New California Harassment and Discrimination Policy Requirements for Employers

harassment and discrimination prevention and correction policy. These newly implemented rules are the result of revisions to the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”) which forbids discrimination and harassment in the workplace based on race, gender and other protected categories. The new regulations include certain provisions and procedural standards requiring employers to review and revise policies and practices, including:

  • A requirement that businesses with five or more employees have a written policy to prevent discrimination, harassment, and retaliation, inclusive of a correction policy that employers will investigate and respond accordingly.
  • Protocol that ensures employers disseminate and acknowledge receipt of the separate policy to their entire current and future workforce.
  • Records that maintain the separate policy was distributed and acknowledged as received. This can be accomplished by having employees sign an acknowledgment of receipt, sending an email with a read receipt, posting on a company intranet with tracking of employee receipt, or another method that ensures the policy has been individually received and understood.
  • Communication of the policy in alternate languages where 10 percent of the workers in a given location speak a language other than English.
  • Extension of national-origin protections to undocumented immigrants who hold special “AB 60” driver’s licenses.

Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation Policy Requirements

Although not inclusive, the most significant changes are the employer requirements to provide detailed policies for reporting harassment and discrimination. Under the new regulations, California employers must now:

  • List all protected groups under the FEHA, including gender identity and expression;
  • Explain that all managers, supervisors, coworkers and third-parties are prohibited from engaging in unlawful behavior under the FEHA;
  • State that the employer will seek appropriate remedial actions and resolutions for all complaints where wrongdoing is detected;
  • Provide a complaint procedure that allows the employee to report harassment to someone other than a direct supervisor;
  • Require that managers and/or supervisors report all complaints to a designated company representative; and
  • Communicate that all complaints will be handled by qualified personnel who will provide a timely, fair and complete investigation;
  • Maintain confidentiality throughout the complaint investigation to the extent possible;
  • Make clear that employees will not be retaliated against for reporting harassment or for participating in an investigation.

Employer Actions to Ensure Compliance

Most employers already have a harassment prevention and complaint investigation policy in place, but current policies most likely do not contain one or more of the provisions now required by these state regulations. The full text of the new FEHA law can be found here. Employers are strongly encouraged to carefully review and revise their harassment prevention and correction policy to ensure compliance with the new regulations. SharedHR is available to assist with company policy and practices to ensure compliance.

By: Brandi Gordon, SPHR – Senior HR Consultant

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services

Employee Retention Pressures Rise

Are you starting to worry about an increase in employees leaving your organization for greener pastures? Some leading indicators may support this concern.  First, here are a few statistics:

  • The number of American workers voluntarily quitting their jobs hit a nine-year high in December 2015, according to the DOL’s monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).
  • The same DOL survey found that new hires rose by 297,000 to a seasonally adjusted 5.4 million in February of this year, the highest level since November 2006.
  • The seasonally adjusted national unemployment rate has dropped from just under 7% in March 2104 to about 5% in March 2016.
  • The Consumer Confidence Index has risen from approximately 25 in the 2009 recession to 95 in March of this year

Simple supply and demand theory would lead one to conclude that there are fewer employees out of work today and more job openings left unfilled.  While there are many jobs (particularly knowledge workers) for which there is a gap in the qualifications of the available work force – nevertheless, there are clearly many more options for workers than in the recent past. In addition, higher consumer confidence can lead to the increased willingness to make a job change.  Combine this with much better technology and visibility of career options for workers and it is no wonder that employers are, in general, experiencing higher voluntary employee turnover.

According to a recent study underwritten by CareerBuilder, more than one in five employees (21 percent) are planning to leave their current employers in 2016, a 5 percent increase since last year (16 percent). The national survey was conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder from November 4 to December 1, 2015, and included a representative sample of 3,252 workers across multiple industries.

“Just because a person is satisfied with their job doesn’t necessarily mean they aren’t looking for new work,” said Rosemary Haefner, Chief Human Resources officer at CareerBuilder. “Because of this, it’s critical to keep up with your employees’ needs and continue to challenge them with work they feel is meaningful.”

So Why Would an Employee Leave?

Recent research by BambooHR, identified several factors:

  1. The No. 1 reason employees say they left a previous job is a lack of opportunities for advancement.  More than one in five employees (22%) polled by Bamboo cited that as a reason for resigning in the past.
  2. A lack of work-life balance.
  3. More money.

Bamboo polled 1,034 U.S. workers over the age of 18 to find out why they had left a previous job, and to have them rank the most annoying aspects of work in general.  Employees could rate work traits on the following scale:

  • 1 = acceptable
  • 2 = somewhat acceptable
  • 3 = annoying
  • 4 = considerably annoying
  • 5 = deal breaker

The top five “deal breakers” identified in the survey were:

  1. The boss doesn’t trust or empower you (one in four rated this a deal breaker).
  2. Being expected to work or answer emails on sick days, vacations and/or after work (one in four).
  3. Management that “passes the buck” when things don’t go as planned (one in five).
  4. Work not being flexible with regard to family responsibilities (one in five).
  5. Not getting along with co-workers (1 in 6).

Here are employees’ four biggest annoyances that were important, but did not quite make it to the level of “deal breaker”:

  1. Management being less aware of the industry than you or your team are.
  2. A lack of recognition for a job well done.
  3. Co-workers being promoted faster than you.
  4. Subpar benefits.

Significance

Now, more than ever, employers need to keep a pulse on what drives employee happiness and engagement within your organization.   How do you measure and keep up with these perceptions? Employers should consider an employee engagement survey.  Such a survey offers an opportunity to identify and address issues before they start impacting employee retention and satisfaction. Engagement surveys measure change, analyze employee feelings and perceptions, and should lead to recommendations to foster a stronger work culture. Using an independent organization to conduct an engagement survey provides more credibility and such organizations often spot issues that insiders may miss and receive more candid feedback from employees.

By: Malcom Whyte, SPHR – Executive Vice President

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services

Feds Create Fake Diploma Mill to Stop Alleged Visa Fraud

Federal agents have arrested twenty-one recruiters and employers from across the United States for allegedly conspiring with more than 1,000 foreign nationals to fraudulently maintain student visas and obtain foreign worker visas through a “pay to stay” scam uncovered by a fake diploma mill created by the government called the University of Northern New Jersey (UNNJ), according a press release from the Department of Justice U.S. Attorney’s Office District of New Jersey.

“‘Pay to Stay’ schemes not only damage our perception of legitimate student and foreign worker visa programs, they also pose a very real threat to national security,” New Jersey U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman stated in the press release, which described how recruiting companies and business entities allegedly enabled approximately 1,076 foreign individuals to fraudulently maintain nonimmigrant status in the U.S. on the false pretense that they participated in full courses of study at the UNNJ.

The defendants were arrested in by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and charged with conspiracy to commit visa fraud, conspiracy to harbor aliens for profit, and other offenses. Unbeknownst to the defendants and the foreign nationals they conspired with in the alleged visa scam, the fake diploma mill used in the sting operation, UNNJ, was created by HSI federal agents in September 2013.

Through the UNNJ, undercover HSI agents investigated criminal activities associated with the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) that included student visa fraud and the harboring of aliens for profit.  As a fake diploma mill, the UNNJ was not staffed with instructors or educators, had no curriculum, conducted no actual classes or education activities, and operated solely as a storefront location with small offices staffed by federal agents posing as school administrators.

While the fake diploma mill UNNJ served a legitimate purpose, “real” diploma mills are a big problem worldwide. A 2011 report from Verifile Accredibase defined diploma mills as “mostly online entities that offer substandard or bogus degrees in exchange for payment and not much else.” These degrees are often only based on life experience and little actual work. The report also found that the United States held “the dubious title of most popular location for diploma mill providers.”

Diploma mills that sell worthless degrees without requiring true academic achievement are highly profitable and rake in an estimated $200 million annually, according to an infographic from College Choice, an independent online publication dedicated to helping students and their families find the right college. The warning signs of a diploma mill include: cold calls and spam, no studies or exams, admission based on having credit cards, and instant degrees exchanged for money.

To combat diploma mill growth in the U.S., schools are accredited by private organizations recognized as legitimate accreditors by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED). CHEA created a Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations. ED’s Office of Post-Secondary Education (OPE) provides a Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

U.S. businesses also need to be able to spot a diploma mill. “Diploma mills create a danger to employers since educational achievements tell a great deal about a job applicant’s ability, qualifications, and motivation,” explains Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) and author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual.’ Rosen also wrote an article about education verifications to explain how employers can avoid being tricked by a diploma mill.

By:  Thomas Ahearn, ESR News Blog Editor

Disclaimer: Some information contained herein has been abridged from numerous sources and may be protected by various copyright laws. Such information should not be construed as consulting or legal advice. Please contact our office for specific advice and/or referrals.

Bay Area Human Resources Services