n  Save the Date!

n  2009 is a Training Year!

n  Economic Survey Results

n  What's TPO Doing About The Economy?

n  Timely Topics Briefings

n  Engaging People in Today's Economy

n  Legislative Update

n  Welcome New Members

n  Member Spotlight

n  Floating Holidays Tip

n  10 Holiday Tips

n  TPO in the Community!

n  Meet your TPO Consultant



Training Calendar

CA Employment Essentials (HR101)

A training series focusing on the regulatory compliance and HR best practices - the information & skills supervisors & managers need to keep themselves and the organization out of hot water!

n February - March '09

Management Excellence Series

A training series focusing on practical leadership and communication skills to help managers develop or refine their effectiveness as leaders!

n March - April '09

Workshops Calendar

n Workers' Comp Management      November 19

n Excelling as a First Time Manager

November 20


TPO in the Community!

November 11

LaTonya Olivier, SPHR-CA, M.Ed., CCP

Topic: Promoting Creative Conflict

Time: 12:00 - 2:00 pm

Location: Peachwoods Restaurant at the Inn at Pasatiempo, 555 Highway 17, Santa Cruz, California

Registration: Contact Marlyn Gamble at (415) 291-1992

TPO and Littler will guide you through an informative day,
balancing both Legal and Leadership Best Practices to prepare you for 2009!

2009 Employment Law & Leadership Conference


Click here for early bird registration!

California AB 1825 became law in 2005 and mandates two hours of supervisor “Harassment and Discrimination” training every two years. That means that it may be time to plan for your 2009 training sessions in order to maintain compliance. Our updated program is highly interactive and has valuable new materials to help your supervisors understand and comply with the harassment, discrimination and retaliation aspects of the law. If you book your training dates by the end of November, 2008, we will discount the cost by a full 15%!

Start your New Year the right way, with assured compliance and a hefty discount by contacting us at 1-800-277-8448 to lock in your 2009 training times and dates. We can deliver the Harassment and Discrimination program at your business site, or you can send your employees to our TPO University Professional Development Center at 60 Garden Court, Suite 100, in Monterey.

Kelsey Escoto, MSOD, SPHR has been selected as “Volunteer of the Month” by the Monterey Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Kelsey was nominated by Chamber staff, volunteers and board members because of her efforts on Chamber committees – Business Accelerator Project and the Board Nominating Committee.

Recently, TPO conducted a survey of our members and clients about how the economy is affecting their operations. Here’s what 150 employers responded:

Has your organization been impacted by the economic changes?

Yes = 87%


More Negative = 85%

Those reporting More Positive have done the following (40% in each case):

  • Step up Accounts Receivable Efforts

  • Hire More Staff

  • Focus Marketing Efforts Differently

Those reporting More Negative have done the following:

  • Focus Marketing Efforts Differently (39%)

  • Reduce Staff (36%)

  • Reduce Job Openings (30%)

  • Freeze Hiring (30%)

Other Things Mentioned of Interest:

  • Increased budgeting of expenses

  • Encourage some telecommuting

  • NO overtime in payroll

  • Offer flexible schedules

  • Raised prices

  • Eliminated accounts receivable – pay at time of service only

  • Changed fuel used in vehicles

Results of surveys done by TPO help us better understand the needs and preferences of our clients and Members. This allows us to adjust our offerings in appropriate ways.

How is TPO as a firm responding to the economy?

"It's been interesting. We've definitely helped many of our clients with new and different employment issues based on the economy. It has also caused us to refocus our efforts in different directions and shift our services to what employers need during this time. It's been somewhat energizing for us and prompted a new level of creativity. For instance, we introduced a briefing format to provide added value to our members and help employers understand options for reshaping their workforce within legal boundaries and how to safeguard their employee relations practices as they make adjustments.”  Jill Russell


TPO is taking the lead in helping our members and clients adjust to the current economic challenges through a variety of strategies and process realignments.

The most common requests for assistance are related to:

  1. Complying with all laws and regulations when reducing the workforce or moving to flexible work schedules such as the "four-ten" work week. 

  2. Assisting employers with creative ways to re-organize the workforce by reassigning employees to new positions.

  3. Helping employers focus remaining workers on core functions and positive aspects of the organization required to be successful in the changing marketplace.

  4. Consulting with employers who wish to help their employees with the transition to either a different position or the job search process.

  5. Helping clients become more efficient and cost effective by training their managers and supervisors (CEE, MES, etc.)

The member calls have been flooding in! We are pleased to provide advice and consultation to our members at no charge. Non member calls are billed at $195 - $225. Maybe its time to become a member and access more frequent expert advice?

Article written by: Jill Russell, SPHR

TPO has recently added (already popular!) briefings in response to the results of our recent “Economic Impact” survey, and because of the volume of calls we are receiving about how to adjust business operations to the current economy. Cost: TPO Members – No Charge (Yes! Yet another member benefit!) and Non-Members - $35.

We recently presented the following topics to a “full to capacity” audience:

  1. TRANSITIONS: Aligning your Business to the Current Economy

  2. OPTIONS: Flexible Work Arrangements in the Current Economy

  3. CHANGE HAPPENS: Keeping Employees Engaged in a Changing Work Environment


SANTA CRUZ AREA - at Pasatiempo Golf Club from 9:00-10:30:

  1. TRANSITIONS: Aligning your Business to the Current Economy – November 13th

  2. OPTIONS: Flexible Work Arrangements in the Current Economy – December 11th

Keep an eye out for briefings we will be scheduling in San Benito/Santa Clara, Central Valley/Sacramento, and Southern CA!

To register for our next scheduled Briefings, contact Blanca Corcoles at 800-277-8448, blancac@tpohr.com or call your TPO representative.

PS: If you belong to a group or organization that would benefit from these Briefings, give us a call!

In times like these employee fears tend to increase over security, job and benefits continuation and even the company’s solvency. The consequences of these anxieties can manifest in poor performance, absenteeism, irritability and poor communication between employees and managers. Bottom line it’s hard for employees to remain focused and engaged or motivated. If left alone, things are unlikely to get better.

What can business owners and managers/supervisors do to keep employees motivated and engaged? Below are 4 steps to consider that will increase employee motivation and engagement.

  1. Communicate News – Good and Bad – To Your Employees.

    The best way to approach tough times is to be honest with your employees. Let employees know what management is doing to address concerns and ask for their help. Frequently, employees would rather take a pay-cut, or work on a reduced schedule than have their job eliminated. Additionally, you may be surprised by cost-saving measures and ideas that employees suggest. Your employees are your best allies in a down economy, especially if they are on the front lines talking with your customers! Utilize their expertise and knowledge and see motivation and engagement rise.

  2. What Motivates Each Employee is as Different as the Individual.

    Ask individual employees on your team what motivates them. You are likely to hear that employees want to be recognized and appreciated for the work they do, to be in on things, to help make decisions or to be asked their opinion. For example, a Hewlett-Packard engineer burst into his manager’s office to announce he’d just found the solution to a problem the group had been struggling with for many weeks. His manager quickly looked around his office for some item to acknowledge the accomplishment and ended up handing the employee a banana from his lunch with the words “Well done. Congratulations.” Over time, the Golden Banana Award became one of the most prestigious honors bestowed on an inventive employee. Even a simple handwritten note of “thanks” carries a lot of meaning and weight.

  3. Deal with Change and Transition Head On.

    People deal with change and transition in many different ways. The effect of any change – good or bad – is a loss of control. Besides security, employees may feel they now lack competence, or are losing relationships, direction or alignment.

    Remember Step #1 – talk to your employees about the change, acknowledge their anxiety and perceived loss of control. Focus on what they can do to help the situation. Provide information consistently and often. Most importantly don’t try to explain away or minimize your employee’s concerns or feelings.

  4. Fun and creative rewards work best to motivate employees.

When times are tough it is difficult to celebrate and have fun at work. It seems to fly in the face of the seriousness of what needs to be done. In an effort to support our clients in these difficult times, TPO has been asking “Are you having fun at work?” If you answered no to that question, it might be time to bring fun back to work. Something simple and silly goes a long way in increasing morale and motivation. Remember the Golden Banana?

It is easy to slip into a downward spiral when stories of difficult times are everywhere. Keeping employees focused on the task at hand, communicating honestly and recognizing employees often for their input will help your organization weather the challenges ahead.

Are you ready to have fun at work? Call TPO and speak to a consultant about our “FUN at Work” series! It’s fun, motivating and will increase employee engagement (and profits)!

Article written by: Kelsey Escoto, SPHR

California HR Legislation

The CA Legislature started with 1,187 bills this session and after Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed 415 of them, only 771 bills were signed into law – the highest veto rate in CA to date!

All bills impact living and working in CA, however this article is a recap of the employment-related bills that were on Governor Schwarzenegger’s desk for consideration.


  • Computer Professionals – This urgency legislation was signed into law to amend the overtime exemption requirements for computer professionals. Under the new law, employees meeting specific duties tests making not less than $75,000 in salary per year and at least $6,250 per month in salary generally will be exempt from many wage and hour requirements (most notably overtime, breaks and meals). The rates will be adjusted annually based on the CPI.

    • Previously certain highly skilled computer professionals were able to bring overtime lawsuits (and class action lawsuits) against employers for unpaid overtime due to wording that provided an exemption from overtime if they earned at least $36 per hour in each workweek of the year (annualized for a full-time salary of $74,880). Certain employee’s argued that if a computer professional was paid $74,880 in salary, and worked more than 40 hours during any one week of the year, the overtime exemption was lost for the whole year because the employee had not received the equivalent of $36 per hour “in each workweek.” Employers complained that the prior version of the statute created potential legal claims they would not face operating in any other state.

  • Disability Access Compliance (SB 1608) – This was a bipartisan, bicameral comprehensive reform measure providing for increased public access for individuals with disabilities while at the same time reducing unwarranted litigation. Provisions of particular interest:

    • Clarifies that plaintiffs may recover damages only for a violation they personally encountered or that deterred access on a particular occasion, rather than for alleged violations that may exist at a place of business but did not cause a denial of access.

    • Encourages the use of state-certified disability access specialists.

    • Establishes court procedure for early judicial review of lawsuit claims.

  • “Hands-Free” and now “Text-Free” – California drivers already are (supposed to be) making “hands-free” cell phone calls while driving. Beginning 1/1/09, drivers will now be banned from reading, writing or sending a text message while driving in a vehicle. Employers should consider aligning their written policies on automobile use with current legal requirements and good risk management policies.

Court Cases of HR Interest

An Eye on the “Brinker” Case…the CA Supreme Court set to weigh in on meal periods in CA?

The CA Supreme Court has recently decided to consider a key case (the “Brinker” case) affecting how employers should handle employee meal and rest breaks. Until the state high court issues its ruling, employers are faced with having to evaluate how to implement meal periods in the workplace. Each employer needs to weigh the information and make the best decision for their specific situation...accepting the risks involved with each. Two ends of the spectrum of options include:

  1. A more risk-adverse approach: Ensure that meal periods are actually taken until the dust settles and an informed decision can be made based on the newest information.

  2. A more risk-tolerant approach: Follow the “Brinker” case and the guidelines currently in place at the DLSE (Labor Commissioner’s Office) and merely provide the opportunity to take meal periods (let employees know they can take them through handbook policies, memos, meetings and even documented on time records) and allow employees the ability to not take a meal period at their choice (not because there is too much work and the company doesn’t want them to take a meal period)…and cross your fingers that the rules won’t be reversed by the CA Supreme Court or legislation!

Federal ADA Amendments 
President Bush approved the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (S. 3406), to amend the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide broader protections for disabled workers and turn back the clock on Supreme Court rulings that Congress deemed too restrictive of disabled employees' rights. A person now will be deemed to be "disabled," and protected by the ADA, if he or she is restricted in any "major life activity." It doesn't matter if a "mitigating measure" (e.g., medication, hearing aid) can control or eliminate the problem.

  • Note: the changes bring the ADA closer to the standards under California's disability bias law, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA), which also broadly provides that mitigating measures cannot be considered in determining whether a major life activity is limited.

Article written by: Melissa Irwin, SPHR-CA

n California Coastal


n Williams Dental Lab

n Discovery Charters

We look forward to the opportunity to provide each of you with unlimited phone/email access, reduced consulting and training rates, eCompliance notices, attendance to our Annual Employment Law & Leadership Conference at no additional cost, and priority status when you require TPO support from any of our highly qualified team of HR experts! Thank you for joining!


Theresa A. Jung, General Manager: “"The Mission Ranch and TPO have been partners for over 13 years. The Mission Ranch employs 149 staff members and we have a wonderful diverse group of individuals who are dedicated employees. TPO has provided us with invaluable Leadership and HR classes. They have created "on premises" classes for our employees that directly pertain to the Hospitality Industry and our specific needs. TPO has been very instrumental in helping us create and train our HR department. Your staff members are professional, always helpful (even at 4:25pm!) with great advice. Robert and Jill, your dedication to Employer and Employee Relations and much more, has made our operations successful on so many levels. Our testimonials are our managers and employees who come back after your trainings enthusiastic, lifted morale and greater communication skills, eager to apply what they have just learned."

TPO has provided not only the technical information needed to ensure exemplary HR practices, but you have mentored us as we developed our own human resources department. Your staff is outstanding and always helpful when we need advice on a challenging issue. Over the years, you have assisted us in staying current on HR regulations, trained us on a variety of topics and provided us with excellent advice. Our employees are our biggest asset and you have helped us in our quest to attract and retain outstanding staff."


The Historic Mission Ranch offers thirty-one unique and charming rooms - many with ocean views, fireplaces and Jacuzzi Tubs. Our Historic 1850's Farmhouse, The Bunk House, The Hayloft and our Meadow View Triplex rooms just to name a few. A complimentary continental breakfast and use of our six Championship Tennis Courts and Fitness Facility is included. Dinner is served nightly from 5pm to 9:30pm. The Piano Bar is a favorite for our dedicated locals and guests. Dinner music starts at 8pm and sing-a-longs start at 9pm with complete bar service beginning at 4pm Monday thru Saturday. Our Sunday Jazz Champagne Brunch has become a Carmel tradition, featuring one of the area's most venerable trios. Brunch is served at 10am until 1:30pm. The Mission Ranch offers a spectacular setting for weddings, parties and Corporate Events. The "Patio Barn," which will accommodate 50 to 96 guests, offers a dance floor and glass doors that open onto the brick patio with a view towards the green meadow and ocean. It also boasts a large copper-topped bar at one end of the room with a stage at the opposite end. The "Large Barn," which will accommodate parties up to 160 guests, is a generous room with an open beam ceiling. The Mission Ranch Staff prides itself in making your stay a happy and memorable one. Our mission is simple, "When you are happy, we are happy". We look forward to seeing you down at the Mission Ranch!

For more information about The Mission Ranch: www. www.missionranchcarmel.com

“Floating Holidays” & “Personal Days”

…when they must be paid out upon separation of employment.

In CA, when employers allow employees to take days off with pay and the employee can choose when and/or why they want to take that time off; the days off are an earned (vested) benefit and the accrued portion must be paid out upon separation of employment (vacation and PTO are the classic examples).

When employers require the paid time off to be taken for a specific reason and/or day, that time is not an earned (vested) benefit and therefore it need not be paid out upon separation of employment (sick leave and holidays are the classic examples).

How the company defines “Floating Holidays” and “Personal Days” will determine if such time must be paid upon separation of employment.

  • Example 1 – Personal Days: Employees at XYZ Company each calendar year are given 3 “Personal Days” to take whenever they want in the year. On October 31st, employment separates and the employee had not used any of the 3 days. In this situation, the final paycheck must include 2.5 days of the accrued but unused Floating Holidays (10/12 of 3 days).

  • Example 2 - Birthday: Employees at ABC Company are given their birthday off with pay each calendar year (if the birthday falls on a day usually not worked, the employee can take the usual day worked before/after off). An employee whose birthday is December 10th separates employment on October 31st. In this situation the final paycheck does not need to include a prorated portion of the Birthday Day Off.

  • Example 3 – Floating Holidays: Each calendar year employees at LMN Company are given a sheet listing the dates of 12 holidays and employees are allowed to take any 8 of the 12 off. On October 31st, employment separates and the employee had not used all of the 8 days. In this situation, the final paycheck does not need to include a prorated portion of the floating holidays not taken.

TO DO: Make sure that your actual practices match your written policies!

Next Wage & Hour Quick Tip: What to do with unclaimed final paychecks.

HR Rumors: Get Your Facts Straight from the Experts!

Is there a way to make room for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa and still get our work done? And can we do so without offending anyone?


FactThe year-end holidays can mean an onslaught of tricky diversity and religious issues. The 10 tips below can help your business or organization enjoy the holiday season by focusing on things that various cultures and traditions have in common. Celebrations are a part of every group. They lift our spirits and generate feelings of familial and cultural joy and unity and can be presented in that manner.

  1. If you want to say an all-inclusive, “Happy Holidays,” you can do so knowing that there are more religions represented in the workplace now than even five years ago and that all of them celebrate the same aspects of love, giving and gratitude that are a part of this time of year.

  2. Use the holidays as an educational tool by setting up a voluntary display table open to employee decorations that reflect a variety of faiths and cultures.

  3. The holiday season can also mean year-end business tasks. Get organized now so that year-end work does not result in last minute surprises and unforeseen long workdays.

  4. Greeting cards offer the chance to close down the calendar with a word of thanks. A safe choice is to pick cards with diverse faces and multiple languages that everyone can recognize and enjoy.

  5. As an alternative to a holiday card, consider that Thanksgiving cards can “kick off” the holiday season and New Years cards get noticed when everyone returns to work in January so they are great alternatives to cards representing only one of the religious holidays.

  6. Use the holidays to honor key clients in some special way. Be creative! Send local gift certificates, or donate to a charity (that is not religious or political) in their name.

  7. Go through your rolodex and find business associates and clients that you have lost track of. It is a good time to reconnect without looking obvious and the ball will be rolling when you want to do business in January.

  8. Put together or order a fruit basket for the office instead of the usual box of chocolates. Healthy foods make everyone feel great!

  9. Keep work-related holiday parties alcohol free and you can avoid a host of negative incidents, perceptions and “misunderstandings.”

  10. Plan an office food drive or call your county Social Service department and “adopt” a foster child for holiday gift-giving. It will create a real sense of focus and team.

Article written by: Susan Kettmann, SPHR

Jill Russell, SPHR, TPO Principal

Q. After starting TPO 17 years ago, how do you keep things exciting at work - and what do you do to balance running a business with your spouse and having a separate private life?

A. Practice, practice, practice!

I have actually been in HR 25 years now! When Robert and I conceptualized starting an HR company on the Central Coast – we hoped it would be a meaningful success for us and for our clients. 17 years later, the harder we work at it, the luckier we get! It has been wonderful listening to the needs of our members and clients, and designing practical solutions.

One of the unique and exciting things about what we do is that I was able to engineer a virtual career shift within the same company. While I used to be focused on technical HR, I am now spending most of my time on TPO infrastructure and supporting our talented team through project oversight and providing them with the tools and support they need to focus and excel at delivering their HR expertise to the benefit of our clients. Although I do work on various client projects, most of my work is helping run TPO. This is only possible because of the caliber of consultants and staff we have – I can let go and know our clients are getting the best and brightest support possible – they are a truly incredible team.

On the “how do I balance being married to my business partner and having a “life”. Some would rephrase that to, “how do you stayed married to Robert?!?” Just kidding! Robert and I recently celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary! Once we figured out how to work on/in the same business together, and defined our separate roles, we have been incredibly synergistic co-Principals of TPO. We have the same commitment to quality and our Mission, including a uniform focus on our employees and clients. Our compass is clear and we stay the course to the degree humanly possible. We have rules at home about how much TPO can be discussed, just like any other couple working for separate employers. You have to draw the line and have a “life”. Despite that rule, our clients get a lot of free consulting and problem solving over a glass of wine at dinner!

With three grown children, three amazing grandchildren, three cats (there’s a theme here!), TWO brand new miniature donkeys, enjoying friends and traveling a bit, there’s no shortage of distractions! I love to garden – and with 7 acres I’ll never be finished. I’m also writing a book! Like all of us, I am growing and evolving in many directions. TPO provides a very centering, energetic life force full of challenges and opportunities to make a positive difference for organizations and the people in them. It has been and continues to be a bona fide pleasure.

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Employment Upd@te is a publication of  TPO HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT. Copyright ©2004-2008. All rights reserved.
TPO's Employment Upd@te may not be reproduced or re-transmitted without change or modification of any kind. The information provided is designed to be accurate in content. TPO provides human resource consulting and is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. Readers are advised to consult legal counsel on matters involving employment law or important personnel policies & practices before adoption or implementation.