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Flipping jobs? AP Photo/Jenny Kane

Christopher Decker, University of Nebraska Omaha

The first U.S. jobs report of 2022 showed continued - if lackluster - growth. But perhaps of greater significance for the economic year ahead are two factors that lurked behind the headline unemployment rate: a stagnating labor pool and the impact of omicron.

First, the good news. The economy did add jobs in December, 199,000 of them, with gains in most sectors. This was less than the 440,000-job increase that some economists expected. Still, the gains are an indication of a reasonably healthy economy.

And October and November jobs numbers were revised upward by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, gains were seen across a number of key sectors. The leisure and hospitality sector was up, as expected given recent trends, as were business services and manufacturing.

Construction was also up and should continue to gain in the months to come - if it can find the workers.

The stagnating labor market

The unemployment rate was down to 3.9% - a new low in the pandemic era. This is good, to a degree. People who want jobs are finding them.

The problem is employers are having a hard time finding the workers amid a somewhat stagnating labor market.

The number of people in the labor force increased a little in December, but not by much - only about 168,000. And with job openings outpacing this small increase in the labor market, there remains a significant risk that worker wages may begin to rise too quickly for the economy.

While this is great for workers, it poses a concern for those trying to tamp down the rising prices of goods. Higher wages in the hands of workers means more money to spend, which generally drives prices of goods upward.

The latest report shows that wages are up, hours worked remain constant and the participation rate was unchanged. Even the number of people not in the labor force but wanting a job changed little. It is very much a sellers market in labor right now. Strikes, wage pressure and more flexible work environments may become the new normal.

Separate data from November, released on Jan. 4, 2021, by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, provides further evidence of a drying up labor market. There were 6.9 million hires that month but 10.6 million job openings - a clear imbalance. Meanwhile the share of workers voluntarily quitting their jobs continued to be high.

It appears that many Americans who lost their jobs in 2020 have either taken early retirement or are still delaying re-entering the workforce.

And those hesitating to rush back to the office or factory floor are unlikely to be encouraged by the problem not yet reflected in jobs data: omicron.

The slowdown to come

The latest jobs report does not really reflect the effect of omicron on the labor market. The monthly jobs data is typically collected mid-month - before the highly contagious COVID-19 variant really took hold in the U.S.

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But if the U.S. doesn't see omicron cases peaking soon, Americans will likely see some real slowdown in hiring. With more workers falling ill and unable to work, managers at retail stores, as well as bars and restaurants, may well be forced to reduce hours of operation, reducing revenue and slowing growth in the process.

We are already seeing this with airlines, which have been forced to cancel flights. The real sectors at risk here are the leisure and hospitality sectors and retail - two industries that have bounced back quite well of late.

This may all sound a little downbeat given that the December jobs report did show gains. Growth is growth - it is just that the risks to the economy are quite high right now.The Conversation

Christopher Decker, Professor of Economics, University of Nebraska Omaha

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Nice piece by Danny Klein pointing to the complexities that the new minimum wages have caused for some restaurants, discussing the recent bankruptcy of Restaurants Unlimited.

"Over the past several years, certain changes to wage laws in the debtors' primary geographic locations coupled with two expansion decisions that utilized cash flow from operations resulted in increased use of cash flow from operations and borrowings and restricted liquidity," filings said.

"These challenges coupled with additional state-mandates that will result in an additional extraordinary wage hike in [fiscal year] 2020 in certain locations before all further wage increases are subject to increases in the CPI and the general national trend away from casual dining, led to the need to commence these chapter 11 cases."

This is a more general complaint and we will likely see even more technology replace these lost jobs.

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The entry level wage for restaurant workers in the US has always trailed the minimum wage for other industries.

That is about to change -- with the drive for a $15 minimum wage.

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"Imagine that eight people walk into a meeting to discuss an important strategic decision for their company.

They're all well-versed in the challenge they face.

But two members of the group hold some key piece of information or a perspective that not everybody has considered.

Everyone knows, for example, about the major trends in the industry that the boss has been talking about for months. They've seen the slide that shows last quarter's disappointing sales results a hundred times.

Only one person, however, knows about the recent moves of a competitor, while another has insights into an important emerging technology.

The whole point of getting everyone into a room, it would seem, would be to make sure that new information comes to the surface so the best decision can be made. In a workplace that values harmony and respect (and nearly all now do), that new information, sadly, will almost certainly get buried.

That's thanks to a pernicious and powerful quirk in group psychology called shared information bias."

"Shared information bias is known as the tendency for group members to spend more time and energy discussing information that all members are already familiar with (i.e., shared information), and less time and energy discussing information that only some members are aware of (i.e., unshared information).

Harmful consequences related to poor decision-making can arise when the group does not have access to unshared information (hidden profiles) in order to make a well-informed decisions." From Wikipedia.

Jonah Sachs thinks that this is a matter of being too nice when making a decision in groups.

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I'm not a franchisee, I'm a business mentor, that specializes in growing my clients companies by understanding the rational, emotional and subconscious needs of their ideal customers then creating the perfect products and services for these ideal customers....

So, when I decided to help franchise a gardening business, and knowing that the franchisee would be the customer, off I went to 'do what I do' and get to grips with understanding the rational, emotional and subconscious experience of people who have bought franchises.

I have been horrified! I kid you not.

In the past month, I have spoken to 30 or more franchise partners of well known national companies, big and small, as well as partners of lesser known franchises and those recently arrived in the UK.

Whilst I'm aware there are many wonderful franchisors, I have discovered that often, a franchisee is not thought of as a client or customer of the franchisor, but rather as an employee of a dictatorial regime.

I am continuing to speak to people about their franchise experiences, which is helping me build a unique franchise model that treats the franchisee as a highly valued and respected client and not a skivvy.

Which companies do you think have the most ethical and empowering franchise models?

Gary Kennett

Gary Kennett The unfortunate part of being a Franchisee, as I have experienced and observed is, that the Franchisor makes decisions, about Advertising, Sales Promotions, New Product ideas, and certainly, Operational Procedures, that directly affect your bottom line. They may have no clue about your immediate Market potential, but whatever they say, goes, as they move forward with their plans for sales promotions (i.e. DISCOUNTS), and product launches, that may have very little impact on your business, other than, discounting your Profit Margin. At the end of the day, if they're making 7.5% or more of your Gross Sales then, that's what they seem to care about. If they were tied into your Profit Margin then, they may pay closer attention as to who and how they effect their Franchisees. One might say "Well, wouldn't they be concerned if you potentially, went out of business, due to their blind shotgun strategies?" My answer is "No", they would simply approach you with a rock bottom "buy out" price, because your business was no longer worth what it could be, and move on. It's a sad day in Franchising, if you ask me.

Jim Rucker

Jim RuckerHaving worked as both a Franchisee and for a Franchisor, an important issue I see is Franchisees entering into a franchise system with the unrealistic expectation of owning their own business and operating it as they see fit. Yes, they own a business but really what was purchased was the Franchisor's system and if the system is not followed, it can ruin a brand. While many new Franchisees appreciate the system when they start, they can become resentful later because they are not given the leeway to operate things their way. Branding is perhaps the most compelling reason to buy into a franchise system and in order to maintain a high level of consistency and meet customer expectations, there must be compliance with the system. Most franchisees are not born business experts and struggle with some of the most important aspects of successful business operations. Again, they appreciate the system while they are learning it but once it is mostly mastered, dissatisfaction can creep in with the control the Franchisor maintains. One other thing I see concerning Franchisee dissatisfaction is everyone would operate differently if they were the Franchisor and regardless of the decisions made, you aren't going to please everyone. Decisions made by the Franchisor must be made in the best interest of the Franchisor and the system as a whole.

Madam Becky Adams

Madam Becky AdamsI have found this dissatisfaction when interviewing franchisees, and it seems to start after a year or so when they feel they are no longer getting value for money in the form of training and support.

If you're trying to do right by the franchise partner it must be soul destroying for a franchisor to be complained about all the time!

Gary Kennett

Gary KennettFor me, I was very well aware of the relationship, between Franchisor and Franchisee, but the difference is that I thought the Franchisee had more collective influence, as a Group, and the overall situation and status of different events, has proven that we don't. So, I certainly, was not under the belief that I would come into the picture and change my product menu, to offer things the Franchisor doesn't, but I would summarily say that "most of us are not pleased with their dictatorial approach to various issues.

Tim EvansLike Paul said, a lot of franchisees come into the business after being "outsourced" or "downsized" with no previous business experience. They are generally unemployable (not really) to most companies based on age, etc. The franchise system offers them an opportunity to come in a business system, which offers them the core structure of running a business. Unfortunately, all they have is a JOB (just over broke). The key is to make as much as you can above the line (yes the franchise gets their share), but manage your below the line expenses to maximize "your money".

Robert Riche

Robert RicheRobert Riche. I was a franchisee for over 20 years running multiple units, and almost five years in a senior corporate position. Purchasing a franchise is a very dangerous proposition. All the power and control rest with the franchisor, you end up with a lot of turn over of management staff, field management etc., most systems have a high turnover every 3 to 5 years, everyone thinks they have a better idea. Tim your comment about franchisee's is true, but that's what the industry attracts. You can list the quality operations on one hand. Everything else is suspect.

Gary Kennett

Gary KennettMy situation was different than most, in that, the original franchising co. was bought out, but by folks not well experienced in the business. Then, they began implementing their view of the business, and it's future complexion and business model, along with the new "culture" and "atmosphere" they wanted to convey. Due to the very nature of the original business, and how it was now, differing with the newer ideas being brought in, it simply clashed and I think alot of conflict resulted.

Madam Becky Adams

Thank you so much guys for your thoughts. I have been considering trying to combine a franchise structure with a business mentoring model...

So, for example, with the gardening and grounds business, instead of someone buying a franchise, they buy a 'business in a box'.

Their brand, their business to do what they want with.

They buy a step by step proven model, training and support, but the business is theirs from the outset. If after a year of help from a team of on-site and on-line experts they feel they have enough experience, they can cut loose and go it alone, or just buy the support services they think they need.

To me, from having spoken to so many miserable franchisees, it gives the best of both worlds. Autonomy within a proven structure and as much support as you do or don't feel you need.

Cláudio Pazin

Cláudio PazinI am franchisee here in Brazil and the brand that I represent is recognized and has several awards, but the results and expectations presented by the franchisor during the sale process weren't reliable. For example... units with a bad results are often offered to Franchisor Managers or older franchisees at very low prices. It's a way to avoid to show the "shut down" number. There was two years ago I searched for another brand in a different segment, but analyzing the franchisor's data I realized that the data provided weren't also reliable, so I faced the franchisor with my analysis and I heard the answer that if the franchisor tells the truth would be impossible to sell franchises. Of course that time I gave up...

Carlos Roche

Carlos RocheHello Claudio, Sorry to hear about your situation. I understand that the franchisor may have lied about the real numbers, however, if the franchise is solid, give it all you've got and sell.

Do you still have the franchise?
What kind of product or service do you provide?

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Ulf Muller (Interim Management & Consulting in FM | Create Self-Employment Opportunities)

Which are the most effective personality assessment tools for Franchisees?

Any suggestions?

Joe Caruso

Joe Caruso You may want to start with this article - "Uncovering The Secret History Of Myers-Briggs"

The author Merve Emre has some interesting and shocking things to say about relying Myers-Briggs.

  • Joe Caruso Joe CarusoNot sure that DISC is any more reliable than Myers-Briggs.

    "Personality Scores and Job Performance

    Are scores on personality tests highly predictive of performance? There is a long history of research showing: maybe. That is, if the employee has all the other performance elements necessary to do the job, and the personality test is job-related, personality can make a difference. Self-descriptive test scores represent how the applicant wants to present themselves -- it may not be reality. So, even if an applicant tells an interviewer he/she is organized, it's no guarantee he or she will be good with details. It is just bad science to claim the DISC (or any other personality test) will accurately predict managerial performance, capability for organization, character, or personal responsibility."

  • Monique HernandezWhen it comes to discovering individual and organizational personalities, I highly recommend the Myers Briggs personality assessment. Given the persons being assessed understands that the questionnaire is not going to be spot on but everyone has a preference. That preference is key to receive accurate results. I've turned to this assessment when I've noticed a team is having difficulty understanding one another, or the team is not understanding myself. The time spent doing this and openness brings everyone together. I suggest Myers Briggs ! True believer

  • DISC is also a great tool for management development. Be careful using it as a predictor of performance. Again it will tell you how someone will approach their job, not the outcomes they will get.
    There are several profiling tools that have been developed from solid research into franchisee performance. We have one at the Franchise Relationships Institute that is part of a total recruitment system called The Nathan Profiler, and Fred Berni has one that I think is called The FranchiZe Profile.
    Don't rely on a personality profiles alone. Structured interviews, on the job trials and past performance are also useful to consider when trying to predict future performance.
    By the way I am a registered psychologist with 35 years up my sleeve working with a range of these types of tools, so I speak from experience, not hearsay.

  • It makes sense to filter using a tool which assesses expected performance, like your tool & Fred's assessment, but we have found sales departments very reluctant to employ them as part of their screening process.

    So, I wonder if these predictive assessment tools aren't more usefully deployed right now as part of the onboarding process, by the operational folks.

    Mary Clapp Mary Clapp In my experience the personality assessments can be useful if they go both ways. The tools are supposed to help people understand how to communicate better with each other. For a franchisor to understand if a franchisee is likely to be a good fit for the system's style of communicating and making decisions, the franchisor has to understand the personalities of the decision makers and key ops folks in the franchise system, as well as those of the franchisee. Sometimes a change in the zor management is necessary. If the franchisor isn't considering that as a possibility, it probably won't matter what the zee assessments say.
  • Greg NathanGreg Nathan Michael - your observations are correct. The priority for most franchise sales folks is to hit their recruitment numbers. Better quality operators factor in franchisee suitability as an equally high priority. Having operations folks also involved in the recruitment process acts like a conscience and balances the short term and longer term perspectives. (The ops folks have to live with the franchisee long after the recruitment folks have handed them over, so to speak). And I agree, using profiling tools for onboarding, coaching and improving communications is very useful.
  • Mariel Miller "The Franchise Advisor"Mariel Miller "The Franchise Advisor"I've been in organizational devel for franchisors since 2000, have seen many products in this space...I'd be happy to discuss my experience & share with you an objective workshop I've delivered to USA franchisor groups about this topic - [email protected] 732 4811-5188
  • Ron Bender, CFE

    Ron Bender, CFEI have used (and taken!) many, including MBI, DISC, Wunderlic, ProvenMatch and Spot-On, and I think your development staff can be trained to get great use out of all of them. I love the newer, more 'workstyle and communication-related' programs like ProvenMatch since they become very useful for better training and coaching after they become franchisees.

  • Michael (Mike) Webster

    Michael (Mike) WebsterMariel, have you got a link to your seminar? Thanks. You could post in your comment.

  • Mariel Miller "The Franchise Advisor"
  • Michael (Mike) Webster
  • Greg NathanMariel - I just looked through this. It looks fascinating but is a bit hard to follow. Can you explain the context?

  • Thom CrimansCheck out Proven Match. DISC, Myers Briggs and such are fine, but they are off the self products used for a wide variety of purposes. Proven Match is specifically designed to determine a prospects fit to your business model. Here is the link from the IFA website: Or contact [email protected]

  • Craig SlavinThe oldest and most reliable franchise profile is the Franchise Navigator. Launched in 1997, after 7 years of research, Franchise Navigator has had incredible success with its clients.

  • Fred BerniGreg - Thanks for the mention.

  • Craig SlavinLet me know if anyone would like to "test-drive" the Navigator. It was built from the ground up for franchise application. It is also not a "generic "psychometric" assessment but actually becomes customized to each brand that uses it.

  • Mariel Miller "The Franchise Advisor"Certainly, I was asked to present an objective picture of assessments in the franchise space and discussed several valid and reliable instruments and how they would fit inside the recruitment process - The focus was how to work with an instrument and how to have a better process including "fit" even without an instrument. The key issue is how valid the assessment is and can it, in fact, predict future behavior. There are a good number of valid tests out there, but a franchisor should ask a lot of questions about how long the instrument has been used, how long specifically in the franchise sector, and ask for white papers, studies, etc. to insure the tool is appropriate for selection. Contrary to some commentary, personality has been proven to predict "job performance" in many studies. So has an individuals Value System. Tons of research is out there supporting this. Hope that helps put my work in a bit of context.

  • Daniel Alberto Bernard

    Daniel Alberto BernardHere in Brazil we use our own Teste Aldeia Gaulesa. It was based upon studies developed by professor Yves Enrègle, Ph.D. on Psychology and Sociology from Harvard and my professor at Groupe ESSEC in France in the early 90´s. We selected more than 10,000 franchisees by using this very accurate assesment test. It represents an evolution from PEAI and considers laboral relations later from the digital revolution from the mid 80´s. Just check the portuguese version at|conteudo&id_conteudo=2

  • Dave Sullivan

    Dave SullivanI currently use SpotOn by Zoracle. It has proven to match my candidates with concepts that line up with their competencies and compatibility. When I match a franchisee who shares a company's Values, Stages of Growth, Culture and Work Style they perform better and ramp-up quicker.

  • Jan-Marie Hall

    Jan-Marie HallHello Everyone - Proven Match is a scientific based assessment since 1987, designed specifically for Franchising to help you know the characteristics of your to top performing franchisees which helps you measure your candidates to their attributes.
    Proven Match also help you with talking styles to get the best out of all your franchisees plus where to market to attract those top players.
    I would be happy to give a demo or connect you with a franchisor using Proven Match

  • Craig SlavinSince 1987? I would check on your statistics. Proven Match was launched 5 or 6 years ago at best according to the creator.

  • Craig SlavinSpot-On is less than 2 years old.

  • Simon LordMost franchisors I have talked to who started off using general profiling tools stopped using them after a while as they didn't accurately reflect the peculiarities of the franchisor/franchisee relationship. I'd recommend looking at the Nathan Profiler

  • Craig SlavinHere's my take on using assessments/surveys in the franchising space. First, using one is a better idea than not using one. Anytime you can "model" something and be able to replicate it you are likely to be in a better position. Secondly, based on my experience, research, creation, usage and administration of a Behavioral Recognition Assessment called, the Navigator, I personally feel the value of an assessment/survey comes in the ability to use, adapt, and leverage the results. Most of the data, and results, of assessments/surveys becomes either under-utilized or misunderstood. The focus should not be solely about the assessment/survey but should address how to implement the recommendations in real life situations, with franchise operators, employees and others that participate in the franchising efforts.

  • Michael (Mike) WebsterThanks to everyone who contributed to this thread.

    .1.We made a feature & highlighted it at:

    .2. It was also in the Franchise-Info newsletter.

    Thanks for all your insights.

  • Greg NathanWow that 's been a wild ride. Enjoyed looking back over that thanks!

  • Fred BerniI apologize in advance if this appears as a duplicate post. I've been told that my original post didn't appear in this thread which is strange as I can see it.

    Ulf - Let's start with the basics.

    First, decide whether you want a tool designed to give you information on "cultural fit" or are you more concerned with performance? The two are not the same. If you're looking to see if a person is a good cultural fit, then likely any "personality" profile will do the trick.

    If, however, you're looking to find out if your candidate will perform, then one of the best ways of identifying how a person will do in a specific job is to measure their skill-sets and their job-specific judgment. Since every job has a unique set of situational judgment needs and skill-sets, no single questionnaire can accurately be used for multiple jobs.

    Continued in next post....

  • Fred BerniThe reason the FBI uses job-specific judgment questions in their agent hiring process is because it's so accurate in predicting performance. That's also why we include situational judgment in our FranchiZe Profile.

    Second, make sure the system under consideration was actually designed for selection. Several of the most common personality profiles specifically state on their websites (Meyers Briggs) or in their validation documents (DiSC) that they were not designed for selection. The Meyers Briggs site even goes so far as to say it's unethical to use it for selection. Even so, people are using these profiles for selection purposes.

    The article Joe mentioned in an earlier post does a good job of explaining these first two issues.

  • Fred BerniThird, if the "test" you're considering doesn't include job-specific questions you run the risk of running afoul of the EEOC and the ADA. The Supreme Court ruled in Griggs v. Duke Power Co. 401 U.S. 424 (1971): "What Congress has forbidden is giving these devices and mechanisms controlling force unless they are demonstrably a reasonable measure of job performance."

    Fourth, make sure the profile you're considering has been validated by an independent third-party with no monetary interest in the results. By validated, I mean proven to demonstrate that it does accurately predict performance, not just that it's internally reliable. Doing so goes a long way to cutting down on your risks with the EEOC.


    Michael (Mike) Webster
  • Michael (Mike) WebsterThanks for adding in these ideas, Fred.

I'm in the throes of flea warfare. These parasites have invaded my cats and my home. Temporarily living elsewhere, I had relied on my twenty-one year old son for cat care. Naturally, he hadn't noticed the problem until it became glaringly apparent and, unfortunately, full blown. The lessons from this ordeal are numerous. Some are flea specific but there is one, applicable to employers, that stands out for me (no, it's not that employees are annoying pests!) It is:

It serves employers well to provide new employees with the right tools and information they need and where to go for help. Since my son and I are new at dealing with fleas, there wasn't even a flea comb in the house initially. So I had to obtain an arsenal of targeted weapons, do research and quickly ramp up my knowledge of steps to take. I'm much more knowledgeable now and, hopefully, am being effective in my efforts.

Similarly, be sure your employees, especially when newly hired, have the right tools, equipment, materials and information to do their job or that they know where and how to obtain them. That may seem obvious but, all too often, new employees are hired without thought given to what they'll need, how to help them become competent and productive sooner. All too often, supervisors and co-workers are too busy to help and new employees are left to figure things out on their own.

Here's an example: Taylor is hired for his first job as a part-time merchandiser. He orders, shelves and displays coffee and tea to three grocery stores. He faxes a weekly order every Thursday afternoon but does not have a fax machine. His supervisor makes it clear that the job must be done in 15 hours per week and that he should use one of the grocery stores' fax machines for free. Taylor finds that often the fax machine is broken or in use or the door is locked. This simple task of faxing has become stressful and Taylor wonders if he should find another job. The employer, meanwhile, could have prevented Taylor's stress by: providing a fax machine, devising another mode of transmitting the information, or allowing him to be reimbursed for the extra time and expense of using a store that charges for faxing. Any of these would be less expensive than replacing Taylor.

Supervisors should always spend a little time upfront putting themselves in the shoes of the new employee and thinking about what he or she will need to do the job. The right materials make a huge difference and allow the employee to:

  • Do the job more efficiently
  • Perform better sooner
  • Feel more competent sooner
  • Feel part of the organization
  • Avoid the sense that the employer doesn't care
  • Avoid spinning their wheels
  • Avoid stress and boredom

The last bullet is worth expanding upon. As with Taylor in the example above, when employees feel bored or stressed they go into survival mode. Survival mode calls up the fight or flight response that engages the reptilian (or lower, instinctual) part of the brain. Higher cognition, needed for learning and creativity, is not accessible. The quality of the employee's work suffers and so does his perception of his experience at your organization. The employee feels disengaged from the job and from the employer. There are many factors that lead to employee disengagement but not having the right tools is a major contributor. Disengagement leads to mediocre work, less satisfied customers and, as with Taylor in the example, turnover.

Through this flea ordeal I've been both bored by the tedium of eradication activities and stressed by the tenacity of fleas but, unlike Taylor, don't have the option to quit. But I do have tools to get the job done and, if those fail, I know the exterminator to call for help.

You, as an employer, similarly need the right tools and tips to be as effective as possible. For all of your human resources and employment-related needs, for best practices, for online training and HR-related resources, HRSentry is at your fingertips 24/7.

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In the height of summer in 2012 it was the warmest year on record. Fueled by drought conditions, huge fires destroyed homes and burned thousands of acres in western states.

Temperatures above 100 degrees have persisted to an unprecedented extent across the county. Severe storms in the northeast caused multiple power outages that combined with high temperatures to cause uncomfortable and even unsafe conditions.

This summer, then, it seems more important than ever to pay attention to the dangers of heat. You need to ensure that your workers are safe.

The Occupational Health and Safety Adminstration (OSHA) has created a campaign to help employers and workers understand and prevent heat illness. Heat illness can occur under conditions of heat and humidity, particularly with work that requires exertion and/or heavy protective clothing and equipment.

The three main keys to prevention of heat-related illness are: water, rest, and shade. Train your outdoor workers to pay attention to all three. It's important that those working in heat conditions drink water, even if not thirsty and that they rest in the shade to cool down. Heavy work in hot conditions should be built up to so that the worker's body can acclimate properly and safely.

There are different degrees of heat-related illness from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to the extremely serious heat stroke. Train your workers and supervisors to recognize heat exhaustion symptoms such as nausea, headache, dizziness and drenching sweats with cold, clammy skin. Heat stroke is particularly dangerous, sometimes fatal, and can occur with no heat exhaustion symptoms occurring first. Immediate, emergency medical care should be obtained with any of these symptoms:

  • Confusion, anxiety, or loss of consciousness
  • Very rapid or dramatically slowed heartbeat
  • Rapid rise in body temperature that reaches 104 to 106 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Marked decrease in sweating accompanied by hot, flushed, dry skin
  • Convulsion
  • Other heat-related symptoms not relieved by shade or air-conditioning and fluids

OSHA also provides a Heat App for free download in English or Spanish for iPhone or Android. The app provides a heat index for a particular worksite and the related level of risk for outdoor workers.

Click on reminders--including drinking enough fluids, scheduling rest breaks, planning for and knowing what to do in an emergency, adjusting work operations, gradually building up the workload for new workers, training on heat illness signs and symptoms, and monitoring each other for signs and symptoms of heat-related illness--for that level of risk.

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Do you remember your first job? Was it fun or character building? Were you inspired or did it help you decide to get more education or otherwise change course so you wouldn't end up in that role for the rest of your life? Ideally, a teen learns proper work habits, a work ethic and financial responsibility through a first job. Many employers need extra help during the summer but, whether you're hiring young people for seasonal or year round positions, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure things go smoothly.


Be sure to pay at least the minimum wage, federal or state, whichever is higher. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does allow for a special minimum wage of $4.25 for employees under the age of 20 during their first 90 consecutive calendar days of employment. After the 90-day period, you need to pay the full federal minimum wage. Please be mindful that you may not terminate the lower paid teen just as the 90 days runs out in order to hire another young person at the lower rate.

Hour Restrictions for under 16s

Under the FLSA, the minimum age for employment in non-agricultural employment is 14. There are limitations as to when and how long 14- and 15-year olds may work. Their work hours must: be non-school hours; no more than 3 hours in a school day, 18 hours in a school week, 8 hours in a non-school day, 40 hours in a non-school week; and occur between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. (except from June 1 through Labor Day, when evening hours are extended to 9 p.m.) The hours of employees aged 16 and older are not regulated.

Work Restrictions for under 18s
In non-agricultural work, the permissible jobs, by age, are as follows:
• Workers 18 years or older may perform any job, whether hazardous or not;
• Workers 16 and 17 years old may perform any non-hazardous jobs; and
• Workers 14 and 15 years old may work outside school hours in various non-manufacturing, non-mining, non-hazardous jobs.

New Employee Orientation
It's a great idea to provide an orientation and training to young employees. Don't treat temporary employees differently; they need to understand policies, rules and your culture as much as your other employees. Remember, this may be a first job for a teen so laying out the expectations can be particularly valuable. Clear expectations prevent problems and help any employee be more successful. Be explicit about basics such as timeliness, dress code, pay dates, the job description, expected behaviors, and who to go to with questions. If you can assign a work buddy to serve as a role model and go-to person, so much the better.

Sexual Harassment Awareness
Keep in mind that teens and younger employees may be particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment. They have less life experience, may have less confidence and assertiveness, and usually perform jobs that lack power. So be sure that young hires understand your anti-harassment policies and who to go to if they encounter any problems. Keep in mind that a harasser is not always someone who works for you; it could be an outside vendor or even one of your best customers! It's your responsibility to investigate immediately and, if there is harassment, to stop it right away. Encourage teens to report a problem right away so you can fix it. A caveat: make sure any fix does not harm the complainant in any way (e.g. worse shift, fewer hours, worse location) as that could be considered retaliation.

State Laws

Finally, be sure to check your state laws to be sure you are in compliance. All states have child labor standards. When federal and state standards differ, the rules that provide the most protection to young workers apply.

Hiring teens should be a win-win for both you and the teens you hire. With your legal obligations in mind and a little extra thought put towards orienting and educating your new employees, summertime should be enjoyable for all!

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Do you ever wonder how and why some folks are successful, natural born leaders and some aren't?

How some folks learn to deal with the ups and downs of life & find ways to make things better while others are so down and find the smallest thing to complain about? And keep complaining. They don't deal or play well with others.

Successful leaders seem to have a trait, or several traits as a matter of fact, traits which allows them to move forward in a more positive mode.

There are many traits successful leaders have. Here are seven we believe in and want to share.

1.Your Attitude is Your Choice - Successful leaders have great attitudes. No one else can make you have a great attitude but you. So you are totally in control of this factor. You can wake up, smile, and feel this is gonna be a great day. That's your choice.

Or, you can wake up and decide it's gonna be a crappy day. Again, your choice. Which would you rather have? And let's not forget, there is a difference between an attitude and a mood. Know what it is?

Attitudes are permanent; moods are temporary. Big difference. Those with a better attitude get out of bad moods quicker. Why? Because those of us with a great attitude do not want to wallow in the manure of a bad mood. (And yes, I cleaned that up.)

2. Visualize Success - Successful leaders visualize success. They see a positive outcome. If you watch American Idol (as I do), you know each and every one of those kids sees themselves as the winner. They visualize it.

Any political candidate running for office sees themselves winning. Whether they do or don't isn't part of visualization. It is, however, the key to how they got where they are. Seeing yourself winning is critical in having a great attitude. You know that old saying "whether you say you can, or you can''re right." (Henry Ford I'm told.)

3. Humor, Energy and Enthusiasm - A huge part of being a successful leader are these 3 magic ingredients. Successful leaders, laugh more, walk and work with energy, and they keep their enthusiasm up in all areas.

My dad told me years ago: "Enthusiasm is contagious; let's start an epidemic."

4. Resist Negative Tendencies - Successful leaders don't want to participate with those folks who want to bring you down. They keep away from them. They're downers. "It's too hot. It's too cold. I'm too fat. I'm too thin. I hate my hair." the list goes on.

No one wants to be with people who are constantly down and complaining. Keeping that positive mental attitude is very important. Successful leaders resist negative tendencies.

5. Be a Whatever It Takes Person - There's a wonderful poem I memorized years ago and while it's too long to print here, it's called "Somebody Said It Couldn't Be Done." Bottom line, it mean to be a double checker. Successful leaders take the time to double check.

Be a 'whatever it takes' person. It's a thrill to make it happen when someone else doesn't think it can.

6. Embrace Change - Difficult we know. However, those successful leaders realizing when and where there is change, it's normally for the better. And worse case, if it's not better, accepting and embracing change, will help the attitude.

My dad had a fun saying. He would say, "Nancy, the next time you change your mind, get a good one." The key to embracing change is to accept it. Successful leaders work with it. They make it work.

7. Be Grateful for What You Have - Successful leaders have no room for jealously. We can be envious of something or someone, that's a normal trait. Example, I'm envious of those who can sing. I'm not jealous; just envious. When you're jealous you can hold grudges.

(Successful leaders don't normally hold grudges.) Why wait for a life-altering experience to be thankful for what you do have. It might be too late.

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~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Nancy Friedman, president of Telephone Doctor Customer Service Training, St. Louis, MO, is a popular KEYNOTE speaker at franchise, association and corporate conferences.

For a DEMO of Nancy in action, call 314-291-1012 or log on to: or email her at [email protected].

You decided to become a newly minted franchisor.

And when that day finally arrived how exciting was that?

You were going to conquer the world with your franchise brand.

Here's what you did right.

Started with a tested business model with a verifiable proof of concept.

Hired a competent and experienced franchise attorney to develop your franchise agreement and franchise disclosure document - FDD.

Your franchise attorney strongly suggested (or insisted) since you have a strong proof of concept for your franchise model that you include an Item 19 Financial Performance Representation - FPR and you did it.

Developed an operations manual, training system and support system that is scalable as you grow your franchise system.

You had a reasonable budget to market for franchise recruitment.

But, after a while, you will hate being a franchisor. Here are your 7 biggest beefs.

  1. Early franchisees you selected seemed very passionate about being franchise owner/operators but they are not living up to what they promised and you're more than disappointed.
  2. Multi-unit franchisees are not current with their development objectives and they expect you to not hold them to what everyone agreed to. They want some or all of the following extensions, refunds or credits against franchise fees and in return you get nothing. Not even what you originally bargained for.
  3. You have a great training program and franchisees are shortcutting what your program offers and requires.
  4. Franchisee local market success depends on local store marketing, your franchisees don't make the investment in it. And they complain to you that sales are too low and your brand is not well known enough in their area.
  5. Franchise owners expect you to fix their unit level problems with employees, landlords, suppliers, insurance, local municipality, their business & operating partners. You had no idea that you'd be expected to do so much hand holding and babysitting when you set out selling & opening franchises.
  6. Franchise recruitment for a new franchisor is tough. However you couldn't have imagined how difficult generating and managing leads would be. And the cost per new franchise recruited is far more than you anticipated.
  7. You discovered that your management team had a much greater learning curve for transitioning your business to a franchise development and operations company. And now you're faced with some tough staffing decisions as you move forward.

This is not an exhaustive list of awful franchise things and readers can feel free to add to the list.

Good news is that you had a good underlying business at the outset. And all these franchising challenges can be remedied.

If this sounds llike your franchising story & you want some help solving your problems call me at 443.502.2636 [email protected]. Lease the talents of 20+ year proven franchise executive, who has seen and solved these problems before.

It is understandable why so many franchises fight wage increases, benefits increases, etc.

They have established a competitive landscape and business model that depends on low, low wages.

I read an article last week that in Denmark, the average pay at Burger King is $20/hr with full health benefits. So, people pay more for burgers.

That is true across all the food franchises, so there is no competitive disadvantage to paying employees a living wage.

I have also wondered at times if in the US a lot of the franchisor pressure against health care is really a concern about royalties.

If the franchisee pays more for employee health care that means they may have less available to pay royalties. There is no way to know what is motivating HQ folks, but I wonder if that has a lot to do with things.

Franchising is a great business model. It can work even when employees aren't paid the minimum wage, and even when franchisees are treated more transparently.

Australia recently made changes to its Franchise code that should reduce some abuse of franchisors. I read a lot of submissions by people to the Franchise-Info columns. I appreciate they are stuck within a mental framework requiring pay and transparency must fall to the lowest common denominator.

If people opened up to different possibilities the industry could still thrive and would have a better reputation with potentially less conflicts.

Stu Levin, founder of the Franchise Wealth Academy, helps franchise owners to stop the financial bleeding and regain control of their lives by helping them decide, usually in 30 days or less, whether to fix the franchise or find a more personally profitable path.

I was recently interviewed by Canadian HR Reporter.

The article, entitled "Employee Activists Represent 'Huge Opportunity' for Employers," was written by Sarah Dobson and explores the potential impact (both positive and negative) of employers engaging employees proactively in social media conversations.

It's a huge opportunity if it's handled appropriately, said Frances Leary, president of online communications company Wired Flare in Halifax. 

"Organizations have to have their policies in place and make sure they're well-communicated to employees, so that employees understand what the guidelines are, what they can and can't do," she said. "If all of those things are well-defined in advance, it's a fantastic way to promote and increase the company profile.

Further in the article it reports:

The employers that are successful [in establishing effective employee engagement on social media] are the ones that really value employees as part of the team, said Leary. "They're a very close-knit group, they've got consistent communication from the top down all the way through the ranks of the company so that everyone feels like they're a part of it," she said. "

On the flipside of this, the risk for a company to implement this type of program in an environment that's not like that -- they can really be opening themselves up for potentially harmful situations."

And the relationship goes both ways, said Leary. "Companies have to realize that in entering into this relationship with an employee, not only is the company trusting the employee but the employee is also trusting the company to be part of their social network, which in a lot of ways is very personal, so the trust goes both ways."

To read the entire article, click here.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) came about in 1938. That's 78 years ago!

While there have been some tweaks and additions over the years, the overhaul needed to eliminate confusion and align requirements with a more flexible, modern workplace just hasn't happened.

A 2004 effort to revise the duties tests and make other aspects of the law more understandable was not as effective as many employers had hoped.

So the FLSA continues to be complicated and violations, willful or otherwise, abound.

Here are ten steps to help you get into compliance and avoid an expensive FLSA investigation of your entire franchise system.

  • Start with clear job descriptions that outline the duties and responsibilities for every position in your organization.

  • Compare each job description with the exemptions described by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL.) Unless you can justify a specific exemption, a job should be classified as non-exempt. Never base a classification on the job's title, on the incumbent's wishes, nor solely on the fact that it is salaried. In addition to minimum salary requirements, the job duties and responsibilities must be the basis for an exempt classification. Document which exemption applies.

  • Create clear policies around attendance, work hours, break and meal times, working through lunch, timekeeping, getting overtime authorized in advance, etc. Make sure your policies are communicated to and understood by employees.

  • Maintain excellent records and make sure all non-exempt employees submit and verify all hours worked. Never tell employees to "fudge" the work hours they report.

  • Ensure that you pay at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour or the state minimum wage, whichever is higher. (Note: there is a special youth minimum for youth workers under age 20 for the first 90 consecutive calendar days from the date of hire and a special minimum wage of $2.13 per hour for tipped employees if the employer can claim and document a tip credit that makes up the difference between that amount and the federal minimum wage.)

  • Be sure to pay an overtime rate of time and one half based on a non-exempt employee's regular rate of pay for all time worked beyond 40 hours in a work week. Note: the threshold is 40 hours actually worked; sick, vacation, or other leave time does not have to be counted toward hours worked (even if such time off is paid.)

  • If employees work overtime that has not been properly authorized, you must still pay them for it. You may discipline employees for violating company policy but you cannot avoid paying for overtime that has been worked. This is another reason to have clear policies and communicate them effectively.

  • Understand the term "regular rate of pay" upon which overtime pay is based. For some organizations it may be the same as an employee's hourly rate. Depending upon compensation policies, however, it must include all non-discretionary pay; in other words, pay which is promised by the employer. This would include: non-discretionary bonuses, incentive pay, commissions, on-call pay, shift differentials, and any housing allowance that is part of employee compensation. It does not include expense reimbursements, gifts or bonuses that are completely up to the company as to whether they are paid or not, such as Christmas bonuses.

  • Review DOL fact sheets for topics that apply to your organization such as: tipped employees, volunteers, police and firefighters, seasonal and recreational employers, interns, child labor, breaks for nursing mothers and more.

  • Know your state laws and follow union contracts, if any. Where there is a difference, follow the law that is more favorable to the employee. For instance, state minimum wage, state rules around hours worked per day, additional child labor restrictions, state mandated break times, etc. must be followed when they place a higher standard on employers.

Complying with the many facets of the FLSA will continue to challenge franchise owners.

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While HR mistakes, thankfully, usually are not fatal, they can create serious consequences for an franchise owner.

Here are seven common mistakes that are easy to avoid while creating a lawful and more satisfying workplace for your employees:

  • Hiring someone as an independent contractor who should really be classified as your employee. Tread carefully when hiring workers because the IRS, US Department of Labor and many states are teaming up and scrutinizing employers more closely than ever. If you control how someone does the work, as opposed to merely the results, the person is likely your employee. If you provide the tools and equipment, the person is likely your employee. If the person is doing work that is intrinsic to your business, the person is likely your employee. If you re-hire someone "as a consultant" to perform the same work they use to do for you as an employee, the person is, once again, your employee.
  • Changing or creating a policy but not communicating it properly. What is the point of having a policy if those it affects don't know about it? It sounds silly but sometimes the crucial communication piece gets neglected or is incomplete. The best policies provide clear guidance and information and help employees and managers alike by communicating expectations across the organization. Trying to enforce a policy that an employee didn't know about won't hold up in court. Expecting supervisors to enforce policies they don't fully understand is counter-productive. Train all supervisors and all employees about all of your policies.
  • Allowing bad behavior because someone is your star consultant or best salesperson. If you let anyone get away with bad behavior, that behavior will escalate and you'll soon have a morale problem on your hands or the bad behavior may spread among others. Promptly discuss the problem with the person and explain that it must change. Sometimes a person does not realize the effect he or she has on others so pointing it out may be enough to put a stop to it. If not, you'll need to explore stronger measures and consider whether it's really worth the additional problems to keep this person on staff.
  • Hoping employee complaints will go away if you ignore them. Employee complaints, whether regarding safety, sexual harassment or assertions of discrimination don't just resolve themselves. Take all complaints seriously, investigate promptly, and take appropriate action, if warranted. Be sure that your efforts to correct any problems do not make working conditions worse for the complainant. That could quickly escalate the problem and subject you to a claim of retaliation.
  • Not being honest about employee performance. It can be difficult for supervisors to deliver bad news but letting employees believe they are doing a good job when they aren't is all too common. This lack of honesty denies the person the opportunity to improve and puts the organization in a tenuous legal position should it decide to terminate the employment. Train your supervisors and hold them accountable for giving honest coaching and feedback to employees.
  • Classifying a job as exempt based on its title. Small companies often provide lofty titles but whether a position can be considered exempt or non-exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) minimum wage and overtime protections depends upon its duties, never on its title. Be prepared to justify your classification of every exempt position based on one or more of the US Department of Labor's (DOL) Exempt Duties Tests (in addition to meeting minimum salary requirements.)
  • Failing to pay non-exempt staff for unauthorized overtime. Pre-authorized or not, any work that you have suffered or permitted must be paid and an overtime premium applies to hours that exceed 40 in a work week. You may discipline the employee for working overtime without pre-authorization if that is your policy, of course, but that does not absolve you of your payment obligations.

It is much easier to prevent mistakes than to correct them.

The demands of HR legal compliance in an increasingly complex business environment can sometimes seem daunting. But take the small amount of extra time and effort to prevent basic HR mistakes so you can spend more time inspiring your staff and growing your business. Now that's a good idea at any time!

When you need an HR legal compliance program that just works, connect with me on LinkedIn.

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My advice to employers is colored in part by my past experience representing employees.

When representing an employee in litigation, I always looked for evidence of the employer's sloppy management style. The more clueless the business owner, the better things tended to be for my case.

One matter from several years ago comes to mind. The firm that I was with at the time represented two women who claimed "hostile environment" sexual harassment.

According to our clients, several male colleagues - including a mid-level supervisor - repeatedly made vulgar remarks and gestures to them, requested sex, and groped them.

During the case, we learned that:

(i) one of the regional managers in charge of supervising these gents sometimes took them to strip clubs during work hours;

(ii) the company's off-site human resource department had failed to follow its own "official" procedures for handling internal complaints of harassment; and

(iii) responsibility for conducting the sham "investigation" of my clients' complaints had been delegated to the very same mid-level supervisor who had allegedly participated in the harassment.

While we genuinely empathized with our clients, we were practically ecstatic that the employer - which was headquartered in a different state and apparently took a hands-off approach to this branch - had made so many unforced errors. Those errors greatly increased our odds of litigation success and therefore helped lead to a satisfactory settlement.

If you're an employer, you must make yourself aware of anti-discrimination laws forbidding workplace harassment based on sex, race, ethnicity, or any other "protected" characteristic.

There are two types of sexual harassment: per se harassment (which is not the subject of this post), and "hostile environment" harassment.

To maintain a claim of "hostile environment" sexual harassment against her employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, an employee must allege that

(i) because of her sex, she encountered unwelcome workplace behavior that was "sufficiently severe or pervasive" to alter her employment conditions and create an abusive atmosphere; and

(ii) the offending behavior should be attributed to the employer (even if no one in management participated).

There is no bright line for determining what conduct is "sufficiently severe or pervasive" for "hostile environment" purposes - though it's safe to assume that the fact pattern described above more than satisfies this test.

Some federal courts have held that the employer is liable for "hostile environment" harassment if it either failed to provide a reasonable avenue for complaint or knew about the harassment and failed to address it. See, e.g., Reed v. A.W. Lawrence & Co., Inc., 95 F3d 1170, 1180 (2nd Cir. 1996), cited in Harris v. L & L Wings, Inc., 132 F.2d 978, 983 (4th Cir. 1997).

Assuming that she can prove the existence of a hostile environment and the employer's liability, the employee can obtain additional "punitive" damages if she can prove aggravating circumstances such as the employer's indifference to sexual harassment allegations and particularly egregious conduct.

Although the factual scenario from my old firm's matter was extreme - and although the business involved might be much larger than your own - there are some lessons to take from that case.

First, show your seriousness about sexual harassment before it occurs. At a minimum, provide your employees with a written policy that clearly establishes the boundaries of permissible behavior, your intent to punish violations, and a fair and practicable complaint procedure for victims. Also be sure to personally avoid any behavior or comments that could be interpreted as a lack of sensitivity. (Keep dirty jokes to yourself and don't take employees to strip clubs.) Such an approach hopefully will succeed in preventing harassment in your workplace.

If your business one day gets sued for harassment despite your best efforts, however, evidence of those efforts could only help your case. In contrast, the lack of a clear policy and the appearance of an "anything goes" attitude could only hurt - from both a liability perspective and a damages perspective.

Second, remain familiar with your company's anti-harassment rules and actually apply them if and when appropriate. You should not only refuse to tolerate transgressions in your presence, but also respond to any internal allegations or suggestions of harassment by conducting - and documenting - a thorough investigation.

If your investigation reveals that harassment did in fact occur, be sure to remedy the situation in a manner consistent with your written policy (and again, be sure to document your efforts in writing). You must act to contain whatever damage has occurred.

A sexual harassment complaint can be scary for a business owner. You should do everything in your power to meet your legal obligations and protect yourself. The good news is that those goals are not mutually exclusive.

If you would like some advice or review of your HR policies, connect with me on LinkedIn and ask me for a review.

Document, document, document! It's the mantra of the human resources profession.

Create timely and thorough documentation for all employment decisions. On the other hand, supervisors and managers often view documenting as a chore they simply don't have time for.

But do they have time for the following all-too-common scenarios?

  • Rebecca, has performed her job poorly for several months. She is consistently late and her work is often inaccurate. The manager has spoken with her and given deadlines for improvement but the deadlines have come and gone. The company decides to fire her but wants to wait until the manager returns from a quick business trip. Before he returns, Rebecca suddenly goes out on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for a problem with her back. Upon return from leave, the company fires her for poor performance. She claims the company retaliated against her for taking FMLA leave. Without documentation of her performance problems, their coaching efforts or the timing of the termination decision, the company has no defense against her claim of retaliation.
  • Joe performs some aspects of his job well but is often slow to get back to customers. Co-workers pick up his slack. Resentful, two of the best employees quit so the supervisor knows she needs to fix the situation quickly. She approaches Human Resources about firing and replacing Joe. The HR administrator check's Joe's personnel file and finds only positive performance evaluations. So she says, "You can't. At least not yet." The supervisor and HR work together on a coaching and performance improvement plan that will take a couple of weeks to implement. There are two vacancies to fill and remaining staff members grumble more loudly than ever.
  • Marcus, a supervisor in a retail chain asks his new, young employee, Kaitlyn, out on dates every day. She tells him, "No, thank you" but he keeps asking and makes comments about her body that make her uncomfortable. It is Kaitlyn's first job and she doesn't know how to handle the situation so she quits. She thinks she may have been given a copy of the company's sexual harassment policy on the first day along with other paperwork. No one told her what was in the policy and she didn't sign any acknowledgment that she received it. Her mother helps her contact the EEOC. They decide to pursue two claims: one for sexual harassment and one for constructive discharge. (Constructive discharge is when an employment situation is made so intolerable that a reasonable person would quit.)

All of these scenarios are preventable! Supervisors and managers and those responsible for handling human resources should know that creating timely documentation is a critical part of their role. Here are some reasons why:

1. Documentation is vital in an employer's defense against discrimination, retaliation and other employment claims;

2. Memory alone will likely serve poorly in court. A lack of documentation is a glaring omission that could paint the employer in a potentially suspect light, particularly in a jury trial;

3. Documentation can explain how a situation was handled when an individual involved is no longer available to testify;

4. Documentation can verify that employees have read (or heard) and understand information they were given;

5. Documentation helps supervisors provide accurate and constructive performance feedback to employees.

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Are your I-9 forms in order? Are you sure? Performing a self-audit isn’t hard; it just takes a little time and attention to some details. It’s a great project to delegate to that new HR assistant or eager intern. But even if you have no earnest assistant, the good news is that the self-audit can be broken down into manageable steps.

Form I-9, of course, is the federal form that must be completed by all new hires and the employer within three business days of the start date in accordance with the Immigration and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986. The form is used to verify and document the eligibility of individuals to work in the U.S.  Note that it is not required for employees hired before November 6, 1986, when the law was passed.

The form’s instructions provide lists of acceptable forms of identification that serve as proof of the person’s identity and eligibility. Remember, you must examine the original documents, not copies. An excellent resource for everything you need to know about properly completing I-9s can be found in HRSentry’s I-9 Kit, including the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) Handbook for Employers:  Instructions for Completing the Form I-9.

It’s helpful to break the audit into two main sections: current staff and terminated staff. Here are the steps to take.

I.  For Current Staff:

Create a master list of all current employees with name and hire date and check to see if you have an I-9 on file for every employee (except those hired before 1986.) If you find no employees missing a properly completed I-9, you’re in luck! If you do find employees without I-9s or find documentation errors, create audit lists of these current staff members.

For rehired staff note that if the date of rehire is more than three years from the original hire date, a new Form I-9 is required.  If rehired within three years, the rehire date must be documented at the bottom of the original I-9.

If You Discover Missing forms

Contact each person individually and in writing (email is fine.) Your communication should be clear and firm. Ask him or her to provide document(s) from List A or Lists B and C of the I-9 form by a certain deadline. (The Handbook for Employers suggests requiring that the employee bring in the documents the next work day.) You may wish to offer an apology that the documentation was either misplaced or not collected when it should have been; however, be clear that it is vital to comply with federal law and that the employee will not be able to continue working for you without providing these documents. Keep a copy of the email or written request to document your efforts.

Some employees may not be able to locate the requested documents. Certain receipts for documents requests are acceptable for a 90-day period. For example, an employee who has lost her social security card may request a new one from the Social Security office. The request receipt serves as appropriate documentation for 90 days, giving her time until the new card arrives.

When you complete I-9s based on these newly produced documents, you should still use the employee’s actual hire date even though it is more than three days prior to the date of the I-9. Attach a note that explains the discrepancy, indicating the date of your self-audit.

Looking for I-9 errors

Under Section One:

  • Check that all fields are complete: name, maiden name if applicable, address and date of birth.
  • Did the employee check their status box?
  • If the employee checked “lawful permanent resident” – did they include their alien number?
  • If the employee checked “alien with work authorization” – did they include their work authorization expiration date and alien number?
  • Is the form signed and dated? If translator was used is that information filled out?

Under Section Two:

  • Did a company representative examine the actual documents and complete this section?

Under Section Three:

  • If a work authorization form was used for documentation, did a company representative review the updated documents and complete Section Three?

The Handbook for Employers indicates that the best way to correct Form I-9 is to put a line through the incorrect portions, then enter the correct information along with your initials and the date. If you have previously made changes with White-Out, the USCIS recommends attaching a signed and dated note explaining what happened.

II. For Terminated Employees:

Keep I-9s for terminated staff in a separate file. These should be retained for three years after the employee’s date of hire or for one year following his or her date of termination, whichever date is later.

Create a list of terminated employees that includes their name and dates of hire and termination.

Review date of hire; add three years to that date. Review date of termination; add one year to that date. Whichever date is later is the date through which you must keep the I-9 on file.

I-9s past their retention period should be destroyed.  For those that remain, check for the same errors as noted above for current employees.

Unfortunately, obtaining documentation or making corrections for terminated employees is difficult and unlikely. Document your efforts and all of your audit steps. This way, if your I-9s are ever inspected by the federal government, you can demonstrate your good faith efforts to comply.

One last thing: you may have noticed that the current form has an expiration date of August 31, 2012. No worries; the USCIS recently announced that employers may continue to use it beyond that date.  As soon as there’s a new form available, HRSentry will let you know.

As an employer, you now know that he Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is largely constitutional.  And that the ruling came about due to Chief Justice John Roberts’ determination that the individual mandate portion of the ACA constitutes a lawful tax precipitating his surprise alignment with the more liberal justices.

But, what does this outcome mean for you as an employer? For the time being at least, much of the uncertainty has been removed despite Republican vows to continue to fight to repeal the law. While repeal efforts may ultimately succeed, particularly if Mitt Romney is elected President, for now you really need to look at the following areas to ensure your legal compliance:

1. Summary of Benefits and Coverage (SBC.) Employers sponsoring group health plans should ensure compliance with the SBC provisions.  These require distribution of a Summary of Benefits and Coverage regarding your health plan during upcoming open enrollment periods.  The summaries must be distributed no later than the first day of the first open enrollment period beginning on or after September 23, 2012.

2. Form W-2 Health Care Reporting. Forms W-2 for calendar year 2012 (generally provided in January, 2013) and beyond must include the annual cost of group health coverage in Box 12 using code DD.  The amount is reported for informational purposes and is not taxable. Important Note: Employers that issued fewer than 250 W-2s have been given transition relief from this provision for 2012 (and perhaps beyond) pending further guidance from the IRS.

3. Health Plan Components. Employer group health plans will be prohibited from imposing lifetime or annual maximums on benefit amounts and pre-existing condition limitations by 2014.  The law already mandates that plans provide coverage for subscribers’ children up to age 26 and that specific preventative care benefits have first dollar coverage (unless grandfathered.)

4. Health Flexible Spending Account (FSA) Limits.  For plan years beginning in 2013, annual contributions will be limited to $2,500.  If you offer an FSA with a higher limit, you’ll need to adjust the plan document, communicate the change to employees and provide updated summary plan descriptions.

5.Medicare Payroll Tax. Beginning with the 2013 tax year, there will be a 0.9% Medicare payroll tax increase on high income individuals (those earning $200,000 plus.)

6. Play or Pay. Beginning in 2014, employers with 50 or more full-time employees will have to either (a) provide at least a specified minimum level of health coverage that its employees can afford or (b) pay a shared responsibility payment.  This payment amounts to a penalty of $2,000 per full-time employee (not including the first 30.)  While that’s a lot less than the cost of health insurance, think carefully about all the implications (such as recruiting and retention) before deciding to drop health insurance for your employees.

7. Small Employers. Employers with  fewer than 25 employees (whose average salary does not exceed $50,000) that pay at least 50% of an individual health premium are eligible to receive a tax credit. For tax years 2010 through 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent for small business employers and 25 percent for small tax-exempt employers. On January 1, 2014, the rate will increase to 50 percent and 35 percent, respectively.

8. Automatic Enrollment. Beginning in 2014, employers with more than 200 full-time employees are required to automatically enroll new full-time employees in group health plans.

9. Waiting Period Limitation. Beginning in 2014, any waiting period for employee eligibility for health benefits is limited to 90 days.

10. Future Cadillac Tax. As you plan for future health insurance for your employees, keep in mind the provision that takes effect in 2018 that imposes upon insurers an excise tax of 40% on the amount of health insurance premiums that exceed $10,200 for individual coverage and $27,500 for family coverage.  Although insurers pay the tax, there is a concern that the cost will be passed on to consumers.

11. Union Contracts. If you are unionized, consider the effects of current health care reform requirements and those that will roll out during the next few years when negotiating contracts.

Subscribers to HRSentry, can find more information about the Affordable Care Act in our handy Healthcare Reform Kit under HR Topic Modules

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