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Attorney Gene’s Top Tips for Hiring Employees

Gene Thornton

Gene Thornton

Gene R. Thornton is an attorney in Colorado Springs with over 30 years of experience. For the last 23 years, Mr. Thornton has been a solo attorney where he practiced employment law and litigation. Currently, Mr. Thornton is emphasizing workplace investigations—such as sexual harassment investigations—as the Principal of Thornton Workplace Investigations, LLC. Prior to starting his own law practice, Mr. Thornton was a partner with the Denver, Colorado firm of Hopper & Kanouff, P.C. where, in addition to starting the firm’s employment law practice, he functioned as the human resources manager for the law firm. Prior to going into private law practice, Mr. Thornton was a law clerk for Judge Aurel M. Kelly of the Colorado Court of Appeals and for the Colorado Department of Law (Attorney General’s Office). Mr. Thornton is the co-author of “Employment Termination Source Book” published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2006. Additionally, Mr. Thornton has authored/edited/or reviewed hundreds of items of web content for SHRM, including 25 comprehensive articles on numerous aspects of human resource management.
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One of the hallmarks of a truly successful business is the need to hire additional employees. If your business is ready to hire employees, here’s how to go about it.

Tip #1. Use a modern, legally-compliant job application form.

Colorado has a new “ban the box” statute that prohibits use of job application forms asking whether the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony. “What???,” you say! True. And that is for some reasons the current political powers that be deem very worthwhile. For now, the Colorado law applies to private employers with 11 or more workers. But on September 1, 2021—which will be here before we know it—it will apply even if you have only one worker. So, start getting used to the term “justice involved person.” It is like calling someone a “firefighter” instead of a “fireman.” Someday, we’ll all be doing it second-nature.

Tip #2. Comply with the immigration laws.

When you hire a worker, you must comply with federal and Colorado immigration laws to ensure that the worker you hire is permitted to work in the U.S. Federal form I-9 requires specific, original forms of identification and, for some types of identification, more than one type of ID. Employers must certify that they have examined the original documents. For audit purposes, employers should permanently retain copies of the documents they examined. People have gone to jail for I-9 falsification, so give careful thought to how bad you really want to hire that worker with an obviously-fake ID. Just because your competitors are hiring illegal workers doesn’t mean you can get away with it too.

Tip #3. Report your new hires.

As mandated by federal law, in order to facilitate collection of court-ordered child support, Colorado employers must report new hires within 20 calendar days after the date of hire or by the first regularly scheduled payroll following the date of hire, if such payroll is after the expiration of the 20-day period. Good news! This law uses the same definition of “employee” as for federal income tax purposes, so you don’t have to learn yet another definition of “employee.”

Tip #4. Don’t illegally discriminate in hiring.

Today, if you can think of a class of disadvantaged persons, chances are pretty good they’re protected against discrimination in the hiring process. Accordingly, in Colorado do not discriminate in hiring based upon age (40 and above), ancestry, color, disability, gender identification, immigration status, marriage to a coworker, military service, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation. By the way, non-discrimination in the hiring of disabled persons may include a host of reasonable accommodations, so don’t be too quick to tell someone they can’t apply if they can’t walk up the stairs of the building, or anything else medical/physical/mental that impacts their ability to fill out an application just like anyone else. Also, discrimination based upon race may be established by refusing to hire persons with “natural hair,” and discrimination based upon religion may be established by refusing to hire persons with beards. So, be careful when factoring in an applicant’s grooming.

Tip #5. Post required notices of employee rights. ‘Nuff said.

Tip #6. Use hiring letters.

When hiring, send your new hire a letter including most or all of the following: the job title, the exempt/nonexempt status for overtime purposes, your established “workweek” for wage/hour purposes, the initial work schedule, the pay (salary, hourly, commission, piece-rate, non-discretionary bonus), the pay dates, current benefits, vacation policy (cover earning paid leave if it is offered), sick leave, start date, probationary period, confidentiality or non-compete requirements, protection of trade secrets and customer information, and at-will status (assuming want at-will status, which you almost certainly do). Have them sign it and return it.

Tip #7. Complete federal tax form W-4. Of course.

Tip #8. Provide a decent onboarding.

New hire orientation can include providing: a written agenda for the first week, a written job description, a copy of your performance evaluation form, copies of policies/procedures/handbooks (get a receipt). Inform the employee of meal and rest periods (which are required by law). Show them your posters on employee statutory rights. Show them their workspace, and make sure it is clean, neat, and safe before they arrive. Introduce them to their co-workers, giving an organizational chart (preferably with photos). Communicate your mission and values using examples. Communicate how their job helps fulfill your mission. Cover the training they will get, addressing safety concerns in detail, and have them sign-off on safety training they have received. Assign them a mentor/buddy. Do a Q&A, and check back with them every few days. You’ll be amazed at how a proper onboarding can improve productivity and employee relations.

© Copyright 2019, Gene R. Thornton, Attorney-At-Law, all rights reserved.

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