Columbia EDP Blog

News From Columbia EDP

Posted: 2021-03-01

How to Make Good Use of Your Employee Handbook

Employee handbooks are a nifty communication and reference tool for the workplace, but only if they’re used and not collecting dust on some physical (or digital) shelf. A handbook is only as good as what it does. At the minimum, it should do the following:

Introduce employees to the fundamentals of your organization’s culture—the beliefs and values that members of the organization are expected to share. This introduction explains what you do and why you do it. It may also give employees a look into the history of your organization, how you got to where you are, and where you intend to go. Last but not least, it gives employees an idea of how they can contribute to the culture.

Communicate to employees what general behaviors and procedures are expected of them. These include general safety responsibilities, confidentiality expectations, timekeeping processes, reporting procedures, dress codes, and any other ways of doing things at your organization.

Educate employees about what they can expect from the organization’s leadership. Executives, managers, and HR departments have obligations to their employees—both those they’ve established themselves and those required by law. A good handbook tells employees what those obligations are and how they will be met. If your employees are entitled to leaves or accommodations, for example, your handbook should explain these.

Support consistent enforcement of company policies. Employers expose themselves to risk when they interpret, apply, or enforce policies inconsistently. Transparency about policies and how they are enforced helps keep everyone accountable and the enforcement of rules consistent across the company.

Showcase the benefits the organization offers. Does your organization offer vacations, 401(k), health insurance, paid parental leave, or other employee benefits? If so, your handbook should outline these programs and their eligibility requirements.

Let employees know where to turn for help. Employees should feel safe turning to HR or a manager to report workplace violations, get workplace-related assistance, and get answers to any other questions they may have. The alternative is for them to turn to an outside third party, like the EEOC, the DOL, or an attorney, which could trigger a costly and time-consuming investigation. When a handbook provides multiple ways for an employee to lodge a complaint (ensuring they won’t have to report the problem to the person creating the problem), they are more likely to keep their complaints in-house.

Posted: 2021-01-25

The Implications of Wage and Hour Audits for Employers

Recently, the Wage & Hour (W&H) division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has increased its enforcement and audit efforts with employers. The W&H division wants to ensure workers are fairly paid and employers uphold the law. Unfortunately, businesses that have violated wage and hour laws can face heavy fines and penalties. Many employers often assume a low likelihood of being audited, but they can be targeted, and the likelihood of an audit has been increasing.

Posted: 2021-01-24

The New Form 1099-NEC Summarized

In recent years, non-employee compensation was reported in Box 7 of the 1099-MISC form, that box now goes away. Instead, the 1099-NEC form Box 1 will be used to report non-employee compensation only. Other kinds of payments should be reported using the other 1099 forms (1099-MISC, 1099-INT, etc.).

Posted: 2020-12-29

When to send an employee home for illness

An employee of ours had a brief coughing fit today, but she says she just had something caught in her throat. As far as we’ve seen, she hasn’t experienced any symptoms associated with COVID-19 other than this one time. Do we need to send her home just in case?

Posted: 2020-12-28

Returning belongings to terminated employees

How should we handle returning personal belongings to a terminated employee? Can we pack them up for the employee?

Posted: 2020-12-14

Given the COVID-19 pandemic, should we cancel our annual holiday party?

We would certainly recommend not having an in-person event this year, which could put your company, employees, customers, and community at risk. If your event spreads the virus, your employees could become sick, much of your workforce may need to quarantine, and your event could make the news.

We understand, however, that cancelling this event could be disappointing to you and your employees. One way to spread joy, but not the virus, would be to host a virtual party. You could provide gift cards to local eateries or food delivery services, organize a home decorating or ugly sweater contest, and facilitate interactive games.

You could also offer employees the option of having the cost of the gift card they would otherwise receive donated to a charity (while still having the virtual shindig). Or, if a virtual party isn’t feasible or employees aren’t in the mood, you could donate the entire cost of the celebration to a worthwhile organization. If you take either charitable approach, we recommend allowing employees to help you choose the charities, so they feel like they’ve participated in the giving.

Posted: 2020-12-02

Paying a salary employee on days off

What is the minimum amount of time that a salaried exempt employee must work to be paid for the entire day? 

Posted: 2020-11-11

Can we require employees give notice before quitting

Requiring departing employees to give notice could jeopardize thier at-will status (if applicable). To avoid this, we recommend requesting that employees provide notice instead of requiring it.  Asking for notice as a professional courtesy makes it more likely that you will have time to make plans to find a replacement or otherwise cover thier duties.  Two weeks' notice is most common.  

Posted: 2020-11-10

Strategic Management of Vacation Requests

You want to support employees by providing the opportunity for work/life harmony, but you also have customers to service and a business to run. Sometimes it is difficult to juggle multiple vacation requests around popular vacation times, especially during the summer months and other holiday times throughout the year. Below we have provided a few tips, suggestions and best practices to help you strike the right balance based on your organization’s typical activity model.
“Peak and Valley” Employers
– A Peak and Valley employer is one in which there are historically predictable increases and decreases in activity level throughout the year. Extreme examples include tax preparation firms, landscaping companies and the like. However, most organizations have at least some degree of historical peaks and valleys throughout the year and may benefit from the following vacation management concepts. Strategies for managing vacation requests for Peak and Valley Employers include:

Posted: 2020-11-09

Do you have to pay your staff if you close for the holidays?

When a company decides to close on Thanksgiving Day or for the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, is the employer required to compensate any of its employees? Well, that depends.