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Below are some questions that we frequently get asked.

Click on any of the questions, and the section will expand and reveal our answer.

Are employee handbooks truly necessary?

Our short answer is always, yes. Even if you only have one or two employees, there are employment laws which impact your organization. You will have policies unique to your unique environment which are not required by law, but should be communicated as a best business practice.

Documentation and communication are critical components for all successful companies. One of the easiest and least expensive methods for establishing written personnel policies and communicating them to your organization is to create and maintain an Employee Handbook.

As an added bonus, handbooks with well-written policies that are consistently applied help prevent employment litigation and protect an employer should a lawsuit arise. To many employers, the creation of a handbook feels like an activity which should be “boiler plate” and require minimal effort. Online templates may get you started with regard to very basic legal compliance, but they may not provide you with a tool that encompasses the full scope of policies your organization should be communicating to your employees.

Examples of these policies include a company specific dress code, social media guidelines, visitation, or moonlighting.

Can we just adapt an employee handbook from another company?

Some employers make a mistake by “re-cycling” a handbook written for another organization. This is not a sound business practice and often leads the employer to include policies which do not apply to their workplace or exclude policies which should be added.

How often should we update our employee handbook?

Once a handbook is crafted for an organization, it is in an employer’s best interest to review it at least every 12 months – or more often, if you make changes in company policies mid-year. Employer compliance obligations can change annually.

Frequently, there are also changes to recommended best practices for the wording of legally required policies – even when the underlying regulation itself has not changed. Just as companies must adjust to shifts in their marketplace, employee policies must be updated to accommodate the changing workforce.

Should we classify our employees as exempt or non-exempt from overtime pay?

In the news, there are frequently headline-grabbing court cases regarding the improper classification of employees as exempt or non-exempt with regards to how overtime pay is calculated. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) legislation applies to virtually all employers. These are the rules which determine which employees are eligible for overtime and which are not. Remember too, that some states (like CA) have overtime requirements which vary from the FLSA. Likewise, some counties and cities also have their own set of overtime regulations.

This in an absolutely essential area for employers to address in their HR practices. Making a mistake in classifying an employee as exempt or non-exempt from overtime pay can cost you thousands of dollars in lawsuits by employees and make you the subject of an investigation by the Department of Labor or the equivalent government departments at the State or City level. Whole law firms have dedicated themselves to going after employers for misclassifying employees. This is one area of HR you want to get right!

Applying fair pay practices consistently and taking the time to craft and review job descriptions are good first steps towards compliance with these important rules. However, the best written job description is no help at all if at the end of the day, the employee is improperly classified. For example, we frequently see employers try to classify their executive assistant as exempt. While it is true that some EA roles may well fit in that category, in most cases, we find that the position is better classified as non-exempt based on the actual duties.

Take the time to educate yourself on what types of duties do, and do not, qualify as exempt level and what other factors are needed to pass each of the exemption tests at both the Federal and State level.

Working with an employment attorney or HR professional to review your compliance in these key areas is advisable for employers of all sizes. HRBT regularly assists clients in this regard. Please contact us for more information on our FLSA audit services.

Are written job descriptions for every position in our company really that important?

In addition to legal compliance, Job Descriptions play an important part in assisting the HR team in determining compensable job factors and making good choices when creating a competitive compensation program. In short, they help your business run more efficiently.

Creating a good Job Description typically involves assessing what tasks individuals are currently completing on a day to day basis and then using that information to create a series of statements about what the required Skills, Knowledge and Abilities are in order to perform that work. Using a Job Analysis Questionnaire will facilitate this process. Basic templates are occasionally available online, but a well-developed JAQ will be unique to your organization. We suggest that you work with your HR team to develop a list of questions relevant to your company’s needs and business objectives.

Job Descriptions are an important component with regards to Wage and Hour, Worker’s Compensation and ADA compliance. Job Descriptions make it clear why an employee should be classified as exempt or non-exempt. These documents also provide a basis from which to determine whether a disabled applicant is otherwise qualified for the job and, if so, to assist in determining what accommodation would be required for the applicant to be able to perform the essential functions of the position. It is prudent to develop and maintain a library of Job Descriptions relevant to your organization ahead of actual need. Several times over the years, we have seen business owners who choose to not develop and maintain these documents end up with bigger headaches when an employee needs to go through the workplace analysis and possible job re-assignment related to a Worker’s Comp claim. A few hours worth of work ahead of time would have saved weeks of scrambling.

Job Descriptions are also a useful tool in the recruitment and employee performance management process as they can provide the foundation for developing a list of specific goals and objectives for individual success in a role. This list may then be used to both develop interview questions for candidate selection and form the basis for ongoing performance management.

HR Brain Trust, Inc. has helped dozens of employers develop and maintain well-thought-out job descriptions. If you are currently operating without any job descriptions on file, or with ones which have not been updated for several years please contact us today.

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