Error in Judgment

As an experienced and proven recruiter, I’ve often said that some of the best hires I’ve ever made have been people who I went out of my way to recruit, because they weren’t looking for a new job at the time.  But that doesn’t mean that someone who directly applied for the position was more or less qualified.  It was just a theory that I had.

But given the current economy, the number of layoffs that have occurred and the number of people currently out of work, I have changed my philosophy.  Now I’m telling people that this is the best time to be recruiting and hiring, because there are some significantly qualified individuals who have been laid off through no fault of their own.  But it seems that I might be in the minority with that opinion…

The Huffington Post has featured several articles examing employers who are basically practicing discrimination by saying that “the unemployed will not be considered.”  Companies such as Benchmark Electronics and Sony Ericsson have actually advertised that way in writing.  You can read the full article here.

So is it true to say that “the best people are already working?”  In my mind, absolutely not!  A second article, which you can read here, continued the discussion about the unemployed and how some companies may consider a recently unemployment candidate, and how those companies weakly tried to defend their decision by saying candidates need to be current with knowledge in their fields.  So apparently if I just got laid off, I may have lost my experience and education…

I’m glad The Huffington Post named the companies that are doing this, the job boards that are allowing these postings and quoted (by name) the recruiters who were supporting this approach.  Our company has done some downsizing – not because we wanted to – but because we had to.  And I know many other companies have had to do the same.  And for lack of a better description, I think it’s extremely short-sighted for recruiters (and the companies they work for) to subjectively decide that if you got laid off, it was your fault and you’re not a worthy job candidate as a result.

HR Nightmare

If you ever travel to Oregon, you might want to stay at the Markum Inn.  Then again, you might not…  The owners of the Inn, Ward and Julie Frederick, have been served with in a federal harassment lawsuit by a former employee.

The former waitress, Jessica Webber, claims that the Wards “created a hostile workplace” in which she “was solicited for sex advice, was asked to rub lotion on the husband’s penis, guess the man’s “measurements,” and participate in a “ring toss game on his penis.””

According to an October 11th story from The Smoking Gun, the waitress’ complaints came after a staff party.  Basically, “when partygoers arrived, Ward Frederick, 46, “stripped down to thong underwear” and began giving lap dances to employees and guests, Webber claimed.  “A few minutes later, Mr. Frederick removed his thong, and became completely nude.”  At that point, Julie Frederick “began asking the guests and employees to guess the measurements of Mr. Frederick’s penis and asked employees to rub lotion on Mr. Frederick.”  Ward Frederick then allegedly “began masturbating in front of the guests and employees so the measurements of his erect penis could be taken, and so others could play a ring toss game on his penis.””

Even as a seasoned HR Professional, it amazes me to hear or read about stories like this.  Quoting Bill Murray from the movie “Wild Things” a few years back…“They’ll settle.  They will.  Trust me; they’ll be begging to settle.”  He’s right.  And the Fredericks should probably start looking for a new liability insurance company…

Age-Old Advice

For some reason, I found myself thinking back to my first day in the corporate world today.  I was a young 22-year-old who knew nothing about HR, other than what I had read in a textbook.  After a few minutes of getting settled at my desk, my boss asked to see me.

When I walked into her office, she looked at me and said, “I’m going to give you some advice.  This is the best advice I can ever give you.  This advice was once shared with me too.”  She went on to say, “Don’t touch the money.  Don’t touch anybody.  And if you’re going to sleep with someone, sleep up.”

I’m sure the look on my face was priceless.  But in thinking back, that advice was pretty accurate!  LOL.  To be honest, even in 2010, those comments would probably be solid advice to a new hire, wouldn’t they?  Ah, memories…

Abercrombie, Fitch and Ouch

The-below story was obtained from SHRM’s web site, and was written by their manager of workplace law content.  “The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations announced Sept. 28, 2010, that a settlement for more than $1.04 million had been reached with Abercrombie & Fitch for violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act.

The settlement resulted from a November 2008 Form I-9 inspection of Abercrombie & Fitch’s retail stores in Michigan.  The audit uncovered numerous technology-related deficiencies in the company’s electronic I-9 verification system.  No instance of the knowing hire of an unauthorized alien was discovered.

The settlement is the highest ever for a technical violation, according to Robert Loughran, an attorney with FosterQuan LLP in Austin, Texas.  He said Abercrombie & Fitch used home-grown software that left out a key component – having individuals attest to their immigration status.

The settlement should prompt employers to make sure they do due diligence when selecting I-9 software, he added.  He described the settlement amount as shockingly large for a company that appeared to do everything right except for a mistake in the software that it used.”  The moral of the story – always have home-grown programs legally vetted before they are implemented.

Are You Involved?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of companies out there that have HR people, but don’t use them.  For example, I often hear stories about companies who have Operations, not HR, handle the employee complaint process.

Here’s a recent example that I encountered.  An HR friend was interviewing for a job and called to ask my opinion about it.  As she reviewed the responsibilities, I thought the job sounded OK, except for the part where they told her that she wasn’t going to be handling employee relations.  Keep in mind that she was interviewing for the company’s sole HR job.  She was smart enough to ask who handled employee complaints.  Their response – the CEO or the Controller.  My advice – run like the wind!  And interestingly, the EEOC agrees with me.

HR Morning featured the recent EEOC v. V&J Foods, Inc. case.  You can read more about the case here.  Basically, the judge in the case said that “the company was at fault for not making it clear that the first option for a victim should be to contact the company’s human resources department with the complaint, and that the company should have had such a process in place, including contact info for HR.”

With no disrespect to the CEO’s of the world, there are too many people out there who think they can “also do HR.”  And too many things get brushed under the rug and/or covered-up when HR is not involved.  Lawsuits, like the one mentioned above, will continue to be the result.  So if you’re the company’s sole HR person and they tell you that you’re only going to recruit and handle the benefits – it might be time to start asking some questions…

What’s the Reason?

What can I say?  I have been spoiled.  For as long as I can remember, my SHRM membership has cost $160 per year.  However, we were recently notified that SHRM decided to raise that to $180 per year.

Now, in one breath, that’s still very low compared to many other organizations.  However, in another breath, the price hike couldn’t have come at a worse time.  Every study I’ve seen indicates that there are more HR Professionals out of work than ever before.  And many companies are also choosing to eliminate or outsource their HR Departments.  So why, in turn, would the world’s largest HR organization decide to raise their dues?

Interesting, this price hike came at the same time that SHRM’s Board of Directors quietly voted to increase their annual honorariums.  You can read more on that story here.

At the end of the day, they’re the biggest fish and I’m still going to be a member.  But their recent actions can’t help one but wonder…

Jack the Rates

In the midst of our health plan insurance renewals, I can’t help but wonder how inflated the rate quotes might become because of the recent health care reform.  Surely, I’m not the only person wondering about this.

As an HR Professional, and the one who works the most with our broker to shop and design the insurance plans, I have come to expect that even if we have a spectacular year with our claims, we’re going to see some sort of increase.  That’s normal, even if it’s a percent or two.

However, with that being said, I thought you might find today’s HR Morning story  interesting.  They’re following-up on a Wall Street Journal  story from last Friday on the same topic.  Interestingly, in both reports, the message from the Government was clear – insurance companies that try to raise premiums now and blame it on the reform will have problems later.

But the immediate concern becomes…hopefully companies won’t have to suffer long while the IRS (who will be overseeing the health care reform) hires the auditors, agents and investigators they need to police any retaliatory actions by the carriers.  For everyone’s sake, I hope the auditors are out on the street sooner than later…

I Also Do HR

Throughout my career, the one phrase that has always driven me crazy is, “I also do HR.”  Normally I hear it uttered by an Accountant or someone in Operations who has to take care of the HR work too, because their company doesn’t employee an HR person.

Unfortunately, that is nothing more than an insult to our profession.  Of course I’m tainted, because I work in HR and want to continue to have a job and a role in my organization.  But it amazes me when the following happens:

  • Companies lay off the HR person.  A friend of mine is the sole HR person for her organization (they have several hundred employees).  She was informed the other day that she’d have to lay herself off.
  • Companies have someone in Accounting or another department handling the HR work, even though that person knows absolutely nothing about HR, the law, etc.

Can a company run under the above-circumstances?  Yes, of course they can.  And they can also waste a lot of money calling their attorney during that time.  But it’s a disservice to those of us who are true practitioners in the “people” field.  It’s also a problem for the companies, because more than likely, they are not compliant with something (with that sentence being an understatement).  I’ll get off of my pedestal now…  At the end of the day, I guess I’d rather be the HR Guy who “also” does stuff for other departments.  LOL.


I took this picture in Avon, OH, at the City Centre of Avon.  It is a new development where a Marc’s store just opened.

 Marc's 2

As we sometimes see, there are union picketers on the public sidewalk protesting near the entrance to Marc’s.  Their signs say “Don’t Shop Here” and “Anti-Union Marc’s.”

But what does anti-union really mean?  Could it mean that perhaps Marc’s is just pro-company?  Many times, that’s what it boils down to.  There is a difference between being anti-union and pro-company.  That’s an entire post in itself.  But it never ceases to amaze me – as the unions are pretty quick to show up on site, blow up their inflatable rats and hold up their signs.  Sometimes it’s because non-union contractors were used during construction.  Sometimes it’s because they disagree with something the company has done.

Regardless, this whole spectacle is just an attempt to attract horn-honking from cars passing by.  The only people who probably even care about what the picketers are saying are the hard-core-union-lovers, which is understandable.  I certainly wish Marc’s the best of luck in dealing with their dilemma.  What’s your opinion of anti-union vs. pro-company?

Weed Them Out

It’s always interesting when companies make decisions that we all know will come back to haunt them.  Below is a great example.  This story was shared with me about a local company.

There was a male department head who was assigned to a cross-functional team with a female department head from a different division.  They were both married and ended up having an affair together.  The spouses found out and there were divorces, but the two department heads continued their relationship.  They eventually got engaged and had plans to marry.  On a side-note, I guess they forgot about the “once a cheater, always a cheater” philosophy.

Anyway, at this point, the company stepped in.  They created a new policy saying that spouses would not be able to work together if either of them was in a management role – even if they were in different divisions and wouldn’t report to each other.  So the HR person and the CEO met with the two adulterous department heads and told them that one had to quit – they left it up to the couple – but one had to quit.  The woman quit.

I question this policy.  It goes a step further than most nepotism or reporting relationship policies.  Also, I felt it could be seen as discriminatory if the company later had a qualified spouse (of a current employee) who applied for work there.  If they wanted to weed out the adulterers, I think there are better options than hobbling themselves from being able to hire potential star recruits down the road.