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How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly
Posted on June 12, 2017 by Andrea Shindlebower in Safety and Violence Concerns

Weekly HR – Workplace Violence

How to Identify Workplace Violence Before It Turns Deadly

On June 5th, a recently discharged and disgruntled employee in Florida came back to his former employer and killed five employees before killing himself. It is our job as an employer to take steps now to prevent tragic situations such as this from occurring, or at least to be prepared to handle it if it does occur.  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 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? Do you have a policy? What do your policies state about workplace violence?  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 workplace violence or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist. 


Cell Phones in the Workplace
Posted on May 23, 2017 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 article, 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 Main, Personnel Services Specialist, with the KLC Legal Department.


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


Use of Email in City Govt.

Weekly HR News –

Use of Email in City Government

The use of email, especially personal email, by government officials can easily become the latest in headline news.  Keep in mind that emails are like any other public record in that each one, outside of an exception found in KRS 61.878, can constitutes a public record subject to the Open Records Act and the Record Retention Schedule.  Because of this, the city must be certain to evaluate each electronic message to see if it fits into an exception and if not to be certain to follow the most recent record retention requirements set out by the Department of Libraries and Archives.

The Attorney General clearly states that public officials should avoid the use of a personal email account to conduct city business.  In 2014, the Attorney General stated that using private email accounts is a practice that raises “significant records management and retention issues.”  As an alternative to using a private account, the Attorney General suggests that public agencies can establish “separate email accounts for employees through a free service, such as Gmail, using a common naming convention that identifies” the government (for example, johndoecityofpleasant@gmail.com).  Another alternative is “to set up a single dedicated open records account, using a free service, to which all responsive email maintained on personal accounts could be forwarded, saved, and exported in the event of an open records request.”

In whatever way the city decides to handle email retention, a written policy needs to be in place that delineates the information for all city officials.  At the very minimum, the policy needs to address:  

  • That the Open Records Act as well as the Department of Libraries and Archives Record Retention Schedule is applicable to the city and its agencies;
  • That the policy applies to all electronic messages created, received, retained, used or disposed of related to city business or used in the name of the city; and
  • User responsibility in regards to retention and disposition of electronic messages.  

Deciding which electronic records must be retained is not an easy feat.  Electronic records will have to be gathered and a decision made as to whether or not they are exempt based on one of the open records exemptions.  More information on how that process works as well as a model policy can be found at http://kdla.ky.gov/records/recmgmtguidance/Pages/elecrecmgmt.aspx

For additional sample policies or more information on this or any other personnel matter contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Specialist, with the KLC Legal Department.


Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention- Part 4

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 and be sure to attend the Personnel Files 101 webinar next week on May 11th.


City Personnel Files Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention- PART THREE

Weekly HR News – City Personnel Files

Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention

In this, the third installment of the series, we will look at how to handle files of employees that are no longer with the city’s employment and also the hiring records of those who applied for employment with the city, but were never hired. 

Terminated Employee Files

Whether the employee was terminated by the city or the employee left on their own, you will need to be aware of the requirements for these particular employee files.  Many of these records will need to be maintained 60 years or more after the employee leaves employment.  For answers on the retention of specific information within personnel files, go to the searchable documents at the Kentucky Department of Libraries and Archives (KDLA) website

With the retention schedule in mind, does your city have a regular (weekly, monthly or quarterly) disposal plan for documents that have exceeded record retention guidelines?  If not, it is a good time to get one in place.  Who will oversee the program and verify the records have been kept according to the guidelines?   How often will this be done? 

Once you have determined that the employment records have met or exceeded record retention requirements, they must be disposed of via shredding, burning or otherwise fully destroying these records prior to disposal.  This must be done within the destruction guidelines of the KDLA, including the completion of the Destruction Certificates

Lastly, are any files that are related to a current or potential lawsuit maintained by legal counsel or in some other way marked as exempt from any disposal process until after the suit is closed? Keep in mind that under discovery and e-discovery laws, it is illegal to destroy documents related to a current or potential lawsuit.

Hiring Records

These records should include any job requisitions and job postings, interview notes, reference checks, and other hiring records such as applications and resumes.

These records can be accessed by the hiring manager as well as by HR, so they should not include any information irrelevant to the job or to the hiring decision, such as protected class information, arrest records and Social Security numbers (SSNs).      

Once the hiring decision has been made, any information on applicants that were not hired must be maintained for two years, or at the close of any litigation that was filed in regards to the failure to hire the applicant, whichever is longer.   Also, any information retained on applicants not hired would not be subject to open records. 

Next week will look at the issues with files that are kept solely by managers.  For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, personnel services specialist and be sure to attend the Personnel Files 101 webinar on May 11th.


City Personnel Files Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention- PART TWO

Weekly HR News – City Personnel Files

Preservation, Safekeeping and Retention

In the second installment of city personnel files we will look at what should contained in the different files and what within those files is subject to open records. Whether your personnel files are retained electronically or in paper files, most cities have at least four or five separate employment record files for each employee, which include:

  • The main personnel file;
  • The medical/confidential file;
  • Drug testing results;
  • Payroll records; and
  • Form I-9 files.

The main personnel file will contain employee performance evaluations, training information, handbook and drug testing acknowledgements.  The following list will assist in applying the Open Records Act to information in the main personnel file:

  • Name and current address;
    • Name – subject to open records
    • Home address – not subject to open records
  • Completed and signed Employment Application Form;
    • A public employee's name as well as portions of the employee's resume and or application reflecting relevant prior work experience, educational qualifications, and information regarding the employee's ability to discharge the responsibilities of public employment are subject to open records.
    • A public employee’s home address and anything that would be considered personal in nature would not be subject to an open records request.
  • Date of birth;
    • Not subject to open records
  • Social security number;
    • Not subject to open records
  • Date of employment;
    • Subject to open records
  • Position title;
    • Subject to open records
  • Departmental assignment;
    • Subject to open records
  • Salary;
    • Subject to open records
  • Record of awards, if timely;
    • Subject to open records
  • Disciplinary action; if timely;
    • Once final action has been taken this is subject to open records.  There can be exceptions to some of this information.  For example if the discipline occurred in regards to a sexual harassment complaint it is possible to keep the identity of the complainant from being disclosed.  This would need to be reviewed on a case by case basis and should involve the assistance of the city attorney. 
  • Completed training programs;
    • Subject to open records
  • Past changes in employment with the City, such as demotions or promotions;
    • Subject to open records

The medical/confidential file contains all information related to an employee’s medical condition, including pre-employment testing results, workers’ compensation information and FMLA forms.  It can also contain any other confidential information such as background or credit checks.  None of the information in this file is subject to open records.

Drug Testing results are required to be kept in separate files and are confidential and not subject to open records.  Only those with an absolute “need to know” should be granted access.

Contents of the payroll file will include W-4s, state withholding forms, garnishments, pay information, wage deduction acknowledgements and time-keeping records.  All time keeping records and salary information is subject to open records, but anything related to deductions, garnishments, marital or family status would not be subject to open records.  W-2s and 1099s are also subject to open records; however, the city would have to redact any personal info such as social security numbers, home address, child support obligations, or any other deductions. 

Form I-9 and any relevant documentation should never be left in an employee’s personnel file.  It is recommended that all employee I-9’s be kept in one file in alphabetical order.  This allows easy access if the Department of Labor decides to review them.  Also keep in mind that this information is confidential.  As with all confidential information access is highly restricted and never subject to Open Records requests.

Also, keep in mind that additional files may be necessary to maintain hiring records, investigations, EEO documents as well as other employment related documents. Cities must give special consideration to where and how they maintain these files, limiting access to only those with a need to know and protecting applicants and employees from discrimination, identity theft, and breach of privacy. 

Any city that is required to maintain equal employment opportunity (EEO) data collection should keep this information separate from personnel files and used only for reporting purposes such as for an affirmative action program (AAP), the Form EEO-1 and internal diversity tracking.  Similar to the I-9 form it is best to keep all forms in alphabetical order in one file.  Never allow EEO records to be attached or kept with other hiring or employment records.  This information is also not subject to open records.

If you receive a request for something in a personnel file that is not addressed in this article, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Specialist, KLC Legal Department. Next week will look at how to handle files of employees that are no longer employed by your city and those that were not hired by the city.

For questions on this or other personnel matters, contact Andrea Shindlebower Main, Personnel Services Specialist, with the KLC Legal Department and be sure to attend the Personnel Files 101 webinar on May 11th.




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