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May 28, 2012

Top 11 Reasons to Hire a Vet in 2012

Looking for a good candidate to fill that job opening? Here are the top 10 reasons to hire a military veteran. And here is one more: If you hire a qualified veteran who begins work before January 1, 2013, you may be eligible for a tax credit. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a provision in the VOW to Hire Heroes Act 2011 that allows employers to claim the WOTC for qualified veterans. Credits can range as high as $9,600 per qualified veteran for for-profit employers or up to $6,240 for qualified tax-exempt organizations. There are a number of factors that determine the credit amount, including the length of the veteran's unemployment before hire, the number of hours the veteran works, and the veteran's first-year wages. Learn more about potential tax credits for hiring veterans from the IRS.

Related prior posts:
-- Employers' best practice guide for helping veterans re-acclimate to the workplace
-- Helping the military return to work

May 27, 2012

Social Media: Your "Keep Out of Court" Kit for the Hiring Process

More and more, employers are harvesting information about job candidates from social media. Recently, there was a big brouhaha over the idea that some employers were asking job candidates for their Facebook password as a gating issue in the hiring process. While we're not sure how widespread that questionable practice might have been, it's clear that employers are using social media to check out prospective employees, as well as to monitor current employees. As the saying goes, nature abhors a vacuum. In the absence of any training, policies or guidelines about what your managers can or can't do in the hiring process, they are likely creating their own rules - some of which may put you on the wrong side of the law.

Mark Toth is the Chief Legal Officer of Manpower North America and he's also a Senior Professional of Human Resources (SPHR) and a Certified Staffing Professional (CSP). While he imparts regular doses of wisdom and humor in The Employment Blawg, lately we've been taking note of his posts on how employers use social media, particularly in the hiring process. In his recent post everything employers need to know about social media, he noted that although 95% of employers are using LinkedIn, 58% are using Facebook, and 42% are using Twitter, among other social media, 73% of employers do absolutely no social media training. Yet left to their own devices without any guidance, your staff may be doing some questionable or deceptive things that could create a public relations nightmare or could put you on the wrong side of the law.

To help keep you out of the courtroom when it comes to the hiring process, Mark recently posted a handy Social Media Search-O-Rama Checklist which he authorized us to reprint here. It's simple and concise!

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If you'd like more guidance on formulating a social media policy or offering training to your staff, see Toth's Social Media Starter Kit, a remarkably handy list of useful links to laws, sample policies, templates and more.


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ESI-Logo.jpg Hiring people is one of the riskiest things that an employer does. ESI EAP offers discounted background checks and pre-employment screening to member employers. For more information, call 800-535-4841.

May 20, 2012

News briefs: Benchmarking benefits, medical marijuana, fraud & more news of note

Benefits benchmarks - Want to see how your benefits stack up with other organizations in your size, industry, or geography? Try the Benefits Benchmarking Tool from Metlife, which allows you to benchmark benefits objectives and offerings and employee attitudes to those of similar companies and employee populations. Also see and download the recently released 10th anniversary edition of MetLife's Annual Study of Employee Benefits Trends. Some of the study's key take-aways: 9 out of 10 employers don't plan to reduce benefits, seeing them as a retention tool. Nevertheless, the loyalty gap widens: "The percentage of employees who feel a very strong sense of loyalty towards their employer is at only 42% – a seven-year low."

Medical Marijuana - Employment law attorney Daniel Schwartz offers the scoop on Connecticut's recent medical marijuana bill. He notes employer restrictions: "...employers are prohibited from refusing to hire, firing, penalizing or threatening an employee “solely on the basis…as a qualifying patient or primary caregiver.” The law does have an important caveat; the employer can act if ”required by federal law or required to obtain federal funding.” Thus, if there are, for example, commercial driving laws in your industry that restrict the use of marijuana, it appears that law will trump state law." The law is still awaiting the Governor's (expected) signature. Here is a list of the 16 legal medical marijuana states with links to the respective laws. This chart also lists the 12 states where legislation is pending.

5% Lost to Fraud - A new study says that fraud is costing business an average of 5% of annual revenues yearly. Emily Holbrook of Risk Management Monitor highlights some of the key findings and offers a link to the report. One of the key points is that occupational fraud is more likely to be detected by a tip from employees than by any other method. The report notes that most internal fraud perpetrators are first offenders with clean employment histories. Banking and financial services, government and public administration, and manufacturing sectors were among the industries most commonly victimized. More than three-quarters of the fraud in the study was committed by individuals working in one of six departments: accounting, operations, sales, executive/upper management, customer service and purchasing. The report also notes that, "...the fraudster displayed one or more behavioral red flags that are often associated with fraudulent conduct. Living beyond means (36% of cases), financial difficulties (27%), unusually close association with vendors or customers (19%) and excessive control issues (18%) were the most commonly observed behavioral warning signs."

Let the games begin - If you're looking for a way to turbo-charge your health and wellness program, borrowing videogame-style techniques might be just the ticket to motivate people and bolster results. In Pitting Employees Against Each Other … for Health, Anna Wilde Mathews of the WSJ.com reports on how some employers and insurers are creating healthy enthusiasm by the use of contests, games, teams, and incentives.

A Winning Culture - How do you create and maintain a positive work culture at your organization? In a series of articles, OPEN Forum experts focus on a winning company culture - ranging from how to identify the right model for your organization to tips on building a strong culture in your workplace, as well as some case histories of organizations that are fostering strong cultures.

Disability & comorbidities In Too Much Sitting Plus Comorbidities = Big Trouble, Jon Coppelman of Workers Comp Insider looks at a recent court case that demonstrates the complexity and cost that employee health issues such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes can have on workers compensation. He also cites a recent study on comorbidities, which showed - among other things - that claims with comorbidities cost twice as much as those without.

EEOC State Charge Data Tool - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently announced the availability of private sector workplace discrimination charge statistics by state and U.S. territories for fiscal years 2009-2011: Access EEOC charge data by state.

More News of Note


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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

May 11, 2012

Avoid the Scourge of Harassment in Your Workplace

Minimize Your Risk
Negative perceptions are slow to fade and can seriously blemish the reputation and bottom line of an enterprise, large or small. But you can minimize the risk, expense and negative publicity of a harassment suit by taking a few proactive steps:

• Develop a clear and concise written policy against sexual and other harassment. Don’t attempt to write this on your own. A good labor attorney or human resources consultant will be sure that your policy is up-to-date and comprehensive.

• Roll out your harassment policy at a mandatory employee meeting and emphasize your commitment to eliminate such behavior in your organization.

• Conduct employee trainings that clearly explain the prohibited behaviors and the penalties that will result if they occur.

• Conduct supervisor trainings stressing the need to be vigilant in recognizing and stopping harassment.

You’ll need to be sensitive to the “bear traps” that frequently ensnare even the most well-intentioned business owner. These can be avoided by:

• Realizing and emphasizing in your trainings that sexual harassment isn’t limited to the way men treat women. All too often, the concept of “same-gender sexual harassment” isn’t explained and your employees (and supervisors!) may be left with the idea that as long as we’re all of the same gender, anything goes! But in 1998 the United States Supreme Court (Oncale vs. Sundowner Offshore Services) ruled that the humiliating behaviors that Joseph Oncale suffered at the hands of his fellow male employees wasn’t “just male horseplay” as the men and their supervisors claimed, but was indeed same-gender sexual harassment.

• Educating your supervisors to realize that smiling faces aren’t the determining factor. Victims often laugh along with their tormentors to mask the embarrassment and degradation they truly feel. Supervisors must step in and squelch the behavior regardless of the levity in the room. Many a court case has been lost because a supervisor “failed to take action.”

• By addressing allegations of harassment in a timely fashion. Postponing your investigation for days or weeks makes it appear that you are minimizing the situation. Most employers invoke the “two-hour” rule; i.e., if a formal allegation of abuse or harassment comes to your attention, take steps to initiate an investigation within two hours.

• Realizing that your employees can suffer harassment at the hands of customers and vendors as well as from co-workers. Even your best customer must be told to desist when they have crossed the line. Remember that when vendors or clinicians are performing work at your facility, protecting them from harassment while on-site becomes your responsibility!

• Ensure that victims and witnesses are protected from retaliation and intimidation during and after your investigation

By taking the necessary steps to prevent sexual and other harassment in your workplace, you’ll not only save time, money and your business’s reputation – you’ll also demonstrate to your employees that their dignity, self-respect and security is important to you.

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ESI-Logo.jpg When complex employee issues arise, ESI EAP offers member employers direct access to Certified Senior Professionals in Human Resources (SPHR) and senior clinical counselors. If you need an Employee Assistance Program give us a call: 800-535-4841.

May 8, 2012

EAP Best Practices Checklist

If you don't have an EAP or are considering a change, this list will serve as a handy checklist of the services necessary to minimize lost-time, disability, work absence and liability. And if you already have an EAP, check to see if you are maximizing the benefits and taking full advantage of all available programs. Compare your EAP’s menu of services to this checklist of best practices to ensure that you have an adequate program to trim your productivity losses and lower your disability and workers' compensation risk.

  • 24 hour, 365 day per year direct access to counseling and referrals by masters and doctoral level professional counselors via a toll-free telephonic service
  • A countrywide network of professional counselors who are readily accessible within minutes of your employees' homes and job sites.
  • Between three and six cost-free outpatient visits per distinct presenting problem.
  • Cost-free coverage that extends to members of the immediate family, life partners, and dependent children up to 23 years of age.
  • Drug-free workplace programs that include components for both supervisors and employees, and that include awareness programs, consultation, and supervisor training.
  • Legal consultations for any legal issues unrelated to work.
  • Financial counseling including debt restructuring, credit problems, and financial and retirement planning.
  • A work-life component that addresses childcare, eldercare, and other family challenges that can affect job performance and productivity.
  • Supervisory trainings in compliance issues such as EEOC rules, workplace sexual harassment, workplace violence prevention, etc.
  • On-line trainings and compliance information for supervisors.
  • On-line information and help for employee members.
  • Crisis management programs that include workplace violence awareness and prevention training.
  • On-site post-traumatic stress assistance and debriefings.
  • Monthly statistical utilization reports.
  • Employee awareness materials, including initial orientation materials, website access, and monthly EAP newsletters.
  • An administrative referral process for effectively correcting job-related behaviors.
  • Supervisory consultations to discuss the best practice approaches to employee behaviors and group dynamics.
  • A "hold harmless" clause that completely shields the employer from any and all charges stemming from EAP actions or referrals.
  • A comprehensive quality assurance program.
  • Privacy and confidentiality standards, including compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
In evaluating prospective firms, it’s also important to:
  • Check the credentials and experience of principals and professional staff. Are the counselors trained and credentialed? Do they hold advanced degrees?
  • Make sure that experienced counselors will be staffing the phone line and accessible.
  • Check the knowledge and experience specifically related to workers compensation and disability issues.
  • Learn the scope of the program’s network — what services will be provided directly by staff (internal) versus services contracted to outside firms?
  • Ask for references from current clients and check for any satisfaction surveys. Ask about client retention rates.

May 6, 2012

Junior Seau's suicide raises the issue of traumatic brain injuries

This week, football great Junior Seau pointed a gun at his chest and killed himself. It is an unusual method of suicide, one that we saw in the death of another football great last year. Dave Duerson, the former Chicago Bear, also shot himself in the chest, specifying that he wanted to preserve his brain for the study of head injuries. In recent years, two other players - Andre Waters and Ray Easterling - have commit suicide, and many others have died far too young under troubling circumstances.

While many were stunned by Seau's death, some had seen troubling signs in Seau's behavior in recent years... an arrest for domestic abuse, an accident where his car went over a cliff.

This inevitably raises the question of head injuries, concussions, and traumatic brain injury. These injuries often do not come into full evidence until years after the helmet is retired. The progression includes anger, stress, relationship problems, memory loss, personality change and dementia.

"Dr. Robert Cantu, of Boston University’s Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, raised the possibility that Seau might be suffering from the disease during an interview with the Buffalo News a year ago, after the retired player’s car accident. Now, the sport of football must find out for sure. Seau may well have spared his brain for that purpose."

Both Seau and Duerson are dramatic examples calling attention to a problem. Many other retired players have lesser known problems playing out in depression, substance abuse, life-threatening weight problems, and the ravages of old injuries. Certainly, player safety is something that the sport and we as a society need to examine.

Seau's death is a public example of the the tragedy of suicide and the pain that it inflicts on survivors. Every day, about 89 people commit suicide, and few of those deaths command headlines. Suicide is common among people who are clinically depressed - an issue we discussed recently in our post about Mike Wallace's battle with depression leading to a suicide attempt. Depression is treatable and treatment is quite effective, but it often requires intervention by a loved one for the person to get help.

You don't have to play professional sports to suffer a traumatic brain injuries. Many of our military returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have TBI; car crash and fall victims often suffer TBI. For more on preventing, treating and living with traumatic brain injury, see Brainline - here's a handy topic list, which includes sports injuries.

See also:
The secret men won't admit
Celebrity suicides highlight the heavy toll of depression

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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers help and resources for depression and other serious life problems. If you or one of your immediate family members is suffering from depression, your EAP can help. If you are employer that doesn't have an EAP, call us at 800-535-4841.

May 1, 2012

Workplace Wellness Focus for May: Mental Health, Women's Health, and more

May is Mental Health Month, a commemoration that started in 1949, with a purpose of raising awareness of mental health conditions and mental wellness for all. This year's theme is Do More for 1in4. An estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental health disorder in a given year. That is nearly 60 million people. Mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability in the U.S. The message of the month is that mental health disorders are real, common and treatable, and together we can do more to help the 1 in 4 Americans who live with these disorders.

A special focus of the month is also on raising the awareness of trauma and how, left untreated, it can have a devastating impact on physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Trauma can be defined as having lived through threatening events or Witnessing terrible things happening to others. It might include any of the following:

  • Interpersonal violence – such as abuse, rape, domestic violence, and bullying
  • Social violence — such as war, terrorism, and living under oppressive political regimes
  • Natural disasters and accidents — such as hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes, and auto crashes
  • Serving in combat
  • Chronic social stressors – such as racism, sexism, poverty, humiliation and cultural dislocation
  • Childhood trauma - including physical, emotional and sexual abuse; emotional and physical neglect; a parent who’s an alcoholic or addicted to other drugs; a mother who’s been battered; a family member in prison or diagnosed with mental illness; and a loss of a parent through divorce or abandonment

Download tool kits for Do More for 1in4 or Healing Trauma's Invisible Wounds.

Women's Health Week
May 13-19 marks Women's Health Week, when women are urged to take care of themselves. So often, women are the caretakers and may put their own well being on the back burner. During this week, women are urged to:

  • Visit a health care professional to receive regular checkups and preventive screenings
  • Get active and eat healthy
  • Pay attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep and managing stress
  • Avoid unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and not wearing a seat belt or bicycle helmet

May 14th is designated as National Women's Checkup Day for early detection of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health illnesses, sexually transmitted infections, and other conditions.

Other May health observances
Some of the other areas of health and wellness that are observed in the month of May below. There are many more health observances in May, but we focused on ones that have tools or information that could be used in your wellness programs.

All month:

Specific days or weeks:
May 18: HIV Vaccine Awareness Day
May 19: Hepatitis Testing Day
may 21-27: Recreational Water Illness and Injury Prevention Week
May 27 to June 2: National Hurricane Preparedness Week
May 30: National Senior Fitness Day
May 31: World No Tobacco Day


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ESI-Logo.jpg ESI EAP offers a variety of wellness benefits and health risk assessments, including discounts for weight loss programs, exercise and nutrition programs, and stop smoking programs. your EAP can help. If you are employer that doesn't have an EAP, call us at 800-535-4841.

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