Friday, August 29, 2014

How to handle employee arrests

Getting arrested is probably not on anyone's bucket list, nor is it likely to be anyone's favorite topic for conversation in the break room during lunch time. People make mistakes because they are people. No one is perfect.

While everyone hopes they won’t be involuntarily wearing shiny cuffs, sporting orange or brown county-assigned clothing, or spending time away in the “all-inclusive” county “resort,” the fact of the matter is sometimes it happens (a word of advice: to avoid this experience, don't break the law.)

I am sure if you were able to watch the thoughts of someone who has just been arrested there would be a jumbled mess of "what if" and "what will" questions flashing across the screen. One of those "what will" questions is likely "What will happen to my job?"

To be honest with you, when an employee is arrested an employer is faced with a similar question: "What will we do now?" On the employer side there are many more questions that follow and there really aren’t easy answers or set ways for an employer or employee to respond.

On both sides it is important for there to be a level of honesty. As an employee, it's better to be up front with your manager instead of your manager finding out from a background check, court disposition or surprise phone call from a friend or family member. In the past when I have worked with employees who have been arrested I have given them a certain level of flexibility and tried to work with them if they have been up front with me. It is probably one of the hardest conversations you will ever have with a manager, but it could save your job. On the employer side it is also important to let the employee know that it will take time to consider and review what the company will do, based on company policy, liabilities, and other factors. It is also best practice to be honest in giving the employee a timeline for when they might expect a decision.

Easy enough and it all works out after that, right? Well, not quite. This is actually where it gets very complex on the employer's side. If an employer does not have a carefully outlined policy stating what an employee has to do if they are arrested and what types of arrests and/or convictions result in disciplinary action, the door is wide open to all sorts of confusion. The best practice is to get a policy in place but it is a very cloudy area to explore and should be reviewed thoroughly by an HR professional or legal adviser.

Most small-to-medium-sized employers haven’t implemented policies that clearly state what should be done, so when an employee is arrested it can be very complex.

Any arrest should be individually considered. Some factors to consider include the offense the employee has been charged with, how long the employee might be incarcerated if convicted, and what relationship does the arrest have with the employee’s job. Without considering these factors individually and determining in advance what steps can be taken (disciplinary action, termination, etc.), employers run the risk of being accused of wrongful termination or discriminatory practices.

If an employee has been charged with a serious crime, you may want to adopt a standard policy under which the person is automatically suspended (paid or unpaid) pending the outcome of the case. If the employee is exonerated or if the charges are dismissed, he or she may be reinstated (require documentation from the courts). If the employee is convicted, terminate employment.

Employers also have to be mindful that the steps and actions they take with the arrest of one employee have to be consistent should another employee be arrested down the road. Employers “picking and choosing” -- e.g. "Johnny's a good guy and just made a mistake getting a DUI, but Josh is a jerk so we're using his DUI as a reason for letting him go" -- leave the door wide open for being charged with discriminatory practices.

Arrests of employees should be handled carefully to ensure the employee and the situation are being handled in a fair and non-discriminatory manner. Additionally, employees should be aware the employers have to make decisions based on business needs, being mindful of the risks and liabilities arrests, convictions and incarceration can have.

Monica Bitrick is the CEO of Bitrick Consulting Group, an Idaho Falls human resources company.

USA Today picks Bullseye Burger as best of state fair fare

This came out more than a month ago and was sent to me by Tyler Archibald, but in the interest of immediate impact I decided to hold it until the eve of the Eastern Idaho State Fair, which starts tomorrow.

In its July 23 survey "State fair fare: View funky (usually fried) food," USA Today chose the Bullseye Burger as Idaho's dish to be savored. "This bacon cheeseburger is topped with a fried egg and served on a glazed doughnut. Other fair food includes bacon wrapped chestnuts, fried cheesecake bites, smoked turkey legs and sirloin steak served on a stick," the article reported.

Other state fair dishes included: Rocky Mountain Oysters (Montana), Pierogies (New Jersey) and Pulled Pork Parfait (Illinois). I can feel my arteries filling cholesterol even as I read this.

The Bullseye Burger is the creation of Outlaw Catering of Blackfoot. Here is their Facebook page if you want to like them: Outlaw Catering.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ron Sayer sets fund-raiser for Westside Elementary

Ron Sayer Chrysler Jeep Dodge will be having its annual Drive For the Kids benefit at Westside Elementary School on Thursday afternoon from 4:30 to 7 p.m. It works this way: the dealer will bring some of its latest models, and for every test drive $10 will be donated to the school's parent teacher organization. They promise for it to be a low pressure event that will benefit the school.

Going by last year's posts on Facebook, the event was more than low pressure. Chrysler's representative was delayed and the fund-raiser was canceled, but Chrysler mailed Westside a check for $1,000, with a promise to reschedule. At another fund-raiser later in the year, the dealership raised $2,150 for Templeview Elementary,

Friday, August 22, 2014

Commission calls rainfall 'catastrophic' for malt barley crop

The effect of heavy August rain on eastern Idaho's malt barley crop has been catastrophic, said Kelly Olson, administrator of the Idaho Barley Commission, who was in eastern Idaho Tuesday through Thursday touring the area. "We're looking at millions of dollars, perhaps high millions, of lost economic value," she said.

The worst case scenario would be for 60 percent of the malt barley crop to be downgraded to feed, due to early sprouting in the mature but unharvested malting barley crop. In the malting process, sprouting is highly controlled in plants like the Anheuser-Busch and Intergrow facilities south of Idaho Falls.

A downgrade from malt to feed would cause the crop to lose roughly half its value. "We're losing more and more of the quality than we thought we had," she said.

The malting companies, which have contracted for certain quantities of malt barley, will have to go somewhere else now, paying higher prices and freight costs as well. The commission is hoping that at least some of the crop can be salvaged and has issued guidelines for steps growers can take. Commission Chairman Pat Purdy encourages barley producers who need assistance or information to contact the IBC office in Boise at 208-334-2090 or in Idaho Falls at 208-569-6957.

The southwestern monsoonal weather pattern is nothing unusual for August, Olson said. What is unusual is it coming this far north. In a typical year, the moisture from the Pacific hits Colorado and is deflected eastward.

"No one has a good explanation for it," she said. "It's just another example of the more extreme weather patterns everybody seems to be experiencing."

Earlier this week Jerome County commissioners sought emergency status after nine days of rain caused hay and wheat to mold and barley fields to sprout, according to a story Wednesday in the Idaho Statesman. Between 50 and 70 percent of the wheat, barley and alfalfa crops in Jerome County may have been lost, according to estimates from the county's Office of Emergency Management. Commissioners in neighboring Twin Falls County said they would seek an emergency declaration as well.

Here is a link to today's National Weather Service forecast: Idaho Falls weather.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Here we are at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's in Brandywine Hundred, Wilmington, Del.
Day 5 of my annual East Coast sojourn, we hit Trader Joe's for those cheese sticks my mom practically lives on and some bread crumbs to make meat loaf. I can tell you it was everything I hoped for and perhaps much, much more. I can't tell you when we're going to get Trader Joe's in Idaho Falls, but I can say for sure that if or when we do they will sell Two Buck Chuck, which this store in Delaware can't. Yep, beer, wine and spirits are all sold at privately owned liquor stores in the Blue Hen State. No beer or wine in the grocery stores. Anyway, this is just to let all you loyal readers know I'm thinking about you land sending good thoughts your way. Trader Joe's thoughts. Dunkin' Donuts, too. Any requests? I've got another 10 days and will lose all the extra pounds when I get home.

Two nuclear engineering students receive scholarships

The Partnership for Science & Technology and the Western Initiative for Nuclear have awarded $5,000 in scholarships to two college students. Funding for the scholarships was provided by a grant from NuScale Power LLC.

The students who received the scholarships were:
  • Paulina Hyde, who is pursuing a double major in mechanical and nuclear engineering at Idaho State University.
  • Kaleb Trotter, majoring in mechanical engineering at the University of Idaho and planning to continue his education with master’s and doctorate degrees in nuclear engineering.
The scholarship application asked each student to submit a 250-word essay on how they might apply their field of study to Small Modular Reactor technology.

“We are fortunate to work with an organization like NuScale Power," said Leslie Huddleston, PST's executive director, announcing the awards in a press release timed to coincide with the Intermountain Energy Summit taking place in Idaho Falls today and Wednesday. "Their membership in PST and involvement in the Project WIN Scholarship underscores their commitment to the community, Idaho and this nation’s need to train the next generation of nuclear engineers. … These students represent the future of the nuclear industry.”

Monday, August 18, 2014

Salutation from the Blue Hen State

Downtown Market Street, Wilmington, Del.
I am in Delaware the next two weeks, visiting my mom, who turns 82 on the 26th, but I don't want you to feel like I'm not thinking of you. I will keep posting as the spirit moves me.

While walking to the Dunkin Donuts on French Street (I know, I know), I saw this Walgreen's at Market and Ninth (it was Woolworth's when I was a youngster.) The architecture reminded me of downtown Idaho Falls, the Salisbury Building perhaps, and it made me feel a little low that we can't have something like this. The reason is simple, I've been told. There aren't enough people living downtown to support development like this. Wouldn't it be nice if there were to change some day?