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April 15, 2014

What’s in a Name…Or Job Title?

Filed under: Compensation,Hiring & Jobs — Megan Mohr, CCP, Compensation Analyst @ 6:00 am

In Shakespeare’s famous play, Romeo and Juliet, Juliet asks, “What’s in a name?” Her meaning behind the question is that names are somewhat arbitrary and are not the key element that gives someone value or the qualities he/she possess.

However, when it comes to HR, the “names” we use for jobs are job titles and they certainly carry some weight. Think of some of the strange job titles you’ve seen on an applicant’s résumé or perhaps some your organization actually uses. Maybe it’s a Conversation Architect or an Insight Guru. Perhaps it’s something that’s not quite so strange but may be a bit misleading like a Marketing Manager or an Operations Coordinator.

Job titles have consequences, both positive and negative. Sometimes changing an employee’s job title in lieu of a pay increase can be motivating and boost morale. But what about the websites employees can look at where salaries are self-reported? With this new title, he/she may assume that his/her pay is now in need of an increase as well. Or, what applicants are you misleading or missing out on because the title you posted was above or below their expectations?

And of course, there’s the ever-popular “manager” title. There’s certainly argument to call someone a manager when he/she manages a function, but that can be a double edged sword. Let’s suppose we have an employee who manages various marketing projects and has the title Marketing Manager. If this individual asks around for what Marketing Managers make, suddenly it looks like he/she is underpaid. This employee can feel important to be called a manager, but suddenly be dissatisfied when the title seems to imply more money than he/she is currently receiving.

Moral of the story? Choose your job titles wisely. It can affect morale, your recruiting ability, and turnover.


April 10, 2014

Supreme Court Expands SOX Whistleblower Protection

Filed under: Compliance,Legal Issues — Charisse Rockett, PHR, HR Content Manager @ 6:00 am

In a recent decision, the United States Supreme Court extended the circumstances in which an employer can possibly be held liable for retaliation against whistleblowers. The Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) law passed in the early 2000s prohibits publicly-traded companies from retaliation against whistleblowers who report corporate fraud. The case before the Supreme Court involved the question of whether the law’s anti-retaliation provisions would also apply to a private company which performed contract or subcontract work for a publicly-traded company. The court held that the word “employee” under the relevant SOX provision could be construed to protect employees of such contractors and subcontractors, thus expanding the reach of the SOX whistleblower law.


April 8, 2014

Harassment and Bullying in the Workplace

Filed under: Harrasment,Legal Issues,Title VII — Tags: — Sheryn Bellas, SPHR, HR Consultant @ 6:00 am

What is harassment?

In the employment and legal context, harassment is defined as conduct or actions based on race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, military membership or veteran status that is severe or pervasive enough to create a hostile, abusive or intimidating work environment for a reasonable person.

State laws may further define harassment to include additional protections, such as sexual orientation, marital status, trans-sexualism or cross-dressing, political affiliation, criminal record, prior psychiatric treatment, occupation, citizenship status, personal appearance, tobacco use outside work, receipt of public assistance or dishonorable discharge from the military.

Harassment is:

  • A form of discrimination that violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA (Americans w/ Disabilities Act), the ADEA (Age Discrimination in Employment Act), or GINA (Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act).
  • Unwelcome verbal or physical conduct based on a person’s race, color, religion, sex or gender, national origin, age (40 and over), disability (mental or physical), or genetic information.
  • Severe, pervasive and persistent conduct that unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.
  • An occurrence where an employee’s status or benefits are directly affected by the harassing conduct of a manager or person of authority.
  • Adverse employment actions (retaliation) against employees who complained of harassment or discrimination or who participate in a complaint procedure.

What is workplace bullying?

In the workplace and as used in this blog, the term “harassment” refers to the illegal form of discrimination. An employee may claim he/she is being harassed; however, he/she may be subjected to inappropriate conduct or behavior that, although not illegal by definition, is unacceptable by your company’s policies and will not be tolerated if proven true. The term frequently used to describe this type of behavior and conduct is often called “workplace bullying.”

Workplace bullying is repeated mistreatment of one or more employees using humiliation, intimidation and denigration. Bullying behavior can exist at any level of an organization.  Bullies can be superiors, subordinates, coworkers, and colleagues.

Some examples of workplace bullying are:

  • Social bantering or teasing
  • Verbal abuse and profanity, humiliation, constant criticism
  • Gossip- conversation & rumors about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true
  • Taking credit for work performed by others
  • Personal and professional denigration (attacking one’s character/reputation)
  • Overt threats
  • Assignment of an unrealistic workload
  • Aggressive e-mails or notes
  • Professional exclusion or isolation
  • Sabotage of career

Why is it important to prevent harassment and bullying in the workplace?

Compliance with laws that prohibit discrimination and enforcing your internal policy on bullying (or any other type of inappropriate conduct that may not be illegal by definition) are both paramount in preventing lawsuits and litigation costs.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) had almost 100,000 employee charges in 2012.  Regardless the number of substantiated claims, the process alone is time-consuming for internal resources and external legal fees are often added to that cost.

What are some measures in preventing EEOC claims and lawsuits?

  • Review your current handbook policies.  Be sure they are accurate, compliant, and up-to-date regarding harassment, inappropriate conduct, sensitivity, and workplace bullying.
  • Ensure every employee receives a copy of these policies and conduct company-wide training.
  • Conduct a separate training session for managers and supervisors, clearly stating expectations when they observe or hear of any violations regarding possible harassment or bullying.



April 3, 2014

Not Selected for RIF – Could It Be Discrimination?

Filed under: Discrimination,Legal Issues,Title VII — Tags: — Charisse Rockett, PHR, HR Content Manager @ 6:00 am

When a company makes the decision to reduce its workforce, employees experience a wide range of emotions.  Such employment action is very personal.  Some feel angry, some feel numb, some are worried, but most people feel relieved when they were passed over in the selection process for the reduction-in-force (RIF).  Though the initial relief can quickly turn to “survivor’s guilt.”  However, a recent court case illustrates what can happen when an employee doesn’t get selected for the RIF and cries foul!

A long-term worker for the U.S. Postal Service filed claims of gender discrimination and retaliation, among other things, because he was excluded from two RIFs and was transferred to another position.  While most employees would be grateful, the worker considered the transfer an adverse employment action.  As a disabled veteran, had he been included in the RIF, he would have received certain employment rights giving him an opportunity to advance to a higher-level position.  He argued that his exclusion from the RIF was a denial of a promotion.  The court agreed.

The lesson for employers is to document, document, and yes, document!  Adverse employment actions are much more than just terminations.  As shown in this case, the worker sued under Title VII discrimination and retaliation protections.  When an employer is contemplating a reduction-in-force, it is vital to consult with counsel and to document reasons why some employees were included and others were excluded.  Your documentation may come in very handy should you find yourself explaining those reasons to a judge!

Source:  Brody, Robert G. and Warren, Abby M. “Keeping Workers Employed May be Discrimination.”


April 1, 2014

New Overtime Regulations on the Horizon!

Filed under: Compensation,FLSA — Emily Sternberg, SPHR, HR Consultant @ 9:11 am

Nearly all businesses are required to comply with the regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  On March 13, President Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to update the FLSA to meet several criteria:

  1. Update existing protections in keeping with the intent of the FLSA;
  2. Address the changing nature of the American workplace; and
  3. Simplify the overtime rules to make them easier for both workers and businesses to understand.

What does this mean for American businesses?   In a nutshell, it means that thousands of employees who are currently considered exempt under the FLSA may become eligible to receive overtime compensation for hours worked over 40 in a week.   According to Alfred B. Robinson Jr., former acting administrator of the Wage and Hour division of the US Department of Labor (DOL), the administration is focusing heavily on the salary basis test of the regulation which currently states that an employee must earn at least $455 per week to be considered exempt.  The administration has said that “If the 1974 salary basis test had been indexed, then they would approach approximately $1000 per week in today’s dollar.”

In addition to the salary basis of the exemption, the DOL will also closely examine the primary duties test to ensure that jobs fit into the defined executive, administrative, and professional employee white collar exemptions.  HR professionals should continue to carefully evaluate new positions to determine if they do qualify for a white collar exemption based on the types and frequency of duties being performed.   Once these new regulations are implemented, there will be far reaching implications for HR staff, including new job evaluations, salary structures, and training to managers overseeing newly non-exempt staff.


March 28, 2014

Did You Know . . . Compease is Now in the Cloud?

Filed under: Compease,Compensation,Performance Management,Performance Pro — Terri Harris, Marketing Administrator @ 6:00 am

HRN has released a new, completely updated, CLOUD-BASED version of our popular Compease salary administration application!  Compease, a unique and innovative compensation administration system provides customized, market-driven compensation and salary grade information for every position in an organization based on level of responsibility, job title, geographic location, company size, and industry.

Even more thrilling is, if you currently use Performance Pro and Compease the new sophisticated technology will integrate the two! This integration will reduce duplication, saves time, and makes updating reports easier than ever! Give us a call and speak with one of our experts to understand how Performance Pro and Compease integration can strengthen and support your business. You might be surprised at how seamless it is.

If you don’t currently enjoy Performance Pro and Compease, what are you waiting for?  Contact us now at (800) 897-3308 or



March 27, 2014

Uninsured? Are You Prepared to Pay the Penalty?

Filed under: Benefits,Communication,General HR Buzz,Insurance — Tags: — Charisse Rockett, PHR, HR Content Manager @ 6:00 am

The deadline is quickly approaching to sign up for health care insurance using the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) federal website – March 31, 2014, to be exact.  The ACA made provision for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect fees for those individuals not insured by their employer, the government, or directly through an independent insurer.  The fee/penalty sounds fairly reasonable for the tax year 2014, $95, per adult or 1% of income, whichever is greater.  However, did you know the penalties increase over the next couple of years?


Per Adult OR Percentage of Family Income

(whichever is greater)





2016 and beyond


The penalties are pro-rated if an individual, their spouse, and children* have partial-year coverage.  If they lack coverage for less than three months in the year, they will have no penalty.  The fees for the uninsured were to encourage and motivate individuals to seek health care insurance coverage, but the law does include a provision to exempt some.

Employers need to stay abreast of the new health care law and its provisions, because they are very detailed and being clarified often.  Communicating regularly with employees about the current status of the law will help employees be prepared to meet the requirements on an individual basis as well.


*A child’s penalty is one-half of the adult dollar amount, e.g. $95 per adult is $47.50 per child.

Source:  Luhby, Tami.  “Uninsured next year?  Here’s your Obamacare penalty.” See article here.


March 26, 2014

Strategic Planning – Vital to Your Success in 2014

Filed under: Compliance,HR Consulting,Management Practices — Tags: — Mike Moyes, MSCIS, VicePresident Consulting Solutions @ 6:00 am

A well-written strategic plan can have a synergistic effect on the internal operations of a company.  The synergy that results from everyone’s combined efforts improves the efficiency of operations, the use of resources, the exploitation of opportunities, and creates new paradigms of success.  HRN’s strategic planning experts have over 25 years of experience and have participated in more than 200 strategic planning sessions throughout Michigan and across the country.

Each organization has its own unique needs that must be considered when starting a strategic plan.  Board members and executive management may want to ask questions such as, “What are our top five key issues for 2014?” or “What opportunities should our company evaluate over the next 2 years?” These questions are of great value when planning strategies that affect all aspects of an organization.  Answers given to these questions build strategic focus, and after the answers are tabulated and analyzed, it becomes very clear which strategies should be given “top priority” status and need to be addressed first at the strategic planning session.

To track progress in a strategic plan, many companies will create a ‘Dashboard’ which allows any one team member to quickly look at the current status of each goal at their leisure.  This keeps key strategies, goals, and tactics in the forefront so they don’t get lost in the everyday fires of managing a business.  Ultimately, these companies achieve more financial success, have happier customers and staff, and accomplish more of their goals each year than their counterparts.

Some companies make the mistake of having a strategic plan that is too narrow and only focused in one particular area.  A comprehensive, balanced strategic plan is necessary to take a good company to a great company.  A two- to three-year strategic plan that ties into your business plan and budget is strongly recommended.  It’s important to remember to not bite off too much in your strategic plan.  Set your goals so you have to stretch a little, but don’t overwhelm yourself to the point where you don’t have enough time to take care of the day-to-day tasks of running your company.  While the following is not an exhaustive list, in today’s economy, it’s recommended that companies include these components in their strategic plan:

  • Financial Goals
  • Customer Service Goals
  • Management Training Goals
  • Facility Goals
  • Technology, including Social Media Goals
  • New Products and/or Services
  • Regulatory and Compliance Goals
  • Marketing and Brand Image Goals

Planning to plan is a crucial aspect of successful strategic planning.  Time is precious at the strategic planning session because there is always more to discuss than time allows.  Whether using four hours in a board meeting or a day and a half on a weekend, it’s important to have a set agenda with time frames that keeps everyone on schedule.  While there is no formula for the perfect agenda, planning ahead and realizing that no two organizations are exactly alike, will help all parties involved to see the common goal of planning the organization’s future and how they will get there stronger and better.

For information regarding Strategic Planning, you may contact Mike Moyes by email OR click here.


March 20, 2014

Distracted Driving Could Mean Your Life!

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Legal Issues — Tags: — Charisse Rockett, PHR, HR Content Manager @ 6:00 am

I was reminded recently how quickly lives can change in a split-second.  While entering the parking lot of a local eatery, I watched as two school aged children one following the other ran in front of me across the parking lot to the family car.  They had plenty of time, as did I, and all was well.  As I proceeded through the parking lot, what I did not expect to see, was a third small person about 3-4 years of age, come darting out and running for all she was worth to catch up to the bigger kids.  Fortunately, I was paying attention, going slow, and not using my cell phone, all contributing to the avoidance of calamity!  I remained stopped in the parking lot just hoping mom was close behind the little one, and sure enough, she was!  I’m sure you can imagine what followed and how relieved we all were!

That scenario I lived through could have been tragic.  Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic.  In 2012, 3,328 individuals were killed in distracted driving crashes on America’s roadways; 421,000 people were injured.  Any activity that diverts a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving is distracted driving.  You have probably seen fellow drivers eating, grooming, using a navigation system, adjusting the audio/video players, watching video players, talking to passengers, correcting children, texting, or using a cell phone.  Even bystanders are not immune to the hazards.

This topic is of great concern to employers.  Cell phone use has grown in popularity for the last couple of decades, yet many employers have not updated their “drive safe” policies to include avoiding distracted driving.  Updating employment policies to mandate that employees follow state and federal laws when driving for business purposes, whether a company vehicle or their personal vehicle, is a critical element to avoid disaster and to protect all parties.  Some employers opt for using hands-free devices, but studies have shown that headset cell phone use is not much safer than hand-held use.  An employer will want to consider their industry and their business needs before writing a comprehensive and enforceable policy.  Clear communication to employees of the expectations that they focus on driving safely, when driving is their primary task at hand, will alleviate stress and encourage employees to adhere to the safe practices the policy outlines and the law dictates.  Distracted driving by employees is your business . . . and their lives!

Need help with your employment handbook or just an individual policy?  HRN Performance Solutions has a tool for that!  HR Suite – Contact HRN consultants and they will be happy to help!



March 18, 2014

“Everybody is Replaceable, but Everyone is Not”

Filed under: General HR Buzz,Management Practices — Gene Mandarino, MAOD, SPHR, Manager HR Consulting @ 6:00 am

Any employer would agree that great employees are hard to find.  They would also agree that when you have a great employee you want to do everything you can to keep them.  So why is it that when a great employee is planning on leaving or has left, we insist on resorting to the same old response?  “They were a great employee but, you know, everyone is replaceable.”

The truth is, Everybody is replaceable, but Everyone is not.  When a great employee leaves, their body can be replaced but their knowledge, approach, and spirit cannot.  The type of void they leave in the organization is permanent; it can never be wholly replaced.  It may feel like the void gets filled, but it is a facade of others having to pitch in to fill the void.  It is an acceptance of lower performance to fill the void, and missed opportunities that never get measured, because if they did, we would see the real cost of losing that great employee.

So, when we are faced with the possibility of losing a great employee lets change the response from “Everyone is replaceable” to “Everybody is replaceable, but Everyone is not.”  Maybe this subtle change in thinking will get organizations to think twice before they allow great employees to leave.

See attached article for further inspirations on this topic:

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