I recently presented on my favorite Human Resources (HR) topics and was pleasantly surprised that more participants than not answered over half my questions correctly. The same day of the presentation, a client called and asked me a question; I answered that the client had to pay the individual who resigned unless they wanted to risk an unemployment claim. The client called their lawyer and got a very similar answer. I do not pretend to give legal advice, but a well-informed HR professional does know how to handle difficult questions.
The same client asked me if she had to pay the resigning individual her two weeks’ notice when the client sent them home the day they resigned. Well, first, make sure all resignations are in writing. Second, it can be construed that if the person was willing to work two weeks and you sent them home, you deprived them of two weeks’ compensation and the ability to put their desk in good stead to assist in the transition of their resignation. In other words, the resigning employee could claim you fired them, and they could file for unemployment. I do not make this stuff up; I have lived it.
Also, make sure your Paid Time Off (PTO) policy is clear in your handbook. Does the resigning employee get their PTO paid out or not? If you pay one person, no matter what the policy states, be prepared to pay everyone who resigns. Employees and past employees talk.
Can you tell an employee they cannot talk about their wages to other employees? NO.
Can you require employees to sign non-competes? It depends; call the lawyer.
Can you let an employee work past day three without their I9 being filled out with current documents and all the boxes filled in? NO.
Can you require a pre-employment physical for all positions? It depends on the job description.
Can you pick and choose who gets drug screened? I doubt it.
Who will knock on your door if you allow harassment to occur in your workplace? The EEOC and a lawyer.
Can you prevent a nursing mom from ceasing nursing at 12 months in Texas? NO.
Do you have an organizational chart? I hope so.
Does your organization need an employee handbook? YES.
Why do you need accurate job descriptions? ADA claims, employee injuries, employee pre-employment screenings, etc.
Why do you have an employee complete a job application? Where do I start? The applicant must tell the truth, and the potential employer should check business references. Do not Google the applicant.
Can you put a criminal history section on job applications? Yes, in Texas, no in New Mexico.
Are you providing medical, and pregnancy, leave even when your organization does not meet the minimum size for Family Medical Leave (FML)? It is best practice.
Do you carry workers’ compensation insurance? It is optional in Texas.
Why should employers do performance reviews? For good and bad reasons. It is proactive either way.
Why should employers have a compensation plan? This is the largest line item in most budgets, so you have to budget for salaries, benefits, retirement, etc.
How do you reduce turnover? Great benefits, a positive work environment, and great leadership, to name a few.
How does turnover cost an employer money? It takes time to interview new staff; unemployment benefits to a terminated employee cost money; the next employee may cost you more than the last; there is a cost to train a new employee; and there is also the knowledge that walks out of the door, and is lost, with a resignation or retirement. The list is quite long.
Are employees in Texas At Will? It depends. You can terminate an employee At Will if there is no contract, but you cannot terminate the employee for an illegal reason. Remember to pay attention to what is considered a Protected Class.
When do you have to turn in your demographic information to the EEOC? At 100 employees, so gather the data when the employee is onboarded. One hundred employees/full-time equivalents (FTE) may be just around the corner.
Should employees party together? That is a difficult one. Loose lips do sink ships.
And finally, can employees talk trash about their employer on social media? Call your lawyer before you fire anyone. Remember the First Amendment.
My recommendation for all employers is to have a well-trained HR person or a consultant who knows how to research difficult questions and knows when to tell the employer it is time to call the employment attorney. The attorney may be expensive, but with every difficult question, you and your HR person grow in knowledge to assist in the future. So, hold on to the great HR person for the long term.
Remember to stay calm, as employees are just people.
“Your employees are the heart of your organization.” Dr. Michele Harmon is a Human Resource professional, supporting clients in Texas and New Mexico that range in size from five to more than 3,000 employees. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org