Archive for the ‘laws, lawsuits, small businesses, extra costs, burdens, federal laws, state and local laws, suing, legal boundaries, access for handicap, food additives, California Proposition 65, Prop 65, protecting’ Category

Flex, Remote Workers — Should Your Business Be Using Them

July 17, 2016

When JetBlue Airways Corporation first launched, many if not most of its reservation personnel operated from their own homes.

This highly successful approach reduced start-up costs and worked until more centralized operations were installed as it grew much larger.

For years the typical worker sat at a desk under the watchful eyes of a manager. But much like Jet Blue’s initial workforce, tomorrow’s employee may be miles away working in their home and/or not the standard Monday through Friday 9 am to 5 pm schedule.

While the jury is still out as to the overall effectiveness from such an approach, there are compelling reasons companies are considering flex and/or remote workers.

  • Bigger, more diverse pool of talent for a larger geographic area to choose from
  • No need to relocate employee
  • Less time commuting leads to fuller work days
  • Happier workers, reduces attrition and enhances quality of work
  • Accommodating a worker’s schedule nurtures loyalty and increase productivity
  • May not have to pay benefits, if not full-time jobs
  • Provides ability to adapt to seasonal, cyclical, and growth needs of the business
  • Workers spend more time working, less time commuting
  • Save money: real estate, parking, capital to run the business, etc.

Employees benefit in some of the following ways:

  • Flexible schedule: not everyone is productive during the same time of day, this allows them to work the hours they prefer and/or what fits their lifestyle
  • Saving money: commuting expenses, out-of-home meals, work wardrobe, child- and/or elder-care
  • Feel more in control of work life
  • Way to keep working while balancing other commitments
  • Less exposure to others’ illnesses and sick days off
  • Fewer days off for personal reasons such as errands, deliveries, appointments
  • Fewer office politics to deal with
  • Limiting in-person contact causes employees to make the most of their time on conference calls and in meetings
  • Inspiration to others seeking work

No matter how one feels about these matters, some clear trends are emerging that should be considered by leaders of all sizes.  They include:

  • Job sharing and telecommuting is on the rise
  • At-home employees continue to rise
  • Most organizations are not monitoring their ROI when it comes to flexible work
  • Moving full-time positions to non-full-time workers (contingent workers)
  • Online communities developing to support these types of workers
  • Millennials are the largest generation in the work force; they prefer to telecommute ad flexible work options
  • Flexible work positively impacts health, providing more time to exercise

Mitigating against these trends are:

  • Not all employees adjust well to remote or flexible work
  • It is harder to mentor and train remote and flexible workers
  • Company culture may weaken because personal relationships and contact between staff members is limited
  • Harder to schedule in-person meetings with a group
  • Communication becomes primarily digital, losing the body language communication can lead to communication being strained and miss-communications via email and text
  • Workers may feel more isolated
  • People who tend to overwork may struggle with work/life balance if working at home
  • Need for worker to have at-home dedicated work space suitable for their personal productivity
  • Technological issues are more detrimental and can isolate remote employees
  • Workers’ comp and other liability issues can be associate with remote work
  • Remote work can also be a way to avoid third-party child- or elder-care costs, causing less productivity
  • Lack of interactive feedback may lead to less creative ideas and brainstorming

 

Company leaders should consider all of these factors when thinking about future employment practices for their organizations.

There may be different answers for different companies. Find the best answer for your company.

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Unintended Consequences Hurting Small Businesses

May 12, 2016

More laws affecting small businesses have been enacted in the past eight years than in all of the nation’s history.

Enacted for the common good, they often force extra costs and burdens on smaller entities.

Most anti-government pundits talk about federal laws, but often state and local laws are the most punishing to enterprises.

In the end, billions of dollars are consumed effecting changes in business locales and practices but not all of it helps or protects the general public.

Moreover, even the most conscientious unwitting small business leader can run afoul of laws that have unintended consequences.

Individuals and law firms have made a cottage industry of suing smaller establishments for offenses or practices once considered within legal boundaries. They range from not having proper access for handicap persons to making or selling common food additives proscribed by state legislation.

Once filed by a small cadre of consumer groups, individuals, or law firms, these cases often never reach the courts because smaller companies don’t have the time or resources to fight the charges.

For instance, in California, food distributors and purveyors are facing lawsuits based on Proposition 65 (Prop 65) aimed at protecting consumers from certain types of contaminates. Food ingredients such as cane sugar in black licorice, turmeric, and ginger can contain high levels of lead, which is often caused by contaminants from the air and groundwater, as well as improper growing practices abroad and certain types of processing.

In New York City there are a group of lawyers and individuals with handicaps who find retail establishments violating access rules and win out of court settlements.

Across the country, similar instances pose a real threat to many companies.  A lawsuit is a daunting situation for many businesses. Companies with five or fewer employees are very vulnerable. But the threat is not limited to these tiny firms.

Experts say the mental toll from lawsuits are amongst the most disrupting events for any business. This particularly is true when a “whistle blower” is repeating the claim against multiple companies.

While Prop 65 aims to protect the best interests of California’s residents, the issue, many say, is how it is enforced. The law includes a citizen lawsuit provision that allows advocacy groups to bring suit against companies believed to be in violation of the law. A citizen or organization need not have been directly injured or harmed in order to draw suit.

For most entrepreneurs the first reaction is to fight such claims. Most lawyers however feel it is best to settle such issues as quickly and as quietly as possible.

“Publicity like this doesn’t usually help any business,” a prominent liability defense attorney said. “It’s best to settle quickly because usually a government agency is involved and the public usually believes the charges and not the resolution.”

Adds the attorney, “besides the bill for attorney fees, both the defendant and whistle blower settlements may be too large for the company to absorb.”

As pundits point out the whistle blowers and attorneys can both collect a portion of the governing body’s fine and also receive victim’s compensation. There are hefty monies to be made in this area.

Fancy Food Daily reports “According to Prop 65 Scam, a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom, citizens or organizations that bring lawsuits against businesses are awarded one-quarter of the civil penalty paid by a business found in violation. Lawsuits are extremely lucrative for law firms, with businesses paying $17.4 million in settlement payments in 2013 alone. Of that total, 73 percent went to attorneys’ fees.”

The best advice for small business leaders is to be very sure all activities and plant(s) are in compliance. When hit with a lawsuit, consult an attorney and listen to the proffered advice.