Dealing with ​Human Resources Issues

It can be ​difficult as a small brewery owner or manager to come from a non-human resources role and be able to properly handle your staff.

Even ​with​ some of basics in place, many breweries and other employers get many of those basics wrong.

Betty Bollas has 15 years of experience in workforce development and human resources​ along with owning Fibonacci Brewing in Cincinnati​.

She recently explained some topics with brewers at the Ohio Craft Brewers Association annual conference.

Bollas stressed that she was not a lawyer, and consulting legal counsel on many matters may be the best line of action.

​”If you choose to do the right thing for the employee, usually you aren’t going to be wrong,” she said.​

​Even with her time in HR for a statewide non-profit, the rules still can be confusing.

Bollas did touch on a few aspects.

The first was dealing with employees behavior online. The National Labor Relations Act protects the rights of employees to act together to address conditions at work, with or without a union. This protection extends to certain work-related conversations conducted on social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.

​”​If we have an issue, I will consult a lawyer if I have to tell someone to take​ ​something down,” Bollas said. “And understand with each administration on the federal level changes almost everything what the right things to do is.

“Sometimes it’s more difficult, sometimes it’s easier to crack down.”

Bollas​ noted that you can go to the labor board can ​to get an opinion, but it’s not usually in enough time to have it make a ​difference for the matter at hand, but it can help for future events..

​So the issue can come down to is the employee being asinine or is the post ‘protected concerted ​activity?’

​”​Even though we are not a union organization, our staffs have the rights to organize if they want,” Bollas said. “So the federal government will look at a post or a comment to see if it has the potential to be protected concerted ​activity.

​So complaining about day-to-day work is protected activity while making fun of another competitor is not protected.

When is it “protected concerted activity”? It’s not always clear​, Bollas noted.​

​It is cut and dry for social media sites owned​ and run​ by the brewery​,​ ​you can terminate on grounds of damage to the company​ if a post is made by an individual​. But personal social media is protected.

​Even having a ​social media policy in a company handbook isn’t enough.

“You can ask for good judgement, but federally it may not be enforced,” Bollas said.

​Also, Bollas touched on the fact that under the Fair Labor Standards Act, employees may not volunteer services to for-profit private sector employers.

People are allowed to volunteer their services to public agencies and their community, but public sector employees may not volunteer additional time to do the same work for which they are employed. There is no prohibition on anyone employed in the private sector from volunteering in any capacity or line of work in the public sector.

​That is something that many smaller breweries may run amuck of, using “volunteers” to help with seemingly innocent projects to help further the breweries growth.​

​Bollas said it’s shaky ground that shouldn’t be touched.​

“What if they get hurt and you have no workers comp for them,” she pondered. “It’s nice for people to offer, but I have to say no.”

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