Customer Service: Ignoring Me Will Cost You

(Post by Rick Dacri, February 16, 2015)customer service

What is it about people not acknowledging you, attempting to engage or even smiling when you walk into their organization? What does it take to be even a little bit friendly? Can’t they even pick their heads up from whatever they’re doing so I know they’re alive? I can tell you that it is a costly mistake to ignore me.

A disengaged workforce costs employers a bundle.

I am often asked how to motivate their workforce? Well, here are 10 no cost things every manager can do right now to engage their employees and experience immediate improvements in performance, productivity and profits:

  1. Mirror the right behaviors: Set an example. Employees watch how you behave; how you speak to customers; how you dress; and the hours you keep. Be engaging, friendly and professional and they will too.
  2. Talk to them. Listen to them: Have a meaningful conversation with your employees and not just a “hi, how ya doin’?” as you rush by them. Get to know them. Show that you care. Be clear about what you expect of them and understand what they need from you. Value their opinions. Care and they will care.
  3. Provide your employees what they need to do their jobs: This sounds like a no-brainer, but it is not. Quick story: I consulted to a nursing home where nurses would hide latex gloves above the ceiling panels because the administrator, in a cost saving move, rationed gloves. Talk about germ control. If you want to build a house, you need to have a hammer and nails. Incidentally, we stopped the ‘hide the glove game’ fast!
  4. Let employees do their job: Train them; be clear about your expectations; and then send them to do their jobs. Stop micromanaging. Provide them autonomy and let them succeed and yes, make mistakes. Employees want to do their jobs. They can’t hit home runs of you don’t let them bat.
  5. Acknowledge your employees: When they do good work, recognize them. Give them specific praise; be genuine; and not a hollow “nice job.” Employees famously state they know when they’re not performing but rarely hear anything when they are. Change this paradigm.
  6. Grow your employees: Your success as an organization is predicated on having employees with strong skill sets. Continuous development must be ingrained into the fiber of all organizations. If it isn’t, your company will stagnate and fail. You’ve got to water and fertilize your garden.
  7. Talk about the big picture: Imagine having employees who go to work each day, have no idea why they are doing what they do, not know where the organization is headed, what’s important and what’s not, or what’s of value. And then you wonder why your employees are not engaged. Employees need to know the company’s mission, must embrace its values, and understand where they fit in. Take the blinders off your employees.
  8. Focus on quality and customer service: Never compromise or shortcut here. A few bad customer experiences and your reputation is ruined. Customers will flee and your good employees won’t be far behind.
  9. Take care of your employees: Have fun and never tolerate disrespectful behavior. Bullies, harassers and discriminators must go. Fast. You’ll never find happy customers where there are unhappy employees.
  10. Demand excellence: Insist that your employees perform. Continuously raise the bar. Never compromise. Give your employees the tools and knowledge to do their jobs and require they do it. You get what you expect.

This past Christmas, my 28 year old son went shopping for a gift for his mother. He decided to buy her clothing and like most single guys, he was clueless about what to get. He told me that he walked into the women’s department and he must have had that look of “I’m lost” on his face. A clerk approached him and he tried to explain what he wanted. Recognizing he needed help, she jumped into action, shopping the store for him, picking out the perfect gift, and even wrapping it for him. My grateful son dropped a few coins in that store. If that clerk had not been attentive to him, he would likely have left. Now he is a loyal customer. That’s customer service. That’s how an engaged worker performs. It didn’t take much. No heavy lifting. Just a well-trained employee who cared about the customer. And that’s what it is all about.

Other posts you may want to read:

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How To Comply with Massachusetts Minimum Wage Increase

imagesThis is a detailed analysis of the new minimum wage law and how employers must respond. It was developed by the firm Hirsch Roberts Weinstein LLP.

The minimum wage in Massachusetts increased to $9.00 an hour as of January 1, 2015. The law, amending M.G.L. Ch.151, also includes increases in the minimum service rate payable to tipped employees, and exemptions for seasonal camp counselors and counselor trainees. New regulations implementing the wage increase and other changes took effect on January 16, 2015. After HRW attorneys testified at a public hearing regarding the proposed regulations, several of the firm’s recommendations were included in the final regulations. Significant changes in the amended law and new regulations are discussed below.

Minimum Wage and Overtime Rates

As noted above, the Massachusetts minimum wage for covered employees is now $9.00 an hour. The amended law further increases the minimum wage to $10.00 an hour on January 1, 2016, and $11.00 an hour on January 1, 2017. The minimum wage requirement applies to all employees except those excluded under M.G.L. Ch.151, Sec. 1A, for example, bona fide executive, administrative, or professional employees, golf caddies, fishermen, etc. Overtime pay for minimum wage employees is now $13.50 per hour, for hours worked over 40 per week (one and a half times the basic minimum hourly wage).

Tipped Employees

Tipped employees, defined as service workers who regularly receive over $20.00 a month in tips, must now be paid a service rate of $3.00 an hour, effective January 1, 2015. Employers may only pay a tipped employee the service rate, instead of the basic minimum wage, if (1) they inform the tipped employee in writing of the tipping law; (2) the employee actually receive tips in an amount that, added to the service rate, equals or exceeds the basic minimum wage; and (3) the employee keeps all tips received individually or through a tip-pooling arrangement. Tip-pooling arrangements must conform to the state law governing tip pools. If a tipped employee does not receive at least $9.00 an hour including tips, the employer is required to increase the service rate to make up the difference.

The amended law and regulations further increases the service rate for tipped employees to $3.35 an hour in 2016, and $3.75 an hour in 2017.

The Massachusetts overtime provisions do not apply to tipped employees who work in restaurants and other employees exempted under M.G.L. Ch. 151A. Employers must comply with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) requirements for overtime for tipped employees who are subject to the overtime pay provisions of the FLSA.

Summer Camp Employees

In response to testimony from interested parties, the new regulations were drafted to allow a full minimum wage exemption for seasonal camp counselors and trainees. The amended law explicitly exempts seasonal camp counselors and counselor trainees from the minimum wage and overtime provisions.

Hours Worked

The regulations on computing hours worked include the requirement that employees who are scheduled for three hours or more of work, who report for duty at the time scheduled by the employer, shall be paid for at least three hours of work, at no less than the minimum wage, even if the employer does not give the employee the expected hours of work. The regulations also cover payment for on-call time, sleep time and working shifts, and travel time.

Time frame for Producing Payroll Records

At the suggestion of HRW attorneys, the legislature changed the proposed regulation on recordkeeping, giving employers 10 business days to meet an employee’s request for a copy of his or her payroll records, instead of only five.

Sick Time Recordkeeping Not Required

Also in response to testimony from HRW attorneys, the final regulation on recordkeeping does not require employers to keep records of sick time earned or available to employees. The legislature noted that regulations covering the newly passed Massachusetts sick leave law have not yet been issued, so that requiring records of sick time was premature. For more information on this new law, check out our recent alert by clicking here. HRW suggested at the public hearing that employers who offer paid sick time that is more generous than the requirements of the sick leave law should not be required to keep records of sick time.

 If you need assistance, contact Rick Dacri at or 207-229-5954.

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Must You Pay Employees For “On Call” Time?

images(Post by Rick Dacri, February 3, 2015)

According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Fact Sheet No. 22, , “An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer’s premises is working while “on call”. An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee’s freedom could require this time to be compensated.”

An on-call employee who is not required to be at the work site, and who is effectively free to use his or her time for his or her own purposes, is not working while on call and need not be paid. Of course, if the employee is paged and must perform work, the employee must be paid for all hours worked.

If you have questions, call me at 207-229-5954 or visit the HR HelpLine.

Other posts you might like:

  1. FLSA: Change in Law Means Employers Pay More
  2. Four Common and Expensive Wage & Hour Violations
  3. Off the Clock: Must I Pay?

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Avoid Litigation: 20 Things to Do Today

lawsuit(Post by Rick Dacri, with considerable input from Adam Taylor, Esq. of Taylor McCormack & Frame; 2/2/15)

No one wants to find themselves on the wrong side of employment litigation. So here are 20 things you should do to minimize your risks:
1. Update your employee handbook
2. Distribute your sexual harassment policy to all employees yearly (it’s the law)
3. Train your new employees and new supervisors on sexual harassment prevention (it’s the law in Maine for employers with 15 or more employees)
4. Make sure your salaried exempt positions are classified properly
5. Make sure any Independent Contractors meet the state and IRS standards
6. Post all your required state and federal posters
7. Make sure you have I-9s for all your employees and they are properly completed
8. Post your OSHA 300 form
9. Update all your job descriptions
10. Make sure your hourly nonexempt workers are taking their breaks, are being paid for all hours worked, and are compensated when expected to work at home, including taking phone calls, responding to emails, or completing work
11. Promptly address and document performance problems
12. Train interviewers to probe applicants
13. Make sure managers understand how to address FMLA requests and workers’ comp injuries
14. Have a social media policy that meets NLRB standards
15. Clarify ambiguous policies such as how vacation is earned and when incentive bonuses are paid
16. Properly evaluate all employees yearly
17. Don’t rely on “at-will” as the basis of a termination
18. Review all your leave policies
19. Payout all accrued and unused vacation pay to employees upon separation
20. Don’t require employees to pay for losses such as broken merchandise, uniforms or tools
Call Rick Dacri at 207-229-5954 or if you have questions, need some help complying or want to train your managers in proper compliance techniques.

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Reminder: February 1 Deadline for Posting of OSHA 300A Form

(Post by Rick Dacri, January 30, 2015)

All employers who are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to maintain records of injuries and illnesses have until February 1, 2015, to get their records in order. Form 300A is a summary log of work related injuries and illnesses from 2014 that must be posted where employees can see it between February 1 and April 30, 2015. The 300A includes summary information from the 300 Logs, including: total numbers of cases of jobrelated injuries and illnesses; total number of days away from work and number of days of job transfer or restriction; and the total numbers of injury and illness types. In addition, it includes the average number of employees and hours worked by all employees for the year. It is important to note that the Form 300A must be posted even if there were no recordable incidents in 2014.

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Massachusetts Leave Laws Expanded

2000px-Flag_of_Massachusetts(This post by Rick Dacri, January 30, 2015)

Massachusetts employers should be preparing for the enactment of two new leave laws: 1) Paid Sick Leave and 2)extension of the Parental Leave Law. Current leave policies should be revised, handbooks updated, supervisors briefed and employees updated.

Here’s a summary of the laws:

Massachusetts Parental Leave Extended

Massachusetts Gov. Patrick signed a bill into law that establishes parental leave in Massachusetts for both female and male employees. Effective April 7, 2015, the new law will replace the current Massachusetts Maternity Leave Act (MLA), which provides only female employees with eight weeks of job-protected maternity leave for the birth or adoption of a child. Extending parental leave to male employees will require significant policy changes for Massachusetts employers with fewer than 50 employees, as they are not already covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which applies to both male and female employees.

Massachusetts Paid Sick Leave

Massachusetts voters approved a ballot referendum Nov. 4, 2014, that requires businesses to allow their workers to earn sick leave. Having a paid-time-off (PTO) policy in place can help employers comply with the new law, but only if the policy meets the statutory requirements. Under the measure, employers with 11 or more employees must let workers earn up to 40 hours of paid sick leave each calendar year. Those with 10 or fewer employees also must allow workers to earn 40 hours per year but the sick days don’t have to be paid. Both full-time and part-time employees are eligible to earn the sick time, under the measure. 

The ballot measure takes effect July 1, 2015. Employees must be allowed to begin accruing sick time on that date. New employees must be allowed to begin using their sick time 90 days after they are hired.

Sick time may be used if employees are ill or have a medical appointment, or if they must care for an ill family member. They also must be permitted to use sick time to receive assistance related to domestic violence.

Employees may carry over up to 40 hours of unused sick time to the next year, under the measure, but employers aren’t required to permit use of more than 40 hours of sick time in any calendar year.

Employers that already provide their employees paid time off under a PTO, vacation or other paid leave policy are not required to provide any additional paid sick time under the new law, provided they permit employees to use at least 40 hours per calendar year for the purposes covered under the law. Furthermore, this law does not override any employer’s obligations under any collective bargaining agreement, contract or benefit plan with more generous provisions.

Contact Rick Dacri for assistance in complying.

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How To Pay When Your Facilities Close For Weather-Related Reasons?

stormPost by Alex Passantino, Seyfarth Shaw LLP on January 26th, 2015

As Juno prepares to pummel the Northeast with snow, employers should prepare for any weather-related closures of their offices, factories, or other facilities.  The effect of a weather-related closure on compensation requirements varies for different types of employees and also varies by state.


Most employees who are exempt from federal overtime requirements and paid on a salary basis are not subject to reductions to their weekly salaries because of a closure.  Even if an exempt employee misses a full day of work, the employer may not reduce the employee’s weekly salary (unless the employee misses an entire work week).  An employer that improperly reduces an employee’s salary might lose or jeopardize the ability to treat the employee as exempt from overtime pay requirements — potentially a very costly mistake.

Even though employers will almost certainly have to pay exempt employees their full salaries regardless of storm-related closures, employers do have the right to charge exempt employees for vacation or PTO for any work that they miss.  Employees who do not have enough accrued vacation or PTO to cover the closure, however, must still be paid their full weekly salaries.

The legal rules for paying exempt employees apply in all states.  Of course, in deciding whether to charge employees with vacation or PTO, employers may also want to consider non-legal factors such as employee morale and the organization’s finances.


For non-exempt employees, federal law requires only that employers pay employees for the hours they actually work.


In assessing pay requirements for all employees, employers should keep in mind that, even if an office or other facility is closed, some employees might work remotely.  Work performed remotely generally must be paid to the same extent as work performed on an employer’s premises — even if the employer did not request that the work be performed.  Non-exempt employees working remotely must generally be paid at their usual hourly rate (and subject to the usual requirements for overtime pay).


Certain Northeastern states have additional requirements that apply to hourly employees who report to work when a facility is closed or not operating at full capacity.  For example:

  • Connecticut has a reporting pay requirement that applies to employees in the “Mercantile trade.”  Employees in that industry must be paid four hours at their regular rate of pay, if they actually report for work.  The “Mercantile trade” is defined as the wholesale or retail selling of commodities and any operation supplemental or incidental thereto.  A two-hour guarantee is in place for the restaurant and hotel industries, if the employee was not “given adequate notice the day before” that she should not report for work.
  • Massachusetts mandates reporting pay for non-exempt employees of at least three hours at the statutory minimum wage ($9.00) if they are scheduled to work more than three hours on a given day and actually report for work.  Employees scheduled for less than three hours need only be paid for their scheduled hours.
  • New Hampshire requires reporting pay for non-exempt employees who actually report for work of at least two hours at their regular rate.
  • New Jersey requires reporting pay for non-exempt employees who actually report for work of at least one hour at their applicable wage rate (unless, prior to this report to work, the employer already made available to the employee the minimum number of hours of work agreed upon for the week).
  • New York requires “call-in pay” for non-exempt employees of at least four hours, or the number of hours in the regularly scheduled shift (whichever is less) at the basic minimum hourly wage ($8.75) for employees who actually report for work.  A 2009 New York Department of Labor opinion letter, however, interpreted the reporting-pay obligation as not applying if “the amount paid to an employee for the workweek exceeds the minimum and overtime rate for the number of hours worked and the minimum wage rate for any call-in pay owed.”  Employees working in the hospitality industry may be subject to different requirements.
  • Rhode Island requires an employer to pay an employee who reports for duty at the beginning of a work shift (where the employer offers no work for him to perform) not less than three (3) times the employee’s regular hourly rate of pay.
  • Washington, D.C., requires reporting pay of at least four hours at the statutory minimum wage ($9.50) for non-exempt employees who actually report for work if they are scheduled to work for at least four hours.  Employees scheduled for less than four hours need only be paid for their scheduled hours.

Some of the reporting pay requirements noted above may be waived if the employer makes a good faith effort to provide employees with reasonable advance notice that they should not to report to work.  Employers that foresee that their facilities will be closed should give employees who are scheduled to work as much notice as possible for both practical and wage/hour compliance reasons.

If you have questions, call Rick Dacri at or 207-229-5954.

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