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These articles were prepared for the November 22, 2000 edition of
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What’s New in Employee Handbooks & Manuals?
The workplace is rapidly changing, as is the nature
of work," says John J. Sarno, president of the Employers
Association of New Jersey (EANJ). "Companies that have handbooks
and those that are creating them have to get a handle on how these
changes are driving policy."
The New Jersey Department of Labor and the EANJ sponsor a seminar
entitled "Policy Manuals and Employee Handbooks" on Tuesday,
November 28, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Gloucester County Library
in Mullica Hill. Sarno, who is the author of a book helping employers
stay out of court, "The New Employment Contract," presents
the afternoon portion of the program. Cost $10. Call 609-984-3518.
An example of a major change is the burgeoning area of temporary
Sarno advises that companies define who is and who is not an employee.
"You need to be very clear about those classifications, because
employees will be entitled to benefits and temporary employees or
independent contractors are typically not eligible for benefits,"
Sarno provided a couple of examples of how in recent years, the legal
landscape has changed regarding company policies:
The Family Medical Leave Act, enacted in 1993, requires that a company
with 50 or more employees publish a policy outlining how the
of the act will be administered. For instance, employers can require
workers to use their sick and/or vacation days before tapping into
the FMLA’s 12 weeks of unpaid leave. But they must plainly inform
workers of this policy. "Federal law permits the employer to
that avenue," says Sarno, "but you have to have that built
into the policy." Other caveats apply.
Discrimination law requires that employers have policies that provide
an opportunity for employees to complain about harassment and
Employers also need to explain to employees that they have certain
rights and outline how the company will deal with employee complaints.
Not heeding these laws can have serious repercussions, according to
Sarno. In the case of discrimination and harassment, not having a
policy may be evidence of negligence, which can lead to legal
"Today a small business has basically the same employee
as a large business, and they certainly are not immune to
litigation," says Sarno.
On the question of how big your company needs to be before considering
whether to provide a handbook, there apparently are no hard and fast
rules. Sarno recommends that if a firm has 10 to 12 employees it is
a good idea to have a formal employee handbook. Companies with fewer
than 10 employees can handle policy issues through memos and other
similar documents. Members of EANJ have access to a template for an
Areas that Sarno feels lead to the most disputes and litigation
disclaimers, harassment policies, grievance procedures, privacy
E-mail privacy policies, desk or locker searches, workplace violence,
and solicitation and distribution. The latter would cover attempts
by a trade union to distribute literature.
Some examples of bad or clumsily written handbooks:
right to hire and fire at will, the employer wants to maintain the
"at will" relationship with the employee. Without a
the handbook might constitute an contract for employment that would
be enforceable under contract principles.
"If the at will status is not preserved," says Sarno, "the
relationship will be governed by contract law, which would place
on discharge and discipline." He compares it to a trade union’s
collective bargaining agreement, which sets out a rigid contractual
relationship with employees. "A handbook creates a contract
there is a disclaimer."
discretion to make decisions outside the policy . "A sex
policy typically says that the employer will take prompt action. But
if it doesn’t build in enough discretion to make decisions about
that fall below harassment, it puts the employer in a box."
One disclaimer might be: "Even though we want to maintain zero
tolerance, we still have the discretion to make whatever decision
we think is necessary under the circumstances."
A common area of confusion is the number of hours part-timers can
work. If the handbook sets one standard, and the medical insurance
policy has another, workers might be denied health benefits
"The employers definition may be inconsistent with what the health
care contract says," says Sarno.
and a master’s in counseling and a law degree from Seton Hall
He practiced law in Bergen County and had been an instructor at Ramapo
Established in 1916, EANJ is a non-profit organization providing
and immediate assistance, information, and advice to New Jersey
(www.eanj.org.). The over 1,000-member employers enjoy services
such as a telephone help line, a Labor Law Compliance Manual, research
reports on human resource practices and benefits, salary survey data,
and other publications.
"Although there are legal issues involved, my advice is to not
let the legal tail wag the dog," says Sarno, "A company should
form a committee, debate and discuss the policies that make sense
for them, draft those policies, and then have them reviewed by a
I would not let the lawyer write the handbook, because those are often
steeped in legalese. The object is to write in a way that the average
employee can understand. The company should decide what it wants to
do and take the first shot drafting it and only then should it be
reviewed by competent legal counsel."
— Jeff Lippincott
Legal Services of New Jersey (LSNJ) and the New Jersey
State Bar Association (NJSBA) will honor two retiring New Jersey
Court justices at the sixth annual Equal Justice Awards reception
on Tuesday, November 28, from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the New Jersey Law
Center in New Brunswick. Marie L. Garibaldi and Daniel J.
O’Hern will receive the Richard J. Hughes Career Public Service
Steven Kropf, a private attorney with the Old Bridge firm of
Heilbrunn Pape, will be honored for representing pro bono clients,
taking difficult family law services, for Middlesex County Legal
for nearly 20 years.
Receiving Equal Justice Medals will be David Heins, director
of the division of family development of the Department of Human
Barbara Price,, head of the New Jersey Coalition for Battered
Women; Frank Askin who teaches law at Rutgers Newark; and Ann
Bartlett, immediate past president of the NJSBA.
Three banks — First Union, Provident, and Ocean City HOme Bank
— have changed account structure and rates so as to increase
for funds for Legal Services programs, and will be so honored. Legal
Services programs provide legal aid in civil matters to people who
could not otherwise afford lawyers.
For a free invitation to the reception, call 732-572-9100.
Family businesses have enough hurdles to jump without
running the risk of making mistakes in how they pay out benefits.
That will be the topic for Stark & Stark attorney Allen M. Silk,
who gives a workshop on Qualified Plan Distributions on Wednesday,
November 29, at 4 p.m. at 993 Lenox Drive, Building 2.
Silk majored in accounting at Penn State, Class of 1969, and has law
degrees from Villanova and New York University. Among his many
credits are his service on the estate and gift tax committee on
plan of the American Bar Association. He is a founding partner of
the Rutgers Family Business Forum and chairman of the Mercer County
Economic Development Council. In representing family-owned businesses,
he helps the owners choose a legal structure, plan for succession,
and transfer business ownership to other parties. For free
for the workshop, call Nadine Dunn at 609-219-7413.
If your business has a product or service ready for
export, but doesn’t have trade experience, the Market Entry Program
for New Exporters can help by teaching how to enter the global
including Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean Basin, and the European Union.
This free course starts in December at the Small Business
New Jersey District Office, Two Gateway Center, in Newark. The first
of seven sessions begins Wednesday, December 6, at 10 a.m., and the
14-week program concludes on Wednesday, March 7. While the classes
are free, there is a $50 registration fee to cover weekly refreshments
and operating costs. To qualify, you must have an operating business,
an exportable product or service, and be able to attend all seven
classes. Class size is limited to 15. To apply, call Dina Vulpis,
U.S. Department of Commerce at 973-645-4682, or E-mail:
"Students can expect lots of good discussions with teachers, each
other, and with industry experts from both the United States and
countries," says instructor Roger S. Cohen, a consultant
for the New Jersey Small Business Development Centers (NJSBDC).
year we brought in a consultant from the Mexican Trade Commission.
This year we’re hoping to bring in a representative from the Dominican
Cohen will teach marketing, sales, and distribution. He will cover
the "how to" of creating a personal business plan.
companies will learn how to identify geographical markets, customize
products for targeted consumers, and work the local distribution
Cohen’s expertise comes not only from his bachelor’s degree in
and policy from Cornell University, Class of 1980, but also from
accomplishments. Between 1984 and 1987, he managed a complex financial
and technological project that had been dormant for years. The
Self-adhesive postage stamps. Cohen smiles whenever he enters a post
office and thinks about the "millions of tongues that are now
being spared the aftertaste of glue."
He has worked at the Japanese trading house Nichimen; has represented
the Japanese Ministry of Finance to the U.S. Department of Treasury;
managed factory construction for Coke, Pepsi, and 7-Up in Canada,
and handled a mergers and acquisitions program for the Japanese
Komori in the United States. Currently he is president of Cohen
based in Cranford, acts as a consultant for the Technology Help Desk
(800-432-1832), and is the lead international trade consultant for
Referring to NJ SBDC’s Ten Keys to Export Success, Cohen shares some
a product or market technique that has succeeded in one country will
automatically succeed in other regions. What works in Japan could
fall flat in Saudi Arabia. You might have to modify products to meet
regulations, cultural preferences, and local safety and security
your product, speak in locally understood languages. Although a
top managers may speak English, you can’t assume that all service
and sales personnel will.
need to act more independently than their United States counterparts
because of communications and transportation issues.
be treated equally with efforts within the United States. Don’t forget
to include your trade market in advertising campaigns, special
sales incentives, warranty offers, and so on.
Cohen, "and students can get individual counseling from industry
representatives, free of charge. After last year’s course, students
often told me, `This is the first time I contacted a government body
and spoke to a person who gave me one-on-one help’."
When asked if students are given take-home projects, Cohen responded
in a few words, "No. Our students have a business to run. That’s
Other course topics include finance and banking; legal aspects of
international trade; pricing; transportation and shipping; and trade
missions. Taking part in a trade mission in another country is
and there is a fee. Last year, Governor Christine Todd Whitman
accompanied the mission visiting Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.
In addition to the classroom program, there are several online
free counseling from the NJ SBDC. The first session could take place
in person, or it could be conducted via E-mail. At this site you can
also link to a schedule of affordable business and technology
and you can request a market research report specific to your
provides a link to international trade where you can sign up for the
export course on line, read the "Ten Keys to Export Success,"
learn about the top ten countries that trade with the U.S., and more.
get information on doing business in Japan, NAFTA and Mexico, and
government contracting, as well as services that Cohen offers.
no other place where someone can get this kind of in-depth information
on exporting, and get it for free. Other states charge as much as
$3,000 for a course like this. You can’t get this kind of expertise
on international trade from a community college. And you can’t earn
an MBA in seven sessions at no charge."
— Lynn Robbins
Any idiot can give stuff away by cutting the other guy’s
price," says Lawrence L. Steinmetz of High Yield Management.
"Selling occurs when your prices are higher, but you are still
able to close the deal. If you want to give stuff away, get a job
at the welfare department."
"People have to realize that most price cutting is a
wound," says Steinmetz, who is based in Boulder, Colorado.
sales reps are ill at ease talking about the price." He gives
an all-day seminar, "How to Sell at Prices Higher than Your
on Thursday, November 30, at 8:45 a.m. at the Sheraton Newark Airport
Hotel. Cost: $395. Call 800-323-2835 (www.pricingexpert.com).
An alumnus of the University of Missouri, Class of 1959, Steinmetz
earned a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. He was a professor
and chaired the department of management at the University of Colorado
but founded his own firm more than 30 years ago. Now he owns four
small companies — a consulting firm, a rental property management
firm, a publishing company, and a company that builds special interest
cars — street rods and custom conversions.
The workshop will cover how to know when a customer is not a price
buyer, how to sell "commodity" products at prices higher than
your competitors, how to determine when your higher price is actually
to your advantage, how to test your prices without losing sales, how
to ask for an order, how to purge yourself of unproductive sales
and how to avoid "giving away the farm."
Steinmetz uses the terms "wow" and "crack" to describe
how salespeople sometimes bend to price-cutting pressure. "Sales
people `wow’ in innocent ways," he says. One "wow" is
to emphasize that the price is high, saying "Are you sitting
or "Can you believe this price?"
Another "wow" is to change the subject. "To avoid the
subject of price tells the smart buyer you are scared," he says.
"Customers will attack you on price — asking to know the price
— because they want to hear you `wow,’" he says. "When
you start evading and avoiding, you show you are scared. They think
you aren’t telling the price because it is too high."
Confront the price, he advises. It is not going to go away. "If
you want to sell at a premium price, you have to face the fact your
price is higher than the competitor. And then hang in there."
In other words, acknowledge the fact that the prices are higher but
let the customer know you expect to get the sale anyway — because
of higher quality, or better service, or whatever.
Salespeople "crack" when they actually tell their customers
they are willing to negotiate the price. "They crack under
and say something stupid." He lists these "dumb things"
to tell customers:
says Steinmetz. "When you start to negotiate your price, it is
going to go south. The minute the customer senses that, he will start
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