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Home Depot sends part-time workers to public healthcare exchanges

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Home Depot will be shifting health coverage for roughly 20,000 part-time workers, who will qualify to seek plans on the new public marketplace exchanges under the Affordable Care Act, according to mutliple media reports.

The part-timers were previously covered under a limited liability medical plan that provided coverage of up to $20,000. Companies will be unable to offer these plans after Dec. 31. Enrollment for government-subsidized healthcare begins Oct. 1.

Though health coverage will be cut for part-timers, Home Depot will continue providing dental, vision, critical illness, disability, back-up dependent care and enrollment in Future Builder 401(k) plans. Part-time workers make up about 5% of Home Depot’s total workforce.

Speculation regarding the change is varied. Some experts believe the exchanges will offer better coverage at a lower cost, while others worry that an unintended consequence of the law will involve more big businesses opting out of coverage for part-timers.

Home Depot spokesperson Stephen Holmes told HCN that workers will have more options for comprehensive coverage on the new marketplace.

Home Depot’s announcement comes on the heels of a similar move by Trader Joe’s, whose part-time workers will also seek coverage on the public exchanges. Some employers, most notably Walgreens, will offer insurance through a private exchange called the Aon Hewitt Corporate Health Exchange.

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Select Sears Hometown & Outlet Stores debut kitchen remodeling services

BY HBSDEALER Staff

More than 20 Sears Home Appliance Showroom and Sears Appliance & Hardware stores in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware have unveiled kitchen remodeling services from Kitchen Tune-Up, a national kitchen and bath remodeling franchise.

The stores feature an interactive Kitchen Tune-Up kiosk, where customers can learn about affordable options to update their kitchen, view cabinet door samples and use an iPad to see project ideas and book an appointment for a no-obligation estimate.

These new kiosks are the first to open from a partnership formed earlier this year between Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores and Kitchen Tune-Up. The partnership allows franchisees and dealers that operate Sears Home Appliance Showroom and Sears Appliance & Hardware stores to purchase a Kitchen Tune-Up franchise at a reduced investment and place a kiosk within their existing store.

The first franchise group to take advantage of the partnership is Prayosha Holdings, which owns and operates the first 23 locations in the program. 

“Customers are always coming into our stores looking for new appliances as a simple way to update their kitchens,” said the company’s director of operations, Joe Coyle. “Therefore, we knew that adding a Kitchen Tune-Up kiosk inside our locations would be a cost-effective way for us to provide them an avenue to take their refresher a step further without making it an intimidating, costly project.”

Kitchen Tune-Up serves residential and commercial customers. Services range from restoring and repairing existing wood cabinets, to refacing cabinets and replacing doors and hardware, to installing completely new custom-built cabinetry. 

Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores and its dealers and franchisees operate 1,245 stores across all 50 states, as well as in Puerto Rico and Bermuda. In addition to merchandise, Sears Hometown and Outlet Stores provide consumers with access to a full suite of services, including home delivery, installation and extended service contracts.

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Right and wrong ways to terminate

BY HBSDEALER Staff

When it comes to poor-performing employees — even those who’ve been put on notice, given an improvement plan and had plenty of time to turn around — some managers are reluctant to show them the door.

It may be because a supervisor is too lenient, is afraid of being sued or doesn’t like giving up on employees, especially if someone’s having a rough time at home or has been with the company for years.

But sometimes, workplace experts said, the reason is that managers just don’t know how.

Good managers need to think at least six months in advance before terminating a worker, said the experts, who add that they, too, often watch supervisors make mistakes during firings, which can lead to unnecessary ill will, a tarnished reputation or expensive lawsuits.

Eric Meyer, a partner in Philadelphia-based Dilworth Paxson LLP’s labor and employment group, said one of the biggest mistakes employers make is failing to properly document the reason for a disciplinary termination. HR managers and the employee’s supervisor should carefully measure the individual’s poor performance or noncompliance against company policies long before the termination discussion.

“Employers should review the employee’s file, make sure the reason for the termination holds water and make sure the termination decision is consistent with the company’s practices and policies,” Meyer advised.

To avoid negative repercussions such as wrongful-termination lawsuits, companies should have written procedures for firing employees, said Rob Wilson, CEO of Employco USA, a human resource outsourcing company based in Westmont, Ill. During the termination meeting with the employee, it’s important to present all documents about job performance, such as work reviews and written warnings, he stressed.

“Be sure to explain clearly, yet courteously, as to the grounds for termination, avoiding debate on the issue,” Wilson said. “Handle the termination with a human element, treating them as a person and not a number, and be sure to keep the termination confidential, to maintain the former employee’s privacy.”

Even companies that operate in states that allow them to fire workers “at will” — that is, with or without cause or notice — should still articulate a business reason, according to April Boyer, partner in K&L Gates’ labor, employment and workplace safety practice. This step can help protect an employer should a worker file a lawsuit claiming his firing was illegal.

Meyer said it’s also important to have a witness present.

“Two people should do the termination,” he said. “One person should take notes of what is said. If there is litigation, this will avoid a dispute about what was said.”

Other mistakes, he noted, include categorizing a disciplinary termination as a mere “layoff” and deviating from disciplinary policy by creating exceptions for certain employees.

Boyer, too, has seen HR managers make plenty of mistakes when firing people. They include:

Not considering protected characteristics: “Be certain that the employee’s age, marital status, race, gender, pregnancy status, request for FMLA leave, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin or other protected activities — such as whistle-blowing acts or complaints of discrimination or harassment — are not considered in the decision to discharge the employee,” Boyer said.

Communicating the decision inaccurately: “Be honest,” she said. “Be concise. Do not talk too much. Do not argue. Do not apologize. Do not soften the message. If there is litigation, this will avoid a conflict between the company’s reason for terminating the employee and what was communicated to the employee. Let the employee express himself or herself at the end of your comments.” Moreover, if someone is let go for performance reasons, don’t send other workers an e-mail praising the employee’s dedication and hard work and reporting that the employee resigned, Boyer stressed.

Failing to consult with an attorney ahead of time: “The legal fees incurred to consult with an attorney before terminating an employee are minor compared to the cost of litigating a termination that is not handled properly,” Boyer warned.

Failing to retrieve company property.

Also important, Wilson said, is helping terminated employees move forward by offering the following:

Outplacement services: These services help people write resumes, hone their interview skills and learn to network.

Financial transition planning: Fired employees can benefit from advice on finding a new job that pays enough to cover their bills. This type of service can also assist with 401(k) and other retirement planning.

Upfront compensation: At the time of termination, provide the employee’s accrued salary to him or her in person, with a paper check. At the same time, financially compensate the person for remaining vacation days or paid-time-off days.

Dana Wilkie is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

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