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December 7, 2009

FMLA Coverage for Military Families Expands

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:04 pm

On October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.  The Act expands FMLA exigency leave to include families of active duty members of the Armed Forces.

Previously, only family members of Reservists or National Guard members called to active duty could utilize leave for qualifying exigencies which include such things as short-notice deployment, military events, childcare and school activities, financial and legal arrangements, rest and recuperation, counseling, post-deployment activities, or additional related activities.

The Act also extends the possible timeframe during which FMLA caregiver leave could be taken to up to 5 years after the veteran leaves active duty.

The changes are effective immediately and will require changes to company FMLA leave policies.


Insurance Company Uses Incriminating Facebook Photos to Deny Payments

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:16 am

A night on the town had unintended consequences for a Canadian woman on long-term sick leave for depression.   Nathalie Blanchard had been on leave from her job for a year.  According to reports, she was diagnosed with major depression and was receiving monthly benefits from her insurance provider, Manulife.

However, when the payments dried up this fall, Blanchard called Manulife, and she says she was told the claim was denied and the payments discontinued.

According to Blanchard, the insurance agent described several pictures Blanchard posted on Facebook, including ones showing her having a good time at a Chippendales bar show.  Manulife told her the photos were evidence that she is no longer depressed and was available to work.

On advice from her doctor, Blanchard told reporters that she was trying to have fun, including nights out at the local bar with friends.

No word on whether she requested her disability payments in singles.



December 4, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Women Hold Half of U.S. Jobs

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , , , 3:35 pm

For the first time in history, half of all U.S. workers are women, and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of U.S. families, according to a report released Oct. 16, 2009 by the Center for American Progress (CAP) and California first lady Maria Shriver.

The report, The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Changes Everything, was co-authored by, among others, Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation; Heather Boushey, CAP senior economist; Ann O’Leary, CAP senior fellow; and John Halpin, CAP senior fellow.

Pointing out that in 1967 women made up only one third of all U.S. workers, the report said women’s changing roles affect the country’s major societal institutions. The report concluded that today’s families need more flexible work schedules, comprehensive child care policies, redesigned family and medical leave, and equal pay for women.

Four out of every five families today with children still living at home are not the traditional “male breadwinner” and “female homemaker” combination, according to the report. In fact, women increasingly are becoming their family’s breadwinner or co-breadwinner, it said. The report pointed out that although women hold half of all jobs, they do not make up half of every type of job. Occupations with high concentrations of women include secretaries, administrative assistants, registered nurses, elementary and middle school teachers, cashiers, and retail sales workers.

The report suggested that government address the new economic and social reality by updating the country’s basic labor standards to include family-friendly employee benefits and overhauling anti-discrimination laws so that employers cannot disproportionately exclude women from workplace benefits.

The report pointed out that the United States is the only industrialized country without any requirement that employers provide paid family leave.

Flexible work arrangements, career paths, and leadership styles are needed that better meet the demands of today’s diverse workforce as well as today’s flexible economic environment, the report said. It urged that these new work policies not be perks for only a chosen few.

Source: BNA HR Report, Vol. 27, No. 41 pg 1142


Is Praising Employees Counterproductive?

Filed under: General HR Buzz9:01 am

Many managers think they’ll spoil a good employee with too many compliments. Here’s why those fears are unfounded

There is a fear—an irrational one, among certain managers of praising employees too much. It’s as though they believe that one “attaboy” or “attagirl” too many can spoil a good employee.

Perhaps these fearful managers have in mind those high-profile sports figures who sign huge multiyear contracts only to quickly settle down to lackluster, mediocre performance on the field. But there’s a big difference between a star athlete and your typical salaried employee. The athlete has a contract that commits the franchise to paying his gargantuan salary for years into the future. The employee remains on the job at the boss’s pleasure. How could some positive reinforcement hurt an employee, or for that matter, hurt morale?

For sure, we don’t want to bestow tons of compliments on some employees and ignore others. We don’t want to praise one worker by comparing him or her to another member of the team. And we never want to lift up one employee at the expense of another. But there’s no danger in making a point of thanking and acknowledging employees for specific, observed results. Here are the most common fears associated with praising employees, followed by reasons those fears are unfounded: (more…)


December 2, 2009

Shopping on the Job

If you were wondering why nothing seems to be getting done around the office, a recent survey by ISACA, a professional IT association, could have the answer.

Apparently, a lot of employees will be shopping.  According to the survey, Shopping on the Job: Online Holiday Shopping and Workplace Internet Safety, an average employee may be spending almost 2 full working days (14.4 hours) holiday shopping from a work computer.  Ten percent of those surveyed indicated they may spend up to 30 hours.

Besides wasting time and decreasing productivity, such widespread shopping also opens the door to viruses, spam, and phishing attacks.


December 1, 2009

Employers Play “Dr. Mom” to Control Spread of Flu at Work

Filed under: General HR Buzz5:37 am

It may not be chicken soup and a warm blanket, but US businesses are spending time and money trying to limit the impact of the H1N1 flu on daily operations.

Considering that the CDC estimates every person who comes to work with swine flu will infect 10% of coworkers, such efforts may be good for business.

Companies from health insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc. to beverage can maker Ball Corp. are arranging for employees with flu symptoms or sick family members to work from home where possible, holding fewer in-person meetings, even discouraging handshakes. And hand sanitizers, disinfectant wipes and tissues are available at every turn as employers make keeping workers healthy their first line of defense.

Employers are also teaching about hygiene, distributing information about the pandemic, telling folks to stay home if they get sick — generally with pay — and scrapping the required doctor’s note. Some companies have even distributed “wellness kits” with thermometers and face masks.

For more ideas on what business are doing to keep the workplace healthy, read the full article here.

Source: FOXNews


November 30, 2009

Around the States

Filed under: General HR Buzz11:37 am

Effective October 26, 2009 New York employers will be required to inform new hires in writing of their pay rates and pay day. Non-exempt employees must also be informed of  their overtime rates. A written acknowledgement must also be obtained from each new employee.

The New York City Council is also considering a proposal to require all employers, regardless of size, to provide paid sick leave to employees. San Francisco and Washington, D.C. already have such requirements.  Milwaukee passed a similar ordinance which was later declared unconstitutional.

Salt Lake City has passed an ordinance prohibiting private employers (i.e. those with 15 or more employees within the SLC limits) from discriminating in employment matters against “otherwise qualified” persons (both applicants and employees) based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  State entities (except SLC), religious organizations and “expressive organizations” are exempted from the ordinance.


November 27, 2009

HR Fact Friday: Automation, Lower Fees, Advice Becoming Standard in 401(k)s

Filed under: General HR Buzz10:59 am

Excellent article posted on the SHRM website recently tracking 401(k) enrollment trends.
Go to:


The percentage of U.S. employers enrolling employees automatically into the 401(k) plan has risen significantly in just two years, from 34 percent in 2007 to 58 percent in 2009. Of those plans using automatic enrollment, 69 percent now default workers into a target-date fund, up from 50 percent in 2007, according to a study by consultancy Hewitt Associates.

Happy Thanksgiving.


November 25, 2009

Six Simple Rules for Gift-giving at Work

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:43 pm

Navigating the social and professional landscape can be difficult, but there are ways to avoid alienating colleagues with embarrassment or hurt feelings, career experts say. Co-workers who are also friends can exchange gifts off site, for example, and those who want to get the boss a present can go in as a group to be as inclusive as possible.

The first order of business for those looking to play Santa is to check the company handbook or consult its human-resources manager to see if there’s a policy on office gift-giving.

Many employers are erring on the side of caution these days in anything that could be construed as fodder for a lawsuit, and some may extend limits on gifts to and from business associates to the interoffice realm as well, said Deborah Brown-Volkman, a career coach in East Moriches, N.Y., and author of the forthcoming book “How to Feel Great at Work Everyday.”

Mellissa Boggs, vice president of consulting with Professional Staff Management, a human-resources and consulting firm in Indianapolis, said employers also are trying to head off morale problems that can arise inadvertently.

“A lot of employers are going to very narrow policies,” she said. “They’re trying to do more holiday celebrations as whole groups, departments or, if the office is small, the whole office so it kind of takes away from the one-on-one gifting…They don’t want employees to feel bad if they can’t afford to do it.”

Still, larger companies are more likely to have a written policy than smaller ones, she said.

“There are more companies without policies on these issues than there are with policies,” Boggs said. “If there is a policy, it’s probably pretty informal and only discussed when there’s an issue.”

And issues do arise, particularly when workers and employers forget that some don’t celebrate a holiday of any kind during December.

“We have a more diverse work force than we’ve ever had, not only from an ethnicity standpoint but from an age standpoint,” she said. “There are just so many views and viewpoints in the workplace that things just are not the same as they were in years past.”

People who are new to a company especially need to check out what’s customary before springing for well-intentioned gifts, Brown-Volkman said.

“If there’s no policy go by tradition, what’s been done in the past, or go in with others,” she said. “You could be the person who spearheads it.”

Navigating office traditions

Of course, some companies have rituals such as Secret Santa, where workers choose the name of a fellow employee randomly and buy that person a low-cost gift. Other employers throw parties or host departmental lunches meant to reward workers for a productive year, with no expectation of additional gift-giving.

Only 38% of 110 midsize and large companies say their celebrations will include gift-giving this year, according to a survey from Battalia Winston International, an executive search firm based in New York. That’s down significantly from the booming late 1990s, when 51% gave gifts in 1998 and 49% did so in 1999.

“Since 2001, there’s been a different atmosphere both in terms of celebrations and I think in terms of gift-giving and other lavish kinds of behaviors,” said Jo Bennett, a partner with Battalia Winston.

Companies have moved away from giving workers holiday turkeys, Christmas bonuses or fancy pen-and-pencil sets, she said. Now they’re more likely to bestow company-branded promotional items on workers or to forego party gifts altogether.

But in one corner of professional life, at least in New York, a tradition endures, she said. “Over the years it was always common for bosses to have more of a personal relationship with the executive assistants than with other people. It’s something that sort of stuck from the old days.”

Bennett said she and another partner chipped in for a spa day for the assistant they share.

Overall, though, many workers prefer to sit out what can become a gift-giving guessing game.

“It is a problem because you don’t want to get something that’s rinky-dink,” she said. “You don’t want to get something too extravagant either.”

Six tips

Here are six suggestions for gift-giving at work without putting people on the spot or breaking team camaraderie:

  1. Keep it voluntary. Opting out of office gift-giving games should be free of consequences, Boggs said. “You have to be cognizant of people’s feelings and the holidays they celebrate and be respectful of that. If someone doesn’t want to be involved you shouldn’t make them feel horrible about not being involved.”
  2. Weigh a gift to the boss carefully, since others may perceive it as inappropriate or an attempt to curry favor. “A way around that is to chip in and give a group gift,” Brown-Volkman said. “If it’s a department gift it has to come from the department. It’s an entire group so no one’s left out.” The objective is to strive always to be seen as fair, she said. “From a company standpoint it’s OK for the boss or employer to give you something. But if it’s the other way around, you don’t know how you will be seen. The group covers you and also makes you look good.”
  3. Be mindful of income differences and financial pressures when soliciting group gifts. Let everyone in the working group sign the card, regardless of their ability to contribute to the cost of the gift, Boggs said. “You have to be careful not to be exclusive of the people who can’t afford it,” she said. “It turns a good thing into something potentially bad.” Some in the office may be struggling to pay off student loans or credit-card debt, or may have greater family responsibilities than others. “People who live paycheck to paycheck or feel like people are pitying them or doing it for reasons other than what they’re doing it for, that’s when the issues come up.”
  4. Don’t present a gift to someone you don’t know well just because it’s the holiday season. “Don’t wait until that day or it may come across the wrong way,” Brown-Volkman said. “It’s a celebration of the great working relationship all year.
  5. Gifts among peers are best exchanged off site and after hours to avoid anyone feeling excluded. “Go to lunch with them, have a cup of coffee in the morning with them before work starts,” Boggs said. “Take it off site. Make it a nonwork issue.”
  6. What if you receive an unforeseen gift? Do you reciprocate? “I think you could,” Brown-Volkman said. “It’s OK for your peers. It’s just when you go to the boss — sometimes that could be construed as favoritism.” Also consider power and gender differences, Boggs said. “When you have a female supervisor and a male employee or a male supervisor and a female employee, you always run the risk of things being taken out of context or taken wrong. You have to be really careful.”

Source: Kristen Gerencher MarketWatch


November 24, 2009

DOL Ramping Up for a Busy 2010

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis recently announced the hiring of an additional 250 wage and hour investigators, as well as plans for a new public awareness campaign on worker rights, expected to launch in 2010.

The hiring effort at the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) represents a staff increase of more than 30%, a move that will likely improve DOL’s top priority of protecting worker rights by allowing faster response to complaints of wage violations and more deliberate enforcement.  Solis’ message is clear: “Failure to comply with these basic labor standards means that workers are not receiving the money they have earned,” and the department “will not rest until the law is followed by every employer, and each worker is treated and compensated fairly.”

Historically, the WHD has announced impressive recovery efforts, claiming that more than $185 million in back wages were restored to workers in the 2008 fiscal year.

Solis also unveiled details of “We Can Help,” a program slated for early 2010 through which the department will work to inform workers of their labor rights.

Of course the best defense against run-ins with the Wage and Hour Division is to establish and follow legal, documented policies regarding payment of wages.  HRN’s HR Suite is an online human resource compliance solution that addresses wage and hour compliance and many other critical areas of human resource management.

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