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healthy families and workplaces act

Colorado Employers -Effective immediately (July 14, 2020)!

July 10, 2020


Let’s get back to work (safely)!

1. Help your workforce feel comfortable and confident about returning to work by informing and training them on C19 safety measures implemented in the workplace such as hygiene, social distancing, and sanitizing.

2. Allow your workforce to continue a modified telecommuting program, such as alternating “at-office” and “home” days to limit the number of employees at the workplace.

3. Be mindful of EEOC laws and regulations when bringing individuals back to work, including consistency and fairness across protected classes.

4. Likewise, be aware of potential reasonable accommodations for workers part of vulnerable groups, or those who are experiencing a lack of childcare due to C19.

5. Ensure frequent communication between management and employees and set clear expectations for job responsibilities as your workforce navigates the ongoing impact of the C19 pandemic.

cares act faqs

What is the CARES Act?

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act is a two trillion dollar relief package intended to aid Americans and businesses impacted by C19. The CARES Act provides $377 billion to small businesses affected by the current economic crisis through several different programs, including the Payment Protection Program (“PPP”), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDL”) and related grants, current SBA loan relief, in addition to providing billions of dollars for federal unemployment insurance and direct payments to qualifying individuals.

Does the ACT provide assistance for retaining employees?

Yes - the CARES Act offers Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans, which are federally funded and intended to be forgivable for employers maintaining their payroll during the C19 pandemic.

What businesses qualify for PPP loans?

Businesses in operation no later than February 15, 2020, and having fewer than 500 employees per physical location. The CARES Act also extends this program to non profit organizations, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors.

How are loan sizes calculated?

The maximum loan size is $10 million but the amount businesses may receive is calculated in different ways:

  • Businesses operating between February 15, 2019, and June 30, 2019, may receive up to 250% of the average monthly payroll.
  • Businesses with seasonal workers may use March 1, 2019, to June 30, 2019, for average monthly payroll calculation.
  • Businesses not operating during the 2019 time period may receive up to 250% of average monthly payroll for the January 1, 2020 to February 29, 2020, time period.
  • Businesses with an EIDL received between February 15, 2020 and June 30, 2020, may refinance into a PPP loan in a potentially larger amount.

What does “payroll” include under the PPP?

Payroll under the PPP includes: compensation, such as salary, wage, commission, payment of cash tip or equivalent; leave, such as vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick time; severance pay; healthcare and retirement benefits; and payroll taxes.

PPP funds cannot be used for the following: employee/owner compensation over $100,000; taxes imposed or withheld under chapters 21, 22, and 24 of the IRS code; and Families First Coronavirus Response Act credits.

What options do furloughed and separated workers have?

Workers may apply for unemployment insurance, depending on state law eligibility. For example, some states allow furloughed workers to receive UI benefits and others require only a reduction in pay (rather than $0 income). The CARES Act provides for federal unemployment insurance of $600/week for up to four months for qualifying individuals, found here.

Does the CARE Act provide for individual relief?

Yes - Americans with annual adjusted gross income under $75,000 will receive direct payments of $1,200, and joint flyers with AGI under $150,000 will receive $2,400. Direct payments will be reduced for AGI over these amounts; additional information may be found here. The IRS will use 2018 tax returns as the basis for AGI calculations, unless 2019 returns are filed prior to AGI determination.

Individuals with dependents under the age of 18 will receive $500 per child and is prorated based on the same AGI scale. If individuals do not qualify for the direct stimulus payments based on 2018 or 2019 income, but have decreased income in 2020, thay be eligible for a tax credit.

Does the CARES Act provide grants?

Yes - qualifying businesses may apply for a grant up to $10,000 to be used for any business-related expense by applying for an EIDL through the SBA (even if previously applied), found here.

I’m worried about making payments on our SBA loans - what options are available?

The Small Business Debt Relief Program provides other loans, such as non-disaster SBA loans, and microloans. Due to C19, the SBA will cover all loan payments for the next six months and are extending relaxed eligibility requirements to new borrowers. If you have questions or need assistance applying for these loans you can contact your local Small Business Development Center or local Women’s Business Center, located here.

Questions, concerns, or additional guidance?

Contact Stephen Rotter or Jennifer Gokenbach

The Workplace Counsel


Families First C19ˢᵐ Response Act:

Emergency Sick AND Family Leave

1. What is the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA)?

The FFCRA is 112-pages in total. Among other things, it obligates certain employers to provide leave under its paid sick leave provisions (Emergency Sick Leave) and its Family Medical Leave Act amendments (Emergency Family Leave).

2. When do employers have to comply with the FFCRA?

The FFCRA was passed by Congress and signed into law on March 18, 2020. It is effective on April 2, 2020 and continues through December 31, 2020. Thus, employers must comply with the FFCRA by April 2, 2020.

3. What employers must comply with the FFCRA?

Private employers with less than 500 employees (and some governmental entities) are covered under the FFCRA. Healthcare providers, emergency responders and companies with less than 50 employees (who are having viability issues) may be exempted by forthcoming regulations from the U.S. Department of Labor. The law also allows employers to exclude employees who are health care providers or emergency responders.

Emergency Sick Leave Requirements

4. How much Emergency Sick Leave must be provided and for what reasons?

For full-time employees, employers must provide 80 hours of paid sick leave. For part-time employees, employers must provide the average number of hours worked by the employee during a two-week period. Emergency Sick Leave must be provided if an employee is:

a. Under governmental or healthcare provider orders to quarantine;

b. Experiencing C19ˢᵐ symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis;

c. Caring for an individual meeting categories a or b above;

d. Caring for a child whose school is closed or child care provider is unavailable, both due to C19ˢᵐ; or

e. Suffering a substantially similar qualifying condition specified by the Department of Health and Human Services.

5. Do employees have to be employed for a certain period of time or have worked a certain number of hours to be eligible for Emergency Sick Leave?

No, Emergency Sick Leave must be available immediately regardless of how long the employee has been employed.

6. How is Emergency Sick Leave paid?

Employees must be paid their regular rate of pay or applicable minimum wage (whichever is greater) if taking leave for themselves, with a cap of $511/day and $5,110 total. Employees caring for family members must be paid an amount equal to 2/3 of their regular rate of pay or applicable minimum wage (whichever is greater), with a cap of $200/day and $2,000 total.

7. Can employers require employees to provide reasonable notice of the need to take Emergency Sick Leave?

For the first day of Emergency Sick Leave, no. However, after the first day of Emergency Sick Leave, an employer may require the employee to follow reasonable notice procedures in order to continue receiving paid sick time.

8. Do employers have to pay out unused Emergency Sick Leave upon termination of employment?

No, Emergency Sick Leave does not carry over from year to year and it is not required to be paid out upon separation from employment.

9. Are there any required employer notices?

Yes, employers are required to post an Emergency Sick Leave notice in a conspicuous place, such as a break room. A model notice will be issued by the U.S. Department of Labor on or before March 25, 2020.

10. If an employer already provides a generous paid time off policy with paid leave exceeding the requirements for Emergency Sick Leave, do they still have to provide Emergency Sick Leave?

Yes, employers with generous PTO policies still must provide the additional Emergency Sick Leave. Employers also cannot require employees to use other paid leave before providing Emergency Sick Leave.

11. Can an employer require an employee to find a replacement before allowing the employee to take Emergency Sick Leave?

No, an employer may not require an employee to find a replacement employee during the time period in which the employee is taking Emergency Sick Leave. Employers also cannot discharge, discipline or discriminate against employees for requesting, taking or complaining about Emergency Sick Leave.

12. What else do employers need to be aware of regarding Emergency Sick Leave?

Employers are not subject to the 6.2% social security payroll tax for Emergency Sick Leave wages. Employers also can claim a tax credit on a quarterly basis equal to 100% of the Emergency Sick Leave wages paid.

Emergency Family Leave Requirements

13. How much Emergency Family Leave must be provided and for what reasons?

Covered employers must provide up to 12 weeks of Emergency Family Leave for an employee who is unable to work or telework because his or her child’s school is closed or daycare provider is unavailable, both due to a “public health emergency” such as C19ˢᵐ.

14. Do employees have to be employed for a certain period of time or have worked a certain number of hours to be eligible for Emergency Family Leave?

Yes, employees must be employed for at least 30 calendar days, although no minimum number of hours worked is required. Full-time, part-time and temporary employees are thus eligible for Emergency Family Leave.

15. How is Emergency Family Leave paid?

The first 10 days of Emergency Family Leave may be unpaid, but the employee can elect to use accrued paid time off (e.g., vacation, personal, sick, etc.). The employee may also utilize Emergency Paid Sick Leave (caring for a family member) for the first 10 days of leave, as described above. After the first 10 days, the employer is required to provide paid leave for the remaining leave of up to 12 weeks in an amount equal to at least 2/3 of an employee’s regular’s rate of pay, with a cap of $200/day and $10,000 total.

16. Can employers require employees to provide reasonable notice of the need to take Emergency Family Leave?

Yes, but only where the need for leave is foreseeable.

17. Is job restoration required for employees returning from Emergency Family Leave?

Yes, employees are generally entitled to be restored to their position or an equivalent one upon returning from leave. However, if an employer has less than 25 employees, the employer does not have to return the employee to their same or similar position if: a) the position was eliminated due to economic or operating conditions caused by C19ˢᵐ; b) the employer made reasonable efforts to restore the employee to a position equivalent to the position the employee held when the leave commenced; and c) the employer makes reasonable efforts within the 1 year period following the employee’s 12-week leave period to contact the employee if an equivalent position becomes available.

18. What else do employers need to be aware of regarding Emergency Family Leave?

Employers are not subject to the 6.2% social security payroll tax for Emergency Family Leave wages. Employers can also claim a tax credit on a quarterly basis equal to 100% of the Emergency Family Leave wages paid.

Note: This guidance does not provide information directly related to FFCRA tax issues for employers or employees. Please consult your tax advisor for such information.

Questions, concerns, or additional guidance?

Contact Stephen Rotter or Jennifer Gokenbach

The Workplace Counsel



1. Can employers send or keep a sick employee home?

Yes, employers can send or keep a sick employee at home. Employers should be cautious as to not discriminate against any specific group, but base decisions on a good faith belief and probable cause to determine if an individual is sick, including an employee’s own disclosure or reasonable observation. Inaction by not sending sick employees home may lead to an OSHA violation, among other regulations, which requires employers to keep their workplaces free from potential hazards, such as C19ˢᵐ.

2. How long may employers require employees to stay home and not come to the workplace?

Employers may require sick employees to stay home until they have been symptom-free for at least 24 hours, although 48 hours is a safer choice and is reasonable. In some states, employers can require employees to provide doctors notes to return back to the workplace. However, following the CDC’s advice, requiring doctor’s notes is not recommended for return to work (due to medical personnel being extremely busy during this time), so employers should focus on each employee’s individual symptoms.

*Some states, like Colorado, enacted emergency rules for sick leave, requiring employers in certain industries to provide up to four days of paid sick leave to employees exhibiting C19ˢᵐ symptoms and waiting to be tested. These industries include: Leisure and hospitality, food service, child care, education (and related work), home health care (if working with elderly, disabled, ill, or high-risk individuals), nursing home, and community-living facilities – and in Colorado are in effect for at least the next 30 days (until mid-April 2020).

3. Can employers require employees to test negative for C19ˢᵐ or obtain a doctor's note reflecting the same before allowing back in the workplace?

Generally speaking, no. Requiring employees to submit medical test results could be considered an ADA violation unless permissible by local, state, or federal governments. Employers may also ask an employee if they are experiencing any C19ˢᵐ symptoms (e.g., fever, cough, upper respiratory illness). Employers may recommend employees with such symptoms get tested for C19ˢᵐ before returning to the workplace.

4. What should employers do if an employee tests positive for C19ˢᵐ, or are exposed to someone who has?

• If an employee tested positive for C19ˢᵐ, employers may require them to stay at home for at least 14 days, and we recommend they provide sick leave during this time period - but be open to additional days if they require additional time off.

• If employees are confirmed to have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID- 19, we recommend the employer mandates a 14-day quarantine period and provides sick leave during this time period.

• If employees are unable or uncomfortable to work (because of the current climate), employers should allow them to stay at home and use regular PTO options.

• Note: until testing is widely available, employers may not be able to mandate the “quarantine” options because they won’t have the ability to confirm positive testing for C19ˢᵐ. Until testing is widely available, employers will have to rely on good faith beliefs, reasonable caution, and probable cause assessments to make the best decisions for their workforce, and for their communities to the extent their employees have direct interaction with the public.

• Note: some employees may claim they were exposed to someone who was exposed to someone who tested positive for C19ˢᵐ (or make similar claims raising concerns but not providing confirmation of direct exposure). In these cases, be mindful of the balance between panic and reasonable steps to take based on a good faith belief or actual evidence. Thus, speak with the employee to confirm the degrees of separation and timing, request the employee monitor their own health and symptoms, encourage them to stay home if they become ill, and let them know if they test positive for C19ˢᵐ, or are exposed to someone who has, they will be quarantined for 14-days (or more in some cases) - and we recommend providing paid leave. Further, see above for emergency sick leave rules which states are enacting.

5. What strategies should I have in place?

First, employers should put someone in charge of regularly monitoring the CDC and your state’s emergency health websites. For example, the CDC provides business-response guidance:

Second, employers should implement C19ˢᵐ policies and apply them consistently across their workforce, ensure frequent environmental cleaning of workplaces, remind employees of anti- discrimination, harassment, and retaliation policies, and actively encourage employees to stay home if feeling sick - or taking care of sick family members.

Third, because of the ‘work from home’ climate, employers should ensure they have the technology in place to service its workforce population should all employees need or chose to work from home.

6. Should I restrict work travel?

Employers may limit or stop business travel. It is important for employers to frequently consult the CDC’s website for current travel notices in order to stay informed and up-to-date on current travel suggestions.

7. Can I stop employees from personal travel?

No, but companies may deny time-off requests, if the basis of the denial is a legitimate business- driven reason, such as travel to known high risk areas as designated by the CDC. Employers should let their employees know that personal travel to high-risk areas may result in self-isolation (i.e. quarantine) potentially for a long period of time. Colorado, and other states, have lawful off- duty conduct statutes, which prohibit employers to discriminate against employees who participate in lawful activities while not at work, such as personal travel.

8. Can I require employees to travel if needed for the business?

Employers are allowed to require employees to travel if it is necessary to the business, although not if it violates any current laws, regulations, or mandates (such as travel to high-risk areas, whether it’s C19ˢᵐ or under another advisory). As always, it is important to apply travel policies consistently to avoid actual, or the appearance of, discrimination (or favoritism).

9. Should I cancel upcoming conferences/conference attendance, regardless of location?

Cancelling upcoming conferences and events regardless of location is not yet required in the United States. However employers should use a great deal of consideration, and consult the CDC’s guidelines for large group gatherings. If employers choose to hold conferences they should encourage healthy practices, such as limiting handshakes at the event.

10. How do I keep my workforce on top of Coronavirus information and company decisions?

In order to keep your workforce on top of C19ˢᵐ info and company decisions, consider sending out newsletter-style updates on the situation via emails with links to the CDC’s website. Keep employees up-to-date on preventative measures that your company is taking, resources that are available around the workplace, and direct them to websites like the WHO and CDC for more detailed information about the outbreaks.

Questions, concerns, or additional guidance?

Stephen Rotter or Jennifer Gokenbach

The Workplace Counsel


November 21, 2019


Closing the Gender Gap & Implicit Bias

October 25, 2019


Closing the Gender Gap & Implicit Bias

Top five reasons to attend this seminar:

1. Legal and Human Resource perspective on pay equity, gender bias, glass ceiling, and #metoo movement.

2. Practical advice for change-makers.

3. Outstanding panelists.

4. Pragmatic dialogue.

5. SHRM/HRCI/CLE credits.

September 20, 2019



Top five reasons to attend this seminar:

1. Moral and Ethical Obligations.

2. Legal Duties.

3. Tools to Protect.

4. Dialogue to Learn and Share.

5. Current Climate.

July 19, 2019


Leadership - Effectively Communicating

1. Be an active listener no matter the situation. Whether the purpose of your communication is to provide guidance, set goals, or issue discipline, it cannot be a one-way conversation. Great leaders are great listeners.

2. Tailor your communication. This goes beyond just knowing your audience. To lead effectively means to understand how to communicate effectively. Spend some time thinking about who you’re speaking with (not “speaking to”), and the best way to engage with them before doing so.

3. Communicate regularly. Ongoing feedback is a necessary part of fostering a productive environment and employee growth; excellent managers act as a support system when leading.

4. Keep things simple. Regardless of how difficult or complex a situation might be, be clear and succinct to avoid confusion and misunderstandings.

5. Be approachable. If you’re welcoming, present, and positive, your communications will be heard and followed. Likewise, employees will be more willing to listen to you and leverage your advice to help the company succeed.

May 10, 2019


Analyzing a few Modern Workplace trends

1. “Culture” is a vague, undefined buzzword for the modern workplace and may create a potentially discriminatory basis for employment actions. It can also become an excuse for not becoming, or trying to become, diverse and inclusive.

2. The modern workplace may include creating a company Diversity Committee and selecting certain employees to provide input regarding diversity and inclusion efforts. However, being “a diverse workplace,” doesn’t mean you pick the “onlys” to be on a committee and expect them to provide suggestions to management with limited scope and purpose. Instead, it means to effectuate change in hiring, promoting, and championing employees by those who have the power to do so with guidance from the committee and other leadership.

3, 4, and 5. It is very trendy to talk about “coachabilty,” “emotional intelligence,” and “the right values” when hiring candidates, which are certainly important factors. But, contrary to conclusions and assumptions about proper candidate evaluation (like those found in a Leadership IQ study of why workers were fired within 18 months of hire), these factors don’t overtake experience and technical competence. For example, the reason this study showed only 11% of employees failed due to lack of technical competence is because companies did the right thing 89% of the time by hiring experienced, competent employees but should have better evaluated interpersonal skills. It doesn't mean technical competence is not one of the most important hiring factors.

The 11% number would skyrocket if employers didn’t first evaluate their candidate pool to find the best skilled, experienced, and technically competent candidates, and then turn to the soft skills. Bottom line: Employers don’t need to sacrifice candidate experience and know-how for the ability to fit into an organization and be productive – they can (and should) have both.

Otherwise, employers may find themselves explaining to a judge or jury in a discrimination trial that they hired a certain candidate based on "culture fit" rather than those who were better qualified or more experienced - and also could have fit just fine into their workplace.


The Workplace Counsel LLC and Gokenbach Law LLC Merge to Expand Employment Law Defense Practice

Press Release!!!

DENVER, Colorado, May 2019 — Furthering their dedication to providing results-oriented and cost-effective legal counsel in employment law matters, The Workplace Counsel LLC and Gokenbach Law LLC are pleased to announce their new strategic law firm.

The Workplace Counsel LLC and Gokenbach Law LLC are Denver-based boutique law firms focused on employment law defense and day-to-day counsel for workplace matters. Effective May 1, 2019, the two firms merged to provide high quality labor and employment law services under the name The Workplace Counsel™.

The Workplace Counsel™ is now also the exclusive Colorado firm for Worklaw® Network, a network of independent law firms in the United States, Canada, Australia, Europe, and Mexico representing employers and management in labor and employment matters.

Gokenbach Law LLC Managing Partner, Jennifer Gokenbach said: “Joining with Stephen and The Workplace Counsel LLC is an exciting opportunity to partner with other like-minded attorneys who want to champion their business clients in employment law matters at a reasonable cost. The large law firm model, which typically staffs legal matters with multiple attorneys of varying experience levels and at high rates, is not ideal for many businesses. When 99.7% of all U.S. employers have less than 500 employees, simple economics shows that a small business hit with a legal claim needs seasoned and cost-effective legal counsel.”

“Jennifer’s outstanding reputation for trial work, substantive litigation, and high client satisfaction makes her an excellent partner to merge with,” said Stephen Rotter, The Workplace Counsel LLC’s Managing Partner. “By combining our firms, we’re able to provide the highest-quality legal services directed toward relieving our clients’ stress, reducing costs, and delivering practical solutions. In keeping with our firm’s strategy, we are open to partnering with exceptional attorneys to meet our clients’ needs in all aspects of workplace law.”

April 19, 2019



1. Sexual Harassment. Companies have focused their polices, but it's just as important to implement annual training. While it helps with potential liability, more importantly are companies’ willingness to foster safe, positive work environments.

2. Implicit Bias. We are wired to judge quickly and use stereotypes to survive an endless barrage of information. To make sure we’re not using predispositions in a negative, illegal, or unproductive way, we need to recognize and have the tools to handle them.

3. Marijuana. Now legal in one form or another in 34 states, employers have to deal with OSHA obligations, federal mandates, assessment of reasonable suspicion, and vendor/customer attitudes.

4. Workplace Violence Prevention. In this era, it is key to teach workers how to prevent or minimize workplace danger. Companies are obligated to do so under OSHA standards and hopefully their own initiatives for a safe workplace.

5. Pay Equity. Companies need training regarding proper interview questions (many states now preclude salary history inquiries); implementing pay standards for workers performing the same job (e.g., is it 'substantially similar work,' or 'work requiring similar skill, effort, and responsibility'?); and tracking pay equity progress.

March 22, 2019



1. The First Amendment does not provide the same protections at the workplace as it does elsewhere. Employers may (and should) implement policies related to reasonable restrictions for political discussion and conduct, including limiting or banning company resources for such activity.

2. Political policies should be tailored to purely political speech or conduct, and preclude activity that is discriminatory, disruptive, or impacts performance.

3. Political policy enforcement should be applied fairly and evenly.

4. Many states prohibit employers from discrimination or retaliation against employees based on political views. Management should be advised to separate their political views from decision-making at work.

5. Be mindful of Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, which allows employees to engage in concerted activity related to the terms and conditions of their employment. For example, they may contact lawmakers, protest, or demonstrate, although these activities are typically limited to outside of work.

March 8, 2019



What Can Employers Do?

1. Sexual Harassment. It is one thing to have policies in place, another to put them into practice. Employers should remind their employees of sexual harassment policies and provide annual training.

2. Investigations. Complaints of sexual harassment, gender bias, pay equity, and #metoo-related allegations should be investigated fairly and addressed quickly.

3. Goals. Employers should set goals for diversity and inclusion and analyze their workforce composite to ensure they are headed in the right direction to achieving such goals.

4. Groups. McKinsey’s Women in the Workplace study points out the “Only” problem. Employers can ensure women are well-represented and heard through a conscientious effort to create mixed-gender teams and avenues for female empowerment.

5. Positivity. Employers should express their positivity regarding diversity advancement, female empowerment, and creating a safe, fun, inclusive workplace - it's a great message from the top.


February 22, 2019


And now...the Worst BOSS Traits

from John Brandon at Inc. and Bamboo HR:

1. Your boss takes credit for your work (63 percent)

One of the big findings is that employees really hate it when the boss takes credit for their work. And, older employees (those over 45) get even more irritated. Why is it just a trigger? Employees want to be recognized, and then challenged to complete other lofty goals. When they realize they won't get any credit or someone will steal it, they lose all motivation.

2. Your boss doesn't appear to trust or empower you (62 percent)

Trust and empowerment can change employee perceptions. When you show trust, you're essentially enabling the employee to succeed. Bad bosses don't understand that. They command and control, assuming an employee is going to fail or create conflict. To change, you have to demonstrate to an employee you are OK with small failures.

3. Your boss doesn't appear to care if you're overworked (58 percent)

The boss is out playing golf or on vacation in Orlando. At work, the employees are stretched pretty thin. That's a problem because, from the perspective of the workers, there isn't an example of how to do the work, someone explaining how to finish tasks, or any time-table other than "get this done before the boss starts paying attention again."

4. Your boss doesn't appear to advocate for you when it comes to monetary compensation (57 percent)

A curious one that ranks high on the list (above setting expectations or not getting a promotion), not advocating for an employee puts you in the doghouse. Why? Like the other high ranking reasons, the employee knows they won't get any credit (in this case, financially) for hard work. He or she will produce the work but won't ever get the recognition.

5. Your boss hires and/or promotes the wrong people (56 percent)

Favoritism is another de-motivator. A bad boss picks the people he or she likes, regardless of skill level. It might be because that person also drives an Audi. Bad bosses don't fairly critique all employees and understand what it takes to do a specific job or role.

February 15, 2019


Traits of a great mentor or boss

(in no particular order)

1. Approachability. If you can't approach your mentor or boss without feeling anxious, hesitant, or like you're going to feel dumb afterward, this is not someone who should be in a leadership position.

2. Empathy. Leaders have to be able to step into someone else's shoes, regardless of position, background, gender, or trait - otherwise they will never understand what their employees or mentees need for guidance and support.

3. Communication. The ability to communicate clearly, in a conversational manner where both sides contribute openly, is key for managers and advisors. In other words, it is crucial to have the ability to talk with someone and not at them, and to appreciate an exchange of ideas aimed towards growth.

4. Inclusiveness. Not just a buzzword in this era, it should be a way of life for companies, and for their change-makers - especially in relation to people, ideas, and solutions. Open-mindedness and nonjudgmental attitudes lead to inclusivity, which leads to better production, more positivity, and a dynamic work environment.

5. Egoless. Strong leaders focus on others, and make them feel like part of the team, that they matter, and they are appreciated. They connect with people, listen, and learn, which is an impossibility if they put themselves first.

January 25, 2019


New Year Items for Small (and not so small) Businesses

1. Ensure your policies comply with employment law changes. For example, in Colorado for 2019, benefit plans must reimburse employees for prescription contraception. In Illinois, employers must reimburse employees for necessary expenditures related to services performed. Check with your employment counsel for details.

2. Minimum wage increases. In Colorado, minimum wage is now $11.10 (tipped employees: $8.08), and $12 in 2020 (tipped employees: $8.98). In Illinois, minimum wage is $8.25 but $12 in Chicago ($13 on July 1, 2019) and $11 in the rest of Cook County (note these figures are different for tipped employees).

3. Data Privacy is Vital. Implement procedures for collection, storage, and use of personal identifying info, and security measures. In Colorado, employers maintaining, owning or licensing personal identifying information in the course of the person’s business are required to do so (enacted in August 2018) and many states require similar procedures.

4. HR Technology is exploding. From predicting employee turnover to onboarding, training, and engaging employees, businesses will look to HR cybertronics for turnover solutions, cost savings, and higher morale through responsiveness, data access, and stronger relationships. Explore better ways to integrate technology into Human Resources for your business needs.

5. Equal Pay is Here to Stay – Yaaaay! Equal Pay laws in states such as Oregon’s go into effect this year, in addition to employer bans on applicant salary history in various states and municipalities (e.g., CA, HI, OR, and several NY cities).

The Gender Gap

We recently honored Martin Luther King, Jr., for his vision and commitment to diversity. It therefore seems fitting to re-share McKinsey's Women in the Workplace 2018 study. Notably, "[C]orporate America has made almost no progress improving women’s representation. Women are underrepresented at every level, and women of color are the most underrepresented group of all, lagging behind white men, men of color, and white women."

Whether you're in Human Resources, management, or otherwise empowered to be a change-maker, I encourage you to review this McKinsey article and strongly consider the six actions recommended to make progress on gender diversity. For our part, The Workplace Counsel will be providing seminars across the country this year to help employers by outlining the legal framework, advising on practical considerations, and promoting meaningful discussions related to pay equity, parental leave, and gender bias.

January 18, 2019


Conducting Employer Investigations

1. Independence is critical – use outside counsel for serious or complex employee matters (i.e., those which may result in claims or litigation).

2. When conducting interviews, be personable, non-condescending, non-accusatory, and open-minded. Your approach should be fact-gathering, not conclusion-confirming.

3. Similarly, your mindset throughout investigations should be about fact discovery and neutrality. The facts should shape your theory of the matter – never the reverse.

4. You can never start an investigation too early. As soon as an employer is informed of a complaint, misconduct, or wrongdoing, the investigation should begin, and so should the proper steps (gather evidence, conduct interviews, document events, plan the next phase, etc.).

5. Always be mindful of how the investigation and evidence an employer relies on for their ultimate business decision would look at trial. While 99% of matters don’t reach trial, conduct yourself and the investigation as if it will.