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October 29, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Executive Comp Gets Its Credentials

Filed under: Compensation — Tags: 6:30 am

It’s not surprising that the WorldatWork Society of Certified Professionals has developed a new certification for executive compensation (CECP), available in October.

As the Washington-based agency notes in its recent announcement of the move, ”In the wake of the economic crisis and continued scrutiny of executive compensation by media and shareholders … executive compensation practitioners are being called upon to design and manage programs that attract, motivate and retain dynamic executives and leaders who have the ability to drive positive business results.”

The new certification – designed for executive rewards practitioners, consultants and human resource professionals involved in the design and administration of executive compensation – would help to “ensure that companies are working with knowledgeable and competent executive rewards practitioners,” the release states.

Don Linner, executive compensation practice leader for the Washington-based total-rewards company, says the alternative – poor executive comp practices — “can lead to intense public scrutiny, organizational instability and turnover.”

It’s about time this expertise became legitimate, test-worthy and trustworthy, especially in this environment. Had something like this been in place several years ago, it might have spared a few organizations I can think of some unwanted publicity.

Source: HRE Online, 9/2010, Kristen Frasch


October 25, 2010

Remarks by Non-manager can be Considered in Age Discrimination Case

Filed under: Employment Law,Harrasment12:57 pm

Can “stray remarks” about age by individuals who had no involvement in job reassignment or termination decisions be considered as evidence of age discrimination?

Yes, says California’s Supreme Court.  The case involved Google, an organization that’s well known for its youthful culture.  The situation involved a 54 year old manager who had been terminated for failing to be a “cultural fit” with Google operations.   He alleged that his much younger superiors had made derogatory age-related remarks about him and that other employees had made similar comments.

The comments had included being told that his opinions were ”obsolete” and “too old to matter.”  He was told that he was “slow,” “sluggish,” “lethargic” and “didn’t display a sense of urgency.”  Colleagues referred to him as “the old man,” an “old fuddy duddy,” and an “old guy.”

The employee was reassigned from his director of operations position and his responsibilities as director of engineering were taken from him.  He was assigned to develop an in-house education program, but he received no budget or staff for the new position.

Eventually he was terminated as he was told that there was no place for him.   He had received one performance review during his employment, which was favorable.    The court found that remarks by individuals, even though they were not involved in the plaintiffs demotion and ultimate termination, could be considered.

While this is a California case it has implications for employers around the country.  It underscores the importance of training all employees regarding the importance of avoiding age (or sex, racial, religious, etc.) jokes or comments.

Managers should understand that they have an obligation to maintain professional and respectful workplaces.   And finally, better implementation of an “old-fashioned” performance appraisal system always makes it easier to justify and defend employment actions.  (Reid v. Google)


October 22, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Legal Static Over Issuing Smart Phones to Workers

For the past three years, the Chicago Police Department has handed powerful new tools to officers in the field—BlackBerry smart phones. But the BlackBerry may have backfired on the department, which is now being sued by a sergeant in the gang investigations unit for the overtime he claims he earned while using his smart phone off the clock.

The department “has willfully violated the FLSA [Fair Labor Standards Act] by intentionally failing and refusing to pay Plaintiff and other similarly situated employees all compensation due them under the FLSA” for their after-hours Blackberry use, Sgt. Jeffrey Allen said in a suit filed in May as a proposed class action. A judge has to certify the case as a class action for it to proceed.

The case is one of a handful nationwide in which employees have claimed overtime pay for smart-phone use—and apparently the first involving public employees. But lawyers say such cases are a clear warning to employers to put a smart-phone usage policy in place before they end up in potentially costly litigation. Smart phones “are very dangerous and risky for nonexempt employees to have if you’re worried about overtime,” says Jeremy A. Roth, a partner at San Diego law firm Littler Mendelson.

“Clearly there’s a tremendous benefit to being able to access work remotely,” says Howard S. Lavin, an attorney at the law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in New York. “It’s a fabulous tool. The problem is when you take technology and apply it to longstanding laws, there are unintended consequences.”

Employers can minimize the risk of litigation by restricting smart-phone use to exempt employees or by instructing nonexempt employees to take calls from customers or clients only during regular work hours.

Under the FLSA, nonexempt employees are entitled to overtime compensation for “time spent working” beyond a 40-hour workweek. An employee does not even need to be required by the employer to work overtime but must merely do so for the employer’s benefit.

Source: Mathew Heller,, Sept. 2010


October 15, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Employers Missing Out on New-Hire Tax Credit

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs7:30 am

Seven months ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hailed a new tax credit aimed at spurring businesses and nonprofits to hire unemployed people. The credit would restore the public’s confidence in the government’s ability to get the economy back on track, she said. Congress enacted the HIRE (Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment) Act, which allows employers to skip paying their 6.2 percent match into Social Security from the time an eligible worker is hired until the end of this year. If that new employee stays a year, the employer gets another $1,000.

Source: SHRM


October 13, 2010

HR Lessons in the News

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:08 pm

Sometimes the best and occasionally the most interesting HR lessons come from watching the news.  Recent “teachable moments” have included:

  • Shoot first, ask questions later. Remember Shirley Sherrod, the Department of Agriculture employee who was fired for supposedly making racists remarks during a speech?  It turns out her comments were taken out of context.   Obviously the basic HR tools of thoroughly investigating and documenting employee problems could have helped avert this nightmare.  But as important, in the age of instant news, electronic communications, heightened sensitivities, and time pressures….slow down.   Corrective actions, especially terminations, require consideration and thought.   Actual facts can also be useful tools.
  • A slide and a beer.
    The facts aren’t all in yet in the case of the flight attendant who “resigned”  via an aircraft emergency slide.    Was it a case of:  An employer who needs to do a better job promoting a good working environment for its employees?  A problem employee who needed to be better managed?  A rogue employee who couldn’t handle stress?   Symptomatic of the decline of overall civility in society and mistreatment of service workers?  An OSHA issue?  The most recent example of increasing anger in the workplace?  An example of how to “burn a bridge.”   I’m not sure what it was but it certainly made for good theater

I’ll take $40 million with that parachute.
Sexual harassment, “conduct unbecoming,” or expense report allegations don’t normally come with a $40 million price tag….at least not where a single individual is involved.   But the recent debacle involving the top guy at Hewlett Packard did.  He was forced to leave the organization amid scandal, although with cash in hand.  Organizations have dealt with sexual harassment issues for decades now, but problems persist.  Keep training your people and use all of your creativity to convey the message upward into the corner offices.   It’s also a good time to review your expense reimbursement policies and practices, to ensure there is no abuse, but also to keep costs down in a tough economy.


October 11, 2010

Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

Filed under: General HR Buzz12:54 pm

Has it really come to this?  Bedbugs at work?  Apparently they’re not just a nightmare at bedtime, but they’re also infesting offices around the country.

You may have seen the media coverage regarding bedbugs in hotels, theaters and other public places.

Well, according to the National Pest Management Association (yes, there is such a group), 40% of their exterminations are occurring at work as the little bloodsucking insects are now on the job.

Apparently the bugs are great hitchhikers and grab rides to work on employees’ clothes, bags, etc.   While the bugs don’t carry disease, they can cause severe itching, a very high “ick” factor, and have been known to create mild hysteria around the office.

Apparently the first lawsuits against building owners have begun.  (Since you’re in HR you knew there would be lawsuits.).  Eradicating the bugs is said to be difficult, so in addition to keeping an eye out for EEO and FLSA issues in your workplace, watch for crawling things.

As with all of HR, being proactive once you’ve spotted the critters seems to be the common advice. I hate to even think that bedbugs could drive employee grievances, invoke OSHA duties, Workers Comp, etc., but stranger HR things have happened.


October 8, 2010

HR Fact Friday: Developments in Pay Equity

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

Federal legislators are debating yet another version of the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 3772) in an effort to address pay disparities between men and women. Among other things, the bill includes enhanced enforcement of equal pay requirements; a grant program to conduct negotiations skills training for women and girls; and research, education, and outreach efforts.

Meanwhile, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a statement to Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, outlining women’s representation in management ranks and comparing the compensation paid to men and women. “…[F]emale managers earned 81 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, compared to 79 cents in 2000,” stated Andrew Sherrill, the GAO’s director of Education, Workforce, and Income Security. “The estimated adjusted pay difference varied by industry sector, with female managers’ earnings ranging from 78 cents to 87 cents for every dollar earned by male managers in 2007, depending on the industry sector.”



October 7, 2010

HRN News: 2011 Compease Update Shipped

This past week HRN began shipping the 2011 Compease update CD-ROM to clients. Each year HRN compensation analysts update all Compease compensation information with current data gathered from a wide variety of top industry compensation and salary survey resources. 

In addition to updated compensation content, the 2011 Compease system includes some major enhancements. These enhancements include:

  • New enhanced user interface
  • Video Introduction for 2011 installation process
  • Launch Merit Increase or Bridge from within Structured Compensation
  • Company Master – dropdown menu to select asset/revenue range (replaces key entry).
  • Job Description Report – Name, employee signature and date added.
  • Archived Employee Master Report – Birth date, gender, race and termination date added.
  • Salary Range Report – Locations consolidated to one page per geographic index.
  • Range Selector feature to allow you to choose 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011 ranges. The data year will be displayed on all reports.
  • Additional optional fields in the Employee Master, including incentive pay, gender, date of birth, race and e-mail address
  • Archive Employee Master now includes termination date and reason

For more information about Compease and to see a live online demonstration of the just released 2011 update, contact HRN at or call 800-940-7522.


October 6, 2010

Around the States

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:21 pm

A new Connecticut law (Public Act No. 10-144), effective October 1, 2010, provides additional employment protections for victims of family violence.  It also provides leave for employees dealing with family violence issues.

Effective January 1, 2011, a new Illinois law, the Employee Credit Privacy Act, will significantly restrict employers’ use of credit information in making employment decisions.  The law applies to most Illinois employers, but excludes financial institutions, insurance companies, law enforcement, state and local government agencies, and debt collectors.

A change in the Illinois Family Military Leave Act, effective January1, 2011, expands leave from employees who are spouses or parents of those called to military service, to also include children and grandchildren of service members.

Tennessee law has been changed to specifically allow employee payment by electronic payments, not just by check or cash.

A new law significantly modifies the Massachusetts Criminal Offender Records Information Act. Motivated by the desire to help find employment for those with a criminal past, the law provides protection for employers who use criminal record information, restricts employer access to some information, and provides certain rights to applicants with criminal records.

An amendment (effective August 1, 2010) to the Massachusetts Personnel Records Statute, changes how Massachusetts employers handle personnel files. The amendment requires employee notification when employers add new information to a “personnel record” that could negatively affect employment or lead to corrective action.

Note that “personnel record” also includes informal records kept by a supervisor.  More guidance will be required to determine how this will be interpreted.


October 1, 2010

HR Fact Friday: New Legislation Aims to Tighten Employee Misclassification

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

New federal legislation aimed at getting tough on independent contractor misclassification was introduced September 15, 2010 in Congress.

The Fair Playing Field Act of 2010 was introduced by Sen. John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington.

It aims to:

  • End the moratorium on Internal Revenue Service guidance addressing worker classification.
  • Requires the Secretary of the Treasury to issue prospective guidance clarifying the employment status of workers for federal employment tax purposes.
  • Requires those who use independent contractors to provide them with a written statement on their federal tax obligations, the labor and employment law protections that do not apply to them and their right to seek a determination from the IRS on their status.
  • Raises penalties for misclassification.

“The legislation is timely, as misclassification is an increasing problem, one that puts employers who properly classify their workers at a disadvantage in the marketplace and costs the government billions of dollars in unpaid taxes,” Vice President Joe Biden said in a written statement.

A similar piece of legislation, the Employee Misclassification Prevention Act, was introduced in June. 

Source: Staffing Industry Analysts