There will be no Informer newsletter next week. The Informer will resume on Wednesday, January 5th.
It’s December – time to think about how to make 2022 the best year yet for your utility. To establish your utility as the employer-of-choice so you can attract and retain the best team members around and enjoy consistent high levels of morale and productivity, make employee communications a top priority.
Why make employee communications a priority?
Regular, meaningful communication can make employees feel more part of the organization, increase morale, and make employees feel proud to work at your utility. People crave personal communications and will read anything they feel “talks” directly to them.
A communications focus can strengthen the employee-employer relationship. When the relationship is strong, everyone wins – the employees, the employer, and the customers. When people feel like they are noticed, respected, and appreciated (all possible through communication), their overall health and attitude tends to be positive. They bring this energy to work, and it shows.
What employee communications should you focus on?
Provide employees with communication that sends the message that you value them as whole people with interests and concerns outside of work. Also, obviously, you’ll want to provide company news so employees feel like they’re “in the know” and connected to your utility.
How do you make employee communications a priority?
Start small, set a budget, establish a strategy, and grow from there. You may want to ease your way into communications by creating a new employee newsletter or revamping an existing one. A newsletter can serve as the foundation from which you can build communication for all other platforms (such as posters, emails, social media, videos).
Here are 2 keys points to remember:
By Attorney Miriam Van Heukelem
On December 17, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted the stay issued by the 5th Circuit last month that temporarily delayed the implementation of OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard (“ETS”) that requires employers with over 100 employees to adopt, implement, and enforce a written mandatory vaccine policy for the workplace. Additional details about the ETS can be found in our November 11 Client Alert, "OSHA Issues Emergency Temporary Standard on Vaccination and Testing". In light of the 6th Circuit’s ruling, employers must again begin planning for implementation of the ETS in the near future.
With respect to a new timeline for compliance with the ETS, OSHA has advised:
To provide employers with sufficient time to come into compliance, OSHA will not issue citations for noncompliance with any requirements of the ETS before January 10 and will not issue citations for noncompliance with the standard’s testing requirements before February 9, so long as an employer is exercising reasonable, good faith efforts to come into compliance with the standard.
The 6th Circuit’s ruling will likely be appealed and may result in another stay while the case is taken up by the Supreme Court. We will continue to keep you informed on developments in this case.
For our K-12 clients: Please note that this case is separate from the Arc of Iowa Preliminary Injunction against Iowa Code section 280.31, which is currently on appeal before the Eighth Circuit. Section 280.31 generally prohibits schools from adopting, implementing, or enforcing mask rules for students, employees, or visitors. However, section 280.31 allows schools to implement mask rules where otherwise “required by law,” and OSHA has indicated that the ETS is intended to supersede any state laws regarding vaccines, testing, or masks. Thus, whatever the outcome of the Arc of Iowa Preliminary Injunction appeal, schools must be prepared to implement the ETS as noted above.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact a member of the Ahlers & Cooney Employment Law team.
Department of Public Safety Kicks Off Required Statewide Human Trafficking Training Initiative With Lodging Providers
Human trafficking is happening in communities across Iowa. Increased efforts to stamp out these horrible crimes will now include a new statewide training initiative within the lodging industry. In 2020, the Iowa Legislature passed a law (Iowa Code 80.45A) that requires Iowa lodging providers who host public employees or publicly-funded events and conferences to train their staff on human trafficking. The new law states:
Beginning January 1, 2022, affected lodging providers must have all employees successfully complete certified human trafficking prevention training in order to receive public funds as payment for services.
The scope of this new law will likely impact every community in Iowa as public funds may not be expended with any lodging provider that has not received the training certification. Public funds include moneys from the state, a county, school corporation, special district, drainage district, unincorporated town or township, municipality, or municipal corporation or any agency, board, or commission of the state or a political subdivision.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety’s Office to Combat Human Trafficking is charged with facilitating the new law and will be responsible for certifying the curriculum used in the training and that the lodging provider has met the training requirement.
The Iowa Office to Combat Human Trafficking is providing free online training that can be accessed 24/7 at its new website StopHTIowa.org. In addition to hosting the online training and an administrative portal, the site contains tips for spotting human trafficking activity The public-facing site contains an interactive map of state-certified lodging providers, as well as a list of organizations that are qualified to administer the training. To assist customers in determining a lodging provider’s compliance, all state-certified lodging organizations will be required to display their human trafficking training certification in the lobby or registration area.
“Human trafficking directly affects Iowa given our proximity to major metropolitan areas like Kansas City and Chicago, and the intersection of two major interstate systems,” said Department of Public Safety Commissioner Stephan Bayens. “As a result, we know human trafficking is happening in Iowa and that it frequently occurs in a hotel/motel setting. The goal of this training is to provide lodging staff with the knowledge and tools to quickly identify and respond to human trafficking, so together we can prevent this from happening in our state. Even one victim is one too many.”
Human Trafficking In Iowa
It is estimated that there are approximately 1,500 lodging locations in Iowa. Human trafficking is a crime involving the exploitation of youth under the age of 18 for commercial sex; the exploitation of adults for commercial sex through the use of force, fraud, or coercion; and the exploitation of any individual for compelled labor. Human trafficking does not require the transportation of individuals across state lines or that someone is physically restrained.
Like most crimes, human trafficking may be hidden from public view, and it can be challenging to determine the incidence and prevalence of the crime. The Iowa Office to Combat Human Trafficking has seen increased reporting of human trafficking activity occurring in Iowa, but it is difficult to say whether the increased reporting is the result of increased trafficking or more robust reporting.
Signs that a person is being trafficked can include:
• Working excessively long hours
• Unexplained gifts
• Physical injury
• Substance abuse
• Running away from home
• Isolation from others
• Being controlled or closely monitored by another.
If citizens see indicators of human trafficking or are being human-trafficked themselves, call 9-1-1 or call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 888.373.7888
With today’s forecast for high winds in major portions of the state, you may want to take the opportunity to provide customers with a few important safety tips, particularly those related to down power lines. Here is what the National Weather Service includes on its website:
In the event of downed power lines:
Mark your calendars for the 2022 IAMU Electric Superintendent and Foreman’s Meeting. The workshop is scheduled for January 12 – 14, 2022, at Prairie Meadows - The Meadows Events Center in Altoona, Iowa. This workshop is specifically designed to cover topics of interest to electric superintendents and foremen.
Also returning is the Product Show & Reception. Come socialize with fellow utility personnel and meet with exhibitors to see their latest products, technology, and services.
Prairie Meadows is the designated hotel for accommodations at this upcoming meeting. Please mention the Group Code - “01122022IAMU” and Password – “863000102” when booking.
The room rate is $111+tax per night. Book early!
***Reservation block deadline is December 20, 2021***
1 Prairie Meadows Dr
Altoona, IA 50009
To make reservations, please use this LINK
Registration & Cost
IAMU Members - $425
Non-Members - $480
Registration is open. The registration deadline for the meeting is January 5, 2022. For additional information in regards to the meeting, including full agenda and registration, please click HERE.
For questions about the workshop, please contact Jared Masker, IAMU Director of Electric Services at (800) 810-4268 or email@example.com.
IAMU Safety Group Insurance Program Members,
Want to gain a deeper understanding of the property and liability insurance coverages your city and/or utility are receiving for your premium dollars? If so, this is the educational opportunity for you! Please join me Tuesday, 1/25/22 from 12PM - 1PM for a one hour webinar-City & Utility Insurance 101. During this webinar we will dive deeper into the property and liability coverages you receive as a member of the IAMU safety group insurance program. This educational opportunity is available to all IAMU safety group insurance program members. Please share this with others at your city and/or utility who would benefit from attending. RSVP with firstname.lastname@example.org by 1/14/22. A link to the virtual meeting will be sent out to all who RSVP. We hope to see you in January!
Try to eliminate unnecessary words in your writing and speaking. More isn’t always better, especially when you’re competing with other communications. Make it quick to make it stick.
Instead of: There is a safety issue that we must address.
Try: We must address a safety issue.
See how that works?
The Natural Gas Customer Service Line Installation Workshop will take place January 19 & 20 at the IAMU Training & Office Complex.
Why you should attend:
What training will be offered?
What to bring?
Registration is OPEN. Registration deadline is Wednesday, January 12th.
For additional information, brochure and online registration, please click HERE.
If you have any questions, please contact Nick Vandegriff, IAMU Gas Services Compliance Specialist at email@example.com, or (641) 919-8411.
Hand hygiene is an easy, affordable, and effective way to prevent the spread of germs and keep employees healthy. Promoting clean hands within your workforce—whether your employees work in a classroom, in a retail store, in an office, at home, or any other setting—can improve the health of your employees, customers, workplace, and even your community.