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October 31, 2011

Scary HR Practices

Filed under: Compliance,Employment Law,General HR Buzz,Management Practices — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 9:09 am

I don’t know about you, but it seems there are a number of television shows cropping up that aren’t depicting best practices when it comes to human resources.  Some of these shows – Mad Men, Pan Am, for example – are simply exemplary of how things were at that time.  Other shows – The Office, for example – seemingly just choose to ignore policies and political correctness.

Unfortunately, there are some scary HR practices that take place.  Whether intentional or not, they can sometimes put our organization’s at risk and create potential liability.  Here are some of the scary practices (or lack of) that are on my list:

  • Inappropriate interview questions
  • Not completing background and reference checks
  • Improper classification of independent contractors
  • Misclassification of exempt and non-exempt employees
  • Incomplete documentation of new hire processes
  • Not addressing and/or documenting performance issues

I’m sure you can add to the list, so please share with us!  In the meantime, here’s a clip from Dilbert for your enjoyment.

Dilbert – Involuntary Termination

 

 

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October 28, 2011

HR Fact Friday: Employment Law News Briefs

Filed under: Employment Law,FMLA,General HR Buzz — Paul Hendrycks, VP Sales and Marketing @ 6:00 am

Here are a few interesting employment law news briefs:

First, the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives recently approved a bill (HR 2885) to reform the employment verification system. Among other things, the bill would preempt state verification laws, create a voluntary biometric verification pilot program, phase out the use of paper I-9 forms and replace them with a modernized E-Verify system.

Second, a Pennsylvania federal court has found that an employer’s failure to return the calls of an employee while she was out on leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) could possibly be illegal retaliation for taking such leave. According to the lawsuit, the employer repeatedly failed to communicate with the employee regarding the details and logistics of the leave.

Third, in October of 2011 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed three lawsuits against Utah employers alleging they had committed national origin, pregnancy and/or race discrimination or harassment. Finally, maybe it is time to double check and make sure that you are retaining employment records for the right amount of time.

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October 27, 2011

Not Just Thanksgiving: 13 Ways to Commemorate November

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 11:39 am

Walking through the store the other day, I was searching for some last-minute accessories for my daughters’ Halloween costumes.  This year, my girls (ages 10, 7, and 2) are going as Thing 1, Thing 2, and Thing 3.  Of course, by the store’s calendar, I was about three months too late for Halloween:  most retailers have moved on to Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day (yes, I really did see Valentine’s Day decorations out in late October!)

Most discussion around our office (at least in HR) as of late has been the upcoming open enrollment period.  For open enrollment, some of you are probably planning wellness fairs or other healthy events for your employees.   So what does procrastination close to Halloween have to do with open enrollment and wellness fairs?  Nothing, really – except to tie it together with the information I am about to share.  If you are looking for some last-minute information and ideas to share with your employees, here is a list of the official health observances for the month of November:

National Family Caregivers Month

Lung Cancer Awareness Month

National Stomach Cancer Awareness Month

American Diabetes Month

Prematurity Awareness Month

National Healthy Skin Month

November also hosts a few related official observance weeks or days, including:

Great American Smokeout

Drowsy Driving Prevention Week

Get Smart About Antibiotics Week

National Survivors of Suicide Day

In addition to official health observances, November is: Native American Heritage Month, National Adoption Month, and National Novel Writing Month (they promise you can write a novel in a month – I better get started).

Do you have any creative ideas to commemorate these observances?  We want to know!

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October 26, 2011

OFCCP: Do Financial Institutions Still Need Affirmative Action Plans??

Filed under: Affirmative Action,Compliance,General HR Buzz — Tags: — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 11:01 am

You may have already heard that beginning January 1, 2012, financial institutions will no longer sell U.S. savings bonds.  In order to buy savings bonds, you will need to do so through the U.S. Treasury Department’s website:  http://treasurydirect.gov.

So what does that have to do with affirmative action obligations?  Well, if you are a bank or a credit union, you may have maintained an Affirmative Action plan based on the fact that you issue U.S. savings bonds, one of the criteria under Executive Order 11246.  The Executive Order identifies the criteria that subjects financial institutions to federal affirmative action requirements:

  • The institution is issuing and paying agents for U.S. savings bonds and notes in any amounts (no longer applicable after January 1, 2012)
  • The institution serves as a depository of government funds in any amount
  • The institution holds a prime or subcontract with the federal government of at least $50,000

So, if financial institutions are no longer issuing U.S. savings bonds, then are they relieved of their obligation to maintain an affirmative action plan?  Well, in plain language the answer is probably “no.”  The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) takes the position that financial institutions participating in Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) or National Credit Union Association (NCUA) programs are still subject to the agency’s jurisdiction.

As for next steps, financial institutions should review whether they must continue to prepare written affirmative action plans.  The OFCCP’s opinion is that financial institutions that serve as a depository of government funds in any amounts, participate in FDIC or NCUA programs, or hold a federal contract or subcontract of at least $50,000 should continue to prepare affirmative action plans even after Jan. 1, 2012.  You may want to consult your Legal Counsel to review your specific situation.

If you do need to complete an Affirmative Action Plan, you probably already know that implementation and maintenance of an affirmative action plan can be an administrative behemoth.  Let the consultants at HRN help!  We can create an affirmative action plan, tailored to your organization.  Contact us today for more information.

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Weekly Wednesday Acronym – Have You Reviewed Your SPD Lately?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 7:00 am

In Monday’s blog, I wrote about open enrollment time for many companies and their benefit renewals.  Something that is often overlooked is the Summary Plan Description (SPD).  If your plan is covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), then you need to have an SPD.

ERISA requires plan administrators – the people who run plans – to give plan participants an SPD which is an important document that tells participants what the plan provides and how it operates.  The purpose is to provide in understandable language basic information about the benefit plan.  It provides information such as when an employee can begin to participate in the plan, how service and benefits are calculated, when benefits become vested, and how to file a claim for benefits.  If a plan is changed, participants must be informed, either through a revised SPD, or in a separate document called a summary of material modifications.  The plan administrator is legally obligated to provide these documents to participants free of charge.

Earlier this year, an interesting case regarding SPD’s received quite a bit of national media attention.  In this U.S. Supreme Court Case, Cigna v. Amara, the SPD and the actual plan document conflicted.  The Court ruled in favor of Cigna, but the case set a strong reminder to employers to verify the content of plan summaries and plan communications against the plan document before sending to participants.  It is also advisable not to change your plan terms without carefully considering the changes to the plan documents that will need to be made.  Additionally, consulting legal counsel may be a good idea.

More information can be found at the following websites:

DOL – Summary Plan Description

IRS – Summary Plan Description

 Cigna v. Amara

 

 

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October 25, 2011

The Secret Weapon in Your HR Arsenal

Filed under: Compliance,Employment Law,HRN News — Tags: , — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 6:30 am

ADA, Title VII, ERISA, FMLA… One thing is certain in HR: as soon as you have a handle on the latest laws and best practices, something changes.  How do you manage these changes?  You can’t afford to let anything slip through the cracks (not to mention the cost of a potential lawsuit).

Enter HR Suite, your organization’s complete solution for compliance.  HR Suite is a customizable policy manual and employee handbook that employees will actually read and understand.  HR Suite includes a library of over 200 forms and information-packed articles that empower you and offer support for the decisions you have to make every day.  HR Suite is a ticket to a subscriber-only monthly newsletter.

We continually monitor changes in employment law and HR best practices and deliver these changes to our subscribers on a semi-annual basis.  When we see an issue quickly moving to the forefront, we provide ad hoc updates as well.  The latest semi-annual update of HR Suite included changes in several major policies and the addition of new forms.

Highlights of the 2011 Semi-Annual Update

  • ADAAA compliance – reasonable accommodations
  • GINA compliance – medical conditions and privacy of health information
  • NLRB ruling – communication, computer use, confidentiality, conflicts of interest policies to comply with recent changes
  • Safe vehicle operation – changed to address distracted driving concerns
  • Social networking policies

HR Suite is a simple, customizable, cost-effective solution to your business needs.  You can explore an online demo by going to and click the link for HR Suite.  At a cost of $595 for the first year, HR Suite is one of the best values around.  Through December 31, 2011, you can receive a 10% savings on the cost!  To receive more information and claim your discount, you must mention this promotion when you contact us.

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October 24, 2011

It’s Opening Season!

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 10:15 am

Where I live, pheasant hunting is a big thing.  Many businesses thrive on the annual treks of the many city dwellers that travel to the country for their weekend experience.  As opening season approaches, we start seeing and hearing more about these destinations, many of which were nonexistent a few years ago.

Our “open season” for benefits enrollment is also about to begin.  Do you have a clear plan on how your employees will “see” or “hear” about your benefits?  Here are a few tips you may want to consider:

1)       Begin communication early.  Even if you don’t have the exact details of your new benefit plan, start communicating the dates of open enrollment.  Many times employees may need to consider their plan and a spouse’s plan, so it is helpful to know so they can plan accordingly.

2)      Keep communication pieces simple and easy to understand.  No one likes to muddle through insurance lingo to try to figure out what is covered or not covered.  Design a benefit summary, listing the basics.  Specific questions can be addressed through detailed insurance information provided by the vendor.

3)      Communicate in a variety of ways.  Some employees need something on paper, others prefer electronic communication, and still others may want to receive something in the mail.  Take a look at your employee population to determine the best ways to get information to them.

4)      Open your enrollment meetings up to spouses.  Sometimes it’s not the employee that makes the decisions regarding benefits, but may be the spouse.  Invite the spouses to your meetings so they can hear firsthand what options are available. Additionally, consider conducting a meeting after work hours so spouses can easily attend.

5)      Stay positive.  In these times of increasing benefit costs, it’s sometimes difficult to stay positive amidst annual increases.  Help employees understand the monetary contribution your company makes to their benefit plans, and educate them on ways they can save money (i.e., reduce emergency room visits, utilize generic prescriptions, contribute to flexible savings accounts, etc.).

6)      Conduct a benefits fair.  This is a great way to get employees involved and understand more about your benefit offerings.  Vendors are usually eager to assist and provide drawings for prizes and it can serve as a kick-off to your open enrollment period, along with promoting wellness initiatives.

Hopefully these tips will provide some ideas to get your “open season” off to a great start as employees make their benefit decisions.

 

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October 21, 2011

HR Fact Friday: NLRB Posting Deadline Delayed

Filed under: Employment Law,Unions/NLRB — Tags: , — Paul Hendrycks, VP Sales and Marketing @ 10:46 am

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently imposed a new requirement that employers post a notice to employees informing them of their rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  The new NLRB requirement was supposed to take effect as of November 14, 2011.  However, the NLRB now has delayed this deadline until January 31, 2012.  The NLRB has said that more time is needed to educate employers about the requirement.  Here is the NLRB’s press release: https://www.nlrb.gov/news/posting-employee-rights-notice-now-required-jan-31-board-postpones-deadline-allow-further-educa 

If you want more information, follow this link to the NLRB’s FAQ on this new posting requirement: https://www.nlrb.gov/faq/poster  A copy of the new poster is available here: https://www.nlrb.gov/poster and here: https://www.nlrb.gov/sites/default/files/documents/1562/employee_rights_fnl.pdf

 

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October 20, 2011

4 Reasons Why You Should Care About Social Media

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 6:30 am

At first, I will admit Facebook was little more than a site I could visit to pretend I had any skill in virtual bowling.  Over the years, though, I have reconnected with old friends, shared photos with long-distance family, and sent many wishes of congratulations for engagements, weddings, birthdays and sweet new babies.  Facebook has also become one of the major sources for me to get information that will further my professional development (and, let’s face it, keep me up-to-date on all the celebrity gossip I can stand).

So, what are the four reasons you should care about social media? It’s a simple answer: Facebook, Twitter, Google, and LinkedIn.  The big four have become major platforms in sharing information and connecting people.  Initially only open by invitation, last month Google opened its social network, , up to the public to join.  Just this week, LinkedIn announced its new talent pipeline management tool.  Here at HRN, we recently created a Facebook page and began tweeting updates to Twitter.  As of this writing, 482 people “like” us, and 72 follow us on Twitter.  But what does that mean, really?

Just when I think I have an understanding of social media, the virtual world is turned upside down with something new.  GSG World Media is publishing four new monthly magazines advising business owners in the effective use of social media tools.  These magazines will focus on one of the major platforms: Twitter, Google, LinkedIn, and Facebook.  They will be available exclusively at Office Depot stores for $7.95 each.

Publishing a print magazine that will advise business owners on using social media?  That sounds more than a little contradictory to me.  The magazines publishers believe offering the magazine in print is an opportunity to reach some business owners who want to learn more about the digital world before embracing it completely.

For those more frugally-minded, the four magazines will also be available free from socialmediamags.com.  Distribution partner Office Depot is sponsoring this site.  Once you subscribe, you will receive each of these magazines in digital format.  The cover stories are clever: The Big G & Business (Google) cover reads “What Keeps Zuckerberg Up at Night?”

I decided to subscribe to the digital edition.  If you pick up a copy at Office Depot, let me know if I’m missing out on something.  For now, I’ll save my $7.95.

How has social media changed the way you are doing business?

NY Times Media Decoder Blog: A Print Focus on Social Media

Follow us on Twitter – and be the first to see new blogs and the latest news.

Like us on Facebook – all the cool kids are doing it!

Connect with us on LinkedIn

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October 19, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym – Do you hire for EI?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Joyce Marsh, HR Consultant, SPHR @ 6:00 am

Over the years, I have had quite a bit of experience interviewing candidates for various jobs.  My experience goes way back to the days of paper applications to the current methods of behavioral interviewing and applying on-line.  As anyone who has been an interviewer, I have a vast number of interesting interview stories…but I’ll save those for another blog!

However, whether interviewing years ago or now, I always believed it was important to find the right fit for the job and look not only at the applicant’s GPA, but the emotional intelligence quotient (EIQ).  Whether this philosophy is right or wrong is based on personal opinion or experience, but it seemed that EIQ is a better predictor of success than relying solely on “book knowledge.”

Recently CareerBuilder conducted a survey asking over 2,600 hiring managers and human resource professionals what their thoughts are on emotional intelligence.  Based on their survey results – conducted from May 19 to June 8, 2011 – seventy-one percent said they value emotional intelligence (EI) in an employee more than IQ.  The survey results seem to reveal that EI a critical characteristic for landing a job and advancing one’s career.  When asked why emotional intelligence is more important than high IQ, some responses were:

  • Employees (with high EI) are more likely to stay calm under pressure
  • Employees know how to resolve conflict effectively
  • Employees lead by example

Perhaps the competitive job market is allowing hiring managers to look more closely at some of the intangible qualities that may pay dividends down the road.  To read more information about this survey, please click here.

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