If It’s Not Written Down, It Didn’t Happen in Business and at Work

Here in the great State of New York, Wage Theft Prevention Act (WTPA) notices must be distributed upon hire and accompany any wage rate change. The WTPA requires employers to:

Give written notice of wage rates:

  • To each new hire
  • To all employees experiencing a wage rate change.

The notice must include:

  • Rate or rates of pay, including overtime rate of pay (if it applies)
  • How the employee is paid: by the hour, shift, day, week, commission, etc.
  • Regular payday
  • Official name of the employer and any other names used for business (DBA)
  • Address and phone number of the employer’s main office or principal location
  • Allowances taken as part of the minimum wage (tips, meal and lodging deductions).

The notice must be given both in English and in the employee’s primary language (if the NYS Labor Department offers a translation). The NYS Labor Department currently offers translations in the following languages: Spanish, Chinese, Haitian Creole, Korean, Polish and Russian.  You must obtain a signed and dated copy back from the employee as proof of the receipt of the notice.

However, if you decide to roll the dice and not prepare and distribute the WPTA notices for the above scenarios, you run the risk during a routine NYS DOL audit of incurring some annoying monetary fines.  This is one of many poignant examples of “if it’s not written down, it didn’t happen” in business and at work.

Here are a few other examples to contemplate as we all prepare for the start of the work week:

  • Offer letters.  Verbal employment offers are nice and uplifting, but they’re not enough to hang your career or business hat on.  (And in New York, the WTPA requires that lovely notice upon hire, anyway.)  Job candidates:  don’t give notice until you have a written and signed offer in hand. Period.
  • Disciplinary Actions.  Especially poignant when a manager gets to the point of requesting to terminate an employee who is not performing up to standards, and there’s not one written warning to be found anywhere, especially in the employee’s personnel file.  If there’s no legal exposure (and best to check that very big IF before you terminate the employee), be prepared to pay unemployment insurance (UI) for that terminated employee. Here in the Empire State, the Administrative Law judges adjudicating UI claims generally rule in favor of the employee if there was not at least one written warning before the termination occurred.  Oh, and while we’re on the subject of terminations;  those should be in writing, too.  Specifically outlining the reasons for the termination, including but not limited to accurately describing what the terminated employee told their manager to go do to themselves, even in obscene vernacular (Use your imagination;  you get the picture?). Unless the employee is in their orientation period right after hire, “not working out” usually does not cut it well as documentation.
  • Job Descriptions. Don’t have job descriptions?  Have you had (knock wood) a Worker’s Compensation claim yet?  No?  Be assured that when you do, one of the first things your Worker’s Comp carrier will request will be all of your job descriptions, describing not only the assigned duties of each employee’s position and what is deemed as satisfactory performance, but also what is required physically of each  employee to do their job.  And those job descriptions also come in handy when demonstrating the exempt (or nonexempt) status of each employee in the event of a Wage and Hour audit.
  • Goals and Deadlines.  Your employees and your team are not mind-readers, and neither are you.  Develop goals and deadlines collaboratively and write them down.  At the beginning of every year, month, week and even day:  I do love the daily stand-up meeting (and the daily shift-change meetings), the staple of deadline-critical manufacturing and distribution work environments.  Communicate, communicate, communicate:  and write it down.
  • Written Performance Feedback.  This feedback should be directly tied back to the goals and deadlines mentioned above.  You don’t need to write War and Peace.  Just document the highlights, the lowlights, and the opportunities for continuous improvement. One page, or less:  just the facts, ma’am.  This documented data is critical when it comes time to evaluate your team for new assignments and promotions, if you have any goal or hope of making such decisions with any degree of objectivity.
  • Love Letters from Customers.  Nothing keeps my morale and my energy up more than a love note from a happy customer.  A thank-you! has me at hello.  Share the good news on the bulletin board or scan it and email it to the team.  We all love that kind of feedback, no matter what our career stage.

Don’t know how to write it down?  Worried that you’ll write the wrong thing?  No worries. Partner with a mentor, or a subject-matter expert (SME) like me.  The more you write it down, the more you practice writing it down, the easier it gets.  Document, document, document.

Seal your success:  make it happen by writing it down in business and at work.


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