The post on Sunday 6/18/2023 suggested Employee handbook considerations for remote employees. Remote work has been growing in popularity for the last decade, but during the pandemic – WOW! Many employers have decided to remain permanently remote, but even for those who have only partially remote workers, company policies and handbooks must be adapted to reflect that new normal.
When it comes to handbooks, there is more to do than just add a remote work policy. There might be additional considerations based on the employee’s remote work space (usually the residence) and also operational differences requiring policy clarification.
Remote work usually brings better work-life balance for employees and decreased overhead costs (office space) for employers. But employers must be clear about their expectations and policies – there is no manager able to watch remote employees throughout the work day to ensure that policies are followed. Further, the increased flexibility that often accompanies remote work requires documentation and communication to ensure that employees are working the hours expected by the employer. Even if remote workers have no specific start and stop times, but have flexible work hours, there needs to be a policy detailing what is acceptable and how much flexibility there is.
So what should be included in a handbook, whether for fully in-person, hybrid, or fully-remote workers? First, a welcome statment, The purpse of this is in the post. There shoudl also be an at-will statement. In case you don’t knwo that that is, it is described in the post. Employers might want to include something about the company’s mission and values. There shoudl also be some variation of a code of conduct includding the things noted in the post. Timekeeping and wage payment are also important – see the post for some key subparts to be covered. Employee benefits shoudl also be mentioned, including the itmes noted in the post.
Confidentiality and data security are HUGE, especially with remote workers who may access your company’s sensitive data from their homes, coffee shops, and possibly personal devices instead of a secure office setting. Some provisions that should be included in the confidentiality and data security portion of the handbook are discussed in the post. Other sections to consider putting in your handbook, including special ones related to a (fully or partially) remote workforce, are in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Employers might be dealing with remote workers more than ever, but a big difference is that those workers may be in different states (or countries), so additional legal consideration must be given to handbooks. Talk to your employment lawyer.
The post on Monday 6/19/2023 told us EEOC sues Swami’s Cafe and Honey’s Bistro for sexual harassment and retaliation. Swami’s is a chain of restaurants that allegedly violated Title VII by allowing female employees to be subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation. The EEOC alleges that as early as 2019, nine locations allowed young female employees, SOME TEENS, to be subjected to harassment including frequent, repeated and offensive sex-based remarks and advances along with unwelcome touching. And as for those who complained? See the post. The EEOC filed suit in federal court after conciliation failed. It seeks both monetary and injunctive relief as noted in the post.
TAKEAWAY: Train your managers how to appropriately behave around and toward employees; if they violate the law, take immediate disciplinary action (including termination if appropriate). Get advice from an employment lawyer.
The post on Tuesday 6/20/2023 continued the trend: the EEOC sued local (Conshohocken-based) neuromonitoring company for pay discrimination and retaliation. So what happened? Medsurant Holdings, operating as Medsurant Health, provides intraoperative neurophysiologic monitoring services to hospitals and surgeons. Monitorists (not machines, people) do the actual work. Here is it alleged that a female monitorist was paid less than male co-workers for similar work under similar conditions. And when she complained, it got worse – see the post. After conciliation failed, the EEOC filed suit.
TAKEAWAY: Make sure to pay your employers correctly, including both classification and wages. It will be expensive for you otherwise.
The post on Wednesday 6/21/2023 showed us that voters make big changes at condo in wake of legal troubles. It seems that everything is getting so political – is that happening in your condo or homeowners’ association? Ok, let’s go back to what happened in the post. EmeraldBay owners voted out the condo association president and another director who was also the treasurer. Why? Because both have high profiles in the area, being involved in politics outside of the condo community. Nine people ran for 7 seats; these 2 incumbents held the bottom 2 voting positions (the post shows how far behind they were). This happened as the association deals with a police investigation of misappropriation of funds and 2 lawsuits. One suit was filed by a concrete restoration company alleging it is owed $250,000; the other is from a sister/master association as described in the post. EmeraldBay responded to the latter suit, but not the former (see the post). Both of the now-former council members were part of a condo presidents’ council which had taken positions on political issues in the post (and the former president had even more involvement – see the post).
TAKEAWAY: officers and directors of condo and homeowners’ associations should be dedicated to the association and uphold their fiduciary duties.
In the post on Thursday 6/22/2023 we discussed a condo/HOA rule on trucks under certain length – does that pass legal muster? And what if it goes further than length, limiting the trucks to personal and not commercial purposes? And let’s add one more wrinkle: let’s say the current Declaration prohibits trucks from being used or kept in the community except for commercial trucks providing a service. Can the Board enact the proposed rule? See the post for an explanation as to why it can or cannot do that.
TAKEAWAY: Condo and HOA directors must know what they can and cannot do relative to the Governing Documents (Declaration, Bylaws, and Rules & Regulations). A community association lawyer can prove invaluable.
The post on Friday 6/23/2023 was about post-pandemic employer considerations: EEOC updates COVID19 technical guidance as public health emergency expired. You (should) know that the public health emergency under which we had been living since early 2020 has now been declared over; rather, COVID19 is just part of our lives like other diseases and viruses. But COVID19 is not gone, and so employers must know how to deal with it in the brave post-pandemic workplace. The Guidance is a reminder that employers must still be prepared to respond to the effects of COVID19 in the workplace, including application of the ADA, Rehabilitation Act and other laws listed in the post. One important part of the Guidance is that even though the public health emergency is over, employers cannot just scrap the reasonable accommodations they were making for those who requested or received same related to COVID19. Those accommodations can be revisited under the process noted in the post. And what about screening and safety protocols? They too are addressed in the Guidance and discussed in the post. The Guidance also notes that an EEOC enforcement objective has to do with long COVID (see the post for how that might work in the ADA context). The Guidance also discussed employer-mandated vaccines and accommodations under the ADA and Title VII (see the post). The Guidance also addresses pandemic-related harassment (with examples of the harassment and how to deal with it being in the post).
TAKEAWAY: Employers must always stay a step ahead and in the legal zone relative to accommodating and protecting employees in the workplace – know one’s obligations and how to comply is a good first step.
Finally, in the post yesterday 6/24/2023, we asked: Can Chat GPT really replace HR? A study put it to the test. Ai definitely has its place in the HR area, but probably will not be replacing humans any time soon. Here’s what one test showed, Questions were asked of ChatGPT relating to termination, time off, discrimination and salary trans-parency and included various statute including the FMLA and FLSA. ChatGPT was asked “What is ‘at-will’ employment? Does that mean I can fire an employee for any reason?” and four other questions listed in the post. Then 6 HR professionals rated ChatGPT’s answers on factors including accuracy, relevancy, consistency, brevity and practical applicability. The main finding was that ChatGPT often provided answers that were inaccurate, incomplete or misleading in ways that could be costly for the company. One drawback to ChatGPT is that it is based on information available through 2021, so right out of the blocks it is limited. It wasn’t just inaccuracies, but more problems as detailed in the post that assure human HR professionals their continued jobs.
TAKEAWAY: Companies using AI must know the law and how it is to be applied so that they (with their employment lawyer) can act as a check and balance on the AI. Total reliance on the AI is a bad practice – and one that can subject the company to legal jeopardy.