Restricting employers’ use of credit checks and why Mr. Robot agrees

August 28, 2015 - by: David Kim 0 COMMENTS
David Kim

If you’re like me, you don’t necessarily equate the USA network with riveting and innovative television. While the network has respectable ratings, I can’t help but tune out when I see a commercial for Suits, Graceland or Royal Pains (apologies to those fans of the showI believe you, I’m sure they’re good). In fact, although many have noted the increase in quality TV programming, accolades have been reserved for those such as HBO, AMC, and Netflix, which have pushed the limits of what a television show could be in our collective minds, while simultaneously providing entertaining and complex stories. Now, it appears USA has decided to the join the party. USA’s Mr. Robot is fast becoming one of my favorite shows, and as evidenced by the widespread critical and popular acclaim it has received, it is clear I’m not the only one (97% rating on Rotten Tomatoes if you’re into that sort of thing). Credit Report (2)

Mr. Robot revolves around Eliot Alderson, a brilliant yet flawed individual. Eliot works as a security engineer at Allsafe, a cybersecurity company. However, Eliot also is incredibly adept at hacking (social media accounts, bank records, personal information, etc.) and uses those skills to not only learn about people, but often to act as a cyber-vigilante by protecting those he cares about or reporting bad people anonymously to the authorities. It is not surprising this is the only way Eliot can connect as he struggles mightily with social anxiety disorder, clinical depression, paranoia, and delusion.

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Dirty Dancing: hot summer hiring considerations

Kristin Starnes Gray

With summer quickly approaching, it’s time to pull out those warm-weather clothes and dust off my copy of Dirty Dancing, one of my favorite summer films. Who can forget the summer of 1963 when Baby performed her triumphant lift, Johnny taught us about standing up for others no matter what it costs us, and we all learned that no one puts Baby in the corner. Like many resorts and other types of employers, the fictional Kellerman’s resort in the Catskills Mountains (actually filmed in North Carolina and Virginia) has a very clear peak season in the warmer months with the hiring of a lot of additional employees, including high school and college students seeking summer employment.  Of course, any time an employer hires minors, there are special considerations and it is important to be familiar with applicable federal and state law. iStock_000057051752_Full

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) is the federal law governing child labor, but it must be read together with state laws (which may be more stringent and must be observed). These laws were designed to protect the educational opportunities of minors and prohibit their employment in hazardous jobs and under conditions detrimental to their health and well-being. To this end, the FLSA and state laws limit the types of jobs minors may hold as well as the hours they may work.

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A Word for the EEOC from Bob Kazamakis*

May 04, 2015 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

Do I look like someone who would waste my own time?

Robert California, The Office

This post takes us back to “That’s What She Said,” Ford Harrison’s earlier and excellent chronicle of The Office. After Michael Scott’s departure for marital bliss with zany HR manager Holly Flax, Dunder Mifflin floundered about in search for a new captain. For one season, that captain was Robert California, played by James Spader. California was a weirdo – a bottomless pit of self confidence, obsessed with sex, enigmatic, and prone to opaque monologues and odd rhetorical questions like the one above. United States Supreme Court

That quote popped to mind last week when I saw that the Supreme Court had decided Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC. Mach Mining began like most EEOC charges. A female applicant filed a charge with the EEOC claiming that the company, a coal miner (not the kind of business that gets much federal agency love these days, anyway) failed to hire her because she was female. The EEOC investigated and found cause regarding the claimant and a class of similarly situated female applicants. Like other cases involving a cause finding, the EEOC sent Mach a letter to inform the company of the decision and invited it to participate in the EEOC’s informal conciliation process (many of you have likely been through similar situations). So far, so good.

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Parks Madness

March 25, 2015 - by: David Kim 1 COMMENTS
David Kim

In February, one of my favorite televisions shows, Parks and Recreation, concluded its magnificent seven-season run. While it had typical struggles in the early going, it soon hit its stride and gave us a cast of interesting characters whom we got to see evolve from their first interaction with the Pawnee, Indiana, Parks Department all the way into their eventual future lives. March Madness Businessman Hand Filling In Bracket From Above

The beginning of March Madness has helped to alleviate some of the void left by the departure of Parks (yes, I’m on a first-name basis with the show). In honor of both of these exceptional television viewing experiences, I decided to do a Parks-inspired March Madness bracket to determine which Parks character would be the most ideal employee for an organization, and conversely as a result, who would make an HR director pull his or hair out with worry about potential liability or lack of productiveness.

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Ready for kickoff

September 03, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I live in the South. This time of year, that means college football; that also means otherwise healthy friendships will erupt with enough recrimination, envy, taunts, and ill will to put the Corleones and Tattaglias to shame. Everyone crows that this is their year , we’re going to come out on top, and what-do-you-mean-that-overtime-loss-last-month-means-we-can’t-play-for-the-championship? shutterstock_165900731(Except folks like me, a Wake Forest alum, who find comfort in high-minded humility, of course.)

College football has never really found a satisfying way to crown its champion. It used to be that sportswriters picked it; then the coaches started their own poll and jumped in the mix. They tried a championship game, and then the number crunchers came out with the BCS, a computerized system that seemed to factor in everything (unless it was important, and then it was left out).  Then Colorado walloped Nebraska–and Nebraska advanced to the championship game. .

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Lies and statistics

July 24, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I keep coming back to books about baseball, but they’re just too valuable in terms of personnel management. A baseball manager (and his colleagues in the team office) function so much like an HR department. They have to pick the best roster and field the best lineup for the opponent each night. They have to fit payroll in a budget and make tough roster decisions. And, while their forebears in the past managed off instinct,shutterstock_34461571 modern baseball executives employ stats and other metrics to see which players are worth their salaries and their position in the lineup. That brings us to this installment’s book, Men at Work: The Craft of Baseball by George Will. Will, of course, is best known for his syndicated political columns but at heart he is a baseball fanatic. Men at Work devoted special attention to Tony LaRussa (a law school graduate in his own right), at that time the manager for the Oakland A’s. Twenty-five years ago, the A’s were an American League juggernaut that featured a marquee roster with the likes of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Parker, and Dave Stewart. Will was, of course, impressed with the talent walking around LaRussa’s clubhouse, but he seemed most fascinated with the manager’s command of and use of statistics to arrange his fielders, select pitches, and basically guide most of his decisions. In that era, LaRussa kept enormous binders with pitch charts, statistics of players in particular situations, and any number of other possibilities. He consulted the information constantly throughout each game, and his staff updated the information regularly. The point here is that while most managers were making decisions based on feel or instinct, LaRussa was making them based on data and history. Did Carney Lansford tend to hit this pitcher mainly to left field? If so, then Tony Phillips probably needs to have a bigger lead at second to give him a better chance to score on a single. Does this pitcher stay wild on a 2-1 count? If so, maybe this isn’t the time to put on the hit-and-run. Personnel management can take a page from this book. While courts still do approve of subjective evaluations if employed in the right way, the best practice to defend claims is to be sure that cold, hard facts guide your decisions as much as possible. Has one of your salespeople complained that some unlawful reason led to their exclusion from a key sales pitch? If so, you’re in a much better position if you can show them that they’ve not been successful with this prospective client’s industry in the past. Numbers and data, used well, are your friends. So, ask yourself this question: are you hiring and fielding a team because you think they’re the best ones to compete in the market, or do you know? It’s never 100%; after all, LaRussa didn’t come out on top every year. But he did enter the Hall of Fame with three World Series rings.

4 slam-dunk tips for HR pros from Spurs’ NBA success

June 16, 2014 - by: Matt Gilley 0 COMMENTS
Matt Gilley

I’m a Wake Forest basketball fan from way back, so I’ve followed Tim Duncan’s professional career closely since 1998. All the sports fans out there are well aware by now that Duncan’s San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA title last night in convincing fashion over the Miami Heat. All the Spurs’ titles have come during Duncan’s career, and Duncan has only known one coach–Greg Popovich–since San Antonio selected him first in the 1997 NBA draft. shutterstock_173318291

The Spurs’ success since 1998 offers several tips and pointers for HR professionals. I list several below, in no particular order:

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Veronica Mars: Return to Neptune

April 04, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 0 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Thanks in large part to a record-breaking Kickstarter campaign, legions of “Marshmallows” and I recently got to enjoy new adventures of Veronica Mars on the big screen. Although Veronica left the small screen back in 2007, that did not stop my favorite private detective from diving right back into action (and danger) in the film version. The premise of the film is that Veronica’s ex-boyfriend, Logan Echolls, is suspected yet again of murdering a girlfriend. Lucky for Logan, Veronica is willing to leave behind her life in New York (including a stable relationship with Piz and a high-powered legal career) to help, even when it means risking her own life. What else would you expect from someone who received a private investigator’s license for her 18th birthday?   KristenBell An interesting tidbit is that Kristen Bell, the actress who plays the titular character, had recently given birth at the time of filming. You would never know it watching Veronica hunt down the killer and narrowly avoid becoming a victim herself. This got me thinking about dangerous professions and pregnancy. Where would Logan (and all the devoted fans) be if a pregnant Veronica Mars was not permitted to do her job and catch the bad guy? According to the U.S. Supreme Court, employers may not lawfully deny jobs to women because of hazards to unborn children. Such decision have to be left to women. According to the Court, denying jobs to women due to hazards is biased because fertile men, but not fertile women, are given “a choice as to whether they wish to risk their reproductive health for a particular job.” Subsequent decisions have clarified that, although employers are generally prohibited from deciding for a pregnant employee what course of action is best for her, this prohibition does not constitute a requirement that an employer make alternate work available.  In other words, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) doesn’t require an employer to provide preferential treatment for a pregnant employee. For example, a hospital isn’t required to make an exception to its policy that nurses treat all patients assigned to them when a nurse refuses to treat a patient with a contagious disease based on her pregnancy. Other decisions, however, have gone on to say that the PDA doesn’t preclude policies that take into account the reality of pregnancy in assisting women in balancing the work and family conflict and that federal law doesn’t prevent an employer from temporarily transferring a pregnant woman, at her request, for the protection of her unborn child. As for Veronica, these aren’t issues she has to address at the moment, though they could make for some interesting plot lines in a sequel. In the meantime, are you Team Piz or Team Logan?

Downton Abbey: Handling an employee resignation with class

February 21, 2014 - by: Kristin Starnes Gray 2 COMMENTS
Kristin Starnes Gray

Although Downton Abbey focuses on the upstairs/downstairs dynamics of the fictional aristocratic Crawley familshutterstock_170276813y and their staff, there are still some lessons that contemporary employers may take from the show. For instance, in a recent episode, the staff dealt with the sudden resignation of second footman Alfred, as he was accepted into the Ritz cooking course and decided to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. Just as butler Carson was faced with the prospect of an unexpected, voluntary staff departure, so are many employers in modern society. There are certain steps employers can take to help make such transitions smoother.

1. Two-week notice. Consider whether to include a section addressing employee notices in the handbook. You should beware of making it mandatory for employees to provide advance notice, given that some courts have found this to alter their at-will status and have even interpreted such notice requirements as reciprocal for the employers.

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From Gattaca to GINA: Use of genetic information in workplace is problematic

February 03, 2014 - by: Josh Sudbury 0 COMMENTS
Josh Sudbury

If there is one thing that is universal about the entertainment world, it’s that it makes us all feel inadequate. Yes, with the airbrushed photos and the digital editing techniques, the stars and starlets who grace the covers of magazines and show up on the big screen all seem to have something (or multiple things) that we regular folk just don’t. I’d even bet most of the beautiful people look better rolling out of bed in the morning than I do on my best day.   GeneticEngineering

It’s true that in certain ways we are not all created equal. Each of us has our own genetic make-up, which is little more than the pooling of the genes—both good and bad—from our parents, and their parents, and so on. The combination of these genes determines things like our height, athletic ability, and our predisposition to certain medical conditions such as cancer. read more…

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