Workers’ compensation programs are a trade-off, providing participating employers with immunity from civil lawsuits by employees injured on the job, while compensating those employees without proof of fault. Since its 1913 adoption, West Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Act has contained an exception to employer immunity if an injured employee can show a “deliberate intent” by the employer to injure the employee.
The West Virginia Wage Payment and Collection Act is the law that governs the way employees are paid upon separation from their employment in West Virginia. That Act has been in a state of flux recently. If you are an employer, you probably know that you used to have to pay employees within 72 hours of their separation from employment, and then the statute was changed to require payment by next regular payday or 4 business days, whichever comes first. As of June 11, that law changes again.
Spring has finally arrived to relieve us from a long, dreary winter. With warmer weather and longer days, employers now have the opportunity to focus on outdoor projects that have fallen dormant for several months. However, while warmer weather offers employers a chance to get outside and work, moving that work outside can present some hazards to employees that are often overlooked. Whether your workplace is a saw mill, a factory, or an office, the natural inhabitants of your environment who are also awakening at this time of year can pose a threat to your employees. Employers should spend time identifying these potential threats and making to minimize the risks that they present.
I do not recreate by watching YouTube or reading Wikipedia entries, so perhaps I am the only person who is surprised about Google. This edition of Vanessa’s Views began by researching a simple question: what makes a business a good place to work? It was deep into my reading that I discovered Google. Folks, Google has UNLIMITED sick leave. This concept basically short circuits my brain. Then, I read on. Google has legal aid (ahem). Google has dentists, doctors, dry cleaners, and oil changes all on site. Imagine if you will, not having to power walk to your car at 5 p.m. because the dry cleaner closes at 6 p.m. Sigh. Google also offers ridiculously generous tuition reimbursements; but if you would rather start small and just want to learn . . . oh say, Mandarin, you can do that at work too.
In my view, all of this is rainbows … unicorns … fireworks of confetti … basically stunning wrapping paper with a ginormous shiny silver bow … all of which conceals the core: the business itself. Google is a great place to work for the same reasons all good employers, big and small, are great places to work. Generally, these places tend to prioritize, in some form or fashion, four principal concepts: (1) empowerment, (2) trust, (3) fairness, and (4) esprit de corps.
Empowerment comes with treating employees like responsible adults who know their business. It’s the trust you place in your employees to do their jobs right – without micromanaging. It comes with providing challenging work that keeps employees interested, develops their skills, and uses their knowledge. Help your employees grow: with mentoring and training, with stipends for continuing education, or with the flexibility to allow for non-traditional career paths. In short, when you provide your employees with meaningful work in a setting where they know where they stand in achieving the company mission, you are providing empowerment.
Trust needs to be developed from the other direction, as well. Employees need to know they can trust management. Building trust can be a matter of sharing information. Open communication with your employees, just as in your personal day-to-day relationships, is how you build trust. If you can, allow your employees a say in how your business operates. I’m not suggesting that you abdicate to the masses, but I am saying that listening to ideas from your employees, digesting them, and then implementing the sound ones is a trust building endeavor. Finally, build trust with your employees by being a good citizen of your community and of the world. Do good deeds together, and reap the reward of a stronger relationship.
Fairness is a multi-faceted trait of a great place to work. It comes with offering competitive pay and benefits. It comes with recognizing that your employees have a work-life balance to achieve and helping them do it. Perhaps you have generous leave policies, or you trust that your employees will get their job done when they want to take off for an hour to do reading time for their child’s class. Fairness is also reflected in recognizing and rewarding excellence. Nothing is quite so infuriating (and loyalty busting) as watching the mediocre get rewarded with praise or bonuses the same as the star employee. The fair employer also uses mistakes as opportunities to grow, where possible.
Esprit de Corps at my firm, for example, has been reduced to a concept called “No Jerks.” At Google, it’s called “Googleyness.” You want to build the right culture for your business, and then, hire people who are a good fit for your culture. Great people are going to be different for every business. Build camaraderie through teamwork across departments, through fun activities, or through sharing time in non-work settings. If you like the people you work with, you’re going to like going to work that much more.
It doesn’t take fancy packaging or even a lot of money to be a great place to work. But, it does take trust and fairness. It also takes empowerment and that right esprit de corps. In my view, we can all be Googley – just in our own special ways. I would love to hear more about how Googley your place of work is.
On February 25, 2015, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores, Inc, a case where religious articles of clothing have come to clash with an employer’s neutral dress code policy. In this case, a Muslim teenage girl applied for a job at an Abercrombie & Fitch store. Abercrombie requires all of its employees to adhere to a “Look Policy” which, among other things, prohibits wearing black clothing or headgear. Consistent with her religion, the applicant normally wore a hijab, a type of headscarf, for modesty purposes. The applicant’s headscarves, however, were different than those frequently worn by devout Muslim women. Unlike others, her headscarves did not cover her neck, were not tightly bound, and were often bought at ordinary mall clothing stores.
Many employers who provide health coverage to their employees have initiated wellness programs within the workplace over the years in order to reduce health care costs. These wellness programs may include initiatives to motivate an employee to become healthier through exercise, weight loss, nutrition and smoking cessation, among other vehicles. These programs may also include medical examinations and biometric screenings which measure an employee’s health risk factors. Often there are incentives to participate in these programs in the form of discounts on health care premiums.
In a recent decision, Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts (“AOC”), the Fourth Circuit reinstated a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by a court clerk terminated three weeks after requesting an accommodation for her social anxiety disorder.