Tag Archives: Legal Compliance

alabama equal pay act

Alabama’s New Equal Pay Act: What You Need to Know

Last week I posted this to my personal Facebook page, but I think it will be relevant to many of the people here as well because other states are adding these on a regular basis (California, Delaware, Atlanta GA, Hawaii, Illinois, and more!) The equal pay portion is important, but the more immediate impact will come from the last piece of this: a requirement that limits employers with regard to asking for prior salary history in a job application/interview process. 

To my Facebook friends in Alabama, your friendly neighborhood HR guy here to explain one of our newest laws that affects every one of you that works for an employer and all of my other HR/recruiting nerd friends in the industry (effective October 1, 2019).

The Clark-Figures Equal Pay Act requires employers to pay people equally for doing the same work at the same performance level, regardless of your gender or race. However, most importantly, it also helps by preventing employers from asking you about salary history.

Why does salary history matter?

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pay commuting

Should Employees be Paid for Commuting Time?

An interesting piece of research on publicly available WiFi access in England led to a question that made me pause. Should employees be paid for commuting time?

As someone that travels a fair bit for work, I know the value of being able to connect and work from any number of strange locations–restaurants, hotel lobbies, airports, etc. But what about the commutes that make up a significant part of the day for so many workers? From the piece:

Interviews with customers revealed why internet access was as important for commuters as business travellers. Many respondents expressed how they consider their commute as time to ‘catch up’ with work, before or after their traditional working day. This transitional time also enabled people to switch roles, for example from being a parent getting the kids ready for school in the morning to a business director during the day.

Until now, there has been little research to evaluate the impact free Wi-Fi provision has had in the UK, despite government encouragement for companies to provide access on transport networks. The researchers looked to Scandinavia to see how commuting time could be measured differently, and found that in Norway some commuters are able to count travel time as part of their working day.

Dr Juliet Jain told the conference: “If travel time were to count as work time, there would be many social and economic impacts, as well as implications for the rail industry. It may ease commuter pressure on peak hours and allow for more comfort and flexibility around working times. However it may also demand more surveillance and accountability for productivity.”

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How to Legally Avoid Paying Overtime Wages [Reader Question]

I’m trying out a new Q&A format for some questions I’ve received in the last few weeks. Let me know what you think in the comments or by emaiing me your own question to ben@upstarthr.com

overtime clockLast week I got a question in the mailbag that was short and to the point.

How can we avoid paying overtime to employees?

My answer was short and sweet: Continue reading

Can I Focus on Compliance and Still Be a Good Employer? [Podcast]

We're Only Human Podcast

HR compliance is a necessary evil in the workplace. Rarely do employers make it to the top of the “best employers” lists by handling FMLA or DOL regulations well. Yet time and time again we see HR professional flocking to sessions like “Top 10 Ways to Get Sued in 2018,” taking notes like this is golden content.

Why do sessions like those attract so much attention when they don’t help employers create a more employee-centric, engaging workplace?

In today’s podcast discussion, I get the answers to these questions and others by interviewing Mike Haberman, one of the HR industry’s best resources for staying on top of compliance and labor requirements. Mike takes a very balanced approach by covering not only the compliance topics, but also by exploring future trends and how employers can improve their HR practices.

It’s a fun discussion and listeners will be treated to the story of when I was audited by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, providing a great example of how NOT to make decisions about what’s best for your employees. #truestory

To connect with Mike or learn more about his work, you can find his blog at:
http://omegahrsolutions.com/

To listen to the archives of We’re Only Human and learn more about the show, check out:
https://upstarthr.com/podcast

Global Employment Laws: Do You Know Your Stuff?

global employment lawsDid you know, in some countries it is illegal to email employees after normal work hours? This is just one example of the interesting global employment laws that can catch an unsuspecting employer at an inopportune time. For instance, several years ago I was sending some workers to Saudi Arabia, and we found out at the last minute that we had to abide by the “Saudization” requirement, which forced us to hire local workers to support the contract, even if they were not qualified to do the work on the project. It pays to understand the requirements of the country you are working in.

My company Lighthouse Research has partnered with Papaya Global for our 2017 Global HR Practices study, and we asked companies about their level of risk and confidence in their existing resources. One of the preliminary findings of our study highlighted that 70% of companies are at-risk due to limited understanding of local compliance requirements. Additionally, nearly three-fourths of companies manage the complexities of their global workforce in-house, creating a vulnerability to potential problems if they are unaware of local customs, requirements, and regulations.

Did You Know? Global Employment Law Differences

It has been said that companies based in the United States have it “easy.” In terms of labor laws, there are relatively few that govern how businesses operate. Take the common “employment at will” doctrine for example. In essence, companies can terminate workers at any time and for any reason as long as it’s not explicitly based on a discriminatory reason. In other countries, work contracts, workers’ councils, unique benefits requirements, and strict termination rules that define the employment relationship are common.

  • Other countries however, commonly rely on actual employment contracts to hire workers. Because workers are tied to contracts, terminations often become complicated. For instance, in Dutch employment law, the statutory period of notice for an employee is one calendar month.
  • During one research interview, an international human resource management leader at a German company took some time to explain her challenges with the local workers’ councils. In her story, the company was trying to gather data through an employee survey, but the workers’ council would not allow the HR team to share the information with the consulting partner to analyze and interpret the data, creating a stalemate.
  • Other challenging areas include benefits and leave. For instance, employers must pay Chinese workers 300% of the value of any unused vacation days at the end of the year
  • Brazil requires employers to offer employees thirty calendar days of paid leave after twelve months of service.

It’s clear that without some awareness of the requirements for global employment, companies can often make costly missteps, but there are ways to minimize the risk associated with global employment. Want to learn more? Check out the rest of the blog at Papaya Global to learn how to get educated before it’s too late.

Want to End Harassment? It’s a Culture Thing (#SHRM16)

In case you missed it, there was a SHRM Conference Daily post this week with a very interesting headline. In short, the EEOC said that training doesn’t reduce discrimination. The logic behind the commentary had a few holes that I want to point out really quick, but I want to spend the majority of the time today helping you to understand what actually works for eliminating harassment. Here’s the synopsis:

The biggest finding of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC’s) Select Task Force on the Study of Harassment in the Workplace may be what it failed to find—namely, any evidence that the past 30 years of corporate training has had any effect on preventing workplace harassment. “That was a jaw-dropping moment for us,” said EEOC Commissioner Victoria A. Lipnic in a Sunday Session at the Society for Human Resource Management 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition.

Two quick notes that need clarification:

  • There are 90,000 harassment claims, so training doesn’t work. What kind of training was used? How many of those complaints actually were legitimate harassment issues?
  • 90% of harassment is never reported. That means that hundreds of thousands of workers in the US are harassed every year. I don’t buy it. Working with a jerk or someone that is not always pleasant doesn’t equal harassment, but many people miscategorize it that way all the time.

How to Completely Eliminate Harassment

Want to absolutely crush harassment at your organization? It requires a culture that encourages ethical treatment of others. It requires a company that values not only individuality, but the fundamentals of respect and appreciation for others.

Think about it. We’ve all worked with people that simply didn’t respect others around them. Those people are the ones that often bring about harassment, because they do not have the respect for their peers and coworkers that is necessary for good working relationships.

So, we need to create organizations that are uncomfortable for those kinds of people. We need to make it unpleasant to be disrespectful by addressing it as a performance issue. We need to create an environment where those kinds of behaviors demand a swift and unpleasant response instead of sweeping them under the rug, brushing them off, etc. Harassment is serious, and not just in a “oh boy, we’re going to get sued for that one” kind of way. It can cost you great, productive employees and drive away the talent that your organization needs.

So, it may be no small feat, but crushing harassment is a worthy goal. Start today. Build a culture of respect and appreciation. Take issues seriously and address them promptly. Then you can reap the benefits of a collaborative, harassment-free workplace.

Sold Out: A Lesson on Event Content (and the Future of HR)

This summer at SHRM I was looking through the sessions in the app in an attempt to figure out which I wanted to attend, and I saw this one right up front.

SOLD OUT – #707: HR Metrics that Matter: The Process of Developing a Business Scorecard

It made me stop and think, especially in light of some of the conversations I had with others at the event about what sort of content was being offered. For instance, one session at the event was focused on the usual “top ten ways to avoid legal trouble this year,” and it had packed out the entire room and the overflow area as well. I’ve always had trouble with those types of training on the supervisory side of things. Why? Because it makes us focus on the negative aspects of our work, how to avoid getting “in trouble,” and makes us seem more like a nanny in the workplace than a trusted resource for managers/employees and a key business leader.

Policies vs. Actual Contributions

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship (mostly hate) with policies. I think we should take more time to coach and support than regulate and demand. Yes, there are times that come when we must make a rule, be the bad guy, etc. but it shouldn’t come on a daily basis. I recently shared Alison Green’s comments on how managers can have a good relationship with HR. The comments on that blog post when she linked from her site are pretty standard, and yet they still hurt those of us who see ourselves as good and helpful business leaders (instead of merely being the “no, you can’t do that” department).

Going back to the original intent of this post, I was glad to see the metrics session being sold out. Why? Because it’s something that we can do that is not just about being sued, covering our company’s butt, or some other litigation-related idea. Even small companies have the ability to gather and use data in a meaningful way.

In my opinion HR pros who make decisions solely on laws and what the handbook/policies allow aren’t making much of a contribution to the organization. It’s those that take the initiative to find ways that they can contribute in a more meaningful way, offer advice and flexibility that pushes the boundaries, and don’t say, “No” to every request that comes in (even if they are a little bit scary).

A Shift to PositiveHR?

It gives me hope that our philosophy as a profession is changing. SHRM and other organizations will continue to offer these “how not to get sued by your employees” sessions, because there is significant demand for them. But over time, I hope to see us focusing more on the other end of the spectrum. There’s even a group of my friends that started this #PositiveHR movement on Twitter, because they believe that we have the opportunity to do great things if we are truly positive and not self-defeating at every turn.

I do understand that there is a natural maturity curve as well. Smaller organizations or those with inexperienced HR pros will drift toward the legalistic side of things, while organizations with more radical HR pros will seize opportunities to focus on engagement and other positive things we bring to the table. It just seems that many organizations (and HR pros) are reluctant to move beyond the legal side of things. Is it because it offers them more power inside the organization? Is it because they need to feel more intelligent/informed than their peers? I’m not sure…

What are your thoughts? Are we still mired in this world of legal issues or is there a chance we can more into more strategic areas of impact?