Operation "Email cleanup" - Purging the profanity before you hit 'Send'

Got a potty mouth? If you work for Goldman Sachs Group Inc., you’ll need to clean it up and edit out the expletives in your email exchanges.

After an embarrassing slip of the tongue received national attention in recent Congressional hearings, Goldman Sachs is now prohibiting employees from swearing in emails.

For the New York company, this means 34,000 traders, investment bankers and other employees must now avoid a vast vocabulary of dirty words often uttered on Wall Street. Goldman Sachs’ disinfected communications policy will be carried out by screening software, which detects and flags common swear words and acronyms.

Goldman Sachs’ no-swearing policy extends to instant messages and texts from company-issued cellphones and emails. Inappropriate emails could make their way to the compliance department, while others might be blocked completely, depending on the severity of the language.

A Goldman spokeswoman said: "Of course we have policies about the use of appropriate language and we are always looking for ways to ensure that they are enforced."

Goldman Sachs is not the only employer taking a stand against off-color communications. This past June, Citigroup told employees in a memo that "recent headlines involving inappropriate emails are an important reminder to 'think before writing, read before sending'. Citigroup doesn’t enforce any formal discipline, but chronic swearers may be approached by their managers and asked to clean up their language.

Another company concerned about profanity-peppered communications is New York-based media company Bloomberg LP. It claims to have monitored emails for more than 10 years with an application that scans messages for 70 profane words and phrase - in English and several other languages.

What about your company? Do you have a formal policy prohibiting swearing in email communications? Do you worry about looking less professional if employees send emails that contain profanity?

When the bride-to-be is busy planning her wedding on work time

I ran across an article on that I found particularly interesting. First, because summer is a busy season for weddings and second, because I’ve known a few women who became a tad obsessed planning their walk down the aisle.

According to a survey of 1,000 women by, and, brides-to-be spend about 10 hours a week planning their wedding – and nearly 30 percent of it is done at work.

But apparently it’s all in the name of multi-tasking. While nine out of 10 women who participated in the survey admitted to making wedding plans on company time, only a third felt their work was negatively affected.

Carley Roney, editor-in-chief of, says that lunch time and Mondays are particularly busy times on her wedding planning website.

Cause for concern … or let it go?

OK, so what’s an employer or manager to do when Megan is more concerned about the bridesmaids’ dresses, guest list and floral arrangements than the latest workplace project or report?

If you feel the same way as Carley Roney, the answer may be to “not sweat it” because the productivity will come back that much stronger after the nuptials.

"Post wedding, people become much more serious and focused. They are saving for
homes, so they're not in the mind of changing jobs as much because they're very
focused on what their goals are ahead," says Roney.

So what do you think? Have you ever had to intervene because an employee was more concerned about her wedding than her work? Are weddings an inevitable productivity drainer – or can the bride-to-be strike a healthy balance and stay on task?

A quick refresher of the Form W-4 tax-filing rules

In a recent review of the current Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate) at the 28th Annual APA Congress in Washington, D.C., a handful of rules were revisited and reinforced. As a reminder:

• High school and college students are not automatically exempt from tax withholding, even if all the prior year’s taxes were refunded. In addition, students must meet all the same exemption tests as other employees.

• Employees claiming a withholding exemption must file a new Form W-4 every year.

• You may develop and use substitute Forms W-4, but you must also provide the table, worksheets and instructions contained in the form. You may not use a substitute developed by an employee, however.

• An electronic Form W-4 may be filed as long as it meets certain requirements.

• E-mails to change a Form W-4 are discouraged, as they are not a legitimate electronic system.

• Nonresident aliens filing Form W-4 have certain restrictions on their status, number of allowances and inability to claim the standard deduction.

Stock up on the required Form W-4 to meet the IRS filing requirements for new hires and tax status changes for current employees.

Are you dishing the right details about dependent eligibility?

With all the confusion surrounding the dependent coverage rules under the health care reform bill, we’d like to take a moment to provide some clarity.

First things first: The definition of an eligible dependent is a biological or legally adopted child up to age 26, even if married.

Just as important, you must comply with the new eligibility rules if your plan year begins on or just after September 23.

Some of the eligibility rules to keep in mind:

=> Dependents don’t need to be enrolled in school or be financially dependent on their parents
=> The spouses or children of adult dependents aren’t eligible for coverage
=> You must invite all dependents back during your company’s enrollment period – including those previously dropped or whose parents opted out of your plan

As you might imagine, a change like this requires some targeted communication on your part. This means reviewing and updating all your company’s printed and electronic information (such as enrollment materials and benefits-related websites) to include the new dependent definition and eligibility guidelines.

When "fun in the sun" dampens work productivity

While the beach, backyard or neighborhood barbeque may beckon during the sunny days of summer, the fact remains that you’re running a business and the work must get done. Don’t wait until you have an attendance problem on your hands before taking a stand.

Your employee attendance policy should be in writing, included in your employee handbook and communicated to all employees so it can be enforced. Clarify when chronic lateness and absenteeism are cause for discipline, and outline how many absences or instances of lateness are acceptable.

Your company's attendance guidelines also must comply with the FLSA, which governs minimum wage requirements, overtime, timekeeping practices, child labor laws and other pay-related issues.

Finally, be certain to enforce the policy consistently. You may be courting a discrimination lawsuit if you only discipline some employees for poor attendance, while ignoring the time-management habits of others.

Curbing harassment when clothing choices - and employee behavior - relax

Preventing sexual harassment is a priority in any workplace, at any time, but it takes a new spin during the “easy, breezy” days of summer. When the temperatures are rising, there's more to keeping your cool than running the air conditioner and sipping on iced drinks.

This is a good time to review your company’s dress code policy and specify what’s acceptable. Don’t assume that employees will use their better judgment when it comes to certain clothes (and how much skin they expose). Unless you clearly specify whether or not an item can be worn in the workplace, it’s likely to make an appearance. Are shorts, capris, tank tops, strappy summer dresses, sandals, flip-flops, hats and other warm-weather staples acceptable? And what if an employee shows up to work wearing something inappropriate? Will you send them home immediately, or issue a warning?

Keep in mind, too, that teens may be particularly vulnerable to harassment. Because they are younger and less experienced, they may be reluctant to stand up to harassing behavior. Or they may feel they don’t have the authorization to complain about a colleague, especially one in a more senior position. Further still, uninformed teens may be guilty of harassing another coworker, perhaps without even realizing the boundaries.

Working teens need to know what constitutes harassment, as well as what resources are available to them if they are victimized. Harassment training shouldn’t take a summer vacation: It is essential for reducing incidents of improper behavior among your year-round and seasonal employees.

Here comes the sun - and the heat stroke (if you're not careful)

With a summer heat wave gripping most of the country right now, keeping cool seems to be everyone’s #1 priority. Obviously, employees who work outdoors or in confined spaces with limited cooling or air conditioning are at the greatest risk for heat-related illnesses.

OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthy work environment for all employees. When the sun is blaring and the temperatures are nearing the triple digits, protect your workers from heat stroke and other extreme temperature hazards by following these precautions:

• Provide shelter from the sun and allow employees to take regular cool-down breaks

• Make sure water is readily available and allow employees to drink throughout the day

• Know the symptoms of heat-related illnesses, including:

=> High body temperature
=> Lack of sweating, although skin may be hot red or flushed and dry skin
=> Rapid pulse
=> Difficulty breathing
=> Irrational or strange behavior, including hallucinations, disorientation. agitation or confusion
=> Seizure

• Keep first aid supplies on-hand at all job sites. For heat related illnesses, this would include ample water or sports drinks, a shower or hose for emergency cool-downs, a shaded or air-conditioned area for recovery, and a working telephone to summon 911.

• Educate employees on the dangers of soaring temperatures with G.Neil’s Extreme Heat Exposure Kit, which includes a poster, tip sheet and 20 takeaway notifications

Misclassifying employees can be a seriously costly mistake

Incorrectly classifying employees as actual employees or independent contractors is a legal risk that can cost your business millions. The federal government is cracking down on the issue, and many states are pushing to make worker misclassification a crime.

Two businesses learned this lesson the hard way. SOH Distribution Co., Inc. and G & A Snack Distributing, Inc. – subsidiaries of Snyder’s of Hanover, Inc. – misclassified nearly 1,500 delivery drivers as independent contractors rather than full-time employees. The employees took action, resulting in a $10 million court settlement to be distributed among the drivers.

Get expert guidance on properly classifying employees with ComplyWare™ FLSA software, which includes a convenient Classification Wizard and the latest FLSA regulations.

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