Showing posts with label my work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label my work. Show all posts

Think before you send: E-mail etiquette in the workplace

This article is cross-posted from my professional HR & Safety blog - "Earl Capps On The Job":

Recently, I was asked to put together a short presentation on e-mail etiquette in the workplace for one of my company's workgroups. There's a lot of talk about what to say and not to say in e-mails circulating around so it wasn't hard to put it together, but with a little reading a handful of points become apparent.

The blog Civility and the Workplace shares some useful insights from David Shipley and Will Schwalbe, who wrote the book "Send: The Essential Guide to Email for Office and Home", summarizing three key points from their book:
  • Think before you send.
  • Send email you would like to receive.
  • Write email that is so effective that it cuts down on email.
These are certainly three excellent basic rules to follow. From there, everything else is as the legendary Rabbi Hibbel once said of the Jewish Torah, "is just commentary. Go and study it."

Barbara Richman, a human resources consultant writing for Lorman Educational Services Employment and Labor Update, shared ten basic rules for using e-mail in the workplace:

Noel Canning ruling a setback for Obama and NLRB

Efforts by the Obama administration to pursue an aggressive pro-union agenda via the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) suffered a major setback earlier today. A three-judge federal appeals court in the Noel Canning case unanimously found that recent recess appointments of NLRB board members violated the Constitution, ruling that "Because none of the three appointments were valid, the Board lacked a quorum and its decision must be vacated."

If today's ruling is upheld by the Supreme Court, to which the Obama administration is expected to appeal the case, it would be a long-awaited victory for Republicans and business organizations who have long objected to the Board's growing reach into non-union workplaces and increasingly pro-union rulings. It would also be vindication for Senate Republicans who have sought to check the administration's political agenda via the confirmation process which the recess appointments bypassed.

In the case, attorneys for Noel Canning, a Washington State canning and bottling company, argued that NLRB seats were filled in violation of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 3, which allows Presidents to fill posts by recess appointments only when the Senate is in recess. Their position was that because the Senate was still meeting in pro forma session when the Obama administration filled vacant NLRB seats via recess appointments, three of five seats were improperly appointed. This would mean the Board would not have a legitimate quorum of at least three members and would therefore have no power to make rulings such as the one which Noel Canning appealed. The three Board members whose appointments were challenged by the suit were:

Work Zone Safety Legislation moves forward

Those who know me, personally or professionally, know that my latest legislative project in South Carolina has been to seek to rewrite and toughen laws on work zone enforcement. While the challenge of making work zones safer has been a professional problem for years, it became much more personal back in March of last year when a drunk driver entered a lane closure, ramming and destroying my personal vehicle while I was doing a site inspection.

I can tell numerous stories and show numerous examples of where my co-workers had close calls, the reality is that work zones are at least as dangerous for motorists. In over a decade in the industry, not a single company employee was killed or seriously injured in a work zone incident, while eight motorists and three pedestrians have died in our work zones.

Work zone safety reform is about protecting workers AND motorists.

Senate Bill 139 is the legislation which was filed by Senators Larry Grooms (R-Berkeley County), Chair of Senate Transportation Committee and Larry Martin (R-Pickens County), Chair of Senate Judiciary Committee. The legislation will add a dedicated penalty to cover law enforcement costs, allowing the state to hire additional law enforcement officers, along with an additional two-point penalty against one's license. Similar legislation was filed in the 2011-2012 legislative session, but died when that session ended back in the summer.

In addition to safety concerns, there are other considerations that are driving this legislation:

Check those employee handbooks

This story is cross-posted from my professional blog: Earl Capps: On The Job as a professional guide to keep you out of trouble in the workplace.

While the employee handbook was once an afterthought of companies, seldom reviewed and updated even less often, it's one of the biggest liabilities for employers with regard to lawsuits and actions by federal regulatory agencies.

The truth that catches some employers off-guard, especially smaller ones who don't have dedicated HR staff or who don't have well-supported human resources operations, is that the employee handbook is one of the most widely-circulated company documents. Thus employers should take it seriously and make sure whatever goes into it should be reviewed with a fine-tooth comb.

Another reason for tougher Work Zone enforcement in South Carolina

Yesterday was another sad lesson in the need to crack down on work zone violators in South Carolina, when a motorist was charged with DUI with an incident which an SCDOT worker was hit and killed on Interstate 20:

The driver of the car that killed a state Department of Transportation worker on Interstate 20 in Lexington County Monday afternoon has been charged with driving under the influence and leaving the scene of an accident, according to the state Highway Patrol.
Thomas Lee Stafford, 39, is accused of driving drunk when his 2003 Nissan SUV hit Nicholas Johnson and fatally wounded Nicholas Johnson, who was walking along the road’s emergency lane near mile marker 62, according to Highway Patrol spokesman Brent Kelly.

Make no mistake about it, the dangers of work zones are real. If you doubt it, I invite you to spend some time in work zones, which is part of what I've done for a living for over a decade as an HR and Safety Manager.

While you might think it's just workers who are in harm's way, think again:

House GOP makes first move on immigration reform

Hit by accusations that the GOP has been unfriendly to immigrant populations, House Republicans in Congress are making the first post-election move on opening up the immigration process.

House leadership is planning to bring the STEM Jobs Act, sponsored by House Judiciary Chair Lamar Smith, a Texas Republican, up for a second vote as early as next week. The legislation was voted on earlier in the fall, carrying 257 votes in the House, including 30 Democrats, but failed as rules required a two-thirds vote on the legislation. The new vote will simply require a majority to secure passage.

Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Consumer Electronics Association, are backing the legislation, which is said to be aimed at boosting American tech companies, who continue to contend with a lack of skilled workers, even in the slow economy. This legislation could help American high-tech companies address staffing shortages while reducing the number of educated candidates available to foreign companies.

Employee handbook rulings expand NLRB's reach into non-union workplaces

As an HR professional, I write professional blog in addition to the Blogland. Occasionally, I cross-post articles, such as this one, which discuss issues relative to the upcoming election, such as labor law, where the current administration and Mitt Romney hold very different views.

Employers who think that having a union-free workplace will protect them from National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) actions should think again. The federal labor agency has been broadening its reach into examining employer practices in non-union workplaces with no union activity taking place.

One area which is drawing increased scrutiny from the NLRB is the content of employee handbooks, as indicated by recent rulings issued by the board (Banner Estrella Medical Center, 358 NLRB No. 93, Hyundai America Shipping Agency Inc. 357 NLRB No. 80 and Karl Knauz Motors, 358 NLRB No. 164).

Unless the November elections result in a shake-up of the Board, employers and HR staff responsible for writing and maintaining the content of employee handbooks may want to scrutinize these documents for potential troublespots.

Questions about effectiveness of state OSH programs may lead to changes

Federal OSHA officials efforts to come up with effective measures for state-run Occupational Safety &  Health (OSH) programs keep coming up short, according to several reports which have examined how state-run programs are assessed. These measures are needed to ensure that state-run programs meet, if not exceed, standards and performance levels of the federally-run OSHA program which is applied in states without self-run programs.

Concerns about OSH programs in a number of states now include a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Labor which has criticized the federal agency's ability to develop effective state OSH program measures. More bad news came in an August report from the Federal Annual Monitoring Evaluation (FAME), which criticized a number of states for the poor quality of whistle-blower programs.

These criticisms present major concerns for the quality and effectiveness of workplace safety and enforcement as the federal agency delegates the enforcement of workplace safety in many states, thus relying upon those states to develop effective safety programs that balance promoting safety with proper and effective enforcement.

E-verify mandate underway in North Carolina


Following the lead of South Carolina, which was one of the first states to pass workforce immigration compliance legislation following the Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting ruling, North Carolina is now mandating the use of E-Verify for screening all new applicants.

North Carolina will phase in compliance, based upon the size of a company's workforce, as follows:
  • Effective Oct. 1, 2012—employers with 500 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
  • Effective Jan. 1, 2013—employers with 100 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
  • Effective July 1, 2013—employers with 25 or more employees will be required to use E-Verify to check work authorization for all new hires.
For companies with multi-state workforces, the agency will consider just in-state employees towards the determination of the first date of enforcement.

At this time, the North Carolina legislation exempts employers with less than 25 employees as well as seasonal workers (but keep reading because federal requirements may still apply).

Social Media increasingly being used as evidence


As if we haven't seen enough written about the need to exercise caution about what is being said in social media, another word of warning comes from Allen Smith, who recently interviewed David Osterman, a New Jersey attorney specializing in labor and human resources issues for a recent story in the Society for Human Resource Management website

While this news that social media is impacting what takes place in courtrooms probably isn't surprising to many, the details of the story bear attention in the article, Smith warns readers that:

"Social media has filtered into courtrooms, transforming jury selection; questioning of witnesses; interactions between jurors, lawyers and judges; and evidence. And employment litigation has been affected ..."

In the story, Osterman details how social media is being used to do advance research for jurors and witnesses, as well as how social media commentary is qualified as evidence in the courtroom. For those who want to protect their company from legal exposure or prepare a strong defense for cases that may go to trial, this story makes for good reading.

More signs of ramped-up OSHA enforcement and penalties


It seems that some of these efforts have drawn some controversy, most notably the agency's Severe Violator Enforcement Program (SVEP), which kicked off two years ago, replacing the agency's Enhanced Enforcement Program with the aim of focusing enforcement efforts upon:

(H)igh-emphasis hazards, which are defined as high gravity serious violations of specific fall standards -- 23 such standards are listed in general industry, construction, shipyards, marine terminal, and longshoring -- or standards covered in National Emphasis Programs focused on amputations, combustible dusts, crystalline silica, lead, excavation/trenching, shipbreaking, and process safety management.

The wrong way to handle an immigration audit

There are right ways to handle an immigration compliance audit and there are wrong ways.

In Los Angeles, Yoel A. Wazana, 38, owner and production manager of Wazana Brothers International, Inc., doing business as Micro Solutions Enterprises (MSE), decided to try one of the wrong ways and will now have to plead guilty plead to one felony count of false representation of a Social Security number. This comes after a 2008 raid resulted in the arrest of eight company workers on criminal charges and another 130 for  administrative immigration violations. 

Considering the extent to which he attempted to cover up potential problems, he's lucky to get off so lightly:

New federal EEO expectations for criminal background checks

Criminal background checks can be an effective way to avoid problems in the workplace, but if not done properly, background check processes can create more headaches than they avoid, thus employers should use them with caution. 

A recent 4-to-1 vote by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to approve new guidance for employers conducting criminal background checks is certainly going to raise the bar even higher for employers.While the guidance from the EEOC is not a regulation, it is a warning of growing concern by the Commission and will help inform its field staff when conducting investigations and considering enforcement actions. 

One of the key motivators for this decision was driven by concerns about employers who inappropriately used criminal background checks. The most egregious example was employers who screened out applicants based upon arrest histories, not taking the time to determine if the arrests led to convictions. In too many cases, arrests resulted in dropped charges, meaning people who were found not guilty in the eyes of the law were found guilty in the eyes of an irresponsible employer.

Unions and NLRB still pushing over Poster issue

While court rulings earlier this year put the National Labor Relations Board's (NLRB) workplace poster mandate on ice, an appeal of the National Association of Manufacturers ruling is expected to be heard in the D.C. District Court of Appeals in September. Since these rulings were issued, a number of actions taken in support of the policy both by the agency and those in support of the rule, presenting new challenges for employers and those seeking to curtail the ability of the agency to act as an advocate for labor unions.

The poster rule suffered two setbacks from rulings which barred the agency from mandating employers post a notice that was considered by many to be free advertising for labor unions. In National Association of Manufacturers v. NLRB and Chamber of Commerce v. NLRB, federal courts in Washington D.C. and South Carolina both ruled the agency could not require employers to post such notices

Earlier this month, a Friend-of-the-Court brief filed by the AFL-CIO, Change to Win, and Professor Charles Morris, a retired professor from the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas sought to support the NLRB's push for the employer mandate, arguing the poster and other notification processes were within the scope of the agency's authority and were essential to it's ability to help workers who sought to organize unions in their workplaces. In the brief, they warn that "as union density has declined, the need for workers to have an independent source of information about their rights has never been greater".

Pennsylvania latest state to issue E-Verify mandate



Pennsylvania joins a growing number of states which are mandating the use of the federal E-Verify service for screening new hires for eligibility to work in the United States.

Signed into law earlier this week, the Pennsylvania law applies to companies which do business with state government, but doesn't apply to other businesses. The new law would require them to subscribe to the service and begin running new hires through the system no later than January 1 of next year, giving them several months to learn the system.

It's worth noting that E-Verify rules require that all new hires be run. Selectively running new hires or even checking out applicants who have not been hired is not allowed. All or nothing.

The new law comes with penalties, including fines and bans on doing business with the state:

OSHA employer penalties rising

Employer should be wary of increased efforts by federal and state OSHA officials to enforce and penalize employers. While some actions aimed at increasing penalties have been bottle-necked in Congress and in federal courts, but such roadblocks alone won't stop employers from facing increased headaches and costs from OSHA visits to workplaces. Increased OSHA inspections will allow the agency to spot and cite violations with increased frequency, the federal agency is also changing the rules which govern how penalties are applied to greatly reduce the latitude given to employers and set employers up to face quickly-increasing fines for workplace safety violations.

In writing for the Society of Human Resource Management labor attorney Allen Smith reported on a presentation by Nina Stillman, a labor attorney with Morgan Lewis in ChicagoAs penalties are capped by existing federal laws, OSHA has increased penalties by ramping up the use of repeat violator citations. Stillman said OSHA “is doing repeats all over the place.” Such citations are very costly for employers, costing up to five times the penalty of the first-offense citation. 

Stillman also reported that OSHA has increased the penalties by:

Feds considering hiring quotas for disabled


Keep in mind that many local and state programs receive federal funding, thus could fall under the scope of this proposed rule.

Claiming a thirteen percent unemployment rate for those with disabilities, Patricia Shiu, director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, said "specific goals" and "real accountability" were needed to ensure increased hiring of disabled individuals.

That means mandates upon employers are in the works.

More states mandating E-verify for employment screening


While this week's Supreme Court decision on Arizona's immigration enforcement legislation may have tied the hands of the state to enforce immigration laws, this ruling did not touch the state's E-verify mandate, which was affirmed by the Supreme Court in last year's ruling in the matter of Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting. This and other signs point to a growing willingness to mandate E-verify and allow states to implement laws restricting the ability of employers to employ those who don't establish their legal right to work in the United States.

Following Chamber ruling, nine other states joined Arizona in requiring businesses in those states to use E-verify to screen new hires - Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah and Virginia. While the dates for the implementation of the laws vary from state-to-state, all ten states require employers to be using this system by the end of this year. But a report from the National Conference of State Legislatures indicates the E-verify mandates are just the tip of the iceberg on issues related to employment and immigration.

Foreign automakers keeping UAW out of plants

While labor unions have done well at organizing work forces at United States-based automakers, they've struggled to get into foreign automaker facilities in the United States. According to a recent MSNBC story:

While the UAW continues to represent Detroit’s Big Three manufacturers, it has all but completely failed to gain representation rights for the so-called transplant lines now run by virtually all the major foreign-owned automakers, from BMW to Toyota to Volkswagen.

UAW president Bob King sees these efforts as crucial to the survival of the labor union, warning "If we don't organize these transnationals, I don't think there's a long-term future for the UAW, I really don't". Last year, it was reported the UAW was considering going after Volkswagen and Daimler plants and now is reportedly looking at attempting to organize a Nissan plant in Mississippi. But the track record of organizing these companies plants isn't good.

US Dep't of Labor Wage/Hour crackdown looming?

My company recently had a site visit from an investigator from the Wage and Hour enforcement by the U.S. Department of Labor. The investigator was cordial, professional and efficient in his visit. But changes in the agency’s approach to handling investigation and penalties should serve as a warning that those friendly visits may become quite costly for an unprepared employer.

Writing in the June 2012 edition of HR magazine, attorney Allen Smith reports that Wage and Hour enforcement by the US DOL is becoming more aggressive, meaning employers will need to exercise additional caution on these issues.

Reporting on a May presentation at the Jackson Lewis Corporate Counsel Conference in Washington, D.C., Smith reported that investigators are now assessing civil penalties on first visits. This is a change from years past, when a first visit would result in a warning and useful guidance on how to improve compliance so as to avoid penalties.

This is just one of a number of reports of ramped-up enforcement.