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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Carnival of HR # 8

Is now up over at 8 Hours & a Lunch. Hop on over and find the big top.

The June 13th Carnvial will be hosted by Gautam Ghosh at A Management Consultant's Blog.

The June 27th Carnival will be hosted by Kris Dunn at The HR Capitalist.

The July 11th Carnival will be hosted by Lisa Rosendahl at HR Thoughts.

The July 25th Carnival will be hosted by the Manager at Ask a Manager.

The August 8th Carnival will by hosted by Ann Bares at Compensation Force.

The August 22nd Carnival will be hosted by Wally Bock at Three Star Leadership.

The September 5th Carnival will be hosted by Rowan Manahan at Fortify Your Oasis.

The September 19th Carnival will be hosted by Evil HR Lady at, well, Evil HR Lady.

Let me know if any of the rest of you wish to host. Think of the fame and glory that will come your way! You can even put it on your resume: Hosted Carnival of Human Resources. Think of the number of job offers you can get with that!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Religion in the Workplace

Hello Evil HR Lady,

There has been some conflict lately around religious expression during break time at work. We have a small staff, <10 people. We have a small area where staff can allegedly take private breaks, change clothes, eat lunch etc. Because our staff is small, we usually only have one person taking a break at a time - if we really work at it, 2 of us can be in there at the same time.

Recently, the owner 'caught' two of us 'praying' quietly together in the break room, during a break (one worker was having a lot of difficulties that day and her grandmother was in the process of dying). Different staff members have done this sort of thing several times in the past (quiet, consensual, spiritual sustenance/healing, during break) - in times of great stress, and the owner has never noticed. But this particular time, the owner found reason to put a nose into the break room a few times to discern what was going on, then rudely forced us to stop, scolded us and told us never to do it again. This was a shock to many of us who work there.

Now, the owner is finding it necessary to add a "no promotion of religion" policy which restricts religious expression at the workplace. The parts of the new policy that I am most concerned about include:

"does not restrict a staff member from reading religious materials on a break or from quietly and individually (not in groups of two or more) praying or meditating on a break"

"It restricts groups of two or more from engaging in religious practice"

I don't believe the owner means for this to be the case, but this feels mean, unjust, inappropriate, and probably illegal. We have been asked to sign an updated employment agreement that includes the language above, and let’s just say - I don’t feel good about. If you could help us with resources to provide to the owner to help our business remain fair and legal, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks so much for your assistance! You provide a great service.

First, the standard disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I don't even watch Law & Order any more. I'm in protest since Jerry Orbach died (he played Lenny Briscoe, for you weirdos who don't love Jerry), and they brought Detective Fontana on board. (Yes, I know, Orbach left to do a spin off and then died. Fontana would be around even if he was still alive.) Hmmm, I think I'm digressing.

Here's a statement from the EEOC:
Employers must permit employees to engage in religious expression, unless the religious expression would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Generally, an employer may not place more restrictions on religious expression than on other forms of expression that have a comparable effect on workplace efficiency.

Now, before you print this out and take it to your boss, please note the following:

  • Your workplace has less than 10 employees. This generally means it's not subject to many of the rules larger workplaces are.
  • Even if it does apply, is it having an effect on workplace efficiency? Perhaps. You stated that in normal circumstances breaks are one at a time. Two at a time can affect workpalce efficiency.
  • If you were in there discussing the stock market, would your boss be equally upset?

  • I think your boss is unwise to have the policy he has. Rules designed to solve specific problems generally create new problems--as this one has. A better rule would have been, "one person at a time in the break/changing room." It would have solved the boss's perceived problem of his staff getting too religious and none of the employees would have felt singled out.

    So should you sign the agreement? Well, I honestly don't know whether it's legal or not. If it's not, and you sign, it's not enforceable in court anyway.

    What would happen if you didn't sign? Would you be fired? You could try talking to your boss. Ask him to explain his feelings. You may find out that he's concerned because breaks are taking longer and there is weeping going on, which makes him uncomfortable. You may find out that he thinks you are going to Hell for your crazy belief. You may find out that he's scared to death that the ACLU is going to show up at his doorstep if he allows this kind of behavior although he wishes he could join you. He may have had other employees come to him, complaining about how some of their co-workers are always involved in exclusionary religious discussions.

    Having less than 10 employees gives your boss more flexibilty than a larger employer, although I doubt he knows this. Try presenting him with the above quote from the EEOC and ask to have the language removed. Just say you are uncomfortable with it and that you understand the importance of hard work and want to do what is best for the business. Give him a reason why he should remove it--one that will be positive for the business.

    And, be careful that you aren't trying to convert your co-workers. It's okay to talk about your beliefs and your religion, but if others aren't interested, let it drop. You don't like feeling uncomfortable and neither do they.

    Tuesday, May 29, 2007

    Explain This to Me

    I got a phone call from a former employee. She had secured a job offer at another company. Their standard package for an employee at her level included two weeks of vacation and no stock options. However, if she could prove that her previous job offered her three weeks of vacation and stock, she could have them there as well.

    She wanted a letter that stated she had stock options and three weeks vacation. Since she did have those things, I wrote her a letter on company letter-head, signed it, and sent it to her. (Please note, I did not send it to her new company. That would be in violation of our policy to not disclose anything other than title and dates of service. But, I can send that information to the employee.)

    I honestly don't understand the logic this company is using. Yes, if they were trying to lure her away from us, I can see trying to compensate for lost stock options. But, this person no longer worked for us. She had already lost her non-vested stock options.

    How does that work out as fair? If we are in the same job, with the same experience and you get stock and an extra week of vacation--not because you wisely negotiated it, but because you'd had it previously--doesn't that open the company up to morale problems, not to mention discrimination charges if the races/genders happen to be different?

    Someone explain to me why this is a good policy.

    Exempt vs Nonexempt

    Hello, Evil HR Lady!

    I was wondering if you could explain something to me. My job was recently reclassified from exempt to non-exempt. I understand the technicalities of it. What I don't understand is the real implication.

    I've never been classified as non-exempt, not even years ago when I was entry level (well, as a kid in summer jobs, but you know what I mean). My perception was that it was essentially for non-professional positions. If it was a positive classification, I have no doubt management would include themselves. I've hunted online, but everything I'm finding discusses the issue from the employer's point of view. I want the big picture. What are the pros and cons of this from the employee's perspective?

    Reluctantly Reclassified

    First of all, whether or are exempt or non-exempt is based on the Fair Labor Standards Act. For whatever reasons, your company feels like your job doesn't meet the requirements to be classified as exempt.

    You didn't mention what you do, so I'm going to assume that your classification is correctly identified as non-exempt. For jobs that are on the border between the two classifications (which yours probably is, since it went from exempt to non-exempt), the company is wise to classify the job as non-exempt. There are no punishments for incorrectly labeling a job non-exempt, but you can get yourself in big trouble for incorrectly classifying a job as exempt.

    I'm just going to list one pro and one con of being non-exempt.

  • Overtime. Any work more than 40 hours a week and they have to pay you overtime. You take your laptop on vacation and spend an hour working? They have to compensate you for that time. Your boss calls you at home and asks you work questions? They have to pay you. If you are exempt, forget it.

  • Mobility. In my experience, it is much harder to get promoted from a non-exempt position into an exempt position than it is to get promoted from a low level exempt job into a higher level exempt job. There is a perception that you lack higher level skills.

    What does this mean for you? Hard to say, since I don't know anything about your job. I do recommend sitting down with your boss and asking to see the criteria that were used to classify your job. If you want to be considered exempt, ask what responsibilities you can take on to be re-classified. It's doubtful your boss will have a clue, at which time you might want to make an appointment with HR. Keep in mind that your employee relations person might not have a clue either. In that case, you need to find out the person in compensation who made the decision.

    Of course, if you work for a small company, that may well be the same person.
  • Monday, May 28, 2007

    Carnival Reminder!

    Just a reminder to get your submissions to Deb at 8 Hours and a lunch.

    Send them to debra(dot)owen(at)insightbb(dot)com and put Carnival in the subject line!

    I'm going to send my submission right now!

    Negotiating an Increase


    I'm writing with a quick question regarding "the offer." I'm currently working in a position where when one crazy employee was fired, I was told I'd be promoted to cover both her position and February. It is now May and despite periodic check-ins, I've been told there are no updates and that decision makers usually move slowly. (It's true that this involves bringing someone else into our department in a different position/payscale, so this may be the hold-up). In the meantime, I interviewed with a different company and was offered a position. After some deep soul searching, I've decided new position is not for me...despite the fact that they are offering to pay me $10,000 more per year than my current job. If I could receive my promotion in a timely manner and possibly half of that additional $10,000, I'd happily stay. But I've heard horror stories where people say that they received an offer and simply get a "pat on the back and good luck." It's my notion that you shouldn't attempt to negotiate in that fashion if you aren't prepared to leave.

    Can you offer any advice on this subject?


    The new position is not for you, so you are stuck. Why? You never make a threat you are not willing to follow through on. (This is why you see stressed out parents at the park screaming, "If you don't come back here right now, I'm going to kill you!", while the kid runs around giggling. The kid knows this is not a valid threat. A better threat is, "if you don't come back here right now, you will not get dessert." You can follow through on that one.)

    Sorry, I got distracted by parenting woes. You don't want the new job, so what if they take you up on your threat? Then you have to take the job you don't want.

    Promotions can take a very long time to wind through the system, so it doesn't surprise me that it's been a few months. You can certainly ask for a time table and for an explanation of what is taking so long. If you are feeling brave you can say, "XYZ offered me a position at $10,000 more than here. I turned it down because I feel like this is where I want to be. But, I can't stay here indefinitely, hoping for the promotion."

    There is risk in that--now they know you are looking (or have looked for a new job). If loyalty is important to your boss, you may be in trouble. And keep something in mind--something like 80% of people who accept counter offers from their current employer end up quitting within a year anyway.* That's why I almost never advise managers to do anything other than congratulate the employee on their new job and throw a nice going away party. They've checked out anyway.

    *I totally pulled this number out of the air. I swear I remember reading it somewhere and I believe it is true, but this is a blog, not true journalism and I'm too lazy to fact check. If I wasn't lazy I'd be out shoveling mulch, so I still wouldn't be fact checking.

    What Happens When You Don't Take Care of Problems

    Dear E.H.R. Lady,

    I love your blog! I'm hoping you'll share your opinion on this issue. My workplace is a large non-profit organization where staff are unionized. We have an admin assistant -- I'll call her "Tina" -- who is incompetent, insubordinate, and lazy. She has been this way since she was hired 10 years ago. The two managers and three directors we've had over the years have each been unable to help her improve her performance. She is chronically late, makes costly errors, finds any excuse to be away from the office/desk. She is inefficient and disorganized. She blames all her mistakes on other people. Not surprisingly, this has taken a toll on other staff who have to live with the consequences but are powerless to change the situation.

    Each manager/director has been aware of the situation. Each has collected "documentation." There must be a file drawer full of this stuff. A few years ago, "Tina" filed a grievance against one manager for placing a warning letter on file without asking Tina to sign it first. (The manager had received incorrect procedural advice from HR.) Tina won her grievance and the letter was removed.

    Manaement seems to go through phases where they're actively "documenting" her. They've had countless talks and arguments. They've hired assistants to do the work Tina has failed to do, paid a lot of money to fix her mistakes, brought in coaches of various kinds to try to improve her performance. There are temporary improvements and then we're right back where we were.

    The managers are all terrified of another grievance. They claim it's impossible to fire someone because of the collective agreement. This bugs me. I like unions and what they stand for (benefits, raises, safety, vacations), and I don't really think management has tried hard enough to get rid of this person. There's nothing in the collective agreement that says you can't fire someone, but you have to follow certain procedures and be very direct with the employee about what is happening. Instead, management would rather blame the union and wait for someone else to deal with the problem.

    In your experience, how hard is it to fire someone in a union? What do managers do wrong in these situations and what could they do better?

    Please help us! The work we're doing is important and I think we're at serious risk of losing good people if we can't get rid of the bad.

    Throughout the above letter, I've put several phrases in bold. I did this, not just to be aesthetically interesting, but to call attention to your real problem (which you already know).

    The problem is not Tina. The problem is the managers.

    The first clue is that Tina has been there 10 years. Each passing day makes it harder to fire someone. I presume this is even more so in a union environment, where seniority plays a key role. My argument, (if I were Tina or the Union) would be, "If I'm such a bad employee, why didn't you fire me 10 years ago? I haven't changed and the work hasn't changed. Therefore, this is an unjust termination."

    It's a valid question. Why didn't they fire her or begin filing grievances on her first mistake? I know that seems harsh, but it's the only way to make sure you don't end up here--10 years down the road. The right thing to do is still to send her out the door. If what you've said is true--about costly mistakes and hiring coaches--then what is management scared of? If the union workers (not union leadership) is just as annoyed with Tina as you are, they aren't going to see Tina's termination as a rallying point.

    There are procedures for firing a union person. They need to be followed. Your managers won't do it. Why? They've checked out. They know they won't be in the position forever, so they ignore it and push it onto the next person to take the job. It's less difficult to ignore and compensate for Tina then it is to get up the guts to do something about it.

    Managers, presumably, make more money than staff because they have to make the hard decisions. This means dealing with the union. Somehow, I can't imagine the union being completely irrational. Yes, Tina filed a grievance and won. But management didn't follow proper procedure. They need to follow proper procedure.

    This does not help you in anyway, however. You (as you know) won't win any points by documenting Tina's behavior yourself. So, what can you do?

  • Find a new job and quit. I know, I know, you don't want to. Which brings us to our next point.
  • Refuse to accommodate Tina any more. If she's late, she's late. Don't mention it, don't deal with it, just ignore it. Don't help her on things she is late with. Let management feel the pain--rather than her co-workers.
  • Be nice to everyone. This is always good advice, but in this situation it is especially important. No "Tina is such a jerk" conversations. Just, "It's too bad Tina is going to have to stay late and miss Happy Hour tonight," said in as sympathetic manner as possible.
  • Ignore it yourself. Management is ignoring her. You try it. Right now, Tina is the proverbial little sister sitting next to you in the family station wagon. She has her fingers three milimeters from your face and when you complain she shouts, "Mom, I'm not touching her!" Ignore her. Like your little sister, she won't go away, but she won't be in control any more either.
  • Find a new job and quit. Hmm, that sounds familiar. Managers aren't going to solve this problem, so take yourself out. Really. It's not the only job out there.

  • I know this has been supremely unhelpful. That's because the solution to Tina is not within your grasp. Be nice to Tina. Be nice to your managers. And learn to either breathe through it or leave.

    But, let this be a lesson to all you wimpy managers out there. Your other employees know who the bad apples are. It's costing your more than the bad person's salary. It may cost you your best workers.

    Thursday, May 24, 2007

    Buy or Build?

    Frequently, when we talk about the leadership pipeline, the question comes up, buy or build? This means, do we train and develop the people we have (build), or do we go out and seek new people (buy). It's almost always cheaper to build than to buy. Not just in saving you recruiting fees, relocation costs and sign on bonuses. It also helps retain the talent you have, improves employee morale and makes you, all other things being equal, an employer of choice.

    ER Nursey writes this about her profession:
    Hospitals spend a lot of time and money on recruiting nurses. A lot of the nurses they recruit are inexperienced new grads.

    At the same time they do nothing to keep their experienced staff happy so they often leave seeking greener pastures.

    Why not spend a little time and effort keeping your experienced nursing staff which is your best resource? If your staff didn't keep leaving you wouldn't have to spend so much money on recruitment.


    Yes, you have to pay experienced nurses more than new nurses. Experienced nurses also know what they are doing, understand policies and procedures and have developed relationships with the other staff. Even treating them right, it is cheaper to build than to buy.

    The problem is, managers see recruitment costs as "unavoidable" while they see anything done to improve retention as "extra costs." Boy are they wrong.

    I have no idea what it takes to get a new nurse up to speed. I know that, in my department, we feel like it takes 3 to 6 months to get HR people up to speed. That's 3 to 6 months of salary you are paying, plus recruitment, plus sign on bonus. Hello, it would be cheaper to give your existing nurse a 10% increase.

    Sometimes you don't have the talent available in house. That's fine. Sometimes you have your best talent leave you through no fault of your own. That's a cost of doing business. But, if you consistently look to buy new talent and reject the talent you already have, that's just plain dumb.

    Wednesday, May 23, 2007

    A Policy We Will Not Be Implementing

    This proposal is to allow men and women to work together without worrying about illicit behaviors occurring.

    I realize I've just posted about how I don't speak for my company. However, I feel fairly secure in saying that we won't be implementing this, regardless of whether we operate in Islamic countries or not.

    UPDATE: It appears that the suggestion has been retracted. Just as well.

    Blogging Policy

    Recently, several of my favorite bloggers have quit--or disappeared completely--from the blogosphere. Dr. Flea, Fat Doctor, Miss Snark, among others. (No point in giving you links to the first two. Dr. Flea's blog has completely disappeared and Fat Doctor's is by invitation only.)

    Miss Snark said she is quitting because she is "done." She's answered all the questions she wants to answer and she's just done. That, I understand. (Speaking of which, I have about 10 questions in my queue and I swear I will get to them. I swear! First I have to finish shoveling mulch. I hate mulching.)

    Dr. Flea was in the midst (apparently) of a malpractice suit and I bet his lawyer found out about his blog and said, "you better take that darn thing down right now!"

    But, Fat Doctor (and several other medical bloggers) were "outed" by co-workers. Dr. J makes a comment on Dr. Couz's blog about Dr. Flea:
    It's an interesting situation, and in some ways makes me glad that my blog has always been non-anonymous. I don't think there's anything wrong with anon. blogs, but having my picture at the top of my blog for all to see has certainly curtailed any prediliction I might have to rant, and has forced my blog in other (I hope interesting) directions.

    From time to time I do see things in the medical blogs that make me wonder about maintainance of confidentiality, but overall I think that most people's blogs are thoughtful and sensitive. It's troubling that they seem to be an endangered species....

    This is something I think about. I blog anonymously--theoretically. If you suspected Evil HR Lady was actually, well, me, it would be pretty easy to confirm. I've left enough clues, as well as pictures of the backs (and casts) of various family members. So, why am I anonymous?

    I work for a large company. They don't have a clear blogging policy. They do have a policy that the only people that can speak for the company are the Public Relations people. I agree with this policy, by the way. I don't speak for my company. I am not their representative and I certainly don't know the ins and outs of what is going on in the business as a whole. I understand my role very well, but I know my limits.

    But, should I keep my real name out of the fray? I could certainly blog under my name without mentioning the company I work for. That would keep me from breaking the Public Relations only rule. But, I don't.

    Does this inhibit me or make me more free? I don't know. Most of my fellow HR bloggers do so under their (presumably) real names. They talk about stories from work. Does it keep them more honest, knowing that the person they are talking about could easily find them? For instance, Lisa writes about interactions with her union leaders. She speaks very positively in this post. Does her knowledge that he could find this post make her think about every word she writes?

    I admit, when I wrote this post about an interaction with my boss, I thought, "good thing I'm anonymous!"

    But, like my friends, the med bloggers, I could be exposed. A couple of people at work know about my blog. So, I've thought about this post and decided, even if I had my name on it, I'd say the same thing. I believe in what I wrote. I even had a disclaimer about making myself sound better than I did in the actual meeting.

    But, I'm still anonymous and intend to stay that way for the time being. If I'm outed, though, I won't stop blogging. I'll just blog about the jerks who outed me. (Just kidding! I love everyone who takes the time to read this blog. Big hugs all around!)

    Monday, May 21, 2007

    Thank You, Susan B. Anthony

    Anything about Women's issues, I like to give credit to my good friend, Susan B. Anthony. After all, without her work (and the work of others) we wouldn't have this New York Times article:After Baby, Boss Comes Calling.

    And it's not just Susan B. that cleared the way. People like my former boss (whose name I won't mention because we just had a conversation on Friday about Googling yourself and if she chose to do that, I'd be busted). The reality is, she was one of the women who sacrificed a great deal to prove that women could do it. And do it, she did--she's a VP in a Fortune 500 company.

    But, she didn't get to do this:
    flexible work schedules, telecommuting, job sharing. Women in particular, but also a substantial percentage of men, have made it clear that is what it will take to keep them loyal. A study by the Families and Work Institute shows that 24 percent of women and 13 percent of men who work full-time would like to work part-time. And among the youngest workers, those now having children and most actively juggling family and career, Fortune magazine found that 61 percent would leave their job if they could find another that allows them to telecommute.

    I work part time. If my child is sick, I telecommute. (I want to telecommute 100%, but that hasn't flown yet.) I've had a flexible schedule (within reason) from the moment I started at this company, 6 years ago.

    We've come a long way. Now, if I can just figure out how to get paid without doing anything other than blog...

    Friday, May 18, 2007

    One Post, Two Questions

    Question 1:

    Hi, over the last year, I have seen many of my peers- managers fail in their roles, taken out of that job, reassigned to something different, only to land in their "dream" job with in the company. It's sending out signals that in order to get what you want, you need to fail- so you will get "re-assigned."

    So why are the rest of us, busting our butts in the same roles trying to make the next leap, when it seems the rewards are going to those who are "struggling" and unsuccessful" in their previous roles?

    Question 2:

    My manager accidentially sent salary information for all of my co-workers, including the VP of sales, directors, managers and all sales reps throughout the country. After reviewing all this information I am one of the lowest paid in the whole country, even less than a co-worker with no prior sales experience. what should or can I do to get paid more? also, of all 6 reps a few have got promoted, 1 left,1 got fired and now I'm the only one left and they really can't afford to lose me. what can I do?

    Even those these questions are quite different, the answer is (drum role please): Ask.

    In the first case, what appears to be happening may or may not be happening. It may be that management is just looking to use the people they have effectively. So, if they spot skills that would work better in another department, they move you. Management may not recognize this as a reward for failure.

    Go to your manager and say, "I would really like to end up in department X. What can I do to work towards that goal?" Don't be surprised if they are shocked by your request. "But you're doing such a good job here, don't you want to stay here?"

    Sometimes our success can hold us back--you're good at what you do so we don't want to lose you.

    Now, for the second question--first your boss goofed up by distributing salaries. (For the record, I'm in favor of more open compensation system, but that's a topic for another post.) The good thing is you now know the information and your boss knows you know.

    It would be helpful to you if you could also gather some market data to support a pay increase. Then, make an appointment and go in to your boss and say, "I believe I am underpaid. This (market data) and this (internal salary data) indicate that my salary should be 6% higher than it is now." Then shut up and let your boss respond.

    Keep in mind, that as above, if you've been doing the job well at the current salary your boss may be shocked that you are not happy. No telling what his response will be. It could range from, "absolutely not" to "Oh my word, we didn't realize how off kilter your salary was. How about an 8% raise?"

    Be willing to negotiate. But make sure you ask. They know they can't afford to lose you, so you can be bold. You aren't going to be fired for asking. You may come out ahead. You may not. (And, by the way, you may find out unpleasant things about your performance. Managers rarely like to say negative things--like why your pay is low--unless they have to.)

    And as a side note, when you were hired, did you negotiate the original salary? If you didn't, that may be the cause of your low salary, compared to everyone else.

    Carnival of HR #7

    Is up over at Race in the Workplace. Carmen even has carnival pictures!

    Wednesday, May 16, 2007

    Think First

    Dean Dad over at Confessions of a Community College Dean has two posts that I believe are very relevant to the listening and problem solving portion of we Evil HR types. Here's a quote from the first post:
    When Night Dean said it was possible, what he meant was “maybe.” When Psych Prof heard that it was possible, she took it to mean “yes.” So when ND came back the following week and said no, Psych Prof took it as betrayal and reacted accordingly; ND took her anger as inexplicable and therefore unprofessional. Psych Prof called ND a liar, which she believed to be true and he believed to be false. A single ambiguous word led to a major clash of narratives and egos.

    Once I figured that out, I explained the sequence to each separately, then arranged for the two to meet to bury the hatchet. The course sub didn't stand, but we were able to work out other ways for the students to get what they needed.

    The entire episode unfolded over a short span and was quickly resolved, but it has stuck with me. I think what made it so emblematic of administration is that the two conflicting stories were both internally correct. Both Psych Prof and Night Dean acted in good faith, and both believed that they were looking out for the students. Neither was lying. Each took personal umbrage at the way the other acted, and each believed that higher principles and personal honor were at stake. And both were very emotional.

    And here is a the second quote:
    Last week I saw another iteration of one of the little games that drives me crazy. At a meeting at which all of the academic deans were present, the director of a center said something to the effect of “I don't want to name any names, but some of your faculty aren't following through on their (task x). You should really stay on top of that.”

    What, exactly, do people hope to achieve with statements like that?

    If the statement contained some sort of verifiable fact claim -- “Dave didn't do task x last semester” -- I could do something about that. I could check, and either dismiss the claim or have a discussion with Dave.

    In both situations, or friend the Dean had to listen and ask questions before coming to a conclusion. Just because an employee comes in blustering that someone is mean or harrassing or just plain impossible to work with doesn't mean that they are.

    One of the things that annoys me the most is the second example. We deal with this all the time in employee relations. A manager will come to us, saying, "John does not provide good follow up to clients." Of course, John will not have been told this before, but the manager wants ER to deal with it. So, we, of course, ask for a concrete example and we can't get one.

    We also see it where people are trying to step over their colleagues or superiors to accomplish their career aspirations, complaining about other's incompetence, but unable--or unwilling--to provide details.

    And don't even get me started on dealing with the misunderstandings demonstrated in the first post.

    I think if Dean Dad ever wants to leave academia he can come on over to HR.

    Tuesday, May 15, 2007

    Carnival of HR--New E-mail

    Hi all. Carmen and I made a small mistake and gave the wrong e-mail address out for submissions to the upcoming carnival.

    The correct e-mail is team at raceintheworkplace dot com.

    The deadline for submissions has been extended to Noon (Eastern Time!) tomorrow (May 16). The Carnival will then be posted on Thursday.

    If you got a bounce back on your submission, make sure to re-submit.

    What Can HR Divulge?

    Hi, what information can HR give out when they get a call from the future employer (in California)? Can they give out the current salary and the information why somebody was fired?

    Having never lived in California (and truthfully, hoping to never live in California), I have little knowledge of California laws. So, these are general principles, which will, hopefully, be helpful.

    To my knowledge, there is no law that dictates what a company can and cannot say about a former employee. Theoretically, they could give details about your termination. In practice, one too many employee has sued because of a bad reference and few companies divulge that information. Most HR departments, when asked, will confirm dates of service and last title.

    Note that I said confirm. This means that if I call up and say, "When did John Doe work for you and what was his title?" they won't answer. But, if I say, "I'm doing a reference check on John Doe. I have that he worked for you from June of 1998 to August 2006 and that his last job title was Sr. Director, New Products. Is that correct?" They'll either say, "yes" or "no."

    But, the real answer to your question is, if you want to know what a former company will say about you, then call them up and ask. You can say, "This is John Doe and I want to know what you would say about me in a reference check." Or, you can just say you are checking references for John Doe. Go ahead and ask, "why did he leave?" They'll either answer or say, "we don't release that information."

    But, I get the sense that you are hoping to be able to lie about why your employment was unceremoniously terminated. Don't. It will come back to bite you. I promise. The business world is surprisingly small. Any lie you make will be exposed. Do not risk it. Just, don't.

    As for dollar amounts, most companies won't reveal salary information (see above). However, as a warning, some companies require W2s from your previous job. I guess it saves them the phone calls.

    So, call and ask, but don't lie.

    Monday, May 14, 2007

    We're Back!


    We survived our trip to Disney World with only one trip to the emergency room. (Middle of the night ear infection.)

    Hopefully this means I shall return to regular blogging. I must write something soon so I can get it to Carmen (team at raceintheworkplace dot com)for this week's Carnival of Human Resources.
    Posted by Picasa

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    Bully Boss

    Hello Evil.

    I have been the target of my bully boss for about a year and a half now, and am at my wits end. She and I worked as peers for a year and a half, at which time we both applied for a supervisory position. She got the job, I didn't. No hard feelings on my end, as I knew this would most likely be the case because she had been at the
    company far longer than I, and had delveloped close relationships with management. My application was a career move. Since then, she has been my superior, and has done everything she can to make my work life a living hell. She has confronted me in front of my peers and privately, attacked me personally via e-mail and verbally (about things that have nothing to do with my performance), she meets with my clients (I am in sales) privately without inviting me or telling me about it, reprimands me for helping my peers, etc.

    I have brought my complaints to her supervisors, and to HR, to no avail. The perception has been that I am "sour grapes" because I didn't get the job. Never mind that my complaints were not personal, and that I had well documented evidence of her behavior. I also have a spotless performance record. My last meeting with the VP of the company lasted all of three minutes, in which he didn't ask me anything about my complaints or the problems I was having - but merely told me I needed to find a way to resolve my "personal issues", and to ask me if I felt I
    was unable to work with her (translation: did I need to be fired).

    I have been in my career field for almost eight years, and have been very successful up to this point. A non-compete is standard practice in my industry, and I would either have to wait out my non-compete or move over 500 miles away to get a job in the same career field. I am not able to do either. I requested to be released from my non-compete, and my request was denied without any inquiry into why I wanted to be

    I need advise as to what to do. I have begun having stress related health issues, and my family life is suffering due to the problems I am having at work. My performance (and therefore income, as I am a commissioned employee) is suffering as well. I cannot remain in this position much longer. I am considering violating my non-compete, and challenging any legal action they bring citing a hostile work
    environment. I appreciate any advice you can give.

    It sounds as if you are in a pickle. Undoubtedly they do think you have sour grapes. Especially your direct supervisor--she probably believes that you are trying to undermine her so she perceives your neutral actions as hostile.

    You can attempt to negotiate with the manager--could you be transferred to a different manager or territory? Of course, from what you've written, it sounds like you've already tried that option. If HR is asking if you want to be fired, the answer may be yes.

    Do you have a copy of your non-compete agreement? Hopefully you do. The first thing you want to find out is if the non-compete applies in an involuntary termination. Some of them do. (Although as a side note, you can negotiate non-competes and you should never sign one that is enforceable in the case of an involuntary termination.)

    If yours does not have that restriction you may want to sit down with a labor and employment lawyer and explain that you believe your company is trying to force a constructive Discharge.

    This is where companies make it so intolerable to work there, that you have no choice but to quit. If so, then you can effectively argue that your termination was involuntary and therefore your non-compete is not in effect.

    Just so you know, a hostile work environment has a specific definition that pertains to sexual, racial or other protected group harrassment. This doesn't fall into that category. But, constructive discharge should be your magic words.

    Good luck and I hope you can get out of your non-compete.


    Evil HR Lady

    Carnival of Human Resources Reminder!

    Carmen at Race in the Workplace" is hosting the next Carnival of HR, which will be next Wednesday Because Carmen is not a procrastinator like I am, she would like submissions sooner rather than later--preferrably by Monday night.

    Send your submissions to team at raceintheworkplace dot com. Make sure you put Carnival in the subject line.

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007



    I came across your website and would love to get some information from you. From what I read, you seem to be extremely knowledgable about the HR field. I was terminated from a job approximately 6 years ago. This company has a no rehire policy, but Id like to apply again anyways. From what I was told, this company has a 6 year retention policy for employee files/records. Im not sure how that process works. My question is, would it be possible for me to get back in without them knowing I was a previous employee since it has been six years since I was last employed there? Id like to know the odds of this happening. Any suggestions?

    Thanks for your advice...

    Dear Job Seeker,

    I hope your day isn't ruined by my answer. My day should be fine, by the way, as I am blogging from Disney World (well, from my hotel--although, blogging would be a useful way to pass the time while standing in lines).

    I doubt your company has a true "we don't rehire anyone" policy. Most likely they have a "we won't rehire a select group" policy.

    First of all, if they have told you that you are not eligible for rehire, you aren't, even if it's been six years. We run a search on the social security number of everyone we hire so even if your name has changed since you left, we know who you are.

    Second, I've never yet seen a job application that doesn't ask if you've worked for this company previously. If you check "no" and get hired and they find out about it later (which they will--6 years is a very short time) you'll be fired.

    Now, if you want to apply and be honest and go ahead. It can't hurt. But, don't try to skirt the policy.

    Good luck on the job hunt. There are a zillion companies out there. Better ones than the one you left.

    Evil HR Lady

    I Heart HR

    Yesterday at Epcot Center I walked past a woman wearing a large button that said "I 'Heart' HR." I thought that was quite bizarre.

    I mean, I love HR too. (Except when we do really silly things like require 14 signatures to allow someone to telecommute.) But, I don't think I'd go around with a button that proclaimed my affection.

    Saturday, May 05, 2007


    We are almost ready to head out the door for our trip to Disney World. The Offspring woke up at 5:30 this morning, ready to go. Our flight leaves at 6:00 p.m., so she was a bit over prepared.

    What this means to the rest of you is that there will undoubtedly be light blogging the next week.

    On Call

    I switched jobs within my company about a year and a half ago. With my last job I was considered exempt and was expected to be on call 7 days a week. The company furnished me with a cell phone to use for business purposes. When I switched jobs I was also switched to nonexempt and I was no longer required to be "on call". My phone was taken away from me because I would no longer need it anymore according to my boss.

    I got a phone of my own and my boss told me he needed to have that phone number in case anyone needed to get a hold of me. Occasionally I would get late night phone calls from people that work asking me questions that I thought could have waited until the next day. Not only that but most of the time I would be sleeping and didn't even hear my phone. I changed my phone number because of other circumstances and did not give them my new number. I was told that they needed to have the new number. I refused. I told them I did not want the silly late night phone calls and I since they did not pay for my phone I shouldn't have to give it to them. My boss though he was not happy let it go. The subject has come up again and my question is, can my employer make me give them my cell phone number? I was on call for this company for 4 straight years and I just really do not want to be bothered anymore. I work Mon-Fri form 8-5 and when I go home I don't want to think about that place. I think if they want me to be on call they can pay for my cell phone and put me back on exempt status, but I know this will not happen.

    Thank you,


    Dear Sleeping,

    Any co-worker that calls you while you are asleep for anything short of a life-threatening emergency should be forced to watch 24 consecutive hours of Barney--and poked with a stick every time they start to nod off. That should cure 'em!

    You're currently non-exempt. This means you are paid by the amount of time you work, and not by the job you do. This also means that they have to pay you if they call you. They don't, however, have to pay you for being available. The Department of Labor gives this information about being on call, as a non-exempt employee:
    On-Call Time: An employee who is required to remain on call on the employer's premises is working while "on call." An employee who is required to remain on call at home, or who is allowed to leave a message where he/she can be reached, is not working (in most cases) while on call. Additional constraints on the employee's freedom could require this time to be compensated.

    So, yes, they can require you to be on call, but they do have to pay you if they call you. (Of course, if it's a 30 second question, how are you going to charge that?)

    Should they? No. Generally, employers pay people a premium for being on call, although according to the DOL they do not have to.

    I understand not wanting to be available, but if it's part of the job, it's part of the job. I do think, however, the next time your boss asks you state, "You know I'm a non-exempt employee and legally you have to pay me every time you call me. I'll put down 15 minutes for each phone call."

    I bet that will either solve the problem or he'll agree--but at least you'll be paid for being annoyed.


    Evil HR Lady

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    Attracts Chickadees, Grossbeaks and Juncos

    We have a bird feeder on our back porch. I just noticed that the bird seed I buy says it attracts the above birds.

    I don't have any idea what a Grossbeak or Junco is. (I know, I know, Google is my friend, but I don't feel like it.) So, my question is, do I really want to attract these birds. That is, apparently, what I am attracting based on my decision to purchase this type of birdseed.

    Yesterday I went to a seminar that included a section on Corporate Branding. Not a "Hey, Sprite is good to drink" type of branding, but "Coca-cola is a great company to work for" type of branding. (That wasn't the example in the seminar, by the way. I have no idea if Coca-Cola is a good company to work for. I just know I don't need all that available sugar in all my meetings.)

    Anyway, are you branding your company to attract the kinds of birds--um, applicants--you want, or did you just buy the cheapest bag? Do you keep stamping your foot and saying, "Why do I always get resumes from Juncos? I don't want more Juncos. I want Peacocks!" (You don't, by the way, they are noisy.) Well, what birdseed are you using?

    And just because I couldn't stand it any more, here is a Junco.

    Carnival of HR #6

    Is up at About Human Resources. Hop on over and visit the big top!

    The Next Carnival will be May 16 at Race in the Workplace.

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    The Truth About Being Fired

    Dear HR Lady,

    Recently I was fired from my job for violation of code of conduct. I work for an outsourcing company with operations in India. Before my coworker left the company, he gave me a cartoon of an american child angry at her father b/c he declined her request to outsource her homework to India.

    While my coworker was with firm for couple years, it was never an issue. When I was not present at my desk due to surgery, supposedly, an employee from India saw the cartoon and felt threatened by it. I am not looking for sympathy but I believe that I was targeted because of my vocal criticism of the poor management--in hindsight, that was the stupid thing to do--I feel that I was targeted specifically.

    After I was dismissed during my recovery from surgery, I decided to pursue my CPA. I am currently interviewing for jobs and they ask me the reason for my departure from my previous firm in late November.

    I tell them about my pursuit of CPA and change in management, both which are true. However, I cannot bring up to tell them that I was fired. I feel that if I bring that up, it will automatically disqualify me from the competitive jobs that I am seeking. I want to be honest but it really bothers me that I was fired. I am only 25 years old and have 1.5 years of full time experience. What should I do? I know lying is wrong but how much can HR find out by calling the old firm which I worked for? I don't know what to do. Thanks in advance.


    Dear J,

    First, you can find out what your former HR department will say by calling up and asking them. Most large companies only allow their HR department to confirm dates of employment and titles.

    Second, it is always good to be honest. Honesty is the best policy. But, you don't have to tell everyone everything about everyone. If they ask why you left, you don't need to mention the cartoon, you can mention you were terminated. Explain how you've learned a great deal from the experience and you took it as an opportunity to gain your CPA. Then go directly into a discussion of the new qualification you gained since then.

    Be positive, not bitter. Focus on your skills. Don't keep thinking that this one blip on you resume will ruin your life. I know many people who have been fired (and by fired, I mean terminated for poor performance and cause, not just laid off) and they've all come away better for it. You can learn and grow from it.

    I understand how devastating it is to be fired. Heck, when I was working as a temp I cried when I was told a temp assignment was over. But, trust me, you are not the only person who has ever been fired. Most likely at least one of the people you will be interviewing with has been fired themselves.

    I'm sorry you had to go through this. Hopefully, with your new CPA certification on your resume and your past work experience, you'll get over this bump. And by the way, can I ask you a tax question?

    Good luck!

    Evil HR Lady

    Depressing Depression

    Hi EvilHRLady,
    I was fired after missing 3 weeks of work due to major depression and a bad reaction to the medication I was placed on.

    When I was diagnosed, I let my manager and HR Manager know approximately a month and a half prior to getting terminated as I was having problems with insomnia and coming in late.

    I supplied them with a doctor's note, but unfortunately my doctor just wrote the dsm-iv diagnosis code and I had to explain it to them in plain english.

    A friend has urged me to try to use the ADA to arrange back pay/benefits or perhaps reinstatement with the company. I'm not sure if this is a very good idea (not practical/plausible, perhaps internal talk of it could ruin any future recommendation) since someone else has been hired to replace me.

    I also worry about getting re-employed and don't know how to explain the situation to perspective employers.

    I am thinking of speaking to my ex-supervisor to see if we can agree upon a more palatable explanation.

    I don't think he was apprised of my condition(my manager and supervisor were separate people).

    I'm not sure what to do and feel like my career (Software Engineer) and even the possibility of future employment is ruined.


    Dear Sad,

    First of all, your career is not ruined. Depression happens. I don't know if you have a valid ADA claim or not. There are specific rules around it and while depression can qualify under ADA, you may or may not be successful.

    I suggest that you look towards moving forward rather than backwards. You can't undo what has been done. Battling will probably not help your depression. (Please keep in mind I'm not a psychologist or therapist or any such thing.) Here is some additional information about finding a job while dealing with a mental illness.

    If, prior to your difficulties, you were performing well at work, it may well be worth your time to schedule an appointment with your prior managers. Talk about the probability of coming back and, if that's not possible, what kind of reference they will give you. They may be able to help you find a job and help you network.

    I'm sure my fellow HR professionals will have additional advice for you.

    Good luck!

    Evil HR Lady