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June 26, 2009

HR Fact Friday: 8 Steps to Keeping High Performers During Recession

While an employee who is an average performer rarely considers leaving his or her job during a difficult economic period, high-potential employees do, according to research by Sirota Survey Intelligence.

The firm has found that the actions taken by employers during a recession can start a process that unintentionally devalues employees (by seeing them as costs to be controlled, rather than assets to be valued). For example, many companies will centralize decision-making, control information, reduce entrepreneurial risk-taking, and reduce (or eliminate) discretionary rewards–and this makes it more likely that high performers will defect.

“Programs for high-potential employees often seek to involve them in the strategic decision-making, challenge their abilities, develop/advance them quickly, and recognize/reward them generously,” said Douglas Klein, President of Sirota. “The business choices many companies make when responding to a recession can frustrate all of those goals.”


June 25, 2009

HRN Exhibiting at SHRM in New Orleans — Booth 2055

Filed under: HRN News — Tags: , 11:23 am

Once again HRN Management Group will be an exhibitor at the SHRM 2009 61st Annual Conference & Exposition taking place June 28-July 1 at the Morial Convention Center in New Orleans, LA.

Stop by and meet Paul Hendrycks, HRN Director of Sales & Marketing, and Michael Dougal, HRN Director of HR Consulting during regular expo hours at Booth 2055. They would be happy to provide a product demo, give you some literature, or just fill your bag with free HRN swag.

HRN attends this premier HR event each year as part of our commitment to the HR industry and to inform as many HR professionals as possible about our time-saving and cost-effective HR staff management products and consulting services.

We hope to see you there. For any current HRN Performance Pro clients who stop by our booth we have a special gift.


Economic Recovery? Not So Fast

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Hiring & Jobs7:05 am

As the economy shows some meager signs of recovery, new data released today reports the number of people filing new jobless claims jumped unexpectedly last week to 627,000, and the total unemployment benefit rolls rose to more than 6.7 million. Economists expected a drop in new jobless claims to 600,000, according to Thomson Reuters.


Among the states, Florida had the largest increase in claims of 8,383, which it attributed to greater layoffs in the construction, trade, service, manufacturing and agriculture industries. The next largest increases were in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Puerto Rico and California.


Read the full story here


June 24, 2009

Employment Lawsuits: Can Managers be Personally Sued?

Filed under: Legal Issues — Tags: , , , 1:07 pm

Managers, HR staff, and business owners are well aware that their organizations can be sued by employees, applicants, and ex-employees for a variety of reasons from discrimination, to overtime violations to safety issues.  But if you are a manager can you be sued as an individual as well?

Yes, You Can Be Personally Liable in Some Situations

  1. Discrimination Law
    The good news is that the majority of federal Circuit Courts of Appeal have found that there is no personal liability in discrimination cases brought under Title VII (e.g., race, sex, religion, etc.), The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The statutes are similar and the definition of “employer” under each of them is not interpreted as intended to apply to individuals.

    The bad news is that many state courts have found individual liability under state discrimination laws.  State law claims are typically included with federal claims.  Also, public sector managers may be liable under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

  2. Fair Labor Standards Act
    Managers can be individually liable under the FLSA as that statute defines an employer as “any person acting directly or indirectly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee.”   The Equal Pay Act, which is part of the FLSA, provides for similar liability.  FLSA lawsuits (especially class actions) have spiked recently and are an increasing source of risk for employers generally.

  3. Family and Medical Leave Act
    The FMLA is based on the FLSA.  Consequently, in the majority of the courts that have examined the issue, personal liability of managers has been found.  Possible liability under the FMLA might be particularly troubling, given the complexity of the FMLA and how commonly managers as well as HR people are involved in FMLA actions.

    Both COBRA and ERISA impose individual liability on those who act as plan administrators. Liability for actions under HIPAA may also exist.

  5. State Common Law Claims
    State common law claims, based on case law not statute, can be another source of personal liability.  They can include such things as wrongful termination, intention/infliction of emotional distress, defamation or invasion of privacy.

  6. Criminal Liability
    Going through the trauma of being named in a lawsuit and facing possible financial penalties are bad enough, but could you really go to the slammer or face other criminal penalties?   While certainly not a common occurrence it is possible that managers could be subject to criminal liability in certain circumstances.  Some examples could include: charges of obstruction of justice (e.g., destroying documents or making false statements), OSHA violations, or immigration related charges.



June 22, 2009

Supreme Court Case Widens Scope of Retaliation Protections

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:05 pm

January 26, The U.S. Supreme Court, in Crawford v. Metropolitan Government of Nashville, clarified, complicated and expanded the scope of retaliation issues.  The Court held that an employee, who answers questions and conveys information about discriminatory conduct during an internal investigation, is engaging in “protected activity” under Title VII.  Surprisingly, to me at least, some lower courts had found that such involvement would not constitute “active” opposition under Title VII.

The case involved allegations of sexual harassment by another employee.  During an investigation interview the plaintiff, a 30 year employee, was asked if she had witnessed an employee’s “inappropriate behavior.”  She responded that she, herself, had also been subject to harassment.  (She had not complained about the conduct.)    No action was taken against the purported harasser, but the plaintiff was fired, allegedly for embezzlement.    She sued, claiming illegal retaliation under Title VII.

The Supreme Court, siding with the employee, basically said that it would be goofy (my word, not theirs) to “protect an employee who reports discrimination on her own initiative, but not one who reports the same discrimination in the same words when her boss asks a question.”   This case will likely serve to further increase the number of retaliation claims.


June 19, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Obama Backs Extension of Benefits to Same-Sex Partners of Federal Employees

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: , , , 6:00 am

Reprinted from Government (

By Alyssa Rosenberg June 17, 2009

President Obama on Wednesday directed the Office of Personnel Management to extend long-term care benefits and family and parental leave to the same-sex partners of gay and lesbian federal employees, and ordered agencies to conduct internal reviews to identify other benefits that they could extend as well.

Obama stopped short of granting employees’ domestic partners access to health care benefits, saying he legally could not do so, but endorsed legislation that would provide such benefits.

The legislation, known as the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act (H.R. 2517) is currently under consideration on Capitol Hill.

Obama also backed a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibits the government from offering full domestic partner benefits.

In a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry characterized Obama’s memo as “a first step, not a final step. This is an attempt to get our federal house in order…. I think the gay community, of which I am a member, can be extremely proud that this administration is with us and stands with us on the core issues that we care deeply about.”

The memo mentions two specific governmentwide benefits for civil servants: the long-term care insurance program and the right to use sick leave to care for an ailing partner or nonbiological, nonadoptive children. It also lists a number of other benefits for the partners of State Department employees. Obama directed OPM and State to move immediately to provide those benefits.

The memorandum also directs department and agency heads to begin internal reviews to determine if they can offer additional benefits to gay and lesbian employees. Berry conducted such a review as an assistant secretary in the Interior Department during the Clinton administration. It led to the expansion of relocation benefits and counseling services to the domestic partners of Interior employees and the elimination of provisions of the National Park Service’s law enforcement standards, including a ban on security clearances for gay and lesbian employees.

Obama gave OPM 90 days to issue guidance on how agencies should implement civil service laws offering protection against discrimination. Berry said the guidance would make clear that in addition to sexual orientation, gender expression and identity cannot provide a basis for discrimination in employment.


June 17, 2009

Looking to Save More Time/Money? Manage Meetings

Filed under: General HR Buzz1:48 pm

“Times are tough.” “We have to tighten our belts.” “We have to work smarter, not harder.” “We have to do more with less.” You may be sick of hearing these clichés but they all ring true, especially now. One way to ‘tighten your belt” is to make staff meetings more efficient.  This will not only save the company time and money, it will reduce the staff’s frustration level from having to attend boring, unproductive meetings.

In order to understand the cost savings of running more effective meetings, you must “do the math” to understand what meetings cost. Here is an example to illustrate. Some studies suggest that middle and upper level managers spend between 40%-50% of their time attending meetings. For the purposes of this example, let’s play it safe, and say that they spend 30% of their time in meetings. If the average salary of a manager is $70k (including benefits) per year this would translate to $21,000 cost for one manager to attend meetings over the course of the year. If your company has 10 managers this translates to $210,000 spent on meetings; and $2.1 million for 100 managers. This translates to about $33.65 per hour, per manager, to attend a meeting. So, if ten managers attend a 3 hour meeting, it costs the company roughly $1,000. You get the idea. (more…)


June 15, 2009

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

Filed under: Salaries & Pay — Tags: , , 1:13 pm

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. (more…)


June 12, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Have Cutbacks Peaked?

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

Tough economic times require that difficult decisions be made at all levels of a business enterprise to remain profitable, break even, or even minimize losses to ride out the storm. With employee costs such as compensation, benefits, etc. most often being a company’s highest expense, HR departments are often in the eye of the storm when cost cutting actions are required.

An April 2009 Watson Wyatt report titled, “Effect on the Economic Crisis on HR Programs” shows that the majority of companies are not planning cost-cutting actions for the next 12 months.

  Have already made change and do not expect to make further changes No changes made or expected
Layoffs and reductions in force 31% 22%
Organizationwide restructuring 25% 40%
Salary freezes 43% 33%
Reduced workweeks 6% 75%
Salary reductions 14% 75%
Reduced employer 401(k)/403(b) matches 18% 70%

Source: HR Magazine (SHRM) June 2009 (pg 20)


June 10, 2009

She’s Just Not Sexy Enough

Filed under: Harrasment — Tags: 2:12 pm

A Delta flight attendant has sued JetBlue and Delta Airlines for harassment, alleging that a JetBlue worker refused to let her board a work-related flight because she wasn’t dressed proactively enough.   He had allowed other flight attendants on board.  Delta has an agreement with JetBlue to fly Delta flight attendants to job locations.  Besides being a gossipy type case, is there a lesson here?   Well, you knew there would be or I wouldn’t have asked.

Note that the flight attendant is not employed by JetBlue and that Delta doesn’t employ the alleged harasser, yet they are both part of the lawsuit.

The lesson:  beware of 3rd or outside parties.  Harassment cases don’t always involve the traditional boss and subordinate or coworkers pattern.  Employers’ obligations extend beyond those typical scenarios.

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