Focus on these ways to save your property from unwanted and unnecessary expenses

Happy 2009! Let’s hope that this year’s financial outlook is better than last year’s. I usually enjoy riding on roller coasters, but the one that we have all been on in 2008 hasn’t been much fun. It’s been a rough ride.

Here at our casino, we have cut back on labor, but we haven’t found it necessary to lay anybody off, thank goodness. We’ve cut back on expenses, as well. So far -- so good. I’ve been around for a couple of economic downturns over the years, but this one is similar to the notion of a perfect storm in that so many negatives are swirling around us at the same time. The price of gas certainly contributed to the problem, and the fact that it has since come down is a positive. Here’s to seeing more positives over the next few months.

I’ve been focusing on ways to save our property from unwanted and unnecessary expenses, such as unearned unemployment claims and the possibility of lawsuits. As I told our managers and supervisors at a group meeting, the last thing we need right now is to have to pay attorneys upward of $80,000 in fees to defend against a complaint of some kind. To accomplish this, I have stepped up refresher training of corrective/progressive discipline and what constitutes protected classes of employees.

Several years ago, I put together a small booklet that I call “Documentation at a Glance.” I have distributed this booklet to all new supervisors and managers as they have joined our staff. It contains the following:
  • An overview of the steps involved in corrective discipline;
  • An explanation of terms;
  • An example of the forms used;
  • A completed example of each step in the process;
  • An entry into a file of a verbal warning;
  • A completed written warning;
  • A completed disciplinary suspension;
  • A completed suspension, pending the completion of an investigation;
  • How to handle insubordination when an employee refuses to sign; and
  • Copies of pertinent policies, such as attendance.
I put together some new documentation booklets and distributed them to our staff. I do ongoing training every year, but, again, I felt it was imperative that we all be on the same page, without a hitch, just now. We talked about how the progressive discipline policy is fair to all employees. I asked that if they were doing something that could get them into trouble, would they prefer to be spoken with about it before it got to the “write-up” stage. Of course they said they would. I’m feeling much more confident now.

The confidence that we will prevail in claims for unemployment benefits results from the training, as well. I distributed copies of the documents involved in responding to a claim so that everyone could better understand what the human resources department needs to do for claims. I included a response to an appeal for denial of benefits, too. In Nevada, the employer pays into an insurance fund to cover claims. The employee doesn’t contribute anything. That is one of the biggest reasons we don’t want to pay on claims that really aren’t warranted. The dollars paid out affect an employer’s account for a really long time. Managers and supervisors enjoy seeing things they don’t usually deal with, especially if it involves one of their own employees. This makes a big impact.

I moved on to explaining what constitutes a claim of sexual harassment, of discrimination or retaliation. Reiterating what Title VII is ( Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin. This includes discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, wages, job assignments, fringe benefits and all other terms and conditions of employment.);  and, the ADEA (established in 1967, it prohibits the same types of discrimination as Title VII  except it based on his or her age.).

I’ve found that one of the keys to success with supervisors and managers knowing how to handle potential discriminatory situations is to raise their awareness. They need to be able to recognize when a situation is developing. We don’t ask that they handle anything on their own, but that they realize that something is going on and they know to contact the human resources department.

I present these updates on a fairly regular basis, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to increase awareness at this time. Helping to keep expenses down is one of the ways human resources departments can help their properties all the time, but especially now. I am always looking for ways to contribute, since my department doesn’t generate revenue. Another avenue is keeping a close eye on worker’s compensation claims, but, that is another column.

I trust your properties and businesses are doing OK. And, I hope we all start seeing some big upturns in the coming months.