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Hiring, Employee Retention, Wage and Hour Issues - Oh My!

Hiring Practices

Hiring and retaining the best employees can be one of the most important tasks that a city can undertake.  Employees can be the heart and soul of a successful city.  Therefore, it is essential that cities hire the best employees and work to retain them. 

Another reason to do this right the first time has to do with the costs of hiring and training new employees, not to mention the time that this takes.  The costs to publish an advertisement, background checks, drug tests, as well as the time it takes to sort through applications and the interview process can be detrimental to the city budget.  In addition, there are the costs associated with and time it takes to train a new employee and it can also place added pressure on the remaining employees that must take on additional tasks.  To avoid these issues make sure you make every effort to hire right the first time.

Some of the ways to hire the best employees start with a current and accurate job description.  When creating the advertisement for the position, having a current job description is crucial.  The advertisement should be based on the essential functions of the job.  What must the potential employee have in order to qualify to do this position?  By identifying these requirements prospective candidates know whether or not they have the skills, education, training and background to do the job, and it enables the city to weed out those who do not.

The next step is the application and the interview process.  Be certain that both the employment application and the city interview process do not contain any questions that may violate state, federal or local law.  Don’t ask any questions that may be related to race, color, religion, national origin, gender, disability, age or their status as a smoker or nonsmoker (only in Kentucky). 

Interview questions should be prepared in advance and should be based entirely on the ability of the candidate to do the job for which they are applying.  Make sure that the interviewers know what questions are completely off limits. 

Once the interviews are complete, have a process in place to guide the decision makers to identify the best potential employee.  Also, be aware of any required pre-employment testing or background checks that the city may have to do once an offer is made.  Ascertain ahead of time what can and cannot be done as well as what information should be gathered from the testing and used in the final decisions.

After the employee has been hired, have an onboarding process that assimilates the employee into the city work environment.  Don’t give him or her a stack of papers and leave them alone.  Make this an interactive process where they are immediately made to feel like part of a team.  Make sure that the new employee understands the personnel policies, the city ethics ordinance, and how the city’s form of government works. 

One of the most important things that a city can do to retain good employees is to make sure that anyone in a supervisory position has management skills training.  Do they know their roles and responsibilities?  Do they have effective communication skills?  Do they know how to effectively delegate job assignments?  Can they provide effective performance reviews?  This information is crucial to a successful supervisor and for happy employees.

Other important issues to consider are wage and hour laws and the misclassification of employees.  What is required in regards to meal and rest breaks?  What is considered a full-time employee?  How do you determine if the employee is entitled to overtime? What about compensatory time? Are you ready for the new overtime laws? What is considered the city’s workweek?  Do we have to pay for travel time?  (As well as hundreds of other laws!)  Failing to follow the state and federal laws, as well as the city policy, or the misclassification of city employees can cost the city in back wages, court fees, fines and penalties.  Knowing what is required of you as a city official is your responsibility.

All of these things combined put your city in the best possible position to hire and retain the best employees and to limit your liability exposure.  Being proactive on the front end will make your job as a city official a little easier, as the best employees will have to be disciplined less and the city can avoid hiring for the same positions over and over. 

If you want more information on these topics, KLC will be providing an all-day training June 1 that will offer in depth discussions of each of these topics as well as provide sample forms.  Information and registration for Part I of this training can be found on the KLC website.

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

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Hiring – The I-9 Form Expired March 31st
Posted on April 7, 2016 by Andrea Shindlebower in Employee Forms

HR Weekly

Hiring – The I-9 Form Expired March 31st

The current version of the Form I-9 expired on March 31, but until further notice employers should keep using the expired form until the new form is available on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website

On March 28, 2016, the USCIS published a second round of proposed changes to the form in the Federal Register, giving the public 30 days to comment.  Once that comment period has ended more changes may be made and then it will be sent to the Office of Management and Budget for review and approval. 

The purpose of the proposed changes is lessen technical errors for which employers may be fined, and include:

  • A start over button, which will allow the user to start over more easily.
  • Instant access to the instructions through the use of hyperlinks.
  • Anti-discrimination notice, which states that employers cannot specify the forms that the employee presents for validation.
  • Each section will also have a “click to finish” button that will validate that the information has been entered correctly.
  • Will only require other last names used instead of all other names used.
  • A QR code, that can be used to streamline audit processes.
  • Automatic formatting of the SSN.
  • Immigrants authorized to work will only need to provide either their Form I-94 number, foreign passport information or alien registration number.
  • Added spaces to include the names of multiple preparers and translators.
  • A dedicated area to enter supplementary information that employers are presently required to write in the margins.

KLC will send out a notice once the new form is officially required. For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, KLC personnel services specialist.

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Drug Testing Changes for 2016
Posted on March 15, 2016 by Andrea Shindlebower in Drug Testing

Drug Testing Changes for 2016

Effective as of January 1, 2016, the minimum annual percentage rate for random controlled substances testing is 25 percent of the average number of driver positions. The minimum annual percentage rate for random alcohol testing will remain at 10 percent.

Cities that drug test CDL employees have been testing at 50 percent of the average number of CDL positions, so at this point, cities have the option of amending their policies to 25 percent or keeping it at 50 percent. 

More information from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can be found at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/enforcement/annual-random-controlled-substances-testing-percentage-rate-calendar-year

Questions regarding this or any other personnel policy changes can be directed to Andrea Shindlebower Main, KLC Personnel Services Specialist.

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Spring Forward … Straight time or overtime?

Weekly HR News –

Spring Forward … Straight time or overtime?

That can be the question when clocks are set forward one hour March 13th

The arrival of daylight saving time requires clocks to be moved forward one hour at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, March 13. Shift workers who are on duty at that time and who normally work an eight-hour shift will actually work only seven hours.

"Some employers decide to pay the normal eight hours of pay for that shift as a matter of policy, but under the Fair Labor Standards Act, they are not required to include the additional hour of pay when calculating an employee's regular rate for overtime," noted Heidi Henson, JD, CCH workplace analyst.

For example, if someone actually works 40 hours in the week, the additional hour's pay for that daylight-saving hour would be at straight time, not overtime.  Even if the employee works over 40 hours in the city defined workweek, that one hour would not have to be included in the overtime calculations, unless the city policy states otherwise.

For more information or sample policies on this or any other personnel related matters contact Andrea Shindlebower, personnel services specialist.    

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ALERT - Change to Kentucky Occupational Safety & Health on the Job Poster

Weekly HR – Workplace Posters

ALERT - Change to Kentucky Occupational Safety& Health on the Job Poster

The Kentucky Occupational Safety & Health on the Job poster was update November 2015.  If you have not updated this poster since that date you must do so now.  The current poster can be found on the Kentucky Labor Cabinet website at:

 http://labor.ky.gov/ListsAndLibraries/Labor%20Cabinet%20Posters/KY%20OSH%20Poster%20English.pdf

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

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Municipal Employee Handbooks

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.   

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