Affirmative Action Protections for Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation

July 30th, 2015 by

CAI’s Manager for Affirmative Action Services, Kaleigh Ferraro, shares important information regarding the workplace and the protections of those who are in the LGBT community.  Make sure you are compliant.

Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services
Kaleigh Ferraro, Manager, Affirmative Action Services

Recently there has been a lot of activity regarding the protections and requirements for people who are in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community. This activity has occurred with state regulations regarding same sex marriage and rulings by the US Supreme Court about the validity of these marriages. The Department of Labor adopted a new definition of spouse (on March 27, 2015) to include those people who are part of legal same sex marriages. This will afford spouses in same-sex marriages the same the FMLA rights as traditional marriages.

The White House has taken another approach to provide and expand protections to individuals in the LGBT community. President Obama issued Executive Order 13672 prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity by federal contractors and subcontractors. In response to President Obama’s request to expand protections to these groups, the Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs (OFCCP) issued final rule amending Executive Order 11246. This update became effective on April 8, 2015.

What that means for companies covered by affirmative action regulations is that they will need to include sexual orientation and gender identity as protected groups just as they currently do for race, color, religion, sex and national origin. If you are a federal contractor or subcontractor, you should be doing:

 

  • Update EEO/AA policies to include gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Update handbook and other policies to include gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Update EO Clauses and required language in subcontracts and purchase orders to include gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Update any other documentation where protected classifications are listed to include gender identity and sexual orientation
  • Train managers and personnel responsible for employment decisions on the newly protected categories

As states and federal government continue to move in the direction of a more diverse and inclusive environment, so should companies. Federal contractors may also want to consider conducting training for workforce on these protections and ensure there is a culture of acceptance and non-discrimination for these newly protected classifications.

If you have any questions about these changes or how it affects your organization feel free to contact me, Kaleigh Ferraro, directly at 919‑713‑5241 or kaleigh.ferraro@capital.org.

 

3 Things I Learned About Recruiting from My Boys and Their Legos

July 28th, 2015 by

In today’s post, CAI’s Peer Learning Recruiter, Jennifer Montalvo, shares how her two sons help inspire her recruiting methods.

Jennifer Montalvo, Peer Learning Recruiter

Jennifer Montalvo, Peer Learning Recruiter

My boys have thousands, no, hundreds of thousands of Legos and are continuously looking for the “right piece.”  Often, I stand over them baffled that they are arguing about “he got the one I wanted.”  I look at the two of them and pan over the vast sea of dumped Legos and reply with, “Really?  You’re telling me out of all of these pieces, that’s the only one you need?”   The reply, “… but it’s the best one, and it fits where I need it.”

Sometimes all my boys needed to do was look deeper at the structure they were building. They had the power to create whatever it was that they could envision.  Many times there was a piece that was overlooked or missed that would fit a.) just as well b.) better or c.) differently. I have learned a lot from this scenario in regard to recruiting. Here are my three takeaways:

Just as well

  • Chances are, amongst the thousands of pieces sprayed across the floor, a piece just like the one they were seeking was there. They may have had to look just a bit harder. The lesson being – don’t give up too quickly. After all, the vehicle that initially came out of the Lego box had four wheels!

Better

  • After a bit of convincing to “think out of the box” when they couldn’t find the exact same piece, they would come across a piece that actually fit better. They would then find that all the little nodules filled the space and consequently made the foundation of their creation even stronger.

Differently

  • Sometimes they would relinquish the desired piece to their sibling, and walk away frustrated and disappointed. However, they would often return with a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective. It was then that their structure would evolve into something unique and dynamic that they didn’t initially intend. And, if they were lucky, their structure would outshine and outlast that of their brother’s.

Recruiting is much like my children playing with Legos. Sometimes you have to look beyond your initial idea, thought or plan to uncover someone whose fit is well-beyond what you ever could have imagined. Keeping an open mind will often lead you to that “diamond in the rough” scenario.

So remember:

  • Don’t give up too quickly
  • Be willing to think out of the box
  • Walk away when needed and return with a fresh set of eyes and a different perspective

If you’re interested in more recruiting tips or would like more information on CAI’s Peer Learning Groups, please contact Jennifer at Jennifer.Montalvo@capital.org or 919-431-6093.

Is The Classic 105 Plan Compliant With Federal Law?

July 23rd, 2015 by

The post below is a guest blog from Jon Dingledine who serves as Vice President of Consulting for CAI’s employee benefits partner Hill, Chesson & Woody.

Ahealth cost compliances healthcare costs continue to rise, innovations in the marketplace continue to produce new products and ways to finance your medical insurance. One that you may have heard about recently (or are likely to soon hear about) is being touted as a tax overlay system sometimes called a “Classic 105 Plan.” The arrangement claims to reimburse 75% of unreimbursed medical expenses for employees. The program is supposed to save the employer money in premiums by raising deductibles, copays and out-of-pocket maximums.

Once the plan design has been leaned up, employees can choose to make a significant pre-tax salary reduction (in some cases as high as $15,000-$20,000 per year). The reduction amounts are held by a TPA and made available for medical reimbursements. Any unused portion in the account is forfeited at the end of the year. To make up for the significant reduction in the employees’ take-home pay, the employees are given a loan by the TPA each payroll period in an amount close or equal to the salary reduction amount. No taxes are paid on this amount because it is considered a loan, however there is no evidence that the loan is ever intended to be repaid. The loan is secured by a life insurance policy on the employee, held by the TPA. Fees paid to the TPA for the arrangement are between $150 and $200 each month, taken from the employees’ pre-tax salary reduction.

While the program claims to be ERISA, ACA and HIPAA compliant, our compliance team and other legal experts have serious concerns that this type of arrangement is not compliant with federal law, including the IRS Code. This type of arrangement can also have significant implications for the employee’s social security, the employer’s fiduciary duties under ERISA, and in some instances may subject the parties to criminal liability.

Rest assured that HCW is always reviewing the health and welfare benefit landscape, and we will continue to vet new programs and funding arrangements to ensure that the decisions your company is making are best fitted to your benefit strategy.

Is Turnover Draining your Company?

July 21st, 2015 by

In today’s video blog, CAI’s Vice President of Membership, Doug Blizzard, discusses turnover and offers ways to help you improve it at your company. Doug begins by sharing that CAI has heard from member organizations that turnover has been rising substantially, doubling and tripling at some companies.

Doug believes that the major issue concerning turnover is that some companies are not addressing it appropriately as a company priority, and he shares his detailed opinion on why during the video. Below is a quick review:

  • Underestimating the true cost of turnover and therefore not allocating appropriate resources
  • Partnering HR with the CFO prior to any executive discussions on fixing turnover is critical
  • Spending time in areas in the company where turnover isn’t a problem to see what you can learn and apply in other areas

CAI has recently added two more HR experts on our Advice and Resolution team who specialize in helping companies think through operational and strategic HR issues like turnover, mergers & acquisitions, talent management, and more. Please reach out to Tom Sheehan or Rick Washburn at 919-878-9222 if you need help thinking through those types of issues.

How to Bounce Back After Vacation in 4 Steps

July 16th, 2015 by

returning to work_vacationThe summer solstice has officially come and gone, and with the onset of soaring temperatures and gas prices comes a welcome reprieve for much of the nation’s workforce —vacation. For many employees, the draw of warm weather and carefree nature of the summer months makes it an ideal time to step away from their office computers and “unplug” for a little while.

With many employees getting ready to head to the leisure spots of their choosing, it can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of stealing away from the office for a vacation. While there’s nothing wrong with taking some “me” time, it’s important to come back to work refreshed and ready to get back into the swing of things.

While a return to work following a week of blissful relaxation can be jarring, following these four tips may help make the transition from vacation back into work much easier to master.

  1. Plan ahead

Before whisking off to some tropical island, make sure you have your ducks in order at work. Communicate to your coworkers that you’ll be away so they won’t be caught off guard when you’re unavailable. In addition, try to see larger and more  difficult projects to completion before the vacation. This will not only give you a sense of accomplishment before you leave, but will also allow you a smoother reentry into the office upon your return. With the larger tasks behind you, you’re then able to take on the smaller tasks  — missed phone calls or emails that accumulated in your absence —and ease back into your normal work pace.

  1. Keep your out of office message on the first day back

You know that charming message you left on your voicemail letting inquiring minds know that for the next week you would be relaxing on a beach in the Bahamas? Leave it on your first day back. By leaving it on, you’re allowing yourself time to sift through those missed emails and sort out what projects to tackle next. Your coworkers will see you back in the office and know you’re available to help, but letting clients know may drag you into new projects and expectations too quickly. You’ll be doing yourself a favor by giving yourself undivided time to catch up on the work you missed.

  1. Get plenty of sleep

Our sleep schedules tend to get all out of whack when we go on vacation. While an erratic sleep schedule works just fine on vacation, it just won’t cut it once when we find ourselves waking up to a piercing early morning. For your first few nights back, try to get to sleep at least an hour earlier than usual to ensure you are well-rested when the alarm clock goes off.

  1. Share memories of your vacation with others

It’s only natural to want to share memories of your blissful time away. It’s likely among the precious few times of the year when you’re able to relax completely. Sharing memories of your travels will remind you of your time away and can elevate your mood, putting you in a positive mindset to take on the tasks of the day. In addition, engaging with your coworkers through your stories can build a better sense of community and translate into a more dynamic and collaborative work environment.

For additional information on ensuring your team stays productive this summer, please call a member of our Advice & Resolution team at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Photo Source: Ra’anan Niss.

Showing Emotion is a Good Leadership Quality

July 14th, 2015 by

In today’s post, Advice and Resolution team member Renee’ Watkins discourages management and leaders from hiding their emotions and explains why.

Renee' Watkins, HR Advisor

Renee’ Watkins, HR Advisor

As professionals, we are taught and trained to keep our emotions in check when conducting a meeting or having a one-on-one conversation. The result can sometimes be the delivery of a message that seems a little too polished and rehearsed to be believable. These are times when a little more emotion is called for.

True emotion from our management is seen so rarely, when we hear it or see it, we are almost in shock. This reaction can make a message more powerful for us as it appears more genuine and trustworthy. Such a delivery can convey that the message is authentic and not trying to cover up anything behind the scenes.

Hiding our emotions may give the appearance of strength and control, but in reality it hinders our capacity to truly lead. Without emotion, we never really connect with individuals on their level. Employees who feel connected to management also feel an equal part of the company, with an equal stake in its failure or success.

Granted, there is also the other side of this coin. Being too emotional at a management level can sometimes cloud objectivity and lead to rash decisions that may negatively impact the company. It can be a very delicate balance, knowing how much emotion is necessary to connect with the workforce and how much is needed to be a strong leader when called upon.

To discover that balance, pay attention to your emotions. Ask yourself a couple of times a week, “How am I feeling right now?” Keep a journal of your emotions and try to identify what events or issues cause which emotions. Decide the importance of each and investigate how each emotion can be used to either connect directly with an employee or to advance forward in some decision process currently in play. Emotions, when used wisely, can be a powerful catalyst for change.

For more leadership tips, please call a member of CAI’s Advice and Resolution team and 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

Restricting Transgender’s Use of Restroom Found in Violation of Title VII

July 9th, 2015 by

George Ports, CAI’s Senior Executive and HR Advisor, shares important information on handling the sensitive issue of transitioning and the workplace.

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

George Ports, Senior Executive and HR Advisor

No doubt you’ve heard the name Caitlyn Jenner mentioned a few times around your office over the past few months.  Some label Bruce Jenner’s transition as courageous while others label it disturbing.  Either way, when employees decide to make a gender transition, it can create employee relations issues for employers. Is there a best way to handle this situation?

Well first let’s look at what the government says.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found on April 1, 2015 that restricting a transgender employee (transitioning from male to female) from using the common women’s restroom was sex discrimination under Title VII.   The agency also ruled that the continued refusal by one of her supervisors to use her changed name and appropriate gender pronouns established a hostile work environment because it was deliberate and openly practiced in the workplace.

The individual, a civilian employee working for the US Army as a software quality assurance lead, began discussing her gender identity issues with the quality division chief in 2007, began the process of transitioning her gender expression in 2010, and officially changed her name with the state.  She was also successful in getting the government to change her name and sex on all her personnel records. She met with her supervisor and his supervisor in October of that year to request time off for medical procedures and announced her transition to her co-employees in November.  To read this case in its entirety, go to Lusardi v McHugh.

One of the first dilemmas employers face in these transitioning processes is which restroom does the person use? In this particular case, it was understood that the individual would use a “single-user” restroom until she had undergone “final surgery”.  The EEOC stated that an employer cannot restrict access to facilities until surgery was completed determining the individual’s sexual identity.

Another issue in this case dealt with the use of male gender pronouns. The employee claimed that her supervisor intentionally referred to her by her former male name and used male pronouns when referring to her in front of other employees (this was corroborated by witness testimony during the agency’s investigation). The EEOC found that continued refusal to use an employee’s correct name and gender may be sex-based harassment and create a hostile work environment.

While is it understandable that a supervisor persistently calling the individual by her former male name and using male pronouns when referring to her in front of her peers creates a hostile work environment, it is disappointing that the EEOC did not thoroughly consider the major employee relations issues generated by a male transitioning to a female using female restrooms. This could create issues not only with the female employees, but also with the female employees’ spouses and or their significant others.

OSHA has also recently put out guidance for employers on accommodating transgender employees restroom preferences.  That guidance is attached to this article.  OSHA’s core principle is that all employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.

We frequently receive calls from members about the restroom issue.  What should you do?  First, we believe it’s important to keep an open dialogue with the transitioning employee.  If available and reasonably accessible, single-occupancy or unisex facilities can serve as a temporary facility for transitioning employees during the transition process, but should not be a permanent solution.  If you don’t have such facilities, discuss the sensitive nature of the situation with the transitioning employee.  Suggest that restroom breaks be taken at low traffic times to reduce awkward moments, adding that the transition affects not only the individual going through the process but all other employees of the person’s desired gender.  If none of these options will work, you might also consider requiring the transitioning employee to use the bathroom that matches their biology.  Of course, as noted earlier, the EEOC doesn’t support this option, and it does pose other risks, but sometimes you have to do what’s in the best interests of all employees and not just one.  Especially if you are faced with an employee relations problem with a large group of female employees (and their spouses), or vice versa, who don’t want to use the restroom alongside this transitioning employee.

If you find yourself in this situation, please give us a a call at 919-878-9222 or 3336-668-7746. We can help you think through what course of action makes sense for your organization.

When an Employee Has a Serious Complaint

July 7th, 2015 by

The following post is by Bruce Clarke, CAI’s CEO and President. The article originally appeared in Bruce’s News and Observer  column, The View from HR.

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

Bruce Clarke, President and CEO

It happens in every workplace.  The same serious and unlawful misbehavior we see in our communities sometimes find its way to the job.  People are the greatest asset of an employer but can be the “crabgrass in the lawn of business,” as my friend says.

What should happen when harassment, discrimination, abusive treatment and other serious misbehaviors rear their ugly heads?

Managers, please view a complaint as an opportunity to make a situation better AND the long-term relationship with the victim stronger.  Psychologists in workplace studies say that an emotional crisis is a key point where your response can make the employee’s attitude much better OR much worse.  Some even say that the best predictor of whether a problem will end in a lawsuit is how fairly you process the problem, not the problem itself.

Good managers do several things.  They embrace the complaint, rather than avoid it, and focus on finding the right solution.  Neither of you caused the problem, so let the chips fall where they may and avoid prejudgment.  You will create a much better investigation and solution if you remain neutral on the outcome.  If you cannot be objective, ask for help.

Follow through with good listening, appropriate pushback to the victim for the whole story, and appropriate speed and discretion.  Take any quick steps needed to prevent repeat behavior while you work.  Ideally, keep the victim informed of your progress.  Get help from HR or a mentor.  Follow your company’s complaint process, at a minimum.  Precedent can be important to consider, but avoid a foolish consistency as the saying goes.

Employees making complaints have an equally important role.  Follow the complaint policy if there is one, but skip to another manager you trust if needed.  Your manager wants to hear how you feel, but must have facts to investigate.  Focus on the facts.  Who can help support your story?  Bring the problem to a trusted manager sooner rather than later.

Be honest about any part you may have played in the problem or steps you have already taken, good and bad.  Have some discretion and give this time to work.  What is your manager going to hear when he or she investigates?  For example, be prepared to hear some things about your performance you may not like (but need to hear) if work quality is an issue.

An important question that employees and managers often fail to ask is:  “What is the ideal outcome here?”  I am often surprised at how reasonable employees can be even in serious situations.  They know employers cannot guarantee perfect behavior by all.  But they have the right to expect help when they seek it.

Solutions to early-stage problems handled properly by all can be simple and effective, preserving relationships and protecting careers.  Problems that are buried like a bone in the backyard will only get worse with age.

For additional guidance for handling serious complaints from employees, please give our Advice and Resolution Team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

The 3 C’s of Candidate Selection

June 30th, 2015 by

In today’s video blog, Tom Sheehan, CAI’s HR Business Partner, shares helpful information for choosing great candidates to hire. He starts by saying there are many factors that should be considered during the hiring process, and he simplifies them into three categories: capability, chemistry and commitment.

Tom then explains what each of the 3 C’s mean:

  • Capability – Can they do the job?
  •  Commitment – Will they do the job?
  •  Chemistry – Will they fit in?

He explains each of these factors in more detail in the video, as well as offers some helpful tips to consider with each.

Tom says a successful candidate selection can only take place when you factor in each of these elements. He suggests using tools, such as the job description and success profiles, to eliminate those candidates that fail to meet minimum qualifications.

If you need further assistance with your hiring process, please give our Advice and Resolution Team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.

The New World of Recruiting Great Talent

June 25th, 2015 by

HR on Demand Team Member Jill Feldman shares helpful tips for recruiting top candidates for your company:

Teamwork It’s a brave new world for recruiting talent. No longer can we place a job posting on an online job board and assume the candidates will flock to us. Whether it’s the quantity or the quality of applicants, companies are finding it harder than ever to recruit and hire top talent. It’s a new world out there, and in a candidate-driven marketplace, many of our usual “active-recruiting approaches” simply aren’t working.

Why?

It’s simple. With the rise of technology and a focus on self-gratification, top candidates are in the driver’s seat and more in control of their careers than ever. They’re hyper connected, often having multiple career opportunities available at once and they’re not afraid to “job hop” to satisfy their goals.

Consequently, in order to hire top talent and succeed in this new world of recruiting, we must move away from our traditional methods and old school tactics and move towards “new world” thinking and “new world” tactics.

This kind of thinking involves:

  • Focusing on finding a great employee who will serve the organization well beyond today and into the future.
  • Selling the applicant on those aspects of the job and the company likely to be most appealing to him or her. This approach suggests applying the same tools to identify and appeal to applicants that you use to identify and appeal to customers.
  • Focusing on defining the characteristics and qualities of a great employee and, then, using the methods that are best suited to provide you with information about an applicant’s abilities and aptitudes related to these characteristics and qualities.
  • Identifying your best sources of great employees and tailoring your recruiting and hiring methods to best fit that target audience.
  • Taking a much broader perspective on finding top talent and looking at not only the fit between the person and the job but also at the fit between the person, the company, the boss, the coworkers, etc.

Here are some “new world” strategies you can use to recruit and hire top talent:

Know Your Top Employees

Get to know your top employees. Where did they go to school? Where did they work before they came to you? What newspapers/magazines/blogs do they read (both work-related and non-work related)? What hobbies do they have outside of work? What community and/or charity events do they attend? The more you know about your top employees, the more information you will have to help you identify and appeal to great new sources of top talent.

Owning the Recruiting Function

Recruiting and hiring is NOT the sole responsibility of Human Resources. Anyone who has people reporting to them is responsible for recruiting and hiring. The new world of recruiting and hiring top talent requires that you and your organization help all managers own their role in recruiting and hiring. It also requires that you and your organization provide resources (e.g. training, online resources) to your company’s managers to help them improve and strengthen their skills in this area.

Involve Potential Co-Workers

One of the most important and often, most overlooked, aspects of hiring is the fit between an applicant and their potential co-workers. Employees can be one of your most effective recruiting tools. By sharing information about their work environment, employees have the potential to attract great talent. You can have employees do things like interview the applicant, give the applicant a tour of the facility, and take the applicant to lunch. These activities allow employees to share important, work-related information with the applicant. By creating ways for this happen, it shows both applicants and employees that you care about them.

Know and Sell What Makes Your Company Unique

Organizations that do a great job of recruiting and hiring top talent know their values and they know what makes them unique. Most importantly, they find ways to show who they are throughout the recruiting and hiring process. Organizations who understand this concept know who they are and they use creative ways to show who they are during the recruiting and hiring process.

Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is no way to meet the demands of the new world of recruiting and hiring top talent. You must think differently and act differently to get different results. What are you doing to think differently and act differently about recruiting and hiring? If you aren’t thinking and acting differently, I can guarantee you that someone else is.

CAI’s recruiting team is dedicated to helping you with all of your recruiting needs. Whether it’s learning more about strategies for recruiting great talent, having us recruit for and fill your vacant positions, or simply answering a few questions, we’re here to help! Please feel free to contact our recruiting team directly at 919-431-6084 or jill.feldman@capital.org.