Columbia EDP Blog

News From Columbia EDP

Posted: 2019-06-21

What is the difference between a descretionaly bonus and a non-descretionary bonus?

A discretionary bonus, as its name implies, is a bonus in which the employer has discretion as to whether to pay it and what amount it will be. In other words, there’s no promise or agreement that a discretionary bonus will be paid. A surprise holiday bonus is one example.

A non-discretionary bonus, on the other hand, is a promised bonus that the employee expects to receive if certain conditions are met. Non-discretionary bonuses include individual or group production bonuses, bonuses for quality and accuracy of work, retention bonuses, and attendance bonuses. These bonuses are typically used to motivate employees.

The most important thing to remember about non-discretionary bonuses is that when issued to a non-exempt employee, they must be included in the employee's regular rate of pay when calculating overtime.

Posted: 2019-06-17

How should we respond to a racially insensitive comment made by an employee?

A racially insensitive comment could be considered harassment—and it would be unlawful harassment if putting up with such comments became a condition of continued employment (essentially, management was unwilling to put a stop to it) or if the conduct was severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider hostile.

Since you have a duty as an employer to stop unlawful harassment, we recommend that you investigate the alleged comment and, if you find evidence to support that your harassment or other conduct policies have been violated, discipline the employee who made it. Make sure that the punishment fits the crime. For instance, something that was, in fact, just insensitive may warrant a verbal warning, whereas calling someone by a racial slur may warrant a final warning or even termination, depending on the circumstances. Be sure to document your findings and any disciplinary actions taken.

You can learn more about conducting investigations and disciplining employees by scheduling a consultation with one of our HR Specialists.  Schedule an Appointment

Posted: 2019-06-14

How to Increase Diversity in Your Recruiting and Hiring Process

The recruiting and hiring process is supposed to select the best candidates while deterring unqualified job seekers from applying or advancing. All too often, however, the process creates obstacles or disadvantages for qualified candidates due to their membership in a protected class or minority group. Even a well-meaning process may be discriminatory. Below are some actions you can take to eliminate discriminatory practices and increase diversity.

Posted: 2019-06-12

$3.8 Million Disney Fine Underscores Importance of Acruate Timekeeping

When businesses run afoul of labor regulations, the fines can be sizeable.

Posted: 2019-06-10

Harassment-Free Workplace Tips

No employer wants to be subject to an employee sexual harassment claim. It's bad business, and it's bad for business. In addition, depending on state law, managers and supervisors may also have individual personal liability. Examples of certain actions include:

Posted: 2019-06-07

Eight Steps in a Company Injury and Illness Prevention Program

While the new rules and enforcement efforts are expected in terms of Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requirements and regulations, each employer should find ways to stay one step ahead to help their business create and maintain a safe and healthy workforce and workplace environment. One way is to establish a comprehensive and useful Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

Posted: 2019-06-05

Can an employee returning from FMLA leve be placed in a different role?

Generally not. Upon return from FMLA leave, employees must be restored to the same job or one nearly identical to it with equivalent pay, benefits, and other employment terms and conditions. To be truly equivalent, the job must involve the same or substantially similar duties and responsibilities and require substantially equivalent skill, effort, responsibility, and authority. Equivalent jobs would also have the same premium pay options and overtime opportunities. So, unless you can guarantee that the different role is equivalent to the old one in all these ways, we wouldn’t recommend placing the employee in a different role.

There is, however, a notable exception. Employees on FMLA are not protected from employment actions that would have affected them had they been actively employed with the company at the time. For example, if a substantial decrease in sales required a company to eliminate a set of roles and lay off or transfer those employees, the person on FMLA has no greater right to keep their job than anyone else. In situations like these, where a position has been eliminated while an employee is on a protected leave (of any kind), you should be sure to document your legitimate business reasons for the decision.

Posted: 2019-05-31

What happens if someone is misclassified as an independent contractor?

There are many potential liabilities resulting from misclassification and they come from several sources: namely, the IRS, unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation, federal wage and hour law, and state wage and hour law.

An employer will owe up to three years of back taxes on the misclassified employee’s wages, in addition to fines and interest. They will also owe back unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance. And they may also owe premiums on other state-run insurance programs, such as paid family leave.

In addition to money owed to government entities, employers will also owe misclassified workers two to three years of back pay for any work they did that was not compensated at applicable minimum wage and overtime rates, as well as liquidated (extra) damages equal to that amount. Finally, in states that have their own minimum wage, overtime, or employee classification laws, the employee will likely to be able to sue and recover under both state and federal law. There may also be hefty attorney fees on top of the costs described above.Independent contractor defined
Posted: 2019-05-29

Can we deny an employee’s use of accrued vacation time?

Yes, the decision to approve or deny the use of accrued vacation time is up to you, assuming you do so in a consistent and non-discriminatory manner. It would be acceptable, for example, to deny a vacation request because approving it would leave you without adequate coverage, or because the employee asked with less notice than is required by your time off policy.

You should, however, ensure that certain employees are not denied vacation disproportionately. For instance, if an employer’s admin staff (who are all women), or their software engineers (who are all men), are consistently denied vacation because arranging coverage is difficult and deadlines are abundant, this could lead to claims of discrimination.

Posted: 2019-05-24

Three Ways to Hire for Your Culture

E ver hire that remarkably experienced, impressively skilled employee who just doesn’t fit in with your company culture? It happens. You assumed the new hire shared your values and would adjust well to your workplace, but for one reason or another the employee blends in no better than a hammock in a conference hall.

What can you do to reduce the chances of a bad hire? Hire for your culture. Look for the candidates with the most applicable skills and most relevant experience, yes, but, more importantly, look for the candidates who want to put their knowledge and talents at the service of your mission. Skills and experience matter only if the person who has them contributes to the excellence of your organization. Here are three strategies you can use to hire for your culture: 

1. Explain your company values and expectations.  The interview process isn’t just about the applicants; it’s also about you and your organization. When discussing the requirements of the job, make sure you tell applicants about your organization – where it has been and where it is going. Be up front and concrete about what your company values are, how your company follows them, and how you expect every employee to exemplify those values. Mention the behaviors and habits you want to see in an employee. Ask applicants why they might want to work in your specific culture, and press them for specifics.   

2. Bring employees from various departments into the interview sessions.  However well everyone at your company embraces the company culture, you’re not a monolith or merely a set of divided roles and responsibilities. Trite as it sounds, your organization is comprised of people – people with various backgrounds, expertise, and perspectives. Your employees have their own ways of participating in and contributing to the company culture. Take advantage of these differences by inviting employees from various departments to participate in the interviews. The more diverse your interviewers, the more likely you’ll be to spot a red flag before extending a job offer.  

3. Ask about specific behaviors.  When questioning candidates and their references, ask about their preferred way of doing things – not just what they do, but also how they do it. Have applicants name the values that matter most to them and what they did in their previous jobs to live those values. Ask about large long-term projects and small day-to-day operations. You can often tell a lot about an applicant’s character by their disposition toward the menial but necessary tasks of an organization. 
"Trite as it sounds, your organization is comprised of people – people with various backgrounds, expertise, and perspectives. Your employees have their own ways of participating in and contributing to the company culture."