January 2015 HR Brain Teaser

Brain Teaser Courtesy of EPLI Pro™

Third Party Discrimination

Employers often deal with customer complaints ranging from slow service to under cooked food. But what happens when you receive a customer complaint claiming discrimination?

You receive a letter in the mail that states:

We came in on Saturday for a special dinner celebrating our 10 year anniversary. We were pleasantly greeted and seated right away. The server was very knowledgeable and gave us great meal recommendations. When she asked us if we were celebrating a special occasion, we told her about our anniversary. She looked stunned, nodded and walked away. The rest of the evening she rarely came by our table. It took her 30 minutes to come back and take our order and it took over an hour for our food to arrive, which was cold indicating it had been sitting for a while. When we tried to ask about the delay she was very short and rudely replied, “If you don’t like it here, why don’t you go somewhere else”. We noticed that other parties she waited on were treated well and were given excellent service. I’m not sure why we were treated this way, but I can guess it is because my partner and I are a same-sex couple. I don’t wish for anyone else to be treated this way and hope the issue is addressed.

What do you do with this complaint?

A.  It’s just a letter expressing this person’s experience. Put it in the circular file.

B.  This may be a discrimination complaint, but this person is not your employee. You can’t do much about the issue. Just send him a coupon for his next meal.

C.  Anti-Harassment laws protect customers, clients, and vendors from harassment and discrimination. You will need to investigate, make a determination and take any necessary remedial action to ensure discrimination stops and does not continue.

Answer:  C     Third parties (e.g., customers, vendors, contractors, or any third party associated with the company) are protected from discrimination and harassment. Employers must take all complaints seriously and should handle complaints from third parties the same way a complaint made by an employee is handled. An investigation should be conducted immediately, in which all parties are interviewed and questioned about the incident. If you determine discrimination occurred, remedial action should be taken to stop the harassment/discrimination from happening and keep it from happening again. Remedial action can be disciplinary action, up to and including termination for the individual that acted unlawfully. In any case, anti-harassment and discrimination training should be provided to your employees on a regular basis to ensure they understand what kind of behavior constitutes prohibited harassment and discrimination toward co-workers and third parties. It is also important to note that employees can be harassed by a third party and these situations must be handled in the same manner.

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Employee’s Total Paycheck More Than Pay

If you are a business owner, your gut reaction to the estimation of the employee’s total paycheck might be, “Way too much.” All kidding aside, total compensation is most likely one of the largest items on your balance sheet. Educating employees and management as to what those costs entail is crucial to your recruitment and retention efforts and allows you to make better business decisions.

We saw an ad that offered a starting wage of $24 per hour. When you dug a bit deeper, that was the total hourly compensation, including benefits. That made the $24 much less attractive. How do you compare? Run a total compensation report. I bet you will be astonished if you haven’t looked before. For some industries, the amount of non-wage compensation adds 30-50 percent to the cost depending on worker’s comp requirements and costs.

Once you know your numbers, get your employees engaged in a conversation. When you are transparent with your compensation reports, and you have a great compensation package, an amazing thing happens. Employees feel valued. Their first reaction will probably be, “Wow!” Next, they begin to think, “In order to increase my value, I need to demonstrate ‘x’ to my company.” Improved performance will pay dividends.

Evaluating your total compensation

Wage - Employees typically focus on wage as a judgment of their worth. Is the salary you offer commensurate with other like jobs and companies? How do you know? Wage and hour surveys by industry are available through a paid service and often industry associations themselves can provide that level of detail via an annual survey of membership. These give you a benchmark for pay scale range. Low rankings should encourage moving up to be competitive in the market.

Benefits - These range from tangible (e.g., healthcare, mileage, holiday parties, etc.), to intangible (e.g., paid time off, flexible hours). The “why” of The Applied Companies is to create a great place to work. The cost of that is not cheap. We are aware of several companies that canceled their group health insurance due to the Affordable Care Ace (ACA), not replace it, and thought that they would pay the 2 percent penalty and that would save significant money versus offering the benefit. Not in the long run. Remember spend money to make money. “A” candidates require health insurance to recruit them away from a competitor, and stay when a competitor entices them to leave.

Engagement equals increased employee satisfaction. Offering a valued compensation package and then making sure you let people know how amazing it is a sound HR strategy.

Jim Annis is president/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.

How to Handle Awkward Office Moments

We’ve all been there. We wrack our brain to figure out how to get passed something that makes us uncomfortable. Here are our recommendations for handling some common work-related awkward moments when you:

Send/get a Facebook “friend” request

From an HR perspective, we can go either way on this, but there are consequences. If you are a manager, sending friend requests to your direct reports puts them in an uncomfortable position. Likewise, with friend requests from subordinates, handle things gracefully. Deny the request. Send a private message that you choose to keep work and personal life separate or suggest that they connect with you on LinkedIn, a more professional social media platform.

Observe a co-worker on a dating site like match.com

Online dating does not have the stigma it used to. According to a July 2014 study done by Rueters, the total number of single people in the U.S. was 54,250,000 and the total number of people in the U.S. who have tried online dating was 41,250,000. Leave this one in the “none of my business” column and move on.

Happen upon your boss or your employee at a club/bar/event

Depends on the venue and if your definition of appropriate behavior is involved, doesn’t it? HR is predicated on what happens at work. Going to work and fueling the gossip mill for whatever you “saw” is not optimal. Take a counseling role and ask your co-worker or superior, “How do you propose we handle this?” Then come up with an agreed upon conclusion.

See a married coworker/boss/employee with someone else

It is not only just a “small town” that we live in. Smart phones with photo/video capabilities paired with social media have made the world more intimate. The gossip mill will catch this pair soon enough. In a business like ours, trust is paramount. We rely on people’s ethics to do the right thing at work, whether it’s financial reporting, treating a customer with respect, or being honest on their time card. Trust is eroded in situations implying infidelity. Approach this issue head on.

Need to determine what to do next for the organization

When behavior – inside or outside of work – becomes a distraction for the organization, then HR has an obligation to step in. Awkward moments can affect your employment brand. Here is our three-point litmus test as to when HR needs to address an issue: 1) there has been an erosion of trust; 2) the awkwardness is affecting open and honest communications; and 3) the situation is fueling the gossip mill.

Written by Jim Annis, President/CEO of The Applied Companies, which provide HR solutions for today’s workplace. Celeste Johnson and Tom Miller, Applied’s division directors, contributed to this article.