office_holiday_party__behaviorCompany holiday parties can be an opportunity to celebrate and bond with your employees, but the combination of gift giving, religious celebration, and alcohol can leave employers open to problems if the festivities aren’t planned carefully.

  1. Be Inclusive!– Companies should attempt to create a holiday party that all employees feel comfortable attending. It’s good practice to put less emphasis on the religious significance of the holidays and more on good cheer.
  2. Providing Alcohol– If serving alcohol is a must, consider holding the party off company property, perhaps at a bar or restaurant. Limit the amount of alcohol served with a drink ticket system or assign a designated person to look out for visibly intoxicated employees. If the party is on company property, consider hiring a caterer or professional bartender, who is trained at serving drinks and recognizing visibly intoxicated individuals.

Note: In many states, like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, an employer acting as a “social host” can be liable for injuries to a third party if the employer serves alcohol to a visibly intoxicated individual. Make sure that all liability insurance for the company is up to date and find out if the caterer, restaurant, or bartender carries its own liability insurance.

  1. Attendance– Inform your employees that attendance at the party is voluntary. Also consider allowing employees to bring guests to the party. Employees are less likely to get drunk and unruly when their spouses and significant others are with them.
  2. Sexual Harassment Policy–Employees should be reminded that harassment, jokes, and sexual advances are not tolerated, and that alcohol does not provide an excuse to engage in these prohibited behaviors.
  3. Secret Santa and Gift Giving in the Workplace– Just like holiday parties, Secret Santa, and other forms of gift exchange surface during the holiday season. It’s important to set parameters for appropriateness, inclusivity, and price. And like any other workplace holiday activities, holiday gift giving should be voluntary. No employee should be forced to participate in secret Santa.

Getting into the spirit of the holidays should be a positive experience that the entire workplace can enjoy. By proactively planning ahead, employers can create a holiday party that is safe, inclusive, and fun. Happy Holidays!

OnboardingThe buzz about onboarding seems to have slowed down a bit. Perhaps it’s because HR professionals are getting tired of reading about it; perhaps it’s because there are other things that are catching our interests; or perhaps it’s because we are all already executing highly successful onboarding programs.

I don’t think it’s the latter.


Modern Survey recently identified that 92% of HR professionals think that onboarding is important to their company’s success, but only 55% of them think they are doing it well.

It’s time to take onboarding off the shelf, dust it off, and give it another look. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the unemployment rate for September 2015 is 5.1%, which is the lowest it’s been since May 2008. The Department of Labor reports that 1 in every 4 employees leaves their position in the first year. CBS News reports that the cost an organization incurs when an employee leaves is somewhere between 20-213% of that employee’s salary. With numbers like this, companies can’t afford to lose high potential employees.

To see how a strong onboarding program can aid your company’s retention efforts, let’s look at what employees want. According to SHRM’s 2015 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report, 72% feel that “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” is very important, and 64% feel that “trust between employees and senior management” is very important. So to keep employees sticking around, companies need to ensure they do these two things well.

Onboarding, which we will define as the employee’s first 90 days at a new company (although it could be longer), helps retention because it: • Acclimates the employee to the new organization, making them feel valued and respected. • Introduces the employee to key peers and stakeholders, sparking friendships with colleagues. • Trains the employee how to successfully complete job duties, establishing expectations at the onset and therefore building trust.

To do onboarding well, it needs to be well organized, reliable, and customized for each individual.

Organized – A company’s onboarding program should follow a plan, or guideline. For example, a plan could include having a supervisor sit down with a new employee to establish three 90-day goals. HR can create forms, timelines, and checkpoints for supervisors.

Reliable – Sometimes – especially with new initiatives – supervisors begin with the best intentions, but fail to follow through for various reasons. In order to build trust, the company (and supervisor) must do what it says it is going to do. So in that 90-day plan, it’s important for the supervisor to have periodic check-ins with the employee.

Customized – Not all companies are created equal, and neither are all employees. Some employees may want to write their own 90-day goals and present them to the supervisor to discuss; others may want to sit down with the supervisor and create them together; while still others might prefer the supervisor just present them with goals to achieve. If your company conducts behavioral assessments as part of the selection process, they can be used again here. If not, the company should be open to flexibility within the plan so that each new employee gets the most out of his or her onboarding experience.

To learn more about creating a powerful onboarding program and other HR hot topics, visit HR Tampa’s Expo on October 21, 2015. Go to to register.

Jen bio pic2


Jennifer Currence, MBA, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is president of OnCore Management Solutions. She is an HR consultant, corporate trainer, and business coach based in Tampa, Florida.

Two journalists for the TV news station WDBJ in Virginia were killed Wednesday morning while they were broadcasting live at a shopping center about an hour southeast of Roanoke, Va.

Reporter Alison Parker and photojournalist Adam Ward were doing a live report when a gunman opened fire, killing Parker and Ward and injuring Vicki Gardner, the head of a local Chamber of Commerce.

The suspect in the shooting was quickly identified as Vester Lee Flanagan, 41, a former reporter for the station who was also known as Bryce Williams.

In an interview with CNN, Jeffrey A. Marks, WDBJ-TV's general manager, said Flanagan was hired as a reporter, but about two years ago he was fired. During a separate broadcast on his network, Marks said Flanagan had filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after he was fired.

After shooting a Virginia reporter and her cameraman at point blank this morning, Flanagan reportedly faxed ABC News a 23-page manifesto before calling the network to confess his involvement. In portions of the document, which were published today by the network, Flanagan expresses admiration for other recent mass shootings and claims he was mistreated because he was a gay black man.

In the manifesto he says: • He says has suffered racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying at work. • He says he has been attacked by black men and white females. • He talks about how he was attacked for being a gay, black man

This incident serves as a fresh reminder to companies that workplace violence poses a significant threat, especially when employees have reason to be disgruntled, such as after a firing. Often, there are clues leading up to the incident.

There are generally indicators prior to an act of violence. You have to look for the signs and signals. Do they own weapons? Do they seem angry? Do they make threatening statements?

Other indicators might include irritability, extreme mood changes, emotional distress, history of mental illness, frequent disputes with coworkers and superiors, often accompanied by significant changes in appearance.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, FBI and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released a study and found that in 2013, 397 fatal workplace injuries in the United States were classified as homicides, which works out to 9% of all workplace deaths.

So what can you do to prevent workplace violence? 1. Create a prevention policy involving each level of the organization, with clear codes of conduct. 2. Set up procedures to handle complaints impartially, confidentially and quickly. These should include measures to prevent any recurrence of harassment and other types of workplace violence. 3. Take time to organize and provide access to awareness and training sessions on the prevention of workplace violence. 4. Deal with conflicts swiftly, and from the moment they begin. Harassment and violence stem from unresolved conflicts that fester. They can degenerate and turn the workplace into a hostile environment and create negative occurrences that are violent and costly. 5. Promote communication and regular meetings of your work teams. Strong lines of communication will not only rally employees against violence, they also reduce the risk of workplace violence by defusing tensions and clarifying situations and misunderstandings. 6. Manage work teams to help prevent and resolve violent situations.

Need guidance on how to create your prevention policy, and communicate it to your employees? Call your HR Advisor today!

uber-lyft-logo.originalWhile many companies still think of the term “employment relationship” as defined by strictly traditional roles and classifications, emerging technologies and federal regulations have created a new economic and business model. This “sharing economy” where software connectivity is used to bridge and share resources has blurred the lines so that it is no longer a simple matter for an employer to categorize workforce staff as either employees or independent contractors.

Ride share operators Uber and Lyft were both hit with class action lawsuits on behalf of their drivers who contend that their employment relationship extends beyond that of a traditional independent contractor, and that they are in fact employees who are entitled to reimbursement for expenses and other benefits.

Uber has consistently represented itself as a “technology company,” not a transportation company, and considers its software merely a “lead generation platform” that connects passengers with drivers. The driver’s contract with Uber specifically states that the driver will "expressly agree that this Agreement is not an employment agreement or employment relationship."

From a traditional point of view, this lawsuit should never make it to court. Yet in a move that surprised traditional corporations and emerging startups alike, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied both Uber and Lyft’s motions to dismiss the suit. The order clearly validates the Plaintiffs claims, and clears the path for the lawsuit to be heard before the court.

Upon examining the Order (Case No. 13-cv-03826-EMC and 13-cv-04065-VC) it is apparent that merely having a hiree sign a document stating that they are an independent contractor does not technically classify them as such. The court considers many factors when determining the employment relationship status:

  • Whether the one performing services is engaged in a distinct occupation or business;
  • The kind of occupation, with reference to whether, in the locality, the work is usually done under the direction of the principal or by a specialist without supervision;
  • The skill required in the particular occupation;
  • Whether the principal or the worker supplies the instrumentalities, tools, and the place of work for the person doing the work;
  • The length of time for which the services are to be performed;
  • The method of payment, whether by the time or by the job;
  • Whether or not the work is a part of the regular business of the principal; and
  • Whether or not the parties believe they are creating the relationship of employer-employee.


While much of this falls under “California’s Test Of Employment” and subsequent regulations, "the test the California courts have developed over the 20th century for classifying workers isn’t very helpful in addressing this 21st century problem,” Judge Chhabria stated in his order dismissing the Lyft motion. The outcome of these lawsuits will set a major precedent and likely set in place new definitions that further refine how employees and contractors are defined, and what benefits they are entitled to.

REFERENCES O-Conner v. Uber Technologies, Inc. - Court Order 13-cv-03826-EMC

Cotter v. Lyft, Inc – Court Order 13-cv-04065-VC


Organizations face many challenges when it comes to effectively and efficiently operating their business including mitigating potential costly risks. One risk that resides at the top of the list, is claims of illegal termination due to undocumented performance-based terminations. This risk is increased if the terminations are the result of a reduction in the workforce as the result can inadvertently create a disparate impact on a protected class of individuals.

It is important to remember that employees terminated for poor performance without the presence of documented discussions regarding their performance issues are liable to seek legal advice. There are many law firms that are ready and willing to represent employees under these circumstances as they know it will be a challenge for the employer to defend a claim of illegal termination due to their lack of appropriate documentation of the poor performance. The common outcome of this circumstance is an out of court settlement of an average of $40,000.00. If the claim ends up in a lawsuit being filed, it can cost the employer a much higher amount.  

In addition to the potential monetary costs, there are other risks including the negative impact on employee morale and irreparable damage to the organization’s reputation. Anytime an organization terminates an employee it has an impact on the remaining workforce. This is especially true in small organizations where employees feel that they are part of a family. They have an expectation that they will be treated fairly. This includes an opportunity to correct deficiencies prior to losing their job. When terminations are conducted without evidence that the employee was informed of the performance issue it can result in the remaining employees losing trust in their supervisor, as well as the organization.

The good news is, reducing the risk is possible by implementing a policy that requires supervisors to address performance issues early and often providing the employees with the opportunity to improve. This practice will demonstrate the employer took reasonable efforts to help the employee improve and provide the organization with documentation to substantiate their termination actions.

In today's competitive business environment, your employees represent one of your organization's most valuable assets. Which means your company's productivity—and ultimately, its profitability—depend on making sure every person in your organization is working up to his or her full potential.

Do you conduct regular performance reviews with your employees?  Do you monitor and discuss poor performance with your employees?  If you have any questions about performance reviews, or need help getting started don’t hesitate to reach out to our HR professionals. We can help!