August 2016 HR Newsletter



Wow, where did summer go? It is the first week of August and we are excited to bring you this month’s newsletter. This month we look to the future of paid sick leave laws and go over what you can expect if your city or state passes one. We also consider some circumstances in which you might want to take a chance on an inexperienced job applicant.

What to Expect If Your State or City Passes Paid Sick Leave

While only five states and the District of Columbia have passed paid sick leave laws, more and more municipalities—most recently Los Angeles, San Diego, and Chicago—are passing ordinances that require employers to provide paid sick time. Paid sick leave is clearly a trend—one we can expect to continue. While each paid sick leave law has its own quirks and details, there are some commonalities that we have seen as more laws go into effect. If paid sick leave comes to your city or state, here are some things you can expect:

1. Employer size may determine requirements.
Because of the financial burden new legal requirements can put on employers, smaller employers are sometimes exempt or have more time to comply—sometimes, but not always. In Massachusetts and Oregon, for example, smaller employers can offer unpaid leave instead of paid time; but in California, employers of any size must offer paid leave.

2. The law will likely address time-tracking, accrual of sick time, and use of sick time.
Though there are some exceptions, in most of the laws passed so far, employers can choose whether to front-load the entire amount for the year or to have employees accrue sick leave. In most cases, employees accrue one hour of paid sick leave for every thirty hours worked. The total amount of time allowed for sick leave varies—24 hours or three days in California to 40 hours in Massachusetts and Oregon to 72 hours in several municipalities in California. So far, every paid sick leave law requires employees to be able to use paid sick leave for their own care and for the care of family members.

3. Employees who take sick time are protected.
Sick leave laws typically forbid employers from interfering with or retaliating against an employee using sick leave. The protections include prohibiting employers from taking disciplinary action or negative employment action for sick leave use, from having employees find someone to cover their shift, and from requiring an employee to make up hours taken as sick leave.

4. Clarifications sometimes follow the law’s effective date.
Sometimes a law isn’t clear about the exact obligations for employers or their options when administering the program. For example, as employers across California worked to amend policies and procedures in preparation for the state’s paid sick leave law, they raised questions about ambiguities in the law’s text and hurdles to implementation. The California State Legislature responded with a new assembly bill that clarified the state’s sick leave law. In this case, the clarification came after the paid sick leave law went into effect. It’s also common to see the legislature task an administrative agency with creating rules for implementing and enforcing the new law.

Paid sick leave is still a fairly new phenomenon, but it’s gaining momentum, especially at the municipal level. It will very likely be the norm someday, so it may be worth thinking about sooner rather than later, especially if your city or state has proposed this kind of regulation.

When To Take A Chance On An Inexperienced Applicant:

Every hiring manager receives applications from people who are clearly unqualified for the job. Sometimes, however, a candidate with no direct or seemingly-relevant experience applies for a position and, for some reason or another, captures their attention.

Often the manager believes the promising applicant could be an exceptional employee, but that hiring the applicant poses a big risk. Having never done the specific tasks of the position, the applicant may not actually be able to do the job. They’ve never been tested, so there’s little evidence one way or the other. They could be great. They could be terrible. And there’s only one way to find out.

In such cases, the safer bet would be to hire one of the experienced candidates. If you’re up for a high-risk, high-reward approach, however, the bigger gamble may be the better bet. If you’re open to hiring inexperienced applicants, here are a few signs of potential future excellence:

Cultural fit: If the applicant shares your company values and believes in its mission, they’re more likely to go the extra mile for the success of your organization.

Eagerness and ability to learn: Years of training often can’t compete with on-the-job experience. Unfortunately, inexperienced applicants usually have neither. What they might have is an eagerness and a proven ability to learn new skills and job duties. If you suspect this is the case with an applicant, ask about situations in which they had to master something new and rose to the occasion.

Translatable skills: As a lot of jobs have become more specialized, a lot of job applicants have gained a very specific skill set. If you’re hiring for a job that requires specific technical skills, you may have a hard time finding applicants with those exact skills. The better candidates may be those without the exact skills you need, but whose skills could, with a little training, be applied to the position. For example, the most promising applicant for a technical writer position at a security software company may be the one who’s never written about security technology, but has an excellent writing voice and has shown a mastery of other technical subjects.

No bad habits to unlearn: Experienced candidates sometimes come with bad habits. They’ve been doing the work you need for a long time, and they may be used to doing their work in a way that’s inefficient or doesn’t mesh with your workplace environment. If you’re concerned about a candidate’s set ways, you may have more luck with a candidate whose habits you’ll be in a position to help form.

You certainly don’t want to create a business culture that doesn’t value experience, but experience isn’t everything, and it isn’t always the most important quality of a job candidate. Sometimes, the candidate most likely to shine is new to the field or type of position. And, sometimes, it may be worth taking a chance on their potential.

Did You Know?

Unhappy employees often throw around the phrase “hostile work environment,” which can quickly lead employers to have nightmares about lawsuits and government inquiries. But for harassment to rise to the level of being unlawful, it not only has to be based on a person’s inclusion in a protected class (e.g., race, sexual orientation, age), it must also be either a condition of continued employment, or severe and pervasive enough that a reasonable person would find the workplace intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

While preventing or stopping workplace harassment in its tracks is extremely important, it may be comforting for employers to know that “hostile work environment” has a specific legal definition, and just because someone is one half of a personality conflict at work doesn’t necessarily mean that they have any basis for a lawsuit.

HR Tip of the Month:

While you’re digging into employee classifications for employees who will be affected by the upcoming FLSA changes, it’s a great time to also look at all employees who will remain exempt to ensure that they can be properly classified that way.

Exempt employees must not only make the minimum salary ($913 per week or $47,476 per year, effective December 1, 2016), they must also perform all of the required duties for the kind of exemption being used. Misclassification of employees who meet the minimum salary requirement but not the duties test is more common than you might think. And it can be costly.

For example, to be properly classified as an executive employee (generally used for managers), an employee must make the minimum salary and manage an organization, department, or division, and have the power to hire or fire, or make similarly important executive decisions, and manage at least two full time employees or the equivalent. It’s a tall order!


 Looking Ahead:

August 9: World Indigenous People’s Day
August 12: International Youth Day
August 19: National Aviation Day & World Humanitarian Day



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