Apr 17, 2014
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Labor Matters

RSS By: Dairy Today: Labor Matters, Dairy Today

Experts cover today’s key dairy labor issues and offer fool-proof techniques to optimize employee performance, sat­isfaction and longevity.

The Investment You May Be Overlooking

Mar 20, 2014

It can pay off in many ways for your dairy—and could save you millions.

Contreras Charles 2013By Charles Contreras, PeopleFirst™ business solutions manager, Zoetis

Do you remember your first day on the job? The uneasiness. The uncertainty. That’s how untrained employees feel every day.

Unfortunately, too many owners and managers view employee training and development as an expense rather than an investment. Sometimes they wait to make sure employees are staying with the operation long-term before spending time and money on training.

But what if you were to invest in training and development from the beginning? Employees would have more of a reason to stay. You would see decreased turnover and have committed workers who finish tasks and carry out procedures consistently and accurately.

Beyond improving worker knowledge and performance, effective, consistent training pays off in many ways for the dairy:

• More efficiency: No one will have to wait for instructions from owners or managers. You’ll have confidence that employees know how to operate effectively. And they’ll have confidence, too.

• Reduced turnover, better morale: Without proper training, you could be encouraging employee turnover by creating stress and discouraging development. By reducing workplace stress, you will make a workplace where people want to stay, learn and grow long-term.

• Improved production: Consistent performance throughout the dairy is key to producing high-quality milk. With a good training program, you’ll have dependable output regardless of employee experience. You’ll see more consistent compliance with protocols, and workers will know why following these protocols is important.

• Less risk: One mistake from an untrained employee could cost you millions. Administering the wrong product. Treating an animal incorrectly. These are the kind of risk factors that would be addressed during the training process. Why risk your company’s reputation?

• Operation growth: Having fully developed employees will allow you to focus on bigger strategic goals. When you have a system to bring people in, train them and get them up to speed, you can spread your attention across a larger area.

You can ensure consistency and improve your employees’ performance by formalizing training and leadership development at onboarding. Once you hire the right employees for your dairy, here’s what I recommend for establishing an effective training program:

• Deliver information regularly.
• Present information in a way workers can understand and remember.
• Make sure the length of training time is practical.
• Assess whether the training is working. Are workers more confident? Are they remembering what they learned?

Employees need to know how to do their jobs effectively to ensure the consistent and continued success of your dairy. Employees want to do a good job. Making time to develop a formal, consistent employee training and development program is not only valuable, it’s essential. Proper training communicates values, drives engagement and motivates employees to give extra effort from day one.

Charles Contreras is a business solutions manager for PeopleFirst™ at Zoetis. He works with cattle producers, equine business owners and veterinarians to meet their human resources, training, development and leadership needs. PeopleFirst is the industry’s first comprehensive human capital solutions program. These services were created in direct response to challenges customers expressed with managing today’s complex operations. For more ways to help develop your employees and dairy, talk with a certified consultant, such as the ones available through PeopleFirst or visit GrowPeopleFirst.com.

All trademarks are the property of Zoetis Inc., its affiliates and/or its licensors. ©2014 Zoetis Inc. All rights reserved. 

Alcohol and Work Are a Deadly Combination

Mar 17, 2014

Detecting symptoms of alcohol abuse among your employees and how you should treat it.

Robin DSC SmallBy Robin Paggi, Worklogic HR

The recent legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado has inspired much discussion about its impact on employers in those states and potentially others. However, there is a drug that has been legal for years that employers should really be concerned about, and that is alcohol.

According to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, about 14 million U.S. workers are substance abusers, and the majority of them (85%) abuse alcohol.

That’s a problem because, according to Robert J. Grossman, author of the article "What to Do about Substance Abuse," substance abusers are "three-and-a-half times more likely to cause accidents at work and in transit." Additionally, substance abusers use more sick days than their co-workers (an average of 45%) and "their health care costs are double their peers’."

In a survey conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 60% of respondents said that their companies are "tough" on illegal drugs but "soft" on alcohol. Additionally, more managers and supervisors actually reported drinking during the workday and at company functions than other employees.

Perhaps it is because alcohol is legal and socially acceptable that employers tend to put less importance on its negative impact at work. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, "many companies do not have alcohol policies; those that do may not enforce them effectively." Those companies should know that one in five workers (in a George Washington University survey) reported they had been "injured or put in danger on the job because of a colleague's drinking, or having to work harder, redo work or cover for a co-worker as a result of a fellow employee's drinking."

The information above suggests that employers might benefit from becoming more knowledgeable and/or proactive about alcohol abuse. According to John Pompe, manager of disability and behavioral health programs at Caterpillar Inc., "Alcohol- and substance-related problems present a clear threat to employers in terms of productivity loss, safety, employee engagement, use of supervisory time and health care costs. The problem is that most employees with substance abuse problems go unrecognized and even more go untreated."

What should employers look for? According to The American Council for Drug Education, symptoms of alcohol abuse include:

• Frequent, prolonged, and often unexplained absences;
• Involvement in accidents both on and off the job;
• Erratic work patterns and reduced productivity;
• Indifference to personal hygiene;
• Overreaction to real or imagined criticism;
• Overt physical signs such as exhaustion or hyperactivity, dilated pupils, slurred speech, or an unsteady walk.

How should employers treat alcohol abuse? The Occupational Safety & Health Administration suggests a comprehensive drug-free workforce approach that includes five components:

• a policy;
• supervisor training;
• employee education;
• employee assistance;
• testing.

According to OSHA, such programs, especially when testing is included, must be reasonable and take into consideration employee rights to privacy. Additionally, some states, such as California, require employers to reasonably accommodate employees who wish to voluntarily participate in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.

Employers do their employees as well as themselves a favor by addressing every kind of substance abuse in the workplace, because every kind of drug use is a threat to everyone involved, regardless of whether it is illegal or not.

Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR, a human resources outsourcing company. In addition to conducting workshops on HR issues, she is a frequent presenter at conferences and a regular contributor to The Bakersfield Californian, The Kern Business Journal and Bakersfield Magazine. Contact her at rpaggi@worklogiclegal.com

Why Create a Social Media Policy for Your Dairy?

Feb 10, 2014

Employers can take steps to reduce the risk of legal problems that can arise when employees misuse social media.

Robin DSC SmallBy Robin Paggi, Worklogic HR

"If you don’t have a Facebook page already, create one," advises marketing expert Ross Fishman in his step-by-step guide for those who need to generate business for their companies.

Lots of folks in the dairy industry have followed this advice. For example, one of Dairy Today’s 2014 Dollars & Sense contributors, Mark Rodgers, has a Facebook page for his Hillcrest Farms Dairy in Dearing, Ga.  

Fishman advises hopeful business generators to keep their social media posts casual but professional. Indeed, dairy owners and operators need to be concerned about the messages they post on social media sites in order to obtain more business. They also need to be concerned about the messages their employees post on social media sites in order to avoid litigation.

Unfortunately, lots of employees post unprofessional messages about themselves and their employers. For example, the Florida Sheriff’s deputy who appeared in uniform on his MySpace page, wrote about putting people in jail, and posted a list of his favorite things, which included female breasts, swimming naked, and drinking heavily and often. Thirteen Virgin Atlantic cabin crewmembers posted disparaging remarks about the airline and its customers on Facebook. A Google new-hire divulged confidential information about the company’s financial situation and planned product offerings in his blog. And, the list goes on.

The bad news for employers is that they may face legal liability when employees engage in this kind of activity, regardless of whether it happens at work or at home.

What kind of legal problems arise when employees misuse social media? Employees who post derogatory comments about co-workers’ race, religion, age, or any other protected characteristic put their employer at risk of a discrimination claim. Employees who post rumors or offensive false statements about co-workers put their employer at risk of a defamation claim. Employees who post sexually charged or offensive information put their employer at risk of a hostile work environment claim. And, the list goes on.

The good news for employers is that they may take steps to reduce the risk of liability. Employers may create a social media policy that, among other things:

• States that the misuse of social media may result in disciplinary action, up to and including termination;

• Prohibits employees from posting during business hours, unless for business reasons;

• Prohibits employees from disclosing proprietary and confidential information;

• Prohibits employees from posting false information about the company, employees, and customers; and,

• Prohibits employees from making representations on behalf of their employer.

Although employers are allowed to implement a social media policy, there are some legal constraints they should consider before taking adverse action against employees, such as:

• How the employer accessed the information;

• Whether the employee was engaged in legal off-duty activity or protected concerted activity (such as trying to unionize);

• Whether the employee could be protected under a whistleblower statute; and,

• Whether the posting related to political activities or affiliations.

Employees need to know that misusing social media may have dire consequences for them as well as for their employer. The Florida Sheriff’s deputy mentioned above was fired for his posting, as were the 13 Virgin Atlantic crewmembers, and the Google employee. Employees also need to know that misuse of social media also includes accessing it too much while at work. According to Facebook Press Room, the average user spends more than 55 minutes on the site each day. If those 55 minutes is while at work, an employee could be in trouble.

Social media is not a bad thing. However, using it to damage employers, co-workers and clients, whether intentionally or not, is a bad thing. A policy that communicates clear expectations about the appropriate and inappropriate use of social media is a good thing and benefits employers and employees alike.

Robin Paggi is the training coordinator at Worklogic HR, a human resources outsourcing company. In addition to conducting workshops on HR issues, she is a frequent presenter at conferences and a regular contributor to The Bakersfield Californian, The Kern Business Journal and Bakersfield Magazine. Contact her at rpaggi@worklogiclegal.com.

Immigration Reform: Principles, Politics and Boehner’s Delicate Balance

Jan 25, 2014

What can the dairy industry expect from the GOP’s forthcoming "Immigration Principles"?

Erich Straub   CopyBy Erich Straub, attorney

It is a new year and time for resolutions. For 2014, most of my resolutions fall into the typical: eat healthier, exercise more and spend more time with my family. But this year I am adding a non-typical resolution: throw out "conventional wisdom" as it relates to Congress and immigration reform.

2013 proved to be an utterly confounding year for conventional wisdom and immigration. Pro-reform forces were finally able to reach the magical 60 votes in the Senate. In fact, the final tally was 68. Pro-reformers also won the grassroots and media contest during the August Congressional recess. Opinion polls showed somewhere between 60% and 70% of Americans supported reform with a path to citizenship for the undocumented. In spite of all of this, everything ground to a halt with the vitriol surrounding the government shutdown in October.

House GOP "Immigration Principles"

So where does this leave immigration reform for 2014? There have been hopeful signs recently. In December, House Speaker John Boehner hired Rebecca Tallent, the well-respected former immigration adviser for pro-reform Senator John McCain. This week the House Republican leadership is promising to announce a set of "immigration principles" to guide a legislative push in 2014.

Boehner’s principles are not complete, but House Republican leadership has begun to talk about them publicly, if only in broad terms. They are expected to include a strong border security component, mandatory e-Verify, a guest-worker program for low-skilled labor, more high-tech visas, and a special pathway to citizenship for undocumented children commonly referred to as "Dreamers." None of these proposals are new, and there are similar provisions in last year’s Senate bill.

The principles are also expected to include a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for the broader undocumented population. This component is significant because the House Republican leadership has never publicly endorsed legal status for the larger undocumented population. In fact, a significant part of their caucus vehemently opposes legalization, calling it amnesty. This is also likely to be the area of greatest difference with the Senate bill, which has a pathway to citizenship.

The Dairy Analysis

The legalization/citizenship distinction is likely to be the greatest difference for reform as it relates to dairy. The Senate bill would create a two-fold approach to dairy’s current immigration crisis: (1) legalization and an expedited pathway to citizenship for its current workforce, and (2) a limited guest worker program to meet future labor needs. Under the House principles, it would seem that an expedited path to citizenship would be out. Past House legislation has also proposed a larger, more employer-friendly guest worker program that would be available for dairy.

The Politics

So, back to New Year’s resolutions and conventional wisdom in D.C. It is far too early to break resolutions, so I will make no prediction for 2014. However, I will identify the political factors that I believe will be present in the debate. Republican Senator John Cornyn put it most succinctly: "We can win in 2014 without resolving it. We can’t win in 2016 without resolving it." House Republican leadership is looking forward to 2016 by pushing immigration reform, and they would love nothing more than their own Paul Ryan to be in the Oval Office. However, Boehner will not risk a schism in his caucus that could jeopardize control of the House or his own leadership position. Can he achieve this delicate balance? Only the coming months will tell.

I would also be remiss if I did not include the Democrats in the political calculation. For Democrats, the greatest danger is to appear to snatch defeat from the jaws of their 2012 presidential victory. Many of their supporters, Hispanics most prominently, want nothing short of a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented. So, even if Boehner is successful, the result may not be politically acceptable to either the Senate or President Obama.

Erich C. Straub is an immigration lawyer who practices in Wisconsin and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America, SuperLawyers, and U.S. News and World Report’s Best Law Firms. Mr. Straub has spoken to audiences throughout the U.S. on immigration, and frequently advises Wisconsin Dairy Farmers on the topic. He has traveled Washington, D.C., to meet with elected officials regarding immigration reform. In 2008, the Milwaukee Business Journal described him as a "national leader on the federal immigration issue." Contact him at (414) 224-8472, or erich@straubimmigration.com.

New Federal Labor Laws for 2014

Dec 30, 2013

Anthony Raimondo 2010 06 photoChanges coming for minimum wage, unemployment insurance

By Anthony P. Raimondo

2014 brings a number of changes that dairy producers should be aware of as they plan their labor costs and management plan. This article focuses on federal laws that are changing, but dairy farmers should also be aware of what is coming in their home states.

Minimum Wage. California raised its minimum wage dramatically this year, and it appears that Congress may follow with a federal minimum wage increase of its own. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, calling for a federal minimum wage increase to $8.20 after three months, $9.15 after one year, and $10.10 after two years. The bill will also link minimum wage to the Consumer Price Index, which will trigger future, automatic increases in minimum wage. Monitor this bill closely.

EEO Changes. Changes to the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Act (VEVRAA) will take effect in March 2014, including changes to how protected veterans are defined under the law. The federal government has announced that a new poster will be released in 2013.

Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Employers have been required to provide all employees with notices regarding rights concerning the insurance marketplaces on October 1, 2013, or within 14 days of an employee’s start date for employees hired after October 1. All employers subject to the FLSA are required to provide the notice.

Employers must provide the notice to each employee, regardless of plan enrollment status (if applicable), or of part-time or full-time status, but not to dependents. The notice must be provided in writing, but may be provided electronically through procedures established by the US DOL. In September, the DOL announced that it would not fine employers who failed to comply with the October deadline, but employers should comply in order to avoid the risk of fines in the future.

Unemployment Insurance. Congress went into recess without extending unemployment benefits, meaning that long term benefits expire as of December 28, 2013. It is possible that Congress could enact a retroactive extension after the first of the year.

In 2011, Congress required states that receive federal funds to amend their unemployment insurance programs to require employers to respond to state EDD inquiries and to risk fines for failing to do so. Although there has not been aggressive enforcement in this area, employers should be aware that they may risk fines if they fail to respond to state inquiries on UI claims. In most states, employers can no longer receive credit for overpayments if they fail to provide information to the state in a timely manner.

Some states, including New York, have begun taking severance pay into account when processing UI claims, which can result in delays to employees who receive severance pay when they leave the job. Employers who utilize severance packages should be aware of the law in their particular state.

The end of the year presents an excellent opportunity to check posters to make sure they are current, and to review practices to ensure compliance.

The goal of this article is to provide employers with current labor and employment information. The contents should not be interpreted or construed as legal advice or opinion. For individual responses to questions or concerns regarding any given situation, the reader should consult with Anthony Raimondo at McCormick Barstow LLP in Fresno at (559) 433-1300.



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