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September 27, 2013

HR Fact Friday: EEOC News Briefs

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

Recently, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been involved with several interesting news briefs. First, the EEOC has identified gender pay disparity as an issue on which it will focus in the coming year. An EEOC spokesperson noted that few claims allege pay disparity, but when the EEOC digs further in a gender discrimination charge, it commonly finds examples of it. Second, the EEOC is encouraging employers to participate in its mediation program, which the agency says resolved some ninety percent of the claims submitted to it during the past year. Finally, the EEOC has been ordered to pay almost $5 million in fees to the defendant in an employment case it filed and lost in Iowa federal court. The court found that the EEOC’s decision to pursue the claims in that matter was not reasonable.


September 25, 2013

Are Your Employees Living in a Fantasy World?

Filed under: General HR Buzz7:13 am

It’s fall, which means it’s time for football.  In particular, Fantasy Football!  While all team owners made their draft picks a few weeks back, the trading continues.  All this team management takes time, and we all know time is money!  Just how much time and how much money?  An outplacement firm, Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., pondered that thought.  They came up with what they termed, “a very rough, non-scientific, non-verifiable estimate.”  Using their mathematics genius, they calculated that if workers (22.3 million of them) spent one hour per week during a 15-week season, the cost to employers could be just under $6.5 billion.

That is a staggering figure for a little bit of fun!  (Ok, a lot of fun!)  What is an employer to do?  They could create a policy that puts the kibosh on any non-work related activities involving internet use at work, but with the prevalence of personal devices, can they really monitor that?  Do they really want to monitor that?  Here is where you might want to think twice before doing anything so drastic.

Challenger said, “Companies that not only allow workers to indulge in fantasy football, but actually encourage it by organizing a company league[s] are likely to see significant benefits in morale as well as productivity.”  Yes, you heard that right – significant benefits to morale and productivity!  Employers work so hard all year to keep workers happy and productivity high that this just seems too easy.

Think for just a moment what it can do for your company.  Your employees will talk to each other.  They will collaborate on player trades.  They will laugh together, building a camaraderie.  They will find a common ground as fantasy football fans.  Even taking a short break from their workload to manage their teams can be refreshing and serve as a ‘reset’ button for their productive and creative minds.  “I’m running a business,” you might say.  Yes, you are, and my advice would be that if the individual performance and productivity is not suffering, it is not illegal, nor immoral, then before you throw a flag on the play, you may want to let them have their fun!


September 23, 2013

HRN First Time Exhibitor at NAMIC 2013

Filed under: HRN News — Tags: 5:54 pm

Representatives from HRN Performance Solutions are exhibiting at the 118th annual National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) convention taking place Sept. 22-25 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle, WA. Visit us at booth 336, meet with HRN staff and learn about our HR services and solutions. For more information about NAMIC and the conference visit


September 20, 2013

HR Fact Friday: E-Cigarettes at Work

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

You’ve seen the late night commercials and magazine ads for e-cigarettes. What are they? Wikipedia says an e-cigarette “is an electronic inhaler meant to simulate and substitute for tobacco smoking… [utilizing] a heating element that vaporizes a liquid solution. Some release nicotine, while some merely release flavored vapor. They are often designed to mimic traditional smoking implements, such as cigarettes or cigars, in their use and/or appearance.”

Can a private employer ban the same at work? Certainly, but you should give clear notice of your rule and have a good business reason for doing so rather than using it as code for getting rid of someone you do not like for other reasons (e.g. religious status). Note also that some states preclude a business from using legal outside-the-job conduct (such as e-smoking) as the basis for employment decisions.


September 18, 2013

Are You Recording Me?

Filed under: Title VII12:07 pm

Oh, Technology!  It is forever on the move, constantly evolving into the next generation of devices with more bells and whistles than the last.  Is your company ready for the next tech creation?  We have so many capabilities with smartphones and tablets, our lives should be easier, right?

Employees would probably answer that with a resounding “yes”!  However, for employers the devices in the hands of nearly every employee presents a danger.  Now, don’t take them away or ban them, but rather be aware of what this means for you and your managers.  Here it is, “Be careful what you say in the workplace.”  Pretty simple!

The Practical Employer, Jon Hyman, shared in his blog at the dangers of recording devices in the workplace.  He cited the verdict in a New York racial harassment case between an African-American woman and her boss, also African-American.   She had worked for the defendant for two years and was a manager.  She lost her job in retaliation of her claim that he called her the “n” word eight times, which she found to be offensive and hurtful.  He said it was a term that has different contexts that can mean affection or even tough love.  She proved her claim by submitting a four-minute recording of his rant that she made on her iPhone.  The jury found in her favor and awarded her a total of $280,000.

It may be difficult to entirely ban employee recordings in the workplace because of the National Labor Relations Board’s crackdown on employment policies, but there is a proactive measure you can take.  The lesson for employers according to Mr. Hyman, is to “train your managers and supervisors to understand and assume that everything they say is being recorded, if not electronically, then via a mental note that an employee can later jot down.”  Remember how important documentation is for HR, well it can be equally important for an employee who becomes a plaintiff!


September 13, 2013

HR Fact Friday: It’s EEO-1 Reporting Time

Filed under: General HR Buzz6:00 am

Remember that the EEOC annually requires certain employers to file the EEO-1 form. The EEO-1 is a government form requiring many employers to provide a count of their employees by job category and then by ethnicity, race, and gender. The form must be filed by Federal contractors and first-tier subcontractors with more than 50 employees (if their government contract is at $50,000 or more) and all employers with 100 or more employees also are required to report. Reports must be submitted by September 30, 2013, and can be filed online here:


September 11, 2013

Minimum Wage Myth Busters

Filed under: Salaries & Pay7:00 am

There has been much debate as to whether the federal minimum wage should be raised and how high.  We want to share with you some thoughtful information from the US Department of Labor regarding the federal minimum wage that we hope will provide an understanding of some of the misinformation that readily circulates.

Myth:  The federal minimum wage is higher today than it was when President Reagan took office.

Not true:  While the federal minimum wage was only $3.35 per hour in 1981 and is currently $7.25 per hour in real dollars, when adjusted for inflation, the current federal minimum wage would need to be more than $8 per hour to equal its buying power of the early 1980s and more than $10 per hour to equal its buying power of the late 1960s. That’s why President Obama is urging Congress to increase the federal minimum wage and give low-wage workers a much-needed boost.

Myth:  Raising the federal minimum wage won’t benefit workers in states where the hourly minimum rate is already higher than the federal minimum.

Not true:  Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have a minimum wage higher than the federal minimum, meaning a majority of states have an hourly minimum rate at or below the federal minimum. According to an analysis from the White House Council of Economic Advisors, increasing the federal minimum wage will boost the earnings for some 15 million low-wage workers nationwide. That includes workers in those states already earning above the current federal minimum. Raising the federal minimum wage is an important piece of our overall economic recovery. A raise for minimum wage earners will put more money in more families’ pockets, which will be spent on goods and services, stimulating economic growth locally and nationally.




September 9, 2013

Do You Have a Great Place to Work?

Filed under: Work/Life Balance6:00 am

Many organizations strive to be a cool place to work, a best place to work, or to be designated as one of the best and brightest.   What are these organizations doing within their businesses to receive these coveted designations?   Is it that they have a ping pong table in the lunch room?   A casual work environment?   A robust wellness program?   Could it be that they have a 401(k) with a match or generous PTO policies?  Are they committed to community involvement?   Experts say it’s a combination of these attributes, but most importantly it’s a culture that encourages employee engagement.  It’s a company that takes down the barriers to productivity so that the real work can be done.   Above all it’s a company where employees trust one another, take pride in what they do, and enjoy the people they work with.

What kinds of things can you be doing within your organization to engage employees and create a great place to work?   According to the Great Places to Work Institute, a great place to work is one in which the relationship between the employer and employee is one that fosters loyalty, commitment, and a willingness to contribute to organizational goals and priorities.  This relationship is formed by molding policies and practices around five key areas:  credibility, respect, fairness, pride, and camaraderie.

Credibility is an organization’s ability to build and maintain trust with its staff.   A company that communicates its vision openly and carries out its vision and goals with consistency and integrity will inevitably build trust with its staff. Credibility is also a company’s ability to follow through on its commitments; they do what they say they are going to do.

Respect is the second attribute of great work places.   A respectful company is one that supports its employees with professional development and includes relevant stakeholders in making important decisions.   Creating a positive work/life balance is also a key component to fostering a positive relationship with employees.  Providing internal education to prepare employees for leadership opportunities within the organization conveys they are highly esteemed and trusted by the company.

Fairness is also a key attribute in creating a great workplace experience.  Employees expect that employers will be fair in terms of reward.   They also have an expectation that objective decisions will be made in terms of hiring and promoting into more responsible positions.   Employers who lay out clear expectations for success and hold employees to similar standards are more likely to be trusted and to have a more engaged staff.

Pride and camaraderie are the final building blocks to a great work experience.   Employees strive to make a difference in the company with what they do and how they positively affect not only their company, but the surrounding community.   Commitment to community involvement is one of the principal ways in which employers help to foster employee pride in their work.   Employees enjoy their jobs, because the company’s values align with their own and positive relationships among coworkers lend themselves to creating a sense of camaraderie in the work environment.

Creating a great place to work is sometimes about out of the ordinary benefits and quirky perks, but when all the layers are peeled back, it is clear that the foundation of any great work place is not what we are doing, but how we are getting to the end result.  Employees who trust the company, take pride in their work and look forward to coming to work are the building blocks to any company meeting and exceeding its goals and objectives.


September 6, 2013

HR Fact Friday: EEOC Clarifies Rules on Criminal Records

Filed under: Hiring & Jobs — Tags: , , 6:00 am

Speaking at a recent workshop, an attorney with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has tried to clarify the EEOC’s rules on criminal records and employment. The attorney noted that having a criminal record does not grant someone protected status under the antidiscrimination laws. However, the lawyer noted that the use of criminal records can get an employer into trouble if that employer rejects Black or Hispanic applicants, but not White applicants, because of criminal history. The attorney also noted that even a neutral policy of not hiring persons with a criminal record may result in a disparate impact on minorities. The key defense for the employer in such situations will be the ability to show that the criminal record at issue is relevant to and disqualifying for the job in question. A classic example is that a DUI conviction is relevant and potentially disqualifying for an employee who must drive as part of his or her job, e.g. a delivery van driver, but not clearly relevant to a position that does not involve driving, e.g. a receptionist or custodian job.


September 4, 2013

Working for the Weekend or Working on the Weekend?

Filed under: Work/Life Balance7:54 am

We just finished a nice long, relaxing weekend.  At least nine percent of us did!  A recent survey by Jive Software, Inc. found that 91% of adults work during personal time.  The survey said that 11% of U.S. employees report working 7-10 hours during their “off-time.”

Do you think vacation time is sacred?  Well, think again!  The survey reported that half of American workers spend some time performing work duties on vacation, while 14% just don’t take vacations.

The time we are supposed to spend relaxing and refreshing has been interrupted by personal mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.  An employee can work nearly anywhere, which I think is truly amazing!  Having easy access to documents in the cloud makes working at any time, virtually (no pun intended!) a few clicks away!

Is this healthy?  Another study performed by a doctoral student, Sarah Asebedo, at Kansas State University, says that “working overtime may cost you your health.”  How?  Asebedo and her colleagues define a workaholic as those who regularly work 50+ hours per week.   They found a link between workaholics and reduced physical and mental well-being.  They measured these results by “skipped meals” and “self-reported depression.”

How can employers help workers to achieve work-life balance?  Open communication is key.  Encourage employees to be more efficient in their use of time, by controlling the things they can, like email.  Schedule time for each work responsibility, including email, and stick to it!  During busier work periods, employers can help employees be aware of their physical and mental well-being and encourage short rest/walk/stretch breaks during the work day and unplugging at night.  By making time for meals and physical activity, workers will be more satisfied and much more efficient!