Down with legal fees!

I am a lawyer.  Many of my close friends are lawyers.  I like lawyers. 

That said, I hate paying legal fees.  It is one of my goals, with my work in my community and in this industry, to help smart business folk be smart and efficient consumers of legal services.  That is why I spend so much time writing articles and speaking and generally talking about geeky law topics.

It’s not that I have an anti-income business death wish, it is that I want my clients to feel as good as they can about my invoices.

With this in mind, I will share my favorite, client-helping legal resources.  While these resources are not a substitute for good legal counsel, they provide a solid understanding of basic concepts and can help answer day-to-day questions, and can help make those conversations with YOUR lawyer more painless.  Even legal concepts drenched in Latin terms do not need to be… latin.

General business smarts:  Sometimes, ECE providers have questions about the nature of their industry – early education.  Sometimes, they have smart questions about running their business.  When you have questions, go to the experts – the Small Business Administration.  http://www.sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center

Posters:  Employers need to post certain information under certain Federal and State statures.  Here is a great summary of what the State of Colorado thinks you should post: http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?c=Page&childpagename=CDLE-LaborLaws%2FCDLELayout&cid=1249907618881&pagename=CDLEWrapper

Minimum Wage:  Calculating minimum wage can be more complicated than it seems.  Here is a summary of Colorado’s interpretation.  http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDLE-LaborLaws/CDLE/1248095305416

Overtime:  Paying employees overtime requires calculating the rate of pay.  It also requires weekly calculations as well as daily calculations.  Here is one summary of that process.  http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDLE-LaborLaws/CDLE/1248095305395

Great summary of a number of employment laws:  Wondering where to start this process?  Here is one place to being your journey of legal compliance.  http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1251840343375&ssbinary=true

Youth employment:  As summer approaches, employing teachers who are under 18 makes perfect sense.  This website outlines some issues to consider.  http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite?blobcol=urldata&blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobkey=id&blobtable=MungoBlobs&blobwhere=1251840342191&ssbinary=true

Licensing:  I once had an attendee of one of my lectures ask where she could learn what was new at the state.  She complained that she did not have time to read articles or time to attend classes or the money to hire a lawyer.  I empathize.  A good start?  The website maintained by licensing.  The resources and opportunities there are fantastic.  http://www.coloradoofficeofearlychildhood.com/

The Americans with Disabilities Act:  Working with kiddos entitled to protections under the ADA is a rewarding challenge.  This website answers some frequently asked questions: http://www.ada.gov/childq%26a.htm.

The Fair Labor Standards Act:  The FLSA is the Federal Statute that governs the payments of minimum wage and overtime.  This sounds simple, but is complicated.  Here is the Federal Department of Labor’s view of the intersection of ECE and the FLSA. http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs46.pdf

Mandatory Reporting:  Reporting child abuse, neglect and maltreatment is required by Colorado statute and is a crucial part of an early childhood educators’ responsibilities.  If you have questions about those responsibilities, this website may provide a jumping off point:  http://www.colorado.gov/cs/Satellite/CDHS-Main/CBON/1251633944381

I could go on.  The Internet can provide countless pieces of useless information and misinformation.  It can also provide great, basic information that will help you ask smarter, more efficient questions.  To disregard this amazing tool is to miss a great learning opportunity.

Laura J. Hazen is a co-founder of the law firm of H&K Law, LLC.  In her employment practice, Hazen provides day-to-day advice and coaching to public and private companies on various employment matters.  She also has an active litigation practice where she concentrates on representing business in all aspects of complex business and employment disputes.  You can contact her by email at lhazen@hklawllc.com or by phone at 303.749.0649.

This article is intended as a general discussion and information on the topic covered, and is not to be construed as rendering legal advice.  If legal advice is needed, you should consult an attorney.  This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author.

© 2014 H&K Law, LLC.  These materials may not be reproduced in any way without the written permission of H&K Law, LLC.

Taking Stock: An Internal Assessment.

When we were in elementary school, our teachers repeated a time-honored cycle: teach, review, assess.  They exposed us to new information, we discussed its application and then, on Friday, they would sit us down, admonish us to keep our eyes on our own paper, and they would test our ability to apply the information learned.

The end of these stressful moments is one of the things we celebrated at graduation when caps went flying.  Tests are unpleasant, right?  No sane person would actually volunteer to subject themselves to tests as an adult, would they?

Yet that is exactly what I suggest you do.  Think about this:

When was the last time you did that for your business?  When was the last time you took a minute to sit and reflect on what you are doing well and where you could improve? 

Running a business is relentless work.  Finding time to run performance down a scorecard is difficult, but necessary.

I suggest that you craft a schedule for auditing your internal processes and procedures, and stick to it.  Consider the following components of your employment practices and whether they could use a periodic review:

·       Job descriptions.  Do they actually reflect the duties performed? Do they comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act? Do they outline the essential functions of the position such that they would be useful in determining reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act?

  • Employee Handbook.  Does your handbook provide useful information for employees? Is it accurate?  Do you have clear written polices about Equal Employment Opportunity policies, a prohibition against discrimination, harassment and workplace violence, required leaves, accommodations for nursing mothers, a complaint procedure, PTO accrual, dress code, drugs, alcohol and weapons on site, benefits and other important topics?
  • Wage Policies.  Do you have a clear understanding of when wages are earned, vested and determinable?  Do your pay structures comply with the Fair Labor Standards Act?
  • Training.  Do your supervisors have guidance about how to handle performance issues, harassment complaints, off-color jokes, threatening comments, employees with disabilities, team management and conflicts of interest?
  • Disaster Preparedness.  Do you have clear evacuation plans, in the event of an emergency?  How would you handle a threat on site?  What if there were a regional emergency, do you have a plan for temporary office space, or will you remain closed down?
  • Onboarding and Termination.  Do you have clear patters for interviewing candidates, and integrating them into your workplace?  In the event that things do not work out, do you have procedures in place for employees who leave?
  • Documents.  Do you have a document maintenance and destruction policy? How do you maintain your personnel files? What documents are kept there and which are in confidential files or document-specific files like I-9 binders?
  • Confidential Information.  Do you have contracts with employees that regulate what they can and can not share about their work life, outside of the office?  Do you have other appropriate security measures in place to protect confidential and proprietary information? Are you confident that your polices conform to the requirements of the National Labor Relations Act and its recent decisions concerning employee protected, concerted activity and social media?

Conducting an internal HR Audit can be time-consuming and can create ripples in internal politics.  These challenges, however daunting, are small when compared to the time and effort involved in defending a lawsuit and dealing with resulting fallout.

Laura J. Hazen is a co-founder of the law firm of H&K Law, LLC.  In her employment practice, Hazen provides day-to-day advice and coaching to public and private companies on various employment matters.  She also has an active litigation practice where she concentrates on representing business in all aspects of complex business and employment disputes.  You can contact her by email at lhazen@hklawllc.com or by phone at 303.749.0649.

This article is intended as a general discussion and information on the topic covered, and is not to be construed as rendering legal advice.  If legal advice is needed, you should consult an attorney.  This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author.

© 2014 H&K Law, LLC.  These materials may not be reproduced in any way without the written permission of H&K Law, LLC.

 

Unexpected Hazards and Bus Runs

Hazards

The Colorado regulations applicable to less-than-24-hour care include many specifics.  7.702.91(c) of those regulations provides that “Volatile substances such as gasoline, kerosene, fuel oil, and oil- based paints, firearms, explosives, and other hazardous items must not be stored in any area of the building used for child care. Plastic bags and sharp tools and instruments must be stored in areas inaccessible to children.” (emphasis added)

What does this mean? What are “hazards”?

Hazards are anything that contain a warning; anything that should not be around children.  Hazards include:

  • Lipstick, lotion, perfume, lipbalm (almost anything in your purse);
  • Office supplies – liquid paper, white out, staples;
  • Medication;
  • Plug-in air fresheners (many are flammable);
  • Anything marked “keep out of reach of children” including toothpaste, sunscreen, antibacterial hand wash, etc.
  • Cigarettes;
  • Tiny art supplies and other chokables in any areas where children under 3 learn, play or walk – google eyes, Styrofoam sticker, pompoms (keep choketubes in every room where kiddos under 3 spend time);
  • Cleaning supplies;
  • Many things in your kiddos’ backpacks;
  • Plastic bags (a biggie);
  • Diapering supplies;
  • Cooking supplies;
  • Sharp scissors;
  • Knives used for cutting fruit for snack;
  • Art supplies; and
  • Anything else you are worried about!

Bus Runs

Bus runs.  Can’t beat ‘em, can’t refuse to do ‘em. 

Even with all of the possible perils, I love bus runs almost as much as I hate sending my kids on playdates (unnecessary, but honest, digression in that sentence).  Summertime is a great time to revisit bus run procedures, and your name-to-face protocol.  Every year, well-meaning, kid-loving educators leave sleepy kiddos on the bus.  Avoid this unintended neglect by paying attention to the strategies available to you.

  • Create a name-to-face sheet for each bus run.
  • Be sure your process accounts for day-to-day changes in lists of kiddos who are on each bus.
  • Practice walking to the back of the bus…every time … and looking under the seats.
  • Use call and response verbal cues: “I am taking 8 kids off of the bus and bringing them into the center”, asking the front desk to validate the number and ages of kids.
  • Create a system that has a double-check.  When possible, use two different people to confirm that you have the right kids from school X returning to center Y.

The great thing about practicing perfect bus runs goes beyond safe fieldtrips.  The muscle memory created by safe bus runs can create safer intra-center transportation of kids from one from room to another. 

Laura J. Hazen is a co-founder of the law firm of H&K Law, LLC.  In her employment practice, Hazen provides day-to-day advice and coaching to public and private companies on various employment matters.  She also has an active litigation practice where she concentrates on representing business in all aspects of complex business and employment disputes.  You can contact her by email at lhazen@hklawllc.com or by phone at 303.749.0649.

This article is intended as a general discussion and information on the topic covered, and is not to be construed as rendering legal advice.  If legal advice is needed, you should consult an attorney.  This article may not be reprinted or reproduced in any manner without prior written permission of the author.

© 2014 H&K Law, LLC.  These materials may not be reproduced in any way without the written permission of H&K Law, LLC.