Jun 20







Hurricane Matthew was a nice reminder that life in the Sunshine State isn’t always predictable. Prior to Matthew, it had been a while since we had to prepare for and recover from a hurricane.  Quite frankly, this native Floridian enjoyed the break.  If I don’t see another wing nut again, it will be too soon.  I digress…the point is Hurricane season just began and this is a great time to revisit your emergency policies!  I know, probably not worthy of the exclamation point.  But, quite a few folks found some “holes” in their existing policies last October.  The day before Hurricane Matthew hit our community, most people were thinking about plywood, water, shutters and canned goods–yes, that includes adult beverages.  But, many HR professionals found themselves scrambling to respond to questions about payroll that had not been raised in over ten (10) years.

Whether you are updating an old policy or creating a new one, you should first consider the nature of your company’s business and its culture.   Determining whether the community needs your products or services to assist in recovery, how quickly you can (or should) recall employees after the “all clear,” which employees are essential (if any) to work during the storm are all critical to a comprehensive policy.  Yet, the most frequently asked questions refer to paying employees.  Can we?  Should we?  Do I have to?  A policy that clearly identifies how and when employees will be paid for time worked and time away from work during the storm event will be invaluable in setting and meeting your employees’ and your company’s expectations.  So, here is a quick summary to get you started:

Non-exempt employees.

Employers are not required to pay non-exempt employees for time not worked during a storm event even where the business is closed due to the storm.

If your company chooses to pay non-exempt employees for hours they would have normally have been scheduled to work during the storm event, the FLSA does not require that you count those hours toward any overtime hours. The policy should address how many business days, calendar days, or shifts the company is willing to pay for non-worked time during an emergency.  Confusion can arise if the policy simply states that it will pay employees “during hurricane closure” or during the “declared emergency.”  Remember our friend Andrew?  Some companies were closed for weeks.  The policy should specifically define what triggers payment and when it ends.  The maximum time frame or number of hours will come in handy during any longer-term emergency situation.

Exempt employees.

As you know, exempt employees must be paid on a salary basis for each work week without regard to the quality or quantity of work. While there are limited permissible deductions that may be made, do not assume you can dock an exempt employee’s pay during a storm event.

The DOL issued an opinion in 2005 advising that if a business is closed due to a storm event for less than a full work week, the employer must still pay the exempt employee the full salary for that work week. The employer may, however, require that the employee substitute vacation leave or other paid leaves during the time the employer’s facility is closed.  But, if the employee has exhausted the paid leave bank and they are out for less than a full work week, you must pay the full salary for that workweek.

Where a storm event closes a business for an entire work week and the exempt employee does not perform any work during that work week, the business is not required to pay the exempt employee. It is a challenge to ensure exempt employees do not perform any work with the proliferation of “smart” devices.  Even during a storm event where power may be lost and some cell phone towers may be down or inoperable, it would behoove you to address whether nonessential exempt employees are permitted to perform work during the storm event and require them to report any time worked.

Employee’s covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements. Well, you can forget just about everything above this paragraph.  If you have employees covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement, you must abide by the agreement.  Many agreements will provide that the terms of the agreement are waived during a declared emergency except, of course, the financial provisions relating to wage rates, overtime, etc.  With that said, read your union contract.  I cannot stress this enough.  In fact, I suggest you do this now to ensure you know what the emergency provisions are and how the overtime, call back or standby pay provisions might come into play during these storm events.  If this is not addressed in the agreement, or not addressed sufficiently, you may want to put this on your list of items to address at your next bargaining session.

Even though we don’t know when Mother Nature will give us another good scare, filling the gaps in your current policy (or collective bargaining agreement) will give you a jump-start on the next event. Once you’ve got that done, pat yourself on the back, kick your feet up, and pop open one of those “canned goods” you stocked up on while preparing your hurricane kit for this season.


Lara Donlon, Esq., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is a shareholder with Torcivia, Donlon, Goddeau & Ansay, P.A.  She leads the firm’s Labor and Employment Law Group and focuses her practice on representing private and governmental clients with respect to human resources matters including litigation and general counseling.  Ms. Donlon will be presenting The LGBTQ Workplace—Ensure Compliance, Expect Tolerance, Strive for Acceptance at the HR Florida Conference—register now at hrflorida.org!



May 24

Join HR Florida: Pledge to be Stigma Free

Join HR Florida: Pledge to be Stigma Free

You notice that an employee is having trouble at work. Maybe that person is taking many unexplained breaks and calling in sick to work frequently. They seem distracted, forgetful, and worried. As an HR professional, you know that something is going on that will start to impact the employees work performance, if it hasn’t already. But what can you do to help the employee?

Every year 1 in 5 Americans experiences a mental illness; these are our co-workers, employees, and friends. May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and HR Florida is partnering with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Florida to bring awareness to the impact of mental health issues in the workplace and how organizations can work towards having a stigma free workplace. Stigma Free Florida is a campaign designed to change attitudes within workplaces regarding mental health and individuals with mental illness. With the help of human resources professionals and business leaders around the state, we can make a difference for those with mental illness and create more inclusive and supportive workplaces.

Changing the stigma around mental illness requires thinking about mental illness no differently than other illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. Science has shown that mental illnesses are treatable. Early intervention is critical to improved recovery time; however, many individuals are afraid to seek treatment for fear of being stigmatized, labeled, and potentially shunned. Since most Americans have health insurance coverage through their employers, ensuring that employees have adequate mental health coverage and are aware of their benefits can encourage more employees with mental illness to seek treatment; access to treatment and recovery supports that have proven effective can speed the individual’s recovery and minimize any harmful symptoms. Having an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is another benefit that can help employees who need assistance dealing with their own mental health, or the mental health issues of a loved one.

By signing the Stigma Free Florida pledge, businesses can show their support to reduce the stigma of mental illness and bring greater awareness of mental health to their organizations. What can employers do:

  • Personal Leadership: Educate organization leaders and managers in understanding mental illness and best practices in the workplace.
  • Communication: Communicate to employees the important of recognizing mental health challenges in the workplace, encourage employees to withhold judgement against individuals struggling with a mental illness, and express the need to move beyond the stigma.
  • Information: Partner with NAMI Florida or one of its affiliates to provide educational information to employees or bring a presentation such as NAMI’s “In Our Own Voice” into the workplace to further understanding and empathy about mental illness.
  • Stigma Free Workplace: Encourage open dialogue among employees about mental illness, starting by distributing and posting educational materials for employees and managers.
  • Health Benefits: Examine employee health and wellness initiatives to ensure availability of effective benefits for mental illness and addiction.
  • Employee Assistance: Strongly consider an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or ensure the existing program is welcoming to all with mental health issues and effective in providing assistance to them.
  • Public Awareness: Participate with NAMI Florida through linked websites and media awareness in educating the public about how to move beyond stigma, where possible.

Mental illness is the single greatest cause of worker disability in America, impacting productivity, absenteeism, presenteeism, and worker safety. HR professionals and business leaders can make a huge impact in their organization and the health of the workers by reducing stigma associated with mental illness and ensuring health benefits and employee assistance programs provide appropriate coverage.

Join HR Florida in supporting Stigma Free Florida!

Stigma Free Florida Toolkit and Pledge

Eve Sweeting is the Diversity Director for HR Florida. With over a decade of HR experience in private, public, and non-profit entities, Eve currently serves as an HR Analyst with a focus in performance management and workforce metrics. She believes that HR’s ability to impact the work environment for the better can benefit both workers and organizations.


Jan 17


By J. Lenora Bresler, J.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR


It’s the beginning of a new year but for many, January seems like the “winter doldrums.” After the excitement and energy of the holiday season, energy level and productivity of workers often decline in January. This is very bad news, especially since a survey of the American labor indicated that only 12-15% of American workers are giving their best to their jobs at any time and that the average American worker only makes 2.7 work-related suggestions a year.

It is clear that employers must do something to jumpstart creativity. A good idea is an “idea generation” campaign whereby staff is encouraged and rewarded for offering innovative solutions. Businesses that enact such campaigns report up to a 70% improvement in quality and also in employee morale, which is understandable in that employees routinely say that having management listen more to their ideas is a good way to keep them happy.

Idea generation campaigns must begin with employers taking a realistic look at their current policies. Many company procedures actually discourage innovative thinking by putting in place so much committee or cross-departmental red tape that employees are discouraged to speak.  The reason for such procedures is often a desire to keep costly mistakes at a minimum, but the fact is that in today’s competitive environment, most productivity gains resulting from incremental change are not going to the profit bottom line of the business but to customer cost savings.  This means that only large productivity gains engendered by dramatic changes will prove of major impact to the business, so employees should be encouraged to make drastic suggestions.

Businesses can consider awarding Giraffe awards, recognizing those who “stick their neck out” with new ideas, even if those ideas did not prove ultimately successful. Also, post problems on a bulletin board and encourage staff to write suggestions for solving the issues on post-it notes and attach them to the board.  Give prizes for worthwhile ideas not only to the person who had the idea but also to his or her supervisor, to encourage the manager to create an environment of idea-generation.  Encourage employees to give suggestions across departments by facilitating a “Not Invented Here” award.   Another thought would be to a have a one-idea-for-improvement contest conducted company-wide for one month and see how much energy is generated.

It takes a concerted effort on the part of employers to stir the creative juices of their employees, but the return on that time investment can be very great!


Dec 06

On the 6th day of Christmas, I was told how to party

Over the next month and a half, all over America, employers will sponsor holiday parties for their employees, the intent being to express appreciation and to boost morale.  Yet, many of those celebrations will turn into boring events that serve neither purpose.   So here are some tips for planning a fun holiday event for your staff:

  • Avoid alcohol. Drink has divested many a co-worker of inhibitions that are best left intact.  An employer must be concerned about the liberty taken or the ribald comment made at a holiday party – harassment charges and discrimination lawsuits have been known to begin with inappropriate comments made at a company’s social function.
  • Ask your employees what kind of function they want. Upper management may make a well-intentional guess as to what their staff wants — and be absolutely wrong.  For example, management may think employees would enjoy a black-tie dinner and dance at a country club, but such an event might be intimidating or just not interesting to some workers.  Employees with families might prefer an informal holiday breakfast or a picnic where they could bring their children.  Other workplaces might enjoy a dinner at the home of one of top management.  You cannot know for sure what your staff would enjoy unless you ask them – so do ask.  You won’t, of course, be able to please everyone, but you will be able to get a notion of the majority’s preference.
  • Plan some kind of mixer games or name cards at tables to facilitate interaction between management and staff and between different departments. If you don’t have some planned interaction, you will probably find that the workplace clicks stay together.
  • If you use your holiday social as a time to recognize superior performance, make the recognition fun and imaginative, not just a stuffy recitation of awards. No one enjoys long Academy-award-like presentations so punch up employee recognition with imaginative touches.  And, it is not the time to give out bonuses or holiday gifts if the value of such awards vary considerably – comparison will only breed envy at an event where you are trying to foster comradery.
  • Involve upper management in the actual work of planning and putting on the event. So often the work of putting together a holiday party is placed on staff, on top of their regular duties.  Is it any wonder some employees view company parties as a burden?  If a holiday event is actually intended to honor staff, don’t make them plan it themselves –that’s like asking someone to plan their own surprise birthday party!  Management needs to do some of the “grunt work,” including decorating, themselves!
  • When choosing a location, date, and time, be considerate of your staff’s schedules. Many employees feel obligated to attend work-sponsored social functions whether they want to or not.   Therefore, try to make it convenient for them.  If the event is scheduled for a work night, be sure they have time to go home and change clothes with leisure.  Consider letting them leave work an hour early.  Don’t schedule your company party for a night when other major holiday events are happening, for example the city Christmas parade or the community Christmas pageant.

With a little forethought, your holiday social can be a joyous time of good spirits that can have wonderful repercussions on morale for the year to come.


J Lenora BreslerJ. Lenora Bresler, JD, SPHR, ASC graduated at age 20 from law school, J. Lenora Bresler is an attorney, SPHR, and leadership and engagement speaker, author, trainer, and coach.  She is the owner of Bresler Training, LLC. dedicated to assisting organizations to create the best leaders, teams, and relationships on earth.  An in-demand keynote speaker and consultant and a favorite with HR Florida audiences for years, J. Lenora specializes in bringing strategies that can immediately be applied. Her most recent book is Instant Insight: 15 Questions to Great Relationships. J. Lenora also teaches all modules of the certification review courses for two separate universities.

J. Lenora is Immediate Past President for Mid Florida SHRM, and currently serves as Editor for the HR Florida Review Magazine.


Oct 20

There’s Always That One…The Difficult One

difficultWhile I’m sure we all occasionally wish our workplace could be full of high-performing, intrinsically-motivated, exceedingly engaged employees who are always happy and satisfied and never complain, argue or make unreasonable demands, truth is our workplaces are made up of real people.  It’s the variety of the unique experiences, skills, temperaments and other characteristics that provides us with a workplace that keeps us interested and engaged.

Any of our employees can have a bad day or days.  These real people have headaches, aging parents, money troubles, unfulfilled dreams…any number of distractions that plague them during the workday and can cause us to have a challenging day.

But, then there’s always that one.  The truly difficult one whose attitude is so twisted it routinely causes you problems.  They keep things stirred up.  This employee needs constant attention and causes lower productivity, employee complaints and, ultimately, increased turnover, if not appropriately addressed.

Robert Bacal, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Dealing with Difficult Employees, says “…difficult people mainly use their conduct to control their situations and other people’s reactions. Because people respond differently to the difficult person, the difficult person can manipulate, control and influence the reactions of those involved in the encounter. Even if bad things happen to difficult people, the payoff is that they have created the situation, and that gives them a sense of control.”

So, we must address the bad behavior.  Ignoring it just perpetuates it.

I’m a fan of the direct approach.  Providing unemotional feedback regarding how their behavior is impacting others and ask for their cooperation in making changes.  Sometimes when I’m having this conversation, the employee acts surprised to hear that they are problematic.  It’s interesting to hear how they believe they are the hardest worker and couldn’t possibly be causing problems.  I don’t try to convince them.  Rather, I offer suggestions for how they can alter their interaction with others to contribute to team cohesiveness.

Sometimes that works.  Sometimes it doesn’t, but even if it doesn’t have prolonged success, it’s a great starting point.  And now, I have a second conversation. I refer to our original discussion, but now state specific expectations as well as the consequences of failure to meet the expectations.  And this time, the difficult employee is not surprised to hear there’s an issue.

If there is a repeat of the behavior, you have to be the strong one.  You must follow through with the consequence.  Remember the difficult employee is that way because the behavior has worked in the past.  If you’re not willing to take the next step, then you’re decided to allow the bad behavior to continue.

joycex125Joyce has over 30 years of progressive human resources experience in the private sector environment.  She holds a Business Administration degree from Emmanuel College, Franklin Springs, GA; was awarded Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) designation by the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds an Advanced Certificate in Internal Investigations.

She has served on the board of the HR Florida State Council since 2007 and currently serves as Immediate Past President.  She has been a member of the Florida State University Center for Human Resource Management Board since 2008 and was a Board Member of the Big Bend Society for Human Resource Management from 2006 through 2009, serving as President in 2008.  She served on the Big Bend Business Leadership Network Board from 2005 until 2007 and currently serves on the Springtime Tallahassee Foundation Board.  She is a past-president of Extra Point Club, a Florida State University Seminole Booster organization.

Joyce has been named a Tallahassee Volunteer of the Year Finalist and Leon County Schools Volunteer of the Year.  She was selected as one of the “Twenty-five Women You Should Know in Tallahassee” and was honored with the designation of the Florida Resources Professional of the Year in 2008.  In 2009, the Florida Trend Magazine featured her as a Trendsetter in Human Resources.

Joyce resides in Tallahassee, FL and is a member of Big Bend SHRM.

Click here to find other posts written by Joyce.

Talk to Joyce at:



Chastain Consulting



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