Monday, March 26, 2007

Mandated Sick Days- Kennedy At It Again

Ted Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts, is getting ready to introduce the "Healthy Families Act", a bill that would require organizations with 15 or more full-time employees to provide at least seven days of paid sick leave every year. Additionally, the bill "also would lock-in existing leave benefits, such as “paid time off” (PTO) programs, thereby limiting or eliminating an employer’s flexibility in making even minor adjustments in leave provisions. This is significant because many employers tailor leave policies to meet their employees' needs." (Source: SHRM HR Issues Update, March 23, 2007)

It is too early yet to see how this might screw up companies with PTO policies, but mandating that small companies MUST provide 7 days of paid sick time will cause a financial burden to these companies that some might not be able to bear. Additionally, it will certainly take away some flexibility in how companies deal with their employees.

In addition to this legislation, Kennedy is also introducing into the Senate the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill that would take away the private ballot voting rights of American workers in union organizing campaigns. This bill has already passed in the House. It eliminates secret ballot elections in union campaigns offering the opportunity for intimidation in the election process. And yes, unions do work on intimidation. Someone needs to explain to me how taking away the right of secret ballot is an EMPLOYEE FREE CHOICE ACT. Most people, if they have to make their choice known in a public arena, where they know they may receive threats if their vote goes counter to some members of the group will have a tendency to vote with the group. That is NOT free choice. That is more akin to choice by mob rule.

Kennedy, who has never held a legitimate job a day in his life and has certainly never run a company is out of touch. He must have tremendous guilt for his life of privilege and that is why he champions the "little" people. Just my opinion.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Biometric Information in Employment Decisions

In the state of Georgia, State Representative Ed Setzler has introduced a bill to outlaw the use off biometric information in employment decisions. This data includes:
  • Information derived from genetic testing.
  • Biometric information other than genetic testing; provided, however, that this condition may be waived when necessary for employment in positions that involve unaccompanied access to high security areas, intelligence information or children.
  • Any information derived from biometric sensors.
  • Any information derived from personal location tracking technologies.

Additionally, House Bill 276, the Biometric Information Protection Act would bar:

  • Insurers from requiring genetic testing information to determine an applicant’s eligibility or premiums for life insurance.
  • The implanting of sensors or personal location tracking devices.
  • Educational institutions from using biometric information in enrollment decisions.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., Congress is currently considering the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (HR 493), which would similarly bar employers and insurers from using genetic information in employment and insurance decisions. The bill has cleared the House Education and Labor Committee. (Source: SHRM Online)

I am not sure how to digest this. I am not one for creating laws just to be creating laws. Is this an issue with anyone? Are any of you out there taking genetic samples of employees or applicants and using this data in your employment practices? Better yet, are any of you implanting devices in your employees to keep track of them? (Well on second thought that might cut down on absenteeism.) I think this legislation is solving a problem that does not exist yet. What do you think?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Terminations- Getting Riskier

One of the things I advise clients and HR students is to not let poor performing or trouble-making employees stick around too long, and a recent article on has given us good reason. The article, entitled "Employees From Hell", points out that recent court cases make it easier for problem employees to preempt or sue their employers for wrongful termination. For example, if an employee suspects that they are going to be fired they can claim sexual harassment, harassment, file an OSHA complaint, file a Department of Labor complaint, claim discrimination or any number of other complaints and then when the job action occurs they can claim the action was due to retaliation. (By the way, the job action need not be a termination. It can be a transfer or some other job change.)

Problem employees and their lawyers are getting much more savvy about how to do this. As the article states: "Roxanne Davis, who represents employees in discrimination cases as principal of Davis Gavsie in Los Angeles, is a member of an educational network through which attorneys meet to discuss the latest changes in labor law and how to use them to employees' advantage. "There is a growing group of lawyers who are learning the field better and better, she says."

So how do you avoid this problem? One way was pointed out in the article "The key, ...., is to act quickly and resolutely." I agree with this 100%. When asked the question by clients "What should we do?" my response is often "Fire them." However, for many companies, particularly small ones, this is difficult to do. They often have no documentable reason to fire the person. Yeah, I know that employement is supposed to be "At-will", but the realities of the world are such that without a good reason you are asking the termination to be labeled as the employee would like to have it labeled. So pay attention to poor performance. Document it and if the person fails to improve then ACT! Make it swift, make if factual, and make it happen. DO NOT let this behavior go on and on.

Additionally, don't let a "progressive discipline" policy get in your way. Make sure that your hands are not tied by a policy that makes you adhere to a multi-step process. Have some "wiggle room" in the policy to allow you an "out" of immediate termination, if needed. And if you have one in place, make sure you follow it sooner than later. Delaying action gives the problem employee more time to act against you.

Friday, March 02, 2007

How To Read a Business Book

I have often said/complained/bemoaned the fact that most people in HR just don't read enough. Lots of reasons why are given; time, interest or the lack thereof, etc. I think it is important for PROACTIVE AND STRATEGIC human resources professionals to read all the time. So to help that along here is a link to a blog that gives tips on How To Read a Business Book. There are also links to other tip sites. Following these tips will help you get the most out of the book. Reading about a book a month puts you in the top 10% of business executive. (BTW, this is how I read them.)