June 2018

We have two articles for you in this month’s HR Advisor Newsletter. The first article explains why paid sick leave is becoming more popular and how the sick leave laws so far are similar. The second article continues our series on workplace culture. Here we show you how to identify your current workplace culture so that you’re better positioned to evaluate and improve it. The newsletter concludes with a review of when you can and can’t classify a manager as exempt from overtime.

Why Paid Sick Leave Is Becoming More Popular

We’ve all seen it—one of our employees has a bad cold, maybe even the flu, but they come to work anyway. In some cases, the employee has the option of taking time off, and you’d prefer they do so, but still they show up, putting everyone in the workplace at risk. The reasons vary. Sometimes the employee can’t afford the reduced hours. Sometimes they can take the financial hit, but they’re worried about falling behind on their projects, missing an important meeting, or looking bad next to their co-workers who never seem to take a day off.

Some employers encourage sick employees to stay home and rest. To that end, they offer paid sick or personal time so that employees who already feel lousy don’t have to suffer the stress of a smaller paycheck. While paid leave doesn’t work 100% to keep sick employees home, it helps.

In fact, more and more states have passed laws requiring it. In 2011, Connecticut became the first state to pass a paid sick leave law. Now, a total of ten states plus Washington D.C. require at least some employers to provide paid sick leave; these are Arizona, California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. And many cities have their own, typically more generous ordinances.

The paid sick leave laws passed so far share some common elements. Employers are typically required to offer an hour of paid sick leave for a certain number of hours worked per week (usually 30 or 40). Every state-mandated paid sick leave law requires employees to be able to use paid sick leave to care for a family member, and most allow the time to be used in case of domestic or sexual violence. The laws vary most—though still not dramatically—with respect to which employees are eligible and when, and what kind of documentation can be required to prove that employees used the leave for a permissible purpose.

Currently, eighteen states have pending sick leave bills, but we don’t know how many, if any, will soon pass. If a paid sick leave law is enacted in your state, we recommend taking the following steps:

  • Review all leave policies for compliance. While these laws will generally allow you to keep a current policy as long as it is at least as generous as required by the state law, you will need to comply with the various notice and recordkeeping requirements as well.
  • Decide whether lumping vacation, personal, and sick leave together would be better for your organization and, if applicable, for which specific employee groups (you may want a lump sum policy for full-time employees and an hour-by-hour accrual system for part-timers).
  • Determine which employees work in places with paid sick leave laws and consider whether a one-size-fits-all policy or location-specific policies would be better.
  • Confirm that usage terms, accrual, coverage, carry-over, and any vesting rules meet minimum requirements.
  • Review the employee notice; the law may require a poster, written policy, notice on employee paystubs of time accrued, or all of those.
  • Update your handbook and distribute it to employees.

Learn More

Arizona Sick Leave Takes Effect July 1 – June 2017

Maryland Sick and Safe Leave to Take Effect in February – January 2018

Rhode Island Paid and Unpaid Sick Leave – April 2018

Washington Law Alert – December 2017

How to Identify Your Culture

This article is Part 2 of our series on workplace culture. In the first installment, we explained that every organization has a culture, and every culture has three components—the organization’s rules, traditions, and personalities. In this second article of the series, we’ll show you how to identify the culture that you have so you’re able to assess whether it’s the culture that you want.

Identify Your Rules and Traditions 

To identify your culture, examine your rules and traditions, and note what kinds of behaviors, interactions, and relations they result in. For example, if you have a dress code, what effect does it have on the workplace? Do your onboarding procedures cause new employees to feel welcomed or overwhelmed?

You may not have a mission statement or a set of core values on your wall, but people in your company do act in discernible ways. What are those ways? Think about the beliefs, norms, attitudes, goals, conventions, and behaviors you see at work. What are the common themes and behavioral trends? If employees don’t seem to work and interact in cohesive or structured ways, in what ways do they function?

Some specific questions you can ask are:

  • Do people get along with each other?
  • Do they trust and respect each other?
  • How do they communicate?
  • Do they collaborate and share their ideas or keep insights to themselves?
  • How do various teams and departments work together?
  • How do people generally respond to change?
  • Do you hold activities or events throughout the year? If so, what is attendance like? Do people enjoy them? What effects do they have on the organization?
  • What are meetings like? Are they organized and efficient? Often a waste of time?
  • What management style do you use? Is it directive, coaching-based, or empowering? And how do your employees perceive it?
  • What principles motivate people in your workplace?

As you go through your rules and traditions, try to come up with about five words that describe the way people behave, treat each other, and work together. These are the characteristics of your culture. For example, if people generally show one another respect, you probably have a culture of respect.

But, be sure to be honest. Describe the characteristics that you see, not the characteristics that you’d like to see.

Identify Conflicts Between Philosophy and Practice

After you’ve observed and evaluated your rules and traditions, check for any conflict or resistance to these rules and traditions. If you have defined core values, do people follow them? If you have established policies, do you enforce them? Do you consistently hold people accountable to your expectations? If you have a peer recognition program, do employees use it to praise their co-workers?

Just because you’ve established rules and traditions doesn’t mean that they’ve had a strong effect on the workplace. Maybe employees aren’t motivated to follow the policies and procedures you set up. Or maybe there are other factors at play. Maybe individual managers have their own ways of doing things that end up overruling company policies.

If people are working in conflicting ways, try to find out why. Knowing the reasons will be important when you start to assess and improve your company culture.

Identify Your People 

The last thing to consider when identifying your culture is the people who work in your organization. A big influence on culture is simply the people in a place and how they work and get along as individuals.

So, who are your formal and informal leaders? How are they influencing people in your workplace, and in what ways? What kinds of personalities and personal values do your employees have? Do people tend to work harmoniously or do they clash?

Need Help Identifying Your Culture? Ask Your Employees!

Identifying your culture is a long process, and it may require more in-depth insight than one person can manage. One way to get a more expansive view is to survey your employees to get their thoughts.

Another option is to set up a Culture Committee that is composed of employees from various departments. Since the members will come from across the company, they will see things you might miss. With their help, you’ll get a more accurate and complete picture of the culture and a better sense of when the culture is changing.

You can also assign the committee other culture-related tasks such as nurturing professional relationships, encouraging team collaboration, hearing the ideas and concerns of employees, and staying informed about industry trends and best practices that build great workplaces.

For this group, you’d of course want people who care about the culture, but you’d also want those who are attentive and observant and trusted by their co-workers.

Once you have a good picture of your current culture, it’s time to evaluate it. We’ll show you how to do that in the next installment.

Learn More

What Is Culture, Anyway? – April 2018

Did You Know?

In order to be exempt from overtime, your managers need to do more than have “Manager” in their job title. In fact, the act of managing alone is not even enough. When classifying a manager as an exempt employee, you’re usually using what’s called the White Collar Executive Exemption under the Fair Labor Standards Act. To use this classification correctly, you must ensure that your employee passes all three parts of the following duties test:

  1. Their primary duty is the management of the enterprise or a customarily recognized department or subdivision; and
  2. They customarily and regularly direct the work of two or more full-time employees or equivalent (e.g., two 40-hour per week employees or four 20-hour per week employees); and
  3. They have the authority to hire, fire, or promote other employees or effectively recommend similar actions.

If an employee does not pass all three parts of the test above, they may not be classified as exempt from overtime—at least not under the White Collar Executive Exemption. If they do pass the duties test, you must also ensure that they are paid at least $455 per week on a salary basis. Being paid on a salary basis means they will not have their pay reduced because they worked fewer hours in a week or produced subpar work. (Note: some states, including California and New York, require that employees be paid more than $455 per week to be exempt or pass a slightly different duties test.)

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