JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It’s vital that every business—including drycleaning operations—stay up to date and in compliance with federal and state employment regulations, and that they use “best practices” in terms of policies, procedures, manuals and documents to hire and retain good employees and motivate them to superior performance, according to Dr. Raleigh F. (Sandy) Seay Jr., chairman of Seay Management Consultants.
Seay’s Orlando, Fla., firm has maintained a 30-plus-year partnership with the South Eastern Fabricare Association, providing its members with free or discounted management consulting services.
There are many state and federal employment regulations that govern U.S. businesses. Wages and hours; equal job opportunities; maternity leave; and disability are just a few of the areas always under scrutiny, he says.
“America has more of those regulations than any other country in the world,” Seay says. “When it comes to those regulations, and the decisions that you have to make with your employees, what’s logical is not always what’s lawful.”
“It’s possible, and even likely, I would say, to make a … decision that makes perfect business sense but it would be contrary to one of the regulations.”
Speaking during SEFA’s Southern DryCleaners & Launderers Show here late last month, Seay shared a checklist of 20 human resources “flash points” with which every employer should be aware. Here are Nos. 11 through 20:
Make certain that you have all required employment posters and place them in prominent locations. Seay says federal regulations require six posters, while various states require about five or six more. They are widely available online from various employment regulatory agencies and can be downloaded at no charge. Employers are subject to fines if they do not display the notices.
For each of its employees, a company must have an Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 (authorizing them to work in the United States). Make sure your I-9 forms are present for all employees and are fully completed.
In particular, Seay says, you must complete columns A, B and C in the middle of the page, make copies of the verification documents and staple them to the I-9 Form, and file the I-9 Forms in a separate location, not the regular employee file.
Each employer should maintain two files for each employee: one is a regular personnel file that contains the person’s job application and other job-related forms, the other is a confidential administrative file that contains any paperwork that has EEOC/ADA or privacy components. The I-9 form, which is often accompanied by a copy of the person’s driver’s license, should be kept in the administrative file, Seay says.
Employees have a “natural desire” to know what’s going on at their company, so it’s important to have a clear line of communication with them, Seay says. This might include programs such as an “open door” policy, an employee complaint procedure, bulletin boards and an employee newsletter.
“What you don’t want to happen is an employee going around upset about something and not knowing who to talk to about it, or not knowing if he or she can talk to anybody about it,” Seay says.
DOCUMENT HR DECISIONS
Before you dismiss an employee, be sure you have three pieces of written documentation for your reasoning, Seay says. If a person is performing poorly or not complying with company policy, for example, there should be three warnings documented by management before action is taken.
“There is one exception, and the exception is when you have a very serious situation going on, like assault,” Seay says. “One employee assaults another employee, that’s all you have to have [to take action].
There is no requirement for an employee to sign any kind of disciplinary notice, he adds. If they refuse, simply document that they did so.
UNION ORGANIZING CAMPAIGNS
Seay says his firm can see that union organizing campaigns are going to increase, so it’s critical that you train supervisors and managers about what they can and can’t do regarding such campaigns.
Most managers and supervisors are surprised to learn that they can do more than they think can, he says, suggesting that a half-day supervisory training program will sufficiently address this issue.
EMPLOYEE OPINION SURVEYS
Do you ever ask your workers what they think of your company and their jobs? Consider conducting an employee opinion survey every 18-24 months to find out what your employees think and feel about their work and their jobs.
UNDERSTANDING DEFINITION OF “WORKING TIME”
Seay says the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor is zeroing in on “working time.” The key number to remember is 40, as in 40 hours per week, the dividing line between full time and overtime.
“The regulation says that we have to pay non-salaried employees for all the hours they actually work, even if we don’t know about it, even if we didn’t authorize it,” he says. “It’s important that we write in our Employee Handbook, in particular, that employees come to work at a certain time and they leave at a certain time.”
Make sure all employees are recording all of their work time accurately, and that you know when employees are working.
ONLINE APPLICATION PROCESS
Consider having applicants complete your company’s application form online through your website rather than in person. It can be a more efficient and less expensive process, Seay says, and may more quickly identify the better candidates for your open positions. You may also want to list your open positions on your website.
HR MANAGEMENT COMPLIANCE AUDIT REVIEW
Such a review will help to reduce or eliminate potential liability or exposure, plus offer you comfort and assurance that you’re in compliance with employment regulations and utilizing best practices to hire and retain good employees.