Archive for September, 2009

Criminal Employees Slipping through the Cracks

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

criminal employee falls through the cracksOne might think that the Capitol Police Department would know enough about criminals, persons of risk and habitual liars to avoid placing them on their staff. But last year, halfway through a 12-week training period, fifteen newly-hired recruits were asked to return to DC and resign—or be fired. The problem? They had either lied on their application, failed a criminal background check, or failed a psychological examination—but were hired anyway!

Despite what the Capitol Police describe as a “stringent recruiting process,” including a written exam, application review, interviews, background investigation, polygraph, medical exam and psychological evaluation, each of the fifteen recruits had made it through the hiring process. The result? Not only was the HR Director fired, but also affected were the fifteen families that had been relocated from all over the country. Fortunately, even more damage was prevented by the forced resignations—who knows what could have resulted from hiring these fifteen officers?

In another case, an adult home in Virginia was ordered to pay $750,000 to a disabled resident after he was sexually assaulted by a Certified Nursing Assistant employed there. The CNA had a criminal history before he was hired, and continued to rack up charges, including assault and battery and public intoxication while working for the facility.

Another scary example includes a teacher hired to teach middle school in Nashville, TN, even though he had been suspended from another Tennessee school system after allegations surfaced that he was engaging in misconduct with minors. Even more shocking is the fact that the teacher was hired despite having outstanding warrants for his arrest on sexual battery and rape charges. Not surprisingly, at the new middle school, he was accused of additional crimes involving two 14 and 15 year old students.

Hiring employees is no easy task; there are many risks involved, too.  Employers must take every available precaution when hiring staff, especially when the safety and well-being of at-risk populations, children, and the public are hanging in the balance. The lack of proper background screening in each of the above cases resulted in serious consequences for the employers—and unnecessary suffering for the innocent victims.

Foster the Satisfaction of a Job Well Done

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

thumbs-upStarting as children, human beings take a great deal of pride in doing a job well. And the tougher the job, the sweeter the feeling. To top it all off, hearing praise from someone we respect makes it all even better.

The same is true in the workplace. Giving employees the opportunity to do for themselves, build a program or manage a project on their own results in higher job satisfaction.

Instead of a constant “trickle-down” type of management, progressive employers are putting the reins in the hands of their employees, encouraging them to form teams and take on the planning and implementation phases of programs designed to meet their tough challenges.

Research supports the idea. The so-called “IKEA effect” shows that people report higher satisfaction with the bookshelves, tables, and cabinets from IKEA that they assemble themselves—whether or not they actually did a good job. The pride of making something makes people feel good, so they assign a higher-than-accurate value to the item.

Similarly, employees place a higher value on a project they are in charge of, or their ideas that are implemented—whether or not it is deserved. People tend to prefer their “babies” over those of others—including management. And managers, too, can fall in love with their own ideas, because they are personally vested in them. The problem is that co-workers and customers may not agree on value.

But managers and business owners, be warned: the IKEA effect can self-destruct, just as quickly as that bookcase you put together without all the necessary screws. If a staff-implemented strategy does not meet its objectives, everyone suffers. Management is less likely to allow a repeat; staff members feel badly; and the company must revamp with another strategy.

Managers and business owners must take risks; allowing staff to gain satisfaction by implementing their own ideas and building their own programs is one that can pay off in the long run.

How the Economy Affects Employer/Employee Relationships

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

going out-of-business on employee screening blogThe number of Americans who are unemployed seems to be stabilizing somewhat, but even those employees who have made it through your company’s toughest times may still be wary, worried, and waiting for their job to be taken away.  With stress at home, unemployed partners, and shrinking household incomes, combined with increased workloads and more on-the-job stress, your staff could be more nervous than ever. Fear leads to unusual or out-of-character behavior. Employers should be aware of changes in their employees—and be willing to try new ways of dealing with old issues.

The continued downturn in the economy can seem like uncharted territory—so just as you drive more cautiously when you don’t know where you’re going, employers should proceed with caution when dealing with employee issues like layoffs and evaluations.

For example, your employees might be more sensitive to criticism. When stresses combine with a feeling that their job could be in jeopardy, even the most even-tempered employee could react uncharacteristically. Employers should take extra time to explain any issues related to performance, suggest ways to improve, and if the problem is not job-threatening, be sure to say so! Never assume your employee knows anything that you don’t directly communicate to them.

During times of stress, employees could become more aggressive about negative evaluations. This isn’t to say that evaluations should be soft-pedaled or toned down to avoid upsetting your team members. Just be sure that negative scores or observations can be backed up with solid evidence, such as incident reports, notes, or other appropriate documentation. Still, employers should prepare for formal challenges from staff members who fear that a poor performance evaluation could lead to losing their job.

Employers should also be cautious about layoffs. A downturn in business can be the sole reason for letting employees go—but that does not preclude an older laid off employee from filing a discrimination case, or an employee whose religious practices differ from yours from hiring an employment lawyer.

So be fair, be sensitive to employee stress, and always keep the lines of communication open with all of your employees. If they are aware of your company’s challenges, feel that they are being treated fairly, and know exactly where they stand, your staff will be more accepting of criticism, poor evaluations, and even lay offs.

Be sure to check out our Pre-Employment Screening services. Protect your business, increase your peace of mind and lower turnover by hiring smart!

FAQs About FLSA From the US DOL

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

faqs on employee screening blogWhew! That’s a mouthful of acronyms, but it means we have some great information for you. As an employer, you might be facing unprecedented challenges to keep your business running and your employees paid. If you’re furloughing employees, or reducing hours and/or leave, you need to be sure you’re within legal guidelines. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has published a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to help employers stay within the guidelines of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Here’s how to handle a few situations you may not have encountered before:

Q: If I’m having trouble meeting payroll, do I still have to pay non-exempt employees on the regular payday?
A: Yes. In general, an employer must pay covered non-exempt employees minimum wage and overtime due on the regularly scheduled payday. Failure to do so is a violation of FLSA.

Q: Is it legal to reduce the wages or number of hours of an hourly employee?
A: The FLSA does not address reduction of hours or wages for non-exempt employees. It does require that they receive at least the Federal minimum wage for all hours worked. It is not a violation of the Act to reduce wages or hours of non-exempt employees.

Q: Am I required to pay an hourly employee for a full day of work if they don’t work a full day, due to lack of work?
A: No. An employer is not required to pay non-exempt employees for hours they do not work.

Q: Can an exempt employee’s salary be reduced during a business slowdown?
A: In general, the reduction of an exempt employee’s salary will cause a loss of exemption; they must then be paid minimum wage and overtime for all hours worked. In some circumstances, reduction in salary may not cause a loss of the exemption. As long as the employer is not attempting to avoid salary basis requirements, the exempt employee’s salary may be reduced. However, deductions to salary may not be made by the employer based on the operating requirements of the business. This is a complicated question, and full details can be found here.

Q: Can an employer reduce an exempt employee’s leave?
A: Yes. Employers can substitute or reduce an exempt employee’s accrued leave for the time an employee is absent from work, even if the absence is directed by the employer because of a lack of work.

Q: Can a salaried, exempt employee volunteer to take unpaid leave due to a lack of work?
A: Yes, if the employer asks for volunteers to take time off due to insufficient work, and an employee volunteers to take a day or days off for personal reasons (other than disability) the employee’s salary may be reduced for one or more full days of missed work. The employee’s decision must be completely voluntary.

Labor laws can be tricky. This list is meant to be an overview, not a legal guide. For full regulations, please see the Wage and Hour Division website . Remember to check your state’s labor laws as well. Always seek professional legal advice whenever you are in doubt about employment law.

When Bad Things Happen to Good Employees

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

sad employee on employee screening blogAs an employer, you take on a lot of “extras” when you hire an employee—some good, some bad. Good is when the employee’s family and friends become evangelists for your product or service. Bad is when the employee’s personal life affects his or her job performance.

So what is an employer to do when an employee has a personal problem? First, stay alert to changes in your staff’s behaviors. Everyone is entitled to a bad day—and being grumpy is not reason enough to be called into the boss’s office.  But if a good employee with a great attitude and performance history has an apparent personality change or if their attitude is affecting fellow staffers negatively, it’s time to take action.

Address the problem directly with the employee. Keep your emphasis on their performance only—not their personality, their perceived happiness (or lack thereof), or their attitude.

Your employee will likely open up—especially if you’ve established a caring communication culture in your company.  How you proceed is dependent on whether the issue is related to work itself, such as stress or a conflict with a fellow staffer; or if it’s completely based in the employee’s personal life.

You may find that what looked like a personal problem is entirely work-related. In this case, you as the leader must take control of the situation—before it gets worse. Ignore it and you could lose a valuable employee, as well as damage your company’s reputation. Whatever method you use to diffuse employee conflict must be employed right away when a good employee’s job performance is negatively affected by another.

Your employee may share that they are having a personal problem. Perhaps it’s trouble with a child’s day care situation. Or, they’re having family difficulties, such as illness or partner problems. While most employers prefer to stay out of their staffers’ personal lives, anything that is affecting their ability to do their job is your concern.  And remember, if productivity is reduced, or interaction with other employees goes south, you have a responsibility to the company and the entire staff to intervene.

But how? Sometimes a caring ear is all that’s required. Your employee’s attitude could change 180 degrees just because they realize their employer cares. Suggestions regarding day care, home health care for an ill family member, or even drug and alcohol counseling referrals could all be welcome advice to your employee. Tread lightly and respect their right to privacy, but let the employee know that poor performance and affecting others cannot be tolerated long-term.

Be sure to check out our Pre-Employment Screening services. Protect your business, increase your peace of mind and lower turnover by hiring smart!