5 Takeaways from CBIA's 2022 HR Conference
Serving as an extension of the Human Resources department for our clients, I felt it was important to get caught up on the latest best practices, trends, policies, and more, courtesy of CBIA's HR Conference last Thursday in Trumbull. Below are some of the key takeaways from the various presentations throughout the day.
A poorly written handbook is worse than not having a handbook.
Attorney Kevin Greene started his presentation with a fact most neglect to realize: having an employee handbook is not required. He went on to say that having a handbook that's poorly written or outdated can be worse than not having a handbook at all. If you do have a handbook, Attorney Greene said it's best practice to review it at least every 6 months to 2 years, Also, it's not best practice to find a template online and just throw your logo on the cover.
Here are some other things to consider:
Make sure your handbook does not create a contract
Refrain from using the word "fair" in terms of expectations and treatment
Limit references that probably don't even need to be said
Make sure the policies written are actually followed
The key to compliance is consistency
There are many new laws pertaining to Connecticut employers that should be referenced in an employee handbook, such as CT FMLA. If your employee handbook could use a new coat of paint, we recommend you reach out to your employment attorney for guidance. If you would like us to refer you to one of our attorney clients, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Employees eligible for CTPL are not paid based on current wages.
Confusion ensued when employers started to get Employment Verification Forms for Paid Leave and there was no reference to current wages. Well, there's a good reason for that, as presenter Erin Choquette outlined. It's because the paid leave wages that an eligible employee will receive are not based on their wages at the time. The benefit received is still based on a formula that is a factor of minimum wage, but the Authority pulls the wage information for recent quarters directly from the Department of Labor and uses an average to come up with a weekly benefit amount, which can also be turned into an hourly amount.
Determining job-protected leave is up to the employer.
It's a whole new world for companies with fewer than 50 employees. Yes, much focus has been on the paid leave benefits that employees can collect. Less focus has been on the fact that employers with at least 1 employee must follow CT FMLA guidelines, which entail protecting an employee's job when they're out on leave for 12 weeks in a 12-month period.
Federal FMLA requires an employee to be employed for 12 months and worked at least 1,250 in the 12 months immediately proceeding the leave. CT FMLA, though, states the employee must be employed for at least the 3 months immediately proceeding the leave. There is no hour requirement under CT FMLA. As a reminder, employees may be eligible for leave due to a serious health condition for themselves or to care for a parent, spouse, son or daughter, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, or individual related to the employee by blood or affinity.
Offer letters should avoid unintended obligations.
Be careful what you're offering, as the language used might obligate an employer down the road. Attorney Tiffany Hubbard outlined a variety of great tips about the hiring process, but a note about offer letters caught my ear most. If making references to the benefits that employees are offered, be sure to clearly state that these are the "current" benefits.
Here's a circumstance that I could foresee happening:
Prospective employee's offer letter states, "Employees are provided with short-term disability benefits, with ABC Company paying 100% of the premium."
ABC Company terminates the short-term disability benefits given the overlap with CTPL.
Now-employee complains (or brings suit against the company) indicating that their offer included short-term disability benefits.
If you reference your benefits program in your offer letter, you should consider having your employment attorney take a look to avoid any unintended obligations.
Managing by Microsoft Outlook can help in the event of termination.
Documentation is critical, Attorney Glenn Dowd explained. Whether it's emails, texts, handwritten notes, or other forms, the employer will need to articulate an employee was let go for a non-discriminatory reason in the event of a lawsuit. Attorney Dowd's tip: manage by Microsoft Outlook. He recommended that emails be sent to direct reports on a regular basis, both good and bad, while blind cc'ing yourself, so you get a copy in your inbox. Make a folder in your inbox for each direct report, and save those emails into the folder. This way, you'll have a great log of communication for a variety of uses, from evaluations to lawsuits. Of course, you can use another email platform other than Outlook to accomplish the same result.
The information above is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice and should not be considered a substitute for consultation with an attorney regarding the specific needs of your business.