Central Florida is currently in the middle of an economic boom. Housing prices are rising, the area is improving and expanding infrastructure, new businesses are opening, employment is up. It is a great moment in our economic history. However, as good as the economy in Central Florida is right now, many employers may be finding it difficult to maintain their labor force efficiently.
Recent statistical data shows that in May of 2018 there were 1,298,700 individuals employed in nonagricultural work in Central Florida out of a potential labor pool of 1,339,300 individuals. This put the unemployment rate at 3.0% which is a decrease from 3.7% at the beginning of 2018.
As employers see heightened demand for their goods and services, they need to expand their operations to meet these increases in demand. With expansion comes an increase in labor. However, while the economy in Central Florida is doing well, the pool of available labor is starting to dry up. At 3.0% unemployment the economy is said to be at full employment, but many Central Florida businesses may not be feeling as optimistic as the data would otherwise indicate they are. Numerous employers, if unable to find qualified labor to fill their positions, may be tempted to turn to unqualified labor to fill them. When this happens, there is often only one outcome, liability.
Many small employers see the benefit of having a dedicated member of their team run the human resources department while larger employers may have a large team of individuals to do the same. Human resource (HR) professionals do more than field complaints from your employees, they are often your first line of defense to employment claims and can often be in the most pivotal position available to save the company millions in potential settlements.
However, when the labor pool dries up and human resource professionals are not available, an employer might have to take a chance on an individual who otherwise would never be qualified to work in a human resources position. This is where training can make or break your entire business.
A modern human resources professional does more than manage the paperwork and benefits of the company. They act as employee advocates and they are the natural first stop for complaints of discrimination and harassment. You want to ensure that when an employee feels they have been harassed or discriminated against that they can go to someone in your company who is given the ability to take the allegation seriously, investigate it, and take corrective measures. Identification of these issues can be difficult for many people and they must be listening carefully.
An example of this would be a request for unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The first thing that a HR professional must do is determine if the employer qualifies under the FMLA. If the employer qualifies, then the HR professional needs to determine if the employee qualifies. If they do not qualify currently, but they are close in time to qualification, then will they qualify during the time that leave would otherwise be granted? If yes, then FMLA leave is properly granted. This simple example of knowing how to look at a request for FMLA leave is not something that is readily apparent to most employees, but an HR professional should know this.
Since we do not live in a perfect world, in the above example employers know that the odds of an employee coming forward to request FMLA leave are rather low. However, simply because it is not requested directly does not mean that it was not legally requested. So long as an employee expresses a need for leave to a HR professional or a member of management, alarm bells should begin to go off and the evaluation process learned in a training should instantly begin. Without the proper training the employer can open themselves up to violations of the FMLA simply because no one listened closely.
Employers should ensure that they provide at the very least a base level of employee training in matters of the law. While a training of management and HR professionals can by no means put an end to potential liability of the company, being in a position to identify problems and needs so as to address them early can effectively limit the potential liability a company has. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 84,328 charges of discrimination and harassment in 2017. In all probability there were potentially two to three times that number of settlements reached prior to the filing of a charge against private and public employers. Do not allow yourself to remain vulnerable, ensure that your employer involved with human resources are properly trained and able to recognize danger when they see it.