Simple Ways to Thank your Customers

Customer AppreciationThe Small Business Administration recently posted an article listing seven ways to tell your customers “thank you” and we thought it worth sharing a snippet from it. If you want to improve your customer care and retention, it’s best to focus on those little extras that show them that you appreciate their business:

  1. Hold a party. Get in on the celebration early with a November party. A B2B business can host an event at the office; hold a holiday luncheon, dinner or cocktail celebration at a local restaurant; or invite customers to the company holiday party. A B2C business could host a party at the store or location or rent a local space. Make the party festive with contests, celebrations of top customers and goody bags for attendees.
  2. Send greeting cards, notes or letters. …
  3. Spotlight your best customers. Make November Customer Appreciation Month and spotlight a different customer every week (or daily if you can manage it). Post a photo of the customer, a few quotes from them about why they appreciate your business, and a few words from you about why you appreciate their business. Interview the customer about their favorite product/service/employee at your business, how they first heard of your business, how long they’ve been customers—anything that tells a story.

Read the full article at SBA. gov website.

Ready to develop a comprehensive Customer Strategy? Go beyond just a marketing plan, to a complete Customer Strategy on how you will woo in new customers and wow them into staying. See our section on Wooing and Wowing Customers.

Employee Handbooks for Restaurants

Fairness in employment.  An employee handbook sets your employee policies and procedures in writing for your restaurant, grill, or cafe.   With a well designed restaurant employee manual you will gain many benefits: 1) your HR policies will be clear and consistent, 2) you will lower the chance of misunderstanding or frustration among staff, 3) you will offer protection to the business, and 4) you will equip your supervisors with a good HR resource.  No matter what type of business you have, an employee handbook is an essential for getting your employee policies in writing.

Some policies are necessary for any employee handbook:  at-will employment, non-discrimination, non-harassment, professional ethics, benefits, and a confirmation-of-receipt page.  Consider some of the other policies that can be included:

Employee Policies listEmployee Policies List

What typical policies are specific for restaurants?  Laws differ by state (and sometimes by city). There usually aren’t any that are specific to the industry beyond requirements on hygiene and food handling. Restaurant managers and owners do often choose to add custom policies that are unique to their particular organization, covering topics such as delivery driving safety, money handling, dress code, employee parking, customer respect, or security.

What is not included in a typical handbook?  A typical handbook (30-40 pages) does not cover job procedures which are too intricate and industry-specific.  Those topics not covered include things like job descriptions, day-to-day work procedures, and so forth.  Also, most handbooks are only in English, since good translation services are rather expensive to maintain legally compliant terminology.

How do I get a restaurant employee handbook?  Many wonder how to go about getting an employee manual that covers everything they need it to. Well, there are three paths you can choose to from:

  • Do-it-yourself (template)
  • Consulting Company (custom designed)
  • Lawyer (legally strong but not customized)

1. Do-it-Yourself Path: Many consider buying an employee handbook template online, which can cost from $50 to $350 or more.  A decent one will cost you at least $200.  The features such a template must have are:

  • Does the template include state-specific sections?  Many regulations differ by state, such as overtime, discrimination laws, jury duty, vacation pay, etc.
  • Does the template include size-specific sections?  Some regulations differ also by size, including FMLA, Pregnancy Leave, Sick Leave, etc.

Even if the employee handbook template you purchase is a decent one, expect to invest 100-140 work hours into research, editing, and customizing.  You will need to become familiar with your state’s labor laws to make sure the final handbook complies to state laws.  Most templates are purchased online.

Cost to you: about $250, plus 100+ work hours.

2. Consulting Company path:  This is the best value for most organizations.  Hire a consulting company to create your restaurant Employee Handbook.  The consulting company will conduct an interview to determine your current employee policies and survey what will be required considering your industry, location, and size.  Pricing starts at $1,500, so it initially costs more than the DIY path, but in reality it will save you both time and money.  See the links below for more information.

Cost to you: About $1,500 to $3,000, plus a few hours reading through the various drafts.

Learn more: Employee Handbook for Businesses

In addition, a consulting company can add custom policies that are unique to your organization, which a template would not offer.

3. Attorney-approved Path:  This route is by far the most expensive for an organization.  Hiring a Labor Lawyer to design an employee handbook can cost $5,000 to $9,000 or even more.  Is it worth the price?  Yes, if you run a highly regulated business or one considered to be at  high-risk for lawsuits.   Be sure to find a lawyer who focuses on employer needs, since many labor lawyers make their money representing employees suing their employers.

Cost to you: Average about $7,000, plus a few hours to review what was created.

(This article was originally published at HR Quick Answers. Republished with permission.)

AB5 will make it hard to use 1099 workers

California employers need to need to inform themselves about the changes coming their way due to the passage of AB5. This attack on gig workers could have huge consequences on your business if you hire anyone as an independent contractor. Some consultants are going so far as to tell their clients to stop using any independent contractors or freelancers whatsoever. The concern is the possibility of a lawsuit claiming that those “independent contractors” should have been employees and that you now owe back pay and penalties for not providing them with minimum wages, required health benefits, lunch breaks, and so on.

Basically, the law will impose the ABC test on all independent contractors to determine whether they should be an employee of yours or not. For someone to truly by a freelancer they must meet these three criteria: (A) the worker is free from your company’s control (B) the worker performs work that isn’t central to your company’s business and (C) the worker has an independent business, trade or occupation in that industry. If you can’t prove that ALL THREE ARE TRUE, then that freelancer should have been hired as an employee, even if it’s just as a temporary employee.

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, Heidi Lynne Kurter noted that the law sponsored by State Representative Lorena Gonzalez  will put a huge burden on those who actually want to be independent:

Gonzalez’ intentions might be good, but the stark reality is hundreds of thousands of independent contractors in California will become employees under the bill. Everyone from manicurists, dancers, journalists, writers, bartenders and delivery drivers will be impacted. Business Insider estimated around 7,200 workers have lost their media jobs this year alone. As media faces major challenges in business, this number will only continue to climb as publications lack the means to bring on more employees.

Read the full article from Forbes magazine.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the new law is causing headaches for many freelancers, especially among writers. Companies around the country are already avoiding any California-based freelancers:

 Many publications that employ California freelancers aren’t based in the state and it’s not clear how AB 5 will affect them. Still, some are choosing to opt out entirely. Indeed, several freelance writers who spoke to THR say that various out-of-state employers — some with offices in California — have already told them they’re cutting ties with California freelancers.

Read the full article at The Hollywood Reporter.

How does this affect your business? You will need to think carefully before hiring any independent contractor to do anything around your company. Many will now avoid individuals (and people doing business under FBNs), and keep their outside hiring strictly to hiring other companies, since the law doesn’t affect and business-to-business transactions. Thankfully, New Wind Business Solutions is a California corporation so our clients needn’t worry about hiring us. However, this does limit our ability to hire independent specialists to help with certain types of projects.

Required Sick and Safety Leave in San Antonio, Texas

Following in the footsteps of many other large cities, San Antonio is implementing its mandatory Sick and Safe Leave (SSL) ordinance on all employers in the city. Employees earn 1 hour of sick leave per every 30 hours worked, up to a maximum of 56 hours of paid leave per year. The city ordinance is still being fine-tuned (see the last revision from September 2019 here), but it will be established by the end of the year.

When does the law start? December 1, 2019 is now the start date, but that has been delayed a few times already.

Who does this law apply to? All employers in San Antonio, no matter how big or small their business. This applies to all employees who work within city limits. If your employee also works outside the city but still works at least 240 hours a year in San Antonio, then the law still applies.

For what purpose can an employee take SSL?  An employee can use accrued sick leave when they need to be absent from work because the employee or the employee’s family member suffer illness, injury, stalking, domestic abuse, sexual assault, or otherwise require medical or health care, including preventative care and mental health care. According to the law firm Ogletree Deakins PC, the law defines who classifies as a family member:

The revised ordinance includes a more specific definition of a “family member,” which now includes (i) “[s]pouses, domestic partners, and both different-sex and same-sex significant others”; (ii) “[a]ny other family member within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity”; and (iii) “[a] member of the covered employee’s household,” as well as “[a] minor’s parents, regardless of the sex or gender of either parent.” In addition, “[t]he concept of parenthood is to be liberally construed without limitation as encompassing legal parents, foster parents, same-sex parent, step-parents, those serving in loco parentis, and other persons operating in caretaker roles.”

Read the full article, including a nice summation of the law, at website of Ogletree Deakins.

Does an employer have to pay out accrued sick leave upon termination? No, according to the latest revision, “This ordinance does not require the payment of sick and safe leave upon separation from employment and it does not require that sick and safe leave be calculated as an increase to salary or wages for an employee.”

What kind of record keeping is required? The employer will need to provide monthly updates to each employee, letting them know how much SSL has been accrued. If you have an employee handbook, the SSL policy must be stated. There might be some required posters, but that is still to be determined.

Need to update your Texas Employee Handbook? If so, then contact us today and get a customized employee handbook that includes required and recommended policies for your business.

Dealing with Customers who Harass Your Employees

Almost all managers and business owners understand that the law protects their employees from harassment by fellow employees or by any boss. Many companies even have written policies in place, detailing the seriousness of such harassment and how it will be investigated. Whether it’s sexual, racial, or any other inappropriate behavior, most managers know it cannot be tolerated. But what do you do when the harasser isn’t an employee? What if the harassment comes from a vendor or a customer?

Don’t just ignore misdeeds of outsiders. With vendors, you can complain to their supervisors to demand that the vendor either be disciplined or replaced. Dealing with errant customers can be more difficult though, especially if your company has had the attitude of ‘the customer is always right.’ But you cannot just ignore misdeeds by customers, especially if they are towards your staff.

The law firm Jackson Lewis PC addressed this issue recently in an article:

The Seventh Circuit provided an illustrative hypothetical of this in Dunn v. Washington County Hospital:

Suppose a patient kept a macaw in his room, that the bird bit and scratched women but not men, and that the Hospital did nothing. The Hospital would be responsible for the decision to expose women to the working conditions affected by the macaw, even though the bird (a) was not an employee, and (b) could not be controlled by reasoning or sanctions. It would be the Hospital’s responsibility to protect its female employees by excluding the offending bird from its premises.

429 F.3d 689, 691 (7th Cir. 2005).

Still, this does not mean the law makes employers vicariously liable for customers’ actions. Rather, the Seventh Circuit held, the standard of liability applicable to coworker harassment also applies to customer-based harassment. Although this standard does not translate perfectly to situations of alleged customer harassment, it is adaptable.

Read the full article at JacksonLewis website.

In other words, you need to stand up against harassment whenever it happens at the workplace, whether the offender is an employee or an outsider. You might not have as much leverage over customers but that doesn’t mean you should allow them to get away with demeaning behavior. Might it endanger sales? Certainly, but some things are more important that a large profit.

Do you have your harassment policies in writing? If not, then consider getting at least that in place. By getting the company’s standards and expectations in writing, you are making sure all employees know that you won’t tolerate disrespect of another. It also offers guidance to all supervisors. Time to get an employee handbook designed specifically for your particular business.

Religious Discrimination at the Workplace

As religious beliefs at the workplace becomes more diverse, there’s a greater chance for claims of religious discrimination. An employer needs to be aware of this and set policies in place to make sure all employees are treating each other (and customers) with respect, no matter their particular beliefs.

With society’s ever-growing religious diversity, it is important for organizations to understand how to provide a work environment free of religious discrimination.

According to the EEOC:

In fiscal year 2014 the EEOC received 3,549 charges alleging discrimination on the basis of religion.  These charges represent a slight decrease from the past few years but remain significantly above the numbers from before fiscal year 2007.  The top issues alleged in religion charges are Discharge, Harassment, Terms and Conditions of Employment, and Reasonable Accommodation.  EEOC also realized 268 settlements and 34 successful conciliations from 3,575 resolutions in fiscal year 2014.

The EEOC has filed 68 lawsuits since the beginning of fiscal year 2010 involving claims of religious discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  During the same period the Commission recovered approximately $4 million, as well as important injunctive and other case-specific “make whole” relief, for victims of religious discrimination.

Read the full article at the EEOC website.

Can you express religious views at work?  Of course, but as the business owner or manager you also have a responsibility to make sure employees don’t “pick on”, belittle, tease, or mock those who have differing beliefs from theirs.

Steps you should take: Familiarize yourself with the guidelines the EEOC provides on how to avoid religious discrimination:

Best Practices, according to the EEOC, on how to avoid religious discrimination at the workplace:

https://www.eeoc.gov//policy/docs/best_practices_religion.html

What is religious discrimination? EEOC offers a lengthy explanation of what (and isn’t) considered discrimination in the workplace:

https://www.eeoc.gov//policy/docs/qanda_religion.html

Do you have a written policy against religious discrimination? Such a policy is included in all professionally-designed Employee Handbooks. If you want to learn more about how much it costs to get an employee handbook for your business, see a recent post by HR Quick Answers about the subject: What does it cost to get an Employee Handbook?

(This article is based on one originally published by HR Quick Answers. Republished with permission.)

Employee Handbooks for California Businesses

Custom Employee HandbookDoing business in California can be fantastic and frustrating at the same time. There are so many huge opportunities to explode in sales (if you are great at Wooing your Customers), but the labor regulations can sometimes overwhelm.  Rules. Rules. Rules. There are regs on OT, breaks, sick leave, discrimination, voting rights, and so much more.

As your company grows, you’ll reach a point when you realize it’s time to get more professional in how we’re handling our rules and policies. You realize that it’s time to get an Employee Handbook.

What are the benefits of an Employee Handbook? Besides offering some lawsuit protection, a handbook helps to get everyone “on the same page” when it comes to expectations, benefits, and potential consequences for failing to work as expected.

Other benefits to having an employee handbook are listed by the info blog HR Quick Answers:

Fairness in employment.  An employee handbook sets your employee policies and procedures in writing for your California business.   With a well designed California employee manual you will gain many benefits: 1) your HR policies will be clear and consistent, 2) you will lower the chance of misunderstanding or frustration among staff, 3) you will offer protection to the business, and 4) you will equip your supervisors with a good HR resource.  No matter what type of business you have, an employee handbook is an essential for getting your California employee policies in writing.

But that leads to the question of how do you get an employee handbook. Well, there are 3 main options in front of you:

1. Download a Template. Priced from $30 to $350, these templates will require you to invest many hours into personalizing the handbook to your state, employee count, and business specifics. Templates do NOT have typical industry-specific policies. A good template from the California Chamber of Commerce coasts about $250.

2. Have a consulting company design a customized handbook for you. Typical price is between $1,500 and $3,000. Pricing might seem high, but consider how many hours it would take one of your employees to create this from a good template (anywhere from 3-4 weeks of work). Even if the employee is only getting paid $10 per hour, it will cost you at least as much as it would hiring a consulting company, and the consultant will have quite a bit more experience at what should (and shouldn’t) be in that manual.

Customized Employee Handbooks

Church Employee Handbooks

3. Go to a labor law lawyer. This is by far the most expensive option, but you will receive a California employee handbook that considers all the legal intricacies of your business (though maybe not industry-specific policies). This is a good option for complex businesses concerned about employee lawsuits. Typical pricing ranges from $5,000 to $9,000.

Another option is to hire a lawyer to simply review a handbook you had designed DIY or by a consultant.

At New Wind, we design customized Employee Handbooks. We invite you to contact us for a complementary 30-minute Phone Consult, where we’ll talk about your business and what you want/need as written policies in an employee handbook. Schedule a consult now- it will only cost you 30 minutes of your time.

Contact New Wind