HR Base Camp Roundup – June 29th, 2022

The top Q&A’s from our HR Base Camp Facebook Group and HR Solution Center this week include a question about working interview candidates bailing before completing their paperwork, a refresher on documentation laws, and a rather unique team management situation. Here are the questions for this week’s Roundup :

  1. How do you stop one employee’s problem, who is a leader, from spreading to other team members?
  2. How long do you need to hold on to payroll records?
  3. What do you do if a new employee leaves without filling out their paperwork?

Not a CEDR Member? Get additional guidance and updates in our private Facebook Group. Click to join!

How do you stop one employee’s problem, who is a leader, from spreading to other team members?

Our office manager, who is normally pretty awesome, has been having some personal problems. She’s starting to miss important deadlines, work, and is showing up late a LOT. We want to support her and are working quietly in the background to help her get back on track. The problem is, other team members are beginning to follow her lead: showing up late, calling out for no apparent reason, etc. What can I do to bring everyone’s performance back to the high standards they set for themselves?

We hate to hear about this type of situation. We’ve been there before ourselves and know how tough it can be when one of the Difference Makers on your team is distracted by something going on outside of work.

As you know, great leaders do more than just keep things running and on time for your practice. That is an important and immensely valuable contribution they make to your business, of course, but probably just as valuable is the tone they set and the example they provide for the rest of your team. And when the person who sets the bar for everyone loses the trail, it’s pretty common for others to start drifting in the wrong direction, too.

You may not be able to remove the obstacle of the moment from your office manager’s path, but by showing your support and working with her to find her way again YOU are setting the example of what it means to be a great leader. So, kudos to you for refusing to just throw your hands up and walk away from the problem.

That said, it’s a lot easier to right the ship when everyone on the crew is rowing in the same direction. So, while you’re working with this employee to get herself back on track, you should also take this opportunity to do the same with the rest of your team.

If they were functioning as a great team in the recent past, the potential is there for them to get back to that level. Therefore, your goal for right now is to get them back on track as quickly as possible.

Be proactive with these employees. Jump in there and coach them and help them understand that, though your office manager is facing some challenges right now (you need not go into detail about what those challenges are), you need everyone on the team to be ready to step up and help carry a little bit of the weight that their manager may not be able to shoulder at this particular moment. 

Use the FIRR method (remember: Fact, Impact, Reason, Request) to address the problems you’re observing and focus on your goals, mission, and values if you have them. If those are not yet a part of your management approach, you might want to think about developing some of those things with help from the exercises in our Manager’s Playbook on Company Culture.

Regardless, at the very least you, as the owner, need to set aside some time to address the performance of those individuals who you’ve noticed are starting to slip and encourage them to get back on track. If the majority of your team has been affected, it might be appropriate to have this conversation in the form of a team meeting. If it’s just a few employees that are starting to show signs of missing the mark, it may be best to sit down with those employees one on one to talk about what you’re observing going on with them.

Keep in mind that this is an early-stage coaching conversation – you probably won’t want to dive right in to disciplinary action in this type of scenario. Still, it’s a good idea to document that you’ve had the conversation using your Employee Interaction Log just so that you’ve got some kind of record about what’s going on.

We also wanted to mention that, all other things being equal, you can count yourself lucky that your team was performing well not that long ago. This will make the lift required to get them back on track much lighter! 

If you were a CEDR Member, we’d still want you to reach out to the Solution Center to discuss the specifics of the situation and to create a game plan for what to do if things didn’t start improving. But hopefully the guidance here is enough to help you get the ball rolling.

Click to download your free employee interaction log template for free.

How long do you need to hold on to payroll records?

Okay! *rubs hand together* 

This one is pretty straightforward, but we’re really glad this question came in as it’s something that slides off the radar from time to time for a lot of employers.

From the federal side, the Department of Labor requires employers to hold onto payroll records for all employees for three years. You are also required to hold on to “records on which computations are based” such as timecards/timesheets, update requests, schedules, and records of additions and deductions, etc. for two years. But for the sake of simplicity, it’s not a bad idea to just stick to that three-year rule for all payroll-related records to make sure you’re in the clear.

Here’s a fact sheet from the DOL with that information.

It is important to note that some states will have different laws requiring you to hold on to those records for longer – up to seven years in some places. So, if you don’t know what the law says in your state, CEDR Members can reach out to the Solution Center for guidance.

Not a CEDR Member yet? You can always crowdsource answers to your HR questions in HR Base Camp.

Not a CEDR Member? Get additional guidance and updates in our private Facebook Group. Click to join!

What do you do if a new employee leaves without filling out their paperwork?

Question about a working interview applicant: I had someone come in for a working interview. Things seemed to be going well but, when lunch time rolled around, she took her break and never came back. I know I have to pay her for the time she spent at my practice for the first half of the day. Trouble is, she never filled out any paperwork and she’s not responding to my calls so I’m not even sure where to send her check. What do I do now? Help!

Oooh… you know we love a good working interview question! But this issue actually goes beyond working interviews and crosses over into territory that affects a lot of employers whether or not they use working interviews at all. So, we’ll touch on the working interview thing first and then dive into the paperwork and payment situation.

First of all, we’re excited to hear that you’re concerned about paying this person. Many employers think they can get away without paying working interview candidates for their time, so – bravo! –  this shows a better-than-average understanding of your legal obligations under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Second, and this is just a general working interview thing that a lot of employers miss so we wanted to make sure and mention it, all working interview candidates need to be paid and classified as employees and not contractors. So, when you do finally get that check cut, you’ll need to make sure you’ve taken out all of the necessary deductions and withholdings. 

You should also take note here for the future. To avoid this from happening again, it’s best to have new employees (including working interview candidates) fill out their paperwork first thing when they come in. Having a structured onboarding process in place that you use with all employees can help, though we doubt you would want your working interview candidates to spend the time required to read and sign your employee handbook, job description, and other team-specific materials that are intended for those you actually decide to invite to work for your practice. This is one more illustration of why we generally recommend that employers use skills tests instead of working interviews to test out a candidate’s abilities. 

Now, let’s talk about the specifics of your conundrum here – getting that paperwork filled out and getting that employee paid.

Ultimately, the solution to this problem is to do the best you can with the information you have on hand. Use whatever contact information you have – phone, email, emergency contacts, etc. – to reach out to the employee and let them know that you need them to fill out a W-4 and state tax forms so that you can pay them (note that you’ll also want them to fill out an I-9 for your records, though this won’t impact your ability to pay them for their time). Hopefully the carrot of a paycheck is enough to motivate them to come in and give you the information you need. Or you may at least be able to get them to give you the information required to fill out those forms yourself.

Make sure you document all of your attempts to get in touch with this person throughout this process.

If they still won’t respond, check the employee’s resume and any other documentation you have on hand for any information it might contain and start filling out their W-4 and any state withholding documents to the best of your ability and have the check issued with a standard deduction.

Once that’s done, reach out to the employee one last time and let them know that you have a check ready for them at the office if they would like to come pick it up (you can get them to fill out the necessary documents when they arrive), or that you would be happy to mail it to them if you could get confirmation of a physical mailing address (you may be able to get the info you need from them if you can manage to get them on the phone or responding to emails).

Keep in mind that you’ll need to complete this entire process and get the employee their paycheck by the next regular payday, and even sooner in some states.

Moving forward, make sure the first thing you do with future employees is to get them to fill out your new hire paperwork before they do anything else (ideally, you’d also HIPAA train anyone who is going to have access to any patient information at your practice) to prevent headaches like this from happening in the future.

For a more detailed explanation of how to deal with this all-too-common issue, check out our blog on the subject here.


At CEDR, we help employers protect their practices and build stronger teams. Because stronger teams build better workplaces, and better workplaces make better lives.

Click here to learn more about how CEDR’s HR experts can help you protect your business and make managing your team easier. 
Click to download your free onboarding checklist from the HR experts at CEDR!

Jun 28, 2022

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.
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