Culture can be the beginning and end of your company. Many executives and other members of leadership simply think of corporate culture as what the company stands for. This can be expressed through a corporation’s mission statement, their reported “vision,” or their promise to deliver their customers with the best products and services available. Corporate culture actually goes much deeper, beneath the surface to which the consumer public is privy. The MISTI Training Institute actually defines corporate culture as “the set of enduring and underlying assumptions and norms that determine how things are actually done in the organization.” It is not enough for leadership to state that they have inspiring beliefs and mission statements, if they do not run corporations to reflect those beliefs.
Even after hearing a more definitive explanation of
corporate culture, many executives may still shrug their shoulders and insist
that they have a great corporate culture. They think operations are
streamlined, employees are engaged, and there are no weak links in the chain.
They take solace in the fact that they have things like Taco Tuesdays, or
Casual Fridays that improve the work environment and keep employees happy.
While these are great ways to foster comradery within the workforce, they are
band aid solutions to happy employees. The bottom line is: Healthy corporate
culture begins with happy employees.
A recent study conducted by Glassdoor indicates that a
majority of working individuals in the United States would prefer a healthy
corporate culture to a higher salary or rate of pay. Their day-to-day becomes
manageable when they feel as if they are part of a larger team. This graphic
displays the cyclical nature of healthy corporate culture in motion. The cycle
begins with happy employees. When trying to improve employee morale, leadership
should strongly consider an internal audit of their company’s culture to
identify pervasive issues within their corporation’s operating structure.
Events like birthday parties for employees, or buying lunch for the office
every few weeks are nice gestures by leadership, but they cannot act as
solutions to repetitive issues. When these issues are not addressed within the
corporation, employees often feel as if their value begins and ends with their
productivity, as if they are cogs in a larger machine they cannot control. When
leadership actively engages with employee concern on operation issues and makes
dedicated and focused attempts to fix them, employees feel as if their voices
are heard and their input is valued within the organization.
This leads to improved engagement on behalf of those valued
employees. They are prompt to work, freshly-groomed and instilled with a sense
of purpose as their co-workers progress with them towards the organization’s
goal. The level of communication between employees will not only improve in
quality, but the rate of response to correspondence also has the potential to
increase dramatically, because the employees are engaged in the process and are
eager to complete tasks on time—possibly even early.
Once employee engagement is up, leadership can expect to see
an increase in the productivity of the workforce as a whole. Engaged employees
approach their task with the confidence of a professional, and the confidence
that comes from the feeling of support within the organization. Studies have
shown that productivity can increase by as much as 28% when a corporation’s
culture is given a major overhaul.
When productivity increases, everybody in the company
benefits. Having their requisites satisfied, leadership can let their focus
extend beyond daily operations. This expanded scope of supervision leads to
higher engagement on behalf of leadership, which feeds back into a healthy work
environment in which they are happy to reward the stellar performance of their
employees. When employees feel their work is valued, the cycle begins anew.
This shared body of beliefs that the company claims to have
in the public eye should go all the way to the CEO and be directly reflected in
the day to day operations of the company. When leadership remains plugged in
and continues to expand the scope of their supervision, internal issues cannot
pervade within the workplace. In healthy work environments, the level of
improvement that can occur week to week will only serve the company’s larger
In addition to protecting employees from termination during an extended leave, FMLA also requires their various insurance coverage remain in effect. This protection can be guaranteed for up to 12 weeks. According to the Department of Labor:
FMLA is designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities by allowing them to take reasonable unpaid leave for certain family and medical reasons. It also seeks to accommodate the legitimate interests of employers and promote equal employment opportunity for men and women.
FMLA applies to all public agencies, all public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. These employers must provide an eligible employee with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year for any of the following reasons:
the birth and care of the newborn child of an employee;
placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care;
to care for an immediate family member (spouse, child, or parent) with a serious health condition; or
medical leave when the employee is unable to work because of a serious health condition.
The use of FMLA within these guidelines (with some exceptions) is designed to protect hard-working men and women from losing their jobs when their family suddenly requires their attention. Life can change so fast, and employees can rest easy knowing their jobs will be waiting for them when they are able to return in top-performing condition.
According to Charlie Plumb, an attorney who represents clients in all phases of management, abuse of this protection should be investigated, provided the employer has an “honest suspicion.” He goes on to say, “This honest suspicion standard is really intended to protect the employer against a claim they are interfering against FMLA leave and/or being retaliatory.”
A familiar scenario is one where an employee has been granted leave under FMLA for a serious illness or injury. The employer then happens to see posts from the employee on social media having fun out with friends, exercising, or driving. The employer might think, “If they’re well enough to do these things, they must be well enough to work.” While this might sound like an open and shut case from the employer’s point of view, Allen Smith of The Society of Human Resources Management, provides an example where this philosophy proved problematic:
“Joan Casciari, an attorney with Seyfarth Shaw in Chicago, said she handled a case that involved an employee who was put on FMLA leave for depression. The employer later discovered, through surveillance, she was doing Christmas shopping with her family and having a wonderful time. But her doctor confirmed “retail therapy” was consistent with her condition and the fact she could shop did not mean she did not require FMLA leave.”
Luckily for the employer in this anecdote, they did their due diligence and consulted a medical professional who could corroborate the circumstances of her FMLA qualifications. Some employers are far hastier. When employers do not conduct comprehensive and objective investigations into suspicious FMLA claims, they can open themselves up to lawsuits that can be devastatingly expensive and a public relations nightmare.
Vigilance of adherence to the guidelines of FMLA becomes manageable when Human Resource directors keep an eye out for certain patterns of behavior, such as absence patterns, especially when they coincide with non-work events (holidays or something personal that they may have mentioned in the past). Employers should also be suspicious of absences directly contradicting any medical certification in frequency or duration.
Once an employer has a reasonable suspicion of FMLA abuse, they should most certainly investigate. However, internal investigations into these kinds of abuses can be very messy for Human Resources and upper management. The aforementioned scenario involving “retail therapy” could have been a disaster if the company had not done their due diligence. Some employers are not so diligent.
Another scenario involving a maintenance worker at a nursing home and rehabilitation center panned out much differently. The employee in question noticed his superior was exhibiting a pattern of absence he found suspicious. He began reviewing surveillance footage to compare to his own personal log of her comings and goings in order to prove she was abusing company time. After discovering the independent investigation, the superior served a series of performance adjustments to the employee before terminating him. The termination came after the employee had submitted an FMLA request. The court found the dates of his termination tied in too closely with his request for FMLA, allowing the employee to take the case to trial.
Scenarios like these are why Human Resources and management should 1) be vigilant of FMLA abuse, and 2) conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation in order to ensure the company is protected from litigation. Many companies choose to handle investigations internally in order to minimize the amount of exposure. However, internal investigations spearheaded by current members of staff, will not only disrupt daily operations, but can also have negative effects like the case of the nursing home. The employee conducting his own investigation may have had honest suspicions of his superior’s misconduct, but he was certainly not a unbiased source to investigate.
Private investigators are probative routes often overlooked when a company has an internal investigation. There are many circumstances under which companies do not want to give up control over an internal investigation, and a private investigator is the definition of a third-party. However, the objectivity of a private investigator is the number one reason why companies should consider them as an option. The personal biases of the persons involved in the previous examples caused the investigation to go south. As an independent contractor, a private investigator’s only loyalty is to the truth. They are vital to ensuring an investigation is a transparent expedition for the truth. This goes a long way towards protecting a business from subsequent lawsuits or bad press.
When handling an investigation internally, employers are limited to what surveillance they can attain from their own equipment or social media. Private investigators are licensed to track individuals and photograph their activity in public. Persons who fraudulently claim to be out for injury can be photographed doing tasks directly contradicting their FMLA claim, like yardwork or lifting heavy groceries. In addition to tracking their public movements, private investigators may also conduct undercover operations in order to investigate any frauds. They are invaluable in this regard as they are not known to those within the company. Whether you’re looking for an FMLA weekender or an FMLA moonlighter, if someone has made a fraudulent FMLA claim, a private investigator is the most-equipped professional to prove or disprove the suspicion.
The individual could be a witness, heir, a missing child, or a criminal. Maybe the individual is a former disgruntled employee who could whistle-blow about corporate misconduct or fraud. You might needing locate a subject in possession of the proverbial “smoking gun”—as in the case of stolen assets. Whether it’s an interview, serving papers, or investigate individuals, a Lauth PI can help you to identify and locate the subject.
2. We Locate Assets
Lauth Investigators are skilled at locating assets such as real estate, unclaimed property, and other valuable property like: artwork, antiques, collectibles, motor vehicles, aircraft, vessels, etc. A Lauth investigator can also help attorneys to identify the location both domestic and offshore bank accounts.
3. We Can Leverage for Negotiations
A Lauth Investigator can pull together key sources and intelligence to inform your side during litigation, in an M&A deal, during an internal investigation, or any other adversarial situation. It can make the difference between a favorable settlement and an unfavorable one.
4. We Can Help Attorneys Enforce Judgments
Obviously, a judgment is only useful if you are able to enforce it. A Lauth Investigator can help attorneys to identify current assets and uncover efforts to hide or misrepresent them through the transfer to family members, friends or other parties.
5. We Can Connect the Dots
Lauth Investigators can help you to know who is actually sitting on the other side of the table during litigation or a potential business deal. You can gain immeasurable negotiation power by identifying who is actually behind a faceless corporation or tying together undisclosed connections.
6. We Can Generate A Historical Reconstruction/Timeline
A historical reconstruction may be helpful in a number of different areas. Perhaps you need to review the history of a family to locate heirs. It could be a corporate history or a chain of title issue in a real estate matter. Whatever the issue, a Lauth Investigator can help to identify and piece together long lost documents, facts and witnesses.
Aaron Snyder — Research Investigator and Blog Writer — Lauth Investigations International
Meet the Owner of LII. Thomas Lauth is the owner and lead investigator of Lauth Investigations International, Inc. Founded in 1993, Lauth has 20 years of experience in criminal, insurance, personal, corporate, and attorney investigations, to include specializing in missing person and unsolved homicide investigations.
Thomas Lauth, owner of LII
Owner and Criminal Investigator, 1993-Present.Thomas currently serves as a Referral Investigator for various attorneys, defendants, insurance companies and the public in conducting criminal investigations and death investigations within Indiana.
Senior Criminal Investigator, Marion County Public Defender Agency
Conducted detailed criminal investigations for the representation of indigent defendants.
Worked cooperatively with various State and Federal law enforcement agencies such as INTERPOL, FBI, US State Department, various foreign embassies, and parents nationwide on missing person’s cases.
Appointed numerous times by State and Federal Courts to conduct independent investigations of homicides, robbery, and serious felony matters.
Served as both a prosecution and defense witness on numerous missing persons and homicide, both at the Federal and the State levels.
Advisory for the Nation’s Missing Children Organization & National Center for Missing Adults, working with founder Kym L. Pasqualini from 1996-2010. Pasqualini remains an advocate for missing persons and recognized expert in the field.
Continuing to work with with Kym L. Pasqualini, LII also sponsors the Missing Persons Advocacy Network.