Q & A: Employees want more than higher pay


Employees want more than higher pay

By Jason R. Mau

Q: With unemployment rates across the United States bottoming out in the low single digits, it’s harder and harder to find and retain good employees. Aside from higher pay and flexible hours, can you as an employment law attorney recommend anything we can do to make our workplace culture and policies more attractive to job candidates?

A:  Generous benefits packages are obviously vital for attracting and retaining good employees.  Outside of higher pay and flexible hours, employees in a recent study highlighted by the Harvard Business Review stated that they would give heavy consideration to employers providing better health insurance, more vacation time, and work-from-home options, and tuition/student loan assistance. 

Q: One of our employees was involved in an accident while driving a company car. Since the employee was at fault, his manager wants to make him pay for the repairs. We currently don’t have a policy covering this type of situation. May we require the employee to cover the cost of the car repairs?

A: If the accident occurred within in the scope of the employee’s job, you cannot legally force him to pay for the repairs. 

Q: We have an employee who wants to write a check each month to cover his health insurance premium instead of having the money come out of his paycheck. Is that allowed?

A: Health insurance premiums are a voluntary payroll deduction which requires written authorization from the employee.  So, while this may make administration of the plan more difficult, or thought to be an odd choice for tax purposes since most premiums are paid with pre-tax dollars, your employee is allowed to make this arrangement. 

Q: The #MeToo phenomenon has put employers and HR pros everywhere on notice that employees and others are no longer willing to hide or be quiet about their encounters with sexual harassment and assault. We have stepped up our vigilance and training to identify and root out these issues in our workplace, but of course we know we can do more. In your estimation, what is the big takeaway for employers from this worldwide pushback against offensive behavior? Is this a moment or a movement? Do you think we will ever arrive at a day when our workplaces are free of such inappropriate behavior?

A: While this is an question that definitely deserves more attention than what I can give it in this column, I believe the biggest takeaway is that employers must take every complaint or comment seriously.  Briefly to the other questions, I see it as part of a larger movement at the very least, and because of human nature, unfortunately do not think there will be a day when our workplaces are free of inappropriate behavior.

Jason R. Mau is an attorney with Greener Burke Shoemaker Oberrecht, P.A.  He can be reached at 208-319-2600 or jmau@greenerlaw.com