HR News You Can Use – April 2017

Legal Updates & Reminders

  • April 6: The USCIS announced a speedy filling of the maximum number of both regular and advanced degree H-1B visa petitions for FY 2018. Results from the computer-generated lottery system to select the successful applicants will be known in the coming few months.
  • March 28: The ‘Blacklisting Rule’ is voided by President Trump. This rule would have placed extensive new reporting requirements on federal contractors by requiring them to report any labor law ‘violation,’ even if it was merely an allegation.


Workplace Romance: Is love in the air necessarily a bad thing?

In a 2016 office romance survey conducted by Vault, 66% of baby boomers, 59% of Gen Xers and 44% of those age 18-34 have been involved in a workplace relationship. Relationships between superiors and subordinates are generally frowned upon for a variety of reasons – potential for sexual harassment claims, presumed favoritism and co-worker morale among the most significant — but even a lot of those occur frequently in the workplace. What’s an employer to do?

Most important, have a “fraternization” policy, defining your company’s expectations regarding dating or personal relationships in the workplace. Here are some elements of such a policy that are worth your consideration:

  • An opening statement that conveys the purpose of the policy. Usually, this would explain the importance of boundaries between personal and business relationships being appropriately managed to maintain the efficiency of business operations.
  • The decision of whether to prohibit or just discourage fraternization, specifically between managers and subordinates – or between any employees.
  • A requirement to report participation in such relationships.
  • Your right as an employer to make necessary employment decisions to avoid business risks when these relationships emerge, including changes in reporting structures or termination of one party if other options are not practical.
  • Employee conduct during non-work hours (e.g., breaks) and while off duty.
  • Physical contact between employees during work hours.
  • A statement emphasizing a strict anti-harassment policy.

I don’t recommend a policy that prohibits all workplace romances, primarily because it would be very difficult to monitor and enforce…and you know that those relationships will develop. Consistent application of any policy is key, and this one is certainly not an exception.


Remember this Quizzler from last month?

Your new male engineer has started wearing women’s blouses to the office. Not surprising, this has become the water cooler conversation….what should you do??

  1. Invite him to come to your office for a private conversation, and suggest that he “man up”.
  2. Ask him where he bought the blouse, as you think your wife might like one.
  3. If he isn’t violating your dress code (by wearing something too low cut or see-through, for example), perhaps saying nothing to him would be best. Meanwhile, try to quiet the water cooler conversation by noting that everyone’s taste is different, and perhaps everyone should be more focused on the work that needs to be done.


Discussion of Last Month’s Quizzler

We believe that (3.) is the best response to this situation. In the current climate of gender equality, the safest route as an employer is to rely on consistent application of your policies. Hopefully, you have one outlining your dress code. If this employee is in violation of that, address it with him. If he is not in violation of it, focus on calming the water cooler conversation as mentioned in the response above. Settling on answer (1.) may well invite a gender discrimination charge, and answer (2.) doesn’t in any way address the concern.


Some of the most desired employee benefits are …..

In today’s job market, a generous benefits package is essential for attracting and retaining the best employees. The good news is, not all the benefits at the top of the list will break your company’s budget.

Glassdoor’s 2015 Employment Confidence Survey found that 80% of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise. So what are the benefits that could influence an applicant to take a lower paying job with better benefits, over a higher paying job? Here goes:

  • Better medical, dental and vision insurance (88%)
  • More flexible hours (88%)
  • More vacation time (80%)
  • Work from home options (80%)

Depending on the job and the company culture, three of the four benefits above could be offered at relatively low cost. And, they are especially attractive to a large segment of the workforce: those who are parents. It is worth thinking about these options, even if they cannot be offered to every employee in your company. That is a mindset I had to overcome at one point in my HR management development, and it is an important one. In any organization, there are advantages and disadvantages to working in certain jobs, in certain locations or departments, or under the direction of certain leaders. At the end of the day, offering certain perks may be another distinction that works in your company’s best interest.


This newsletter is not intended to provide legal guidance to you. We welcome your input on topics you would like to learn more about, and encourage you to contact the author of this newsletter, Caryl Kuchman, at 803.729.8398 or at CKuchman@benefitcompany.com if you have questions on any information presented.

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