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Employers find ways to help valued employees out of debt

This week’s question to South Florida CEOs who are on the Miami Herald CEO Roundtable: You have a valued employee who has gotten so deeply in debt that it is affecting his/her work. How do you handle it?
Dec. 17, 2017

Through the recent devastation of Hurricane Irma, families across South Florida continue to feel the financial impacts and hardship of this natural disaster. As many of our staff members prepared for a Category 4 storm, they expended substantial amounts in preparation funding, using discretionary dollars that most of our employees did not have. Following the storm, some experienced damage to their homes, and perishable items resulting from a lack of electricity. To aid staff members who went into debt during this troubling time, our management team ensured that they and their family members had the resources (i.e., FEMA information, local foundations and church organizations) needed to assist them in getting back on their feet.
Margaret “Peggy” Bass, executive director, Good Hope Equestrian Training Center

While we are proactive and regularly host credit repair and financial planning seminars for our staff, we unfortunately have had employees dealing with debt. We have worked closely to support them during this difficult time and connect them to debt relief resources in the community.
Stephanie Berman-Eisenberg, president, CEO, Carrfour Supportive Housing

I would listen to and work collaboratively with the employee to figure out what resources may be available to help improve his or her situation.
Michael Comras , president

Depending on the specific circumstances, we would give this employee all the support needed. From hiring an outside financial adviser to providing external debt refinancing options, we would try to help this employee get back on his/her feet. We would also develop a support group to hold this person accountable through follow-up meetings.
Jose R. Costa, CEO, For Eyes

Gastro Health offers an Employee Assistance Program, available to all employees free of charge. They provide counseling regarding personal and work-related issues (including financial, stress, etc.).
Alejandro Fernandez, CEO, Gastro Health

No, we have not.
Jerome Hutchinson, Jr., managing partner, JHJ Marketing Group

While we have not had this experience, if a valued employee did come to us with this issue, we would be empathetic and try to connect him/her with support and assistance to help improve their situation. For example, we offer credit repair and financial literacy courses, and have many partnerships throughout the county for similar services. It takes courage to admit defeat and shortcomings, so we’d be sure not to judge the individual and respect their confidentiality, while supporting him/her on their path to improvement.
Willie Logan, founder, CEO and president, Opa-locka Community Development Corp.

We have experienced that exact situation and chose to assist that employee with a year-end bonus to help them with the challenge. We would do this again, as it shows that how we handle the challenges that our team faces — in both their professional and personal lives — is more impactful than the short celebrations of success. One way in which we try to prevent this from happening to an employee is to provide 100 percent company paid short and long-term disability insurance, and 85 percent company paid health insurance. Our short-term disability also includes 12 weeks of maternity pay for our female colleagues. This structure protects our employees, our clients and 4IT.
Raymond Mobayed, owner, 4IT Inc.

At The Biltmore Hotel, we have a family-like work environment. If a valued employee has a hardship, we try to find ways to help. That may include referring them to contacts I have who can provide guidance and aid, or providing them with flexible hours while they work to reorganize their finances. We understand that life often brings challenges and we are empathetic to those employees who seek help to work through them.
Gene Prescott, president and CEO, Biltmore Hotel, Coral Gables

Whenever a member of our team is going through a difficult time, call it debt problems, a health issue or a personal loss, we do our best to be there and support. From opening our door to have a conversation, to some of our comprehensive employee assistance programs, like confidential counseling and work/life services, we want to make sure we are there for them.
Juan Carlos Rodriguez, president, Univision Deportes

We see our employees as our most valuable asset and go to great lengths to ensure they have what they need in order to be happy and productive. In this case, it is critical to identify the circumstances that led to the situation. We’re more than willing to lend a helping hand when the situation is caused by a medical emergency or other stroke of bad luck, and not a lack of sound judgment. Of course, there is no perfect way to handle this kind of scenario and so we’d approach each instance on an individual basis.
Carlos Rosso, president, The Related Group’s Condominium division

In our profession, we will always have an employee who will need financial help. Whether it is a sewer in our factory or someone who is picking orders in our warehouse and they will feel comfortable enough to come to us and we will always help and lend out a hand. We invest in our employees, and in order for them to give us their all, we need to work together. We know the payback is huge.
Stan Rudman, CMO and owner, Sportailor Inc.

I would first meet with the employee to see how they are doing, and then have an honest discussion about how it’s affecting their work. I would encourage they take advantage of our employee assistance program, which is completely confidential and provides a variety of resources, including mental health professionals and debt counselors. After all, a debt crisis is extremely personal and comes with many emotional challenges. We would also work with them to create a performance improvement plan, outlining the professional expectations and checking in regularly to ensure appropriate benchmarks are being met. I care deeply about our employees and am compassionate about their struggles, but at the end of the day, I have a fiduciary duty to the organization.
Kim Stone, general manager and EVP, AmericanAirlines Arena

As a black-owned bank and Community Development Financial Institution, we promote financial literacy to our customers, employees and the low to moderate income communities we serve. We provide tools for employees to manage their finances including free checking and savings accounts, financial literacy training and an Employee Assistance Program, which is a voluntary, work-based program that offers free and confidential assessments, short-term counseling, referrals, and follow-up services to employees who have personal and/or work-related problems. We also match 401(k) contributions to help our employees save for retirement. We hope this support results in us not having an employee who has gotten so deeply in debt that it affects his/her work.
Teri Williams, president, CEO and a director, OneUnited Bank

We have a profit sharing plan that allows borrowing from the retirement plan provided that it is paid back. In some rare occasions, the firm will advance funds that are then deducted from future payroll.
Bernard Zyscovich, founder and CEO of Zyscovich Architects

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