March 2016 HR Newsletter


We are almost a quarter of the way through 2016! This month we examine ways to make safety programs engaging for your employees and options you have when constructing a company dress code. Later this month we will have an article on addressing poor employee hygiene. The pleasant smells of spring are almost here!

Featured Article: Tattoos, Piercings, and Man Buns, Oh My! – Finding the Dress Code That’s Right for Your Organization

What kind of dress code should you have? The answer to that question may come down to the kind of company culture you have or want to have.

There’s no universally-applicable dress code for successful businesses. And what works fabulously in one office might prove distracting in the next. Some employers avoid restrictive dress codes because they can negatively affect morale and may drive away impressive job candidates. Other employers prefer a strict dress code to maintain a certain company image.

Whatever your situation, we recommend that you have a written policy that explains your expectations. These expectations may be specific or general, depending on your needs. If you anticipate questions from employees about what they can wear (e.g., jeans, shorts, or sandals), it may be worth mentioning them in your policy.

Tattoos and Piercings
If you’re concerned about visible tattoos or body piercings conflicting with your organization’s image, you may prohibit them entirely or you may simply prohibit those that are offensive, distracting, inappropriate, or over a certain size. Your policy could also be something general like “Tattoos and piercings must be appropriate and in keeping with a professional image.” What qualifies as appropriate should be determined by the top brass.

However, your policy and practice must allow for religious accommodations. Some religions do not permit the covering of tattoos or other religious items, and you should be prepared to make exceptions.

Facial Hair and Man Buns
It is legal to have an across-the-board policy that facial hair is not permitted or must be well-trimmed. However, some disabilities preclude people from being able to shave regularly, and there are also some religious traditions with closely held beliefs regarding facial hair. If an employee indicates an objection to your policy based on a verifiable disability or religious belief, you will almost certainly need to make an exception. While an accommodation can, in theory, be refused if it creates an undue burden, that standard is very high and hard to meet. For companies with dress codes, those undue burdens are usually related to legitimate safety, health, or security concerns.

The same holds true for hair length. While your dress code may specify that hair length on men may not pass a certain length, we strongly recommend you consider a policy that simply requires hair to be pulled back and neatly groomed. Our best practice recommendation is to make dress codes gender neutral to avoid employees feeling that they are being treated disparately.

Have a written dress code policy that fits with your company culture and image, but be sure to make exceptions or accommodations if they’re appropriate.

HR Alert: 
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a proposed change to the annual Employer Information Report, or EEO-1, which would require that employers with more than 100 employees report pay data in addition to the information they currently provide on race, ethnicity, sex, and job category. The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on February 1. The comment period is now open, and will close on April 1, 2016.

If the proposed revision is adopted, private employers and federal contractors with over 100 employees would be required to submit data on employees’ W-2 earnings and hours worked. Federal contractors with 50-99 employees would continue to report on race, ethnicity, and sex by job category, but would not report earnings data; private employers with fewer than 100 employees would continue to be exempt from EEO-1 reporting.

If implemented, employers would be required to submit pay data as of the September 30, 2017 EEO-1 filing deadline. We will keep you updated on any developments as we learn of them.

HR Tip of the Month:

New Department of Labor rules defining the minimum salary requirement to classify employees as exempt are on the horizon. We still don’t know when they will be released, but we expect spring or summer given the possibility of political maneuvering if the changes don’t come until the end of the year. In the coming months, we’ll be providing lots of information about the impacts of the change: how to plan for the transition, communicate with employees, and rethink company policies. Keep your eyes peeled for future articles, comprehensive guides, and additional tools on our blog and HR Support Center.

Did You Know?

Oregon just passed the first state-wide population density-based minimum wage in the United States, and if successful it will have addressed one of economists’ main concerns about sweeping federal and state-wide increases: rural areas struggle uniquely with the increased cost of labor and job losses are disproportionate in areas with weaker economies. Oregon’s new law sets increases over the next five years. There will be different rates applied to employers in Portland’s urban growth boundary, “frontier” or rural counties, and all the rest.

Oregon is not the first state to implement tiered systems for minimum wages. In Nevada, employers can pay a lower hourly rate if they offer health insurance. Employers in Minnesota are subject to one of two minimum wages depending on their gross annual sales. And many minimum wage increases (and other regulatory changes) have a delayed effective date for smaller employers. The density-based approach is novel, however, and we look forward to seeing how it plays out.


 Looking Ahead:

March 8: International Women’s Day
March 13: Daylight Savings Begins
March 17: St. Patrick’s Day
March 25: Good Friday
March 31: Cesar Chavez Day



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