News & Articles

EHTC Welcomes Christi Clark as the Human Resources Manager

Posted on Mon, Mar 15, 2021
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Tags: Human Resources, EHTC, Team Member

Team Member Spotlight: Jill Bosnjak, CLU®

Posted on Mon, Dec 07, 2020
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Tags: Human Resources, Marketing, Volunteer, Team Member

Do You Have HR Questions?

Posted on Mon, May 18, 2020

What needs to be done to prepare the office for employees to return? How ready is the team to return to the office? Is there a workshare program that could be used to fill current gaps in the team? How do we bring back employees who were laid off?

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Tags: Human Resources, GrandRapids

Demonstrate that Your Firm Won't Tolerate Harassment

Posted on Fri, Jul 28, 2017

It's probably impossible for your company to eliminate any chance of harassment, but there are precautions you can take to help win a lawsuit filed by an employee:

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Tags: Human Resources, Harassment

Don't Sink Profitable Ideas

Posted on Fri, Jun 09, 2017

At many companies, the mindset of managers stifles innovation and inhibits profitability. Some of the best money making ideas come from people who work on the front lines. Yet, employees often hear the same negative responses when they try to share them.

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Tags: Human Resources, New Business Idea, Employee

Hire the Right Person - And Stay Out of Trouble Doing It

Posted on Tue, May 30, 2017

Interviewing job candidates has never been easy. But now, a growing list of legal pitfalls is making a tough job even tougher.

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Tags: Human Resources, Hiring Process, Interviewing Candidates, Hiring

Workplace Dress Code: A Delicate Balance

Posted on Thu, Jul 21, 2016

When it comes to workplace dress standards, you can be formal or casual depending on your organization's personality. "In general, an employer may establish a dress code which applies to all employees or employees within certain job categories," according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The two key takeaways from this statement:

1. It's okay to have different dress codes for different departments.

2. The policy must be administered consistently.

Naturally, there are exceptions to the EEOC's dress code statement.

Staying on Track

Keeping an EEOC-compliant dress code on track begins with deciding whether a dress code is needed in the first place. It's not always necessary. Make sure there is sufficient buy-in to having a dress code from the key decision-makers in your organization.

Still, it's generally helpful to have a basic policy in your employee handbook to point to if a problem arises down the road. However, giving it great emphasis in the absence of any violations could trigger needless employee resentment.

Also, making a dress code too prescriptive (for example, setting a knee-length limit on dresses and skirts) may put you in a box. That's because it robs you and supervisors of the ability to exercise discretion. Also, an overly nitpicking policy can place you in the undesirable position of monitoring compliance in ways that might waste time and seem degrading to employees — like measuring skirt length with a ruler.

Finally, it's critical that support for enforcing the policy, whether detailed or general, is both strong and visible to employees. If employees who are inclined to step over the line believe the policy won't be upheld, they're likely to violate it and it could be seen by others as a sham.

Religion and Dress

The basic way you can get into legal trouble with a dress code (besides inconsistent enforcement) is if it violates employee religious beliefs or ethnic traditions. You aren't required to make exceptions based on ethnic dress, but, as the EEOC articulates the rules, "a dress code must not treat some employees less favorably [than others] because of their national origin."

Here's an EEOC example: "A dress code that prohibits certain kinds of ethnic dress, such as traditional African or East Indian attire, but otherwise permits casual dress, would treat some employees less favorably because of their national origin."

The EEOC adds: "An employer may require all workers to follow a uniform dress code even if the dress code conflicts with some workers' ethnic beliefs or practices. However, if the dress code conflicts with religious practices, the employer must modify the dress code unless doing so would result in undue hardship."

Undue Hardship?

So the issue becomes the standard for "undue hardship." This is a general statement from the EEOC on the matter: "Some courts have concluded that it would pose an undue hardship if an employer was required to accommodate a religious dress or grooming practice that conflicts with the public image the employer wishes to convey to customers."

While acknowledging that may be true in some cases, "an employer's reliance on the broad rubric of 'image' to deny a requested religious accommodation may amount to relying on customer religious bias, [sometimes called 'customer preference'] in violation of [the Civil Rights Act]." The EEOC has taken the view that blanket bans on head scarves traditionally worn by Muslim women come under that heading, as well as beard-length limits affecting Muslim men.

In one case, an employer settled a case with the EEOC that involved employees wearing a certain color shirt on Fridays to show support for the U.S. military. A Jehovah's Witness employee objected because he felt his religion didn't allow him to express opinions about government matters, including military affairs. Despite this, the employee was reprimanded for not complying with the Friday dress code and was eventually fired. The employer paid $21,500 to the former employee to settle the religious discrimination lawsuit.

In addition to accommodating religious beliefs and national origin practices, if an employee requests an accommodation to the dress code because of his or her disability, the employer must modify the dress code unless doing so results in undue hardship.

The bottom line: Have your HR adviser and employment attorney review any new dress code provisions you're thinking of putting in place.

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Tags: Human Resources, EEOC, Dress Code

The Challenges of Administering Family and Medical Leave

Posted on Tue, May 31, 2016

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides employees with the security of job protection for up to 12 weeks for a qualified leave. But when does the clock on the 12-week period begin to run?

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Tags: Human Resources, Intermittent FMLA Leave, Family and Medical Leave Act Abuse

What to Consider Before Jumping on the Hiring Bandwagon

Posted on Fri, Jul 18, 2014

The U.S. Department of Labor has released its early jobs report. The findings: Unemployment has fallen to 6.1 percent -- its lowest level since September 2008. In addition, about 288,000 new domestic jobs were added in June. These statistics exceed economists' expectations, but they can be misleading for several reasons.

Who Has the Jobs?

States with the highest net job growth since 2008:

  1. North Dakota
  2. Texas
  3. Washington, D.C.

States with highest net job shrinkage since 2008:

  1. Nevada
  2. Arizona
  3. Alabama

Note: States with more jobs following the recession may still experience unemployment rates above the national average. Examples include the District of Columbia and New York. Conversely, states with fewer jobs following the recession may report unemployment rates below the national average. Examples include Ohio and Delaware.

Real Unemployment Rates

The Department of Labor's unemployment rate only includes people actively seeking employment. The headcount excludes discouraged people -- including many teenagers -- who've given up their job searches, and underemployed individuals who've accepted lower-level or part-time positions to make ends meet. So, it may be that unemployment figures are going down for the wrong reasons.

The Department of Labor publishes six unemployment rates. The official unemployment rate is also known as the U-3 rate. A more realistic metric, known as the U-6 or "real" unemployment rate, includes all unemployed people, regardless of whether they're underemployed or actively seeking jobs. It currently stands at 12.1 percent. That's much higher than the official U-3 unemployment rate. But the U-6 rate has also fallen to its lowest level since 2008.

In June 2013, the official (U-3) unemployment rate was 7.5 percent and the real (U-6) unemployment rate was 14.6 percent. So, the employment market appears to be slowly improving overall.

Regional Employment Variances

Nationwide statistics overlook variances from state to state. Some states are experiencing unemployment rates above (or below) the national average. And in some states, there are more (or fewer) jobs than before the recession (see the right-hand box).

For example, in Texas, there are currently about 1 million more jobs than before the recession, thanks to a boom in oil and natural gas. North Dakota also reports below-average unemployment due to job growth in mining and utilities. Although the District of Columbia added many professional, health service, hospitality and education jobs, its unemployment rate (7.5 percent in May) remains above the national average. In Nevada and Arizona, analysts blame above-average unemployment rates on fewer jobs in the construction sector since the start of the recession.

Hiring Tips for Employers

Low unemployment rates suggest that many employers are now hiring. According to Manpower's latest employment outlook survey, 22 percent of companies plan to hire at least one employee in the third quarter of 2014. Five of the most promising sectors are:

1. Leisure and Hospitality,

2. Wholesale and Retail Trade,

3. Mining,

4. Professional/Business Services, and

5. Transportation/Utilities.

But there are a few things to do before you hang out the "Now Hiring" shingle:

Evaluate openings. Just because someone leaves, it doesn't necessarily mean you need to replace him or her immediately. Review the individual's responsibilities. It's possible that some tasks can be reassigned to another employee, who's bored with his or her current role or ready to take on more senior-level responsibilities. By reallocating the workload, you may be able to hire a less experienced or part-time replacement for less money.

Also consider whether an independent contractor might fit the position. You'll lose control over the worker -- but you'll also spend less on payroll taxes and fringe benefits. If you're unfamiliar with the differences between employees and independent contractors, consult with your tax professional to ensure compliance with IRS rules. Misclassifications can lead to payroll tax deficiencies, penalties and interest. You also may be liable for employee benefits that should have been provided but were not, if you classify a worker incorrectly.

Set your budget. Decide how much you're willing to spend on salaries and benefits, as well as on recruiting new candidates. But don't just accept the status quo. If you're replacing someone who's been with the company for decades, you may be able to find a less expensive replacement with fresh ideas. But if you're an entrepreneur hoping to raise the company to the next level, you may seek a more experienced candidate who knows how to implement formal policies and procedures.

For new positions, research the market to determine how much other companies pay for similar positions and which benefits and perks are most valued by employees. If your compensation package is attractive, the most qualified candidates will show interest in the opening and apply.

Define your requirements. With social media, it's easy to post a job and receive hundreds of applications. Make sure your job description is specific enough to weed out of under-or over-qualified candidates. Recruiters can help your human resource department write job descriptions -- including education, experience and salary requirements -- and narrow your search down to, say, a dozen qualified candidates. In addition, recruiters can conduct initial telephone interviews to screen applicants. This can save significant time and minimize frustration in-house.

Rethink the Traditional Interview

When you're finally ready for face-to-face interviews, take a pragmatic, modern approach. Today's applicants search the Internet for sample resume and cover letters -- and "borrow" from them. They can also read up on sample interview questions -- and learn which responses most impress potential employers. Therefore, someone who interviews well or looks good on paper isn't necessarily the best fit for your company.

One idea is to start the process by checking references, including any people in your network who know the candidate but aren't listed as references on their job application. The social media site LinkedIn is a good way to see if you know someone who's connected to an applicant. Hearing someone's praise -- or reticence -- about an applicant is a good indicator of his or her competence. Most employers reserve reference checks until they're about to make an offer, but reversing the process might speed things up and produce better candidates.

Another idea -- that works for almost every level of employment -- is a hand-on test. Pick a couple of tasks or sample problems to see first-hand how the candidate will perform. For example, if you're hiring a marketing manager, ask the applicant to write a press release. Ask a sales candidate to run through a mock sales call. Or give a hotel manager applicant the opportunity to walk through your lobby and guest rooms to compile a list of recommended improvements. These practical tests can quickly reveal which applicants will be the best employees, not the best job applicants.

Complete the Entire Process

It's easy to get excited about your top choice and to tire of the hiring process, which might take months to complete. But it's imperative to follow through with every step, including background and credit checks. If your organization has ever been the victim of employee theft or fraud, you know these are more than formalities, especially for applicants who will have access to cash and financial accounting records.

The formal hiring process can be overwhelming, but rash decisions can be costly. If you need to fire someone later on, it can lead to unemployment claims, lost training time and productivity, additional recruiting costs, higher unemployment insurance rates in the future -- and potential legal claims from the employee. So, take your time to pick people who are the right fit for your corporate culture and available positions.

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Tags: EHTC Article, Human Resources, Interviews, Hiring Process, Hiring Tips, Articles, Hiring

Smart Hiring: Time for a Refresher Course?

Posted on Mon, Jan 13, 2014

Can you, without the benefit of clairvoyance, avoid choosing the wrong job candidate? In most cases, yes. But first you need to take a fresh and, if possible, objective look at your current approach, and identify ways to improve it. It's likely that most every employer has regretted a hiring decision at least once, even if there was no fiasco involved. 

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Tags: EHTC Article, Smart Hiring, Employers, Human Resources, Interviewing Candidates, business consulting, CPA Firm, EHTC