Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween in the Workplace: Tips for Human Resources

Permitting employees to celebrate the spirit of Halloween in the workplace can be a fun morale booster.  A few simple tips for Human Resources can help minimize employment-related risks:

1.  If you allow employees to wear costumes, establish clear and specific policies regarding the dress code.  Examples of unacceptable costumes might include those that:

  • are inappropriately skin-revealing, or include rips or tears that are inappropriately skin revealing; 
  • include special effects,  such as fake blood, oozing fluids, or body parts (think current zombie craze);
  • include props that could be upsetting to patrons or guests, such as fake knives, guns or other weapons; 
  • include strobe-type lighting that could trigger seizures in some people;
  • cover the employee's entire face and mouth (unless there is a legitimate medical or religious exception); 
  • could be construed as derogatory toward any religious or social group (but be mindful of rules prohibiting expressions of union support).
2.  If you host or otherwise sanction an after-hours Halloween party, establish rules about the service of alcohol.  If you permit alcohol, let employees know the company expects them to exercise good judgment and discretion, and refrain from drinking alcohol in excess or driving under the influence.  Remind managers to watch for signs of excessive drinking, and never knowingly allow an intoxicated employee to drive home.

3.  Take employee complaints seriously, particularly if an employee complains he or she is offended by another employee's costume.  

4.  Tell employees the consequences of violating the policies you set, and enforce the policies.

These simple tips could be the difference between a horrible and a happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Thinking of using biometric identifiers in the hospitality industry? Tread cautiously.

Thumbprint and retinal scans are no longer the stuff of science fiction thrillers, and a growing number of employers are turning to biometric identification as a way to track employees' time and attendance.   For employers considering implementing this type of technology, tread cautiously.  Last month, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit against a company that uses a biometric hand scanner to track its employees' time and attendance.  See EEOC v. Consol Energy, Inc. and Consolidation Coal Co., No. 1:13-CV-215, In the United States District Court, for the Northern District of West Virginia.

So what's the issue?

The answer may surprise you.  The employee on whose behalf the EEOC filed suit, an Evangelical Christian, contends there is a relationship between the hand-scanning technology and the Mark of the Beast (associated with the right hand and the forehead, for those of you who are curious and want to refer to Chapter 13, Verse 16 of the Book of Revelations), and claims his employer refused to grant him a religious exemption from the biometric hand scanning of either hand.  

What does this mean for hospitality employers?

For those of you that use, or may want to implement, biometric scanning for your workforce, or at some point, for your guests, be mindful of requests for exceptions based on religious beliefs, and be prepared to consider alternate methods for employees and guests to identify themselves if necessary.