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May 30, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Employee Communication Biggest Open Enrollment Challenge

Filed under: Benefits8:52 am

Yes summer is nearly here. So who is thinking, and worrying about the upcoming annual fall benefits open enrollment season? Thousands of HR executives and benefits administrators that’s who. Why? Because as healthcare insurance costs continue to skyrocket, benefit administrators are searching for ways stop the bleeding from company coffers while still offering employees affordable coverage options. This frequently results in a company changing insurance carriers every couple of years. The result has been that each year employees are asked to choose from an ever increasing array of completely different, and wide ranging healthcare plan choices.

HMO, PPO, HSA, HRA, PCP, in network, out of network, formulary, co-pay, deductibles, etc., there are now so many choices and considerations that effectively communicating information so employees can make informed decisions is the top open enrollment challenge HR administrators face today.

Simply put, the more choices, the more information needs to be communicated to employees. You would think that given the importance to both the personal bank account and the welfare of ourselves and our dependents that employees would make time to read and understand HR provided healthcare benefit info. Guess again.



May 29, 2008

National Legislative Update

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:20 am

Congress is now considering the Civil Rights Act of 2008 (S. 2554/H.R. 2159), which among other things would do the following:

Eliminate the present caps on damages that can be awarded against employers violating the discrimination laws.

Make it more difficult for an employer sued for alleged equal pay violations to show that its actions were based on a legitimate factor other than sex.

Limit the use of mandatory arbitration agreements only to those that are part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Allowing prevailing plaintiffs in employment cases to recover reimbursement of expert witness fees.

Permit back pay awards to undocumented immigrants when their employer violates the employment laws.

Congress is also considering a bill (H.R. 1643) requiring employers to provide up to fourteen days per year of unpaid leave for first responders (police, firefighters, etc.) involved when disasters strike. National SHRM has testified asking Congress to clarify various aspects of the proposed legislation.

Finally, SHRM is backing proposed legislation creating a new way for employers to check the work eligibility status of new hires. The New Employee Verification Act (H.R. 5515) would revamp the new hire registry system to allow its use in work eligibility verification in combination with unemployment compensation and Social Security databases.

As always keep checking HR News & Views for the latest HR news updates.


May 28, 2008

Threatening Students with Title VII?

Filed under: Title VII6:43 am

In case you had any doubt that we really are an excessively litigious society, consider the case of the Dartmouth writing professor who threatened to sue her students under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  The  teacher accused the students of discrimination because of the way they allegedly disagreed with her in class, demeaned her, and disrespected her because of race and gender. Since the accusations, the professor has been informed that Title VII applies to the workplace (not the classroom).  Reportedly she now plans a suit against the college and will name the problem students in her grievances.


May 23, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Employment Screening “Hit Ratios” on the Rise

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs6:00 am

Data supports that it is a good practice for companies to step up their pre-employment screening program . . . and for applicants to think twice before including untrue information on their resume or employment application.

Who you think you are hiring is not always who you are hiring.  An April 22, 2008 press release by Kroll presents some interesting data from their 2007 Hit Ratio Report. One disturbing finding is that pre-employment screening for criminal convictions continue a consistent upward trend — from 8.5% in 2005 to 9.1% in 2006 and 9.5% in 2007. 

The construction (15.4%), automotive (13.9%) and retail industries (13.7%) had the highest criminal record hit ratios, while education (3.7%) had the lowest. To view the data online go to:

In addition to criminal background screening U.S. employers are looking more closely at  applicants’ credit history, drug testing, driving record, workers comp claims, and employment/education verification. What the data supports, and technology has allowed employment screening companies to determine more readily, is that job applicants, as a whole, are far less truthful than one would expect.

The good news (if you can call it that) is that the two biggies–criminal record and drug testing–while consistently growing, have the lowest levels of “hits” (meaning incidents contrary to information provided by applicant) compared to other screening categories such as employment verification.

For example . . . across the board averages of data taken from pre-employment background screenings from companies of various sizes in 13 industries show that:

1.  48.1% return “hits” (a discovered incident discrepancy) for employment history.

2.  22.6% of applicants return “hits” for education history.

3.  47.5% return “hits” for DMV information.

4.  42.9%return “hits” for credit history.

Of course it’s uncomfortable and embarrassing to disclose to a potential employer that you missed a few mortgage payments in 1996 due to financial hardship, or let a bunch of parking tickets go unpaid during college. But what is to be gained by not disclosing such information? Especially if you know that the company is quite likely to conduct a pre-employement background check. I guess it’s a calculated gamble where an applicant feels that having an innacurate job title or dates of employment on their resume “isn’t that big of a deal”.  They are willing to roll the dice and place the burden of detection on the employer.

The rub is this . . . because of more affordable, advanced, and widely available technology, vendors who specialize in pre-employment background screening are able to offer their sevices to companies with a valid and proven value statement. That is employers will save money by weeding out bad apples than they will by hiring a potential liability. Employers are readily accepting this burden of detection in growing numbers and will indeed discover discrepancies. Quite often a negative finding will result in the loss of a job offer, or at the very least an uncomfortable and embarrasing conversation that even if you are hired could put an ounce of doubt in your employer regarding your honesty and integrity. Is it worth it.

Your mother was right . . . honest is the best policy.


May 22, 2008

Do You Have an Office Spouse?

Filed under: General HR Buzz7:41 am

You’d expect this on the TV show The Office, but how many real people have “office spouses?”  Apparently a lot, according to a survey, recently referenced in a Miami Herald article.  The survey reports that 32% of employees admitted having an office wife or husband, up from 23% last year.  The office spouse is a platonic, opposite sex relationship in which employees are best friends who share lunch, gossip, advice, complaints, and trials of work.  Many such employees acknowledge these office relationships can be closer than those with “real” spouses. Employees often spend more time and may share more of the daily challenges together.   Of course the office spouse concept sets the wheels turning in the always fearful HR manager’s head.  How does this change office dynamics?  Is this a two person clique that will offend others? What about teasing or harassment by other employees?  Will it grow into a romantic relationship and if so, then what?  What will the “real” spouses think?   Is this going to require yet another management training session or policy????  Could office spouses be the next protected class???

And people think HR can be boring . . .


May 20, 2008

More Minimum Wage Changes Around the Corner

Filed under: Legal Issues8:58 am

If you’re thinking that the federal government just raised the minimum wage you would be correct.  Last summer the rate went to $5.85.  Well it’s time to start preparing for the next raise.  You’ll remember that Congress passed a three step increase.  The second step will become effective on July 24 when the minimum goes to $6.55, with the 3rd step ($7.25) coming one year after that.   Obviously if you have employees at minimum wage rates your costs will go up and you’ve got work to do.  But even those employers with few or no employees who work for minimum wage may be affected.  Increasing wage rates at the lower levels can create wage compression issues as there is less of a difference between what entry, level inexperienced employees and more experienced workers are paid.  This can cascade throughout an organization and create morale problems among employees at higher pay levels who aren’t even close to making minimum wage.  Widespread publicity and discussion of minimum wage and other compensation issues can also increase expectations among all employees.  Discussion of overtime issues often comes with minimum wage concerns.   Remember also, that some jurisdictions have minimum wage rates that exceed federal requirements.  And, if you are a multi-state employer….well, as always, good luck with that.  


May 13, 2008

U.S. Not Alone in Struggling with Funding Retiree Benefits

Filed under: Retirement6:51 am

Almost daily, news stories appear regarding the U.S. Social Security crisis and an aging population.  When is Social Security going to run out of money?  How will we fund benefits for baby boomers?  Will older workers continue to work beyond “typical” retirement?

Apparently we’re not alone in dealing with these issues.  According to a BBC news article, France has similar challenges.  Its population is aging and the government is responding with a number of measures to address it including:  threatening to penalize companies who don’t increase the number of their employees who are 55-64 years old and requiring that employees work 41 (not 40) years to qualify for a full state pension.  France has a very high life expectancy, but few older workers.  Only 38.3% of French 55-64 year olds work, compared with 70% in Sweden, 57% in the UK, and 52% in Germany.   Changes in pension benefits are not popular with workers.  Talk of strikes is already taking place.


May 9, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Who Is Reading Your E-mail?

Filed under: Communication — Tags: , , 7:32 am

Is all this hub-bub about employer e-mail monitoring and rampant employee abuse of workplace email and high-speed Internet connections based on fact or just Big Brother ‘scare tactics’ to keep employee noses to the grindstone and hock Internet and e-mail monitoring software? Regardless of where you stand on this point, if you don’t have a company e-mail and computer/network use policy in place, and communicated to your employees, you really do have your head in the sand. Consider these statistics:

Almost one-third of companies said they’ve fired an employee in the last 12 months for violating e-mail policies, and 52% of the companies said they have disciplined an employee for violating e-mail rules in the past year (Seattle Times, 7/2006 survey)



May 8, 2008

Take This HR Trivia Quiz

Filed under: HRN News8:24 am

HRN routinely monitors and researches emerging trends and legal issues that affect HR professionals and workforce management. We share this information (free of charge) with our growing number of HR white paper and HR Legal Update e-newsletter subscribers each month.  In this spirit, and to have a little fun, we thought we would test reader HR knowledge in the “exciting” world of FLSA, FMLA, age discrimination or military leave with this little HRN crafted HR trivia test.  How many answers do you know to these unrelated (unimportant?) HR questions?

1. Who was President of the U.S. when the Fair Labor Standards Act, which deals with overtime issues, was passed?
a. Franklin Roosevelt
b. Harry Truman
c. Lyndon Johnson
d. Dwight Eisenhower
e. Ronald Reagan

Answer: The year was 1938.  The President was Franklin Roosevelt.  That certainly explains a lot of the confusion!  When is the last time you audited your overtime practices and exempt/nonexempt classifications? FLSA issues may be your biggest area of legal vulnerability.



May 6, 2008

Greetings From The Chief Blogging Officer. How’s My Blog Voice?

Filed under: General HR Buzz8:22 am

As the marketing manager for an HR products and technology company that, among other things, creates and sells job descriptions, I read with interest an article on about a trend in Fortune 500 companies to add the job title of Chief Blogging Officer to their org chart. (See:

After finishing the article I considered updating my resume to include the addendum of CBO to my current job title and then asking for a raise. I wonder what the starting salary is for a CBO?

All kidding aside, what this article signals is the acceptance, importance, and mainstream corporate proliferation of the blogosphere to the overall competitiveness and relevance of a brand (note: not company, but brand).

In its pure infancy (all of 4 years ago), blogs were the domain, and the power, of the individual voice . . . the Internet equivalent of standing on a soapbox in the town square with a blowhorn. The search engine spiders found blogs and with a simple search query, thousands of bloggers could find and build a like-minded community in virtually any interest area.

So now we have Chief Blogging Officers in the C-Suite. I really would like to read this job description. Heck, perhaps we’ll build it into Performance Pro. Actually, if I read it, I would probably kringe. My opinion is that too much “strategy”, “metrics”, and “executables” will sound the death knell to the purity and irreverance of the blog.  Bloggers don’t want to be marketed to, they want to be informed on their terms.

I am a blogger. I fit the bill perfectly. I’m a hack with some experience in a topical area. It helps that I occasionally have a few enlightened thoughts and opinions to share and can type a coherent sentence. More importantly, I realize that visitors who make the effort to find and visit our blog are doing so to find information about human resources not to find “me”.  If we [HRN] don’t provide useful and interesting information, we won’t have an audience. Without an audience to read our blog it doesn’t matter where we rank on the search engines . . . viewers will be turned off and immediately form a negative opinion about HRN Management Group [i.e. THE BRAND]. Posting a blog is a commitment to provide useful information and thought provoking opinions on a topical area relevant to an individual, group, or company. It takes effort and creativity. . . and it’s only as good as your last post.

HRN has a wealth of human resources information as well as staff HR experts. We live in this world every day and want to share information with the HR community. By doing so we are reinforcing our brand identity as HR experts.  It’s that simple.

So I respectfully decline the title of Chief Blogging Officer. I’d much rather simply be known around here as the Blog Dude.

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