October '14

For the Business of Apparel Decorating

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2 0 | Printwear O ctO b e r 20 1 4 The aforementioned National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) contains a provision, Sec- tion 7, that gives all employees the right to "engage in concerted activities," including the right to discuss their terms and conditions of employment with each other. Section 8(a) (1) of the same law makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to deny or limit the Section 7 rights of employees. The courts in civil suits have uniformly supported this law. Moreover, those particular sections of the NLRA apply to all nonsupervisory employees, so there is no exception made for companies where the employees are nonunion. Granted, employers can insist that those discussions be held outside of working hours; however, singling out pay discussions while allowing other types of conversations unrelated to work might be evidence of intent to violate employees' Section 7 rights. As such, employers should be careful in that regard. An employer can also restrict discussions when the benefits of a particular worker contain information that should be held confidential under certain laws, like the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. For example, two employees talking about an uninvolved third party's medical condition could potentially lose the gossipers' protection otherwise afforded under the NLRA. There are certain employees who are exempt from the law or restricted in what information they can make public. Supervisors do not qualify as employees under the NLRA, nor do independent contractors. Also, people who work in HR or accounting, and have access to a company's payroll could be prohibited from sharing other employees' private salary infor- mation. Finally, the law doesn't protect mere griping about pay, which would not rise to the level of "concerted activity" as outlined by the law. So what happens to employers found breaking the law? Typically, businesses found violating NLRA must offer certain "reme- dies," which for some larger companies may not be very serious and relatively easy to ab- sorb. For a small company, the same penal- ty can be devastating if the National Labor Relations Board orders that employer to provide back pay to wrongfully terminated employees and rehire individuals. Discussing pay with your employees Talking about money with your employees can be uncomfortable. Even when you have good news to share—such as a generous bonus or a well-deserved promotion—assigning a dollar figure to the value of someone's work is tough. It's especially difficult if you're not the one calling the shots, but the messenger. Many managers don't set their own compensation budgets. One thing is certain: It's a critical part of a business owner and manager's job to have frank and open discussions with employees about pay. According to a recent PayScale survey, 73 percent of business leaders don't feel "very confi- dent" in their managers' ability to have tough conversations about compensation with their employees. This is in part because many owners fail to provide the managers with the infor- mation they need to do so effectively. Moreover, managers don't practice the skill frequently enough. These could be some of the most im- portant and meaningful conversations you have with employees during the worker's tenure with your company. Here's how to master them: • Talk early and often. When you sit down to talk about salary, there shouldn't be any surprises. The more frequently you have such conversations, the easier it becomes. • Do performance evaluations separately. True, compensation should be linked to performance, but discuss the two topics separately. If you talk about money in the shadow of performance, your em- ployees will fixate on the compensation. Instead, deliver the formal evaluation first—focusing on personal growth and development—then wait several weeks to deliver news about raises or bonuses. • Prepare for the conversation. Rookie su- pervisors often make the mistake of walking into these conversations with- out a plan. Even if you're a seasoned manager, it's helpful to practice what you're going to say ahead of time. Think through how to represent the company while also being genuinely you. • Communicate their value to the business. You're in a partnership with every work- er, and you have to let them know that you deeply value their contributions. Don't just let the bonus or raise figure speak for itself. Make it clear that you appreciate their work. • Be ready for a reaction. Even if you think you're delivering great news, be prepared for some emotion. If an employee gets upset, make sure you listen to him or her and recognize the worker's emotions, but don't cave. If there's a way to address concerns, offer to get back to the worker in a few days. If you feel it's warranted, it's your obligation to go to bat for the employee. But don't leave the door open unless you intend to take action. Good luck! Your Personal Business Trainer | | | | pw

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