Provided by: Judge Ruth B. Kraft


DRESS CODE:  Back in the day, flip-flops were beach-only attire but, then again, I am old enough, alas, to remember a time when a lady wouldn’t be caught dead on Fifth Avenue without a hat and white gloves!  After all those years in court, I am still not completely acclimated to business casual.  As employers, you need to decide on your standard and, frankly, pick your battles.  This may be much more significant in a business which interacts with the public than in a call center venue.

Some employee handbooks refer to “appropriate attire” but appropriate is in the eyes of the beholder.  Be specific.  You may clearly want to prohibit tee shirts but a collared shirt emblazoned with “Margaritaville-Get Drunk and Boogy”  or “Allah Inshallah” may be equally inappropriate.  Sexually explicit verbiage should never be considered acceptable.  Be specific and make your rules clear.  Remind your employees about your standards now rather than letting resentments fester.  Think about whether you are compliant as well because setting a rule which you personally do not abide by is a quick path to employee dissatisfaction. 

VACATION LEAVES:  It is always a good idea to clearly communicate your vacation policies to workers before the holiday season and particularly before the summer.  If you plan to limit vacation leave to ensure coverage of the office, then it is important to have a system in place to fairly allocate days off.  Does your handbook set rules about whether vacation time is rationed based on seniority, date of request, or a lottery and does it state that each department must have workers in place?  Sometimes the best policies are ones created by employee “buy-in”.  Do you know what to do if an employee brandishes airplane tickets and insists that she must have a week off?  Have you made it clear to workers that, although you will be closed on July 4, the 5th, which falls on a Friday this year, is a regular workday?  Let me add that, if you expect your employees to show up on the 5th, it is a good idea to do so yourself or this “inequality” will be a hot topic at the watercooler for weeks to come.
ON AN UNRELATED NOTE, North Carolina has just enacted new unemployment insurance rules.  Significantly, the state, which owes the federal government $2.5 billion after exhausting its trust fund, has decreased the weekly benefit rate from $535 to $350, restricted the maximum number of weeks for which benefits will be available and added a surtax for employers’ contributions.  To this point, an employer with no claims could have a 0 tax rate.  That has changed and a 20% surtax has been created to bolster the reserve fund.  Additionally, employers will have to maintain account balances equal to 1% of taxable wages.  The goal is to attempt to pay back the feds with the least amount of pain to the state’s pocketbook.  Why do I mention North Carolina? Because bright ideas like this tend to spread like wildfires, especially when government can seize an opportunity to separate an employer from its hard earned dollars.  Don’t be surprised if this comes your way in the near future.

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