EEOC to get more involved with small businesses

Thanks to a new internal task force, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will focus on expanding and refining outreach and technical assistance to small businesses. As stated in a mid-December announcement, the Small Business Task Force will “work to find ways in which the agency could better collaborate with the small business community to ensure compliance with federal antidiscrimination laws.”

On its to-do list:

=> Determine how to utilize new technology to broaden outreach
=> Develop technical assistance and training initiatives
=> Identify specialized approaches to aid small businesses owned by women and minorities
=> Pinpoint specialized approaches for micro businesses (those with 50 or fewer employees)
=> Enhance small business information and training on the EEOC’s website

As far as the types of businesses that will be on the EEOC's radar, the agency said the task force will focus on newly established small businesses, as well as those that can't afford lawyers or human resource personnel.

“The Task Force demonstrates our commitment to strengthening the lines of communication with small business owners and educating them about their responsibilities, including the benefits of preventing and resolving discrimination claims,” EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien said.

At the same time, the EEOC considers the task force to be particularly timely, citing that the nation's economic recovery depends on the ability of the small business community to survive and thrive. If there are new opportunities for the EEOC to better serve small businesses, it wants to identify and act on them.

Making smarter dietary choices while at work

Today's post comes from G.Neil's HR Library.

The workplace can be a dietary disaster. You’re stressed; you’re short on time and your stomach is rumbling like a freight train. So what do you do? You scurry to the nearest breakroom or vending machine and grab a honey bun or salty chips to fill the void. In mere moments, you’ve consumed hundreds of calories, while depriving your body of the nutrients it needs most. Do this enough times and your health and waistline are going to suffer.

Time to take control! With a little planning and smarter substitutions, you can satisfy your food cravings without compromising your health. As we ring in the new year and brush off those oh-so-familiar, diet-related resolutions, let’s watch what we eat and adopt these healthier habits in the workplace:

Instead of starting your day with a donut, cookie or muffin at the morning meeting …

Do this: Eat a quick breakfast at home before your morning commute or first-thing when you arrive at the office. A banana, low-fat yogurt, oatmeal, whole-wheat toast with peanut butter or a hard-boiled egg will start your day on a healthier foot (and keep you feeling full longer) than a sugar-laden pastry.

Instead of going out to eat at lunchtime or ordering takeout with the crew, where you may be tempted by cheeseburgers, pizza, French fries and other fast-food fare …

Do this: Pack your own lunch. Invest in a small cooler or insulated lunch sack to keep your food cold, and bring a salad loaded with veggies, a turkey sandwich (with cranberry sauce or pesto, instead of mayo) or hearty soup. Or take advantage of the leftovers from last night’s dinner, like chicken stir fry, multi-grain spaghetti or beans & rice.

Instead of giving in to a chocolate-caramel candy bar, bag of BBQ potato chips or some other packaged, processed item at the vending machine …

Do this: Keep a few healthy snacks at your desk (or in the office refrigerator) to dip into when the afternoon munchies kick in. A handful of nuts, some carrot sticks with hummus, a single serving of microwave popcorn, string cheese or an apple will hold you over until dinner, without sending your calorie count into orbit.

Instead of drinking a cup of coffee loaded with cream and sugar or a caffeinated, carbonated soda every time you need a pick me up …

Do this: Swap out your java or cola for lightly caffeinated white or green tea, caffeine-free herbal tea like peppermint or ginger, or even water infused with lemon or lime (if you don’t like it plain).  You’ll still enjoy a flavorful beverage, but you won’t get the sluggishness, jitters and mood swings that come with caffeine addiction.

Instead of eating a heaping piece of triple-chocolate birthday cake to celebrate your coworker’s special day …

Do this: Split your serving with a friend or, if you’re feeling especially disciplined, head back to your desk and munch on one of the healthier snacks you keep close at hand for situations like this!

Instead of focusing only on how to restrict the calories you consume in a workday …

Do this: Find ways to burn more calories, too, by being more active. Go for a walk during breaks or at lunch, take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk or ride your bike to work (if possible), park further away from the office if you drive, and start a walking club with your coworkers.

Breathing new life into your employee of the month program

Does your company have an employee of the month program that is falling short of your expectations? Or worse yet, it appears to be a complete failure? Don’t give up on it! It may just need a few tweaks to get it back on track in 2012.

First, think about what’s not working and why you’re struggling with running an employee of the month program.  Here are some suggestions on how to address some of the more common shortfalls:

Not enough nominations each month -- Your program may be lacking the awareness, and constant reinforcement, it needs.  Display fun, promotional posters in lunch and break rooms, send out reminder emails to submit your nominations, talk up the program and why it exists at regular department meetings, and give each winner his or her moment in the spotlight through coverage in newsletters, on the intranet and in announcements at company-wide meetings.

Perception that program is a popularity contest or unfair -- Certainly, some employees are “negative Nellies” and will find fault in anything you do to improve employee morale and motivation. But what about the well-meaning employees who dismiss your program because they think it’s based on favoritism? The best way to prevent (or counteract) this perception is to clearly state the award criteria to your staff, and make sure everyone has a chance to nominate an individual -- not just coworkers or a narrow group of middle managers.

Employee morale remains low -- Understanding employee morale isn’t a one-size-fits-all formula. What puts a spring in one employee’s step may leave another employee cold. That’s why your employee of the month program needs to be part of a company culture that treats employees with respect, encourages positive interaction between coworkers, and values regular, constructive feedback between employees and their bosses. Without this foundation, employees probably won’t rally around your program and may consider it a weak attempt to enhance workplace motivation when their other needs are not being met.

Lack of enthusiasm about the actual award -- What are the employee of the month awards you give out? Perhaps that’s what is falling flat, and not the program itself. It may be time to introduce a new award -- whether it’s a more modern plaque or award, a colorful candy jar or a snazzy, engraved pen. And don’t forget to attach the award with a special workplace perk, like a reserved parking space or extra time off. You may want to provide a few options, as well. Some companies offer a choice of, say, three retail gift cards with the recognition award so winning employees can pick what shopping excursion they’ll enjoy most.

Compliance reminder: NLRA posting deadline is January 31, 2012

In less than two months, nearly all private-sector employers will be required to post a notice informing employees of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Reduce risk and ensure compliance with Poster Guard® Compliance Protection! Membership includes the updated federal poster and all mandatory state postings that are required for your business's compliance. You will also receive the convenience of automatic replacement shipments every time a mandatory change occurs affecting your business, for one full year!

FAQs with the new NRLA poster

Q: What if my business is non-unionized? Do I still have to comply?
A: Yes, this new poster is mandatory regardless of your company’s union status. It applies to union and non-union workplaces alike.

Q: It says “nearly” all employers have to post the new notice. What are the exceptions?
A: At this time, the requirement does not apply to agricultural, railroad or airline employers -- or the U.S. Postal Service.

Q: Will this be a separate posting?
A: No, it will be added to the current Federal Poster. Consequently, the poster will be larger – increasing from 24” x 26 ¾” to 24” x 32.75”.

Q: Are there any other posting requirements?
A: Yes, the notice must be posted in other languages if 20 percent or more of your workforce is not proficient in English. In addition to providing a Spanish version on the Spanish Federal Poster, we will create versions in other languages if there’s a demand.

Q: What are the penalties for non-compliance?
A: There is no specific fine connected with this posting. However, noncompliance can be treated as an “unfair labor practice” and can be used as damaging evidence in a lawsuit.

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