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Rachel Lopez Named President of Resource Management Inc. (RMI)

Ms. Lopez joined RMI 20 years ago and was the company’s first employee.

 

Rachel Lopez, President RMIResource Management, Inc. is pleased to announce that, effective September 1, 2017, Rachel Lopez has been promoted to President of RMI. Ms. Lopez has extensive experience with the company, and her expertise in human resources compliance and risk management strategic planning are reflected in the company’s long track record of success in helping businesses simplify their HR so they can focus on day-to-day operations and success.

Ms. Lopez joined RMI 20 years ago and was the company’s first employee. The company prides itself on an approach that values long-term employees and a concerted team effort. Ms. Lopez says, “Due to the years I’ve spent with the company, the variety of positions I’ve held, and my understanding of every function and department, I think I’m well positioned to take the company to the next level. I’m honored to be given the opportunity.”

Ms. Lopez’s most recent position was Vice President with a primary focus on overseeing new business, and she has extensive experience in and a passion for workers’ compensation. In her new role, she looks forward to identifying new markets and new solutions for helping businesses operate more efficiently.

Founder and CEO Reinaldo Lopez will remain involved in the family-owned business, and in keeping with his vision, Ms. Lopez will continue to develop and invest in the company’s employees, many of whom have been with the company for 10 years or more. Ms. Lopez is excited about where the company is headed. “My vision for RMI focuses on three main areas: to identify new markets, become valued partners for our clients, and embrace technological advances that will help us revolutionize the way we offer our services.”

Workplace Policies to Prevent Harassment Claims

While an employer’s hiring and firing practices may present the greatest risk for litigation, lawsuits based on a company’s employment practices can happen for many reasons. Poorly written policies or a manager’s style can embroil a business in the complaint of a single employee.

Workplace harassment can come from a lack of managerial action as easily as from offensive behavior. A company’s risk level if reduced when employees have a solid understanding of company policies, as well as employees’ rights and responsibilities. It is the employer’s legal duty to communicate workplace conduct policies and to ensure every employee understands and adheres to them.

Harassment

Workplace harassment is one of the most difficult risks for an employer to control. Whereas most forms of litigation are based on claims of deceitful or improper actions by company management, harassment suits usually seek to blame management for the ignorant, inappropriate or hateful actions of their employees.

Harassment is any form of malicious or exploitive behavior that alienates or damages an individual to the point of affecting employment conditions. Harassment can be caused by co-workers or managers, either individually or in groups. When the harassment is pervasive or repeated, the situation creates a hostile work environment.

No matter what party is responsible for the harassment, the employer could be implicated in an employee’s complaint. While it may be difficult to be blamed on management, every instance of harassment must be regarded as extremely serious. Managers are responsible for promptly and thoroughly investigating and documenting all cases.

Types of Harassment

Though harassment comprises a variety of offenses, one of its more common forms is sexual harassment. While there are blatant acts of sexual harassment (threatening to fire subordinates if they do not grant sexual favors; an openly discriminatory system of promotion and pay), some less aggressive forms can be the result of an employee paying too much attention to a co-worker or an improper joke that had no direct target.

What constitutes as sexual harassment is not always clear to people. Opinions on offensive behavior vary widely, and courts often have to rule on what is defined as normal behavior. Generally, if an employee feels uncomfortable or harassed, he or she should report it immediately so the offensive behavior can be stopped.

General harassment claims are as serious as sexual harassment. Biases can easily result in the exclusion of a co-worker or create favoritism for similarly minded employees. Manager should not tolerate harassment and should take steps to counsel individuals who display signs of discriminatory behavior based on race, ethnicity, disability or religion. Discrimination based on religion can be particularly difficult to handle; it is often visually indiscernible, and co-workers may feel they have religious superiority or no reason to be considerate of another person’s beliefs.

Workers should feel that they can report harassment without any threat of repercussion. At least two channels for reporting harassment should be set up for situations where one is compromised or directly connected to the harassment. If employees do not feel they can report harassment safely, managers may not be aware there is a problem until litigation for a hostile work environment and negligent management is filed. Workers should be trained to recognize harassment of co-workers and be instructed to treat offenses seriously.

Employers can be held liable for harassment that happens outside the workplace. Job-sponsored events are often considered as being under a company’s liability. Although harassment completely outside of any work-related functions is not the company’s responsibility, employers should be open to receive reports of any harassment incidents between two employees and speak with the offending party. While an employer cannot reprimand employees for actions performed in their free time, he or she can remind them of the company’s no-tolerance policy for similar actions in the workplace and, if necessary, separate the employees involved in the situation.

An employer can take proactive steps to help prevent harassment and negligence litigation, which includes employees training, signed documentation of the training, and an agreement of understanding and willingness to comply with company standards. Training should happen on a regular basis, not just when employees are hired. Demonstrating and reminding workers of the severity of harassment can keep adverse actions from occurring and can demonstrate in court that managers made genuine preventative efforts.

Necessities of a Harassment Suit

While it is difficult to eliminate the possibility of individual acts of harassment, an isolated, uncharacteristic action by a single employee is not likely to result in a lawsuit against the entire company. Noncriminal harassment from a co-worker is not grounds for a lawsuit; harassment claims typically target the employer.

Handbook policies and managers are representatives of a company and its culture. If either causes an employee to be ignored, punished or fired for a “protected attribute,” it will be viable grounds for a harassment case. To minimize this risk, companies must have trustworthy individuals in positions of authority and establish clear, unbiased handbook policies.

Cases of hostile work environments are easier for employers to avoid. Employees claiming a hostile work environment typically must show that harassment 1) occurred repeatedly, 2) was not condoned by the employee in any way, 3) targeted a “protected attribute,” 4) was allowed by the employer, 5) interfered with job functionality, and 6) did not cease after appropriate actions by the employee.

Typically, a claim of a hostile work environment succeeds only if the claimant first made his or her employer aware of the situation and the employer failed to take appropriate steps to correct the problem.

Additionally, employees cannot claim that they were discriminated against simply because a manager or co-workers didn’t like them for personal reasons. However, employers or HR representatives receiving complaints should encourage individuals to be cordial and work well together despite personal attitudes. A targeted employee could assume (and therefore allege) that he or she is disliked because of a protected attribute. Employees should be trained on the aspects of a hostile work environment and behaviors that will not be tolerated in the workplace.

Employers should recognize that being able to prevent harassment litigation from being successful does not prevent the expensive litigation from occurring. Companies and managers take every step possible to keep employees from feeling harassed. Goodwill toward employees and an effort to accommodate concerns can prevent a host of legal issues. Most lawyers will not accept plaintiff cases unless an employer has disregarded the concerns of an employee.

Negligence in Hiring

There are situations in which an employer can be sued for negligence after a first incident of co-worker harassment. If a new employee is accused of physical harassment and it is discovered that he or she has been reported or arrested for similar behavior prior to being hired, a plaintiff could claim the employer showed negligence in hiring. Employers should do thorough background checks on job candidates before hiring to reduce the risk.

Documentation

Proper action by managers and HR representatives is of little value if it is not properly documented. If a suit is filed, the employer will need to provide proof of the facts pertaining to the suit. This may include proof of policies, training and management’s response to the complainant’s original complaint. An employer needs solid proof that its managers took steps to prevent problems and inform employees about their rights. In addition, the employer must prove that when problems occurred, management responded promptly and appropriately.

The employer should have policies, practices and formal documents for handling complaints; every complaint should be logged and investigated using established methods. A separate and confidential file must be kept, which includes all documentation and notes pertaining to the complaint. The documentation should include a statement relevant to how the complaint was resolved and the steps that were taken to ensure the situation will not recur.

Having employees read and agree to company policies provided in an employee handbook is a key method a company might use to protect itself and educate its workers. Handbooks should be written carefully and kept up to date. They should include policies as well as the employees’ responsibilities and rights. Managers should be subject to the handbook as well and carry out all investigations and evaluations with the rules of the handbook in mind. Handbooks must comply with local, state and federal laws. The employer may wish to have the handbook reviewed by legal counsel.

While not all risk of harassment complaints can be eliminated, well-written policies, management and employee training can lessen their occurrence.

Many employers carry liability insurance that can mitigate expenses when unavoidable claims are filed.

 

 

What is OSHA and Why is it Important to Your Business?

Why is job safety and health important?

In 2013, 4,585 employees died from occupational incidents, and there were a staggering 3.0 million total recordable cases of workplace injury and illness. On average, each of these 3.0 million cases required eight days away from work, which means U.S. employers as a whole paid for millions of days of lost work time. Experts estimate that workplace injuries and illnesses cost U.S. businesses more than $125 billion annually. Effective job safety and health programs not only help reduce worker injuries and illnesses, they save employers money in the long run.

How does OSHA contribute to job safety and health?

The primary goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to carry out the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which Congress originally passed in 1970. The OSH Act has undergone several amendments and revisions since its inception, but it is still in place “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions to preserve our human resources.”

OSHA contributes to job safety and health by enacting regulations that forward this ideal. Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CF), Parts 1902 – 1990, houses all the OSHA standards, though OSHA also states to enact occupational safety and health laws of their own under federally-approved plans. State-run programs are at least as strict, and sometimes more so, than federal standards. This ensures a minimum standard of job safety and health that all employers must follow to protect employees.

Are all employees covered by the OSH Act?

The OSH Act covers all employees except public employees in state and local governments and those who are self-employed. Public employees in state and local governments are covered by their state’s OSHA-approved plan, if applicable.

Federal employees are covered under the OSH Act’s federal employee occupational safety and health programs, which are outlined in 29 CFR Part 1960. United States Postal Service employees, however, are subject to the same OSH Act coverage provisions as those in the private sector.

Other federal agencies that have issued requirements affecting job safety or health include the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and some agencies of the Department of Transportation (DOT), including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Employees in these industries are subject to their respective regulations.

Additionally, businesses in the retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors that are classified as low-hazard are exempt from most OSHA requirements, as are small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Exceptions are discussed in 29 CFR Part 1904, which also explains which OSHA regulations exempt employers are still required to follow.

What are your responsibilities as an employer?

If you are an employer covered by the OSH Act, you must provide your employees with jobs and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. You must also comply with the OSHA statutory requirements, standards and regulations that require you to:

  • Provide well-maintained tools and equipment, including appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Provide medical assistance and guidance for employees sustaining workplace injuries/illnesses
  • Provide required OSHA training
  • Report accidents that result in fatalities to OSHA within eight hours
  • Report accidents that result in the hospitalization of three or more employees to OSHA within eight hours
  • Keep records of work-related accidents, injuries, illnesses and their causes
  • Post annual injury/illness summaries for the required period of time

What are your rights as an employer?

When working with OSHA, you may do the following:

  • Request identification from OSHA compliance officers
  • Request an inspection warrant
  • Receive a reason for inspection from compliance officers
  • Accompany compliance officers on inspections
  • Request an informal conference after an inspection
  • File a notice of contest to citations or proposed penalties
  • Apply for a variance from a standard’s requirements under certain circumstances
  • Be assured of the confidentiality of trade secrets
  • Submit a written request to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for information on potentially toxic substances in your workplace

What are employees’ responsibilities?

All employees are obligated to help prevent exposure to workplace safety and health hazards by becoming familiar with and adhering to all applicable OSHA requirements.

What are employees’ rights?

With regards to OSHA regulations, employees have the right, among other actions, to:

  • Review employer-provided OSHA standards, regulations and requirements
  • Request information from the employer on  emergency procedures
  • Receive adequate, OSHA-required safety and health training on toxic substances and emergency action plan(s)
  • Ask the OSHA area director to investigate hazardous conditions or violations of standards in the workplace
  • Have his or her name withheld from the employer when filing a complaint with OSHA
  • Know what actions OSHA took as a result of the employee’s complaint and have an informal review of any decision not to inspect or issue a citation
  • Have an employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer on inspections
  • Observe monitoring and measuring of toxic substances or harmful physical agents and review related records (including medical records)
  • Review the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA 300 Form), if applicable, at a reasonable time
  • Request a closing discussion following an inspection
  • Object a citations’ set abatement period
  • Seek safe and healthful working conditions without your employer retaliation

Why is OSHA important to your business?

OSHA plays a key role in making your facility a safe, healthy place to work. Beyond providing the tools and guidance to work toward an injury- and illness-free workplace, OSHA is important to identifying businesses that are not committed to safety. Employers that do not carefully follow OSHA regulations often face hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in fines.

How can you get more information on safety and health?

OSHA provides free publications, standards, technical assistance and compliance tools to help you understand the nuances of the regulations. OSHA’s website also offers extensive assistance by way of workplace consultation, voluntary protection programs, grants, strategic partnership, state plans, training and education to guide you in your quest for workplace safety. To learn more about OSHA and the critical elements of a successful safety and health management system in your workplace ,visit www.osha.gov.

Creating a Total Rewards Program: Compensation and Benefits

Many employers are becoming increasingly concerned with how to sustain and recruit a high-quality workforce while also maintaining costs.

What steps are you taking to make sure that you are an employer of choice? How are you promoting the full value of your company and your offerings?

 

Total Rewards Concept

Establishing a total rewards program is not a new concept for employee recruitment and retention. For years, employer groups have produced total compensation or “hidden paycheck” statements that detail compensation and benefits costs. These programs are extremely important in improving recruiting and retention strategies in a tight labor market.

Total rewards programs provide monetary, beneficial and developmental rewards to individuals within an organization who meet specific goals. These incentives are perceived to be of value in the employment relationship, including:

  • Base and variable pay
  • Group insurance (medical, dental, life, retirement, savings, etc.)
  • Paid time off (PTO)
  • Recognition programs
  • Training and career opportunities

 

These elements are interdependent and may have different values and importance to each person. Ultimately, the outcome of a total rewards approach is to provide each individual with a combination of monetary and non-monetary rewards to motivate them to maintain desired business performance.

 

Weighing the Options

The Top Five Total Rewards Priorities Survey, sponsored by Deloitte Consulting and the International Society of Certified Employee Benefit Specialists (ISCEBS), surveyed Human Resources professionals from 22 countries around the world (in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific). Respondents were to represent their company’s views on many questions and to share personal opinions on others.

Despite differences in political and cultural climates, 35 percent of respondents reported that their top challenge in the coming years is to find, motivate and retain top talent.
Other challenges listed include the rising cost of total rewards, being able to afford significant pay increases in a cost reduction environment, navigating through uncertain economic conditions and anticipating new tax and regulatory requirements, and providing meaningful total rewards to employees.

When asked about changes employers planned to implement to their total rewards programs over the next 12 months, responses were as such:

  • Increasing health and well-being initiatives (43 percent)
  • Definition, mix of components, and/or redesign of overall rewards strategy (40 percent)
  • Alignment with organization strategy and brand (34 percent)
  • Differentiation by employee group (workforce segmentation) (23 percent)
  • Differentiation by business unit (14 percent)
  • Significantly reducing total rewards investment (8 percent)

 

Re-evaluation, redesign, alignment and differentiation of programs seem to be the most popular strategies among employers. To cater to your employees and determine what they value and prefer to receive in exchange for their time and talent, consider using surveys, focus groups and exit interviews to gather the needed information. Plus, on a consistent basis, communicate with employees concerning what incentives are offered and how they can take advantage of the rewards in their unique circumstances.

 

Creating and Implementing a Total Rewards Program

To create an effective total rewards program at your organization, consider putting together a team of individuals to assess your current benefits package and how it helps your company achieve its goals. If you find that you are not meeting the organization’s objective, then implementing or enhancing a total rewards program may be the right strategy for you.

Here’s how to develop a solid program:

  • Ask management to identify and analyze various rewards strategies to determine what would suit your workplace best. Consider pay rewards, nontraditional benefits and personal development opportunities to further company objectives.
  • Implement the new system by publicizing it to your employees and educating management personnel.
  • Train employees on how they can use the program to achieve results for personal success and for company goals.
  • Evaluate the program’s effectiveness and make necessary changes to further achieve your goals.

 

To help employees understand the concept of total rewards, there are many online tools that will allow them to view information on benefits and compensation statements, learning opportunities, paid time off, educational reimbursement policies, wellness activities, and career development and recognition programs.

Consider implementing a total rewards program or revamping your current one to meet the company’s needs and the needs of individual employees in order to increase the value of your investment.

For the complete results of the ISCEBS and Deloitte Consulting survey, visit: www2.deloitte.com/us/en/../top-five-rewards-survey-2014.html

 

 

Top 10 Ways to Control Your Mod

Your experience modification factor, or mod, is an important component used in calculating your workers’ compensation premium. If you can control your mod, you can lower your price — so we’ve gathered top tips to help you impact your bottom line.

  1. Investigate accidents immediately and thoroughly; take corrective action to eliminate hazards, and be aware of fraud.
  2. Report all claims to your carrier immediately. Alert the carrier to any serious, potentially serious or suspect claims. Frequently monitor the status of the claim, and communicate with the adjuster to resolve them as quickly as possible.
  3. Take an aggressive approach to providing light duty to all injured employees upon their release from treatment. Supervise light duty employees to ensure their conformance with restrictions.
  4. In serious cases that involve lost time, communicate with the claims adjuster to demonstrate your interest in returning the injured employee back to gainful employment.
  5. Set safety performance goals for those with supervisory responsibility. Success in achieving safety goals should be used as one measure during performance appraisals.
  6. Develop a written safety program, and train employees in their responsibilities for safety. Incorporate a disciplinary policy into the program that holds employees accountable for breaking rules or rewards them for correctly following safety procedures.
  7. Frequently communicate with employees, both formally and informally, regarding the importance of safety.
  8. Make safety a priority – senior management must be visible in the safety effort and must support improvement.
  9. Evaluate accident history and near-misses at least monthly. Look for trends in experience, and take corrective action on the worst problems first.
  10. Hire Libertate Insurance to ensure success.