Starting and running a business is an exciting venture. Entrepreneurs start with a dream. This dream envisions an amazing future state. Daily, a mission is lived out with certain behaviors and values expressed. Strategy development bridges the gap between where the business is and where it wants to go. This is exciting stuff! Along the way, though, distractions surface. Lawsuits, miscommunications, under-performing team-members, et cetera get in the way of that exciting dream. How did it end up like this?
Below, you will find the final installment of this four-part series exploring employment practices that distract business leaders from living out what they want to do…fulfilling their mission and heading toward their vision.
8. “But, I Think That Request is Unreasonable!”—Being Unreasonable When It Comes to Reasonable Accommodations
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits discrimination based on disability. This law and later amendments provide definition and direction regarding what a disability is and how it should be treated. If the employer is covered under the ADA, s/he must abide by its provisions. In such companies, when an employee requests a workplace accommodation, employers must engage in the Interactive Process. The Interactive Process is a collaborative effort involving both the employer and the employee to determine if there are accommodations available, which does not pose a direct or indirect threat to the employee or other employees or do not cause an undue hardship to the company.
Employers must remember that what may seem “unreasonable” in their eyes is reasonable in the eyes of the courts. Extended leave, alternate work schedules, pieces of equipment, job restructuring, and providing additional training are all seen as reasonable accommodations in most instances. Even though an employer may say they do not have the time or resources to provide such accommodations, the courts will not always agree.
Action Step: Employers should review and update job descriptions to state the Essential Job Functions and any physical and mental requirements. Employers should also develop an Interactive Process and determine who and how it will be run consistently. All Managers should receive training to identify and communicate potential accommodation needs. Working with HR is key to creating a workplace celebrating diversity and work hard toward being inclusive for all workers.
9. “But, I Don’t Even Know What the Handbook Says!”—Not Connecting Stated Policy with Actual Practice
Policies, procedures, and practices should (in theory) align, but how often has an employer failed to “do” what a policy and procedure states? Practice is reality, even if an HR or Operational policy says otherwise! Although commonplace, this creates an environment where policies are inconsistently applies. Most of the time, inconsistent practices go unnoticed, but over time, small discrepancies lead to major misalignment, needless disagreement, and underlying frustration, which results in wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted dollars. For instance, an organization’s dress code policy lists specific “don’ts” and restrictions. However, managers enforce this only when it is remembered or convenient. What does this do to morale? What risks exist regarding discrimination? Morale suffers as it appears that managers have “favorite” employees and “pick-on” other employees. Discriminatory charges can be alleged as one person is able to wear something or have a piercing or have a tattoo while another person cannot. Major consequences can arise that damage trust, reputation, productivity, and financial solvency. At best, confusion exists under the radar. At worst, a company faces discriminatory charges from the EEOC or in a court of law. Consistency matters both in policy and practice.
Action Step: When an employer implements new policies, enforcers (e.g.—managers, HR) should receive training. This training should educate people on both the dangers of inconsistent practice and the rewards of consistent implementation. Employers must understand that it is their responsibility to connect policy and practice. When practice is inconsistent, company leadership must address it and educate where appropriate.
10. “But, I Don’t Have Time for All This Record-Keeping!”—Failing to Keep Accurate Records (or not keeping them at all)
It is not fun nor is it on the top of a business owner’s mind to keep accurate employment records. So many other responsibilities get in the way of tending to such tedious and mundane tasks. However, inaccurate record-keeping can lead to distracting litigation, failure to meet legal requirements, and costly fines. For instance, when an employer needs to terminate an employee, it is essential that a paper trail of documented behavioral or performance violations exists. Without this, the employee facing an adverse employment action has a greater chance of winning a wrongful termination lawsuit. Many times, the lawsuit does not get very far as a settlement takes place. Without documentation, the employer is left without hard evidence. Many employment laws and/or governmental agencies require employee data (e.g.—EEOC, ACA, Wage & Hour). In addition, several legal protections exist for employees (e.g.—ADA, FMLA). Missing and inaccurate paperwork can lead to distracting litigation, time-consuming audits, and/or costly fines.
Action Step: Employers must setup useful and efficient systems to collect and maintain accurate employee records as well as have tools to remind them of key due dates. This “structure building” must take place before an employee starts. Businesses must take time to understand which employment laws apply to them to ensure compliance.
Great business leaders take time to setup aligned processes to avoid future distractions. Yes, this takes effort, but the time is spent either proactively up front or re-actively after a personnel issues explodes.
Take time NOW to minimize your risks so that you can focus on what you love! Most people do not start a business hoping they can run a reactive HR shop! With intentional planning, connecting HR best practices to an organization will mitigate risk, improve efficiencies, align people with strategy, and create a great place to work.
Check out parts 1 & 2 of this four-part series by Steve Black: