Category Archives: Employment Law

HR Thursday: Step 4 in Preventing Harassment


One of the fastest growing areas of Employment Law Compliance issues is harassment claims.  Prevention is the key to avoiding harassment in your Healthcare practice or business.  If left unaddressed, these issues will only get worse.

The first 3 steps toward prevention of harassment claims (review here 1, 2, 3):

  1. A written harassment policy
  2. Antiharassment training
  3. Investigation

The 4th step in preventing the nightmare of harassment is:
Take Necessary Disciplinary Action.

Last week I included a video that played out the events of a harassment claim in the workplace.  If you missed what happened between Tom and Wendy as investigated by Ralph, then you’re welcome to view it here Harassment in the workplace part 1

At the end of part 1, Stan asks Ralph, “What would you do differently if you had to do it again?” in regard to the investigation, action, and outcome of the claim.

You can find the answer by watching Harassment in the Workplace part 2 where Stan relates a time when he had to take disciplinary action against Paul and Ed.  watch now  

If a harassment case is determined to be valid, you must take immediate and appropriate corrective action.  This means taking “action reasonably calculated to end the harassment” and keep it from recurring.

How severe does the discipline need to be?  The answer is determined by several factors:

  • How serious was the offense?
  • What was the nature of the offense?
  • Is it a repeated behavior?

Examples of corrective action are:

  • Apology to the victim
  • Verbal/written warning
  • Demotion
  • Counseling
  • Training
  • Suspension
  • Termination

Take necessary disciplinary action quickly.  Waiting only puts you at risk.

Tune in next week to learn Step 5!  Same blog time, same blog channel!

#2 On the List of What Employees Want: The 4 F’s

Bent Ericksen & Associates reports 12 Foundation Essentials for Building a Winning Team, based on a survey that analyzed what employees want most from their employers.

In a recent post on Navigating Your Fishbowl, I provided #1 on the list.  You can read that post HERE

Essential #2 is: A management style where policies are friendly, frank, fair and firm.  Policies are consistently applied and clearly explained in writing.

Did you catch the 4 F’s in that statement? 

  1. Friendly
  2. Frank
  3. Fair
  4. Firm

This short video is a personal experience about Fairness and a Floating Holiday

This policy was written, but certainly not applied fairly or consistently. 

Watch this video about an Unwritten Promise Given…

Wow!  Talk about unfair and inconsistent treatment of your employees!  Ouch! 

EMPLOYERS: Don’t make promises you can’t, or WON’T keep!

EMPLOYEES: Make sure you get promised benefits in WRITING!

Have you ever tried to remember “what did we do the last time“?  When a situation comes up, wouldn’t it provide more peace of mind to ask, “what does the policy say“, instead?

Try it, you’ll like it!

HR Thursday: When other priorities takes a backseat!

For the last few weeks I’ve been blogging about avoiding the nightmare of harassment claims in your practice/business.  The first two steps to doing this have been: 1. Providing written policy and regular communication, and 2. Provide antiharrassment training.

Step 3 is investigate complaints:

Timing is everything!  The longer an employer waits to investigate a complaint of harassment, the more it may say, “this isn’t serious” to the employee. 

Investigating a harassment claim is your FIRST priority.  EVERYTHING else takes a backseat.  Furthermore, taking quick action will prevent your liability from increasing. How?  Slow action could be making the employee vulnerable to more attacks.

However, unless you as an employer can be truly unbiased as an investigator, then you should hire a third-party to do the investigating.  The objective is to gather information, including looking at the following documents:

  • Payroll records
  • Job assignments
  • Working hours

You, or the investigator will also have to interview:

  • The accused
  • The victim
  • Witnesses
  • Anyone who knows about the incident

When conducting interviews:

  • Ask open-ended questions
  • Tell the version of the story as you know it, and then document their agreement/disagreement
  • Compile written and signed statements
  • Ask for additional information that is remembered after the interview
  • Keep findings confidential, and ask others to do the same

The investigator will keep detailed records of interviews and ALL relevant information.  He/she will prepare a final report including the steps taken and the conclusion of the claim.  This information will then be kept in a confidential file.

For an example of an investigation that wasn’t handled so well  Watch this VIDEO NOW

Next week is step 4, including part 2 of the video you just watched.  Have a great week navigating your fishbowl!

Step 2 in Avoiding the Nightmare of Harassment

Last weeks HR Thursday post presented PREVENTION STEP 1 in avoiding the nightmare of harassment claims.

If you want to prevent Harassment claims from affecting your business and your bottom line, then step 2 after providing written policy is to provide antiharassment training.  

A video on Saturday Night Live illustrates the importance of harassment training for your team members.  Watch Linsanity NOW 

Providing antiharassment training is important.  If state-mandated laws are not applicable, then the length and timing of the training will be discretionary for employers.  It is recommended that training occur upon hire for all new staff members and either annually or once every two years for current staff.

As long as the training adequately covers the important aspects of harassment and properly outlines the rules and processes at your practice, the length of the training isn’t as important; however, an effective antiharassment training program is likely to be at least one hour.

Have you conducted any antiharassment training at your place of business?  I’d love to hear about it, and so would my followers!

Tune in next week.  Same blog time, same blog channel for Step 3 of avoiding the nightmare of harassment….

The #1 Way to Improve Productivity

Having surveyed hundreds of team members to determine what would add most to their productivity, Bent Ericksen & Associates has compiled the 12 Foundation Essentials for Successful Team Building.  Today my focus will on the #1 aspect from that survey that will improve YOUR teams productivity and sense of satisfaction on the job.

You may be surprised to learn that it is:

Ethically sound business principles and quality services

Did you know that before adequate pay, and before fair benefits, your employees want YOU to be ethical and to have integrity when it comes to the services or products you offer?  How would you rate yourself?  No, honestly.

According to the 2011 National Business Ethics Survey, the percentage of employees who perceived pressure to compromise standards in order to do their jobs climbed five points from 2009 to 13%.

In an article by Matthew Heller in March of this year, he warns of “steep declines in workforce trust”.

Earl “Chip” Jones III is a labor and employment law specialist at the law firm of Littler Mendelson in Dallas and a former senior executive for Dean Foods Co.  He says that workers who distrust management are more inclined to “perceive” they have been retaliated against even when, in reality, they have not. “There’s a breakdown in the relationship,” he says.

The Ethics Resource Center, which interviewed nearly 4,700 private-sector workers for the survey, which was released in January, reported that 2011 was “a year of extremes and substantive shifts.”  We also see some very ominous signs—ethics cultures are eroding and employees’ perceptions of their leaders’ ethics are slipping.

Both the Ethics Resource Center and Jones recommend that employers invest heavily in ethics and compliance programs. As a first step, Jones advises clients to conduct a thorough employee engagement survey that asks questions such as, “Are you able to complain about your supervisor?”

“You have to find out what the cultural climate is in your business and then manage it,” he says.

Here are some ways to improve the quality of your services:

1.    Listen to your customers
2.    View complaints as an opportunity to improve
Recognize great service and challenge poor service
Have weekly staff meetings where service is discussed
Tell your staff that they are appreciated and needed
Lead by example
Do things regularly to improve the workplace
Pay competitive wages for great team members

I can provide a survey to your team members to determine how they view you and each other.  This survey can be conducted anonymously, but I will provide you with the results.  Knowledge will give you power to make the changes necessary to improve the productivity of your practice or business.

Because you are a follower of my blog, I will conduct this survey to your staff for FREE.  Contact me so I can help you with that first step to having better quality in every aspect of your business; as well as helping you to achieve greater ethics in the eyes of your team!

HR Thursday: Dress for the Weather

If you want to avoid the nightmare of harassment claims in your business, then you must DRESS FOR THE WEATHER! 

Watch this VIDEO to understand what I mean…

PREVENTION, STEP 1:  Provide written policy and regular communication. 

A well-written harassment policy should do the following:

  • Define what constitutes harassment (you learned that on this very blog a few weeks ago)

  • Explicitly state that “harassment of any kind will not be tolerated

  • Outline reporting channels and methods, and insist employees report any harassment concern

  • Assure employees that a complaint will be treated as confidentially as possible

  • Notify staff that investigations will be initiated upon receiving a complaint to determine its validity

  • Inform staff that appropriate disciplinary action, which may include discharge, will be taken against any guilty offenders

This policy should be:

  1.  Included in your policy manual

  2. Covered in orientation programs for new hires

  3. Redistributed at least annually for continued emphasis

  4. Referenced during antiharassment training programs (at a minimum)

Taking these steps will ensure that all employees know or should know the policy and procedure at your business.  Don’t just issue the policy once and never revisit it.  Ongoing communication is vital, and may possibly save you a lot of money!

Have you ever paid the price for NOT being prepared?

All of the facts and stats on todays post are taken from a 2010 article in Dental Economics by Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of  Bent Ericksen & Associates 

12 Foundation Essentials for Building a Winning Team part 2

A few weeks ago I told you that Bent Ericksen & Associates has been the “most trusted name” in HR and employment law for over 25 years. 

They have surveyed hundreds of team members to determine what affects job performance.  Here is the last 6 of 12 areas on that list…  (Click here for previous post)

7.     Clearly defined job descriptions and expectations
8.     Individual and team member recognition
9.     Effort is appreciated/poor performance is not tolerated
10.   Fair compensation and benefits 
11.   Feedback by the employer
12.   Worthwhile team meetings 

Are you surprised by this list? 

Are you giving your team what’s most important to them? 

Where can you improve?

See how important it is for all team members to be on the same page?

Tune in to my next post—same blog time, same blog channel

We will begin to tick down this list item by item.  Learn how to improve the relationship with your team!

Harassment: How NOT to become TOAST!


Last weeks post (Click here to read) was a lesson in the two types of harassment issues that you as an employer are most likely to deal with:

  1. Hostile work environment
  2. Quid pro quo

Those two forms of harassment were defined and described for you.  In the event that a claim is brought against you (the employer), two aspects will be reviewed to determine your liability.

1. Did the affected employee issue a complaint of harassment and then suffer a “tangible employment action” soon thereafter?
2. In the event of no tangible employment action, are you able to present an “affirmative defense”?

A tangible employment action may be any of the following:

  • Denying a raise
  • Termination of employment
  • Denying access to training
  • Demotion

Bottom line, if the complaining employee suffered a tangible employment action, you as the employer will likely be on the hook for liability because it will be viewed as retaliation.

An affirmative defense demonstrates that the employer took “reasonable care” to prohibit harassment.  Following are components of reasonable care:

  • A comprehensively written harassment policy
  • Regular communication of the policy
  • Antiharassment training
  • Investigation of complaints
  • Appropriate action taken with perpetrators when necessary
  • Periodic follow-up with the victims

If the above components are in place and the accusing employee does not avail him/herself of the proper procedures, then the employer will likely not be found liable. 


Any question as to why PREVENTION is absolutely imperative?

Now that you’re ready to listen, next week’s post will include the FIRST step toward prevention, and how you can avoid the nightmare of harassment!

Tune in next Thursday, same blog time, same blog channel for HR Thursday!

All of the facts and stats on todays post are taken from a 2010 article in Dental Economics by Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of  Bent Ericksen & Associates

HR Thursday: The Nightmare of Harassment Claims

Have a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T and watch this VIDEO before reading any further….

How can you keep a harassment claim from happening to you?  PREVENTION IS THE KEY.  Employers often find themselves in these situations because they didn’t take the necessary steps to prevent harassment from occurring, or stop the behavior when it happens.

Understanding Harassment.  Most harassment claims generally take one of two forms:

  1. Hostile work environment
  2. Quid pro quo

Most harassment allegations fall under the “hostile work environment” category.  This is typically defined as “conduct that has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment”.

Hostile environment harassment can include, but is not limited to:

  • Indecent propositions

  • Inappropriate discussion of sexual activities

  • Obscene or discriminatory jokes

  • Displaying sexually suggestive or racial pictures

  • Crude and offensive language

  • Ethnic slurs

  • Pranks

  • Negative stereotyping

These situations rise to the level of harassment when it is severe and pervasive and the employee feels offended, intimidated, or fearful as a result of another person’s action.

The other type of harassment is referred to as quid pro quo.  This type of harassment is alleged less frequently, and occurs when an individual is asked to submit to sexual conduct and perceives his/her job is conditioned on compliance.  Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute “quid pro quo” harassment when:

  • Submission to such conduct is made, either explicitly or implicitly, a term or condition of an individual’s employment

  • Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual

  • Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment


All of the facts and stats on todays post are taken from a 2010 article in Dental Economics by Tim Twigg and Rebecca Crane of  Bent Ericksen & Associates

HR Thursday in the next few weeks will focus on what you as an employer can do to prevent a claim against you.

Tune in next week for another HR Thursday!  Same blog time, same blog channel.  

And don’t forget to have a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T while you’re navigating your fishbowl!

12 Foundation Essentials for Building a Winning Team

Bent Ericksen & Associates has been the recognized leader and “most trusted name in the profession” of human resources and employment law for over 25 years.  They have surveyed hundreds of team members, and the following list indicates the first 6 aspects of what team members say would contribute to their productivity and sense of satisfaction on the job:

  1. Ethically sound business principles and quality services
  2. A consistent management style where policies are friendly, frank, fair and firm, consistently applied and clearly explained in writing
  3. A pleasant and harmonious work environment with minimum stress
  4. Adequate facility, instruments, tools, equipment and supplies
  5. Competent, supportive and compatible team members
  6. Assistance in learning:

  • To become more skilled

  • To develop communication skills
  • To make decisions
  • To take initiative

If you’re an employer, are you surprised by what’s on this list so far?  How are you doing at providing for your team what’s on this list?  In what areas do you feel you lack?

If you’re an employee, how do you feel about this list?  Do you agree so far?  Would you change the order in any way?

Can you see how important it is for the manager/owner of the business to be on the same page with the rest of the team?

Tune in to my next post—same blog time, same blog channel—for the bottom 6 on the list!