Mental Health In The Workplace - Breaking The Stigma


Mental health in the workplace is one of the leading topics currently being discussed in the Human Resources field. Mental health is one of the most significant issues facing organizations today.  Statistics and research reveal that:

  • Depression is the #1 reason for employee absenteeism according to the World Health Organization
  • Major depression is now the illness causing the most disability worldwide
  • Employers lose an average of 27.3 days of productivity in the workplace per employee, between sick days and “presentism” due to lack of wellbeing
  • Over 26% of employed adults have substance abuse or addiction in their family (NCADD)
  • 1 – of those employed say they have experienced symptoms of mental health disorder in the previous 30 days (Harvard Medical School)

As an HR Professional who has also studied for a Masters in Clinical Psychology, I have a particularly increased interest in this area.  Through my work with clients, I have known many CEO’s, Executives, Physicians, managers, and employees that battle significant symptoms of mental illness, caused either by genetics, stress or life circumstances. 

Just last week I had the owner of a client reach out to me and let me know that he was experiencing post-traumatic stress.  He felt like he couldn’t continue to work.  We spoke about self-care strategies, resources, and a game plan for him to get the support and help he needed.  

There have been many other countless times in which managers or employees have reached out to me because of my psychology background, asking for resources and help in how to deal with their mental health, whether it be a diagnosis, a difficult marriage, challenges with their kids, crises or traumas.  Each time an employee confides in me, I am honored and humbled to be of any assistance for connecting them with resources including counseling, medication evaluations, mediations, flexible work schedules, etc., which have made a difference in them feeling cared for and enabled them to continue to work while addressing their issues.  Knowing that they have a resource in their employer made a huge difference to these employees. 

Unfortunately, not all employees feel like they have a resource of the support of their employer to address mental health.  We are still in a fight to shatter the mental health stigma. We are learning that there are serious implications for employers that do not have a training and systems in place, that it can be detrimental to the company. 

HR Professionals are starting to be able to make the case to employers about the need to accommodate and create programs and policies that will help their employees.  Employers put themselves at risk of liability of legal implications and the bottom line by failing to address the issue.  

Essential HR, along with our partners, is working with clients to assist them in creating employee well-being programs that are transforming their company’s cultures, increasing employee retention, and enhancing employee engagement.  Reach out to us for further information in creating a customized plan for your organization.   

Harassment In The Workplace and The #Metoo Movement


The #metoo movement has brought forth many emotions in the workplace, and is creating inspiration and hope around the globe. 

As an HR Professional, I have been training on prevention of sexual harassment and hostile work environment in the workplace since the passing of  California AB1825 in 2007.  I have taken the approach of teaching others how to be aware of their own behaviors, as well as how different people perceive behaviors differently.  For instance, some co-workers might see off-color joking as welcome in the workplace and part of their culture.  In other cases, this type of joking may be completely offensive and create a hostile work environment to other employees (what is termed “unwelcome” behavior).  My hope is that by making employees aware of the consequences of their behaviors and by an understanding of the personal liability that could ensue if perceived as harassment, that these types of actions might diminish.  Unfortunately, we continue to see harassment persist.  

In my own journey as a female in the workplace, I have been repeatedly exposed to inappropriate sexual harassment.  To get even more personal, I experienced a traumatic sexual assault that forced me to take a leave of absence.   And when I ask my female friends and colleagues, my three successful sisters, my mother and my 20-year-old daughter, they too indicated that they have all experienced some sort of harassment or another. 

Harassment is real.  It is an epidemic.  It effects people’s lives.  And it damages companies.  I am not sure if all of the laws or training requirements will ever completely elevate this long-standing issue.  However, the #metoo movement has created awareness, hope, and a voice against this endemic concern. 

My hope is that someday, all employees, both women and men, will be able to be fully engaged in their work environment where there is an atmosphere of mutual respect, no matter what gender, gender preference, race or religion.  I also hope that employers, managers, coworkers, and vendors will become cognizant and aware of the high cost caused by allowing harassing behavior in the workplace, through settlement cost, decreased productivity of affected employees, and disengaged employees.  I hope that there is a greater understanding on the toll that harassment takes on individuals lives through depression, lack of self-esteem, and a diminished sense of control of their lives.

At Essential HR, Inc., we are committed to developing harassment prevention training programs for our clients that are customized to their culture.  Our trainings incorporate:

  • Honest, open and transparent conversation
  • Discussions regarding the issues and aspects of their organization that can potentially create harassment, that are relevant to their industry and may already be occurring in the workplace
  • Empowerment of employees to bring their concerns forward
  • Commitment from ownership and management to immediately address and elevate each and every concern.  
  • Creating a culture that does not allow employers to brush harassment concerns under the carpet
  • Creating a culture where retaliation is never permitted
  • Awareness and perception of behaviors that can be interpreted as offensive

Our goal is to help every organization that we work with to create an environment where every individual can come to work and do their best each and every day, for the good of everyone and the health of every organization. 

To learn more about the #metoo movement and about a new bill that was introduced to congress, I recommend reading this article.  



Marijuana In The Workplace - What CA Employers Need To Know


Now that California has legalized marijuana for recreational use, there is a high probability that the number of Californians who use marijuana have amplified since January 1, 2018. Currently, only 4.3% of those Californians are unemployed. There is no doubt this new legislation affects the composition of the workforce while generating problematic concerns for employers in California. 

What does this mean for employers’ liability? How does this affect their ability to enforce their drug policies and testing protocols? 

The Good News: Although marijuana is legal, much like alcohol, employers can still prohibit its use in the workplace. Regardless of whether it’s legal, an employee under the influence of any substance can cause impairment and create a safety hazard for themselves, their co-workers, vendors, and customers. Because employers still have the strict obligation to maintain a safe working environment; rest assured, they can continue to enforce drug-free workplace policies.

Additionally, as the law is currently written, there is no requirement for employers to provide reasonable accommodations for marijuana users, for both medicinal and recreational purposes. This should provide some anxiety relief to employers in California.

Businesses should examine their current drug and alcohol policy to make sure that at a minimum it:

  • Prohibits employees from being under the influence while at work
  • Forbids the use, sale, possession, distribution or manufacturing of drugs and paraphernalia at work
  • Upon reasonable suspicion, reserves the right to conduct workspace searches 
  • Complies with all applicable federal and state laws

The Bad News: Under reasonable suspicion, employers will continue to be able to test their employees for impairment. Unfortunately, there is a lack of methodologies for judging the impairment of marijuana. Clinically, no drug test exists for marijuana inebriation. The current tests can only show marijuana in the system, however, this could be from usage days prior. A positive drug test may not be solid evidence of whether an employee is impaired on the job. This poses a serious problem for employers who want to take disciplinary action against an employee that is suspected to be impaired while working. Before taking any definitive steps, employers should seek counsel to avoid potential legal backlash.

Here are some Essentials to remember:

  • Employers are currently not required to make accommodations for marijuana use (medical or recreational) and can still enforce a drug-free workplace policy. 
  • Whatever your policy, be consistent when testing and disciplining. 
  • Train your supervisors on how to spot problematic situations and what the procedures are for handling the suspected impairment.
  • Consult your HR Consultant and/or legal counsel before taking disciplinary action against an employee 

California Redefines Independent Contractor Status

California Redefines Independent Contractor Status

In recent years, the United States saw a dramatic increase in the number of workers classified as independent contractors, along with the rise of the freelance economy and rapid development of technology.  With independent contractors, businesses do not shoulder the cost and responsibilities involved with hiring employees, like paying federal Social Security and payroll taxes, providing workers’ compensation insurance, or ensuring compliance with numerous federal and state statutes and regulations.

2018 Minimum Wage Updates

2018 Minimum Wage Updates

Minimum wage in California is on the rise. However, the increases are not uniform across the state. Many county and city ordinances have minimum wage rates that differ from the state’s. Whenever a county or city’s minimum wage rate is higher than the state’s minimum wage rate, employers in that region must pay their non-exempt employees the higher hourly rate. Currently the minimum wage for California is $10.50 for employers with 25 or fewer employees and $11.00 for employers with 26 or more.

What Makes A Great Leader?

What Makes A Great Leader?

As a Human Resources Professional, I have become increasingly interested in what makes a great leader. I am curious about the first time a person was in a leadership role, and what it felt like to them. For me, it was after I went to college, and emerged from the shadows of my two “Type A” brilliant older sisters, whom I had followed around for the first 17 years of my life. I became a New Student Orientation Leader at my college, and although it doesn’t sound like a huge endeavor, it was for me.