Weekly HR News –
Municipal Employee Handbooks
With the New Year comes new challenges, and one of those challenges is the employee handbook. An employee handbook is a valuable communication tool to allow employees to understand what is expected of them and what they can expect from the city as the employer. In addition, an employee handbook will be of vital importance in defending an employment-related claim. It shows that your city had in place personnel and employee policies relating to the employment relationship, that the employee was aware of those policies and that those policies were followed by the city.
Employee handbooks should be drafted in clear, concise and easy-to-understand language. At a minimum, employee handbooks should include the following:
- A conspicuous disclaimer in the front of the handbook that the handbook does not create contractual rights and that employees continue to be terminable at will. The statement should be something to the effect of:
The City Employee Handbook does not create any contractual or other legal rights. The personnel policies contained in this Handbook do not alter the City’s at-will employment policy nor does it create an employment contract for any period of time.
- A clear, comprehensive equal employment opportunity statement such as:
The city provides equal employment opportunities to all employees and applicants for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetics.
In addition to federal law requirements, the city complies with applicable state and local laws governing nondiscrimination in employment. This policy applies to all terms and conditions of employment, including recruiting, hiring, placement, promotion, termination, layoff, recall, transfer, leaves of absence, compensation and training.”
3. The city's sexual harassment/discrimination policy condemning all forms of unlawful harassment, not just sexual harassment. The policy should also clearly set out an easy-to-follow process for filing a complaint and stating what action will be taken, including termination, if it is determined that harassment or discrimination has occurred.
4. An explanation of the employee disciplinary procedures stating the types of behavior that will subject an employee to discipline or immediate termination and the process that will be followed in addressing disciplinary problems.
5. Information on the city's personnel file policy including a statement as to what information will be maintained in an employee's personnel file. The policy should also include a statement that only personal information such as home address, social security number, medical information, marital status and other matters unrelated to the performance of public employment will be considered confidential. Any other information that relates to the performance of public work is considered an open record and open to public inspection. In addition, the policy should include the procedure on how an employee can make a request to review their own personnel file.
In addition to the above, an employee handbook may address any and all policies you may have, such as: time cards, overtime, benefits, dress codes, alcohol and drug use policies and safety guidelines.
Cities should be certain that every employee is provided with a personal copy of the employee handbook at the time of hire. They should also be required to sign an acknowledgement stating that they received a copy of the employee handbook and that they are responsible for reading and understanding the information contained in the handbook. This signed acknowledgement should be placed in the employee's personnel file. In addition, any time that an amendment is made to the handbook, employees should be required to sign an additional acknowledgment regarding the specific change.
The executive authority should review city policies to be certain that they are up-to-date with any recent employment law changes. If it has been more than a few years since they were last updated, they are not current. You should also make sure that all employees have a copy and have signed off as having received a copy of the current policies. Checking on these matters now could prevent costly liability issues from occurring in the future.
If you need to update your policies, keep in mind that cities are unique. When it comes to creating or updating your personnel policies, you need to work with someone who not only has expertise in personnel law and human resource matters, but someone who knows municipal law as well. KLC can offer this expertise in a way that is specific to your city’s needs. Whether it is creating or reviewing city personnel policies or providing training on your city policies or on a variety of specialized HR topics, KLC has you covered. For more information on this service or any other personnel-related matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, KLC personnel services specialist.
Weekly HR – Workplace Posters
Required Workplace Posters for Cities – For Free
Kentucky statutes and federal regulations enforced by agencies within the Department of Labor require that certain posters or notices be posted in a conspicuous area in the workplace. Posting requirements vary by statute; that is, not all employers are covered by each of the Department of Labor's federal or state statutes and thus may not be required to post a specific notice.
However, for those posters and notices that cities must post, there is no need for cities to purchase from companies, as cities can find all the required posters at no cost on the following websites:
1)The Kentucky Labor Cabinet website: http://labor.ky.gov/dows/doesam/Pages/Divisions-of-Employment-Standards-Apprenticeship-and-Mediation.aspx
2)The US Department of Labor website also provides assistance for employers in deciding which federal posters are required as well as providing those posters for free: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/posters.htm
KLC strives to notify cities of new poster requirements and changes as they occur; however, all city employers should check the above links and the federal and state Department of Labor websites frequently as the statutory laws and federal regulations can change. Failure to comply with the posting requirements can result in fines of up to $7,500 per inspection.
For questions on wage and hour issues or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, KLC personnel services specialist.
HR Weekly News
City Information Reporting Deadline for City Clerks -- January 31
KRS 83A.085 requires the city clerk to provide to the Department for Local Government (DLG) a list containing the names of the mayor, legislative body members, and the following appointed officials who are serving as of January 1 of each year:
a. City clerk;
b. City treasurer;
c. City manager;
d. City attorney;
e. Finance director;
f. Police chief;
g. Fire chief; and
h. Public works director.
In addition, the clerk should also provide the correct name of the city, mailing address for city hall, telephone number of city hall and the name and telephone number of either an elected or appointed official to serve as a contact person that may be reached during normal business hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The form (https://kydlgweb.ky.gov/Entities/cityHome.cfm) provided by DLG identifies the information needed. This information must be received by DLG no later than January 31 of each year. The Kentucky League of Cities is also requesting that this information be sent to KLC, so that we will also have the most accurate information. Information on how to submit this form for both entities is below.
Cities and Special Districts Branch
Department for Local Government
1024 Capital Center Drive, Ste. 340
Frankfort, KY 40601
Kentucky League of Cities
100 East Vine Street, Ste. 800
Lexington, KY 40507
Mileage Reimbursement for 2016
For cities that use the IRS rate to reimburse for mileage, be aware that on January 1, 2016, the IRS lowered the standard mileage reimbursement rates. That rate went down from $0.575 to $0.54 on January 1, 2016.
For more information, sample policies or questions contact Andrea Shindlebower at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or for the IRS article go here.
This article was published on the United States Department of Labor website at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/index.htm.
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons. The FMLA also includes certain military family leave provisions.
The Department of Labor issued a Final Rule on February 25, 2015 revising the regulatory definition of spouse under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA).
The Final Rule amends the regulatory definition of spouse under the FMLA so that eligible employees in legal same-sex marriages will be able to take FMLA leave to care for their spouse or family member, regardless of where they live. This will ensure that the FMLA will give spouses in same-sex marriages the same ability as all spouses to fully exercise their FMLA rights.
The effective date for the final rule is March 27, 2015.
Major features of the Final Rule
- The Department has moved from a “state of residence” rule to a “place of celebration” rule for the definition of spouse under the FMLA regulations. The Final Rule changes the regulatory definition of spouse in 29 CFR §§ 825.102 and 825.122(b) to look to the law of the place in which the marriage was entered into, as opposed to the law of the state in which the employee resides. A place of celebration rule allows all legally married couples, whether opposite-sex or same-sex, or married under common law, to have consistent federal family leave rights regardless of where they live.
- The Final Rule’s definition of spouse expressly includes individuals in lawfully recognized same-sex and common law marriages and marriages that were validly entered into outside of the United States if they could have been entered into in at least one state.
More information on the change as well as FMLA can be found at http://www.dol.gov/whd/fmla/spouse/index.htm.
Cities should review applicable leave policies to ensure compliance. If you need assistance or a sample policy contact Andrea Shindlebower.
Weekly HR – Workplace Violence
How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly
Unfortunately, workplace violence does happen. Your job as an employer is to take steps now to prevent it or at least be ready to deal with it in the event that it does happen. You can start preparations by reviewing Violence Free, a global violence prevention firm’s list of seven factors that can lead to workplace violence, which are listed below:
1. A weak, misunderstood or nonexistent policy against all forms of violence in the workplace.
2. Failure to educate managers and supervisors in recognizing early warning signs or symptoms of impending violence and their responsibility to take action.
3. No appropriate and safe mechanism for reporting violent or threatening behavior.
4. Failure to take immediate action against those who have threatened or committed acts of workplace violence.
5. Inadequate physical security.
6. Negligence in the hiring, training, supervision, discipline and retention of employees.
7. Lack of employee support systems.
In addition to being aware of the signs, be sure to address the specific safety needs of all of your city departments. Are your locks, alarms and emergency exits all in working order? Do you have a procedure for preventing unauthorized access to city buildings? Are your walkways, parking lots and other outdoor areas well lit? Can an employee easily signal for help? Be certain to consider preventative measures and safe practices for the following specific situations within your violence prevention policy:
- Exchanging money with the public
- Working with volatile, unstable people
- Working alone or in isolated areas
- Providing services
- Working late at night
- Working in areas with high crime rates
Take the time now to look at your own city. Have you addressed the specific safety needs of all your departments? What do your policies state about workplace violence? Do you even have a policy? Does the policy provide an appropriate mechanism for reporting violent conduct? Are your employees and supervisors trained on your policies? If an employee files a complaint of workplace violence who should handle it? How do you handle it? If you ignore it and say “It couldn't happen here,” you may come to regret that decision.
For policies and training on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.