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May 29, 2009

HR Fact Friday: EEOC Shows Spike in Discrimination Charges

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: , , , , 1:47 pm

The number of age discrimination claims rose from 19,103 in 2007 to 24,582 in 2008, while retaliation claims rose from 26,663 to 32,690, just hundreds shy of overtaking the perennial number 1 type of charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – race discrimination, which rose to 33,937 charges. The figure for age discrimination charges is particularly striking, given that only 16,548 age discrimination charges were filed in fiscal 2006.

Source: HR Magazine, HR Briefs May, 2009


May 27, 2009

Swine Flu Guidance from the EEOC

Filed under: ADA & Disability — Tags: , , , 11:19 am

The EEOC has issued guidance to help employers ensure that they remain ADA-compliant while addressing workplace needs in preparing for the 2009 H1N1 flu virus (swine flu) or a similar health situation.  It includes guidance on such issues as what types of disability-related questions are permitted, what type of medical examinations  are legal, and what kinds of reasonable accommodations could be required should a pandemic flu situation arise. The EEOC guidance is available at:


May 26, 2009

The Top Five Crimes of Crummy Managers

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:58 am

Herewith, five of the biggest cardinal sins of crummy supervisors and some suggestions for dealing with them, no matter how nice they may seem in the break room:

Pulling a Jekyll and Hyde

Joel, a professional in the San Francisco Bay Area, was cursed with a boss who could go from “greatest guy to hang out with for drinks or a game” to raving lunatic in mere seconds.

“He called me at 6 a.m. one morning ranting and raving for 20 minutes about me not giving him an update on a high-profile project before I could get a word in edgewise to tell him that we had an hour-long conversation about it the night before,” said Joel, who left the job after three years to work for himself, mainly because of his boss’ “erratic behavior and unreasonable standards.”

“A boss that can be a sweetheart in the morning and act like a monster in the afternoon is often overwhelmed by their pressures,” said Lynn Taylor, author of the forthcoming book, “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT): How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job.”

Since quitting or getting a transfer isn’t always an option — especially in today’s employment environment — Taylor suggests familiarizing yourself with a volatile boss’ triggers. If they tend to implode after 3 p.m., seek them out early in the day. If they’re a terror after status meetings with their own manager, stay far, far away. If they hate long e-mails, keep the correspondence snappy.

If you still find yourself the target of an unexpected tirade, “Give your boss the opportunity to have the floor,” Taylor said. “All they want is to vent. Don’t fight a tantrum with a tantrum.”

Elevating Micromanagement to an Art Form

Next to Jekyll/Hyde syndrome, this is the biggest complaint I hear people make about their incredibly sweet yet woefully inept bosses.

Take Samantha, who works at a marketing agency in Salt Lake City. Samantha’s boss is apparently allergic to assigning her direct reports projects via e-mail or quick conversations in the hallway.

“Instead, I have to sit by her side — in her office, with my laptop — and literally draft pitches, plans, strategies and recaps in front of her as she verbally explains what she wants,” Samantha said. “It’s not an efficient use of time, and it’s hard to write thoughtfully and strategically with your boss over your shoulder.”

Micromanagers are either perfectionists, control freaks, not trusting of others or insecure about how their own performance will be perceived, said Julie Jansen, author of “You Want Me to Work With Who? Eleven Keys to a Stress-Free, Satisfying, and Successful Work Life.”

To get them off your back, Jansen suggests documenting the tasks and projects you complete. Then sit your boss down and say, “Here are the last four assignments I did that you were happy with.” Tell them that given the common business goal (getting the report out by the end of the day), you could work more efficiently if they loosened up the reigns (refrained from asking for 19 rounds of revisions).

“You can’t really be subtle with a micromanager,” Jansen said. “You have to hit them over the head with it. If you if talk clinically in business-like terms, they won’t be offended.”

Checking Their Competence at the Door

When Lisa, who’s now a social media consultant in New York, met her most recent boss for the first time, his limited skill set stunned her.

“Soon after his promotion, he traveled to meet me in my regional office, in an effort to learn more about the work I performed day to day,” Lisa explained via e-mail.

One of the questions he asked me was so darn basic that even a 10-year old could answer it. Evidently, he still had not mastered the e-mail system. How does someone — nice or not — who doesn’t understand the most simple Microsoft Outlook program become VP in charge of a team whose communications rely on e-mail?”

To deal with an incompetent boss, “You have to role model what the right behavior is and try to turn away before you roll your eyes,” Taylor said.

Then take consolation in the fact that in this economy, a boss who can’t figure out how to send an e-mail won’t be boss for long.

Going AWOL (a.k.a., Sloth)

“I was miserable from day two,” Phyllis from Vancouver, B.C. said of her last job as an executive assistant. Now a virtual assistant who works for herself, she attributes most of her unhappiness at her former job to her boss’ extreme hands-off approach.

“He was inevitably late for work and meetings — even meetings he’d convened,” Phyllis said. “His typical day would be to arrive around 9:30 (our day started at 7:30), dash straight into his office without speaking to anyone and stay there until lunch time.

He’d literally sneak out the back door for lunch, again without speaking to anyone. He repeated this routine after lunch as well. His administrative team felt like blithering idiots every time we’d assure someone that the boss was in his office, only to discover that he’d pulled another Houdini on us.”

To catch up with a magician like this, you need to stalk them, Taylor said. Intercept them on their way to lunch if you have to. Or bring all your questions about pending projects to your face-to-face meetings with them, no matter how infrequent. Just be sure to keep your queries short and sweet.

Or, you can simply console yourself with the fact that in these budget-conscious times, a boss who’s all sloth and no action is on the fast track to pink-slip city.

Relying Too Heavily on Motivational Posters

In his last employee position, Barry, who’s now a sales trainer and motivational speaker based in Helendale, Calif., had a well-meaning manager who was so misguided she made Michael Scott, the boss on “The Office,” look like he had a clue.

Though most of her team were trying to watch their waistlines, Barry’s ex-boss peppered the office with candy dishes. She also pumped in Muzak, much to everyone’s dismay. But the icing on the cake, he said, was her hanging motivational posters throughout the office and requiring everyone to take a turn creating a mantra.

“She had no idea at all how to motivate people,” Barry told me. “She was not a bad person, but she was in her own world. Completely annoying would probably be an understatement.”

Again, I have two words for employees with equally clueless managers: workforce reduction. It happened to Barry’s former boss, and if your company’s cutting costs this year, there’s a decent chance it will happen to yours too.

In the meantime, if you and your coworkers decide to complain to HR about any off-the-wall or overly inappropriate behavior on your manager’s part, complain individually, Jansen said.

“Avoid that schoolyard approach,” she advised. Better to let the complaints rack up and the evidence mount.

Then take solace in the fact that when you get promoted to a management slot, you’ll know exactly what not to do.

Contributed by Michelle Goodman, a freelance journalist, author and former cubicle dweller.


May 22, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Job ‘Angels’ Look After Victims Of Downturn

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs — Tags: , , , 3:02 pm

The grass-roots movement, which is growing quickly on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, promises to give a boost not only to out-of-work individuals but also companies eager to do more with less, says Dan Kilgore, a recruiting consultant with Riviera Advisors who has watched the JobAngels momentum build. Kilgore has noticed professional recruiters becoming Angels, which means corporations should find job openings easier to fill.

Companies “now have free agents working on their behalf,” he says.
JobAngels dates to January, when Washington-based HR consultant Mark Stelzner suggested that each of the 700 people following him on micro-blogging site Twitter help just one person find a job.

“The response was immediate and overwhelmingly positive,” Stelzner said in a blog post. He proposed the name JobAngels and the group began to take off.

In early April, the JobAngels Twitter site had more than 6,200 followers. JobAngels also has a presence on social networking sites Facebook and LinkedIn.

It’s unclear how many jobs have been landed thanks to Angels, says Deirdre Honner, a JobAngels leader. But Honner, who also is associate director of human resources at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, can cite anecdotes of success, including the case of a person she helped get a job at Ohio State University.

It’s hard to help people find work today. The U.S. unemployment rate rose to 8.5 percent in March, the highest level since 1983. The number of job openings in February was 3 million, down nearly 30 percent from a year earlier.

Still, the volunteer leaders of JobAngels are pushing forward. A Web site is in the works that will provide various resources, such as a service to match job seekers with Angels in particular geographies and fields.

But just as Clarence stuck with the troubled Jimmy Stewart, Honner says JobAngels isn’t going to disappear.


Source: Reprinted from 5/7/2009  Ed Fraunheim.


May 18, 2009

Prepare For The Recovery Before It’s Too Late

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:52 pm

Not all companies will survive the recession. But for those who make it (and most will), the recovery will mark the beginning of the race to future success. Those who haven’t prepared may survive the recession only to find themselves overtaken by their competitors as the recovery gets under way.

Consider the evidence: A recent study of more than 700 companies over a six-year period found that “twice as many companies made the leap from laggards to leaders during the last [1990-91] recession as during surrounding periods of economic calm”1. Moreover, most of these shifts persisted after the recession ended, proving that just surviving the recession isn’t enough. You need to be, right now, preparing for the recovery. This article shows you how by explaining how to overturn the widely shared – but nevertheless wrong – belief that “It’s easy to restart innovation efforts stopped during a recession when the recovery gets under way” (See recent article “Six Deadly Orthodoxies of Recessions”2).



Congress Considers Paid Family Leave

Filed under: FMLA9:55 am

On March 25, the Family Leave Insurance Act of 2009 was introduced in the House of Representatives.  The bill would implement a family leave insurance program providing certain employees up to 12 weeks of paid family leave in a 12 month period.  The bill would require employers of 2 or more employees to provide paid leave to employees who had worked a minimum of 625 hours in the 6 months prior to seeking leave.  Leave would generally be provided for the same reasons as allowed under the FMLA.  The leave would be paid for via contributions from the employee and employer.  Employee benefits would be determined based upon an employee’s salary. Those with smaller incomes would receive a greater percentage of their salaries.   The bill is currently in committee and its fate is uncertain especially given the current economic issues.


May 15, 2009

HR Fact Friday: College Degree Pay Holds in 2007 as Earnings Fall

Filed under: Compensation — Tags: , , , , 8:54 am

Earnings growth slowed or declined in 2007 among workers at most education levels, while falling sharply from the prior year for men with only a high school degree, according to figures released April 27, 2009 by the Commerce Department’s Census Bureau.

Among all full- and part-time workers ages 18 and older, those with a bachelor’s degree earned $25,895, or 83% more per year than workers with a high school diploma, about the same difference as in 2006, the agency said in releasing annual data on educational attainment of the U.S. population.



May 13, 2009

Maintaining Exempt Status During Times of Reduced Workweeks, Furloughs, Forced Vacations and Other Employer Cost Saving Strategies

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs9:40 am

The current economic downturn has forced many employers to be creative about cutting labor costs.  Various approaches including implementing reduced workweeks, furloughs, requiring that vacations be taken, etc., have been employed to avoid layoffs and retain skilled workforces.   That’s all painful enough, but beyond the administrative costs, morale issues, and headaches associated with such plans are there other things to worry about?   Given that you are a savvy HR professional or manager, you are well aware that there are always other things to worry about when dealing with human resource issues.

Ensuring compliance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by carefully maintaining exempt employees’ status can be tricky.   But then again just everything about the FLSA is tricky.  A few things to ponder are found below.



May 11, 2009

Independent Contractor or Employee?

Filed under: Employment Law1:58 pm

In a case involving insurance “sales leaders,” the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals made clear why it may be costly to incorrectly identify an individual as an independent contractor rather than an employee. The sales leaders, who had been treated as contractors, sued for and won back overtime payments. Sales leaders’ income was largely derived from overrides on sales made by subordinate sales agents.  However the company controlled the hiring and firing of sales agents and their assignments and promotions.  The sales leaders had no significant or independent control over their agents.   The company claimed that the leaders had considerable flexibility in structuring their work hours and tasks, were clearly designated as contractors, received no employee benefits, and worked under very little supervision.

The court sided with the employees, concluding that the sales leaders were not conducting their own businesses and in fact were prohibited from being involved in other businesses while working for the company. They had long-term relationships with the company which controlled how they could earn money and what they could sell.  Other considerations were the degree of investment by the leaders, how much they could control profits and losses, and the skills required for the job.  The skills weren’t “specialized consulting skills” but involved general sales and management skills.  [Hopkins v. Cornerstone America, 5th Circuit]

If you utilize independent contractors it might be a good time to review their status and ensure that it is appropriate.


May 8, 2009

HR Fact Friday: 10 Questions HR Will Be Asked In a Crisis

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

In the event of an unplanned business interruption for an unknown duration, Human Resources will be inundated with questions from managers, employees, and possibly even the media or government concerning payroll, benefits, and general workforce issues that you may not have considered, and will need to have answers ready.


HR department leaders should review these questions and then have group discussions to add specific questions pertinent to your company.


1. How long will the facility be closed?


2. How long will I be out of work?


3. Will I be paid for the period during which our business operations are suspended?


4. Will benefits continue during the period in which our facilities are closed? If so, how long with they continue?


5. I receive a paper check in person each pay period. How will I receive my paychecks now? Can you mail them to another state?

6. How are you communicating with employees given the fact that the company’s communication infrastructure has been devastated by the incident? I don’t have access to the Internet. How can I monitor the “report to work” schedule?


7. Will you take disciplinary action against employees who do not report to work because they are managing the impact of this disaster at home?

8. Will my job be jeopardized because I have lost my ability to travel to work (due to car damage, destroyed roads, suspension of public transportation, etc.?


9. I have a health condition (e.g., cardiac, pregnancy) and have been told that the stress of coming to work during this period may compromise my health? What should I do now?


10. Will you be redeploying long-serving employees from one company facility to another?


HR and IT departments should coordinate a disaster recovery and work outage plan and then communicate in advance to employees so they know where and how to receive information.

About the author: Larry Barton, an international authority on corporate crisis management applies a corporate insider’s insight in his new book, CRISIS LEADERSHIP NOW: A Real-World Guide to Preparing for Threats, Disaster, Sabotage, and Scandal (McGraw Hill Professional, 2008).


Reprinted from 4/27/2009

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