ESG recently held employer seminars in Colorado and Utah with the topic of, “Unemployment Claims: Are Your Former Employees Taking You for a Ride?” We have outlined some of the key points below that were discussed in the seminar.

Discharge individuals only if you have “just cause”
  • Remember that being “a nice guy” by calling a discharge a layoff will cost you more in the long run and will send a mixed signal to your employees.
Always DOCUMENT any constructive feedback or warnings given to employees (even if it was given verbally) and keep it in their personnel records.

Submit all appropriate forms and documentation on time.

Prepare “sufficiently” for the hearing: gather all your evidence, documentation, and witnesses’ testimonies. Plan what you are going to present, how you are going to present it, and what questions you are going to ask.

Most of all, implement good management practices that will keep your organization thriving. Doing so will save you money – not only in the unemployment claim realm, but with your workforce in general. Such practices include:
  • Screen job applicants – ensure they are a good fit with a good background.
  • Have clear job rules – there should never be a reason why employees did not have knowledge of what your expectations were.
  • Uniformly enforce the rules you have adopted – if you make exceptions for one employee, it may appear discriminatory to the next employee if you don’t do the same.
  • Monitor new employees carefully – if they are non-performers, don’t have them drain your coaching efforts.
  • Document verbal warnings and keep records of everything in employee personnel files.
  • Be consistent in taking disciplinary actions – again, you don’t want to open yourself up to a claim of discrimination.
  • Conduct exit interviews – find out why employees are leaving your company.
  • Offer jobs to laid off employees – if you sincerely had to lay off an employee for downsizing, put them on the top priority list for rehiring once you’ve regained momentum.
For more information, please contact one of our ESG Human Resources Consultants at (888)810-8187. To learn about upcoming seminars in your area, please refer to our website at

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“You’re Fired!” It sounds so exciting on TV – and, actually, it’s a very necessary part of employment. Firing an employee improperly, however, can create long-lasting harm when it leads to contesting wrongful termination and/or unemployment claims. Before jumping the gun, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does the employee know that what he/she is doing is unacceptable?
2. Have you given the employee written warnings?
3. Is the behavior serious or frequent enough to warrant termination?
4. Does the damage to your Company outweigh the value of a trained employee?
5. Did the employee have the power and capacity to control or prevent his/her actions or inactions?
6. Has the employee performed satisfactorily in the past?

If, after thoughtful consideration, you believe it’s necessary to proceed with a termination, here are some rules to follow during your termination meeting (Source: SHRM Workforce Planning).

Termination Do’s:
sit down one on one with the individual in a private office. (Consider having a witness in most situations.)
Do complete the termination as quickly as possible.
Do provide a written explanation of severance benefits (where applicable).
Do be sure that the employee hears about the termination from a manager, not a colleague.
Do express appreciation for the employee contributions, if appropriate.
Do control your emotions.
Do inform other employees, customers and suppliers of the decision by giving a simple, non-blaming statement.

Termination Don’ts:
leave room for confusion; tell individuals in the first sentence they are terminated. Verify they understand.
Don't allow time for debate.
Don't make personal comments; keep the conversation professional.
Don't rush an employee off site unless security is really an issue.
Don't fire people on significant dates (like the 25th anniversary of their employment).
Don't fire employees when they are on vacation or have just returned.
Don't make discriminatory statements.
Don't discuss reasons for termination of employees with remaining employees.

Since other variables often arise from terminations, ESG strongly suggests that you consult with your Human Resources Consultant prior to terminating an employee. For more information, please contact us at (888)810-8187.

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Source: --- SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference—Washington, DC – March, 2011

Every employer has a legal duty to exercise due diligence in hiring, says attorney Lester Rosen (speaker at National SHRM Employment Law Conference).  An employer can be sued for negligent hiring if it hires someone who it knew, or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known, was dangerous, unsafe, dishonest, or unfit for the particular job.  But, according to Rosen, there are a number of myths surrounding background checks.

Background Checks Myth 1: There is a national database available to private employers for checking criminal records or false credentials, such as education or employment.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such national database, despite some advertisers’ claims to the contrary.  Unfortunately, the primary method for obtaining criminal records is to physically look at each relevant courthouse.  Overall, beware of using commercial databases as a primary tool for records checks. There are substantial issues with accuracy, completeness, and timeliness.  If you do get “hits” with such a system, the hit should be re-verified at the courthouse for accuracy and current status.

Background Checks Myth 2: Due diligence means perfection.
Unless set by a statute for your industry, due diligence is a moving target.  Employers just need to show that they did the best that could be expected of them, not that they conducted a perfect investigation.  Naturally, high risk employers, such as firms that send workers into homes, will have a higher duty of care to show they did not make a negligent hiring decision.

On the other hand, employers will not be protected from lawsuits by simply claiming that conducting a background check would be too costly.  Nor will employers be justified for not conducting a background check because their competitors do not conduct them.  No matter the excuse, a complete absence of showing due diligence is a risky practice for employers.

Background Checks Myth 3: You can automatically disqualify an applicant based on a criminal conviction without a business justification.
You may not automatically deny employment based on a crimination conviction.  The EEOC requires you to take into account the nature and gravity of the offense, the nature of the job, and the time elapsed.  However, if the person lied on the application, then the falsehood can be grounds to deny employment.

Failing to perform a pre-employment screening could be detrimental to an employer.  Please contact one of our ESG Human Resources Consultants at (888)810-8187 for more information about background checks and/or to get setup today with pre-employment background screenings. 

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Negotiating what can seem like a mine field of issues surrounding Title VII, or the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is easier than it seems. There are a few simple issues to not only keep in mind, but to establish as the norm in your workplace.

As an employer, the main key to establish in your workplace is an environment free of discrimination and harassment. This can be accomplished by not tolerating seemingly smaller issues as they arise, or exercising reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct before larger issues occur.

Having and enforcing an anti-harassment policy with a complaint procedure is the foundation. Encourage employees to report issues before they become severe or pervasive.

To help you identify what may or may not be deemed harassment, consider the two types of harassment as defined by Title VII:

  • Frequent or severe creating a hostile work environment such as racist or sexist comments, posters, photos, etc. As these issues arise, supervisors should remind employees that such behaviors are to be left out of the workplace and will never be allowed or tolerated. Corrective action may be necessary for even simple violations of a harassment-free workplace.
  • The second type of harassment is quid pro quo – meaning, “If you will or will not do this, then I will perform some action as a consequence.” In laymen’s terms, it’s a threat that may include tangible employment actions such as hiring, promotion, demotion, termination of employment, etc. This type of harassment should be stopped immediately. Supervisors typically see these issues before others become aware and should act immediately when harassment issues are brought to light.
Instances of harassment should have a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation. Confidentiality is paramount and should be practiced consistently. Ensure that further harassment does not occur and that no form of retaliation is enacted towards a victim of harassment. And, as always, be sure that violators receive immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Proactively preventing harassment will save you significant time and money that may otherwise be spent repairing damage due to a violator. For more information, and/or to obtain anti-harassment policies for your workplace, please contact one of our ESG Human Resources Consultants at (888)810-8187.

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With tax season upon us, here’s a reminder about the small business health care tax credit available to small employers. Remember that the tax credit on health-insurance premiums was created to encourage small employers to provide (or maintain) health insurance coverage for their employees.  The credit is aimed particularly at small businesses and tax-exempt organizations that primarily employ low and moderate income workers.

The eligibility rules below, copied from, can help you determine if your organization is eligible for the tax credit, as well as how much credit is available.  To view a quick video summary of the tax credit (provided by the IRS), click here

Eligibility Rules
  • Providing health care coverage. A qualifying employer must cover at least 50 percent of the cost of health care coverage for some of its workers based on the single rate.
  • Firm size. A qualifying employer must have less than the equivalent of 25 full-time workers (for example, an employer with fewer than 50 half-time workers may be eligible).
  • Average annual wage. A qualifying employer must pay average annual wages below $50,000.
  • Both taxable (for profit) and tax-exempt firms qualify.
Click here to view the IRS "3 Simple Steps" worksheet to see if your business qualifies.

Amount of Credit
  • Maximum Amount. The credit is worth up to 35 percent of a small business' premium costs in 2010 (25% for tax-exempt employers). On Jan. 1, 2014, this rate increases to 50 percent (35 percent for tax-exempt employers).
  • Phase-out. The credit phases out gradually for firms with average wages between $25,000 and $50,000 and for firms with the equivalent of between 10 and 25 full-time workers.
To learn how to claim the credit, go here

To receive answers to your questions regarding employer eligibility, how the tax credit is calculated, how to determine FTEs and annual wages, and other FAQ’s, click here.

Be sure to mention this Small Business Health Care Tax Credit to your CPA when filing your business income tax return.  For any additional questions, please contact your ESG Human Resources Consultant at 888-810-8187.

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Adapted from Social Media in Organizations – original article titled “Social Screening: Candidates – and Employers – Beware”
 (To see the original article, go to

Ever considered checking out a potential job candidate’s background via social media tools, such as Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace?  It certainly seems like a harmless, quick, and easy way to discover exactly what type of candidate is applying for your job opening.  But don’t be fooled by the powerful hiring tools social sourcing provides --- digital searches are far from being risk-free.  There are discoverable trails, mistaken identities, fake or prank accounts, or altogether inaccurate information.  In addition, there are ethical and cultural considerations that should not be overlooked.  Although social screening is a new frontier, the old rules (e.g., anti-discrimination laws) still apply. 

According to Social Media in Organizations, HR professionals, hiring managers, and recruiters should ask themselves the following questions prior to engaging in social background checks:
  1. Do we have a legitimate business reason for conducting these searches?
  2. What would we learn from a social background check that we wouldn’t learn from the applicant review and interview process?
  3. Would we go to a candidate's house and hang outside to check their comings and goings, as well as their friends, family & other visitors? Would we go through their garbage?
  4. Would we be comfortable with other people conducting similar searches on us, whether they be future employers or employees? Are our digital presences above reproach?
  5. If we were judged by the same criteria we’re now considering using to judge others, would we be in our current positions?
  6. What kind of message do we want to send to current and prospective employees with respect to our regard for their privacy and our perspective on trust?
  7. Are we aware of the legal risks associated with social searches?
  8. Do we know what the boundaries are, by relevant state (and locality), and do we have a system for staying within those lines?
  9. Are we prepared to address the potential negative consequences if someone concludes we've violated their rights in some way?
Perhaps the concern of making a negligent hiring decision has driven the desire to conduct social background checks as a part of employers’ due diligence on hiring decisions.  However, be cautious with the relatively easy access to online data.  Employers are responsible for everything they see regarding a candidate, and we encourage employers to engage in appropriate processes that are legally sound at federal, state, and local levels.  For more information, please contact one of our ESG Human Resources Consultants at 888-810-8187.

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