media, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the prevalence of transgender issues in the world. Of course, from my perspective, this easily translates into a question of how transgender and diversity issues play out in the workplace as well. Preventing harassment in the workplace is a responsibility that falls on the employer, and as stories such as Caitlyn’s become more prominent in the media, it’s an important time for employers to become educated and protect their companies from possible litigation. Caitlyn has already paved the way for this summer’s reality TV hit, Big Brother, to introduce the first transgender contestant, Audrey. What’s next? As more and more stories are shared, the likelihood of this affecting your own workplace increases.

As a product of the millennial culture, I find that many of my peers have been raised in a society where #diversity is acceptable. It is a commonly held belief among young adults today that a person’s identification as #transgender does not change the core of who that person is, or their capabilities in the workplace. However, as we have discussed before on Peoplescape’s blog, the generational differences that are seen in today’s workplace make it an interesting melting pot of values, morals, beliefs, and tolerances. It is imperative that you, as the employer, set guidelines and rules in a WRITTEN format for all employees to sign, agree to, and abide by during their employment. [tweetthis]Employers need WRITTEN policies for employees to sign and abide by. #transgender[/tweetthis]
Otherwise, your less-than-accepting employees are opening you (as the manager/owner/supervisor/CEO) up for liability. As we all know, for any employer with 50 or more employees, managers must be trained on sexual harassment every two years in California. Recently, bullying was added in to that mandatory training as well. It would be my suggestion as an HR professional to also include a slide or two on #transgender identity within your required sexual harassment supervisor training. I would also propose that your workplace harassment zero tolerance policy be included in the employee handbook for every new hire to sign as part of their orientation.

According to CalChamber, “Sexual harassment in the workplace spurs huge lawsuits, affects productivity and damages your company or organization’s reputation.” A payout for this type of lawsuit easily hits the millions! Another easy way to protect your company is to follow the requirements regarding law postings that must be displayed in a common area to which all employees have access (i.e. the lunch or break room). Combined, California law and federal law under both Title VII and the FEHA guidelines, protect against harassment regarding gender, sexual orientation, religion, age, pregnancy, disability, race, ethnicity, and national origin. In regards to the recently headlining transgender issues, this raises interesting questions regarding whether gender is defined or adopted, as transgender individuals identify as one gender although they may biologically be a different sex. With these changes on the horizon, it’s best to be prepared and stay protected with your legal postings, handbook, training, and open door policy!

Religious Discrimination in the Workplace

Take Me To Church….Just Not While I’m At Work

In June 2015, the Supreme Court issued a decision that will forever change the face of religious discrimination in the workplace. In EEOC vs. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc., the court ruled that an employer cannot make employment decisions based on a candidate’s religious practices. In this particular case, Abercrombie did not hire a job applicant because she wore a hijab, or head scarf, which went against the company’s “Looks” policy forbidding “caps” from being worn on the head. During the interview, the candidate made no mention of her religious views, but did wear the black hijab during her interview. She was determined to be qualified for the position, with the exception of her head scarf which conflicted with the company’s “Looks” policy. Although the applicant did not expressly state that the hijab was worn as part of her religious beliefs, the Supreme Court ultimately ruled that she was discriminated against in the company’s decision not to hire her for the sales position.

What does this mean for discrimination in the workplace moving forward? If an employer knows OR EVEN SUSPECTS that an applicant or employee wears certain items of clothing due to religious beliefs, as is the case with this applicant and her head scarf, it is best to err on the side of caution. Here are a few steps that every employer can and should take to ensure that religious discrimination is not a factor in your hiring practices or employee relations.

[tweetthis]3 Steps EVERY Employer Must Take to Avoid Religious Discrimination in the Workplace.[/tweetthis]

Step 1: Walk the fine line of assumption versus dialogue. This case sets the bar for common sense assumptions – something that is not black and white but is in fact, subjective to the interview panel or supervisor. Although it is illegal to ask an applicant or employee what their religious beliefs are, be aware and use common sense in offering accommodations where it appears that a religious accommodation may be necessary (i.e. a job applicant wearing a hijab when your “Looks” policy prohibits caps).

Step 2: Even if a policy applies to ALL applicants, do not assume it is therefore a neutral policy. This case clearly determined that a policy that applies to everyone is still in violation of Title VII rights.

Step 3: All assessments and assumptions made by the employer should be fully defined by the interactive process between employer and employee/applicant to ensure that all protected classes are being safeguarded. This case not only tells us that religion will be protected, even in the case of company policies and dress codes, but that other factors should be considered as well – age, gender, pregnancy, national origin, presumed disabilities, etc.

Dress code policies are a touchy subject in human resources these days, and should always be reviewed by experts to ensure compliance and legal protection for the employer. Religious discrimination is something that can be avoided if your policies are accurately documented in accordance with the law.

The solution: Make sure your employment policies are in accordance with legal requirements, consult an expert on training for harassment, discrimination, bullying and management training, and stay apprised of new case law and decisions regarding this very controversial and sensitive subject. Employers are allowed to have dress code policies, but the terrain is getting tricky to navigate, so be cautious and make sure your policies are backed up by a bona fide job requirement – not personal preference. Peoplescape consultants are trained in all of these areas, and we are just a phone call away!

What’s Your Status? Facebook Branding in the 21st Century

“People spend money when and where they feel good.” – Walt Disney

As a master of invoking emotion in the hearts and minds of children everywhere, Disney was able to sell a brand worldwide that still brings in millions of dollars every year, decades later. When a product speaks to a person, that person feels something – and is able to justify spending money on something that is important to him or her. In this same token, products on Facebook are using emotional responses to create a recognizable brand. Using videos, catchy lines, and triggering feelings in individuals viewing their Facebook page, companies such as BMW, McDonald’s, 3M, and Budweiser have all seen success this year with their social media branding. How can companies that are not as well-known as these use similar strategies to make an impact?

At the top of the list for successful strategies in Facebook branding for the companies mentioned above were the following:

  • Visually stunning (science based or otherwise) videos which stylishly
  • Partnerships with socially successful brands such as MTV
  • Building on the momentum of popular events such as concert festivals
  • Piggybacking on popular holidays, sharing photos of holiday treats
  • Announcement of the brand’s presence on another social media site such
  • Gratitude towards fans
  • Videos that pull at the heart strings
  • Short videos that feature humor to grab the viewer’s attention

Why is social media branding a topic that HR Consultants would be concerned with and want to share with our clients and readers? Put simply, branding is about people and organizations, and so is Peoplescape. We want to offer a full range of people-oriented services to our clients, and because we know the business of people, we know how important it is for you to reach your target audience through social media branding.

[tweetthis]Creating a loyal fan base on Facebook means generating views, likes, and shares.[/tweetthis]

Creating a loyal fan base is equivalent on Facebook to the number of views, likes, and shares that a company receives. How many views are you currently getting on your Facebook business page? Do you have a Facebook page? Peoplescape is looking to expand their audience on all forms of social media, and we would love to help you do the same for your company. Targeting a generation of social media addicts is the way to go if you’re looking to attract new brand followers, and these are a few easy ways that we can all do it!

understand personality in the workplace

Who are You? How To Understand Personality in the Workplace

[tweetthis]“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” –Anais Nin #Personality[/tweetthis]

Truer words have never been spoken, and whether you realize it or not, you’ve heard this exact same thing many times (just in different words). From the glass half-empty versus the glass half-full debate to the awkward photos of the blue/black vs. white/gold dress circling social media in the spring of 2015, the manner in which we see the world is shaped by who we are. The same can be said for any professional organization – the employees working in a department will shape the atmosphere of that particular work dynamic because of their individual personality, beliefs, attitudes, and actions. That being said, we need a tool that allows us to determine the suitability of candidates for essential job duties we are looking to fulfill. We do not necessarily need to know if someone is an analyzer or a driver, but we do need to know if they are suitable for the job. Every person is a complex being made up of numerous pieces, and we cannot just box someone in to one personality type if we wish to see true success and fit for the job in our assessment and selection process. Read more

“Under new management” – A tragedy or a seamless transition?

It’s happened to all of us, you go to your favorite restaurant or neighborhood hangout and there’s a banner outside “under new management” or “under new ownership.” Depending on your personal experiences and what you’ve heard from friends, neighbors and relatives, this could be a blessing or terrifying change. Imagine how a business transition like this felt or looked for the employees of the establishment?

[tweetthis]How business transitions are handled can make all the difference to employees.[/tweetthis]

As an HR professional, I’ve assisted with changes both in ownership and management. I must say that the way business transitions like this are handled can make all the difference to the employees and the image projected on the local community. Here are a few wins and losses of my experiences with management change:

1. Speak to the employees first before sharing the news with the public or affiliates of the company – WIN!
By speaking to the employees first, the current and future management companies show their commitment to the staff that has carried the business this far and can avoid rumors from destroying the positive outlook of this strategic move. Note: Check your compliance with the WARN Act! You may have certain legal obligations of giving notice to your employees!

2. Waiting to tell the employees whether they will be re-hired or not – LOSS!
Inevitably, the new management company will want to be selective about individuals they keep and who they opt not to hire. This is a tough position for both the current and future management. My recommendation is to move swiftly with communication. This may mean having difficult conversations with employees who have been with the company for a long time, but the sooner you communicate to those who are not being rehired, the sooner you can tell the remaining employees that they are being retained. In one of my experiences, the in-coming management waited until just a few days before the transition to communicate who was being retained and this was a serious blow to morale. In this situation, the job abandonment rate was high and some of the employees they hoped to retain went out and found a new job out of fear of the unknown.

3. Have the transition team meet weekly (or twice a week) to discuss critical items and answer questions that have come up – WIN!
There are a lot of pieces to the transition puzzle and it helps to have continuous communication as well as clearly defined tasks assigned to one individual for follow up. This doesn’t mean there won’t be teamwork, but when push comes to shove, one person needs to champion each task to avoid duplication of work. Throughout the process employees will have a lot of questions and it’s crazy to think any individual will have all the answers. By meeting weekly, or more frequently, and discussing the questions, you guarantee that the answers are uniform across the board and if further information is needed, it should be added to the task list with a champion to get the answer.

4. Be prepared and organized for the transition day with individualized packets for each employee – WIN.
Whether it’s on-boarding or off-boarding, we all know there is a lot of paperwork involved and having incomplete or missing pages could have serious ramifications. I recommend having packets with each employee’s name on it. Go through the packet with employee and explain each form and what they need to do with each item. I have tried the “buffet line” of paperwork and it always seems that paperwork is missed or goes missing. So while making packets is time consuming and uses extra supplies, you will not regret the small extra expense for the peace of mind that paperwork is complete, secure, and organized.

5. For the out-going management, celebrate and commemorate the years of success – WIN
This is the lasting impression left with the employees that you have worked with for past years. Consider doing a reception for the employees with a catered meal and have key management members or the CEO/Owner say a few words. Saying “thank you” goes a long way. You never know when your professional paths may cross again and you want the lasting impression to be something along the lines of “they cared about us” “they appreciated my contributions to the workplace” “They saw the job through to the end” While it may seem like a completely obvious answer, the most critical element to the change is communication. The more answers you can provide, the fewer rumors will successfully circulate. Getting the buy in from the employees can definitely assist in the shaping of the public optics of the change because if the employees are comfortable and excited about the change, they will communicate this to patrons, friends, relatives, and the like. Very few people like change, especially in their workplace, but with the right finesse and on-going communication, you can minimize disruption and successfully guide your team through the transition.