Legal & Practical Tips for Construction Employers When Handling RIFs, Lay-offs & Furloughs
During the recent economic downturn, HR professionals in the construction industry have been increasingly burdened with handling reductions-in-force (RIFs), lay-offs and furloughs - sometimes at a moment's notice. Recently, AGC requested the expertise of labor and employment law attorney Bert Brannen of Fisher & Phillips LLP, and Doug Mure, Managing Director of Human Resources Consulting and Outsourcing with Pinnacle Financial Group, to give HR professionals in the construction industry much-needed guidance when handling such situations.
From a legal perspective, Bert Brannen addressed many federal and state laws, such as wage payment laws, vacation pay, the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) and the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), to name a few. The advantages and disadvantages of severance and release agreements were also discussed, including specific information on the general requirements necessary for an agreement to be valid. From a practical standpoint, employers were encouraged consider the unique circumstances of each situation, remain in control of the process and know when to involve legal counsel.
Many employers were also introduced to "workplace survivor syndrome," a phrase used by Doug Mure to describe the negative feelings that workers who are not affected by a RIF or lay-off may experience when their co-workers are forced to leave. Mr. Mure offered several tips for diffusing workplace rumors and re-motivating employees who are experiencing this effect, such as not promising what cannot be delivered, acknowledging the additional workload and increased stress levels of employees, and, most importantly, communicating honestly and often.
Another issue that HR professionals, particularly in this industry, are commonly faced with is connecting with superintendents and field supervisors to make them a valuable link between the corporate HR department and field employees. Of many ideas that were shared to encourage this, one of particular popularity was the idea of providing scripts to these managers for handling difficult conversations when an HR representative cannot be present.
For more tips and a complete copy of the presentation, including PowerPoint slides and an audio recording of the webinar, visit the AGC Bookstore.
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