Quote of the Month

January 22nd, 2013

“You don’t get paid by the hour.  You get paid by the value you bring to the hour.”

-Jim Rohn

Top ten employment legal issues for 2013

January 22nd, 2013

With a new year come new (and returning) legal issues for small businesses and employers. Franchisors and franchisees, which employ millions of workers nationwide, will have to continue to pay close attention to employment law issues. With calendar year 2012 as a guide, 2013 is already on its way to being another year of employee friendly mandates, legislation, and court decisions.

Looking to the new year, the labor and employment practitioners at Armstrong Teasdale have come up with a list of the top 10 employment law issues for employers.  By keeping this Top 10 list of employment issues in mind, you can minimize legal risks and maximize chances of successfully dealing with employment law challenges in 2013:

  1. Review your employee handbooks including the “at-will” language. Small changes may go a long way in warding off the National Labor Relations Board’s (“NLRB”) recent aggressive challenges to long-standing at-will language in employee handbooks and personnel policies.
  2. Don’t assume your social media policy is compliant unless it has been updated in the last six months. 2012 was the year of active gutting of even the most sensible of social media policies by the NLRB.
  3. Review and update your criminal background check procedure. The EEOC is aggressively pursuing compliance with its 2012 guidance on when a conviction can disqualify an applicant from employment and when you can consider arrest records.
  4. Keep in mind that you are only as effective as your supervisors. Continue to train your employees on recognizing and avoiding sexual and other harassment and discriminatory behavior. Ensure your supervisors are responding appropriately to observed harassment and complaints of discrimination. Don’t forget that retaliation charges are now the most common claims filed with the EEOC.
  5. Review and update your non-compete, non-solicit and confidentiality agreements. Recent court decisions reconfirm that the enforceability of non-compete agreements against departing employees depends upon the facts and circumstances of each situation and the specific terms of your agreements.
  6. Review your exit interview procedures. There is no better time to learn information that may help you minimize future claims. This is also the best time to remind employees of their confidentiality, non-solicit and non-compete obligations in order to protect your organization before any damage is done. Call or e-mail us for a copy of our handy exit interview checklist.
  7. Conduct an audit of your organization’s compliance with wage and hour laws. Off-the-clock wage and hour lawsuits alleging employees are being misclassified as exempt or as independent contractors are still on top of the administration’s and plaintiff class action lawyers’ agendas.
  8. If you are a potential target for unionization, review your company policies and practices to ensure that you are well-prepared before NLRB’s speedy election and other pro-union rules make it too late.
  9. Review your attendance and leave (including FMLA leave) policies and procedures. The EEOC, DOL and plaintiffs’ lawyers are vigorously pursuing ADA and FMLA failure to accommodate and failure to grant leave lawsuits.
  10. If your organization is a government contractor, get ready for big changes. OFCCP continues its focus on enforcement including trying to find unlawful compensation disparities and is even considering setting quotas for hiring disabled workers.

What Great Leaders Have That Good Leaders Don’t

January 7th, 2013

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The difference between good and great leadership can be expressed in a single word: loyalty.

“My loyalty to Country and Team is beyond reproach.” —Navy SEAL Creed

When you think of strong leaders, you probably think of people who are decisive, bold, confident, and fearless. You’re not wrong. Good leaders have all of these qualities. But how many good leaders are also loyal? I don’t know, but I know that every great leader is.

Loyalty is one of the core values taught in the Navy SEAL training program. Instructors teach you from the first day that your team is everything to you. You succeed with them, and you fail without them. And you never leave anyone behind.

During the chaos of SEAL training, which includes the most grueling physical and mental punishment imaginable, the officers in charge of each boat crew are expected to keep an accurate headcount while their world is literally exploding around them. If they fail to report an accurate number to the instructors, the entire team is punished brutally. It teaches you quickly what it means to live or die as a team. You succeed together or not at all.

My SEAL training is part of me for life. It resides deep within me. Obviously, the business world is different from the world of combat, but there are similarities, too. I try to apply my SEAL training every day to my role as a business leader, and team loyalty is at the top of that list.

A commitment to loyalty is becoming uncommon in business leaders. I think that’s a shame. As leaders, we have the duty to hire responsibly and then support the people we hire. These are some of the lessons in loyalty that I learned as a SEAL and apply daily to my job as a business owner:

Never throw anyone under the bus. As a leader, redirect praise to your team members and protect them from criticism. If you need to talk to a team member about a misstep, do it behind closed doors.

Never leave anyone behind. Instill in your team the belief that every person on the team is as important as the next. Include everyone in the celebration of success. And don’t blame any one person for a failure. The next time you have a business success, publicly thank people in lower-level support roles for their contributions to the team.

Try to be as candid as possible with your employees, and never lie to them. Loyalty is built on trust. If your people don’t believe you’re being forthcoming with them, they won’t trust you to have their backs. Schedule a meeting to discuss the big picture of the business. Let any member of your team ask any question, and answer honestly.

Give employees your unconditional support. Don’t turn your back on them if they mess up. Help them figure it out, and be as loyal during the bad times as during the good. Pull aside someone who has had a bad day and give that person ten minutes of your time. Make it clear that he or she still fits into the future of your company.

I would never be disloyal to a SEAL brother. And I know my brothers will always have my back. It’s a feeling of trust and security that you get only in special places. I try to make my organization one of them. Leadership is a privilege we must earn every day.