Emtrain Blog

Staff Picks: Employee Q&A

Posted by Allison Baker

May 18, 2016

Top Questions Asked by Learners

Each day, learners ask us questions through our course Q&A feature. Learners can ask our workplace experts questions about workplace topics ranging from unconscious bias to performance reviews.

By the way, did I mention that our Q&A feature is included with our courses and is also compliant with California FEHA’s updated regulations? Click here for more information about how to comply with California FEHA’s new regulations that went into effect on April 1, 2016.

You can view these anonymous questions anytime on our Workplace Q&A page and, if you’re an Emtrain client, you can see all questions asked by your employees (redacted to protect employee identity), as well as our general guidance.

Here are some our favorite employee questions from the last couple of months.

Employee Q&A: Top Workplace Questions Asked By Emtrain Learners

Topic: Religion in the workplace

Q: Throughout my career, I've always felt a little awkward asking my supervisor for time off to observe Good Friday even though it is important to me as a Roman Catholic to be religiously observant during noon - 3:00 on this day. What advice can you provide me as a supervisor to make sure my employees feel comfortable requesting time off to observe their own religious holidays?

A: Excellent question, thanks for submitting it!

A good practice is to let your team know that you respect the need to observe religious holidays and that people should not hesitate to ask for time off to accommodate religious observances.

Since it's already mid-March, you'll want to bring it up soon at a group meeting and/or through an email so people feel comfortable requesting time off for Good Friday this month and Passover in April as well as Holi, the Hindu Festival of Colors.

Let me know if you’d like a sample email to send to your employees.

Topic: Performance Review After Complaint

Q: Scenario: you have a person who makes a complaint or does something that he/she needs to be reprimanded about. Reviews are expected to be given two week thereafter. This person has not met his/her required goals and fell short of expectations. How should the manager handle this? If the manager provides a rating that equates to his/her performance which was subpar, can the employee use that as reinforcement to state they were given a negative rating because of the prior incident?

A: In a situation where an employee makes a complaint within 2 weeks of receiving a critical performance review, it's a good practice to communicate in writing that the person is scheduled to get a review but that the manager/employer is delaying the performance review while the person's complaint/concern is addressed and resolved.

Then the employer should address the complaint.

Thereafter and when a pending complaint does not obscure the issues or appear retaliatory, the employer should give the critical performance review, supported by very specific, objective facts.

Try to view any situation from a neutral third party perspective to help determine when management actions would appear retaliatory.

Topic: Medical Conditions/Reasonable Accommodation

Q: I am over 65, had cancer, and need to go to the doctor or rest more than most co-workers. Nonetheless, I end up working from home on my laptop many nights and most weekends because I am one of the few people that can do the work. It is often too much and creates great stress. What should I do?

A: Unfortunately, we cannot provide specific workplace advice, just general guidance.

As a best practice, a qualified individual with a disability (which may apply to a cancer survivor) can seek a reasonable accommodation to enable that person to perform his/her essential job functions and maybe minimize or streamline the non-essential duties. That seems like a good starting point to streamline the job duties to minimize the need to work nights/weekends.

Typically, employees would consult with their HR business partner and/or senior manager to seek/request a reasonable accommodation.

Topic: Pay Equity

Q: If we have a law in place currently for equal pay, why is it a topic for political discussion today? Is the law not strict enough or enforceable?

A: Excellent question!

The current federal law mandates equal pay for equal work. However, research has shown there is still a wide gap in compensation between the genders, e.g., an average of 12% disparity.

Therefore, California has addressed this social problem by expanding the law so there's a mandate of equal pay for "substantially similar" work. By broadening the standard, employers are now obligated to look at job duties and rank or classify jobs so that jobs of a similar rank or classification pay equally with minor adjustments for legitimate business criteria, e.g., experience, seniority, geography, performance, etc. The new California law forces employers to proactively look at their jobs and pay data and ensure there's pay equity.

On the federal level, President Obama is asking Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is similar to California's Fair Pay Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act would go one step further though and require employers to submit all their pay data (indicating race and gender) every year with their EEO-1 form. Again, the goal is to push employers to proactively ensure pay equity to help close the gender pay gap.

Topic: Unconscious Bias

Q: What if the top manager at your firm has an annual party where he invites only partners, but then one year he invited some associates (non-partners), but only male associates?

A: If a senior manager hosts a party and invites male associates but does not invite female associates, then a best practice is to have an HR person or someone in senior management advise the manager to re-think his actions to foster a more inclusive workplace and a level playing field.

Q: What do you do if, as a woman, you are speaking out and being assertive about something and then the managers perceive it as "unprofessional," whereas they would not do the same when it's a man who is being assertive about work?

A: Often, male leaders are unconscious about applying different standards to men versus women. A helpful practice in that situation is to seek guidance from an HR professional and raise the idea that workforce productivity increases with a positive, inclusive culture where people perceive a level playing field.

And if a workplace is not positive and inclusive then perhaps educating people about how unconscious bias impacts their team dynamics could be helpful.

Emtrain is launching a Managing Unconscious Bias course in the next few months that will be available to everyone in our learning community.

Do you have a workplace question? Email our experts at experts@emtrain.com and they'll give you some guidance!


Topics: Compliance