Sunday, October 15, 2017

Inclement Weather Policies for your Business

It is time to prepare for the possible inclement weather that winter may bring to the Pacific Northwest this yearAfter receiving many calls during the snow and ice we have experienced in our past winters I realized that many employers may struggle with how to deal with closures or other issues related to inclement weather. The question I heard again and again was, “am I obligated to pay employees during inclement weather if I close the business early or completely or if they are not able to make it into work?”

Although I can’t cover the topic completely, I can provide employers with some basic information.  The rules are different for exempt and nonexempt employees. 

Exempt Employees

The Fair Labor Standards Act, generally, requires employers to pay exempt employees on inclement weather days, if they close the office but the employee was ready able and willing to work. A full day of pay may be deducted from an exempt employee’s pay if the office is open and the employee misses work because of the weather.

In some cases an employer may require an exempt employee to use his or her paid time off during an inclement weather day. (Whether this is a sound business practice is another story.) But if the employee does not have enough accrued time off to cover the day, the employer may not deduct from the employee’s salary.

There are instances where inclement weather forces an employer to close a business for an entire week and exempt employees perform no work during that week.  In this case the employer need not pay exempt employees.

Nonexempt Employees

Under the FLSA, employers are only required to pay nonexempt employees for actual hours worked. Thus, an employer is not required to pay nonexempt employees for non-working time, even if the employee was scheduled to work and was sent home early. Thus if an employer closes early due to inclement weather, the employer need only pay nonexempt employees only for the time spent working.

All companies should have an inclement weather policy that addresses:
  • Definition of what constitutes an inclement weather day.
  • How and when the company will notify employees of office closures and early closings related to inclement weather days.
  • Whether and how exempt employees will be required to use paid time off during inclement weather;
  • Guidelines for employees who are able to work from home (including how to report their time for non-exempt employees); and
  • Instructions for employees who are unable to get to work safely.
Keep your employees safe in all kinds of weather! 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Cold & Flu Season

As I see all of the sales for school supplies and signs for flu shots pop up around the city I am reminded that it is nearly back to school time.  This of course means that it is time for the heavy first round of cold and flu germs to begin to make their rounds.  Soon in stores, restaurants, and businesses of all kinds, we will be greeted by the workers and guests alike with red noses and perhaps a nagging cough.  We all have that moment when we realize that we are in direct contact to an exposure to illness that we aren’t interested in contracting.
For business owners it can be more than an inconvenience.  Proactive employers work to minimize the impact that a prolonged cold and flu season can have on their businesses.  Later I will discuss how to minimize the impact and share some great free resources to help you.  First let’s look at some hard facts about cold and flu season in relation to the workplace. did an article a while back providing numbers related to the cost cold and flu season has to business owners.  And based on these numbers the threat cold-and-flu season poses to companies isn’t anything to sneeze at!
“According to the Centers for Disease Control, the flu alone costs U.S. companies $10.4 billion in direct costs including hospitalizations and outpatient visits. The CDC also estimates up to one-fifth of the U.S. population will get the flu in a given flu season, and more than 200,000 Americans will be hospitalized with seasonal, flu-related complications.”
Many question the effectiveness of the flu vaccination so it should come as no surprise that the Washington Post reported in January of 2013 that only 35 percent of those who could be vaccinated were vaccinated for the 2012/2013 cold and flu season.
In the current economy where so… many are struggling financially, many employees are hesitant to take sick days. Staples Advantage, the business-to-business arm of office products retailer Staples Inc., found 65 percent of employees are coming to work sick. Only 80 percent are cleaning their work areas once a week or less, which makes any work area a potential hot zone for germs.
So as is true each year, employers will face one persistent bug after another beginning this fall and carrying through to the spring. Small businesses always suffer a harder hit with productivity losses due to seasonal illness. With a small workforce each employee is vital to the operation of the business each and every day. 
So what can you do?
Luckily the flu season is predictable, and there are simple things you can do that are not expensive.  The first place to begin is with strong policies, good management and a healthy dose of leadership regarding sickness in the workplace.  And the first questions would be… do you have a documented sick policy in place?  And does that policy include sick leave?
Here are 10 things both you and your employees can do to keep cold and flu from disrupting your workplace this year.

  1. Encourage employee vaccinations. Encourage employees to get vaccinated but stop far short of requiring it.
  2. Set an example. Don't contradict your own sick policies. If employees see the boss coming to work sick instead of staying home, they'll think they should do the same thing.
  3. Wash your hands. Studies show hand washing is still one of the most effective ways to stop illness. Try posting humorous reminders about hand washing in the break rooms and restrooms.
  4. Use your elbow. Who wants to shake the hand of someone who has just sneezed all over it? Teach employees to cough into their elbows instead.
  5. Provide sanitizing products. Provide hand sanitizer, wipes, disinfecting sprays and towels for employees to clean their desks and keyboards a few times a week, if not daily.  Provide boxes of Kleenex as well.    
  6. Tell sick employees to stay home. Do employees feel comfortable taking sick days when they're really sick? It's your job as a leader to make sure employees know they should stay home when they're contagious. After all you don’t want them to infect your customers or other staff members. 
  7. Plan for seasonal increased sick days. Prepare telecommuting options for contagious employees. Most employees, if given the option, can work a little bit from home.
  8. Promote personal space. "Social distancing" techniques such as refraining from handshakes and standing at least 3-feet apart can slow the spread of cold and flu during peak season. 
  9. Go hands-free. Moving toward hands-free appliances such as automatic sinks, toilets, automatic soap, and paper towel dispensers could pay off down the line in saved sick days.
  10. Vaccinate your children. Schools are germ factories. Your kids get sick, and then you get sick. Vaccines are a matter of parental debate, but the flu shot (or flu mist) is still the best bet for maintaining wellness at home.
I want to share some awesome free resources.  The first is Healthy Workplace Project.  This website, run by health products supplier Kimberly-Clark Worldwide Inc., educates employers and employees about germs in the workplace and how to reduce workplace absences due to illness.  There are even short videos you could share with your employees. Check out this resource for a great proactive wellness program to implement in your office today! 
Follow the link to a fantastic free “toolkit” from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).  This is another great tool for your business to start building a solid policy for your workplace sickness policy.
Make It Your Business To Fight The Flu: A Toolkit for Businesses and Employers
Happy employees = Happy employers!

And remember, little things employers do also can send a big message. For example, I read an article about an employer who sent a pizza to an employee who was out with a bad cold. This "get well" gesture may seem like an odd thing to do, but the employee definitely knew that his employers cared.  And this sent a positive message to the other employees as well. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017



As everyone has heard by now Oregon will continue their series of minimum wage increases on July 1st (2017).  The series of rate increases will continue through July 1, 2022.  In 2023 the minimum wage rate will begin to be indexed to inflation based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Some are confused by how this series of rate increases will be applied throughout the state.  Oregon BOLI (Bureau of Labor & Industries) has released a chart to assist with the designations of the rates to the appropriate areas. 

There are 3 rates, the standard rate, the Portland Metro rate which will apply to employers located in the urban growth boundary of Portland’s metropolitan service district and the final rate that will apply within certain "non urban" counties.  Following is a summary of the scheduled minimum wage increases.
Portland Metro
Nonurban  Counties
January 1, 2016
July 1, 2016
July 1, 2017
July 1, 2018
 July 1, 2019
July 1, 2020
July 1, 2021
July 1, 2022

The “Standard” rate applies to Linn & Benton County.  The current minimum wage of $9.75 will increase by .50¢ per hour to $10.25 per hour on July 1st.

The nonurban rate applies to the following counties:
With many opposing the mandated minimum wage increases the Department of Labor has stated that they are concerned that some employers may try to find a way to circumvent complying with the new law.  But they warn that compliance audits will be performed to ensure compliance with the new law.   
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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Cultivating Strong Work Ethic

Cultivating Strong Work Ethic 

Just a little more than a year ago I wrote an article on what employers want in a new employee so much that they often favor it above education and experience.  48% of respondents in a survey said the most difficult and desirable trait to find in potential hires is a strong work ethic.  As another year passed I saw more examples of employers struggling with this issue so I felt that it was important to revisit the subject. 

Today’s job seekers don’t show up with work ethic in their pockets alongside the keys to the car they worked two jobs to earn, grateful for any wage offered and happy to do any dirty job that needs doing. If that’s your expectation and you view modern applicants through that lens, you’ll continue to seek work ethic in vain.”  

In an interview, an expert in the field, Eric Chester said, “Employers want positive, enthusiastic people (Positive Attitude) who show up on time (Reliability), are dressed and properly prepared (Professionalism), who go out of their way to add value/do more than required (Initiative), play by the rules (Respect), are honest (Integrity) and give cheerful, friendly service (Gratitude). Those seven terms are the fundamental core values that every employer, at every level from part-time mail clerk to owner or CEO, says are non-negotiable.” 

If you experience too much overturn in your staff, experts in employee engagement and productive workplace culture will ask an employer one question, “What are you doing—not to motivate your employees—but what are you doing to demotivate them?”  

Motivate your employees, don’t demotivate them.  Respect and appreciation for the contributions they
make to your business through their efforts go a long way in building a positive and productive workplace.

Time and time again studies prove that happy employees are productive employees.  In a workplace that embraces these principles…not only will employees with a strong work ethic flourish…success for the business will as well.  

Make the necessary changes and the happy ending to your story could be...happy employees, happy employers and a workplace environment that is pleasant and productive!   An added bonus that I would guarantee you would see...a decrease in absenteeism.