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October 31, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Women’s Pay Remains Above 80% of Mens

Filed under: Salaries & Pay — Tags: , , , 7:25 am

The earnings gap between women and men who work full time grew slightly in 2007, as men’s weekly pay incresed more than that of women, according to figures released recently by the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Among the nation’s 106.1 million full-time wage and salary workers, median usual weekly earnings of women rose to $614 last year, up 2.3%, or $14, from the median of $600 in 2006, BLS said in a report posted on its Web site.  The median is the midpoint, meaning that half of the workers earned more than that amount while the other half earned less.

Men who worked full time saw their earnings climb even more, to a median of $766 per week in 2007, a gain of 3.1% or $23 from $743 the prior year.

As a result, the ratio of women’s earnings to those of men declined to 80.2% last year, down from 80.8% in 2006.



October 29, 2008

The Ten Commandments of Hiring and Firing

Filed under: Performance Management — Tags: , 8:01 am


1.  Follow closely all relevant company policies related to hiring, e.g. re: application and offer process, interviews, and EEO.  If you do not have any such policies, get some and train all persons who are to use them
2.  Be aware of relevant state and local laws, as well as national ones (e.g. – San Francisco City ordinance precludes discrimination based on sexual orientation, Florida based on marital status and Wyoming based on tobacco use)
3.  Learn about and train all employees to avoid inappropriate inquiries
4.  Be consistent in your decisions to avoid allegations of disparate treatment
5.  Act on the basis of job-related factors
6.  Document such things as eligibility to work in the United States after job offers
7.  Carefully verify the legality of and business justification for any pre-employment testing (drugs, psychology etc.)
8.  Use at-will statements and contract disclaimers on application forms and offer letters and avoid statements re: job security, probationary periods, tenure and reasons for discharge, unless you intend to create a contract, which should be done in writing
9.  Do not make promises you may not be able to keep – (e.g. “We will review your application against future openings”)
10. Be humane and professional.  Revenge is the motive for many employment lawsuits.

1.  Follow closely all relevant company policies related to discharge, e.g. re: termination, progressive discipline and EEO.  If you do not have any such policies, get some and train all persons who are to use them.
2.  Do not act alone.  Two heads are better than one.  Two witnesses are better than one.  Avoid the “he said/she said scenario” played out by Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas.
3.  Never act out of anger.  Wait until you are no longer angry and investigate thoroughly before deciding what to do.  In an emergency, suspend (with pay for exempt employees)
4.  Do not give assurances of job security, long-term employment.  Otherwise you may be creating contracts.  If you have a contract, follow it.
5.  Honestly and fairly evaluate employees and performance reviews during performance reviews and document the same.  In other words, be proactive in trying to avoid problems before it is necessary to terminate.
6.  Act based on job-related factors, not on personality or other factors not related to the job.
7.  Be consistent.  Discrimination claims thrive where similar circumstances are not treated similarly.
8.  Be reasonable in establishing expectations of your employees and give clear notice of the same.
9.  Document your decision in writing.  Remember that whatever you write will be “Exhibit A” in any lawsuit.
10. Be humane and professional.  Many lawsuits are filed for reasons of revenge.


October 28, 2008

New Identity Theft Regulations

Filed under: Privacy — Tags: , , , 7:50 am

On November 1, 2008, new identity theft regulations go into effect, some of which apply to employers who are users of consumer reports, i.e. background checks, performed by third parties under the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions of 2003 (FACTA).  The new regulations require users to implement a written policy to respond to any notices of address discrepancy received from a credit reporting agency (CRA).  The policy must be designed to help a user form a reasonable belief that the report from the CRA matches the person about whom the background check was performed.

A recent news article noted that the workplace is the site of much identity theft, notably re:  financial information, driver licenses, Social Security numbers, and medical information.  Employers should develop and implement a policy and plan to protect such information and reduce the risk they will be held liable if/when identity theft occurs.


October 24, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Rule on Time Off to Vote

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: , , 1:46 pm

In case you haven’t heard, there’s an election coming up fast. This time of year, employers must remember that various state laws require that employees who may not have time otherwise during the work day must be given time off to vote.  CCH notes, “Employers in many states risk fines or even jail sentences for interfering with employees’ right to exercise their franchise. In other states, however, the law offers no special protection or incentive for someone who takes time out of the workday to vote.”  CCH has provided a chart listing “those states with time off to vote laws, along with information on which employers are covered, the amount of time that may be taken, special conditions under which time off may be taken, and penalties for employer violations.”


October 21, 2008

41.5 Percent of Workers in Employee Retirement Plans

Filed under: Retirement7:37 am

The percentage of all workers participating in employment-based retirement plans was 41.5 percent in 2007, up from 39.7 percent a year earlier, according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

Among full-time workers 21 to 64 years old, 55.3 percent were in an employment-based plan in 2007, up from 52.7 percent the previous year, according to a news release on the study issued by EBRI in Washington.

Other findings in the study were:

• 63.9 percent of workers 55 to 64 were in a retirement plan in 2007, compared with 28 percent of workers ages 21 to 24.

• 57 percent of full-time female workers participated in a plan in 2007, compared with 54 percent of male workers.

• Florida had the lowest representation of workers participating in plans in 2007, at 42 percent. Wisconsin had the highest participation rate, at 68 percent.

The study is available on EBRI’s Web site,


October 17, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Who’s Lying On Their Resume?

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs — Tags: , , , 10:25 am

It’s no secret. The daily news is sobering. The U.S. economy is in recession.  A terrible by-product of the poor economy is job losses and rising unemployment. Competition for jobs that are available is fierce. This may lead some to stretch the truth on their resume to appear more qualified and get called in for an interview. My advice . . . don’t do it.  The risks outweigh the benefits. And does lying really give you an edge?

The numbers are sobering, especially if you are a hiring manager or HR staffing professional. Depending on what source you reference, anywhere between a third to half of applicant resumes are not truthful and above board. According to a survey by conducted in 2006, over half of HR managers said they had flagged a lie on an applicant’s resume either during the interview or upon verifying information. Not surprisingly, 93 percent of those caught were not hired. ADP Screening and Selection Services, a unit of the Roseland, N.J.-based ADP payroll and benefits managing company, says that in performing 2.6 million background checks in 2001, it found that 44 percent of applicants lied about their work histories, 41 percent lied about their education, and 23 percent falsified credentials or licenses.


October 16, 2008

Who Is Reading Your E-mail?

Filed under: Communication8:03 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 DO NOT have a company e-mail and computer/network use policy in place, and communicated it 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 survey)

83% of companies surveyed said they have an acceptable-use e-mail policy in place, but just 51% said they’d trained workers on the policy in the last 12 months. (Seattle Times, 7/2006 survey)

Non-work related Internet surfing results in up to a 40% loss in productivity each year at American businesses. (Gartner Group)

85.6% of employees use office e-mail for personal reasons. (NFO Worldwide)

70% of all web traffic to Internet pornography sites occurs during the work hours of 9am-5pm. (Sex Tracker)

92% of online stock trading occurs from the workplace during work hours. (Business Week)

64% of employees have received politically incorrect or offensive e-mails at work. (Business Week)

30 to 40% of Internet use in the workplace is not related to business. (IDC Research)

24% of American workers admit to shopping online while at work. (IDC Research)

While some state employment laws vary slightly on this topic, generally speaking employers have every right, and legitimate reasons, to monitor employee e-mail and Internet use when conducted on company computers and using the company network. Employers generally admit they are not concerned with catching the employee that forwards the occasional e-mail joke de jour or chain letter (although these type of disruptive e-mails clog and drain e-mail server capacity), they are more concerned with e-mail messages that divulge confidential data, customer information, trade secrets, financial information, or personal identity data. With the increase in corporate legislative proceedings where e-mail records are often subpoenaed and admitted as evidence, company IT directors are being challenged to save and archive all electronic communications sent and received over the company network.

So as an employee, the safe bet is to assume, because it is probably true, that all your emails (regardless of whether you have deleted them from your mailbox) and a record of every visit you make to a website are being squirreled away on some secure server partition in the deep recesses of IT land and could be retrieved and reviewed at any time by company staff.

As an employer, if you don’t already have one, establish and communicate a clearly stated e-mail and Internet usage policy. Inform employees of what is and is not considered appropriate e-mail and Internet usage. Let employees know their e-mail and IM communications are being stored and potentially monitored. Explain that this is to protect both company information and their personal information. Communicate the seriousness of the topic and the consequences of breaking the policy.


October 14, 2008

iPod Workplace Etiquette Guidelines

Filed under: Communication — Tags: , , , , 8:04 am

For baby boomers in the 1970’s and early 80’s, workplace culture was initially defined by organizational hierarchy, group dynamics, teamwork, and loyalty. Gen-Xer’s, fueled by the rapid rate of technological and social change in the 1990’s, introduced flex-time, empowerment, individual contributors, and work/life balance into the corporate culture vocabulary. For Gen-Y workers entering the workforce in the aftermath of the dot com bubble and attending classes with laptop computers, cell phones, Blackberry’s, and iPods, the balance of workplace culture shifted significantly from localized team dynamics to dispersed individual achievement.

Increasingly, workplace cultures today are being defined by imposing fewer personal and process restrictions while expecting increasingly greater performance results. Modern company policy manuals often include guidelines for cell phone use, volume levels for radios or CD/players, personal computer, network, and Internet restrictions, and nobody seems to bat an eye. But when the subject of restricting, or in any way limiting, an individual from being connected to their personal MP3 music device is brought up, people cry foul. Why? Have we really become such an individualized and self-entitled culture that we expect the right to listen to ‘our music on our terms’ over being expected to appear engaged with the sounds and activities of the employer that is paying our wage?

Well over 40 million iPods have been sold to date. They are everywhere. We wear ‘em when we’re driving, flying, waiting in line, at the dentist, skiing, hiking, working out, shopping, etc. As more young workers leave college and join the workforce the trend is to bring their ultra-casual on campus habits (and electronic gadgets) with them to the workplace.

With the recent proliferation of discreet personal music devices, decades of discontent over the volume level and musical tastes of coworkers has gone the way of the ‘while you were out’ hand written phone message? But in its place has emerged a new set of annoyances. In today’s office environment, the following scenario is becoming more commonplace with each passing day. You need to talk to someone at work and as you begin to approach them you realize they have “earbuds” from their iPod or other MP3 music player buried in their ears. You stop talking knowing they didn’t hear you approach, clear your throat once or twice, and politely wait for them to acknowledge your presence, remove the earbuds and allow you to re-initiate the conversation.

Most everyone would agree—that has experienced a modern office environment filled with row upon row of cubicles—that slapping on the earbuds is a good way to reduce distractions, stay focused, and be more productive. But to a boss, receptionist, or coworker trying to get an employee’s attention, those earbuds can represent a barrier. That barrier could be sending the wrong signal and causing people to form negative associations and avoid productive interactions. Having established workplace guidelines that address personal music devices would let everyone know what is acceptable and unacceptable by defining parameters that support a productive work environment.

Here’s the problem—everyone seems to have an opinion but are there firm and accepted iPod workplace etiquette guidelines? Or are most companies just winging it? In a quick Google search on the term ‘iPod workplace etiquette’ a searcher will instantly discover thousands of results. Opinions vary but it seems to come down to two things; 1. office culture, and 2. the boss. If the company culture strives to foster a worker’s creativity and the employees tend to work alone on projects (or if the boss is his or her self an iPod user), then guidelines were few and lax. If a workplace culture requires employees to regularly interact with clients, coworkers, or the public and/or and take phone calls, then guidelines were more stringent and less flexible.The most generally accepted iPod workplace etiquette guidelines were as follows:

1. Let nearby cube mates and colleagues know when you are ‘turning on’ and that it’s okay to interrupt you.

2. If you are wearing your earbuds and listening to music, you accept that you have created an atmosphere of isolation around you. This is the modern day cubicle world equivalent of closing the door. Make an extra effort to be visually aware of who and what is going on nearby. Don’t be viewed as a ‘shut out’.

3. If a coworker approaches you, make eye contact, smile, and take the earbuds out of both ears. Even if your iPod is off, having an earphone in one ear is still disrespectful.

4. If you are not sure if the volume level is excessive, remove the earbuds and cover them with your thumbs. You should barely be able to hear the music.

5. If the sound level is audible when the earbuds are removed and you are engaged in a conversation, ask for a moment to turn off the iPod so there is no distracting noise.

6. Do not appear annoyed when it is necessary to engage with a coworker and stop listening to your favorite song. You can play it again when the conversation is over.

7. It is widely agreed . . . absolutely no singing, head bopping, air guitar, or hand/foot tapping.

8. Do not bring the iPod to meetings.

9. Do not use company time, computer equipment or network resources to download music/video or swap songs with coworkers.

10. Make it clear to employees that any personal property they bring to work is at their own risk. Workplace theft of unattended MP3 players is a rising concern with employers. In some cases, this issue alone is reason enough to not allow them in the workplace.

Even if your company does not yet have a need for guidelines that clarify acceptable use of personal music players; if you tend to hire a higher percentage of tech savvy ‘twentysomething’ employees, then you will see this issue, along with general electronic gadget etiquette guidelines, emerge as more pressing. Stay ahead of the growing workplace cultural trend and take steps to put clarifying guidelines in place. To promote acceptance and compliance, make sure the new policy is communicated to every employee including senior management. Include a policy overview in new employee orientation meetings and post written policies in the break room.


October 10, 2008

HR Fact Friday: Employees Trust Managers More Than Sr. Executives

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , 11:50 am

This just in from SHRM . . .

In a survey of more than 7,500 workers on four continents, 75% said they trust their immediate boss, compared with just 60% who trust their organization’s senior leaders.  The split is greatest among employees in the United States, Canada and Mexico, with 75% trusting their own managers vs. only about half trusting senior management.  The survey results were released this past summer and was conducted by HR consultancy BlessingWhite. Two thirds of respondents were in North America and India; others were from Europe, Asia and Australia.

So what this data should tell us is that employees know and interact daily with their immediate supervisor and this firsthand knowledge and familiarity builds trust. On the other hand senior executives are often perceived as distant and saying one thing and doing another.

Why this is important is because when organizations are facing a challenging economic environment, the companies who have more trust built up between senior management and employees will be able to respond more productively and effectively because employees feel better informed and engaged.


October 7, 2008

Study Looks at Employee/Plaintiff Success In Federal Court

Filed under: Legal Issues7:21 am

A recent study by Harvard and Cornell law professors concludes that the federal courts are a less-than-friendly place for employment law plaintiffs.  The study, looking at federal court data from 1979 on, determined that employment discrimination plaintiffs won only about 30% of federal jury trials, compared to a 45% success rate for other plaintiffs.  In bench trials (judge, not jury as decider), job bias plaintiffs won only 20% of the time.  Plaintiffs fared even worse on appeal, as plaintiff verdicts were reversed about 40% of the time and plaintiffs got reversals of their defeats only about 10% of the time.  Plaintiffs in non-employment cases did better on appeal. 

The authors of the study conclude that because of these types of statistics, Plaintiffs are filing their claims more often in state courts.  Although charges brought to the EEOC have increased or remained steady, there has been a 37% drop in employment lawsuits filed in federal court over the last eight years.  The lesson for employers?  Don’t get sued.  If you get sued, make sure you try to move it to federal court.

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