In a large corporation, you may have an HR department and layers of management to help you deal with your workforce. But if you run a small business, you’re on your own, and a single misstep can paralyze you. A good employment law attorney will save you from some mistakes, but be careful to steer clear of these mishaps:

  • Treating employees like family. You probably want to establish a close-knit, friendly workplace, but you’ll run into trouble if you don’t establish some boundaries. Treat employees with respect and consideration, of course, but remember that they’re employees with their own needs, which won’t always mesh with yours.
  • Last in, first out. During a business downturn, you may be forced to lay employees off. As painful as this can be, don’t compound your difficulties by rewarding “loyalty” over performance. When you make your decision, concentrate on keeping your best people, regardless of how long they’ve been with you.
  • Neglecting the law. Some employment laws don’t apply to companies with fewer than 50 employees, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay attention to the rules regarding withholding, discrimination, or other critical issues. And don’t assume you can smooth things over with a disgruntled employee before he or she calls a lawyer. Play it safe, consult with your attorney, and follow the law to the letter.
  • Delaying a necessary termination. Firing someone is never easy or enjoyable, and many managers put it off as long as possible. But in a small organization, one person’s poor performance can make problems for everyone. When an employee isn’t pulling his or her weight, don’t hesitate to pull the plug—or you may endanger your business as a whole.

Source: The Manager’s Intelligence Report

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Employers have a duty to their employees to eliminate unsafe work conditions and unsafe acts.  Here's how:

First, conduct a Job Hazard Analysis, which is simply a checklist that breaks a task into steps. Identify the specific steps, analyze the exposure to undesirable or unfortunate happenings, and Viola! Now you have a tool to eliminate unsafe conditions and a blueprint for training your individuals on how the task can be completed without incident. (Find OSHA's explanation of Job Hazard Analysis here.)  

Once there’s been an accident, no investigation is complete without a Root Cause Analysis. This is basically a job hazard analysis in reverse. You need to find out what exposure caused the undesirable or unfortunate happening in the first place. Identify the step of the task that was responsible and whether it was an unsafe condition or an unsafe act.

These are the basic steps:
What happened.
Document: Pictures, videos, reenactments.
Question: Everyone involved --- including witnesses; Ask them who, what, why, when, where and how.
Identify: What were the causes; people, environment, equipment, procedure.
Correct: Whatever was wrong that caused the problem in the first place.
Implement: New policy, procedure, training.
Observe: Make sure the changes really address the root cause.

For more information, please contact ESG's Safety Director at 888-810-8187.

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BOSTON – Texas Roadhouse, a national, Kentucky-based restaurant chain, has engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice of age discrimination in hiring hourly, “front of the house” employees, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently announced.  Apparently, the restaurant has discriminated against older workers for public, visible positions, such as servers, hosts, and bartenders, by failing to hire them because of their age.

The EEOC alleged that Texas Roadhouse has hired significantly few “front of the house” employees 40 or older in age. In addition, Texas Roadhouse allegedly instructed its managers to hire younger job applicants. For example, Texas Roadhouse emphasized youth when training managers about hiring employees for its restaurants. All of the images of employees in its training and employment manuals are of young people.

The Commission also alleged that Texas Roadhouse’s hiring officials have told older unsuccessful applicants across the nation that “there are younger people here who can grow with the company;” “you seem older to be applying for this job” and “do you think you would fit in?” Officials also said that the restaurant was “a younger set environment;” “we are looking for people on the younger side... but you have a lot of experience;” and “how do you feel about working with younger people?”

Age discrimination violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks monetary relief for all applicants denied employment because of their age, the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent age discrimination by Texas Roadhouse, training on discrimination for its managers and employees, and more.

“Restaurants may not refuse to consider older workers as applicants merely because of their age,” said Elizabeth Grossman, Regional Attorney for the New York District Office.

“Applicants rarely know that they have been denied a job because of their age,” added Mark Penzel, Senior Trial Attorney in EEOC’s Boston Office. “When the Commission uncovers such evidence, it will act aggressively to remedy the violation.”

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Think it's impossible for you and your family to stay healthy this holiday season?  Practice these tips and you'll be celebrating your good health all season long:

1. Keep your distance. But the holidays are about being close… Hey, germs love being close. At distances of less than 3 feet, you can pick up a nice variety of germs through those water droplets that shoot from your Aunt Vickie’s mouth and nose as she fills you in on the latest gossip. Decrease your risk of getting sick by staying out of the danger zone (sorry Aunt Vickie). Beware of common shared items such as the telephone, remote control, door handles and utensils.
2. Wash your hands frequently. To avoid getting sick, frequently wash your hands with warm water and soap or carry a little bottle of hand sanitizer.
3. Beware of the buffet table. Double dippers and spoon slickers ruin the party for everyone. Resist the temptation, and don’t hesitate to make an example of Uncle Steve’s awful habit. Don’t let him even think about using his finger to slick the mashed potatoes off the spoon, or “finger test” the gravy, especially after “scratching” his nose.
4. Don’t drink in excess. Alcohol will dehydrate you and reduce your body’s ability to produce the wonderful protective mucus that traps the germs Aunt Vickie spews at you. Drinking too much could cause you to use poor judgment and insult your Dad’s new girlfriend, or lose your inhibitions completely and end up giving Aunt Vickie that kiss she’s been after all night. The worst decision would be driving while intoxicated -- that’s just stupid. If none of those reasons are enough to deter you, remember that alcohol also has a lot of calories and could bust your diet… (Hey, it was worth a try…)
5. Stay home if you’re sick. Stay home if you have symptoms such as a sore throat, runny nose or a cough, or if you have a fever or body aches. NOBODY WANTS TO SEE YOU BAD ENOUGH TO GET SICK ANYWAY.
6. Sleep. Even missing an hour or two of sleep per night can wear down your immune system and increase your stress levels, making you more susceptible to germs.
7. Maintain a healthy diet. If you splurge every day until new years, you can easily gain 5 to 10 pounds.
8. Keep hydrated. Cold, dry air and alcohol consumption will dry out your mucus membranes, breaking down your natural barrier to infection. To avoid getting sick, make sure the drink plenty of water, especially when traveling.
9. Exercise. Now is not the time to take a break from your exercise routine. Regular exercise will help you keep off the holiday weight and provide a great stress relief. Besides - if you stop now, who’s to say you’ll have the will power to start up again once the holidays are over?
10. Don’t forget about your mental health. Stress affects your immune system.  Many people put too much pressure on themselves to create the perfect Christmas celebrations for their family. Decide what’s most important to you and let the rest slide.

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Four factors contribute to cold stress: air temperatures, air movement, dampness of the air and contact with cold water or surfaces. A cold environment forces the body to work harder to maintain its core temperature. Those who live in colder climates understand the significance of wind chill, when the air temperature feels much colder due to wind speed. Wind chill is the combination of air temperature and wind speed. For example, when the air temperature is 40 F, and the wind speed is 35 mph, exposed skin receives conditions equivalent to the air temperature being 11 F.

In a cold environment, most of the body's energy is used to keep the internal temperature warm. Over time, the body will begin to shift blood flow from extremities such as the hands, feet, arms, legs and outer skin to the core of the body, the chest and abdomen. This allows exposed skin and the extremities to cool rapidly and increases the risk of frostbite and hypothermia.

  • Wear at least three layers: an inner layer of wool, silk or synthetic to wick moisture away from the body; a middle layer of wool or synthetic to provide insulation; and an outer wind and rain protection layer that allows some ventilation to prevent overheating.
  • Wear a hat or hood. Up to 40 percent of body heat can be lost when the head is left exposed.
  • Wear insulated footwear.
  • Keep a change of dry clothing available.
  • With the exception of the wicking layer, do not wear tight clothing. Loose clothing allows better ventilation of heat away from the body.
  • Do not underestimate the wetting effects of perspiration. Oftentimes, wicking and venting of the body's sweat and heat are more important than protecting from rain or snow.
  • Winter days often are shorter and darker. Wear high visibility caps, coats and vests.

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Here are some basic tips to help you be safer on the road this season:

  1. Make sure your vehicle is in good repair and ready for the trip, especially if winter weather conditions could arise.

  2. Keep some form of emergency kit in your vehicle. Verify that the spare, jack and lug wrench are all in the vehicle and in proper working order.

  3. Get plenty of sleep before you start a trip.

  4. Remember that there will always be more things to do than time to do them.

  5. Schedule a break at least every two hours or 120 miles.

  6. Drink plenty of fluids; this helps keep the breaks on schedule.

  7. Once you’re on the road, be alert to the warning signs of fatigue and drowsiness.

  8. Especially be aware between 2 a.m. and 6 a.m. If you start to feel drowsy, get some fresh air. Keep a window open. Sing to the radio. Call someone on the phone. Stop and take a walk or get some form of exercise.

  9. If drowsiness insists, stop and get some sleep.

  10. Know your route and pick your stops.  Napping alongside the road can be illegal, not to mention dangerous.

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