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November 10, 2011

Increasing ROI by Making the Pledge: Think Beyond the Label

Placing high value on diversity in the workplace is an undeniable best practice in any company.  Most businesses know that tax credits exist – both federal and state – for companies who hire people with disabilities.  Until recently, however, it was a challenge to determine the monetary value of those tax incentives.  An online resource, called Hire Gauge, was launched in September in an effort to show the true incentive in hiring people with disabilities.

Think Beyond the Label is a public-private partnership that advocates to increase employment for people with disabilities.  Users launch the free tool from their site and input their state and basic company information.  Based on answers to a short questionnaire, businesses can quickly see the aggregate tax credits and incentives they could receive for each new hire with a disability.

Consider this example company with more than 30 employees in the California IT industry (more than $1 million in revenue annually): Federal Worker Opportunities Credit, Architectural Barrier Removal Tax Deduction, savings of hiring through a vocational rehabilitation program, and credit for hiring a veteran with a service-connected disability (VA reimbursement).  The company is eligible for about $49,300 in total savings.  That figure is almost enough to pay the employee’s first year salary ($60,000).  If you”re concerned about the cost of making accommodations, research shows you shouldn”t be.  Over half of all accommodations cost less than $500 to implement, and most are no-cost.

When the questionnaire is completed, you can share your results on Twitter, Facebook, or by email to spread the word.  There are also informative state-specific links for more information.  The biggest benefit to this resource is seeing all of the numbers added up together.  Users can also find resources such as best practices for sourcing qualified workers and a tax incentives tip sheet.

Join me, and make the pledge to think beyond the label.



November 9, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym – MHPA and MHPAEA

Filed under: General HR Buzz10:54 am

In the workplace, absences and illnesses related to mental health have increased significantly.  Depression-related absenteeism and low productivity cost American employers an estimated $44 billion a year.  Further, depressive disorders amount to more than half of medical plan dollars spent for health problems.  And with the holidays around the corner, absences related to mental health typically increase.

Which brings us to our first acronym – MHPA.  The Mental Health Parity Act (MHPA) of 1996 requires that annual or lifetime dollar limits on mental health benefits be no lower than the limits for medical and surgical benefits offered by a group health plan.  Employers could still have discretion in the scope and extent of the mental health benefits they offer workers and their families, such as number of visits and cost sharing.

Now enters the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA) of 2008, which continues and expands the MHPA.  MHPAEA continued the MHPA parity rules as to limits for mental health benefits and amended them to extend to substance use disorder benefits.   This new law also requires that financial requirements (such as premiums and co-payments) and treatment limitations (such as number of doctor visits or out of network visits) are no more restrictive than those applied to medical and surgical benefits covered by the plan.  There are some limitations for application of these acts, depending on group size and other factors.

As you review your health insurance policy and renewal information, which sometimes is quite complicated, you may now be able to identify and understand more about these two provisions.  For more information, please check out these fact sheets:



November 8, 2011

Bonus Weekly Acronym: ROWE

If you are one of our regular blog readers, you know what to expect on Wednesday: Joyce’s Weekly Wednesday Acronym.   This week, I want to share an additional acronym that is gaining quite a bit of press lately – ROWE.

ROWE stands for Results-Only Work Environment.  ROWE is the brainchild of Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, authors of Why Work Sucks And How to Fix It.  Simply put, in a ROWE organization, employees can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as their work gets done.

Workplace flexibility, telecommuting, and work/life balance are all terms we have heard before.  If you have implemented any elements into your company to increase flexibility, you have probably also heard complaints from other employees.  “There goes Joe again, leaving to pick up his kids.”  “It must be nice to telecommute – we all know Mary doesn’t do any actual WORK on those days!”

ROWE is different because employees are evaluated based on the results they achieve.  In a SHRM webinar I recently attended on the subject, the question was posed: “ Are there some jobs ROWE wouldn’t work for?”  The authors argue a better question is “Are there some jobs that AREN’T based on results?”

If you still think there is no way ROWE could work for your organization, consider this: ROWE was created while the authors were working for Best Buy.  Yes, one of the largest retailers implemented ROWE several years ago.  In that time, revenue has more than doubled and their employee count has remained steady.  Other retailers who have embraced ROWE include Gap and Banana Republic.

To get more information about ROWE, go to  You’ll find information about the book as well as free resources that are available to help you consider “Going ROWE.”


November 7, 2011

Earthquakes and Other Unexpected Events

This past Saturday night I experienced a natural phenomenon that was much unexpected, especially in the Midwest.  I experienced my first earthquake.  Technically, it was probably an aftershock of an earthquake, but whatever it was I felt my home shake and it was a freaky and uncomfortable encounter.  Living in Kansas, we know all about tornados.  We know what weather conditions to look for and we know where to go for safety taking our precious belongings and family members (including pets) to ride out the storm.  But I was unprepared to know what to do in the case of an earthquake.  I didn’t know whether to sit still, bracing myself for more shaking moments, or start grabbing things that might break or fall.

Many times in the world of human resources, unexpected events pop up.  Are we prepared to address and handle the harassment claim an employee brings to your attention?  Do we have policies in place regarding social media?  The very thing that makes human resources so appealing and exciting – “something new every day” – can also be quite daunting in terms of being prepared for most any situation.

As the end of the year draws near, it might be a good time to complete an HR audit.  By doing so, you may find gaps where you don’t have policies in place to address unexpected events.  Or you may find the laws have changed and items need to be updated.  There are many forms and tools available that walk you through the process, along with third-party resources that can provide an objective viewpoint.  In any case, it’s always better to address items on a proactive basis rather than reactive.  Because you never know when the next earthquake may hit.


November 4, 2011

HR Fact Friday: Restaurants and Sexual Harassment Claims

Filed under: Employment Law,Harrasment — Tags: , 9:22 am

Recent news stories have extensively detailed one of the current presidential candidate’s responses to sexual harassment allegations made against him when he worked at the National Restaurant Association a few years ago. These stories have triggered some related stories about possible problems of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry generally. One such news article suggests sexual harassment claims are fairly common in the restaurant industry, perhaps because, in the words of one expert, it’s a very collegial environment with a transient workforce, manager and employees often party together after work, and the industry is said to be very male dominated.   Click here for more on the story.

Indeed, a restaurant chain in North Dakota recently paid $1 million in settlements to 17 employees who alleged they had been the victim of sexual harassment while working.  Interestingly, this settlement required the employer to establish and distribute a policy prohibiting the viewing and dissemination of computer pornography or sexually-explicit material.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has brought a number of lawsuits against restaurants.  Both the EEOC and the industry also have tried to address another possible reason for such claims, i.e. that many restaurant workers are quite young as referenced in this link.  Whatever the causes or reasons for all these claims, these news stories are a timely reminder that restaurant employers must be especially vigilant to ensure there is nothing hot and spicy being served up beyond the great food on the menu.

When sexual harassment (and other discrimination claims) arise, the best cure remains prompt remedial action.  This point was demonstrated again by a recent ruling from the federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.  In this federal case, an administrative assistant accused a retired Kansas judge of sexual harassment. The court dismissed the claim because the state had in place a policy, distributed to all employees, that told them how to complain about problems and that required a prompt review/resolution of complaints.  In this case, the employer found the claim meritless, but in other cases courts also have declined to hold employers liable for misbehavior that the employer corrected as soon as it learned about it.

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November 3, 2011

Could Employees Tell You Why They Matter?

Filed under: Communication,General HR Buzz,Management Practices — Tags: 9:34 am

My first “real” job – aside from babysitting and a stint working at the movie theater (I still shudder at the thought of cleaning the popcorn popper!) – was at a bank.  As with most young women starting out in banking, I was a teller.  I had one of those bosses who had a genuine passion for his work.  He had started out as a teller as well, and had progressed to branch manager over the years.  He was a father of four, which undoubtedly accounted for his patience with a group of young employees.

Andy listened to what we had to say during our staff meetings, and integrated our ideas into plans to make the branch better for our customers.  When it came to a misunderstanding or issue with a customer, Andy always stood up for us because he knew we were doing what we were supposed to do.  He told us often how every part of our job contributed to the success of the branch.

I thought of him today when I read Patty Azarello’s blog via TLNT. She gives an example from a leadership book she read about a young man who believed his job replacing pens and deposit slips didn’t matter.  She discussed a perennially-popular topic in HR: motivation.  She suggests three keys to successful motivation:

  1. “Every job matters.”  As a leader, you need to understand every job in the organization, and how that job connects to the big picture.
  2. “Make sure each employee knows why their job matters.”  She writes of making time with employees to connect the dots.  It is not generally apparent to a frontline employee how their job affects the business, so you have to do that for them.
  3. “Employees who know why their work matters do a better job.”  When someone knows why what they do for a company makes a difference, they can be empowered to do more.

“Helping everyone understand how the P&L works and if their job is part of the P or the L, and how their job impacts the profit, makes a big difference not only to morale, but to cost reduction, creative thinking, and innovation.”

Andy made sure that the employees he worked with knew that they mattered.  What can you do today to connect the dots for your employees?

Read Patty’s blog and share your thoughts on employee motivation with us.


November 2, 2011

Weekly Wednesday Acronym – Do You Have a BYOD Policy?

Surprisingly, this is an acronym for the workplace and no, it’s not “Bring Your Own Drink”.  BYOD stands for “Bring Your Own Device”.  With the smartphone revolution over the past three years, more and more personal smartphones are being used for work with the lines blurring between personal and work use of mobile devices.

Why are employees bringing their own mobile devices to work?  For many, it is because they are not happy with the functionality of employer-provided mobile devices.  For others, it may be that they just simply prefer using their own.

Whatever the reason, employers need to review their employee communications use policy.  The primary issue raised by business use of personal mobile devices and use of social media is the “privacy gap”.  The employee and employer expectations need to be defined as to what should be private and who should control use of communications.

The usage policies should address the following items:

  • What is acceptable within your company culture in terms of reasonable expectations of privacy?
  • What access does the employer have to retrieve data, such as work-related emails?
  • Will you reimburse for work-related use of personal mobile devices?  Determine the reimbursement policy, if any.
  • What are the system requirements?  In order to be compatible with company requirements, connectivity and data security standards by the employer should be established.
  • What if the device is lost or stolen?  Determine what will happen with the contents of the mobile device if this should happen.

Managers and employees should receive regularly training on the policy, which should be revisited at least annually.  Because, as we know, technology changes frequently…and rapidly.

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