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January 29, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Changes Loom for HR Structure, Pay Practices

Compensation laws are changing, and the changes will likely mean you’ll do things differently. The recent Ledbetter decision may have you scrambling to document pay decisions better and keep the records longer (or indefinitely). What you may not know is that these decisions could have an impact on your overall human resources function.

Stephanie Thomas, director of the Equal Employment Advisory and Litigation Support Division for Minimax Consulting LLC (www.minimaxconsulting.com), wants to help you ward off problems you may not have even thought about. She is concerned with two little words in the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the (January 2009) legislation that discusses unlawful employment practices and how they impact compensation. The Act essentially says it is unlawful to make compensation decisions based on discriminatory decisions or other practices. What, exactly, are those other practices?

Obviously, your pay system cannot discriminate based on gender, race, religion, age, sexual orientation, or even genetic information. But while you scrupulously guard against those kinds of discriminatory factors, discrimination may still occur based on other, less obvious, factors. Thomas says it’s easiest to visualize when you think in terms of pay grades.

“For example, let’s say everybody in pay grade 9 is paid between $40,000 and $50,000, regardless of gender, age, race, what have you,” she illustrates. “So if you were to look at people in grade 9 by their different characteristics, you would see that everybody in that grade is paid equitably. There is no evidence of discrimination.

“But what if someone claims they should really be in pay grade 10 or 12? They may claim they were hired into the wrong pay grade, based on a discriminatory factor such as age, gender, or race. Thus, hiring becomes one of these other practices,” says Thomas. “This is a much more difficult situation to examine from an empirical point of view. It spills over into promotion issues and hiring issues, so the other factors take compensation decisions into areas that are outside of what we conventionally think of as compensation.”

Where Will HR Specialist Fit In?

So what does this mean for your company’s HR organization and the way you pay your staff? Peering into the future, Thomas visualizes a very different organization than the one many companies now have. Over the last few decades, HR professionals have become increasingly specialized—into compensation, benefits, and leaves of absence. Thomas suggests that analyzing potentially discriminatory compensation will require HR pros to take a more generalist approach.

“Traditionally, companies would conduct a hiring study to make sure they weren’t discriminating in their hiring practices,” she says. “Once that was done, they would look at promotions. Then they would look at compensation. I think what’s going to happen is that all of these things that we thought of as separate analyses are going to be comingled. It’s really going to require a more comprehensive approach. You will no longer be able to look at compensation in isolation, instead looking at how compensation relates to hiring and promotion. This will make analysis very difficult.”

“This is still a new area, and it’s not clear what kinds of claims people are going to be making, nor is it clear how successful the claims will ultimately be. But it is an easy allegation to make that the company hired you at the wrong pay grade or with the wrong job title, even if it will be difficult to make a case demonstrating that. It comes down to looking at things from a preventive perspective, thoroughly documenting the decisions that are made.”

Thanks to the Ledbetter Act, we all recognize the need to maintain records of compensation decisions for the long term. But when HR looks at the impending integration of the HR functions and how those intertwine, as Thomas suggests, it becomes equally clear that hiring and promotion data should be handled similarly.

“For instance, with hiring, you need to keep copies of résumés and applications. It’s amazing how many companies don’t. And ideally, the records should be in some electronic form, easily accessible,” she says.

“You could then easily compare two people who applied for the same job and understand years later that, because John had 12 years of relevant prior experience and Jane had only 3, there was a justifiable reason for putting John at the upper end of the pay grade and Jane at the lower end, or making a grade difference between the two. It isn’t a question of changing the way businesses are running in terms of making these decisions. It’s making sure the decisions aren’t arbitrary, and that you have something concrete to explain those decisions.”

Thomas stresses this, above all else: “Documentation, documentation, documentation. We’re really stressing the fact that you have a well-trained staff; the people who are making the decisions, who are on the front lines of these decisions, are qualified and they know what they’re doing. The key is to memorialize why those decisions were made. And don’t forget: any kind of decision at all, anywhere in the organization, ultimately is going to have a compensation component. Make sure you take a big picture view. It has to be a more integrated effort across the organization.”

Source: HR.BLR.com, 1/14/2010

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January 26, 2010

News Release: HRN Posts Record Sales Growth in 2009

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (January 26, 2010) — HRN Management Group, a provider of human resource products and consulting services today announced setting the following 2009 company sales revenue records:

  • 2009 Gross sales revenue increased 11.7% over previous 2008 sales record
  • 2009 Product sales revenue increased by a record 35.25% over 2008
  • 2009 Performance Pro sales revenue increased 14.5% over 2008
  • 2009 Compease sales revenue increased an unprecedented 128.9% over 2008

Mr. Jerry P. Nelson, HRN President and CEO stated, “I could not be more pleased with our 2009 performance! We expected 2009 to be a challenging year due to the economic climate, yet we set high goals and worked hard to execute, make adjustments, and achieve our sales, product development, and customer support objectives. I attribute our success to staying focused on what we do best—providing cost-effective, time saving, world class HR products and services that fulfill the employee management and compensation administration needs of a wide range of organizations and markets.”

Making HRN’s 2009 sales performance more noteworthy is that the reported sales total does not include additional product and consulting sales revenue from Wichita, KS based Koker Goodwin & Associates (KGA), a company acquired by HRN in July, 2009.

Mr. Nelson added, “With the complete integration of KGA as part of HRN taking place in 2010 we expect this year to be a breakout year that will include the release of Performance Pro 3 and followed closely by the launch of Succession Pro, an online succession planning solution.”

In addition to new sales, high customer satisfaction significantly contributed to the successful year demonstrated by record Performance Pro annual renewal income.

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January 25, 2010

Sam’s Club Contracts Out Sampling Staff

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Hiring & Jobs7:56 pm

Wal-mart, considered by some to be practically immune to the recession, has decided to layoff over 11,000 workers at its Sam’s Club member-only discount stores.

Sam’s CEO recently said in a memo that the company contracted with Shopper Events, a third-party marketing company based in Rogers, Ark., to run the Sam’s Club demo program instead of the mostly part-time employees. The company, which employs about 110,000 in its 600 stores, didn’t provide details on cuts at specific stores but said each Sam’s Club store has on average 18 demo associates and two new business membership staffers.

Read the full article here.

Source: Business First of Columbus

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January 22, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Job Bias Claims Based on Religion & Disability Rise

The number of workers claiming job discrimintion based on disability, religion, or national origin surged to new highs last year, as federal job bias complaints overall stayed at near record levels.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said Wednesday that charges of disability discrimination rose by about 10% to 21,451 claims, the largest increase of any category.  The increase coincided with changes to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) last year that made it easier for people with epilepsy, diabetes and other treatable conditions to claim they are disabled.

Overall, the EEOC received more than 93,000 discrimination claims during the 2009 fiscal year, a 2% decrease from the record set in 2008, but still the second highest level in the commission’s history.  As in previous years, claims based on race, sex and retaliation were the most frequent.  Since the ADA was enacted in 1990, a series of Supreme Court rulings have generally exempted from its protections those with partial physical disabilites or impairments that can be treated with medication or devices such as hearing aids.

Legislation signed into law by President George W. Bush before he left office directs courts to apply the definition of disability more generously.  Charges of discrimination based on national origin rose by about 5% to 11,134 claims, while religious discrimination claims rose less than 1% to 3,386 claims.  Allegations of race discrimination remained the most frequently filed complaint, accounting for about 36% of all filings last year.

The EEOC said the near-historic level of complaints overall may be due to a number of factors, including economic conditions, increased diversity and demographic shifts in the work force. Employees also may be more aware of their rights and could be taking advantage of changes at the EEOC to make it easier to file a discrimination charge.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.

Source: Yahoo Finance, Equal opportunity Commission (http://www.eeoc.gov)

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January 15, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Americans’ Job Satisfaction Falls to Record Low

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: , , 8:16 am

Even Americans who are lucky enough to have work in this economy are becoming more unhappy with their jobs, according to a new survey that found only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their work.

That was the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board research group in more than 22 years of studying the issue. In 2008, 49% of those surveyed reported satisfaction with their jobs.

The drop in workers’ happiness can be partly blamed on the worst recession since the 1930s, which has made it difficult for some people to find challenging and suitable jobs. But worker dissatisfaction has been on the rise for more than two decades.

Workers have grown steadily more unhappy for a variety of reasons:

• Fewer workers consider their jobs to be interesting.

• Incomes have not kept up with inflation.

• The soaring cost of health insurance has eaten into workers’ take-home pay.

Some other key findings of the survey:

• 43% of workers feel secure in their jobs. In 2008, 47% said they feel secure in their jobs, while 59% felt that way in 1987.

• 56% say they like their co-workers, slightly less than the 57% who said so last year but down from 68% in 1987.

• 56% say they are satisfied with their commute to work even as commute times have grown longer over the years. That compares with 54% in 2008 and 63% in 1987.

• 51% say they’re satisfied with their boss. That’s down from 55% in 2008 and around 60% two decades ago.

When the Conference Board’s first survey was conducted in 1987, most workers — 61% — said they were happy in their jobs. The survey of 5,000 households was conducted for the Conference Board by TNS, a global market research company.

One clue that may explain workers’ growing dissatisfaction: Only 51% now find their jobs interesting — another low in the survey’s 22 years. In 1987, nearly 70% said they were interested in their work.

Conference Board officials and outside economists suggested that weak wage growth helps explain why workers’ unhappiness has been rising for more than 20 years. After growing in the 1980s and 1990s, average household incomes adjusted for inflation have been shrinking since 2000.

Also, compared with 1980, three times as many workers contribute to the cost of their health insurance — and those contributions have gone up. The average employee contribution for single-coverage medical care benefits rose from $48 a month to $76 a month between 1999 and 2006.

Workers under 25 expressed the highest level of dissatisfaction. Roughly 64% of workers under 25 say they are unhappy in their jobs. The recession has been especially hard on young workers, who face fewer opportunities now and lower wages, some analysts say.

The most satisfied are those ages 25 to 34, who may see some opportunities for upward mobility as baby boomers retire. Around 47% of workers 25 to 34 say they are happy in their jobs.

Source: USA Today, Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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January 8, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Workplace Bias Claims 2nd Highest Ever in 2009

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: , , , 8:52 am

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received 93,277 workplace discrimination claims in 2009, down 2.2% compared with the previous year, the agency said Wednesday, January 6.

The number of claims filed in 2009 was the second highest after 2008, the EEOC said, and monetary relief obtained for victims totaled more than $376 million, slightly lower than 2008’s $376.6 million.

“The latest data tell us that as the first decade of the 21st century comes to a close, the commission’s work is far from finished,” said Stuart J. Ishimaru, acting EEOC chairman, in a statement. “Employers must step up their efforts to foster discrimination-free and inclusive workplaces or risk enforcement and litigation by the EEOC.”

The number of charges alleging age-based discrimination in 2009 reached 22,772, the second highest ever after 2008. In 2009, monetary benefits awarded to victims from those charges reached $72 million, compared with nearly $83 million in 2008.

The most frequently filed discrimination allegations in 2009 were based on race (36%), retaliation (36%), and gender (30%), which the EEOC said followed recent trends. Some claims included two or more types of discrimination.

For information on 2009 enforcement and litigation statistics from the EEOC, visit www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/statistics/enforcement/index.cfm.

Source: Business Insurance, a sister publication of  Workforce Management.

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January 6, 2010

Is It OK to Set Up Video Cameras in an Employee’s Office?

Filed under: Employment Law — Tags: 2:49 pm

The California Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether an employer could install surveillance cameras, in an office shared by 2 employees, to catch whoever was accessing pornographic sites at night.

The 2 employees, who weren’t suspects, worked during the day and were not told about the camera as it was feared that they would gossip about it.

The camera was only activated at night.  They discovered the camera and sued for invasion of privacy, arguing that the camera itself invaded their privacy and that they had a reasonable expectation of privacy.

The court found that an employee’s privacy expectations depend on the circumstances.  They are different if one works in an open area rather than in an office.

The court determined that the employees did have a reasonable expectation of privacy, that video cameras are particularly problematic and that the fact that no notice was given was troubling.

However, the court reasoned, this intrusion into privacy was justified for business reasons.

Additionally it was very restricted, with cameras activated after hours, pointed only at the work station, used for a short period of time, and with the knowledge of only a few people.  Given that the employer operated a residential facility for abused and neglected children also weighed on the court’s decision. [Hernandez v. Hillsides]

This case provides some good reminders for employers including:

  • Privacy law is complicated and evolving.  Contact an attorney before you start taping or monitoring employees.
  • Employees do have expectations of privacy, although, in some instances they can be limited.
  • The best practice is to notify employees of any surveillance.  Requiring a signed acknowledgement isn’t a bad idea either. Such a document reduces or negates an employee’s privacy expectations.
  • Employers should use the least invasive type of monitoring possible.
  • Sound business justification is necessary.

Develop some solid policies before undertaking any surveillance.

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