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Why Creating a Good Culture Really Matters in the Workplace

 The type of culture the workplace has will directly depend on the management/owner of the company and will trickle down from there. Culture is the very heart of the company and is an integral part of everything that goes on between 9-to-5 and then some. Ever wonder why some companies have such a difficult time keeping employees? Culture.

When a company has a culture that nurtures its employees by providing incentives, praise, proper training and recognition for a job well done, everyone benefits. When the right people are hired to fill a position in a company, it has to go beyond filling a position—they also have to want to be a part of a certain culture—your culture.

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Will the “Me Too” Movement Tighten the Belt on Sexual Harassment at Work?

Sexual harassment or sexual assault can happen to anyone at anytime, anywhere: it does not discriminate. Whether you are working in fast foods, sports, a medical practice, executive office, modeling, acting, at church, a police station … it can happen anywhere, and it's been happening for as long as humans have been on this planet. To say it's only human nature would not be true—there are simply some people in this world who enjoy doing bad things and getting away with them. Hopefully, those days are going to be a thing of the past within our lifetime.

Although the problem is difficult to manage in an unstable environment, the workplace offers some stability to this problem because it has rules that must be obeyed, or you suffer the consequences. This is also true in general society, as a rule, but we all know how that goes. As an employer in today's world, it is more important than ever to have an employee handbook that clearly defines what is and what is not tolerated at work, and what actions will be taken for each infraction. It is up to the employer to provide rules and to also provide training on the subject. This is generally handled by Human Resources where managers and professionals are up-to-date on local state and federal laws regarding all work-related issues.

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When Marijuana is Legalized in Georgia, How Will That Impact the Workplace?

 It's only a matter of time. Although Georgia law continues to prohibit the use, sale, possession, growth or distribution of marijuana as of March 2019, it is only a matter of time before it becomes legalized in the state of Georgia. As with the end of alcohol prohibition in 1933, statewide temperance laws were continued after the 18th amendment repeal in some states and Mississippi remained "dry" until 1966: it just depends on the state and how conservative its laws are. But as we get closer to legalization, will the use of marijuana still be prohibited at work, and especially outside of working hours?

In recent news, an issue regarding not hiring people who want to be become Atlanta police officers who have used marijuana in the past and could not be hired because of this is up for debate. Rules are being considered for change to hire those who have used marijuana in the past, but once hired, are subjected to zero tolerance, on and off the job. This is, rightfully so, causing problems for those who have been turned down in the past due to marijuana use at any time in their lives. The same rule applies to many employers, in the private and public sectors, so it's probably going to get dicey before the smoke finally clears. 
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Finding Love While on the Clock

Is it possible to meet, fall in love, and have a successful relationship with someone at work? It all depends. We spend, on average, eight hours per day at work, five days a week—but some of us will spend much more time at work than others. Unless you have a busy social life, the chances of meeting your significant other in the workplace are pretty high. This can actually be a good thing for many, but there may be caveats: Is it permissible to date a coworker according to the business owner or large corporation's company policy?

Some businesses may be just fine with dating a coworker or in some cases, dating a supervisor or owner of the business while other companies may completely ban dating coworkers or upper management all together. The only way to know whether dating someone at work is or is not allowed is to read the employee manual or to check with Human Resources. If, for some reason, there is no handbook to refer to or an in-house HR department, check with a reputable HR company like Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia who will not only prepare an Employee Manual that is specific to each company's needs but can also provide all-inclusive HR services.

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OSHA Postings are due the First day of February

Employers have to post OSHA Form 300A for 2018 by the first day of February and leave it up through April 30. This form displays illnesses and injuries that occurred during the previous year and serves as a log of work-related injuries and illnesses recorded. The form must be posted in an area where it is visible to all employees. Records must be kept at the worksite for a minimum of five years and available to not only current employees, but to former employees (or their representatives if need be) as well.

The United States Department of Labor requires employers with 10 or more employees to keep records of work-related illnesses and injuries that are considered serious (if an injury only required first-aid, it need not be recorded). Severe injuries regarding loss of an eye, amputation or hospitalization must be reported within 24 hours; any fatality must be reported within 8 hours. Businesses that employ 10 or less employees who work in low-hazard conditions are considered exempt from the above requirements.

Note: OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) is the only form needed for electronic submission for establishments in excess of 250 employees as of July 30, 2018 due to issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). In addition to form 300A, OSHA also requires the employers submit their (EIN) Employer Identification Number.

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2019—It’s Time to Purge Those Records—Or is it?

 A new year always brings about change, and when it comes to which records you keep or toss at the office can sometimes be a challenge. 

Federal records and The Uniform Preservation of Private Business Records Act (UPPBRA) states that records should generally be kept for a period of three years. But sometimes you cannot find a clear-cut answer for how long you should keep certain records. 

Things can get a bit opaque if you don't have any information available to you and you don't want to purge your old records without being certain; you also don't want to keep records longer than needed "just because," so what do you do?

If you can't find an answer it could mean that the records in question should be kept permanently, but to be safe, do your research. Document all resources used during your research whether you fall back on permanently keeping the records or you lean more toward the three-year time period for records purging. This will ensure you will likely avoid any penalties should an audit or court case crop up. 

You can also check with your attorney or CPA because laws differ from state-to-state. Another great resource would be reaching out to a local Human Resource company such as Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia and have them review (or help you create) a Records Retention Schedule and time frame for record keeping or purging since they are always current on new and changing federal and state laws.
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Holidays and Religion in the Workplace

Religious holidays are celebrated throughout the year by all ethnicities, and as an employer, you want to make sure everyone can comfortably enjoy the festivities. The Holiday Season brings with it many diverse options and opportunities to ensure everyone in the workplace will enjoy whatever they choose (or not choose) in order to celebrate without incident.

Your first line of defense against the possibility of a misunderstanding or discrimination in the workplace is to have a company handbook that clearly outlines company policy regarding religious holidays and reasonable accommodations that may be available, but this can get tricky because it is usually something that will happen on a per-person basis and each situation will be unique. Second, you must learn what your obligations are to employees regarding religious accommodations as outlined in "Title VII" of the Civil Rights Act.

Additionally, how do you pay employees during the holidays that may have a religious conflict with them, and are you legally responsible to pay them for religious holidays? What if an employee wants to work on Christmas and wants you to provide reasonable accommodation, yet it is not your policy to pay anyone to work on Christmas? Example: The Federal Government requires employees to take time off during a Federal holiday and the employee may or may not be paid for the required time o

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Have a Thankful Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is a fun time for most; it's a good time to stop and reflect upon what's going on in your life, in general. It's a given that you will enjoy Thanksgiving with family and friends, but many will also set aside a day to celebrate Thanksgiving in the workplace. Whether your feast at work consists of each employee bringing a covered dish or having it catered in by a swanky restaurant or even going out to a popular restaurant, one thing should remain foremost in your mind: remember to thank your employees for a job well done.

A little praise goes a long way and acknowledging your employees who go that extra mile all the time by helping out others' in the workplace is very reassuring to them. They don't know how much they are appreciated unless you tell them. Take this time to let each person know how valuable he or she is to you and to your company. In turn, this makes happier, more content employees who are going to be happier at work and in the long run, will do a better job for you.

Being thankful does not only apply to your family and friends. It applies to those who run your business and keep things running smoothly for you. On average, you spend eight hours or more a day with your employees and some of those days can present challenges that can sometimes become stressful. Encouragement and thanks can erase stress and will work toward positive attitudes, growth and success. Being thankful can be a catalyst for motivation and positive attitudes all around and it should also motivate you to show your valued employees the support that they need year-round.

Stellaris Group in Marietta, Georgia wants to take this time to say "Thank You," to all of our employees who work hard for us each day and to our customers who depend on our professional Human Resource Management team who assist with recruiting and hiring, employee and labor relations; handbooks, policies and procedures, retirement services and ERISA; OSHA safety programs, government compliance and internal investigations. We are thankful for each and every one of you. Have a Happy Turkey Day!​

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Are Your Conversations Being Recorded?

Secretly recording conversations in the workplace is on the rise, and in some states, it is perfectly legal, but in the end, it all comes down to the subject matter being recorded. This trend has prompted employers to add human resource departments to their companies or to reach out to human resource management companies to implement employee training and to help to create employee handbooks outlining appropriate workplace behavior stating what is or is not allowed in the workplace; this should include tape recordings or taking photos at work.

Discrimination, sexual harassment, the "Me Too" movement, and whistle blowers have caused lawsuits to accelerate at record speed due to employees' taping conversations at work or at a company function outside the office without their employer's or co-worker's knowledge, but is this legal? Yes … and no.

Federal and state laws vary across the nation from the following: One Party Consent, All Parties Consent, Mixed Consent and Unestablished Consent. Georgia is a One-Party Consent State, as are most states. Georgia law, O.C.G.A. § 16-11-66, clearly states that it is okay to record a conversation where one person gives consent to the recording. This means that the person making the recording has knowledge of the recording and is consensual, even though the person he/she is recording has no knowledge of the recording. It is allowed either in a public or a private place.

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Commonsense Halloween Protocol for the Workplace

Halloween is a great time for many people to release their alter egos, but when it comes to the workplace, you might want to play by the rules. The following are some basic guidelines to ensure that your Halloween costume won't wind up getting you fired. 

If in Doubt—Ask
If you aren't sure about how to dress for Halloween or what is appropriate to wear, ask a colleague, your supervisor, or check with your Human Resources Department. The information may also be in your employee handbook. The last thing you want is to show up wearing an inappropriate costume, or even worse, show up as the only one dressed in a costume.

Consider Your Environment
If your company policy allows for Halloween costumes but is somewhat vague, use common sense. What type company do you work for? Is it a highly conservative atmosphere or is it relaxed and informal? Are you in the medical field, on staff at a hospital, a social worker, or a paramedic where dressing in costume could be offensive or confusing to some people. In other words, it might not be a very good idea to dress as the Grim Reaper at a funeral home, etc. You get the idea.
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