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December 31, 2012

Ending Things Right

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

“Everything has a beginning and an ending.”  I”m sure that is a phrase you are familiar with.  Approximately 365 days ago, we began the year 2012 and now it is coming to an end.  Something I also tag along to the common phrase of “everything has a beginning and an ending” is “…it”s important to end it right.”  Whether that be the ending as an officer of an organization, ending of a job, or ending your college education, I always believe it is important to end things right.  For me, that also applies to ending 2012 right.  Here are some of the things I am going to do to end 2012 right.

1)    Clean out my paper files.  I admit – I”m a saver.  In HR, that”s not such a bad thing.  However, I need to (first) catch up on my filing and then clean out my paper files, throwing out papers that are irrelevant or are duplicates.  Additionally, I am going to organize the files in a manner that other people can find information easily rather than having to interpret my filing system.

2)    Clean out my electronic files.   My electronic files have saved me much time in hunting for a paper copy; however, they need to be cleaned out also.  Microsoft Outlook has a great tool called ” Clean Up” that I love – that is a tool I run at least once a month.  I need to save any emails that are important to the correct source file, and place any electronic files that would be useful to other colleagues in our shared directory.  I also plan to organize these files in a way that I can find them easily, as well as others.

3)    Finish up pending items and projects.  I plan to tie up any loose ends on any pending projects or items which need my attention.  For those items that require more time or additional research and planning, I will be blocking time on my calendar for early 2013 so I have a plan to get them completed.  I will also send updates to others who are involved with projects I am working on so they have a status update going into 2013.

4)   Plan for 2013.  Part of ending 2012 right, is starting 2013 out right.  You know those people you run into and you say “we need to do lunch”?  I plan to assign a month for each of those individuals and call them that month for a lunch date.  I will post my goals for 2013 on my bulletin board and schedule a monthly appointment to review them with my manager to make sure I am on the right track and on target to get them completed for the year.

5)   Right any wrongs.  Things happen during the year.  People may misinterpret actions or intentions, or communication may not have occurred that should have.  I plan to correct those, also recommitting myself to our team’s mission and company’s mission.  It’s important to stop and reflect, but also put things behind you and move ahead with a sense of renewal.

I plan to end 2012 with a sense of accomplishment regarding what I have done and carrying that forward along with a positive attitude for 2013.  It’s all about ending 2012 right…and starting the new year right.


December 28, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Top 5 HR Predictions for 2013

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

As my final HR Fact Friday post of 2012 I am putting on my soothsayer hat to predict the top 5 HR news items of 2013.

  1. Fiscal cliff worries will be averted and the stock market stabilized by a  last minute agreement to ‘do nothing and delay a real decision’.  Bush era tax cuts will remain in effect for 1 additional year for all employees making less than $10 bazillion. Democrats and Republicans will parry back and forth between “look what we did!” and, “so what, it would have been better if our guy was elected.
  2. The unemployment rate will improve modestly to a national average of around 7.2%. Democrats and Republicans will parry back and forth between “look what we did!” and, “so what, it would have been better if our guy was elected.”
  3. Salary merit increases will average a modest 2.8%. A bit lower than the 3.0% projection. Democrats and Republicans will parry back and forth between “look what we did!” and, “so what, it would have been better if our guy was elected.”
  4.  When there is no more “big data” to integrate and all HR and business systems are connected, somebody will actually say, “Huh, cloud and social media technology is cool but what about the content?” Many others will pick up the mantra and there will be a much deeper scrutiny on the actual tools and what business objectives they accomplish. Democrats and Republicans will parry back and forth between “look what we did!” and, “so what, it would have been better if our guy was elected.”
  5.  A new concept in organizational achievement and employee engagement will experience a cautious but consistent resurgence in 2013. It is called, conversation. Baby boomers may recall this practice. It was very popular and wildly successful prior to Y2K. One-on-one voice communication will be the new trend and gain in popularity relegating ‘smart’ communication devices as handy, but unfulfilling. Democrats and Republicans will parry back and forth between “look what we did!” and, “so what, it would have been better if our guy was elected.

From all of us at HRN, and no matter what 2013 holds in store, we wish you much success in the new year.  One sure bet prediction you can count on in 2013 from HRN is timely and well researched HR news and legal update content, exciting new product upgrades and launches, continuing excellence in client services and customer support, and advice and direction from some of the best HR consultants in the marketplace.

Thank you for a great 2012 and we look forward to working with you in 2013!


December 26, 2012

Can Direct Deposit Be Required of Employees?

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

Direct deposit popularity has grown over the years.  The simplicity of being paid by another party that results in an automatic deposit to the financial institution account of your choice has a certain appeal.  No waiting in lines, no misplacing your paycheck, no missing the closing time, no paper to hassle with . . . there are just so many perks!  From the employer’s standpoint, it is even more attractive, so much so that many wonder if they can require direct deposit.

The answer is not black and white in the Fair Labor Standards Act.  However, 29 CFR § 531.27 requires payment “of the prescribed wages, including overtime compensation, in cash or negotiable instrument payable at par.”  While somewhat helpful, it doesn’t exactly answer the question clearly.  The website  cited the Field Operations Handbook of the U.S. Department of Labor, Section 30c00(b) stating:  “The payment of wages through direct deposit into an employee’s bank account is an acceptable method of payment, provided employees have the option of receiving payment by cash or check directly from the employer.  As an alternative, the employer may make arrangements for employees to cash a check drawn against the employer’s payroll deposit account, if it is at a place convenient to their employment and without charge to them.”

This shows the DOL’s stance on direct deposit, but says the option to be paid in cash or by check must remain open.  Wage & Hour Insights referenced the Society for Human Resource Management’s comprehensive compilation of wage payments and direct deposit laws by state.  Click here to see your state laws.


December 21, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Retaliation or Poor Performance

Filed under: Performance Management10:28 am

A director for student financial aid at a Texas university complained to an outside auditor about nonexempt workers being deprived of their comp time and/or vacation time and offered a range of other concerns. She was fired after making these complaints, which she believed was retaliation. However as you will read, a well documented performance review was a key piece of evidence in the ensuing litigation which; in part ended up carrying the day for the employer.

What happened. “Samantha” spent 17 years in financial aid at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi before heading up the office of financial aid and scholarships at Texas A&M University–Commerce, or TAMUC, in March of 2006. When an outside auditor visited for an annual review in November 2008, she asked whether Samantha had any concerns, which opened the floodgates.

In part, Samantha had a problem with TAMUC’s policy of awarding comp time rather than overtime to nonexempt employees (a practice that’s permitted to public employers) but requiring them to use it all before using their paid vacation, which expired at the end of every year. Other concerns included an alleged failure to “draw down” allotted federal funds and prepare monthly reconciliations for them.

The auditor duly reported all issues up the chain of command, including TAMUC’s president. At no time, however, did either Samantha or the auditor state that the comp time issue violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), a claim Samantha later made in court.

She received a positive evaluation and a raise in May 2009. But in September, she was counseled to create a training manual and to spend more time with other subordinates rather than only with her favorite one. In early December, one of the subordinates who complained she’d been shunned also charged that department members were still not being trained and that Samantha tended to “lash out” at people. Management decided to fire her, and she sued.

She charged violation of FLSA and of the Texas Whistleblower Act, claiming that managers had treated her very coldly after her complaints to the outside auditor. A judge in federal district court ruled entirely in TAMUC’s favor, and Samantha appealed to the 5th Circuit, which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas.

What the court said. Because Samantha was simply doing her job by reporting her concerns to the auditor, appellate judges agreed that she had not blown any whistles and that the university had not retaliated against her. Lasater v. TAMUC, U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, No. 11-11068 (2012).

Point to remember: To judges, Samantha’s positive evaluation and raise didn’t look at all like retaliation.



December 19, 2012

Domestic Violence – What Every Employer Needs to Know

Filed under: Legal Issues — Tags: 6:00 am

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence states that 85% of domestic violence victims are women; one in every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime; and most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.

It is extremely evident from these figures that domestic violence merits our attention.  It very likely affects someone you know, are related to, or work with, which is why the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued guidance on domestic violence, entitled:  Questions and Answers:  The Application of Title VII and the ADA to Applicants or Employees Who Experience Domestic or Dating Violence, Sexual Assault, or Stalking.  It states, “Because these federal EEO laws do not prohibit discrimination against applicants or employees who experience domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking as such, potential employment discrimination and retaliation against these individuals may be overlooked.”  Click here for the full text of the EEOC Q & A.

The EEOC cited examples to illustrate the gravity of the potential for discrimination or retaliation.  An employee is terminated after the employer learns that she has been subjected to domestic violence, saying he fears the potential, “drama battered women bring to the workplace.” And, a hiring manager that believes only women are victims of domestic violence doesn’t select a male applicant when he comes to know of the applicant’s filing of a restraining order against a male domestic partner, since men should be able to protect themselves.  Both of these are examples of discrimination based on sex.

Employers need to have solid anti-harassment and discrimination policies in place, so employees are well-informed of the process for complaint and reporting should this type of behavior occur in the workplace, and unfortunately, it does.    The EEOC encourages employers to use the cited examples for training tools with their employees.

Though the Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal law, employers should also check their state laws with regard to Family and Medical Leave for victims of crime or domestic violence.  According to these state laws have taken into consideration that victims of crime or domestic violence will need to appear in court, possibly testify in court proceedings, or obtain protective orders.  State laws also cover leave needed for a close family member or guardian to accompany the subject of the crime and to provide assistance to them.

Employers need to tread lightly with this subject when helping individual employees whom they suspect are affected by domestic violence.  Some may be in denial and are ashamed, while others fear retaliation from the party subjecting them to the violence if they seek help.  Wisely employers should consult legal counsel should they encounter this circumstance in their organization for the safety of all their employees.

For assistance with your policy development and creation, visit


December 18, 2012

I Think I’ll Take the Intern Position

Filed under: General HR Buzz3:11 pm

My son will be going to college in the next couple of years, so we have begun the visits to prospective schools.  His plan – at the moment – is to major in business.  I’m learning that a lot of things have changed since I was in business school.  Obviously, there aren’t any more DOS commands, electric typewriters, or computer punch cards for those programming classes.

However, it’s not only the advances in technology I’m impressed with but I’m excited with the level of career planning that occurs during the college years.  The norm and expectation seems to be that every student will complete some type of internship during their college years, beginning as early as their sophomore year.  What a great way to explore the “real world” before finishing your field of study and reinforcing it’s what you want to be when you grow up.

The other surprise I found was that the students should expect to get paid for these internships.  Yes, actual money that could be used to reduce the balance due of the student loans upon graduation!  Back in my day, we would have volunteered to work at a company, let alone get paid for doing so, just to be able to put the experience on a resume.   It sure brought me delight to think that the experience could be on the resume as a “paid” job, rather than a “volunteer” opportunity.

Apparently, this is the case for quite a few companies, including some of the most admired companies that one might wish to work for.  According to career site, software engineer interns come in with the highest paid internships averaging anywhere from $51,576 to $78,096 including companies such as IBM Research, Intel Corporation, Apple, Facebook, and Exxon Mobil.  For internships in other fields, going rates generally range from $15.00 to $20.00 an hour, which still beats the volunteer experience.

In any case, I’m glad to see that career planning and internships are areas that have progressed in the years since my college days.  And at the rates quoted by Glassdoor, I may have a change in my career and decide I want to be an intern
when I grow up!


December 14, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Holiday Bonuses and FLSA

Filed under: Salaries & Pay — Tags: , 6:00 am

It’s that time of year…chestnuts roasting, festive decorations and holiday or year-end bonuses. Of course, that means it is also that time of year for employers to remember that bonuses must be counted as part of the compensation on which nonexempt employees are paid overtime. This is required by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), unless the bonuses are completely discretionary both in terms of amount and whether they will be given at all. Thus, for example, a bonus based on productivity that is determined by the employee’s action in meeting set goals must be rolled into the employee’s total compensation on which overtime is paid. In contrast, a holiday bonus paid at management’s discretion alone with the amount also left to management discretion need not be included as part of employee compensation when determining overtime pay. Keep this in mind, lest your holiday “Ho-Ho-Ho” is drowned out by an unwanted visit from the “D-O-L”.


December 12, 2012

Doing What’s Right Isn’t Always Easy

Filed under: Discipline & Termination6:00 am

One of the television shows I enjoy watching is ABC’s, “What Would YOU Do?”  It places people in real-life situations that create ethical and moral dilemmas.  Even though these scenarios are staged with actors, the individuals witnessing their unethical and most times shocking behavior, usually in a restaurant, bar, café, or on the street, are not actors.  The scene plays out and there is usually at least one person who stands up for what is right, while many others simply watch and are unmoved to act on behalf of the actor playing the “victim.”  I can’t help but ask myself, “What would I do?” if I were in that situation.

You may be wondering what this has to do with HR, but while reading some of the latest cases settled by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, I realized that ethical and moral dilemmas are faced by employees every day.  What should they do?  What will they do?

One such case was a race harassment lawsuit.  An African-American driver was being targeted by his dispatcher with racially offensive comments and epithets.    Others witnessed this ongoing discrimination and harassment.  One, yes, one white co-worker complained to management.  Management did not listen and act, thus, the lawsuit (EEOC v. Sutter Transfer Service, Inc., Civ. No. 2-11-CV-02569).  Both the driver and his co-worker were awarded a total of $30,000 to settle the case.

Another such case was that of a national origin discrimination suit where a hostile environment was created when Hispanic employees were subjected to derogatory name-calling, ridicule and demeaning slurs.  Even supervisors joined in and made “harsh admonitions to bilingual employees about use of their Spanish language on the job,” so states the EEOC’s press release.  Again, what caught my attention in this case (EEOC Case No. 3:11-cv-02581) against DHL Global Forwarding, was that one, yes, one non-Hispanic employee was “allegedly fired for a brief time after he reported the treatment of Hispanic employees.”

Both of these cases are wonderful demonstrations of courage on the part of the employees who reported their co-workers misery.  Harassment and discrimination are not things of the past.  We have not yet grown up because we still see the same child-like behaviors every day.  Employers are challenged to make important decisions about how they will address these issues in the workplace and what kind of policies they will have to help deter this kind of destructive behavior.  And, lastly, each one of us really needs to ask ourselves, “What would I do?”

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December 10, 2012

So Much Wasted Time

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

A recent survey of CFO’s conducted by Robert Half International indicated that, on average, supervisors spend 17% of their time overseeing poorly performing employees.  This statistic sparked my interest, so I researched the survey further.  It turns out that not only do the poor performers waste supervisors’ time, but more than 1/3 of employees say they affect the morale of their team (in a negative way obviously).

The chairman and CEO of Robert Half International, Max Messmer, was quoted stating that “underperforming employees also require significant attention from employers, distracting managers from business-critical initiatives and causing other team members to pick up the slack.”

If you do the math, that leaves a balance of 83% of time for supervisors.  It would be nice to think that the remaining time is spent managing high performers, but in reality I’m afraid that probably isn’t the case.  That 83% of remaining time is most likely gobbled up by day-to-day operations, meetings, conference calls, and working on projects.

In contrast, I would like to see a survey asking “How much time do you spend managing high performers?”  I’m afraid the percentage may come in less than the 17% indicated for poor performers.  You may argue that high performers don’t require as much time to manage, but just think what would happen if an equal percentage of time was spent devoted to high performers.  Just as the poor performers affect the morale of the team, the morale of the team could be affected in a positive way if the attention was on high performers.  The end result could be a tremendous motivation for the high performers.

Obviously, we can’t let the poor performers continue down a destructive path.  Maybe it all started with a bad hire or perhaps they just aren’t a good fit for the job.  Those situations still need to be addressed.  However, I challenge each of us to focus at least the same percentage of our time and attention on those we consider to be high performers, and continue to strengthen our organization through those individuals.


December 7, 2012

HR Fact Friday: Jobless rate at 7.7%; 146,000 jobs added

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs11:01 am

Employers added a better-than-expected 146,000 jobs in November, providing further evidence of an economy that continues to show resilience despite Superstorm Sandy and budget battles in Washington.

The unemployment rate fell to a four-year low of 7.7% from 7.9% as 350,000 Americans left the labor force, which includes people working and looking for work, the Labor Department said.

Businesses added 147,000 workers, while state, local and federal governments cut 1,000. Retailers, professional and business services and leisure and hospitality led the job gains.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics said the storm “did not substantively impact” employment in the Northeast.  The government revised down job gains for September and October by a total 49,000. September’s additions were revised from 148,000 to 132,000 and October’s, from 171,000 to 138,000.

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