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June 11, 2014

Insensitive Facebook Comments Lead to Resignation

Filed under: Discrimination,Legal Issues10:57 am

A cardiac nurse in Utah has resigned his employment in the face of controversy over his postings on Facebook.  The case arose after a shooting occurred in a gang crimes case in the new Utah federal courthouse. The defendant in that criminal case allegedly had charged the witness stand and threatened a witness when he was shot and killed by a federal marshal. Afterwards, the nurse posted a public Facebook comment that referred to the nationality of the involved gang member and said “Kill Them All.” The nurse’s employer, a Utah public hospital, put the nurse on leave while investigating the matter. The nurse eventually chose to resign his position. A recent article about the matter is available here:


May 30, 2014

Did You Know . . . About Our Compease Bridge?

Filed under: Compease,Compensation8:59 am

Keeping your Compease system up-to-date and aligned with your payroll system doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming!  Compease has a built-in Data Bridge Tool that makes systems’ communication a breeze.  HRN Performance Solutions offers a total of four options to help with this data upkeep:

  1. With the no cost option, the User Guide and a spreadsheet are sent to you, enabling you to configure and run the data bridge any time that is convenient for you.  
  1. HRN’s second option provides assistance with the initial setup.  HRN will configure the setup, run the initial import, and provide training to you or your staff for a fee of $150. 
  1. The third option consists of the data bridge configuration, set-up, and the updating of your Compease system.  This is performed either as a one-time service or on an annual basis, thus completing the entire process for a fee of $250. 
  1. Our last option allows you to send your file directly to us on a twice-monthly basis.  We do all the work for you!   This option requires a signed Bridge Service Agreement (BSA) and is processed for a fee of $600 annually, which is added to your regular renewal. 

If you are interested in any of these service options or would like additional information, please contact HRN Performance Solutions at (800) 897-3308.


May 22, 2014

Four Times Is a Charm, or Is It?

Filed under: ADA & Disability,Legal Issues4:03 pm

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed suit (for the fourth time!) against the nationwide auto parts retailer, AutoZone, for disability discrimination.  This time its attendance policy which uses a “points” system for absences, did not permit any general exception for disability-related absences.  Its policy required termination for employees reaching twelve points.

The complaint included an example of an employee with Type 2 diabetes who had to leave work early on occasion because of insulin reactions.  The employee was fired because of an accumulation of attendance points.  Another employee was fired in retaliation for objecting to the attendance policy and filing a charge with the EEOC.

The three other disability claims were described as follows:
1)  Failure to promote a visually impaired employee and denying permission to use a guide dog; Employee awarded $140,000.
2)  Refusal to accommodate a sales manager’s disability by insisting he mop floors, leading to greater injury; Employee awarded $424,000.
3)  Refusal to accommodate a lifting restriction, fired the employee; Proceeding to jury trial.

The EEOC takes all discrimination and retaliation claims very seriously, which common sense would dictate that an employer should do the same.  Conducting a self-audit of policies to ensure they are in compliance with the law and are not discriminating toward any individual or protected class of individuals should be a high priority in most organizations.   As you can see from AutoZone’s examples, one charge is too much – four, well . . . .




May 8, 2014

Third-Party Sexual Harassment

Filed under: Compliance,Harrasment,Legal Issues12:54 pm

Many times we think of sexual harassment as ‘quid pro quo’ (this for that) between a supervisor and employee.  However, other forms of sexual harassment can involve coworkers and third-parties and are just as serious for an employer to address.  Here are a couple scenarios to illustrate how third-parties can affect employees and create a hostile work environment:

Scenario 1:  A financial institution teller has a customer who conducts business weekly at her branch, and insists on only her helping him.  He lingers at her teller window beyond the time it takes to take care of business.  He always makes small talk that becomes too personal and that makes her uncomfortable.  His conversations escalate to him asking her repeatedly to meet him outside of work time.  The teller finds his conversations inappropriate and is upset when he won’t take “no” for an answer.  She now hides in the back room and another employee waits on him as he asks her whereabouts.

Scenario 2:  A retailer has a business relationship with an independent contractor.  The contractor is in and out of the business daily and talks to various individuals in the course of business.  However, the contractor uses foul and slang terminology when referring to African-American female employees, even in their presence and brings one employee to tears.  He discusses openly his sexual liaisons.  Over time, the employee develops depression and anxiety.  She has reported his behavior to management and she has told him directly she doesn’t want him speaking offensively around her. 

Now, the question: Is an employer liable for a third-party harasser (a customer or independent contractor)?  And, the answer: Yes, IF the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and failed to address it and take action.

No doubt as a conscientious employer you have a competent anti-harassment policy in place, including a complaint process and a thorough investigative action plan.  If you do – - kudos to you!  If you don’t – - please contact HRN and we will help you with your policy!


Source:  Meyer, Eric B. “What Do You Do When Your Contractor Is a Sexual Harasser?”


May 1, 2014

If I Pay You – Will You Quit?

Filed under: Incentive Pay,Performance Management3:10 pm

What would you do if your boss gave you a monetary incentive to quit your job?  I don’t mean a severance payment for a layoff or reduction in the workforce, but rather he simply paid you to quit.  It is a very interesting thought.  This is the type of incentive Amazon is offering its employees, and here is why.

Gaining the trust and loyalty of an employee is not something that happens overnight, and sometimes for various reasons the bond never really happens and employees become disillusioned.  When an employee is disengaged from their work, companies pay dearly in productivity, morale, and absenteeism.  Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, introduced a new program to employees called “Pay to Quit.”  Here is what he said about it:

“Pay to Quit is pretty simple.  Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit.  The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000.  Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000.  . . . The goal is to encourage folks to take a moment and think about what they really want.  In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

Paying disgruntled, unhappy, and disengaged employees to leave is in itself a protection to the company and to the rest of their workforce.  This may seem like a risky move on Amazon’s part, but really it is an experimental strategy to address employee engagement and to give employees the opportunity to better themselves and do what makes them happy!





April 23, 2014

Engineer Demand is High – Good News for College Graduates!

Filed under: Compensation,Hiring & Jobs7:22 am

College graduates studying engineering have something to cheer about!  Bloomberg-BNA recently reported soaring demand for engineers in the manufacturing field, particularly for automation engineers.  Salary increases in this area have been relatively modest according to several salary surveys.  In part, this is due to retiring Baby Boomers.  Replenishing the gaps their departures have created is more difficult as less students are taking these college courses.

In the last few years, we have seen a trend in the return of some of our manufacturing base to the United States which will likely increase demand also.  Alan Carty, President and CEO of and Automationtechies, a recruiting service for engineers, told Bloomberg-BNA “Right now, there is probably no career more secure to get into than manufacturing. Within the manufacturing realm, the real shortage is of people who understand automation and process engineering.”

Although demand may be up for this type of engineering, a number of companies are still somewhat reserved in salary offers, partly based on equity issues with their existing employees. Selected engineering positions also require on-the-job learning skills, making the degree the first step in the career.  Another skillset college students should consider is experience with programming and courses such as C++ or Sharp++ often required for automation and aircraft engineers.  The January 2014 Salary Survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers says, “Pressing demand for engineers is driving up starting salary offers for engineering majors.”  Petroleum, Computer and Chemical categories round out the top three, but 7 out of 10 highest starting salaries are engineering positions.


April 17, 2014

Put Me in Coach, Or I Will File a Union Grievance

Filed under: Legal Issues,Unions/NLRB3:52 pm

A regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has ruled that the football players of Northwestern University actually are employees and should be allowed to form a union. The key question was whether the athletes perform services for another under a contract of hire, subject to the other’s control or right of control, and in return for payment. The NLRB office based its ruling on the fact that the college players received a substantial economic benefit (scholarships) for playing football – a revenue-generating sport – and are subject to the college’s control (team rules, practice schedules). The NLRB regional office distinguished graduate assistants (earlier ruled to be students, not employees) “because the players’ football-related duties are unrelated to their academic studies unlike the graduate assistants whose teaching and research duties were inextricably related to their graduate degree requirements.” Northwestern has said it will appeal the adverse ruling to the full NLRB and thereafter to the courts as needed. Thus, this case likely will not be finally resolved for several years.


April 15, 2014

What’s in a Name…Or Job Title?

Filed under: Compensation,Hiring & Jobs6:00 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 Issues6:00 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: 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.


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