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Cell Phones in the Workplace
Posted on December 29, 2015 by Andrea Shindlebower in Behavior and Work Etiquette

Weekly HR News – Cell Phones in the Workplace

The use of mobile devices in the workplace is more popular than ever before. Because of this, cities may find it necessary to enforce proper mobile phone etiquette at work and in many cases incorporate cell phone policies within the employee handbook.

Here are some tips for cell phone etiquette at work:

DO turn your ringer to vibrate or silent. Remember that you share a space with others, so keep your ringer off when bringing your mobile phone into meetings. Doing so will help keep calls or notifications from being disruptive. If you must keep your ringer on, select a discreet, professional ringtone and keep it on the quietest setting possible.

DO remember to include an email signature on messages that come from your mobile phone or tablet. This is often overlooked and emails from mobile devices only have your name and the type of device the message was sent from. It’s important to include your city contact information so people can easily respond to you.

DON’T take personal calls at your desk if you share close space with co-workers. This can be distracting to those sitting near you and can make for an uncomfortable atmosphere if you’re discussing private matters.

DON’T take a call or text if you are having a face-to-face conversation with someone. Let the call go to voicemail and read your text after you finish your conversation.

DON’T talk or text and drive.  If it is a call or text that you have to make, pull over to do so!

Lastly, keep in mind that as we discussed in last week’s Weekly HR Newsarticle, electronic messages that are created, received, used, or disposed as part of city business can be considered open records and must be treated as such in regards to retention and disposal. 

For sample policies or more information on this or any other personnel matter, contact Andrea Shindlebower at

Excerpt with changes from Michael Swearingen’s June 6, 2014 article Cell Phone Etiquette at Work - reprinted with permission. 


Human Resources Audit - The Five "Ws" to Keep Your City in Compliance
Posted on December 29, 2015 by Andrea Shindlebower in Human Resources Audits

Weekly HR News - Human Resources Audit - Five Ws to Keep Your City in Compliance

Who needs to do an HR Audit?

The HR personnel as well as the executive authority for the city needs to be certain that HR audits are being done.  Persons within these positions are on the frontlines of all the personnel action and are the ones who should be keeping up with changes in the law, as well as being a resource for the employees and management.

Why do you need an HR audit?

Federal, state and local employment laws can be very complex, to say the least. Violations of these laws, even when unintentional, can lead to lawsuits, fines, bad publicity and even employee frustration.  Issues also present themselves when you have in place rogue management, or those who do not have sufficient training to handle employment issues as they arise. Eliminating those risks is a significant responsibility of HR.

When should the HR audit occur?

Typically an HR audit should be done at least on a yearly basis; however, some cities find that several mini-audits throughout the year make this task less cumbersome.  Changes in the law occur on a yearly basis, so in order to maintain legal compliance the city’s policies and procedures need to be updated at least annually.  In addition, if there is an issue with employees or management finding out about these issues can keep employment issues from spiraling out of control.  Making time to do a complete HR audit not only ensures compliance with the laws, but it also provides opportunities to improve the effectiveness of the city’s HR practices such as employee performance and engagement.

What should be audited?

The first thing any city should do when completing an HR audit is to create and review a comprehensive checklist.  At the very least, the city should review the following areas:

  • Employment Law (federal, state and local)
  • I-9 Forms
  • Discipline Procedures and Documentation
  • Equal Opportunity
  • Wage and Hour Administration
  • Job Elimination/Separation Documentation
  • Hiring Process
  • Benefits Administration, ERISA and COBRA (state continuation coverage)
  • Personnel Files and Records
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Policies and Procedures
  • Workplace Harassment  and Sexual Harassment
  • Discrimination
  • Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • Uniformed Services Act (USERRA) and Kentucky Military Law
  • Background Investigations
  • Drug Screening
  • Complaint Process

However, it isn’t enough to check these items off your list, even if all of your policies are completely up-to-date and legally compliant.  If city officials do not practice what they preach, the risks increase significantly. For example, even if you have a legally compliant workplace harassment policy, it will not create a respectful workplace. If the executive authority or supervisors ignore or allow disrespectful behavior, the policy is not worth the paper on which it is written.  As part of this process, you have to be certain that the policies are being followed as they are written.  Do this by auditing employees for their feedback and reviewing any employee complaints that may have been filed to look for holes in the process.

Where do you take the results?

The results should not sit on the shelf.  Once any potential issues have been identified, be certain that the executive authority in your city is aware of the issues.  The executive authority must then make changes to city policies or HR processes to get your city into compliance.  Do this by updating personnel policies and by providing training to employees, supervisors and management personnel.  Especially target those in management who are not following procedures. Emphasize the fact that any employee or supervisor not following the policies and procedures will be subject to discipline, including termination from employment. 

No matter what your HR audit looks like, it is important to engage in continual observation and improvement of the city's policies, procedures and practices.  By doing this, you will ensure that your city never ceases to improve. 

For a sample HR Audit Checklist or questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.


Avoiding Discrimination in Advertising
Posted on December 29, 2015 by Andrea Shindlebower in Advertising related to employment

Weekly HR News – Discrimination
Avoiding Discrimination in Advertising

There is no legal requirement that a city advertise a job opening; however, there are many reasons why doing so can be a good idea.  Some of the advantages include:

  • Bringing a larger pool of applicants, which increases the city’s chance of finding the right person for the job. 
  • External recruitment provides an opportunity for a fresh outlook.
  • Bringing in fresh talent from the outside can help motivate the current employees to produce and achieve more in hopes of obtaining the next promotional opportunity.
  • Hiring an external candidate also opens up many opportunities to find experienced and highly-qualified and skilled candidates that are diversified from what the city currently employs.

If the city chooses to advertise a job opening they must be certain that they avoid discrimination within the advertisement.  Under Title VII as well as KRS 344, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, genetic information or because a person is a smoker or nonsmoker.  Also keep in mind, that if your city has enacted a fairness ordinance, you may have additional protected classes that you need to be aware of in regards to the employment process.

Examples of common illegal postings include:

  • No more than __ years’ experience.
  • Looking for a student.
  • Seeking male candidate … or even seeking policeman can be considered discriminatory.
  • Only US citizens should apply.
  • Seeking able bodied applicant.

In addition, all job advertisements should include an EEOC statement such as “The City of ________________ is an Equal Opportunity Employer”, as well as an ADA statement that states, “Any applicant who needs an ADA accommodation in the employment selection process shall request the accommodation from the ___________.”

For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower with the KLC Legal Department.   


Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention

Weekly HR News – City Personnel Files

Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention

The last installment of this series addresses something that can be disastrous for a city.  If not handled properly, manager desk files can wreak havoc with the city personnel system as well as be an issue in regards to open records requests and lawsuits. 

The debate over whether manager desk files should be permitted is a long-standing issue. Personnel records, as well as any other city-generated document, should be kept at city hall as the city clerk, by statute, is the custodian of all city records.  If managers do have desk files, they need to be certain that the original document is maintained by the city clerk and that only a copy is contained within their files.  Managers also need to be aware that any confidential records must be securely maintained.  In many cases, this requires that managers be trained on what is confidential and what is considered an open record. 

Personnel policies should also address this issue and provide guidance on how the desk files will be maintained, if they are allowed at all.  Explanations in regards to statutory requirements should be given so that managers fully understand the importance of these procedures. 

Lastly, be aware that manager desk files are also discoverable in the event of a lawsuit. Because of this, managers need to know what is and is not acceptable in regards to their recordkeeping.  A periodic review of what a manager is keeping can assist a city in addressing potential issues before they arise. 

For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist.


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