Employment Law

It’s Leap Year: 3 One-Day HR Projects to Start the Decade Off Right

February 2020

By Anne E. Jenness*

Even though leap day (February 29, 2020) falls on a Saturday, we still have an extra day to get things done in 2020. So if you are an HR or Operations manager who is looking to maximize the additional time you have this year, the following are a few ideas for one-day “to-dos” that can have big payoffs.

#1 Read Through Your Handbook and Assess

You don’t have to commit to completely overhauling your employment handbook right away. Instead, take a few of those extra hours to read through it with a critical eye. Consider the following questions:

  • When was your last handbook revision? Even handbooks that are only a year or two old may need tweaks; handbooks that are more than 4 or 5 years out of date are likely to need more major revisions.
  • Have situations arisen in the past year or so that did not appear to be covered by a handbook policy? Could a new policy be useful to help you address future occurrences? Employers are increasingly adding social media, internet, and telecommuting polices to their handbooks; could any of these be useful to your organization?
  • Has your organization grown or shrunk in size since your last handbook update? If so, there may be state or federal laws that now apply (or no longer apply) to your organization. For example, New Hampshire’s anti-discrimination law applies to employers with 6 or more employees. Other laws that may affect your handbook policies have thresholds like 11, 15, 20, 50 or 100 employees.
  • Does your handbook reflect the overall message that you want to send as an employer? Does it look professional and polished? Is it easy for employees and management to use?

#2 Identify Trainings for the Coming Year (or Two)

Identify what HR-related trainings you would like to provide in the coming year or two. Most employers know that it is a best practice to provide regular harassment and discrimination trainings. While there is currently no New Hampshire state requirement for the frequency of these trainings, states and localities that do require harassment training typically require such trainings around the time of an employee’s hire, and every year or two thereafter. You may want to consider whether a similar goal is right for your organization.

Other manager-specific HR-related trainings to consider may include:

  • Supervisory trainings covering effective performance management, including how to write appropriate evaluations and how to respond to performance or conduct problems.

Poorly written employee evaluations and inconsistent enforcement of workplace rules can give rise to various claims, including for allegations of harassment or discrimination. Evaluation trainings should help supervisors and managers write evaluations that are objective and suitably detailed. Managers should also be taught about expectations for managing employee performance problems consistently and with support from appropriate internal channels (like Human Resources).

  • Trainings on identifying and responding to employee health issues that may relate to Workers’ Compensation, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and/or ADA or its New Hampshire-law equivalent.

Responding to employee health concerns is a challenging and nuanced part of a manager’s job. Managers may need specific training to recognize requests for reasonable accommodation under the ADA, or identify medical issues that could qualify for protection under the FMLA. Managers should be trained regarding your organization’s process for addressing employee health concerns, and should know how to offer support without requesting excessive information.

#3 Read Your Job Descriptions

Some employers have a practice of updating job descriptions every time that they recruit for a position. While this can be a good baseline system, it may mean that some job descriptions (like positions with only a few employees and low turnover) are not updated frequently enough. Job descriptions can be used in a wide variety of ways, including establishing expectations for employee performance, identifying the essential functions of a job during the ADA interactive process, and making decisions about employee compensation. Conversely, poorly-written or outdated job descriptions can create problems in the event that an employee makes an employment-law related claim against your organization. Consider reviewing your job descriptions to determine whether they are outdated, and to ensure that they meaningfully reflect the roles that your employees perform. If it is time for updating, create a plan that involves input from employees and their managers, in addition to Human Resources.

* Anne Jenness is admitted in New Hampshire and California.

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Attorney Anne Jenness
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Anne Jenness at 603-545-3622.

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