7 Tips to Avoid the HR Danger Zone

We're broadcasting from fringe benefit plans in Winter Park Florida and we have a live audience with us this morning in addition to those of you who have joined us via webinar and we want to extend a welcome to you this morning.

Employee benefits in Florida Seminar
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Presented by:

  • Sandy Seay – President
  • Seay Management Consultant, Inc

We are alive now and broadcasting from Fringe Benefit Plans in Winter Park Florida. We have a live audience with us this morning in addition to those of you who have joined us via webinar and we want to extend a welcome to you this morning. It is 8:30 and we were getting started right away we’ll give you just a minute to get your coffee and then be able to join us for seven tips to avoid the HR danger zone. You may hear a little bit of background noise voices since we are doing this live so just want to make you aware of that throughout the presentation if you have any questions please type them in the chat room and we’ve asked our on-site folks to write down any questions and at the end, we’ll have ample time to answer the questions and deal with that during our Q&A time.

HR Management Support

Seay Management Consultants provides Human Resources Management support to associates and clients of Fringe Benefit Plans, if you have a question or an employee problem.

  • Email: admin@seay.us
  • Phone: 407-426-9484
  • Website: www.seay.us


Today we will cover several key areas that will ensure that you are up to date with the myriad of employment regulations enforced by state and federal agencies, and that you have the “best practices” in terms of policies, procedures, and documents to hire and retain good employees and motivate them to superior performance.

Employee Handbook

  • Includes all of your company policies and procedures.
  • Should be written so that management and employees understand it.
  • Complies with all federal, state and local regulations.
  • Follows HR best practices.

Management Prerogative

Management reserves the right to make and interpret policy whenever, in the opinion of management, this is necessary. This is a critically important and key policy dealing with ultimate authority, that should be placed in the front of your employee handbook.

Examine Current Handbook Policies

  • Dress Code – currently we have to address things like extreme hair color, potentially offensive tattoos, scents and aromas that bother other employees, and body piercings in places that could be distracting.
  • Cell Phone Use – talking or texting at work, even if set on vibrate, and safety issues involved while driving on employer business.
  • Social Relationships at Work – a supervisor dating an employee is “Trouble Waiting to Happen.”
  • Email/Internet Use at Work – all employees should undergo training on how to compose emails and what Internet sites should be avoided.
  • EEO policy – should include all protected categories under federal, state and local employment regulations.

Bullying In The Workplace

One of the rapidly emerging challenges for employers in recent years is the issue of bullying at work. Sometimes, bullying is known by other names, such as harassment. Other times, bullying may not be technically unlawful, but still be hateful and distasteful behavior that is an enormous danger to our employees. The negative effects of bullying can include:

  1. depressed and fearful employees
  2. loss of productivity
  3. a workplace where employees feel intimidated
  4. financial liability form harassment or other claims

Receipt For Employee Handbook

  • Some employers give each employee a copy of the handbook.
  • Others make several copies available in certain areas.
  • Other employers place the handbook on the company web portal which employees can access.

In any case, an employer should obtain a signed receipt stating that the employee has received the handbook has read it and agrees to abide by the policies.

Employment Process

  • Interview
  • Conditional Job Offer
  • Background Check & Drug Test
  • Fills out ALL new hire paperwork
  • Starts Work!

Employment Screening

  1. 3 work references from previous employers.
  2. Criminal background checks – local, state and federal.
  3. Be careful of “arrest” records and the EEOC’s guidelines.
  4. Driver’s records, for those who drive.
  5. Credit Checks, for those who handle money or items of value.
  6. Drug Test, including “synthetic” drugs.
  7. Where applicable, credentials check.

How Do We Conduct Employment Screening?

  • Regulations require that we must have the employee’s signed authorization to conduct a credit check.
  • Drivers records and criminal records are matters of public record.
  • From a “best practices” standpoint, it’s best to have candidates authorize previous employer background checks.
  • The easiest and most efficient way to conduct these checks is to have an agency do this for you. Seay Management Consultants has partnered with National Employment Screening.

Employee Background Checks: Go to www.seay.us and click the Employee Background Checks button.

Recent EEOC Guidelines On Background Checks

We are not allowed to ask about arrest records or consider arrest records, in making employment decisions. We are allowed to consider conviction records, if the conviction is job related – but we must consider the following three steps:

  1. Nature and gravity of the offense or conduct.
  2. The time that has passed since the offense or conduct.
  3. The nature of the job held or sought.

Why Do People Act Like They Do At Work?

  • Experience and qualifications
  • Working style or personality temperament.
  • Character.
  • We can measure experience and qualifications. We can measure working style through a personality temperament assessment. Character is a bit more difficult to measure.
  • Working style/personality temperament. How you behave at work, how you listen to and participate in this workshop, is based on your personality temperament.

What Is Character?

Examples Of Behavior Based On Character

  • Attitude toward management and the job
  • Getting along with co-workers
  • “Bullying” co-workers
  • Relating positively to customers
  • Accepting management instructions in a cheerful and cooperative way.
  • Questioning authority
  • Outbursts of anger/Not controlling one’s temper

The Importance Of Character

  • Character is how you act when no one is looking.
  • Character is formed early in life and tends not to change for the rest of our lives.
  • Character speaks to questions of honesty, truthfulness, dependability, accountability, anger, perseverance, integrity, etc.
  • Character is manifested in behavior…….and is revealed under pressure.
  • A person will act in concert with his or her character most of the time.
  • If we can identify a person’s character, we can, with a large measure of accuracy, predict how a person will act in a given set of circumstances.

Identifying Character: Observation

Yogi Berra once commented that “You can observe a lot of things just by watching people.” When you live with or work with a person over an extended period of time, you can discern a person’ s character to a fairly large degree because you see how the person operates under pressure.

Identifying Character: How A Person Treats Others

Johnny Unitas once said that you can tell a person’s character by how he treats those who can’t do anything for you in return.

When our daughters were considering the young men they might marry, Linda would often remark, “Watch how they treat their mothers – that’s how they’ll treat you.”

Someone once said of William F. Buckley, “Bill’s character was most vivid in the ways he quietly helped people from whom he could receive no gain in return.

Identifying Character: A Person’s Reputation

Some people just have a reputation based on their character, whether it is good or bad. Pay attention to reputation as it is often fairly earned, for good or for ill.

“… he that filches from me my good name robs me of that which not enriches him, And makes me poor indeed.” – Iago.

Identifying Character: Lies or Exaggeration

Pay attention to whether a person values the truth because – I have it on the Highest Authority – the truth will, indeed, set you free. If you know someone is telling you the truth, you will tend to trust that person. And vice versa.

Oscar Wilde once remarked, “If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.”

Identifying Character: Trust Your Instincts And First Impressions

If you’re a successful person, the odds are very good that you are going to be right most of the time, and that you have good instincts. Trust your instincts. It’s part of what makes you good at what you do.

Identifying Character: Past Performance

The best predictor of future performance is past performance. If a person has been good and honorable and truthful in the past, the odds are overwhelming that he or she will be that way in the future. If a person has been dishonest, and untruthful and undependable in the past, then – short of a Damascus Road experience – it is very likely that he or she will be that way in the future.


Evolving Technology

In the past, most employers have implemented a policy governing the use of company telephones by employees, although the widespread possession of personal cell phones has made many of them obsolete.

Personal cell phone use (or tablets) can raise serious workplace issues like loss of productivity, retail customers who receive poor service, improper or sexually charged text or social media fallout.

Workplace Environment

Cell phone (or digital device) policies should consider your company’s specific work environment and “culture.” For example, businesses that rarely have clients or customers at the worksite may choose to have more lenient policies than those where current or prospective clients or customers visit regularly.

Lunch or Break Time

In some workplace settings, personal calls might be a minimal disruption, but in other circumstances where employees must leave their work area to use any phone, personal calls may be limited to meal or other breaks.

Texting and Personal Calls

Frequent texting or lengthy personal cell phone calls should be designated as not acceptable since this may adversely affect the employee’s productivity and disturb others.

Employers may outline how to handle emergency calls or texts if they occur during working time.

Cameras and Recording Capabilities

The use of cameras or recording capabilities on cell phones and other digital devices during work time should be prohibited to protect the privacy of the employer as well as of fellow employees.

There may be exceptions if it is approved by management in advance in a capacity related to job duties. Our recommendation is to issue a company device for this purpose with set guidelines for use.

Device Use and Vehicles

Employers have a responsibility under federal and state regulations for the safety of their employees operating vehicles at work.. This applies whether your employees drive full-time or only occasionally to carry out their duties, and whether they drive a company vehicle or their own.

A company should outline clear guidelines prohibiting texting while driving. Employees may be instructed to pull safely off the road and place the vehicle in park before making or receiving calls or utilize a hands free device in compliance with state regulations.

Accessing Social Networks During work Time

Accessing social networks during work time can affect productivity for the employee and the company. We recommend that employees should be instructed not to access social media while at work unless it has a direct correlation to their job duties and is approved in advance by management.

Align With Harassment Discrimination Policies

Personal device use, even when permitted in the workplace, must never include language that is obscene, discriminatory, offensive, prejudicial or defamatory in any way such as jokes or slurs.

And/or inappropriate remarks regarding:

  • race
  • ethnicity
  • sex
  • sexual orientation
  • religion
  • color
  • age
  • disability

After Hours Compensable Time

If a non-exempt employee is using his or her cell phone or device on company business, at home or during non-work hours, this is compensable work time. The employee must record the time and it must count toward his or her total weekly hours.

If employers do not want non-exempt employees to engage in company business after hours, a policy should instruct employees to turn off their devices after a certain time, if the employer provides the device; or, if the employee owns the device, told explicitly not to engage in business related calls, emails or text messages after work.

National Labor relations Board

A disgruntled employee accesses his social networking account and posts, “My boss is a real jerk and this is the worst company I’ve ever worked for. They treat me like a dog and don’t pay me enough to live on.” The supervisor sees this post and promptly fires the employee for posting it.

The employee then files an Unfair Labor Practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board, claiming that the posting was “protected concerted activity”

Protected Concerted Activity

According to NLRB regulations, employees have the right to discuss their wages, benefits and working conditions with each other. They have this right at work and they have it on social networking sites.


  • Stay off the personal social media pages of employees.
  • Don’t “friend” or follow your employees on social media.
  • Tell your supervisors not to “friend” or follow employees on social media.
  • If you or your supervisors have already “friended” your employees, we recommend that you “defriend” them immediately.


Non-Exempt Employee

An employee classified as non-exempt is required by Wage and Hour regulations to maintain a time record and receive overtime, if the individual works more than 40 hours per week.

Exempt Employee

An exempt employee is not subject to overtime and is not required to keep a time record.

To qualify for exemption, employees generally must be paid at not less than $455 per week on a salary basis.

Exempt Salary Test

One of the principle tests for exemption is that the employee must be paid a salary that is:

  1. Guaranteed
  2. Not subject to deduction

These salary requirements do not apply to outside sales employees, teachers, and employees practicing law or medicine. Exempt computer employees may be paid at least $455 on a salary basis or on an hourly basis at a rate not less than $27.63 an hour.

The Duties Test

In order to be classified as exempt, an employee must meet the “duties” tests in addition to the salary test. There are several of these tests and they vary, based on the exemption. There are five exemption categories.

Executive Exemption

Employees who perform management duties that involve supervising other employees. Department supervisors, CEO’s, project supervisors, etc., fall in this category.

Administrative Exemption

Employees who perform management duties that do not involve supervising other employees, but may involve supervising or managing an asset or a major function of the organization. CFO’s, Credit Managers, Purchasing Managers, Project Managers and Accountants usually fall in this category.

Professional Exemption

Employees who perform professional duties, normally certified by the appropriate degree, such as doctors, attorneys, and medical technologists. Technicians, LPN’s, paralegals, Teacher’s Aide’s, etc., do not fall in this category.

Outside Sales Exemption

Employees who are “customarily and regularly” involved in outside sales and related paperwork. Inside sales employees do not qualify for this exemption.

IT Exemption

Employees who perform duties associated with Information Technology or who are in charge of IT for an organization. Usually, these employees have an IT degree. This category does not include technicians, help desk, or software installers.

Paid Program

At the beginning of April 2018, the Department of Labor launched a new nationwide pilot program called the Payroll Audit Independent Determination (PAID) program.

Under the PAID program, qualified employers are encouraged to conduct audits of their compensation practices and, if they discover overtime or minimum wage violations, to self-report those violations.

Paid Program – Process

Once an employer identifies any potential claims it wants to resolve, the employer must then:

  • Specifically identify the potential violations;
  • Identify which employees were affected;
  • Identify the timeframes in which each employee was affected; and
  • Calculate the amount of back wages the employer believes are owed to each employee.
  • Submit to WHD

Paid Program – Payment

The employer is responsible for issuing payment by the end of the next full pay period after receiving the summary of unpaid wages and must provide timely proof of payment to WHD.


Dr. Raleigh F. (Sandy) Seay, Jr., is President of Seay Management Consultants, Inc., a full service Human Resources Management firm, located in Orlando, Florida.

He has held Human Resources Management positions with Burlington Industries, American Hospital Supply Corporation, Roanoke Memorial Hospitals and SESCO Management Consultants and acquired Seay Management Consultants, Inc., in 1981. Sandy served as an armor officer with the 3rd Infantry Division, U.S. Army in Europe, from 1968-1970.

He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Virginia Tech, a Master’s Degree from Rollins College and a Ph.D. in the Humanities from Warnborough College.

He is a frequent speaker at management conferences and seminars and has conducted management development workshops throughout the United States and in three foreign countries.

SANDY SEAY: “If you have an employment question or issue that needs to be resolved, and you know that only the best HR Management advice will do, you need to call… the Seay Team!”