WageWatch Ibrief Blog


Archive for September, 2018


First and foremost, CHECK STATE LAW!  This remains a troubling issue for employers in states that have enacted medical marijuana laws and/or laws allowing for recreational marijuana laws.  We have written on this perplexing issue in the past focusing on the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision which held that state’s protection of employees who are engaging in “lawful activities” did not shield an employee using state-law protected medical marijuana from termination.

Last week a Connecticut federal court judge issued a decision for employers concerning Connecticut’s Palliative Use of Marijuana Act (PUMA). The federal judge granted summary judgment in the employee’s favor in connection with her PUMA claim.  The court concluded that the Company violated PUMA by rescinding the job offer based on a positive pre-employment drug test because was a “qualifying patient” under Connecticut law.

In so doing, the court rejected the Company’s argument that its zero-tolerance policy complied with the Drug-Free Workplace Act (DFWA), which requires federal contractors to make a “good faith effort” to maintain a drug-free workplace.  The federal judge concluded that the DFWA does not prohibit federal contractors from employing someone who uses medical marijuana outside of the workplace.  The emphasized that PUMA does nothing to limit an employer’s ability to prohibit the use of intoxicating substances during work hours, but it does protect a “qualifying patient” from an adverse employment action for using marijuana “outside of work hours and in the absence of any influence during work hours.”

PLEASE NOTE: this is an area of the law that is not yet settled.  And that there will be different results in each state as state laws on marijuana use vary greatly—-and judicial interpretations of these laws will also greatly vary.  Before proceeding to enforce your drug-testing policy against individuals purportedly using marijuana for medicinal purposes, you are well-advised to review all applicable state laws.  Of course, feel free to contact PSB if you have any questions on this at www.psb-attorneys.com.

Change can be challenging and demanding.  At WageWatch our compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs and help ensure your wages and salaries are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives.  In addition to our PeerMark Salary Survey for over 100 local lodging markets in the U.S. and Canada, we offer a National Benchmark Salary Survey.  With over 9,000 hotels and 200 casinos in our database, WageWatch’s hotel and gaming salary surveys are the most comprehensive surveys available to Human Resource professionals. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary surveys, benefit surveys, and custom compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.


Established salary structures aren’t mandatory.  There is no law that requires them, but they serve many useful purposes.  Having salary ranges in place can ensure that salary decisions, from new hires to promotions, are made with objective and consistent rules and parameters.  They provide at least a first line of defense against salary discrimination, intentional or otherwise, by ensuring that employees performing the same job are granted the same salary opportunity.  And, formal salary ranges provide you with a tool for proactively managing and budgeting your salary dollars.

Salary structures help ensure that pay levels for groups of jobs are competitive externally and equitable internally.  A well-designed salary structure allows management to reward performance and skills development and control overall base salary cost by providing a cap on the range paid.

A salary structure enables employers to pay employees in a given position, consistently, for the work they do.  Salary ranges also offer flexibility enabling a company to pay higher in the range for an employee based on a greater level of education, experience or performance.  In the same way, it can potentially save on labor costs when hiring employees with limited backgrounds.

Having well documented and communicated salary ranges can minimize employees’ pay equity concerns and grievances.

A well-designed salary structure will help organizations:

  • Attract and retain suitable, qualified, and experienced employees
  • Build high morale with internal equity
  • Create more satisfied employees and thus reduce turnover
  • Minimize favoritism and bias
  • Provide a structure for career progression
  • Serve as a sound basis for collective bargaining and employee relations management

If the salary structure gets out of sync with the overall labor market, a company may find itself paying employees too much and needlessly increasing operating costs, or paying employees too little and having difficulty attracting and retaining talent.

A study of the current labor market will provide new information to determine whether the organization’s pay structure, policies and practices, job classifications and job titles are appropriate or needing adjustment.

WageWatch offers accurate, up-to-date HR metrics, benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times.  This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards.  The PeerMark™ Wage Survey is the only Web-based custom survey tool that allows individual survey participants to select their competitive set for comparison purposes.  Our experienced compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs.  We can help you ensure internal equity and compliance with regulations as well as help you structure your compensation programs to support your company’s business strategy and objectives.   For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.


A primary goal of any compensation program is to motivate employees to perform at their best.  Most organizations have to pay for performance at least in the form of a merit pay system.  An accurate, reliable, and credible performance-appraisal program that is aligned with company goals, core values, and industry best practices is the foundation of a successful merit pay program.  Performance measures should be tailored specifically for the organization and its jobs with clear outcomes that minimize bias and misinterpretation.  Consistency, manager training, effective communications, and a periodic review are also essential for success.

The merit pay budget has two aspects to it:  1) determining the size of the budget and 2) allocating the budget to organizational units and its employees.  Determining the size of the budget will be based on competitive trends, the organization’s financial situation and other factors that may impact pay such as minimum wage and cost of living changes.  For the past several years merit budgets have been small and therefore it has been a challenge to adequately reward top performers as well as those that are rated ‘Good’ and ‘Average’.  Employees with performance ratings of ‘Good’ and ‘Average’ can be the largest percentage of employees and therefore the backbone of the workforce.  These employees should not be overlooked as a raise for these employees often do not keep up with the cost of living.  Also the differentials between performance levels may not be large enough to motivate and retain employees.  These factors reduce the motivational potential of the merit pay program.

Using a merit increase matrix may help to maintain internal equity but may not properly reward top performers.  You want your reviewing managers to be engaged in the merit award process and to give appropriate thought and consideration to their pay decisions.  A certain amount of guidance and training is needed but the merit matrix can be too structured and rigid as well as make it too easy for reviewing managers to simply follow the formula rather than spend the time and effort for a thorough review.  Greater rewards for top performers and greater deviation of awards between good and average performers can be accomplished by providing zero increases to employees whose performance falls below average.  Providing broad increase guidelines in lieu of a matrix to your reviewing managers using factors such as performance rating, time in the position, and position in salary range can eliminate the rigidity of the merit matrix and drive a more thoughtful approach to the merit award process.  Once tentative award amounts are determined, reviewing managers should perform an analysis of the awards looking at the whole department and at each individual award using these and other factors as well as any unique or special circumstances.

Annual pay increases not only help keep employees’ pay at the market level, providing awards that are accurately linked to performance are important in retaining employees, especially your best ones.  Compensation frequently emerges as a driver of retention, and when pay increases aren’t provided regularly and fairly, it will negatively impact job satisfaction.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants are focused on your organization’s compensation needs and ready to help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives and that your pay practices are fair, equitable and non-discriminatory. We can provide your business with compensation surveys and salary reports to help you establish a budget for your merit pay program, including bonuses and incentives. Our innovative company is a leader in the collection of data for surveys and salary reports, which allows us to provide services to a wide range of industries in both the private and public sector. To learn more about our compensation surveys, salary reports, and other services please call 480-237-6130 or contact us online.


Many organizations today are focusing on their company’s culture including determining their culture, deciding what it should be, aligning it with strategic goals, and transitioning to the desired culture.  Culture is important because it reinforces the values of the organization, which in turn shapes team members’ behavior.  There are many success stories of companies with cultures that are aligned to their business goals including Google, Zappos, and Patagonia.  These companies have developed a culture that supports their business as well as their culture.

Organizational culture is the collective behavior of the people who are part of the organization and has important effects on the morale and motivation of the organizational members.  It includes the values, norms, systems, beliefs, attitudes, and habits of the organization which impacts the interactions of the employees with each other, and with customers.  Even before you define it, you know it is there and that it has an impact on your business. This is why it is so important to internalize the culture and understanding when company activities are in sync or not in sync with the culture.

Once the company values and desired culture are defined, compensation can support and help drive the values and corporate culture.  It is important that the role of compensation in an organization and the compensation strategy are also defined.  For example, where does the organization want to set pay levels in comparison to the competitive market?  Perhaps the organization’s culture is strong in training and developing its employees, acknowledging their successes and offering advancement opportunities. This, in turn, may allow the organization to set lower pay levels than what is paid in the market.  Of course, when recruiting it is important to align the compensation strategy to support the values of the culture through highlighting performance management, performance appraisals, and the goal-setting process for each team member.

Once values, business objectives, and desired behaviors are determined then compensation plans can be put in place to support the culture.  For example, if the business objective is innovation and the desired behavior is risk-taking, then short-term incentives may be the compensation strategy.  If the goal is for a highly trained workforce and the behavior is learning and upgrading skills, then skill or competency-based pay may be the compensation strategy.

Corporate culture is about people’s behaviors – how goals are accomplished – so as to establish a culture that drives company success, organizations should link a significant component of their compensation systems to behaviors.

At WageWatch our compensation consultants can assist with your organization’s compensation needs and help you ensure that your compensation programs are supporting your company’s business strategy and objectives.  WageWatch also offers accurate, up-to-date benefit survey data, market compensation data and salary reports that will allow you to stay current with the times. This information is highly beneficial in creating the best salary and benefits packages that meet or rival the industry standards. For more information on our services, including consulting, salary survey data, benefit survey data and market compensation reports, please call WageWatch at 888-330-9243 or contact us online.