Affinity HR Questions & Answers


With all of the discussion about sexual harassment in the news, I’m wondering how to handle situations where co-workers date. Should we allow it? We don’t have a policy for dealing with situations like this.

Customer

Question: With all of the discussion about sexual harassment in the news, I’m wondering how to handle situations where co-workers date. Should we allow it? We don’t have a policy for dealing with situations like this.

Answer: It’s smart that you’re thinking about this! Statistics show that 25% of workers have consensual relationships with a boss (yikes) or co-worker at some point of time in their working career, and 15% of employee romances end in marriage. You can try prohibiting it with a no-fraternization policy, but that will likely have little effect on the romance and will keep you out of the loop. Instead, we recommend a Fraternization Policy, which each party should sign, specifying that: 1) the relationship is consensual; 2) relationships between manager-subordinates are prohibited under all circumstances; 3) the company is released from any and all claims of liability should the relationship head south; and 4) what behaviors are appropriate and which are unacceptable. While no one likes having these conversations, given the reality of romance at work and the possibility of the relationship souring at some time, a solid Fraternization Policy is always a good idea!

Our owner has always distributed year-end bonuses to his employees based on how he “feels” about their performance. Should I be concerned?

Customer

Q

Our owner has always distributed year-end bonuses to his employees based on how he “feels” about their performance. It’s his favorite time of year but I worry that he’s playing favorites. Should I be concerned?

 

A

In a word, yes. Many business owners view distributing discretionary bonuses as a way of showing appreciation for their employees. The problem is these bonuses are often based on subjective “feelings” which can often be found to be discriminatory. Instead, encourage your owner to stick to objective criteria for bonuses and to write a personal thank-you-note to his favorite employees instead.

With the data breach at Equifax, and the fact that, as employers, we maintain a lot of confidential employee information, what is our obligation to keeping that information safe?

Customer

Q

With the data breach at Equifax, and the fact that, as employers, we maintain a lot of confidential employee information – such as social security numbers, addresses, age, date of birth and dependent information – what is our obligation to keeping that information safe?

 

A

Whether your company owns, licenses or merely maintains personal information about your employee (such as name, address, date of birth, SSN, driver’s license number, bank account information, etc.), nearly every state has requirements on when and how affected individuals must be notified of a breach, and many states also require notification be made to state attorneys general, consumer protection agencies, national credit bureaus, and perhaps even the media. Employers who suspect personal information about employees may have been compromised should immediately contact legal counsel.

It’s also important to note that if you outsource payroll and benefits to a third party such as a PEO or a company like Paychex, their obligation is to notify you, not necessarily your employees, in the event of a data breach. In such cases, you should also contact legal counsel to assess your obligations.

As a company, we are collecting relief packages for the victims of the recent hurricanes. Some employees do not wish to participate and it is creating a bit of strife among employees. Is doing relief/volunteer work in the workplace discouraged?

Customer

Q

As a company, we are collecting relief packages for the victims of the recent hurricanes. Some employees do not wish to participate for various reasons. It is creating a bit of strife among employees. Is doing relief/volunteer work in the workplace discouraged?

 

A

No, it is not discouraged. In fact, it can be an important part of your corporate culture and lead to strong employee engagement. That said, these activities should always be considered voluntary and you should be sure to emphasize the fact that there are many ways for people to give and that there is no litmus test for giving back to communities in need.