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October 18, 2011

Proposed Amendment: FMLA Coverage For Domestic Violence Victims

Filed under: Employment Law,FMLA — Tags: 6:30 am

Tragically, domestic violence is far-reaching and affects so many that it is unlikely any of us could say we have not been touched by it – either directly or someone we know.  In recognition of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) reintroduced the Domestic Violence Leave Act (H.R. 3151), which would expand the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to include victims of domestic violence.

According to the Safe@Work Coalition:

  • 96% of domestic violence victims who are employed have experienced problems at work resulting from the abuse or the abuser directly.
  • Among women, 50-85% of those abused have missed work because of it; more than 60% reported being late to work.

Individuals who are attempting to recover from the effects of abuse could require medical attention, legal consultation, counseling, or other related activities that occur during their work hours.  Currently, FMLA allows employees to take unpaid leave for their own (or a family member’s) medical condition, but does not provide for the expanded needs of domestic violence victims and their families.  Several states currently have provisions that include domestic violence as part of their FMLA coverage.

Under the proposed bill, victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking – or the employee’s family member (including domestic partner, same-sex spouse, or adult children) – may use leave in a variety of ways.  Some examples include: medical attention for injuries; legal assistance; participating in support groups; and any other activity necessitated by the abuse.

Employers must keep all evidence of the abuse in strict confidence, except when necessary to protect the victim or family or assist with documentation of the abuse.  In the absence of third party documentation, a worker can meet FMLA’s certification requirements by providing a written statement.

“Our primary goal must be to stamp out domestic violence altogether.  But until then, we need to help those who need time off to deal with its effects,” said Rep. Woolsey, a former human resources executive. “By providing this kind of workplace flexibility, we can create a healthy, supportive workplace environment that fosters a productive and successful business.”

Washington DC Employment Law Update Blog

Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey’s Press Release

HR News & Views: Proposed Amendment Would Expand FMLA Coverage to Grieving Parents


October 17, 2011

A Source for Compensation and Benefit Data (and it’s Free!)

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

Part of my Sunday ritual includes going through the newspaper and pulling out the fliers that have the coupons in them.  It seems we are all trying to cut costs, and when I can find a coupon for a product I already use I am pretty excited!  Although it may be just a few dollars in savings, it somehow helps me justify that Starbucks cup of coffee on Monday morning.

In the work world, I also try to put this frugality philosophy to use by registering early for conferences to get the “early bird” special rate or by renewing a subscription for two years (rather than one) to get a reduced rate.  I recently learned of another source for some free (and valid!) information!  If you are looking for additional data points to assist in analyzing your compensation and benefit costs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics may be a great resource.  Quarterly, they conduct a National Compensation Survey with the most recent data from June 2011 and the next release is due the end of October.

Some of the key tools in the compensation data include detailed average costs of wages and categories of benefits by industry, type of worker, geography, and size of employer.  Historical information in some data points goes back to December 2006.

Are you looking for information to compare your benefit plans?  The survey also includes the incidence of benefits offered to employees, a fact sheet on unmarried domestic partner benefits, and the average employer costs of retirement plans just to name a few.

It is recommended to utilize several statistical reliable and consistent survey sources when comparing your compensation and benefit plans.  Having additional survey data available in your hip pocket is always a good idea.  And when it’s free, it’s an even better idea.




October 14, 2011

HR Fact Friday: What Happened to Common Sense?

Being both an HR and sales/marketing professional I look carefully at emerging market trends. I figure if I’m doing my job properly I am working 30-60 days ahead of the sale to generate leads and have trained, motivated sales staff in place to give demos and provide information.  As a hiring and people manager I also know of the considerable investment in time and company resources that go into each and every new hire.   Consider the job posting, on-boarding and days of hands on orientation/training to bring on new staff and get them to a point of self-reliant productivity. It is a big investment that doesn’t have a lot of ROI on the front end; especially if the new employee is replacing a top performer who left because the grass was seemingly greener elsewhere.

So why do some employers disregard workplace conditions and employee morale and expect longer hours and greater commitment from workers during tough times and then don’t understand when a trained and experienced worker quits–I mean this is a bad economy, workers aren’t supposed to quit. Nobody is hiring, right?



October 13, 2011

Communicating Employee Benefits

Filed under: Benefits,Communication,General HR Buzz2:57 pm

Your company likely invests a great deal of time and effort in evaluating, implementing, and delivering employee benefits programs.  Your HR staff and benefits professionals must research the alternatives, determine what is best for the organization, and then communicate the value to the employees in a way that keeps everyone informed and satisfies the letter of the law.

Granted, summary plan descriptions are a good start, but reading one leaves me with the same feeling I have after reading the list of precautions that comes with a prescription antibiotic – do I really need this?

Employers need to evaluate whether they are truly communicating benefit information in a meaningful way – or, just checking the box.  Eric Parmenter, Vice President of Consulting for HighRoad, suggests the following, “Read some of the federal guidelines on health reform and you will see what not to do. SPDs are the primary source of information for plan participants. SPDs are not just conveying the information—it’s conveying information so the audience not only understands the topic, but also understands the impact on them.”

Eric also suggests that employees must take greater responsibility for knowing the details of their benefit plans.

Read  Eric’s five steps for better employee benefit communications here.



Shy Bladder Syndrome to Get Out of a Drug Test?

Filed under: ADA & Disability,EEO8:17 am

For as long as employers have required drug tests, there have been drug users who have tried to beat them, or avoid them all together.  Have you heard the excuse that the individual can’t urinate on cue?

Before you dismiss this person as a drug user trying to get out of taking the test, take note: in a response to a citizen’s letter, the EEOC indicated this situation could constitute a need for accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA).  The condition in question – Paruresis – is commonly known as Shy Bladder Syndrome.  A person afflicted with this anxiety disorder is unable to urinate in public places or in close proximity to others.

Under the ADA, an individual has a disability if a physical or mental impairment substantially limits one or more major life activities.  With the recent amendment, it is significantly easier for an individual to meet this standard.

There are certainly individuals who have Shy Bladder Syndrome.  There are also certainly individuals who would say they have it in order to get out of a urine drug test.  So, what can you do?

Jonathan Segal, who blogs for the Duane Morris Institute suggests establishing drug-testing policy that states when an individual is unable to provide a urine specimen for testing, he or she must undergo a hair specimen test as an alternative.

The big picture message here is to be aware as an employer of your responsibilities under the ADAAA.  The goal in the process is not to determine whether the employee has a disability; it is to have a dialog with the employee to accommodate their needs.

From an interview with Segal:

“Regardless of whether someone’s depression rises to the level of a disability, make a reasonable accommodation. It’s not the end of the world. A lot of times that’s good business, to try to help an employee without getting into an overly legalistic approach. It’s really important for employers to make it clear that they’re making the accommodation without making a determination of whether there’s a disability.”

For more, read Segal’s blog here and Don Tennant’s blog .  Also, read the “informal” letter from the EEOC here.


October 12, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym – Happy 95th Birthday FECA!

Filed under: Compensation,Compliance,General HR Buzz7:00 am

If you’re like me, FECA is an acronym I don’t run across very often.  Unless you’re a federal employer, you probably haven’t had much experience with FECA, which stands for the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act.  Enacted in 1916, FECA provides federal employees injured on-duty with workers’ compensation benefits, which include wage-loss benefits for total or partial disability, monetary benefits for permanent loss of use of a schedule member, medical benefits, and vocational rehabilitation.

Originally staffed by a three member Employees’ Compensation Commission and a $50,000 budget, the program has grown to provide medical benefits and compensation to more than a quarter million federal employees who have been injured at work. The Act also provides survivor benefits should a worker die due to an employment injury, and obligates employees receiving benefits to undergo medical evaluations and to seek and accept suitable work if they are able. The Labor Department took over administration of the program in 1950, where it is currently administered by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) – yet another acronym for a future blog!

Currently, approximately three million federal workers and postal workers around the world are beneficiaries of worker’s compensation payments through FECA as a result of employment-related injuries and occupational diseases.

For more information, please visit the website below.


October 11, 2011

FLSA in the Modern Workplace: is it Still Relevant?

Filed under: Compensation,FLSA7:59 am

“Good intentions can lead to unintended consequences,” said Tim Walberg (R-MI) in his opening remarks to the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections this summer. The subject: a hearing to discuss the pros and cons of changing the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). According to Walberg, lawsuits involving the classification of employees have skyrocketed from 1,500 in the mid-1990s to over 7,000 in 2010.

The FLSA was enacted toward the end of the Great Depression. While almost anyone would agree it was necessary legislation at the time, many would also argue the FLSA reflects the industrialized workplace of that era – not the modern workplace of the 21st Century. Technological advances, such as laptops and smartphones, have transformed the image of the workplace into any area a worker can get wireless service.

SHRM member Nobumichi Hara remarked that the FLSA “hinders employers’ ability to provide the flexibility that millions of nonexempt employees want.” Hara is senior vice president of human capital for Phoenix-based Goodwill Industries of Central Arizona. Other panel members included: Randy MacDonald, SVP of Human Resources with IBM; Richard Alfred, a partner with Seyfarth Shaw, LLP; Judy Conti, Federal Advocacy Coordinator with the National Employment Law Project. MacDonald pointed out that the Department of Labor has been sued for violations of the FLSA “in their own house.”

SHRM has also partnered with the Families and Work Institute and has been educating HR professionals about effective, flexible workplace practices.

References for further information:

SHRM’s Principles for a 21st Century Workplace Flexibility Policy

“The Fair Labor Standards Act: Is It Meeting the Needs of the Twenty-First Century Workplace?” View an archived webcast of the hearings.


October 10, 2011

Similarities Between a Half Marathon and a Marathon Work Project

Yesterday I ran my 2nd half marathon.  I have run off and on throughout my life, but officially became a “runner” when a good friend convinced me to join her running group over two years ago.  “It will be fun” she said, “and you’ll get to meet lots of great people.”  So that year, I ran my first marathon in San Francisco along with thousands of other women who may have been enticed by the Tiffany necklace you receive by a fire fighter (dressed in tuxedo) at the end of the marathon.  Did I meet lots of great people?  Yes.  Was it fun?  Yes, but not absent of some pain and struggles along the way.

For some reason, I continue to run, which also provides a lot of time to think.  And since I run slowly, I have more time to think than some of my fellow runners.  As I was running yesterday, I began to compare this experience to goal-driven situations in the workplace.  Each situation seems to be comprised of similar components:

1)      A plan – Whether training for a race or planning a project, each needs to have a plan with specific goals and objectives.  For my half marathon training, the plan was laid out for 18 weeks with daily objectives.  For my work projects, I have similar timelines set in place for daily, weekly, or monthly milestones.

2)      Follow the plan – It’s great to have a plan, but following it is when real discipline comes into place.  For my half marathon training plan, it is folded up in my purse so I can access it at any time.  But, because it wasn’t in front of me every day, I didn’t always complete my daily mileage as outlined.  For my work projects, the same is true.  I do best when I have my timeline posted in front of me in my office to continually remind me of the step(s) I need to take each day to reach the end result.

3)      Support and encouragement – There are days during my training when I didn’t feel like running.  That’s when having a running partner or running group helps.  I had fellow runners I could call or text to encourage me to complete my daily run.  The same is true with work projects.  If I am having a difficulty completing a task, I can take a break, talk to my manager or coworkers, and receive support and encouragement.

4)      Evaluation – Once the half marathon was complete, I thought about how I did.  In yesterday’s case, my time wasn’t as good as I would have liked.  What can I do differently next year to improve my time?  Perhaps I didn’t push myself enough on my long runs, or I didn’t eat the right foods during my training.  When I complete a work project, I also like to take time to evaluate.  What went right?  What lessons were learned?  By documenting the outcome of each step of the process, I can apply that to the next project I’m assigned to.

5)      Celebration – When I finished with the half marathon, celebration was in the air!  There was a band playing, food tents, massages being given, pictures being taken, and families and friends celebrating their accomplishments.  Do we do this in the workplace?  Probably not as good as we should.  It’s important to stop after a big project is completed and join together as a team to celebrate.

So yesterday I did accomplish my goal.  I received the medal I proudly wore around my neck for the remainder of the day.  I hope to use the lessons learned from this experience and apply them to other areas of my life.  After all, each represents an accomplishment.




October 7, 2011

HR Fact Friday: Random Thoughts from HR Technology Conference

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

Hi All! Having just returned from the HR Technology Conference and Expo this week in Las Vegas I have a few random thoughts to share.

1. Noticed the latest trend/fad of putting word “Social” in a growing number of product names and descriptions of services. Is betting your HR infrastructure on the fate and technology of Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin really a sound business strategy? Yes they are popular today but what about in 5 years? What will be next, and . . . where’s the content?

2. Speaking of content and as a marketer I believe one of the main differentiators that sets apart HRN services and solutions from our competitors is the content and expertise we bring to the table and have built into our solutions (at no small cost). At the expo I saw many impressive interface designs, demos,  flashy booths and T-shirts with catchy slogans but many of these tools require the client to put in all the data and create the content.

3. From the looks of the attendees walking the conference floor Gen Y has officially arrived and as a baby boomer I feel a bit long in the tooth. If your solutions and services are not resonating with this up and coming generation of workers and decision makers you may be missing the mark.

4. True talent management integration has a long way to go between the promise and the product. In a breakout session poll done by raising of hands over half of the audience expressed dissatisfaction with their current talent management provider and would consider moving to an alternate solution. In other words don’t overestimate client loyalty and don’t underestimate ease of use and ROI. Cool will only take it so far. And secondly there remains a significant gap between vendor claims of integrated solutions and the reality of what integration really means.

That’s all for now. HR remains an exciting, rewarding, and progressive profession. Talent management is now recognized as a business imperative and strategic advantage among companies of all sizes and industries. The one thing all employers have in common is that their most precious, valued, mercurial, expensive, and challenging resources is their people. Managing people effectively while saving our clients time and money is what HRN is all about and has been for 23 years.


October 6, 2011

What Steve Jobs Taught Us About Leadership

Last night, I found out – along with the rest of the world – Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, passed away.  I wasn’t watching television, or checking news sites on my computer.  More fitting, I saw the posting from a news application that I accessed on my iPhone.  Like most people my age, my first exposure to Mr. Jobs’ innovative and creative spirit came in the form of the Macintosh, the personal computer he created in the mid-80’s.

Steve Jobs has epitomized creativity and innovation for many of us.  Author of The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs and Forbes contributor Carmine Gallo (view the video here) presented seven lessons we can learn about leadership from Steve Jobs.

Do What You Love – “Do what you believe is great work.  The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking, and don’t settle.”

Put a Dent in the Universe – Jobs and Apple created a computer that everyday people would feel comfortable using: the Macintosh.  He changed the way we listen to music (iTunes) and the movies we watch (Pixar) as well.

Connect Things to Spark Your Creativity – After officially dropping out, Jobs studied calligraphy in college.  The course had no practical application, but he was passionate about it.  Ten years later, Apple created the first computer with beautiful fonts and typeface.

Say “No” to 1,000 Things – He was proud of what Apple did, but also of what it chose not to do.  Simplicity is the elimination of clutter.  (One button on the iPad; no keyboard on the iPhone.)

Create Insanely Different Experiences – He innovated the customer’s experience.  Apple stores have 17,000 visitors every week and make more money per square foot than most other retailers.

Master the Message – Jobs was a great “corporate storyteller.”  Think visually – there were often very few words on his presentation slides.  The audience will remember the message if it is connected to a picture, called “picture superiority.”

Sell Dreams, Not Products – When Apple was facing bankruptcy, he reduced the number of products they offered to better match core customers’ needs.  Jobs believed if you make their dreams come true, customers will buy your products.

In 2005, Jobs delivered the commencement address to graduates at Stanford University – 15 minutes of inspiration and a thought-provoking message:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” Steve Jobs

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