Author Archive

Top Tips for Organizing Personnel Files

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

At CAI, we receive numerous calls from our members asking how to organize and maintain compliance with personnel files. If you were to take compliance guidance from government agencies literally you would conclude that you need to have a lot of separate files spread throughout many different file cabinets.  While you might get a point for being compliant, this scenario just isn’t reasonable for most employers.  Fortunately, we offer an easier way to organize your files that balance the need to be reasonably compliant with your need to be practical.

There are certain types of information that need to be maintained separately from the employee’s main file. Below I have listed the different types of files that I have used in my filing system, of course as long as you are maintaining confidential documents separate from the main general personnel file, you can develop a system that works best for your company.  A process that worked well for us was to have our medical files locked away separately. The other files listed below were kept inside a general employee file (we used a multi-tab folder similar to this one) in small manila folders that could be removed if a supervisor needed to review the file. It is also a good idea to keep your I9s completely separate (we kept in a multi-tab expanding file sorted by last name alphabetically).

Pre-Employment Information:

  • Background checks
  • Drug screenings
  • Credit checks
  • Reference Checks
  • Any EEOC Pre-Employment Disclosures (Self-Identify Veteran or Disability Status)

Benefits/401(k):

  • Enrollment information
  • Beneficiary information
  • Distribution information
  • Any benefit related information (notices, request for information, etc)

Medical:

  • Doctor Notes
  • Leave Requests (including FMLA)
  • ADA Accommodation Request information
  • Incident Reports
  • OSHA Incidents
  • Workers Compensation Claims/Incidents

Payroll:

  • Federal and State tax forms (W4 and NC4)
  • Garnishment requests
  • W2s
  • Any payroll information with Social Security numbers
  • Request for employment/wage verification
  • Direct Deposit Authorization Form

Confidential File:

  •  EEOC Claim information
  • Investigation information (EEOC, internal investigations)
  • Settlement claims

General Employee File:

  • Employment Application/Resume
  • Offer Letter
  • Any policy acknowledgments (confidentiality, code of conduct, handbook, etc)
  • Performance appraisals
  • Pay/Compensation information
  • Disciplinary actions, documents
  • All promotion, transfer, demotion, layoff information
  • Exit Interview
  • Termination documents

So to review, you have one separate medical file, one file with all of your I-9’s and then organize everything else into one big pendaflex file.  Alternatively, you could convert to electronic personnel files, including I-9’s.

Overall, the most important aspect of maintaining compliance with personnel files is securing the access to the files. The files should be kept in a secure location (behind “lock and key”) and access should only be granted to specific employees (probably within the HR department or specific information to supervisors as outlined in your personnel file policy).  On that note, it is important to remember that access to the files should even be restricted within the HR department on a “need to know” basis: the benefits specialist doesn’t need access to the confidential file, the recruiting specialist doesn’t need access to the medical file, etc.

CAI delivers HR, compliance, and people development solutions to 1,100+ NC companies to help them build engaged, well-managed and low-risk workplaces. Contact us to find out how we can help your company.

Emily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad-based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.

HR Managers: How Well Do You Understand the Pregnancy Discrimination Act?

Tuesday, March 21st, 2017

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a federal discrimination law. Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions is unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII, which covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. Women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations.

At CAI, we receive over 7,000 calls annually from our North Carolina members on a wide variety of HR compliance and workplace issues. Here are a few situations that employers may face when complying with the PDA.

Q. My employee has had several absences due to an illness unrelated to her pregnancy.  Recently, pregnancy complications kept her out of work an additional two days.  Can I discipline or discharge her according to our attendance policy?

A: In this case, be sure that you are following the same policy for all employees. Would you typically terminate or discipline at that level of attendance? Also, be sure to think through ADA or FMLA (if applicable) coverage if her illnesses or complications might qualify.

Q. I have a visibly pregnant applicant applying for one of our busiest jobs. We can’t take the risk of her needing to be out to go on maternity leave so we decide not to offer her the job, even though she is the most qualified. Is this ok?

A: No. This would be a direct violation of the PDA

Q. Our leave policy provides for four weeks of leave for employees that have worked less than a year.  Our employee has only worked with us for 6 months and did not return to work after her four weeks of leave. Are we ok to discharge?

A: If you are treating the pregnant employee in accordance with your other leave policies and treat all employees the same, regardless of their medical condition, you should be fine. Again, you may want to ensure that there are no ADA/FMLA implications.

Q. My pregnant employee has been given a lifting restriction of 25 lbs. Her job requires her to be able to lift up to 50 lbs.  We do not allow for light duty other than Workers Compensation situations.  Do we have to accommodate this employee’s light duty request?

A: Yes.  If you have policies that allow for light duty for employees who are injured on the job (or ADA accommodation) you must treat your pregnant employee with the same accommodations/allowances. In this example, because you allow for light duty for WC situations, we would recommend that you allow your pregnant employee to continue with light duty.

Q. My employee is pregnant and I feel like she shouldn’t be lifting our boxes and placing them on the shelves. I think I may switch her to another duty to help her out, would this be ok?

A. If your employee hasn’t requested accommodation or light duty and hasn’t been placed on restriction from her doctor, do not make an automatic inference on what would be best for her in her job. You may however, engage your employee in a conversation to discuss your concern and to obtain her perspective.  As a result, you may both reach the conclusion that a reassignment is appropriate.  Should this be the case you will want to document your conversation including a written acknowledgment from the employee.  An employer may, of course, require that a pregnant worker be able to perform the duties of her job, adverse employment actions, including those related to hiring, assignments, or promotion, that are based on an employer’s assumptions or stereotypes about pregnant workers’ attendance, schedules, physical ability to work, or commitment to their jobs, are unlawful. Even when an employer believes it is acting in an employee’s best interest, adverse actions based on assumptions or stereotypes are prohibited. For instance, it is unlawful for an employer to involuntarily reassign a pregnant employee to a lower paying job involving fewer deadlines based on an assumption that the stress and fast-paced work required in her current job would increase risks associated with her pregnancy.

Q. My employee is pregnant and hasn’t been placed on restriction by her doctor or requested duty accommodation, however, our jobs require a lot of standing, bending and lifting. Can I force my employee to go on leave at this time?

A. No. The PDA specifically addresses Forced Leave.  An employer can not force an employee to take leave because they are pregnant. On the other hand,  you must allow women with physical limitations resulting from pregnancy to take leave on the same terms and conditions as others who are similar in their ability or inability to work. Thus, an employer could not fire a pregnant employee for being absent if her absence fell within the provisions of the employer’s sick leave policy. An employer may not require employees disabled by pregnancy or related medical conditions to exhaust their sick leave before using other types of accrued leave if it does not impose the same requirement on employees who seek leave for other medical conditions. Similarly, an employer may not impose a shorter maximum period for pregnancy-related leave than for other types of medical or short-term disability leave. Title VII does not, however, require an employer to grant pregnancy-related medical leave or parental leave or to treat pregnancy-related absences more favorably than absences for other medical conditions.

Emily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad-based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.

Don’t Overlook the True Value of Your Employee Handbook

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

Employee handbooks are a vital part of outlining and communicating your company policies while creating a “picture” of your company culture and mission.  All companies–regardless of their size, industry, or number of employees should have an employee handbook in place, be it hard copy, e-version, or on-line. A company handbook can be as robust and detailed or as simple and short as needed depending on your business and culture. Let’s review several of the major purposes and benefits of having a company handbook.

Legal Protection: A handbook should outline the company’s position on important legal or regulatory issues such as At-Will Employment, anti-harassment or discrimination policies, wage and hour compliance or drug testing policies. Should one of these situations become a workplace issue, an employer can support their actions based on what is outlined in their handbook. Handbooks are a great tool in helping set employee expectations.

Company Culture/Mission: A handbook provides employees with an understanding of the company’s mission and culture. By placing an emphasis on aspects of employment that the company values (volunteerism or code of conduct) the employees will have a better idea of the culture that is desired and supported by senior management. Understanding the company’s culture will allow employees to have clear and consistent expectations of conduct and performance.  The handbook is also a great place for the CEO to “tell the story” of the company to help employees understand why the company exists.

Guide for Employees: An employee handbook should be written with the employee in mind. The handbook should outline policies, practices and other key information that is pertinent to the employee.  Providing relevant and pertinent information to employees allows employees to understand and manage that what is important to them (such as benefits, pay cycle information, vacation schedules, etc.) as well as develop an understanding of the expectations and consequences of their actions.  An employee handbook can also serve as a source for creating positive employee relations such as internal dispute resolution rather than through an external source such as government agency.

Guide for Supervisors/Managers: Managers and supervisors need reference materials in order to help them lead their teams. Having an understanding of policies such as PTO (how to earn it, when to use it, what happens if it isn’t used at the end of the year) is just as important as reviewing the company’s discipline policy or time management policies. A handbook is a great starting place for supervisors and managers but they should refer to specific company policies and or consult with their HR team.

CAI members have access to handbook guides to help you get started. Our Advice & Resolution team also provides complimentary handbook reviews and our HR On Demand team can work with you to create a custom handbook for your organization.

Emily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad-based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.

Think Beyond Bonuses: Use Low Cost/High Impact Benefits to Maintain a Highly Engaged Workforce

Thursday, October 13th, 2016

As we prepare for the Overtime Rule (effective December 1) and continue to address increasing cost of insurance, we may feel the financial impact and strain on the budget.  It can be hard for companies to provide benefits to maintain employee engagement and stay competitive in the workplace with limited spending available in the budget.

I know that as employers, we recognize that a key motivator, or perhaps the number one motivator for many employees is compensation – the salary that is earned each week.  We work to make money and provide for our families and or achieve other goals.  But don’t underestimate the power of low cost benefits. employee-engagement

When I planned to move to CAI from my previous job in Banking, one of my biggest factors in finding a good employer was one that had a similar family oriented culture and flexible schedule. I have a young child and being able to have time if he is sick, to participate in his events, or work from home when needed was a key decision maker for me. CAI is an very employee-friendly organization that offers many low-cost perks: unlimited personal time, ability to work from home if needed, supplement to a wellness program of my choice, and continuing education classes (so I can maintain my certification).  The new CAI office in Raleigh further establishes CAI’s commitment to creating a great culture for employees. There are free snacks/drinks (including healthy choices like fruit and flavored water), several “We Spaces” that allow employees to move from their traditional desk spaces if they need a break or want to work in a different location for a bit, a lactation/meditation room, and several nice outdoor spaces for breaks and lunch.

Here are some other creative, low-cost ways that you can provide benefits to your employees:

  • Community Service/Volunteer Days: Allow your employees to have a couple of paid days per year to spend giving back to the community. Employees can participate in events such as Habitat for Humanity or Big Brother/Big Sister Program, working at a soup kitchen, or helping with Special Olympics. As an employer you could put requirements on the process for requesting the time away (to ensure coverage and ensure it is a legitimate request) and your participation will help build relationships in the community as a good steward.

 

  • Flexible Schedules/Time Away: Not all companies can provide a flexible workplace due to customer/production needs. If your culture would allow for a flexible schedule or time away, give it a try. You can build in parameters to ensure compliance and avoid abuse while creating an environment that communicates a trusting relationship: you trust that the employee will get the work done and take time as needed without abusing the privilege. Some employers utilize a seasonal “summer schedule” that allows employees to take advantage of the longer day light hours.

 

  • Employee discounts on company products or services. Does your company offer a product or service that they could give employees at a discount? We have companies that manufacture pocket books that allow employees to purchase at a discount, hotels that offer family/friend rates, and food processing companies that allow employees to have a certain number of free products per week worked.

 

  • Education Assistance: Providing a small fund for educational assistance or student loan repayment can go a long way. You can also tie in parameters to ensure that the employees don’t get the assistance and leave – have them sign a reimbursement form acknowledging that they will repay the company at a certain rate if they leave within a predetermined amount of time. Providing educational assistance will allow your employees to grow and become more valuable.

 

  • Wellness Programs: Wellness programs can range from super low cost to expensive. You can run a wellness program on a low budget by doing small walking challenges (have a couple small prizes like gift cards for winner), a newsletter outlining healthy eating/lifestyle tips (ask your employees to contribute) or a small ‘match’ on an employee’s choice of wellness program (Weight Watchers, Yoga, Gym Membership). Contributing to a wellness program will tie directly in to a healthier and happier work staff (and hopefully lower insurance/work injury claims).

 

  • Casual Dress Days: Do you know how much wearing a pair of jeans matters to your employees? Seriously, allowing employees a casual day once a week will be LIFE CHANGING for your staff. Of course you can require that the dress code still meet requirements of the business and maintain the professional image for customers.

 

  • Company Swag: I am sure you have (or can get your hands on) some logo items at a cheap cost. Employees love to have a water bottle, t-shirt, pens or small lunch container with their company logo. Double bonus: free advertising!

 

  • Partnerships with Other Companies: Do you have a local business that you could partner with to offer employee discounts? Maybe there is a tire shop up the road that will offer a 10% discount to employees of your company or a local restaurant that will provide a discounted lunch for specific days during the week.

 

  • Training: Show your employees that you value them and have a plan for their growth in the company. Sending an employee to a training class says that you have plans for them and are willing to invest in their talent and future with the company. As a member of CAI, there are many opportunities for cost-effective training and free webinars.

Overall creating a culture that values employees and puts emphasis on the employee’s work/life balance is a key to maintaining an engaged workforce and staying competitive with applicants.

Learn how CAI can help you improve performance and engagement in your workplace.

hinesley_emilyEmily’s primary area of focus is providing expert advice and support in the areas of employee relations and federal and state employment law compliance as a member of the Advice & Resolution team for CAI. Additionally, Emily advises business and HR leaders in operational and strategic human resources areas such as talent and performance management, employee engagement, and M&A’s. Emily has 10+ years of broad based HR business partnering experience centering around employee relations, compliance & regulatory employment issues, strategic and tactical human resources, and strong process improvement skills.