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Club HR Update: Are Employee Safety Violations Grounds for Termination?

Oct 9, 2013 4:20:00 PM

Hello everyone, I am back from Italy and ready to keep you well informed about government compliance. As in any country Italy has a number of laws that are more than the United States. As of August 2013, the unemployment rate in Italy rose to 12.20% compared to the United States 7.3%. So what makes the United States so more promising to work?

Workplace safety is so important that under some circumstances safety violations may provide legitimate grounds for termination.  For example, your policy and the Drug-Free Workplace Act ban drug and alcohol use in the workplace and prohibit working under the influence of either substance. Although alcoholism is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the law permits you to hold alcoholic employees to the same performance and safety standards as other employees and fire them if they pose a risk to themselves or other employees because of working under the influence. Current illegal drug use is not considered a disability under federal law. You can, therefore, test for illegal drugs and fire a worker who does not pass the test. State laws, however, may be more protective of substance abusers, so you need to understand those provisions as well.  

Reckless behavior that endangers the employee or co-workers may also provide legitimate grounds for termination. Although you might not terminate for a single incident, unless it was very serious, you probably would be justified in terminating for a history of such behavior.

I worked with a company that took them three write ups before termination following a progressive disciplinary policy. The termination resulted from the employee putting himself at harm’s way by failing to wear his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The required PPE was to wear gloves to remove soiled uniforms from fleet trucks. Without the gloves he exposed himself to needle puncture, blood borne pathogens, and hazard material. The employee was terminated for “safety violation”. At no surprise, he filed for state unemployment. In order to appeal the unemployment claim, the company had to produce documentation of all written warnings and an explanation of how he violated safety policy. The company explained if OSHA had cited the company a mandatory penalty of up to $7,000 for each violation is proposed.

Remember to document all incidents involving workplace substance abuse or reckless behavior. To have a strong defense, make sure the documentation states time of event, witnesses, company safety policy and OSHA regulations.

While you may be justified in terminating employees in the examples just described, you cannot fire employees for:

  • Complaining to management about safety issues or filing a complaint with OSHA or a state safety and health agency;
  • Cooperating with OSHA inspectors during an investigation; or
  • Refusing to perform a dangerous job that puts the employee’s safety at risk.

Clare Vazquez is a consultant with ClubPay, providing industry leading Human Resources, Payroll, Time & Attendance, and Benefits Administration. She works hands-on with her clients providing customized training programs, harassment investigations/complaints, HR Audits, and advising in government compliance. For more information contact Clare at 561-281-4022 or email cvazquz@certipay.com

Are you looking for ways to stay abreast of the evolving regulatory environment and ensure compliance with the latest rules; if so, ClubPay has enhanced Human Resource offerings to help.

To learn how we can help reduce liability exposures for your Club, request a complimentary analysis with a ClubPay Payroll/HR Specialist –

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Meet our ClubPay Team at CMAA

Feb 23, 2011 11:12:00 AM

People buy from people they trust. And that trust has to be earned.

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It's the 4th Quarter - What's in Your Club's Payroll Play Book?

Sep 8, 2010 8:16:00 AM

An estimated 60% of clubs who make the decision to change payroll providers do so effective January 1st. If your club is looking for reduced costs, improved efficiencies or better integration, now is a great time to evaluate your payroll process for January 1, 2011 improvements.

Because so many clubs are facing the challenge of shrinking budgets and decreased administrative staff levels, any opportunity to potentially reduce expense and save time deserves a closer look. Payroll processing is a great candidate to evaluate given the time consuming and tedious nature of handling a club's payroll.  

Should your club evaluate its payroll/HR systems?

Take a moment and consider when the last review of your current provider occurred. With some payroll companies, particularly some of the larger providers, fees seem to creep up each year. Payroll companies often offer discounts and low rates to acquire new clients with the strategy of increasing margin through add-on charges and price increases.

If your club has not evaluated their payroll provider in more than a year, then it is definitely time to take a fresh look and ensure your club is receiving the maximum value for return on investment. The following questions can help with making the decision to evaluate your club's current payroll provider and take a look at other options available.

  • Has the pressure to decrease expenses been increased in the past year?
  • Have administrative positions been reduced or eliminated?
  • Has our club experienced any major payroll or tax issues during the past year? If so, how were they handled?
  • When help is needed, are we assigned a "case number" or do we get responsive, professional help from someone who understands our business and how we work?
  • Has our club experienced price increases over the past year or years? Are the increases reasonable and congruent with functionality and service enhancements?
  • Are we being charged additional fees for basic functionality such as reports, direct deposit, and tax filings?

When to start the process for a January 1 conversion...

If your club is considering a January 1 conversion, the time to begin the process is now. In order to take a systematic approach, adequate time must be allowed to do your homework and research your payroll options before making a decision.

To allow adequate time to do a reasonable evaluation and cost/benefit analysis of making a change, you should target evaluating systems during the September/October time frame and make a decision no later than early November to be prepared for a January 1 conversion.

Budget a couple of weeks for information gathering and analysis. Following your research stage, set appointments with vendors to see the work flow and understand the specific strengths of each system.

Finally, request a detailed proposal to evaluate the soft and hard costs of a change. Don't fall into the trap of evaluating on price only but look at improved efficiencies, time savings, risk management, improved morale/retention and other factors that are related to the payroll and human resource function of your club.

What criteria drives the clubs' payroll decision?

As with any major decision, the first step is take an honest appraisal of your current system to identify its strengths and weaknesses. Once this step is completed, you can move forward with comparing your current solution to other available options.

Some considerations in evaluating companies for a fit with your club include:

  • How easy is our system to use? Is our payroll partner really lifting an administrative burden off the club management team and administrative staff or are they just cutting paychecks?
  • Does our solution include integrated features that help us manage our club more effectively such as HR management, labor management, and hiring and recruitment tools?
  • Does our payroll partner understand our business? Do they accommodate multiple rates, multiple departments, weighted overtime and integration to our club management system?
  • Are there other "clubs" using this provider? What has their experience been?

Kick the tires at ClubPay's 4th Quarter Webinar Demonstrations...

If you just want to kick the tires and see what your options are, ClubPay is offering a complimentary, no pressure, no hassle set of webinars in September. This will give you insight into our two most popular club management solutions - ClubPay and ClubTime. ClubTime is an integrated labor management and time keeping solution and ClubPay is our full-service outsource payroll solution.

Hope you found this post helpful; you can register for the webinars on our website at Attend a Webinar.

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HR Perfect Storm for Private Clubs - Part 1

Mar 19, 2010 12:18:00 PM

I recently made a presentation at the HFTP Development Conference in New Orleans related to helping Controllers at Private Country Clubs deal with expanding human resource management responsibilities. In preparing for the presentation, I discovered there are a variety of conditions that are contributing to a potential "perfect storm" related to the payroll and human resource functions at private clubs. Within this blog post, I'll lay out what those conditions are and how they may affect your club. In part 2, we'll talk about what you can do to protect your club and yourself.

I call the current situation a "perfect storm" not to be an alarmist, but to bring attention to circumstances which are occurring in clubs today that may have a serious adverse affect tomorrow. The major factors influencing potential future issues include:

  • The Great Recession
  • Rising Unemployment
  • Growing Regulation
  • Increasing Litigation
  • Downsizing at Clubs

Let's dig a little deeper into each of these contributing factors and why it should matter to you, your General Manager and your Board of Directors.

Without doubt, we are in the midst of one of the more difficult economic times of our lifetimes. This means many people, including your club's employees are under financial duress and extraordinary stress. Even though your employees are working, they may have spouses or extended family members that are unemployed. They may also be dealing with a home foreclosure, short sale, evaporation of savings accounts and home equity or any of a host of stressful situations. These types of stressors sometimes spill over and can affect one's work life even when not directly related to one's job. Productivity, attitude and employee relations can all suffer and this can create problems, sometimes big, costly problems.

Unemployment rates are at historical highs and the "real" rate of unemployment is much higher than the reported rate. This "real" rate includes underemployed and those who have "given up". Additionally, unemployment compensation has become easier to get and has been extended well beyond the traditional allowable time line. This has a multi-faceted affect on clubs. You may find that a segment of your employees see unemployment as a viable alternative to working with reduced hours or working at all. This type of culture can be a morale and productivity killer. Additionally, who funds unemployment? The employer of course... brace yourself for a freight train of increasing premiums, it is coming. This will be a huge factor in future budget years.

We are living in a time when businesses in America are literally under attack. There are currently over 70 Acts affecting benefits, labor and employment and this is only on the federal level. Every state tacks on hundreds more laws and statutes related to how you hire, manage, pay and provide benefits to your employees and you are required to keep up with and comply with each one. If you don't, your club can be held liable and in many cases, you may be held personally liable as well.

Don't think this is a problem that is going away. In an average year, there are over 200 changes to employment related federal law again and all signs point towards increased regulation by the current administration. The very first bill signed by President Obama was the Lilly Ledbetter Act - extending the statute of limitations to file an equal pay lawsuit. Other examples of how this administration is making it more difficult on business (and private clubs are small businesses) is to greatly expand the qualification for the American Disabilities Act (ADA) and to extend and complicate COBRA Benefits.

Our next trend is simply a result of the first three factors. A poor economy combined with rising unemployment and growing regulation leads to an increase in litigation. Have you noticed the increased frequency and boldness of Trial Attorney advertising related to employment?  If you can't find a job and can't pay your bills, just sue someone! It is easier than ever to do so and it is happening with increasing frequency. Business Week ran an article that stated Fair Labor Standards Act lawsuits have "exploded nationwide" and the problem has only gotten worse recently.

Finally, the icing on the cake is that in this environment, an industry trend is rising to eliminate so called "non-essential" positions (often including HR Director) and migrating these responsibilities on to another staff member (usually the Controller). In effect, at the most critical time to stay on top of HR issue, we are dumping the responsibility on a staff member that is most likely under trained and too overworked to handle these additional duties. This may indeed prove to be a "penny wise, pound foolish" strategy, only time will tell. What may happen is clubs may indeed find some short term savings from consolidating duties and reducing labor overhead but long term find themselves with much larger expenses and more ominous challenges.

Having solid payroll, human resource and compliance processes in place should be viewed as an investment, not an expense. Similar to an insurance policy in nature, you might save some money by canceling the policy in the short term but what happens if the club burns down?

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Private Clubs and SmartSourcing - Club Management Strategy

Feb 4, 2010 4:47:00 PM

Outsourcing has been standard throughout the business world for many years and its popularity is now expanding rapidly through the club industry.  The driving force behind this trend is related to the economic pressure many clubs are under to reduce operating expense. 

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Jan 27, 2010 12:37:00 PM

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Social Media, Hiring and your Private Club

Nov 25, 2009 12:30:00 PM

Social media is having a major impact on the way clubs recruit and hire employees. Gone are the days of a static resume and a list of references. Club management now has the ability to dig much deeper into candidates and develop a 360 degree view of the person behind the application.   

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Clubs and Employee Leasing - Evaluate Options Now

Nov 12, 2009 3:56:00 PM

What is Employee Leasing? 

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Breaking up with your Payroll Provider

Nov 10, 2009 8:26:00 AM

Dear Payroll Provider,

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Here comes the 4th Quarter – What’s in your Payroll Play Book

Sep 28, 2009 6:53:00 PM

An estimated 60% of clubs who make the decision to change payroll providers do so effective January 1st. While mid-year conversions are typically very easy to make, if your club has not done so recently, it certainly makes sense to evaluate your options at year-end. 

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